Lines of Time and Song

by Magnus Greel [Reviews - 3]

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Author's Notes:
Encouragement please, to push me on to getting into the difficult middle bit of this story (I know what the end is), and/or criticism so I can learn. I've made a good start though, and I think the following is original. Please tell me what you think.

I spent a few years listening to books on aborigines and walkabouts in preparation for this.

**This (incomplete) story is meant to
stand on its own, but is also part of a much longer story of which this would be the third chapter. Chapter two is already posted on this site: "Time Shatters", in the second Doctor section. You definitely do not have to read that chapter first.

It starts a bit pretentiously, but I know it, and intend to fix that.**



Prologue


She had been a warrior's daughter, then a warrior herself, a time-traveler, a revolutionary, a fugitive, a heretic, then a tribal chief, a governor, a judge ... and along the way a mechanic, a scholar, and an enthusiastic student, if not an expert, in temporal theory as well. The woman who had been Leela felt stripped of everything except the empty, formless essence she came into the world with. She felt dimly aware of her past and equally aware of the future she was supposed to have.

The future had already happened. She could see it even more clearly than
the present. She had moved back to the Citadel with her husband, she had
befriended Lord President Romanadvoratrelundar, and she lived a long and happy life. The Doctor had finally returned during his seventh life,
hundreds of years later from his perspective. She lay on her death bed
in her ninety-second year, on a pile of furs, in a tent in the wilds of Outer Gallifrey, surrounded by grandchildren.

She was ending one life and beginning another, on her knees in front of
Andor and Neeva, pleading for her father's life.

She was passing out of the Beforelife and entering this world, one humble, minute sperm among millions, miraculously finding the egg, merging. She was raw essence... a new point of view and nothing more, with no thoughts, no memory, no identity, no ambition, no wants or needs, and no traumas.

Every moment in her life was happening at once, including the future
which she now knew could never happen. She could feel some sort of
phantom limb straining through the time-stream to reach this future, her
fingertips almost reaching it, only to fall just barely short. She had spent almost three days swimming in time, in the temporal equivalent of a fever, buffeted this way and then that way, desperately searching for some moment she could call the present. Eventually she started to learn how to navigate through this hurricane of the time-stream. In a way she could feel but could not possibly have put into words, she found one spot that was slightly more real than the others, and decided by force of will to make this the present. It was like waking up through several layers of deep sleep.

Leela had found herself again. Once she'd become anchored at one point
in time, she almost wished she hadn't. This was not a present she'd have
chosen. She was lying on her back, staring straight up at a huge, white,
glaring sun in the middle of a cloudless orange sky. Her arms and legs would only move just barely enough to bring on stabbing pains in her joints so sharp and intense that she gasped in shock. She tried to cry out, but was too weak.

"Great Xoanan!" Leela thought, as the memory of the last few weeks began
to flood back. She was starving and dying of thirst. It must be several
days now since she collapsed on this spot, Leela thought, unable to move
any farther. All that nonsense about swimming through time had probably
just been the delirium talking, she decided ... combined with a vivid
imagination, and an amateur, rudimentary knowledge of temporal mechanics.

She'd paid a rather large price for this little mental vacation she'd gone on for the last few days. She lay on her back, on the cloak she'd been wearing almost twenty years earlier when she was driven out of the Citadel during the Vardan invasion ... dehydrated, her skin cracked and bleeding in about a hundred different places. The muscles in the calves and forearms felt almost as if they'd been shredded, and her stomach was beginning to be swollen and distended.

The most she could manage was to move her head to one side. It felt
clear to her that this was the last action she would ever take. As she turned her head to look at the horizon, this motion became her last journey, separated into a hundred moments, each of which she felt keenly and distinctly. What she finally saw was bare rock and sand stretching
all the way to the horizon, which seemed to be dancing and writhing from the heat. She then felt herself die.

* * * * *

"I'm a fool," Leela thought. She had made a lot of mistakes in her life, she knew, but being mistaken about which point in time was the present ... that was utter stupidity. She felt strangely embarrassed, as if a child should have known better than this. She perceived a much firmer and more stable spot to anchor herself in time, and swam there.

She often came to this place just before dawn, because sitting on this small hill she was able to see the entire settlement at once...the more "civilized" village at its center, with its streets, offices, and storefronts, and all the tribal encampments on its outskirts. It had been left to her to try to unite the Time Lords who had opted for the
more primitive, natural life, and the others who had left the Citadel only to try to create a smaller, scaled -down version of it in the wilderness. Why had they even bothered to leave the Citadel in the first place, she kept asking herself. She also found it difficult to understand, sometimes, how a "primitive" alien warrior, who at one time would kill almost without a second thought, could find herself in the role of peacemaker. She had managed it somehow, though. Perhaps it was
because she was the only person who ever thought to come up here, to this hill, where you could see the entire community as one.

