"I can't believe that Romana is actually allowing this," said Narvin. He folded his arms and stared at the bustling workers. New construction was almost unheard of on Gallifrey, especially within the Citadel. But the work in itself was only a minor transgression of custom. What was worse was what they were building.
"It was Romana's idea," said Leela. "A place where leaders from every world and star could come to speak with her."
"An embassy," agreed Narvin. "Can you imagine what a nightmare it's going to be? What's wrong with holding conferences on space stations? They're so much easier to secure."
"You are worried about keeping visitors safe?" asked Leela.
"Partly," said Narvin. "But mostly I'm worried about keeping Gallifrey safe from visitors."
"I see," said Leela. "You are being," she concentrated, "isolationist again."
"Been hitting the dictionaries, Leela?" Narvin pushed himself off the wall and began to walk away from the construction.
"Braxiatel gave me that word," corrected Leela. "He said it was more polite than calling people such as you stupid and selfish."
"Well, I'll make sure to thank him," said Narvin. "Though I doubt politeness is really your thing." He would thank Brax, too. He smirked slightly as he imagined Brax's mollified and incredulous blank stare. It wasn't much, admittedly, but you had to get your little pleasures where you could.
Narvin was so involved in this image that he nearly ran into the tall blue man hurrying past him.
"Watch out!" said Leela, too late. Narvin managed to catch himself just in time, but the tall man barreled into him anyway and they both tripped to the ground.
"Most sincere apologies," mumbled the tall man, picking papers up off the ground.
"My fault entirely," said Narvin, convinced that it wasn't. "Here, let me help you... your Excellency." The tall man had looked up and Narvin recognized him.
"Yes, yes, thank you, goodbye." The tall man hurried off again, starting straight from a crouch. Apparently he was in too much of a rush to even stand up properly.
"Who was that?" asked Leela. "You know him?"
"Not personally," said Narvin. "He's a member of the Monan Host's delegation. They're set to be the first temporal power to use the embassy. He didn't recognize me, anyway, which is a little odd. Perhaps we all look alike to them."
"He did not pick up all his papers," said Leela. "Look." She pointed at a scrap fluttering near Narvin's shoe.
"I must have landed on it or something," said Narvin. "I suppose I'll have to track him down, now." He picked up the paper and unfolded it, idly. His eyes widened. "Rassilon, look at this. You can read, can't you?"
"Of course I can." Leela snatched the paper from him. Her lips moved as she read, but she reached the same conclusion as Narvin had soon enough. "Romana will have to be told!"
"Yes," said Narvin, grimly. "I knew this embassy was a bad idea."
Romana read the note as Braxiatel looked over her shoulder. Narvin shifted from foot to foot and stared at the carpet in the office.
"And you think this means?" Romana said, not looking up.
"Obviously it is part of a secret plot within the Monan Host," said Narvin. "I suggest an immediate investigation."
"Narvin, all the note says is 'Matrix data, meet at docking bay tonight." It could mean anything."
"My Lady President, how can it mean anything but a plan to steal entry into the Matrix?" Narvin couldn't believe it. It was right in front of her eyes.
"Admittedly that's what it looks like," said Romana, "but negotiations with the Monan Host are at a very delicate point. If I allow them to be toppled by an overzealous, xenophobic-"
"Narvin is right to be concerned, Lady President," broke in Brax. "But you are also right to be worried about the perceived image of the CIA. Perhaps you should compromise?"
"How so?" asked Romana.
"Leela can investigate. She was also there when the note was dropped, and is perfectly capable of conducting a covert operation."
"Yes," said Leela. "I will go find K-9 and together we will lie in wait at the docking bay."
"Very well," said Romana. "You can hardly be accused of xenophobia. But I want Narvin to stay well clear of this investigation, is that understood?"
"Lady President, this is absurd," argued Narvin. "How can I do my job if I am not allowed to follow up on threats to security?"
"You'll just have to do other parts of your job," said Romana. "Surely you have some paperwork to sign?"
"Give up, there's a good man," said Braxiatel. "Go 'interrogate' some prisoners or something."
Someday Narvin was going to strangle one or both of his superiors, loyalty be damned. Unfortunately today was not the day. He walked out of the President's office with his hands clasped behind his back and his head held high.
"I am sorry," said Leela, once they were out in the hall. "I promise I will find your thieves for you."
"Of course you will," said Narvin, condescendingly. "I just hope you do so before they make off with all our secrets."
Narvin strode off, toward his office, fists clenched.
Leela watched Narvin walk away and then concerned herself with finding K-9. The dog had said he was going to be working in the main laboratory today, which was just down the hall. Leela padded down it quietly and pushed the door to the laboratory open.
"K-9? Are you in here?"
"Affirmative, Mistress." K-9 wagged his tail briefly and continued manipulating one of the computers. "Do you require assistance?"
"Romana has given us a new mission," said Leela. "We are to discover the purpose of this note."
She laid the note down in front of K-9 so that he could read it.
"Scanning... purpose of note appears to be theft of Matrix records."
"All is not always what it seems," said Leela. Everything was straightforward enough, but she did not trust anything on Gallifrey to be so simple. "Come, we must go to the docking bay and lie in wait."
"Affirmative, Mistress." K-9 decoupled from the computer and followed Leela out.
In his office, Narvin read an operative's report. Once he'd finished, he wrote down some questions in a terse note, signed it, sealed it in an envelope, and then threw his pen against the wall. The slight noise and smear of ink on the white plane of the wall gave him some satisfaction, but not enough. He pulled another pen from a drawer and did it again.
"Coordinator? Are you alright?" Torvald called through the door.
"Perfectly," said Narvin. He set down the third pen he'd just been about to chuck. Instead, he got up and opened the door.
"Here, send this reply along." He handed Torvald the envelope. "And get me a list of all the personnel from the Monan Host delegation."
"Of course, sir," said Torvald.
Twenty minutes later, armed with a file of dossiers, Narvin was on the trail. Romana wouldn't be able to punish him for disobeying orders if he produced results. Well, she could, but it wouldn't be politic. Narvin smiled thinly and made his way to the docks.
The docking bay was always interesting. There weren't very many off-world ships, but the TARDISes flying in and out always carried new scents and sometimes even flecks of the alien ground in which they had landed. Leela occupied herself with trying to determine where each ship had come from while she and K-9 waited.
She only recognized a few scents, and each strange one was like an invitation to explore. But she was trapped on Gallifrey now, with no husband or Doctor to keep her company or give her a way out. Perhaps if she conducted this investigation successfully Romana would allow her to leave, if only for a short time.
"Yes, K-9? What is it?" Leela looked around, but did not see anything. Sometimes K-9's sensors were sharper than her eyes. "Have you found those who are meeting here?"
"Negative." K-9's lights blinked in apology. "I wish to enquire if it would be better for us to split up."
"There is strength in numbers, K-9," warned Leela. Something bad had always happened whenever she had left the Doctor alone.
"Affirmative," chirped K-9. "However, this is a reconnaissance mission. I believe it would be more effective if I observed the docking bay from a higher level while you remained here, Mistress."
"We would see more of the ground," said Leela. She considered it. "Very well. If I see these people, I will follow them and hear what they say. If you see them, you must return here and tell me where they are. You are not built for stealth, K-9."
"Affirmative." K-9 wheeled away, toward the elevator. Leela watched him go, and then settled in to wait some more.
A few minutes later, she heard soft steps behind her, the steps of someone trying not to be heard. Leela started up out of her crouch immediately, pulling her blade out as she went.
Narvin held himself completely still as Leela's knife pressed lightly against his throat.
"Do you greet every random passer-by in this way?" asked Narvin casually. He didn't even flinch when his Adam's apple moved again the edge of the knife, noted Leela with mixed admiration and annoyance.
"Only when I am acting on Romana's orders," she said, sheathing her knife. "And someone is trying to sneak up on me."
"I only meant not to spoil your cover," said Narvin. He brought his hand toward his throat and then away. "I suppose you've done that now anyway."
