Echoes of Gallifrey

by Mandragora [Reviews - 6]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Character Study, Introspection, Vignette

Author's Notes:
After two rather bleak stories I thought it's about time I returned to something a little less painful. This story has been lying around in my hard drive for around a year and I thought I should finish it.

Romana watched the Doctor tapping his tall glass of wine with his fork, trying to remember the tune he was playing with his impromptu musical instruments. With a flourish of his other hand — nearly upsetting her own glass and deeply upsetting the snooty waiter — he came to a crescendo of tapping and stopped abruptly. There was scattered applause from the other patrons, who returned to their interrupted meals and conversations.

He beamed at her, grinning goofily. She smiled and picked up her own glass, tapping it gently against his. “Bravo,” she told him quietly, “What was it?”

“‘Ride of the Valkyries’, by Wagner. Rather stern fellow, had some rather sad debt problems…” he shook his head, his curls bouncing. “Of course, there’s no doing it justice here. Remind me to take you to a performance.”

Romana shrugged. “Have you met every famous person in Earth’s history?”

The Doctor’s grin faded a little. “Well, no, not everyone.” He turned to the waiter who’d been hovering with infinite patience by their table. “We’d like a basket of Turkish bread and olive dip in balsamic vinegar, please. And some of the yoghurt dip as well. Is that all right, Romana?”

The Time Lady nodded and the waiter hurried away thankfully. The Doctor leaned back in his chair and gestured expansively. “Well, isn’t this nice? Much better than hanging around in the TARDIS for a week!”

Romana sighed. “I still think we’d get more work done repairing the chameleon circuit if we went to Logopolis, instead of trying to patch it up on Earth. We’d get more work done if we just stayed in the TARDIS!”

The Doctor looked a little crestfallen. “Don’t you like Australia?”

Romana had to admit that she did. The gentle Autumn weather of Brisbane suited her and the place was really quite peaceful. They’d rented — or at least, walked into — an apartment in a suburb of Brisbane, with the TARDIS parked oddly in a corner of the living room like an oversized blue cupboard, and spent most of the day wandering around the streets. She was concerned, though, because the Doctor seemed oddly restless, almost troubled by something. He tried to cover it up by being overly flamboyant and bohemian, but she could sense some inner turmoil brewing inside him.

Still, she decided, it was good to be somewhere peaceful for once. The Doctor had reassured her that nothing universe-shaking was about to happen in Australia–in fact, apart from local human troubles, the early twenty-first century was quite peaceful. Not for the first time, though, she wondered if their mere presence would attract trouble. “Have you noticed,” she began tentatively, “How we seem to find danger wherever we land?”

The Doctor looked thoughtful. “So a lot of people have commented. It could be that the universe is full of danger, I suppose… Though I rather fancy that we just lead interesting lives!”

Romana arched one eyebrow. “Interesting is certainly one way to put it. I’ve seen more cells, dungeons and prisons since I started travelling with you than I care to remember–well, actually, it’s thirty-eight exactly, not counting the Simply Marvellous Happy Fun Forced Resting Place of the Digee planet.”

The Doctor beamed. “You can’t tell me that wasn’t fun?”

“Being dropped into a deep, bottomless pit of brightly coloured plastic balls isn’t exactly my definition of fun.”

“Well what about all the amazing wonders of the known universe–”

Romana raised her hand calmingly. “I’m not being critical, Doctor, not really. Travelling with you is always interesting, I can say that! I just wondered, that’s all.”

“Wondered...?” asked the Doctor, producing a small brightly coloured plastic ball out of his pocket and bouncing it against the table.

“Don’t you think that the probability of the TARDIS materialising exactly where we’re needed most is beyond coincidence?”

The Doctor paused mid-bounce. “You know, that’s always occurred to me, too.”

The waiter arrived once more, laden with plates, cutlery and food. After everything had been set down in perfection — which the Doctor rather childishly ruined by placing his napkin, knife and fork at skewed angles — and they had commenced eating, Romana decided to push the point.

“So have you arrived at any conclusions?”

The Doctor gestured widely with a breadstick. “Oh, Romana! People everywhere need help. There’s always something going on that needs a bit of tweaking, a slight nudge in the right direction.”