A wind stirred from below, carrying with it some smoke from the nearest
encampments, which mixed with the smell of the thick, dew-soaked grass
covering the hillside. This was without question her home, though she could not imagine how she had found herself here, looking after these strange people. So many of them yearned for the kind of life and existence that came so naturally to her, just as she yearned for their vast knowledge and the almost unimaginably broad perspective the Time Lords had on the universe, from its beginning to its end.

"We're all struggling to complete ourselves, and complete each other, in
this place," she thought. "So perhaps it does make sense, after all."

Suddenly, she was not there, not sitting on that hill, not feeling the satisfaction she was feeling at finding her place in the world. She looked at the community spread out in front of her, and knew she would live out her days on this planet. She also knew she was leaving today, never to come back. She saw in front of her two different, overlapping presents, leading to two different, over-lapping futures.

* * * * *

After the Vardan and Sontaran invasions, nothing could ever be the same again. What had been arguably the most smug and arrogant people in the universe suddenly realized how vulnerable they were. For years
afterward, every college of the Time Lords put themselves through
countless internal investigations to determine why no one had seen these
invasions coming. Apparently everyone's favorite galactic ticket
inspectors had been lying down on the job. Not surprisingly though, all of these inquests concluded with glowing praise for their own colleges, with all sorts of vague, unproven, implied blame spread amongst all the others. So officially, nothing really changed, but it could be said that society in general had had the wind knocked out of it. Gallifrey scaled back its ambitions, and generally set about to do nothing, in as
officious and pretentious a manner as possible.

The Time Lords' authority was further undermined by the fact that if people didn't like it in the Citadel, they could just open a door and walk out. Technically, the Supreme Council was in charge of the whole planet, but they found it a little difficult to police a wilderness. In the ensuing chaos, they had to settle for local democracy as the only way to have any kind of order.

It should have been clear from the beginning that the society was going
to change in some pretty drastic ways. Following the driving out of the Sontarans, there came several weeks of celebrations, parades, even binge-drinking. It was as if the emotional floodgates of a very repressed civilization had been opened up. It was at one of these celebrations, a dinner given in honor of the heroes of the battle, that Leela and Andred began to find each other. Some of the oldest and most illustrious Time Lords, some of whom had actually been collaborators, stood up and made carefully prepared, long-winded speeches, mainly for the benefit of the television cameras, which made them sound like heroic, yet humble defenders of time.

The Doctor, having seen where this was going, managed to slip out early, and it was left to Andred to save the day, or so he decided. It turned out that when drunk off his ass, Andred could be a very effective heckler...brilliant, in fact. Toward the end of the third speech, he
rose and described in detail what each of the speakers had actually been doing during the crisis. The first, it turns out, had waited out the emergency inside his office closet, with a guard stationed outside to protect him and to occasionally slip some food or a bedpan through the door. As for the second, being afraid that mere, ordinary sucking up was not going to be enough, he actually attempted to sell out his own grandmother to the Sontarans, literally. In his desperation, he hadn't
stopped to think that his grandmother had little strategic value. He chased after one of the Sontarans for a considerable amount of time, detailing all his grandmother's traitorous acts, when the Sontaran was really far more interested in tracking down the Doctor and the Great Key. He actually had to point a gun at the Time Lord's head to make him go away.

And as for the third speaker, he had opted for the rather obvious tactic
of simply popping into a time capsule, dematerializing and rematerializing after the emergency had passed.

The speech was brilliant. Andred showed a real flair for making these
stories of pathetic cowardice come alive. Eventually Leela, considerably drunk herself at this point, started cheering him on and taking a few pot shots at the Time Lords herself. And since Leela and Andred were national heroes, no one could find a pretext for shutting them up, or switching off the cameras.

The two of them ended up in bed that very night...but passed out before
anything could actually happen. It was the next afternoon, while nursing each other's hangovers, that they made love for the first time. As the Doctor kept disappearing (no one really knew what he did during those weeks), he totally missed the developing romance, and was probably the only person in the Citadel caught totally by surprise when the two decided to marry.

* * * * *

Something was very wrong. It was if something so terrifying was happening that she didn't dare allow herself to be conscious of it. As she sat on the grassy hillside with the sun rising behind her, she thought, "This isn't...what's really happening. This is what would have happened, if things had gone terribly wrong." She then replayed in her memory those same words she had just said to herself, and they made no sense.

A future she knew would happen, which was as real as the hill she stood on, or the air she breathed, was vanishing. Perhaps it would happen, but not to her. The point of divergence had been reached, and that future was gone. It had slipped through her fingers.