"Why are you here?" asked Leela, ignoring Narvin's words. "You are meant to stay away from this — I am to take care of the thieves."
"It occurred to me that you don't know who you're looking for." Narvin took a stack of folders from under his arm. "I have all of the available images of the delegation with me."
"You are trying to make me believe that it must be the Monans," said Leela, warily. It was not good to come into a hunt when you were already certain of what you would find.
"Of course not," said Narvin. He smiled slightly, as if a wider smile might crack his face in half. "But it was a member of their delegation who dropped the note. It would be good to know what all of the Monans looked like, wouldn't it?"
"Yes," said Leela. She was reluctant to drop her guard, but more information was always helpful.
"Excellent," said Narvin, and handed the stack of folders to Leela, who took them in both arms. "I'll just keep watch while you look through those."
Leela looked at him hard, but she trusted the Coordinator to do his duty, at the very least. He would not try to trick her in this way. She began to sift through the files, memorizing each face and name that came up.
A faint sound filtered through from the upper levels. Leela looked up, trying to place the noise. Her eyes widened as it came again.
"That was K-9's laser! He is in trouble!" She dropped the files and ran to the stairs. They would be quicker than the elevator, and she must help K-9 as soon as possible. She was dimly aware of Narvin gathering up the files behind her, but it did not matter.
She took the stairs two at a time, drawing her knife as she went and turning it so its blunt edge was braced against her forearm. Soon she was on top of the landing where K-9 had been stationed.
He was not there. No one was there. All that remained of the fight that must have happened was a pair of laser burns on the back wall.
Narvin caught up at last, huffing. "Well?"
"They are gone." Leela sheathed her knife again, and crouched to the ground. "I will track them and get K-9 back."
Narvin did not respond. When Leela looked up, she saw that he was gazing out at the docking bay, apparently fascinated by something.
"What is it?"
"I can see one of the ambassadors of the Monan Host," said Narvin. He pointed, and Leela followed his finger to where a tall woman was talking to a man in Gallifreyan robes. Her thoughts went back to the files.
"That is Melinna, yes? Why is she in the docking bay?"
"There's no reason for her presence," said Narvin, triumphantly. "The Host's ship is in a special bay. She must have come for the Matrix information."
"It is possible," agreed Leela. She bit at her lip. She had to find K-9, but it was her duty to find out what was happening with Melinna.
"I can follow her," said Narvin, as if sensing Leela's thoughts. "You go after your little robot friend."
"Romana said you were not to do anything about the Monans," said Leela, slowly. But it was a good idea.
"She meant I couldn't lead the investigation," said Narvin, smiling in that tight fashion again. Leela supposed he was trying to be charming. "Why don't you just deputize me? I'm here, you need an extra hand..." Narvin rummaged in his pockets and produced a small machine. "Here. It's a communicator. Call as soon as you rescue K-9 and I'll tell you my position."
Leela took the communicator and nodded before padding off on the trail. Sometimes you had to take help even from those you had been told to scorn. K-9 needed her.
Left to his own devices, Narvin ran down the steps, slowing as he approached a guard who was fiddling with her datapad. He handed the files about the Monan Host to the woman, along with curt instructions to make sure they were delivered to the CIA headquarters. He couldn't risk leaving them around, even if they contained no confidential information. Then he was on the move again, working his way through the landing pads and docked ships to where he had seen Melinna.
As he neared, he ducked behind a landed TARDIS that was in the shape of tall primitive computer bank and effectively shielded him from view. If he was lucky, he could catch some of the conversation.
He felt his cheeks straining with a hard grin. It had been a long time since he'd gone out in the field against the wishes of his superiors. He'd have to do this more often.
"That's all you have for me?" asked Melinna. Her tone was a little impatient, but otherwise she sounded untroubled. Probably an old hand at covert operations.
"That's all I was told to find out," said her companion, shifting uneasily. Narvin risked a glance around the corner of the TARDIS in order to get a closer look at the pair.
He didn't recognize the man, but he was definitely Gallifreyan. Narvin noted his sandy hair and bulky frame for later prosecution. Being involved in selling state secrets was punishable by more than a slap on the wrist, even if they had abolished dematerialisation these days.
Melinna herself was simply the standard sort of highly polished diplomat, though with an air of calm that went past the normal tense and forced serenity of the average. Narvin followed the graceful curve of her arms as she passed a data chip to the man, taking his hand in all four of her own.
"You've done well," she said. "We'll be in touch."
The man touched his collar nervously, as if he wasn't excited about the prospect. Narvin suspected he was being pressured into this by someone else. Obviously the treason hadn't been his idea.
Melinna glided away, and the man hurried away, looking back every few steps, as if worried she would come back. Narvin considered cornering him, but decided Melinna was far more important. After a moment he followed her, careful to stay far enough back that she wouldn't spot him easily.
Leela followed the trail carefully, pausing every once and a while to make sure she was on the right track. K-9 had left scorch marks for a short time as he fought his captor, but those soon faded. Leela hoped that K-9's weapons had simply been taken away. She would be very upset if he had come to harm.
Even with the blaster marks gone, the trail was still easy enough to mark. Narvin was right about one thing - whoever had taken K-9 was from the Monan Host delegation. The scent was unmistakable, and when it became lost in the streets of the citadel, Leela followed a hunch and headed toward the embassy.
She was nearly there when she was stopped by someone shouting her name.
"Leela! Leela, wait a moment!" Torvald jogged up, his hand hovering as if to catch her by the arm. Leela tensed and Torvald thought better of it.
"I do not have time to talk," said Leela, shortly. "I am busy."
"This won't take long," said Torvald. He was smiling in the way Leela didn't like, the way which seemed too knowing. "I just wanted to warn you."
"Warn me? About what?" Leela kept walking as they talked. She did not wish to lead Torvald to the embassy, but she could not stand around and risk K-9.
"Narvin," said Torvald, following. "He's going to try and take over your investigation. He's got his own agenda, trying to tie it in with the Monan Host."
"I have already," Leela hesitated, "'deputized' Narvin. He is working under my instructions."
"You can't have," said Torvald. His knowing smirk faded, replaced by a scowl. "Lady Romana must be informed. Narvin's xenophobia-"
"Narvin was right about the Monan Host, whatever his isolationist beliefs," continued Leela. She didn't bother to raise her voice. "Someone has taken K-9, and an ambassador from the embassy was seen speaking with a guard at the docking bay."
"He's gotten to you, hasn't he.” Torvald’s strides as he kept pace with Leela became sharp and jerky. “I can't believe you, of all people, would be tricked into furthering Narvin's prejudiced ideals."
"I have not been tricked," said Leela, annoyed. "Things have happened which cannot be ignored. There is no bias in the truth. Now, be quiet." She held up a hand to halt protest. "I am busy, as I have told you."
Leela knelt to the ground, conscious of Torvald standing over her. The trail was diverging from her guessed path, moving away from the nearly-constructed embassy and toward a set of housing units nearby. K-9 must be being held in someone's living quarters, perhaps the temporary ones assigned to the Monans. Leela straightened up.
"Where are we going?" asked Torvald. He showed no sign of leaving, despite Leela’s attempts to rid herself of him.
"I am going to find K-9. I do not know where you are going." Leela didn't bother to look at Torvald, but kept her eyes on the ground, willing another sign of K-9 to appear.
"With you. Someone has to be the independent observer."
"You are not independent," said Leela, not bothering to try and hide her stare now. "You are an agent of the CIA, a subordinate of Narvin's. You do not seem loyal as you should be, but you are no less his man."
"We'll see about that," muttered Torvald. "Do you want my help or should I just back off and watch from afar?"
"You may come if you are useful," allowed Leela. "But if you try anything, my knife shall taste your throat."
"Mhm." Torvald smiled again, and Leela shivered. It was lucky for him that she did not use her knife on those who simply unnerved her.
