by Shivver [Reviews - 1]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • General

Author's Notes:
Major spoilers for "A Blind Eye" and much of series 1 of Gallifrey.

Have you ever donned a new set of clothing, even worn it for a few days, and felt that something was not quite right? That it didn’t fit though the measurements were perfect, or perhaps it didn’t hang correctly on your frame? Maybe the cloth was not as you’d hoped, or one seam poked and scratched when you moved your arm like so. Or perhaps it was on the teal side of green, that hint of blue that, against your skin, made you look just a bit jaundiced.

That’s how this new body felt. It was mine, of course; it could be no one else’s, but it felt just a bit off. There’s always an adjustment time after regeneration, and that’s to be expected after your body and mind is thrown into a blender, to be chopped up and reformed in the space of no more than a microspan, but in my experience, the discomfort was minimal. Elective regeneration, in the comfort of the Capitol, with the benefit of technology honed over millions of years, was as easy as slipping into a crisp new robe.

This time it had been quite the opposite of that, and I learnt that regeneration forced by dire bodily trauma was… distressing. The staser hit - just a glancing shot, thankfully, or regeneration would not have been an option - seared me through, but not as much as the uncontrolled energy coursing through my body, changing every cell, nor - dare I admit it? - as much as the fear that it would fail. It was agonising and I thought the energy might rip me apart, kill me as thoroughly as my own shot had annihilated my opponent. The change took less than ten dual heartbeats, and when I could see properly again, I barely understood where I was.

I stumbled against the catacomb wall like I was drunk on Marlasian wine, the cool stone under my cheek my only link with reality. At first, I couldn’t even remember who I was. My name - Andred - floated in my mind, but it seemed to be someone else’s, like I had stolen it from someone newly dead. And that’s when the plan formed in my mind. Torvald lay across the way, his body mutilated, unrecognisable from the staser blast. I hadn’t expected him - I had come here to confront that scheming, treasonous Narvin - and perhaps that was why I had been taken by surprise and had nearly been killed. As if Torvald could defeat me in a firefight; as if any CIA operative could defeat a Chancellory Guard, especially the Castellan, in any type of combat.

But this was an opportunity. Coordinator Narvin trusted Torvald, so much that he sent him to ambush me. I could take Torvald’s identity, claim that I had killed Andred but he’d managed to wound me enough to regenerate me. If Narvin bought that - and I was sure he would, as I knew he thought me, Andred, to be incompetent - then it would be a matter of covering my tracks, something I could easily do with my assumed identity’s CIA access and codes. I’d be in the perfect position to uncover the Coordinator’s plot against President Romana.

The next few microspans was a haze of confusion, but in the end, I’d switched clothes with the corpse and settled down to wait for someone to find me, convinced that at the very least, the Chancellory Guard would pass by on their usual rounds within a few days. As I waited, I chanted my new name to myself, to put myself into Torvald’s mindset. I felt like I was moulding this new body to become a totally different person, adding to my discomfort. A disquieting thought nagged at me: was uncovering the CIA schemes worth a whole incarnation? Yes, it was, for me especially. I would miss my wife, but I was doing this for her.

It was Narvin who found me, searching the catacombs when Torvald failed to return. He was easier to convince than I could have hoped for, and he deftly spun a cover-up; a deadly encounter between the Celestial Intervention Agency and the Castellan would be a scandal, and it wasn’t the standing government that would suffer for it. It was easy enough to hide Andred’s supposed body in one of the millions of graves around us, then we headed back to headquarters, where records now showed that I - Torvald - had been on a short leave for elective regeneration. Coincidentally, this gave me time to study Torvald’s life so that I could become him.

I “returned” to the Agency after a number of days, confident that any questions about my identity were long past. Coordinator Narvin set me to a menial task, routine checkups on first-order Matrix security that any rookie, including a castellan who had never worked in intelligence, could have handled, and I balked at the order. As Narvin’s right-hand man, Torvald would have rebelled at such drudgery.

“You are recovering from your ‘regeneration’,” the Coordinator snapped at me in an uncharacteristic show of irritation that demonstrated his preoccupation with distancing the CIA from the disappearance of Andred. Narvin only lost his temper when the situation was dire. “This task is suitable for your state of mind.”