One of two possible Leelas walked down the hillside, toward the town. She prided herself on enduring whatever life chose to throw at her, and if she was to be denied her own future, so be it. The one thing that had never failed her in all these years was her instinct, and she knew without any hesitation what she had to do, without knowing why.

Long before women and men had stayed in one place, they had walked.
This was not just because food was scarce, but also because it allowed
for a connection between oneself and this vast, terrifying, incomprehensible place called the world, that could not be achieved in any other way. She knew she had to do this even though she didn't know whether it would even make sense of things. Perhaps all this wasn't supposed to make sense. One thing was certain. The only future
available to her lay along a path heading out from the settlement and
into the wilderness, into what some would consider nowhere, with no
possibility of return. A very long, straight line out into oblivion.

"Well," she thought. "It's not going to happen just like that. I still have a few obligations...I'm still a presiding judge. I have a day's worth of cases ahead of me, as well as finding a replacement. And there are so many goodbyes to make. And Andred ... poor Andred ...

The morning sky was turning a deep orange, with a few of the brightest
stars in the sky still visible. She craned her neck upwards, breathed a deep breath, closed her eyes, and took in all the smells of home, experiencing them all separately, one by one, and then together. She opened her eyes and looked at the last few specks of light before they faded, and wondered which ones she'd been to so many years ago, now.
She then gathered herself together and continued down the hill.

" I can't stand around here all day ... I have a job to get to."







Goodbyes







"All rise to honor the one who metes out justice in Rassilon's name ...
Lord High Arbiter of Outer Gallifrey Leelandredlusagwinech --"

Leela strode into the courtroom impatiently, her old tattered robe
scraping the ground behind her. Before the bailiff had had a chance to pronounce all eleven syllables of this insane Gallifreyan name she had been lumbered with, Leela snapped at him, "You, shut up!" Though she yelled this directly into the man's face, she did this more out of temperament or habit than out of real anger. What she felt mostly was annoyance at the formality this new bailiff had imported from the
Citadel. This was his first day.

She then addressed the rest of the court on her way to the judge's bench, without even looking at them, yelling, "And the rest of you, just
sit down ..." She punctuated this with several disgusted downward waves of her hand, in case no one got the point. She leapt up the stairs two at a time to her seat, and collapsed in her old weather-beaten, padded judge's chair. Things were a bit chaotic for a few seconds, as half the room took their seats and the rest, with slower reflexes, were still in the process of standing up. A few confused gasps rose from the back of the room, from people who were clearly new in town.

She waited a few moments for the dust to settle, figuratively and literally, and for her words to stop echoing throughout the chamber, and glared at the audience in front of her. "We will have to break in that new bailiff somehow," she thought. "About ten hours with Presta and Abliff at Jasko's bar ought to do it." She then realized there was an uncomfortable silence in the room.

It was the bailiff's turn to speak now, but instead he was just standing there in the corner of the room, looking ridiculously out of place in his bright red and white guard's uniform. He had been absolutely certain of his place in the world up until this moment, but now that proper court procedure had been violated, he was out of his depth and had no idea what he was supposed to say or do. He was a large, burly man with big, meaty forearms and thighs, making his embarrassment look
even more ridiculous, especially in this community of fighters and hunters. He stared at the crowd around him, almost panic-stricken, fidgeted, and his left eyebrow twitched three times.

After all this had gone on long enough for anyone's taste, Leela spat out, "Well ... go on!"

The bailiff then looked as relieved as anyone had been since his distant
ancestors invented the planet's first word that meant "relieved", back in the times of the Ancient High Gallifreyan tongue. He recovered his dignity, stood up to his full height, strong and assured, and called out in round, full, resonant tones, "The plaintiff will address the court!"

The world made sense again. The dread spectre of chaos was in retreat,
and the cosmos was made safe for bureaucracy. His euphoria faded though, when he remembered that he wasn't going to be doing much besides
standing around for the next few hours ... unless of course the judge
decided to knife someone, which would be in line with some of the rumors he had heard. In that case, was he supposed to restrain the judge, or
assist in the attack ... perhaps holding down the victim so that she could take better aim? None of the procedures he had been taught covered this. As the bailiff once again descended into his own private hell, the right side of his face exploded in a frenzy of spasms and twitches. No one noticed though, and the court went on with its business, as usual.

A middle-aged woman stepped out from a group of figures dressed in
animal skins, and stepped up to the podium provided for the plaintiff.
"Arbiter, I am Lairdiss, and this is my husband Taskiff. We are here only because we are so concerned about our dear Gathro. We want only what is best for him."

"And what would that be?" Leela said.

"Arbiter?"

"I imagine you know what would be best for ... Gathro, did you say?
Which one is Gathro?"

The husband gestured toward a man seated behind the defendant's
platform. "That's him. That's our Gathro, in those ... robes."