Narvin had trailed Melinna all the way back to the embassy, but now he paused. The area she had gone into was finished and designated as offices. For him to enter so soon after her deal would be suspicious. Even if Melinna thought it was a coincidence, she would be cagey and nervous, likely to ask Romana to call him off. That would result in Romana finding out that he had become involved despite her orders. That confrontation, Narvin thought, was better to put off until he had something to show for his disobedience.
On the other hand, standing around in the plaza in front of the embassy wasn't doing any good at all. Narvin walked inside.
"I'd like to speak with Ambassador Melinna," he said to the secretary. He, in turn, blinked at Narvin sleepily and typed something into a keypad. It beeped, and the Monan nodded.
"She says to go in. Third door on the left."
Narvin followed the directions, amused and annoyed at the lack of security. Anyone visiting the CIA offices would have been escorted, to ensure they didn't wander into the wrong area, accidentally or on purpose.
Narvin stood just out of sight of the secretary, considering whether he really needed to confront the ambassador. Surely there was something in this building worth sneaking a glance at.
The decision was taken out of his hands when Melinna herself emerged from her office. She smiled, and Narvin twitched a little as the atmosphere became warm and welcoming. Melinna was apparently projecting some telepathic energy that trespassed into Narvin's brain.
"Coordinator Narvin! What a pleasure."
"Ambassador Melinna," said Narvin. He inclined his head and stepped out to meet her. The energy was a clever diplomatic trick, and he was starting to feel more at ease despite himself. "I would like to speak with you privately, perhaps in your office?" Rather than wait for a response, he just pushed past her. Melinna swiveled and followed.
"Of course, of course." She swept in as Narvin opened the door and then waved at him to close it. "What can I do for you?"
Narvin sat down in the high-backed chair provided for guests, and then raised his eyebrows, waiting for Melinna to seat herself in turn. She did so, smiling wider to cover her annoyance at being preempted again.
"The CIA has been given information about a possible attempt to steal Matrix records. Some members of your embassy have been implicated." It wouldn't be good to give too much away. Narvin just wanted to see how she'd react, whether she'd be put on her guard or startled into making a mistake.
"Really?" Melinna bit her lip, projecting confusion. "How terrible."
"Yes," said Narvin, dryly. "Can I expect your cooperation in this matter, Excellency?"
"But of course!" Melinna spread three of her hands out on the table, palms down, and raised the remaining one to pat her hair. "But do call me Melinna."
Narvin looked at her warily. This was not at all how he had expected this interview to go. Melinna was completely unflustered, as if she were ignorant of the matter altogether. That was impossible, given what he'd seen at the docking bay. The other two explanations for Melinna's behavior were that she was stupid, which was unlikely, or she had a plan, which was worrying.
"Melinna," he said. "You must understand that if we discover anything, it could result in the offending staff being forcibly expelled from Gallifrey."
Instead of being shaken by the threat, Melinna just nodded and stood up, circling around to lean on her desk. Narvin stood up in turn, not wanting to be in a subordinate position.
"I understand completely," she said, huskily. "We'll deal with that in a moment."
"What could be more important than charges of espionage?" asked Narvin. This was bizarre.
"Matters of the heart!" said Melinna. She pressed two hands against her breast.
Narvin stared at her, completely nonplussed.
Leela and Torvald stood outside the apartment building. The trail had ended, and K-9 must be somewhere in there.
"We should go in and search every room," said Leela. "K-9 will be found."
"No," argued Torvald. "That would alert the kidnapper unless we were lucky enough to find him first."
"What should we do, then? Wait for K-9 to be torn apart? Run to Romana, as you wished to before, and let K-9 be taken somewhere else?"
"There must be something we can do," growled Torvald. "Don't reduce this to your way or the wrong way."
"You still give me no other choices," said Leela. "What use are you?"
"Look, why don't we just wait for a moment?" Torvald shrugged. "Maybe the kidnapper will come out. He must have taken K-9 for a reason."
"That would make sense," agreed Leela. "If he leaves, there will be signs that he held K-9 - scorch marks, or rust from K-9's underbelly."
"Rust? Your Doctor didn't use very good materials, did he?"
"But if we wait and he destroys K-9, then we will have done nothing," continued Leela. Only the twitch of her hand toward her knife showed that she had heard Torvald's insult.
"It's a risk," said Torvald. "But one I think we have to take. Come on, we can hide around that corner."
Leela followed, reluctantly, and settled into a crouch behind a shade of small trees. It was easy to lapse into the old habit of stalking and lying in wait, despite the foreign presence of Torvald. He was a hunter as well, and so not much of a distraction. He knew enough to be able to breathe quietly and not fidget.
"Why are you working with Narvin?"
Apparently he was still willing to talk. Leela shook her head.
"I'm being quiet," said Torvald. "Anyway, we're on official business, and you have a knife. We can deal with anyone who spots us."
"It is better to stay hidden than to be found out," said Leela. But by speaking she had agreed to listen to Torvald, and he started up again.
"Narvin looks down on you, you know. He thought he could muscle his way in to your investigation because you're not clever enough to keep him out."
"He may think what he likes," said Leela, lightly. "He is being useful. I cannot be in two places at once."
"You could have asked someone else for help," said Torvald. His face was intense when Leela glanced at it, and her eyes lingered a moment before she turned back to keeping watch on the apartment building.
"Who could I trust?" she asked. "Even your guards and office-workers think that I am lower than them. Oh, they will do what I say, but only that. And they will think less of me, that I needed their help."
"Not everyone thinks-" began Torvald, but Leela kept talking, letting the words cleanse the unhappiness from her soul.
"Narvin wears his dislike on his face, in his speech. He does not try to pretend that it is not there. It is not- better," said Leela, hesitating, "but it is more honest. He will do what is needed, and tell me that I am stupid. I do not care."
"Things shouldn't be like that," muttered Torvald.
"I agree," said Leela. She kept her eyes on the apartment. "I should never have come here. There is nothing for me, nothing worth dealing with your people for."
"What about your husband?" asked Torvald.
"He is gone," said Leela. "Keep your mind on the watch."
"Exactly what is going on here?" asked Narvin. He felt it important to be clear, because currently it seemed as if Melinna was waving away an important discussion in order to throw herself at him.
"I saw you at the banquet last week," breathed Melinna. Her energy swirled around Narvin, pulling at the hair on his arms and the back of his neck. "I've wanted you ever since."
"Ah," said Narvin. He backed up a little, not even noticing the movement until he bumped into his abandoned chair. "Um."
"I dared to hope that you felt it too," said Melinna, coming closer. "That that was why you had come. Was it? Were these silly accusations of espionage only a ploy?"
"My accusations are never silly," protested Narvin, automatically. "I'm never silly."
"Then it was fate that brought us together," said Melinna, spreading her arms.
"It was your illegal behavior."
"Love is never illegal!"
"I'm extremely uncomfortable with where this conversation is heading," said Narvin. "Can you sit down?"
"Oh, your concern is touching," said Melinna. "In truth, I can hardly stand for my passion."
"That's not what I meant-"
Melinna swooned at him, throwing herself into his arms.
"Please don't do that," said Narvin, his voice a little strangled despite himself. He sidestepped and forced Melinna to stumble and catch herself.
"Come now, Narvin," she said, when she recovered. Her voice was sterner now, more commanding. "I know we can never truly be together, but surely we can make something of the attraction between us?" She made a graceful and obscene gesture with one of her limbs.
"Don't do that either," said Narvin. He covered his eyes with one hand, trying to gather his thoughts. "This is obviously an attempt to distract me from investigating your embassy."
"How could you accuse me of such a thing!" said Melinna. She rubbed at her eyes, sniffing. "Is it so hard to believe that someone could love you solely on your own merits?"
Narvin thought about it. Then he brought the hand away from his eyes, and used it to wave the suggestion away.
"Yes," he said, "it is."
"Damn," said Melinna. "What about casual sex?"
"You are trying to distract me!" said Narvin, stung and a little overloud. He winced at the noise and lowered his voice to its normal even tones. "This is sexual harassment."
