The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year….
….Where is the summer, the unimaginable
‘Right,’ says Romana. ‘What we’re going to do is…’
‘Nothing,’ interrupts Braxiatel. Romana’s eyes widen. She turns around, looks at the grinning Cardinal, and shakes her head in disbelief.
‘Braxiatel, you’ve gone mad!’
‘No, actually, I haven’t,’ he replies, pacing slow and stately back and forth over the floor. ‘Free Time doesn’t know how to operate the transduction barrier. I’ve deflected the flight plans of that TARDIS so that it ends up on Selmarinen, a planet in the hinterland of the Dalek Empire.’
‘Cardinal,’ says Narvin, with no emotional investment but every drop of sardonic condescension he can muster, ‘you are, I trust, aware that the TARDIS contains a vast cache of temporal weaponry?’
‘Of course I’m aware, Narvin! Don’t presume I’m an idiot because you’re too short-sighted to understand my plans!’
‘What ‘plans’?’ demands Leela. ‘I say we take your skin right now and have done with it!’ She leaps at Braxiatel, but he veers to one side, and she runs into a wall.
‘Sorry,’ says Braxiatel. Romana looks at him in horror, nearly disgust, emotions she hates to associate with her trusted Chancellor. ‘Madame President, the darkness is inevitable. Matthias is quite a capable war leader when he has to be, and I can think of two Time Lords who could easily ensure that the Daleks fall along with the Temporal Powers. I am trying to hasten that, rather than let the Daleks subjugate even more of the universe before my brother manages to defeat them.’
Romana’s eyes close, and the image of the Doctor, smiling at her across a table in a Parisian café, floats unbidden into the forefront of her consciousness, and her hearts melt and break at the same time. Then comes a thought of his eighth incarnation, wreaking vengeance across the heavens, ten million ships on fire, galaxies burning and disappearing in wisps of nebular gas, the TARDIS, his TARDIS, falling through time, Charley lying on the console room floor, the Doctor bursting into sheer energy, Fitz Kreiner’s jacket in his arms, before stumbling out into a bustling street…
Braxiatel looks at Romana with evident concern. ‘Madame, are you quite all right?’
‘Run,’ chants Romana. ‘Run. Run. Run. Ruin. Ruin. Ruin. Run. Run. Run.’
‘Narvin,’ whispers Braxiatel, ‘please get my chamelaeon arches, and explain to Leela what they do.’
‘Yes, Cardinal,’ says Narvin, and hurries off into another part of the gallery.
Romana is crying. Ribos and Zanak and the Nine Travellers, Tara and Delta 3 and Atrios and Skaro, Paris, Chloris, Eden, Skonnos, Cambridge, Brighton, Argolis, Zolfa Thura, Alzarius, the world of the vampires, the Gateway, they pass before her, and he is in all of them. He feeds off her strength, she off his, and as equals they dream, and she knows that no matter what happens, he will do what he must, and it will be the best of all possible courses.
‘Madame,’ says Braxiatel, ‘I merely mentioned my brother…’
‘Doctor,’ whispers Romana, her face streaked with tears–they drip into her mouth as she breathes out heavily–and she opens her eyes. ‘He will do the right thing,’ she says. ‘I know he will.’
‘The Doctor is…’
What can she say to him? That the Doctor is one of the greatest Time Lords who ever lived, that she trusts and loves him more than anything else in the world, that only they are equals, that they are too alike for their own good, that they give each other all their strength and hope, that she knows that in the end they will stand alone and together and nothing will be able to touch them? No, she cannot tell him that…
‘The Doctor is perfectly capable,’ she says at last. She screws her eyes shut, and she can almost feel him trusting and admiring her, just he has, will have, does, will, will always trust and admire her, and she him.
She opens her eyes and here are Leela and Narvin. Narvin hands something to Braxiatel, and she catches a glimpse of steel…
‘Oh, Rassilon, no…’ she whispers, praying to the three sisters, Time, Pain, and Death, the three great deities of Gallifrey…
‘Romanadvoratrelundar,’ says Braxiatel, no emotion in the word. He pronounces it with nine syllables, not eight, in the same manner as her first incarnation.
Romana backs into the empty gallery, against the wrecked Time Scoop. She looks at the four-pronged helmet-like object in Braxiatel’s hand. He holds up a small object like a plumped-up metal disc, the colour of icy steel. The writings of old Gallifrey are writ upon it, and from within comes ticking, ticking, ticking, a time bomb counting down to her own death.
‘No,’ says Romana. ‘No, I’ll be of no use to you!’
‘I did it,’ says Braxiatel, ‘so that you would survive.’
‘I don’t want to survive like this, I want to survive as myself!’ She has broken down, she is dignified and furious and deathly afraid.
Strong arms seize her from the side, clamping her own limbs to her sides. She sees Narvin’s face, the slightest hint of an apologetic grin, and the chamelaeon arch is jammed on to her head.
‘Good-bye,’ she hears Leela say.
A flash of electric fury, light exploding through her empty skull, a drawn-out scream raging at the universe, the sensation of a heart blooming and folding and resolving itself into nothing, and it is finished.