“I am perfectly capable, Coordinator, as you well know,” I insisted.

He glanced at the door, his fingers twitching nervously, then leant in close to me. “You have just come out of a violent regeneration. You know how unstable that makes you. You shouldn’t even be back. I cannot afford to have you out where -”

A staccato of a knock interrupted him and he glared at the door. “So predictable,” he sneered under his breath before eyeing me. “I have more important matters to deal with so you will do what -” The knock came again, more urgent than before, and the Coordinator sighed. “Yes, what?” he called.

The door opened and one of the agents - I reminded myself to devote time to learning their names and faces soon - stepped in. “Coordinator?” she asked with a bow. “The Madame President is here to -”

“Oh, stand aside and let me in,” came Romana’s familiar imperious voice. The agent stumbled back, flattening herself against the wall as the President pushed past her.

“Madame President,” Narvin greeted her, his voice oily as he dismissed the agent with a nod. I had to suppress the impulse to greet Romana as well: as Castellan, I would have immediately acknowledged her arrival, but as one of Narvin’s agents, even one as favoured as Torvald, all that was appropriate was a silent bow.

“Spare me the ceremony, Coordinator,” she snapped at him. “I have come here for your report on my missing Castellan.”

I didn’t hear much more than that because at that moment, Romana’s companion stalked into the room: my wife, Leela. I had thought of her often during the past few days, whilst I was settling myself into Torvald’s shoes, but it was not until that moment that I realised what I was giving up to pursue the reveal of Narvin’s schemes. Though she radiated the strength and courage that won my hearts when I first met her, I could see in her shadowed blue eyes her worry for her missing husband. I knew she would be devastated by the loss of her Andred, but I was doing it to help Romana create a better Gallifrey, to make life better for aliens on the planet - for my beloved alien - and it took all my willpower to keep a neutral expression and not reveal my ruse at that moment.

“I am doing all I can, Madame President,” Narvin was saying, “I have all of my best men on it, but we have as yet found no trace of Castellan Andred.”

“How is that possible?” Leela broke in. “You are hunters by trade, and ‘all your best men’ with all of your machines cannot find one man’s trail?”

“We are nothing so primitive as ‘hunters’,” Narvin explained to her, his words slow to imply that she could not understand him otherwise. “I should say that if Castellan Andred does not wish to be located, he would not be. He is adept at keeping his own secrets.” He eyed Romana. “As well as yours.”

My wife turned to the President. “Romana, please, let me look for Andred. I shall find him where these fools cannot.”

“Shush, now, Leela,” she said, attempting to soothe her. “We have discussed this and you know that this is a CIA responsibility. I have every confidence in their competence. As for you, Narvin,” she continued, turning back to the Coordinator, “I expect you to perform your duties to the best of your abilities and put aside your personal feelings for the man.”

Narvin bristled at the implication that he was being obstructionist, though I expect that it was an act to deflect any suspicion about his involvement. “Madame President, may I have a word with you alone?”

Romana stared daggers at him. “Certainly, Coordinator Narvin.”

Narvin turned to me and indicated Leela with a jerk of his head. “Escort her out. Make her comfortable.”

“Yes, sir.” I moved to the door to hold it open for my wife. “Come, savage.”

“I shall not leave you with him.” Leela stepped up to Romana’s side, her hand on her knife, looking every bit the warrior that I fell in love with.

“Leela, go,” Romana urged her. “Narvin won’t harm me, at least not in a way that could be traced back to him.”

“You flatter me, Madame President,” Narvin replied with a slick smile.

I could see the thoughts that flitted across my wife’s face, the frustration of the human amongst Time Lords that she often expressed to me in private. She didn’t trust Narvin - quite rightly so - and her every instinct was screaming danger and deception. She didn’t understand the need for diplomacy and politics. To her, none of this was bringing her closer to finding her husband, and it pained me to note that none of it would. Even though it directly opposed her keen intuition, she could only accede to the wishes of those who claimed to be so much wiser than her. She kept her shoulders straight and proud and her eyes wary as she preceded me from the Coordinator’s office.