"I have immunity from prosecution," said Melinna. "And your president would hardly expel me for such an offense. Anyway, I was told you were chronically undersexed, even for a Time Lord."
"This is insulting to my office and my character," said Narvin. His tone hovered between seriousness and sarcasm. "And it practically proves that you are trying to cover up your complicity in the theft of Matrix records."
"I must sadly agree," said Melinna. "I did hope to make this go away in a pleasant manner, but I suppose I can deal with a less entertaining method." Her energy withdrew from Narvin as she pressed a button and spoke into an intercom on the desk. "G'kar, could you call in Konstan? I have someone for him to deal with."
"Deal with," said Narvin. "You do realize I'm the coordinator of the CIA?"
"Well, yes," said Melinna. "And it was very foolish of you to come here alone."
"Someone's leaving," said Torvald. A familiar figure was walking out of the apartment building.
"I had noticed," hissed Leela. "He is the tall man who dropped that paper. He must have taken K-9!" Her hand grabbed for her dagger, and she started up, but Torvald pulled her back by her arm. "Let go of me!"
"Listen," said Torvald. His mouth was set in a grim line, but he showed no fear. "He doesn't have K-9 with him, so he must have left him in his room. We can just go up to the front desk, tell them we're from the CIA, and ask to be shown his room. Simple."
"I suppose," said Leela, slowly. "But I am not done with him. When next we meet he will pay, all the more so if he has hurt K-9."
"Yes, yes, you're very bloodthirsty." Torvald shifted impatiently, and Leela glared at him as they waited for the tall man to get out of sight. Luckily he seemed to be in a hurry, and they were soon out of the bush and inside the building.
"Hello," said Torvald, smiling at the Time Lady at the reception desk. He was probably trying to look friendly, but the expression sat poorly on his face, making him look angry, ill, or both. Leela smiled to herself in turn, confident that it looked well on her.
"How can I help you, sir? ...Madam?"
Leela ignored the woman's stumble over the last word and leaned over the desk as if to share a great secret.
"We are investigating charges of spying and theft made against a man who is staying here. He is tall, with brown hair. Do you know who I am speaking of?"
"Konstan? Of course, but there must be some mistake." The Time Lady's eyes were wide and unsure.
"We have authorization to pursue this matter from the highest authorities," said Torvald. "The Lady President, in fact. We must see this Konstan's rooms."
"I'll need some ID," said the Time Lady, coolly. Now that she was over her shock, she seemed to be falling back on the procedure that had probably been drilled into her.
Leela examined the floor as Torvald produced a CIA badge. The tall man had come through here, and his tracks were evident. One of his boots had had oil on it, the faint traces working backwards into full smears.
"This doesn't look like you."
"I regenerated recently. What do you want, for me to pull up my Matrix records?"
Leela followed the footprints until they left the reception area, going into one of the corridors that led to the living quarters. She glanced back at Torvald, and he nodded slightly, shifting forward to crowd the Time Lady and block Leela from view.
Leela pushed through the doors to the corridor carefully, making no sound. She closed the doors, waited a moment to ensure there was no pursuit, and then broke into a jog, going as fast as she could while still reading the traces.
K-9 was in this building somewhere, and he was bleeding.
Narvin wasn't sure whether to try and make a break for it or wait and see what happened. Melinna didn't seem to have a weapon, but it probably wouldn't be easy to get out of the building. On the other hand, if he gambled and stayed, he might never have an opportunity to leave again.
The door opened and closed, and Melinna smiled, her energy turning expectant. Narvin didn't look around, but he supposed this meant Konstan had arrived.
"You sent for me?" Konstan was standing behind Narvin's chair, but his voice floated over Narvin's head, niggling at his memory. Ah. The man who had dropped the papers. Was he an ally, a trap, or just clumsy?
"As you see, the Coordinator here has been asking questions." Melinna waved a careless hand at Narvin. "I'd like you to give him some... 'answers.'"
"I thought you wanted everything kept secret." Narvin looked up at that, certain no one could be so clueless. As expected, Konstan's eyebrows were quirked just a little too quizzically, his eyes just a little too wide.
"I meant slap him around, you dolt!" snapped Melinna. "Find out what exactly he knows, then erase his memory. Kill him if you have to, let regeneration trauma do your work for you. We're too close to have to deal with the authorities."
No love lost there. Narvin's hopes, if you could call them that, rose. With luck, he could play them against each other, cause a rift, and get out in the aftermath. If he just-
His thoughts were interrupted as Konstan dragged him out of his chair by the collar of his robe, forcing him toward the door.
"We'd better get started," said the man. "Can't keep Her Excellency waiting."
Narvin glanced back at Melinna, who was already shuffling through the stacks of documents on her desk.
"I know how it is," he mumbled, confiding. "Busy, busy, and you have to do all her dirty work."
"Yeah," said Konstan, and half-pushed Narvin down a flight of stairs.
The oil lead to a ground-floor room, and Leela came up short against the door, her palms bracing her against it. It was locked.
Torvald came up behind her, breathing hard.
"Finally managed to talk my way past the desk," he said. "What's wrong?"
"K-9 is behind this door," said Leela. "Do you have a way to open it?"
"I would've thought you'd just kick it in," said Torvald, dryly.
"If you have a way to open it without breaking anything, that is better. The woman out there is angry enough with us already.” Leela pressed at the door again, willing it to become unlocked. “The Doctor could have opened this in a moment."
"Well, I'm not the Doctor, and I don't have his gadgets," said Torvald. "If you can wait a few minutes, I can probably decode the door entry mechanism-"
"No," said Leela, and kicked the door in.
"I thought you weren't going to do that," said Torvald, without rancor. He followed Leela into the empty bedroom.
"I said it would be better if I didn't. It would also be better to find K-9 alive than dead."
"Deactivated, you mean."
The trail lead into the tiny kitchenette in the suite, and the question of dead or deactivated became less academic. K-9's chassis was half-shattered, his left side a mass of wires and oil. His ears waggled forlornly, the only sign of life. Leela bit her lip as she stepped forward, willing herself not to cry out.
"Mistress?" K-9's voice sounded harsh and wrong. Leela knelt beside him and stroked his back, where the metal was still smooth and unbroken.
"I am here, K-9. I will get you to a doctor, and we will make sure you get well."
"The Doctor? I do not understand."
"He is delirious," said Leela, looking up at Torvald.
"His CPU is probably damaged," Torvald corrected. "We need to find a technician before his memory banks leak. If they haven't already."
"Yes," agreed Leela. She hesitated, looking at K-9, and then scooped him up into her arms, unmindful of the weight. Moving the injured was a bad idea normally, but it would be faster to get K-9 to a technician this way.
"Wait," said K-9. "Mistress."
"Do not speak, K-9. Save your energy for healing."
"Negative. Must warn you. Coordinator Narvin in danger."
"Unidentified man left. Embassy. Narvin." The light in K-9's viewscreen died.
"What should we do?" asked Torvald.
"Narvin would have called me if something was wrong." Leela shifted K-9 in her arms, trying to reach into her pouch for the communicator Narvin had given her.
Torvald interrupted the gesture, stepping close with a familiarity Leela did not trust. He moved to open Leela's pouch, but she pushed K-9 into his arms instead, freeing herself. She paused with the communicator in her hands.
"Should I check on him? I do not wish to cause him trouble if he is still following Melinna."
"Call in," said Torvald. Oil from K-9 was already seeping into his robes, had probably already stained Leela's tunic. "We need to know if we have to go after him."
Leela nodded and clicked the button.
"Narvin? Narvin, are you there?"
No response. Leela shifted uneasily, then jumped a little when a crash of static broke through and was abruptly silenced.
"We'll have to find him," said Leela, after a moment. "Take K-9, get him to someone who can help. I will go rescue Narvin."
"Shouldn't that be the other way around?" asked Torvald, but he was already walking out of the room. "This is your dog, and Narvin is my boss."