Leela studied the rather pale, thin man in question, who looked to be about eighty years of age, sitting in the bright gold and red formal robes and high collar of one of the most illustrious colleges of Time Lords on Gallifrey. This would have been an impressive sight in the Panopticon, but here, amongst all these hunters and tribespeople dressed
in animal skins, the man just looked like an idiot. A regular courtroom might have lent him some dignity, but unfortunately, the one he happened to be sitting in was just an abandoned storefront. The settlement had voted down the building of any more "modern structures" as being contrary to the "natural" way of life they weretrying to pursue, so space was at a premium.

Lairdiss spoke again. "Something just has to be done about Gathro. He goes everywhere in those robes. He's never out of them. He wanders around town, he tags along with hunting parties and scares away the game... he tries to play with the children, and frightens them half to death. He's a laughing stock in town, and the tribal camps, everywhere.

Taskiff, the husband, joined in and went on in the same way for what
seemed like forever. Leela thought, "They're talking about him as if he's some pet that's digging up their garden."

"... and so what we ask, Arbiter, is that our dear Gathro be submitted, with your approval, for repersonalization therapy. This has been recommended to us by the foremost expert in this field in the Citadel. We feel this is the only way he can ever be happy." Taskiff then stopped, almost said something else, thought better of it, and then stood silently looking at Leela, seeming rather tense and anxious.

Leela finally spoke. "First of all, I think it is unfortunate for the sake of this Old One that advocates are not required in a hearing such as this."

Lairdiss answered in a somewhat hesitant tone. "We're speaking on his
behalf. We're responsible for him."

"You are not responsible until I judge him to be senile, and for this I need medical evidence."

"We've come with evidence ..."

Leela took the data crystal that was handed to her, inserted it into her
computer, and studied the screen for a few moments. "I have heard of the procedure. They call it 'Directed Regeneration'. They design a person's entire personality, for his next regeneration. It's been called a 'cure' for anything considered anti-social by the Time Lords... in fact, they once used it to 'cure' anyone who wanted to escape to Outer Gallifrey. That's the kind of thing they do in the Citadel, not
here."

Taskiff, apparently trying to be helpful, answered brightly, "That's where they do it -- in the Citadel. We don't have the facilities here."

"That's not what I meant. Do you realize that they might change this Old One so that he will not want to return to you? Is that what you want for your ... your father, is it?"

"Father ..." Lairdiss answered, confused. "Oh ... you mean our son. He hasn't even had his first regeneration yet. I'm glad we're still around to decide what's best for him. He's only eighty-five."

Something snapped in Leela at that moment. She thought of her own
father, who couldn't have been more than fifty when he died, but had spent his life proud and free. Why had these people even bothered to leave the Citadel? She hadn't imagined that any of her own people would be capable of something like this.

An old, wooden gavel sat on the judge's bench. The Doctor had given it to her shortly after she assumed the office, saying it was an old Earth tradition. She picked it up now, and threw it, cutting a wide swath through the crowd as people ducked, or attempted to dive out of the way. A faint yelp came from the back of the room, from the one person who clearly didn't succeed. The bailiff tensed, and did what he could to appear alert and ready to spring into action. He knew, though, that he'd just stand there paralyzed, if (or when, he decided) the Arbiter chose to attack the crowd with her knife.

Leela let out a short but powerful scream, and then regaining her
composure, spoke. "Have you people learned nothing from being out here? Why am I even bothering to --" She then went silent and froze, apparently transfixed by some image no one else could see. Then words came out of her mouth that no one could understand, but which sounded almost like a tape being run backwards.

The crowd was now talking more and more loudly amongst themselves, and
many rose to their feet, wondering what to do. At this point, Leela seemed to come to her senses. She stormed out of the room, while letting loose with some very loud Gallifreyan obscenities.

* * * * *

The sun, Gallifrey's sun, was now almost overhead, a white fireball ruling over a brilliant orange sky. The Lord High Arbiter's cloak lay in the middle of the street, where she had just thrown it. The Arbiter herself lay on a patch of grass, on the opposite side of the street, eyes closed.

"Well, I'm sure my other self handled all that much better ..." she thought to herself.

Eventually she tired of trying to ignore the confused or disgusted mutterings of the people who were now filing out of the court, and into the street. She opened her eyes, rose to her feet, and then ... noticed that the moon was gone from the sky. All morning, she had been noticing it and puzzling over it, as if it raised some sort of disturbing
question without being able to articulate what it was. She had kept telling herself that it was just the moon, and to forget about it.

But now, as she rose to her feet she looked again at the sky, and seeing no moon, felt a jolt of near-alarm pass through her that sent her off-balance, and almost crashing to the ground again.

"Gallifrey has no moon ..." Leela said to herself.

Coming:

Part Two - Good-byes (cont.)

Part Three -- Walkabout