1 — Regret
The déjà vu never ends.
E-Space is essentially the same as N-space; it occupies the same co-ordinates sliced through a shattered looking-glass.
She’s got word from Biroc: there’s a slave camp 20 clicks to the west.
Romana shields her vision against the sun and examines the mist-hung hills.
She picnicked on those green slopes in that other lost existence; when she was the Doctor’s apprentice/lover/friend and they travelled by magic, dodging responsibility and consequence. But in this universe the spare, sublime Yorkshire dales are choked by jungle, and the heat is tight enough that she can attribute any tears to sweat.
2 — Naivety
She tries, first, to change this universe by changing minds. She talks, as the Doctor would, but the citizens of E-space cover their ears. She tries to impress upon them the value of freedom and the horrors of bondage; the wrongs which they are committing, but, more often than not, their reply is:
“They’re only Tharils”
“Judgemental bitch. How could an outsider understand our ways?”
The Doctor was repelled by violence, and Romana took that value from him, but, when the choice is a thousand sleeping slaves or one cruel, ignorance-loving trader, she tells K-9 to open fire.
3 — Inadequacy
The Tharils’ methods of time travel are very different from the refined technology Romana is used to; Gallifrey mastered time with metal and silicon circuits, but the Tharils never needed any such aids:
They are time.
They become the wind howling in the vortex. They wander without shells, guarded only by their strength of will, and the hardness of their hearts.
Biroc tries to explain, and Romana grasps the concepts, can perform the most basic manoeuvres, but she lacks the patterns of temporal energy woven into the Tharils’ mitochondrial strands.
Still, she tries; to build a TARDIS, or to travel naked —
4 — Subjectivity
Granting freedom isn’t all she expected.
When Romana danced with the Doctor adventures ended succinctly, always with the assumption that they had done good, always with his confident smile —
Not all of the Tharils enjoy the freedom she fights to give; others enjoy it too much. The majority of the emancipated have no sense of how to live unshackled. Romana and Biroc give charismatic speeches, but still, too many die. Some, seeing their brothers laid waste by liberty, abandon Romana’s gift and submit themselves back into bondage, while others repay their lives of captivity by acquiring slaves of their own.
5 — Betrayal
Biroc puts his paw on her bare arm. He hugs her, and his dusky mane blends with her blonde hair. His breath is hot and smells of the wilderness, of slave-grown spices, and time. “We will succeed,” he tells her. “We will, we have, we are.”
Romana wonders what the xenophobic prattlers in the Citadel would think of this union; those people who had been her professors, her elders, her sly know-it-all friends. She wonders what the Doctor would think, and then she pulls away, leaving Biroc confused.
She feels cold without his fur against her skin; colder without his scarf.
6 — Fear
When she choose to stay, there were reasons: to escape Gallifrey’s summons and the Black Guardian’s vengeance; to break from the Doctor’s shadow, and from unrequited love; to help Biroc with his noble dream —
She realizes, too late, how selfish her desires were.
She shouldn’t have turned her condescending glare when those slavers questioned her understanding.
Not that they were any better, not that they were in any way right, but she is a Time Lady, however far she runs. There were rules on Gallifrey against meddling; rules she ignored for a moment of happiness.
Now she pays.
7 — Failure
"You can't fight Time Lords, Romana."
"You did, once."
He knew. She sees that now; he knew, but, wise-cruel teacher, he left her to learn on her own. Or —
She hurts to wonder; was he too much of a coward to admit his own mistake? was he so much of a fool that he thought she might do better?
"You were the noblest Romana of them all."
Biroc is killed by his own people for trying to teach forgiveness. Those who sided with him are given the choice: enslavement or death?
Romana forgets her vow to stay and help. She doesn’t see the rebels' decision.
She runs. She runs, and barely escapes with her life.
She knows that, once, the Tharils commanded the gate between universes. She knows what they might do now that dominion has been restored to them. The cold metal of Gallifrey ticks in her mind, the memories of Biroc transmute themselves into her blood, the Doctor whispers his hypocritical warning;
She knows what she must do.
8 — Desperation
The gate opens. Her finger falls.
Time is sliced backwards through a shattered looking-glass,
and every single creature dies.
9 — Duty
When she returns to N-space Romana flings herself to her home world’s laws and judgement, expecting the harshest of punishments. Instead, the secret councils laud her coldness. When she meets the Doctor next that frigidness has seeped into her hearts. She holds his hand and pretends to laugh as they run from her office.
They travel again, but the magic has gone out of it, the consequences loom heavy, and responsibility always baits her back to her icy Presidential cell.
I knew you once. I loved you once.
You deserved better.
She never tells him, but, even through the laughter and the chaos, it is impossible to mistake the judgement in his eye.
You could not possibly understand.
10 — Truth
It is a lie.
Romana knows that those words, no matter their speaker, have always been only an excuse. He does understand, and so does she, and that is why she must force him now as the last Watch falls and the hourglass cracks;
to unleash this fire,
to damn them all.