"I trust you to get K-9 to a technician," said Leela. "You know what I will do if you do not. But I do not trust you to help Narvin, especially when I do not yet know what is happening. It would be like trusting the rabbit to save the wolf, as in the stories of old. The rabbit would take his revenge, I think."
"Very well," said Torvald. He said something else as well, but Leela was already past him, moving faster than Torvald could, with the weight of K-9.
Narvin had been put in a room, in a chair. His pockets had been searched, and the communicator thrown across the room after Leela had called in. There was a light shining in his eyes, and a guard at the door. His captor leaned in close and asked his questions in a hoarse undertone, brandishing a staser.
Narvin was having trouble keeping a straight face. Not because he wanted to laugh - this was dangerous, and not at all funny - but because he wanted to give advice.
No one had bothered to ask him about Leela, or forced him to respond to the call, but they had to know someone would be coming after him soon. The interrogation, however, proceeded on its shoddy course. The guard was good, though there should be two - one to watch the interrogation and one to watch the outside corridor. The light was good - Narvin couldn't see a thing. But Konstan kept turning his back and blinking into the light, meaning that his eyes had to constantly readjust. Presumably Narvin was supposed to be impressed that Konstan dared to take his eyes off of him, but Konstan should really be turning to the side, where he could stare into the darker corners of the room. Anyway, it was usually better to maintain eye contact with a prisoner. It made them feel uncomfortable at least, and could even make them feel like you could see a lie.
Other things were worse. Narvin wasn't even buckled into the chair, giving him an opportunity to escape every time Konstan did that look-away-and-blink thing. And the staser Konstan was threatening him with was obviously set to stun. It would be annoying, but not especially painful, to be shocked with it. Konstan would be better off using either an advanced sensation manipulator or a more primitive tool. Narvin preferred rusty knives, himself.
Konstan waved the staser again and Narvin bit his lip. Correction would be condescending and smug, which was why he'd usually do it. In this case, however, it would be counterproductive, and probably goad Konstan into doing something drastic.
Unfortunately, Konstan seemed to have taken Narvin's uncertainty as encouragement. He darted forward and his hand scrabbled against Narvin's scalp as he pulled the Coordinator's head up by his short hair.
"I've withstood torture before," said Narvin, keeping his voice cool, but not cold. Perhaps treating this charade seriously was the best course. "I don't know what you think you'll gain."
"We'll see," said Konstan. "Perhaps you've gone soft after your stint at the top, dealing with dangerous paperwork."
Narvin just blinked slowly. Pulling on the hair was effective, which is why he'd always kept his cropped. Konstan kept losing his grip, and the main problem was once again the need to correct. The ear was a suitably sensitive alternative to hair for pulling purposes, for instance.
"Right," said Konstan. "Guard, leave us."
They stared at each other as the Monan shut the door and left them alone. Then Konstan dropped to his knees and started sobbing.
"You've got to help me," he gasped, wetly. "Oh please, I don't think I can do this anymore."
"Good," said Narvin, not entirely surprised. "You're extremely bad at it."
"I know," said Konstan. "I never meant for it to get this far."
"I don't see why you think I'll help with my own torture, though," Narvin added. After all, he'd been careful to keep from doing just that.
"I was talking about being a double agent," explained Konstan. "For the CIA?"
"You're not a double agent," said Narvin. "I've been trying to get someone on the Monan staff since they came here, with no success."
"I've been sending in reports," said Konstan. He rubbed at his nose, looking progressively more annoyed. "My handler is Rodoregivik?"
"Shot two weeks ago, with regenerative amnesia," said Narvin, with disgust. "He must have forgotten about you. Rassilon, this is ridiculous."
"Well, never mind that," said Konstan, standing up. "As I said, you have to help me. Melinna has the Matrix information, and she's going to use it to stage an invasion of Gallifrey."
"I knew it," said Narvin, grimly pleased. "Right, let's get out of here."
"To tell the Lady President?"
"Of course not." Narvin waved it away and got up out of the chair, walking briskly to the door. "She'd rupture something if I came back without clear results. My left heart, probably. No, we're going to confront Melinna, with a weapon this time. Take that staser off its safety."
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Konstan asked, but he did it all the same.
Narvin just nodded, tucking one of his arms behind his back.
"Get over here and march me to her office. I've just given up vital information."
Leela ran to the embassy, ignoring the stares of passersby. Haste was unheard of on Gallifrey, especially in those ridiculous long robes that everyone wore. If one of these people had been told that they needed to save someone's life, they would have done nothing. Or they would have tried to do something, and then fallen over after tripping on their hems.
Leela's mind was wandering, she realized. It was probably the shock of what had happened to K-9 combined with worry about what might have happened to Narvin. She wasn't immune to her emotions.
She could, however, choose to ignore them for the moment. Leela gritted her teeth and ran harder, letting the motion carry away her distraction.
The embassy loomed in front of her, grand and half-finished. Leela burst through the doors and vaulted the welcome desk. The squawks of the receptionist followed her as she turned a corner, heading deeper into the building.
She could probably track Narvin, but she hadn't the time, especially with how long it would take to find a trace in this carpeted sterility. Instead Leela just took turns at random, trying to head downwards. The embassy was full of ramps and half-levels, but most of the building was sectioned off. Leela could cover the whole open floor plan in a few minutes, and she meant to do just that.
Provided, of course, that Narvin had not been taken into the construction. But if he was there, she would never find him in time.
Leela skidded to a halt outside an open door. The room contained within was brightly lit but empty. A chair had been put in the center of the room, far from any table or stand. It looked wrong.
Leela moved to investigate, crouching down to examine the floor around the chair. There were a few loose hairs there, short and brown. Like Narvin's hair.
He'd been here, and gone. Where?
"What in the Host are you doing?" snarled a voice. Leela looked up to see a tough-looking Monan guard of ambiguous gender standing just in the door. It grasped at a staser it had at its side.
Leela grinned, and slipped her own hand down toward the hilt of her knife. It had been far too long since she'd been able to fight.
As the Monan drew its staser, Leela leapt forward, narrowing the distance between them. She lashed out with her knife, and the Monan startled, jumping back and fumbling its weapon. Leela kept on the attack, pushing, pushing, not letting the Monan regain its balance. It was soon trying to run backwards down the corridor, staser left forgotten on the ground somewhere.
Leela readied herself for the final attack. The Monan was nearing the door out into the main area of the embassy, but the door was closed. It wouldn't be able to run for much longer.
The door opened as Leela's thighs tightened to make the lunge, and Torvald shot the Monan in the back.
"That was my fight," said Leela, disgusted. Wasted energy flowed through her as she had to calm herself.
"Sorry to spoil your fun," said Torvald. "Where's our dear leader?"
"He is gone." Leela nodded back at the room she had found. "They have taken him elsewhere."
"Right," said Torvald. "Why don't we just ask the Ambassador to explain herself? No more of this tedious tracking."
Leela would have argued, but she was in no mood to spend any more time being quiet and sneaky. Now was the time for breaking heads.
Melinna seemed a little surprised when Konstan said he had broken Narvin. Even she was probably aware of the man's complete incompetence, then. Narvin tried to look cowed, but he was aware that he was a poor actor. But Melinna sent the guards away all the same, and Narvin smiled as the door closed, leaving the three of them in her office.
"So," he said, stepping away from Konstan. "Let's pick up from where we left off. Where are the Matrix records you stole?"
"Konstan?" Melinna got no response from her aide, and she turned to shout for the guards. She was stopped by Konstan changing the aim of his staser.
"Answer the Coordinator, your Excellency."
"This is absurd. I don't know what you're talking about, nor do I appreciate being threatened by-"
"No." Narvin narrowed his eyes, pacing a circle around Melinna. When he reached her back, she didn't twist to watch him, but her breathing hitched. This was how intimidation was done. "Try again, your Excellency. My assistant here has an itchy trigger finger."
"Top left drawer on my desk," said Melinna. She was calm, Narvin had to give her that. "It's unlocked."
