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Time For A Change

By Marian Mendez
Page 1 of 3

Deva wasn't quite dead yet and saw Blake fall. What a pity, Deva thought, eyes closing for the last time, Should have worked harder on Blake, stopped that bounty hunter nonsense, shouldn't have been this way.

Then Deva's existence ended, and the only moving figures wore the Federation's uniform. The alarms were silenced, the lighting returned to normal, and the guards lined up neatly, awaiting further orders.

"Oooh. Oh, that was pointlessly painful ." The person in Deva's clothes sat up warily, checking out the equipment before chancing further movement. "Still, it could have been worse." Satisfied that everything was functional, Deva rose and walked, somewhat unsteadily, to the nearest reflective surface, ignoring the motionless guards. A short, blue-eyed, blonde woman looked back from the mirror-bright steel. She frowned. "No, I don't think that's entirely suitable." She glanced at the body draped over Blake's form. "Too much like your Anna. Let's see." The blonde's brow furrowed in concentration. Her body shimmered, lengthened, and developed quite a respectable figure. The hair lengthened, too, and shifted hues, becoming a deep russet. Her eyes widened and darkened to a sea-green.

"Not bad." She smiled. "Certainly will be a change of pace from poor, serious, little Deva." She turned to Avon, and knelt beside him, turning him over onto his back. "Are you all right?"

Avon woke and stared back at the woman bending over him. "Considering that I am dead, and in hell for murdering Blake..." He started to sit up, then stared at his hands, half hidden by his sleeves. "What?"

"The guards got carried away. Sorry, but they were confused when I was killed. I didn't realize The Master had disabled Temporal Grace on his Tardis. I'm afraid they've triggered your first regeneration, Avon. "
"What are you talking about? Who are you anyway?" Avon snapped. He wasn't paying much attention to her, instead he was patting himself down. "No injuries? That's absurd. I died." He got up, pushing the red-headed woman away when she reached out to him, and promptly had to grab for his pants which drooped on his hips. "What happened to my clothes?" He asked, totally confused. His people were dead, he'd killed Blake, Federation guards were standing at attention like a row of tin soldiers, a strange woman was babbling nonsense, and he couldn't seem to think straight. On top of that, someone put him in clothes three sizes too large- clothes exactly like his own, right down to the worn places.

"My name is Romanadevaratnalunda," the woman introduced herself, "and I'm a Time-Lord."

"Yes, of course you are," Avon replied, looking for his assault rifle, before remembering that it was empty and he was dead, anyway, so there really wasn't much point in caring if you were in the company of a madwoman.

"You can call me Deva if you like. Although I prefer Fred."

Avon looked down at Blake. Supposing Avon to be alive, could Blake... He forced himself to touch Blake's hand, and recoiled from the icy chill. Blake wasn't getting up, ever again. Avon had done what the entire Federation failed to accomplish. Abruptly, he started laughing, harshly.

"Stop that!" the woman, Deva, Fred, Romana-whatever her name was, ordered. She looked alarmed, as if she was worried about Avon. That was patently ridiculous, of a piece with this whole nightmare. "It's all right, Avon. That's not Blake. Your friends aren't dead. Everything will be fine. Just calm down, it doesn't do to excite yourself in your present state. You haven't stabilized yet. Until your neural synapses have completed fusion, there will be a certain amount of confusion."

Avon's legs buckled. The woman caught him and helped him to a seat at the tracking gallery, pushing aside the woman Avon had shot. "Please, rest. I'll explain everything as best I can if you'll just be patient."

"Blake." Avon stared at the big corpse as if the rest of the room was empty. "Tell me about Blake. You say he wasn't real- what was he- a clone?"

"No, he's an android. Like the guards. His programming was a little too authentic, though. I never could control him."

"No, Blake never could be controlled." Avon relaxed, feeling a cold knot in his chest loosen.

"Actually," the woman continued, holding Avon's shoulder while she spoke, "actually, Avon, you're a clone."

"You are insane." Avon tried to pull back, but the woman was surprisingly strong. She also was taller than him, which was really annoying. Come to that, everything seemed a bit larger. Fighting her hold, he shifted in the seat, and came face to face with a stranger reflected in the polished metal of the nearby console. "No!" he shouted, "what have you done to me?" He couldn't pull his gaze from the horrified face he saw, jet-black hair and eyes set in a small-boned, sardonic face graced with a widow's peak and a sharply pointed beard and mustache. He put up a hand to touch the beard, and a slender, graceful hand raised in the reflection, to stroke along the impeccably groomed beard. He felt it, through both the hand and the face being touched. It was his face, his beard. "I've gone to hell and become the devil," he said, shaken.