Romana shook her head. “Even so, it’s amazingly fortuitous that we’re exactly where we can help. At the crucial moment, at the crucial place. It’s like our lives are part of some universal script, don’t you think?”

The Doctor regarded her thoughtfully and swallowed the mouthful he was eating. “A script? Actually, it’s funny you say that...”

“Is it?”

For once the Doctor was very still, his pale blue eyes staring into hers. “Yes, well. It’s probably nothing, just a glitch...”

“What is it, Doctor?”

He frowned and his eyes shifted to his plate, then back up at her. After a moment, he answered, “You remember Davros, don’t you?”

“How could I forget,” Romana said, shuddering. “That was just after my regeneration.”

“Yes, I’ve been meaning to ask you about that–”

“What about him?”

The Doctor shrugged. “Well nothing, really. It’s just that the first time I encountered him–”

“When you were sent by the Time Lords to alter Dalek creation? Yes I read about that in your diary.”

The Doctor looked scandalised. “You read my diary?”

“You gave it to me!”

“Oh. Well.” He looked slightly mollified. “It’s about time you read something worthwhile. Anyway, yes... I altered the history of the Daleks, slowing down their rise to power. The Time Lords protected the change and stabilised the continuum. However, I was meaning to run the change through the TARDIS databanks to project exactly what sort of consequences can arise from it, but there was all that business with the time rings and it slipped my mind...”

“I could easily create an algorithm which can–”

The Doctor waved his hand irritably. “Yes, yes, I’m sure you can. It’s a moot point, though, because I did it before coming here.”

Romana leaned forwards interestedly, brushing her hair from her face. “And?”

A shadow passed over the Doctor’s features. “And nothing. The TARDIS couldn’t run the projection.”

Romana looked confused. “What do you mean? The TARDIS is linked with the Matrix, surely it can run a simple time projection.”

The Doctor nodded. “I know. I know. Perhaps I phrased that badly. The TARDIS is capable of running the projection, she just couldn’t. Almost as if–”

Romana looked shocked. “A time lock?”

He looked away from her gaze. “Yes. It could well be.”

There was a long moment of silence, underlined by the casual conversation of the other patrons and the sound of cutlery striking plates. When the Doctor finally met her gaze, she shivered despite herself and crossed her arms across her chest. The Doctor nodded sombrely. “The Time Lords still deny sending me to Skaro. Perhaps they aren’t just covering up.”

“What do you mean? You met the CIA agent on Skaro!”

The Doctor nodded. “And he was definitely a Time Lord. I knew who he was and what he was, Romana... I just never thought of asking from when he came.”

Romana’s frown deepened. “How can the Daleks ever become a dominant life form, anyway? The ones we encountered were militarily powerful but not exactly one of the higher life forms.”

The Doctor sighed. “Don’t underestimate the Daleks, Romana.”

She shook her head and forced herself to relax in the balmy weather and bright sunshine of the Brisbane day. “I’m sure it’s nothing, Doctor. The CIA probably time locked that to make sure no-one can accidentally find out, you know what they’re like.” She looked at the Doctor’s dark expression and allowed herself to laugh. “Come on, don’t look like that. It’s not the end of the world.”

The Doctor smiled but his eyes remained distant as he said, “True. And yet... Sherlock Holmes words about an east wind coming is echoing at the back of my mind.”

Romana shivered slightly, then shrugged it off. “Don’t tell me you’ve met him too?”

The Doctor laughed and the moment was gone. “No, no. But Dr. Watson once saw to Jo’s sprained ankle. Have I ever told you about that? The TARDIS turned up in 1887...”

As Romana let the waves of the Doctor’s story wash over her, she studied him with a lot of affection. His features were lit up in memory, eyes beaming, his broad smile infectious. She let her attention drift a little as the Doctor demonstrated the pencil-balancing act he had to do to amuse Queen Victoria and watched a single leaf, the colour of burnt amber, fall from a branch in the street outside the cafe and flutter in a sudden breeze.

For a moment, as it caught the light, the leaf was the colour of a Gallifreyan sunset.