Narvin examined the drawer carefully, looking for traps or anything out of place. Finally he eased it open, pulling out the data chip with two fingers.
"How did you get this?" It was a real matrix data chip, not a copy. The Seal of Rassilon was there, and why would anyone bother to forge such a prominent marker? "Who was your contact?"
"Konstan arranged it," spat Melinna.
"I see." Narvin flipped the chip between his fingers, thinking. Konstan shouldn't have done that, should've warned the CIA as soon as Melinna made any overtures. The Matrix was too important to be used as bait. But he'd been operating in a freefall, after all, ever since the death of his handler had accidentally cut him loose.
"It was his idea," said Melinna, and that made even less sense.
Narvin came around from the desk to ask Melinna about it and then dodged to the side as the staser in Konstan's hands fired. The bolt missed him, but he caught awkwardly on the desk, and then tripped over the chair and went down with one leg crumpled. He squawked and it sounded undignified, but he didn't care because right after that there was a sickening snap.
"You idiot," Narvin hissed. He couldn't really see, a gray fog of shock was hiding the room, but he could always berate. Keep talking, keep talking and he might avoid passing out. "Don't touch the trigger when the safety's off."
"I'm relatively certain Konstan meant to do that, Coordinator."
Narvin could just make out Melinna's face hovering over him, fuzzy around the edges, but something to hold on to.
"He's gone," she said, shrugging. "And he took the chip."
"Don't be stupid, I have the-" except he didn't. He must have dropped it when he fell, or he had actually already passed out once and lost the time. Narvin tried to feel his conscious timeline for any missed seconds, but it was too much effort. He concentrated on pulling himself into the chair, instead. The world spun, but Melinna caught on and helped him ease up.
"Played us," muttered Narvin. "Both of us."
"Evidentially," agreed Melinna. "I should have known better than to employ a Gallifreyan.”
Narvin felt vaguely that Melinna was trying to imply something. But he kept getting stuck on the fact that Konstan wasn’t a Monan and that he hadn’t realized. Either he had been distracted or Konstan was very good, and his leg hurt very much-
“Come on, Narvin,” said Melinna. She leaned forward “What are we going to do about him?"
Narvin flexed his leg, experimentally, and the grey fog returned. He couldn't even really feel the pain yet, but that wasn't going to last.
"Don't know," he managed.
"Not good enough," said Melinna. She prodded at Narvin's leg, and Narvin tried to stop himself from jerking away. "I can’t believe you managed to take out your leg just by falling over. How quickly is this going to heal?"
"Not in the next five minutes," snapped Narvin. "Make a splint or something."
"I thought Time Lords had special regenerative powers." Melinna got up and snapped one spindly leg off of the other chair, and handed it to Narvin while she searched through her desk drawers.
"Yes, for when we die," said Narvin. "And before you get any ideas, I've gotten more irritable with each of my three regenerations, or so I'm told. What are you doing?"
"Aha." Melinna waved the roll of tape she had pulled out of the drawer, and tried to take the chair leg from Narvin. Unfortunately, he couldn't quite get his fingers to work - he had to watch as she pried his white-knuckled hands away.
"I thought you were supposed to rip your dress in these sorts of situations," said Narvin. With nothing to hold, and the shock almost gone, the pain was starting to spread up from his leg, resounding through his chest.
"It's a nice dress," said Melinna. "Right, let's go."
"Go? I can't walk like this."
"Fine." Melinna shrugged. "Then you can stay here while I try to track down Konstan and hope someone eventually comes back for you. You'll need medical attention soon. But I think I'd rather have the Coordinator with me, and you'd rather have the Ambassador with you. As the only one able to move unaided, I'll make the decisions."
"I hate you," said Narvin, and pushed himself up. Melinna supported his weak side with two of her arms, and Narvin balanced himself awkwardly on his good leg. He knew moving was a terrible idea after a fracture, but he didn't seem to have much choice.
"After this, I hate me too," agreed Melinna. She smiled, or showed her teeth, anyway. "Let's go kill Konstan."
Narvin liked that idea, at least.
Leela and Torvald ran back up the corridors together. Leela was heading back to the offices again - if she could not find Narvin, she could find someone who would tell her where he was, and what had happened to the man who had hurt K-9.
There was staser fire ahead, and then a crash. Leela slowed, and she held out a hand to signal Torvald to do the same. Something was happening.
The tall man was fleeing one of the offices. The man who had hurt K-9, and who had something to do with whatever danger Narvin was in.
Leela didn't think. She just shot forward and tackled the man to the ground. They struggled, and she realized he was holding a staser which he was trying to aim at her. Leela growled and used one of her knees to crush the man's wrist, forcing him to let go of the weapon. The motion put her off balance, however, and they rolled, wrestling for who would come out on top. Bright blue paint rubbed off on her exposed skin from Konstan's face and arms, then was dirtied by contact with the floor.
A staser bolt on the ground next to Leela's head made her look around for the discarded weapon, but it had been Torvald, trying to help. Luckily the tall man was even more distracted than Leela, and she managed to roll them back toward the wall of the corridor, crushing the man against it. She trapped his legs between hers and leant her arm across his jugular.
"You," she said. "Where is Narvin?"
"Dead," laughed the man. His eyes glinted, and his smile had blood in it. He must have hit something as they fought. "Shot him."
"You," said Leela again, but she couldn't think of anything else to say. She pressed harder against the man's throat instead, cutting off his air.
"Leela." Torvald came up behind her. "The CIA may want this man for questioning."
Leela didn't answer. K-9 was damaged. Narvin was dead. The man tried to bring up his hands to scrabble against Leela's arm, but she held his wrists with her free hand.
"Leela!" called Narvin, who was dead. Leela's head snapped around.
Narvin was hobbling toward her, supported by Melinna, the Monan ambassador. He hadn't even regenerated - it was the same body, just a little scuffed around the edges. Leela breathed a sigh of relief. It was not that she would have grieved Narvin much, but he did not deserve to die today.
"Leela, you stupid primitive, you're suffocating Konstan!"
Leela revised her estimate. Narvin did not deserve to die today by anyone's hand but hers.
"I am aware," she said, coldly. "It was my wish to choke him."
"Not until we squeeze every last drop of information out of him," said Narvin. His smile was grim and menacing. "Let him down."
Leela thought about it, just to show Narvin that he was not actually in charge, and then did. Narvin tried to come closer, but Melinna would not move and Narvin could not seem to walk without her aid. Leela raised her eyebrows as Narvin snorted in frustration.
"Torvald," he said. "Search him, he has the data chip."
"Of course, Coordinator," said Torvald. Leela stepped away from the man, who was gasping weakly, and went to Narvin's side.
"You are hurt," she said, looking at the wrappings on his leg. "Did he do this?"
"Inadvertently," said Narvin. "After the bloody idiot made a mess of torturing me-"
"He tortured you?" Leela glared at the man, though her view was largely blocked by Torvald rifling through his pockets.
"Well- not- yes." Narvin decided. "He tortured me, and he broke my leg."
"And I hope you can take it from here," said Melinna, motioning for Leela to take her place supporting Narvin. "He's heavy, and I'd like to start cleaning up the embassy."
"Oh no," said Narvin, tightening his arm's hold across Melinna's shoulders. "I may not be able to arrest you, but I am going to ask you to escort me to the Lady President's office so that you're on hand to explain what, exactly, you were doing with Konstan."
"He deceived me," hissed Melinna.
"Into thinking he would give you the chip instead of taking it for himself," retorted Narvin.
"Got it," said Torvald.
"Right, we're off," said Narvin. "Torvald, bring him." He started trying to hobble to the door, hampered by Melinna's sullen movements.
"What about your leg?" asked Leela. "What about K-9?"
"We'll pick your pet robot up on the way," called Narvin. "And my big reveal will be all the sweeter for the presence of my battle wounds."
"He thinks that now," said Torvald, hanging back as he tried to gather Konstan into a manageable bundle. "Just wait until President Romana makes him stand for the report."