"No, you haven't. Now just stop frightening yourself and listen to me. I'm going to start from the beginning this time. And you're going to listen." The Federation spy, Arlen, chose that moment to groan. Deva/ Fred glanced back over her shoulder. "As soon as I get the place cleared up. Now, stay put." She patted Avon on the shoulder then went to the silent line of guards. "Take Arlen out of the Tardis and dump her in the woods," she ordered. "Put Klyn and Blake and the other damaged androids in the workshop.Then go into Storage Hold C." She stooped to examine Tarrant. "Not too bad. Carry Avon's people to the infirmary and put them on the beds there. Then join the other `droids in Storage C."

The guards nodded in unison and began carrying bodies as instructed. Avon watched silently. When the last of them had gone the woman returned to him. She picked up his wrist, felt his pulse, nodded, moved her hand slightly and then nodded again. "Both hearts strong and properly synchronized. Good."

Avon grasped her wrist, preventing her from pulling away. "How did you know I've got two hearts? It's not on the Federation records, I had Orac delete it years ago."

"All Time-Lords have two hearts. Listen to mine."

Abruptly, an ample bosom was pressed against Avon's ear. There was a distinct double cadence to the rhythm he heard. Shaken, he pulled back. It was not her action, nor the revelation that disturbed him, but the strong urge to stay there, to allow this creature, this woman, this Time-Lord, to comfort him.

"What, precisely, is a Time-Lord?" Avon asked, trying to distance himself from the feelings.

"We're a humanoid species, originating on the planet Gallifrey."

"Never heard of it."

"Well, you won't have done. We try to stay out of other people's messes, and your Federation is a prime example of the sort of thing we avoid." She hurried on, seeing Avon's impatience. "We can travel in both Time and Space, using devices known as Tardises. That stands for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. Most Time-Lords don't actually travel, though, as we have strong moral strictures against interfering in other cultures. There are exceptions- a few authorized agents of the Council of the Time Lords, a few adventurers, such as myself, and one other, a man known as the Master. He's a megalomaniac, a mass murderer, and totally conscienceless."

"I take it he has no objection to interfering in other cultures."

"Or destroying them. We have a very long life-span, due in part to our ability to regenerate after death. This regeneration is limited to twelve times, but The Master has found ways around that. The last time we heard of him, he had forced the clone-masters to produce him a new body. As an infant. Force-growing would confuse the regeneration count. Since he had recently regenerated his body using forbidden methods, he could afford to wait for the child to attain maturity before he transferred his `essence'. The Doctor- an old colleague of mine-" she explained, "stumbled across him and stopped him. The Council confiscated the Master's Tardis, imprisoned him and voted to destroy the clone, fearing it would turn out as evil as its original. The Doctor refused and gave the child to foster parents- human foster parents. Your parents."
"No wonder my brother and I were so different," Avon mused. Despite himself, he was beginning to believe her. So his entire existance had been a lie. He was the clone of a psychopathic alien. It went a long way toward explaining things.

"The Doctor wouldn't tell anyone where or when he placed you. Frankly, he's getting on - twelve hundred and thirteen on his last birthday. I think he simply forgot. Looking for a child in all of Time and Space would be impossible, but fortunately I didn't have to. A Time-Lord infant is hypersensitive to the TimeStream. You could say it gives them colic. So the Doctor would only have moved the child in space from the Master's last position. The Council gave me The Master's Tardis and I set it to retrace its path.

"I should have been able to pick you up directly after the Doctor gave you away, but this Tardis..." Here she smacked her hand down on the tracking gallery monitor. "This Tardis is the most uncooperative machine I have ever known. It doesn't like me.The last time I regenerated it even interfered with that, making me outwardly resemble a male human. It has a warped sense of humor."

"It is only a machine," Avon said. He began eying his surroundings with fresh interest. Unless he missed his guess, she was saying that they were in a time machine. The whole base? Possible, if you postulated that the Relative Dimensions part of their title meant that they were in a pocket of extra-universality as long as they were within it. That would also greatly decrease the amount of energy required for travel, if the interior actually remained stable in the other dimension and the only part of the vehicle which actually moved was the exterior portal. He began visualizing equations for the energy transfer.

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