It was difficult for me to concentrate on being Torvald, not with my wife so near. Like most other Time Lords, Torvald was cold, logical, and disdainful of the “lesser” species, and I needed to make myself him, even more so to Leela, for her very presence was likely to break my resolve. “You may wait here, savage. But do not attempt to interrupt their meeting. If you do, I shall have to kill you.” I patted my staser.

Her hand, which rarely wandered from her knife, wrapped around its handle. “I would like to see you try.” Her eyes narrowed as she studied my face. “I do not know you. What is your name?”

I drew myself up and peered at her down my nose, an affectation I remember Torvald adopting. “I am Torvald.”

Her brow furrowed as she looked me over again. I could tell that she was sensing that something was not quite right, and rather unconsciously, she tensed in a defensive crouch. “You have changed your face. I should have known you.”

I shrugged as if I expected no better from her. “Offworlders commonly do not understand regeneration.”

“Regeneration does not confuse me,” she insisted. “A man’s face may change, but at his hearts, he is the same man. That, I can smell. You, however, do not smell like Torvald.” She frowned. “You have changed too much. Who are you?”

Leela was always far wiser than anyone ever imagined, and my hearts soared with pride for her. However, I forced myself to wave my hand, dismissing her silly claims. “You are an ignorant human. You see only the patterns you wish to see and convince yourself that it is the truth.” I took a deep breath, but it was more to bolster my resolve in finally claiming my enemy’s name than to attempt to cow my magnificent wife. “I am Torvald, an agent of the Celestial Intervention Agency. I do not require the validation of a savage such as yourself.”

Her eyes narrowed as she looked me up and down. “If you are indeed one of Coordinator Narvin’s men, should you not be searching for my husband?”

I laughed as if the matter of the missing Castellan was inconsequential. “That is what the Coordinator and the President are discussing behind that door. It is not my position to make such decisions for them.”

“Talk!” she spat at me. “That is the only thing Time Lords know how to do. You think one thing, say another, and do nothing at all. It is one of your own who is missing and yet you do not care. If Andred were one of my tribe, my fellow warriors would not rest until he is found.” For one moment, her eyes sparkled with tears of worry for me, but she forced them back and hid them behind her aggressive stance. It was obvious that she longed to leap into action and struggled against Romana’s order to wait and allow the CIA to find her husband.

However, I had to be Torvald and this was my test, the proof of my ability to infiltrate the Agency. I tried to think like him, see her with his eyes. I am Torvald, I told myself. I am a Time Lord and this human dares to imply that we are less honourable than she is. Neither she nor the Time Lord who has fallen so far as to keep her deserves my attention. I could see Andred from the outside, and what I saw with Torvald’s eyes - with the eyes of most Time Lords - sickened me. I nodded to her and pronounced, “I assure you that our efforts are commensurate with the Castellan’s worth to Gallifrey.”

The savage was not so stupid as to miss my implication. Her eyes flashed with anger then widened as something occurred to her. I could see all of her thoughts plain on her face as if they were written there. “You have done something with Andred,” she murmured, her voice barely audible. “He is gone because of you.”

The lies began to fall easily from my lips. “I have had nothing to do with the disappearance of your husband.”

Her intuition led her true. “You lie,” she hissed.

“I do not.” I kept my attitude unconcerned.

“You do,” she insisted. “You are hiding something, and I shall find it out. You should take great care.” As she spoke, her fingers settled themselves around the grip of her knife.

I shrugged off her words. They were unimportant to one such as I. “Your threats are empty and I am not afraid, savage.”

In the next eyeblink, her knife was pressed to my throat, its sharp edge cool against my skin. I held myself still and stiff. “I shall hunt for my husband and I shall find him,” she growled. “And I swear that if I find that you have had anything to do with taking him from me, my blade shall taste both your hearts.”

Leela whirled away, striding off to stand guard by the Coordinator’s door, and I watched her, my expression impassive to mask my confusion. She was my wife and I loved her with both my hearts, but to protect her, to give her a better Gallifrey to live on, I sacrificed myself to take on a persona that could not be more opposite. I wasn’t sure what I believed anymore. It was worth it, wasn’t it? I chanted to myself that it was. As I threw myself into becoming Torvald, I needed to always remember Andred and why I was doing this. Casting one last glance at the light of my life, I turned and left the antechamber, heading to the nearest Matrix terminal to begin my assigned task.