"Romana would never do that," said Leela, doubtfully.
In point of fact, Romana did not make Narvin stand.
"Don't be ridiculous," she said, shuffling the papers on her desk. "Sit down."
"I'm fine, Lady President," said Narvin. "My report-"
"Can wait until you're off that leg and we've had a medical technician in to look at you," interrupted Romana. "You're swaying, and while I understand your need for a dramatic, martyred, I-told you-so-moment, I can't be bothered to indulge you."
Narvin frowned and prepared to stay standing anyway, but Leela was already guiding him to a chair, and he couldn't actually stay upright without her support, especially since Melinna had refused to help him anymore once they were in the President’s office. At least K-9 was staying well away from him - in his current state, Narvin was dimly certain he would contrive to trip over the robot and break his other leg.
It was a small mercy that Braxiatel wasn't here to see Narvin like this. Or, at least, it was, until he insinuated himself into the room, accompanied by an unfamiliar woman.
"I heard someone needed a doctor," said Braxiatel, cheerfully. "What did you do to yourself, Narvin?"
Narvin ignored the question as the medical technician knelt and began to unstrap the splint from his leg. The truth was absurd, and a lie, even one of omission, was unlikely to pass before this audience.
"If I may, Lady President," began Narvin again. "My report is vitally-"
"And why have you dragged these people into my office?" asked Romana. She surveyed Torvald, Melinna, and the only partly-conscious and blue-streaked Konstan impassively. "Surely this is a security risk?"
"Why, Lady President," said Melinna, smoothly. "You invited me to your planet, why not to your office as well?"
"We of course welcome your presence," said Braxiatel. "The President was simply surprised that Coordinator Narvin had asked you to attend, given some of his previously expressed beliefs."
"If you just give me a moment," tried Narvin, and then he shouted in pain, because CIA coordinators did not scream. "What in the Matrix are you doing?" he manfully whimpered to the technician.
"I have to set the break before I can begin repairing it," she said. "Thought it would be best done while you were distracted. Hold still for this part." She fished a medical reader out of her bag, and, from the shooting pains going up Narvin's leg, began to heal the break.
"The unconscious man was a spy, working against both the Monan embassy and the CIA," said Leela. "He stole the data for his own ends."
"And what ends were these?" asked Romana.
"Discrediting the government," said Torvald. "This man's name is Konstaniardgor, a hitherto undiscovered member of the homegrown isolationist plotters."
"He told you so?" Braxiatel's eyes were fixed on the rise and fall of Konstan's chest as he dozed in the chair.
"With some persuasion," said Torvald.
"Not the mind probe," said Romana, exasperated. "You didn't."
"Of course not," said Narvin, seizing the chance to jump in and wrest the explanation back from the savage and his subordinate. "The CIA fully respects the standing orders on the use of the mind probe."
"On the disuse of the mindprobe," corrected Romana. "I'm sure you do."
"They did not have time to do anything," said Leela. "Narvin asked this man questions in the hall, while we were waiting to see you."
Narvin glanced up at Leela, unsure whether to thank her for her support or berate her for puncturing the CIA's mystique.
"I see," said Braxiatel, smiling. "So, the enemy was not actually a member of Melinna's embassy, but rather a Gallifreyan who had infiltrated it."
"Yes," said Narvin. "That is, in fact, what I just spent the last five minutes trying to explain to you. Melinna was apparently only involved in order to trick us into suspecting the Monan embassy. Konstan slipped up when he was spotted by K-9, and he panicked when I started talking to Melinna instead of arresting her. Konstan's not the most improvisational or clever of conspirators."
"A good thing Leela was there to stop him, nevertheless," said Romana. "Well? What have you learned?"
"I'm sorry?" Narvin was not actually sorry, but he had found that if you said so it often worked out better than if you asked the Lady President if she was having one of her raving fits.
"Lady President, let me see if I can explain this in terms that Narvin can understand." Braxiatel poked his nose in, as usual. His voice dripped amused condescension, also as usual. "Narvin, you are one of the foremost opponents of this administration's attempts to make Gallifrey a more open member of galactic society. Not, necessarily, the most foremost in the public's eye, but certainly foremost in the President's confidence. Yet, when you investigated an alien plot to invade Gallifrey, you discovered that it was actually a homegrown plot to discredit the aliens in question."
"A very neat summary of the obvious," said Narvin.
"Thank you. The Lady President merely wants to know if you see either the irony or the learning potential inherent in the situation."
"No," said Narvin.
The silence stretched out among the group. Romana's eye twitched, just a little.
Melinna broke it by stifling a giggle. Narvin turned to glare at her, and then jerked in pain as the technician slapped his knee as she stood up.
"All clear," she said. "It'll be stiff and achy for a while, and you should try to stay off it for at least a week. Let me go get a pair of crutches, I'll be right back."
"Now," said Romana, "perhaps you can report in full."
Finally, Narvin didn't say. There was being frustrated and there was disrespect, and he knew better than to fall into the latter while he was without means of escape.
Filling Romana and Braxiatel took less time than Narvin would have liked. He had to speak quickly to head off interruptions from Leela and Torvald, though Melinna stayed silent and palpably amused. Rushing through the explanation robbed it of the drama that Narvin would normally have dryly accorded it, but he felt he came out of the incident with credit.
"Very good," said Romana, eyes already back on her paperwork. She nodded as the technician came back with the crutches. "Brax?"
"I recommend that we-" Braxiatel paused, and his eyes flicked at Torvald and Narvin. Narvin caught the hint, and scowled. The CIA wasn't good enough for these policy conversations, were they?
"If that's all," he said, cutting his losses gracefully, "I have more duties to perform. Good day." He snatched the crutches out of the technician's hands, and awkwardly maneuvered himself out of the room. He tried to make it look a little jaunty, but he felt the effect would remain no matter his difficulty with the crutches. His only regret was that he couldn't see the look on Romana's face - Brax, of course, would still look blandly amused, which wasn't nearly as satisfying as whatever combination of annoyance and dismay at the loss of control over his movements graced Romana's visage.
Narvin leaned on the wall outside the President's office and smiled.
"Narvin? Are you alright?" Leela stepped after him, followed by the technician and K-9. Torvald emerged soon after, struggling under Konstan's weight.
"Perfectly," said Narvin. "Torvald, take our plotter to be properly interrogated, will you?" He nodded at all of them, dismissing them back to their various businesses. Torvald and the technician took the hint, but Leela remained. K-9, of course, stayed with Leela.
"I will accompany you to the CIA building," said Leela. "K-9 needs to test out his movement circuitry."
"I am in full functioning order, Mistress," said the dog, which had obviously not been told the party line.
"You never know until you try," said Leela.
Narvin shrugged stiffly around the crutches, and began to move, slowly, to the exit. He was torn between appreciating the company simply because if he fell over, someone would be there to help him up, and resenting it because if he fell, Leela would see.
They made their way out into the streets of the citadel. K-9 didn't seem to have any trouble with his circuitry, and so it was only Narvin who forced them to move at a slow, dragging pace. Crutches were hard.
"Narvin," said Leela, "may I ask you a question?"
"I can't stop you," said Narvin. He tried to speed up, and then slowed again as he almost fell flat on his face. He had to get back to his own work, he really did.
"Did you truly learn nothing from today's events?"
"Nothing I didn't know already," said Narvin, rolling his eyes. "Though I suppose a reminder always comes in handy."
"Tell me," said Leela. Narvin looked back at her, briefly certain enough of himself to look away from the ground.
"Always be suspicious of everyone, even when your suspicions say you should be suspicious of singularly suspicious specimens," he said, the words coming easy and quick. "I learned that from my partner when I first joined the CIA."
Leela creased her brow. "That is a very confusing lesson. My people also teach using song, but they are memorable and good to voice, not short things that twist the tongue."
"I wasn't singing," said Narvin. The very thought of it. "I don't sing."
"If I may paraphrase, Mistress." K-9 spoke up. "Coordinator Narvin is saying you should suspect everyone, and not only those against whom you are biased."
"I see," said Leela. "Trust no one. That is probably wise in your line of work, Narvin."
"Thank you," said Narvin, almost touched. Then he discovered that looking away from the ground had been a bad decision, because one of the crutches slipped in a crack in the ground, and he did trip over K-9 after all, and Leela had to help him up.
At least K-9 trying to right himself while tipped over was far more pathetic than Narvin's own attempts. Nevertheless, Narvin managed to hobble away while Leela fussed over her robot.
Leela watched Narvin go as her hand absently stroked K-9.
"Mistress?" said K-9. "Do you wish to continue accompanying Coordinator Narvin?"
"It is fine, K-9. He does not want us, now that we are of no more use to him." Leela felt no rancor about that. Narvin seemed to be made up himself of only that which he had deemed useful, and anyone who he could not currently employ was truly pointless.
Leela stood up, walking toward the rooming house she had been shown to by Romana when she had refused to stay in the home she had shared with Andred.
"He confuses me," she said, looking down to make sure K-9 was following. "Narvin is a good worker for Romana, and clever. But he allows himself to become so tied by his prejudices that even he realizes they are holding him back. Why can he not just try to overcome them?"
"Insufficient data," said K-9. "This unit not equipped to analyze Coordinator Narvin's cognitive processes."
"Nor this unit," sighed Leela. She kept walking, passing parks, and shops, and adults who shrank from her and children who stared at her, and a blessed few who ignored her completely. She kept her chin up and walked proud.
She opened the door to the house picked K-9 up to carry him up the stairs to her rooms.
"I hope at least Narvin is equipped to understand Narvin," she muttered.
K-9 rotated his ears and said nothing. But Leela thought he seemed amused.
It took Narvin far too long to get back to the CIA building. When he finally made it there, Melinna was taking up the ground floor, waving all her arms at some harried junior agent.
"Narvin!" she called, before Narvin could slink - well, stump off. "Tell your man here that he can at least release my clothes from custody. They've confiscated everything from the embassy."
"Standard procedure," said Narvin, carefully not raising his voice. He maneuvered his way over to the desk the junior agent was occupying. "Though we may be able to speed up the screening process for you. Leaving soon?"
"I'm being kicked off the planet as an example to others." Melinna rolled her eyes. "The embassy's staying, of course."
"Of course," echoed Narvin. He didn't bother to keep the disappointment from his voice.
"Come now," said Melinna. She chucked Narvin under the chin, and he couldn't even dodge because he would definitely fall over again. "Why all this hostility? Gallifrey has to become part of the sentient community, you know."
"If you say so," said Narvin. "I'd rather we didn't deal with kleptomaniac powers, at least."
"Please. Stolen Matrix data? Of course I jumped at the chance," said Melinna, calmly. "Wouldn't you, Narvin? If it were Monan records?"
"Without hesitation," admitted Narvin, reluctantly. "Though perhaps with significantly more caution."
"You were as duped as I was," said Melinna, laughing. "It doesn't matter. Home I go, to be replaced by someone no different." Melinna shrugged her two left shoulders. "Someone more cautious perhaps, like you. Goodbye, Narvin. I'm sure we'll meet again."
"I can only hope I have a staser and an alibi on that happy occasion. In any case, we'll have your things sent on as soon as possible." Narvin watched Melinna go, and decided that the screening process would take twice as long as usual, just for her.
"Rassilon, Coordinator," said the long-forgotten junior agent. "Who was that?"
"The enemy," said Narvin. "And don't you forget it."
"Huh," said the junior agent, sounding unconvinced.
Narvin shook his head and started stumping to the ground floor office he had decided to take over.
He didn't have any illusions about his place in things. The difference between himself and Melinna simply was a matter of allegiance. On the other hand, where would he be if he didn't believe Gallifrey was superior to everywhere else? There was no point to loyalty in the absence of distinction.
Narvin got back to work. In this case, work meant convincing the recently regenerated Rodoregivik that this mess was somehow his fault for having been used as a cover by the nefarious Konstan. That was the easy part. The hard part was showing how this meant that Narvin deserved Rodoregivik's office, as opposed to any other underling's.
"Isolationist pressure increasing, the threat of offworld espionage, and a CIA that doesn't trust me. Another wonderful day." Romana threw her hands in the air. Braxiatel very carefully didn't move.
"While Narvin may not be the most obedient of-" he began, but Romana interrupted immediately. Braxiatel schooled his features and tried to appear politely concerned.
"Obedient? I explicitly told him to stay away from the investigation, and what does he do? He barges in anyway, and finds a nest of Gallifreyan and Monan conspiracy."
"Terrible," said Braxiatel. "I'm saddened that our society could have produced such a specimen as Konstaniardgor."
"Forget Konstan." Romana's hands tugged restlessly at the pins holding her hair back. "Do you realize what this does for Narvin's credibility? He'll be seen as the most reasonable person in my employ. A pro-Gallifreyan turning in one of his own, as soon as he crossed the line. Just for taking a little data."
Sometimes Braxiatel forgot that Romana was constantly insecure in her grasp of the Presidency. Now was not one of those times.
"Don't forget that his actions have also separated Narvin from his former supporters," said Braxiatel, smoothly. "He will be less trusted than before."
"Which means he might be pushed to do something drastic to prove his loyalty!" said Romana. "Whatever way you look at it, this was a disaster."
"Except for how the theft of state secrets was prevented," reminded Braxiatel. "Today was not a loss except in political terms."
Romana stopped, and stared at Braxiatel. Her mouth opened, and hung for a moment.
"I never thought to hear those words from you," she said, finally. "Just politics?"
"I also don't think Narvin constitutes a threat," said Braxiatel, shrugging. "He's loyal and competent, despite his slightly conservative views. Keep in mind that the majority of the population agree with him about the hierarchy of sentient species."
"That's what I'm worried about," muttered Romana. "Oh, very well. I suppose I should concern myself with more pressing matters."
"I leave you to it, Lady President." Braxiatel ducked his head and swept out of the office.
Narvin was a troubling person, he mused as he stalked to his own, infuriatingly less expansive and official office. They had never gotten along well, and Narvin obviously retained a good deal of hostility toward the current government. Civil servants always were a little tight with the boss, though Narvin would be the last to admit it.
But that was exactly what Narvin was. Braxiatel smiled as he sat down at his desk. A small-minded civil servant, good at his job, but with no political ambitions. Romana need not fear him.
Although, keeping her attention on Narvin might prove a good cover for Braxiatel's own ambitions.
Braxiatel shuffled papers, and plotted.
"I worked for this office for two regenerations," moaned Rodoregivik. He clutched his desk like a drowning man, or like a five-hundred-year-old Time Tot.
"How can you refuse a ground floor office to your crippled boss?" demanded Narvin. "It's only temporary."
"And where am I supposed to work? In the hallway?"
"There are always spare cubicles," tried Narvin, and then had to bear with another outpouring of bile based on Rodoregivik's seniority and unwillingness to move his fat frame from his desk. In the end, Narvin had to resort to offering a slight pay raise and threatening a demotion. By the time he finally got to sit down in his new office, he felt unsteady and tired, and his leg was trembling.
The wages of public service.
"Back to work," said Narvin, to no one. He'd have to send an aide to get the paperwork from upstairs.
Maybe he'd just rest first.
Narvin slowly faded into a doze, in his co-opted office, in the building he'd been working in since he graduated Academy. It was as comfortable as he'd been in a long time, despite his leg.
Leela had done good work today. Perhaps he ought to think about bringing her in as a permanent consultant to the CIA. That would certainly give Romana conniptions. But, of course, Leela wasn't really suited to the work. Except for the knife. The knife was certainly suited to the work.
On that happy thought, Narvin drifted into sleep, preparing to face another day. Braxiatel was plotting, Romana was unhappy, Leela was annoyed, Torvald was hopefully actually doing his job, and all was well with Gallifrey. Which was all that really mattered to Narvin. More or less.