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Time For A Change

By Marian Mendez
Page 2 of 3

"Are you listening to me?"

"Hmm? Oh, yes, Romana, is it? Do go on, please, my dear." He patted her on the hand before he realized what he was doing. Apparently a new personality came along with a new body. Already he felt his fight against the Federation and Servalan, as something that happened to someone else.

"The problem is, all Tardises are Single-Response Isomorphic."

"A one-man dog?" Avon queried. "How could a machine differentiate betw..." He felt a disconcerting sensation, perhaps best described as a mind-tickle. "Ah, I see. It's telepathic."

Romana nodded. "And tends to resemble its user, especially with prolonged single-owner voyages. The Master had this Tardis for several hundred years. I think it believed I was trying to capture you. It let me follow you, but always arrived after you'd left. I learned all about you, second-hand. Finally I set up the Tardis as a rebel base and tricked your computer into bringing you here. The Tardis can alter the settings once it's in motion, but it can't move on its own. It was the only way I could find you."

A thought struck him. "The Tardis should not be able to tell the difference between us. To all intents and purposes, I am this Master."

"That's an oversimplification," Romana said, alarmed. "You haven't done the things he has. You aren't him."

"But I could easily be," Avon said, smiling. He wondered what it looked like on his new face, and was gratified to see Romana flinch. That at least, hadn't changed.

"I was sent to bring you home to make certain you don't become another Master."

"Home? I have no home. Certainly not your precious Gallifrey."

"You could be very happy on Gallifrey. The computers are advanced as far beyond your Orac as it is beyond the abacus. There is no Federation, no war, nothing to interfere with research or academic pursuits."

"Oh? And would I be allowed to conduct research as I please?"

Romana looked away and bit her lip. Then she said, "Well, of course you'd have to get your degree first."

"Of course," Avon mocked. "And how long do you think that would take? How long did it take my original before he grew bored and simply took what he wanted? Bear in mind that I should have to start from scratch, in a totally foreign environment, with instructors who are predisposed to consider me a pathological monster."

"It wouldn't be easy, I admit, but you are intelligent."

"Too intelligent to take your offer."

"You really can't want to continue to live with humans. The Doctor used to travel with human companions. Sometimes they were refreshingly innocent, but in general I found them annoying with their parochial attitudes. They consider the human race evolution's crowning achievement.They can't understand you and you don't understand yourself."

"I don't fit in." Avon laughed. "Dear lady, I have never `fit in', and I don't care to start now." He got up. "I do thank you for your concern, but I think I shall just go see how my - companions - are. And then we will take our leave of you, I think."

"Wait!" Romana sounded desperate. "The Council will have my head if I don't bring you back, or at least teach you how to control yourself. You are very young, Avon, you have no idea what changes your first regeneration causes."

"Good god, you don't mean I'll have to go through puberty again." Avon shuddered. Then he looked at Romana, really looked at her for the first time as a woman. She was beautiful and desirable, far more than most women he'd known. His voice lowered to a growl. "Then again, this time around, I might enjoy it."

"That would be cradle-snatching."

"Would it really?" Avon eyed her for another minute until he saw a flush rising in her fair cheeks. "In any event, I haven't time for it. With this device, I should be able to finish what Blake started. You may come along, if you wish."

"No! Time-Lords are strictly forbidden from..." but Romana's protest sounded forced, as though she was tempted to agree.

Avon grinned. "I'm not an accredited Time-Lord, am I? And you are a self-confessed adventurer. What could be a better quest than the overthrow of a galaxy-wide repressive dictatorship of the worst stripe? Why, with the Tardis, I could go back, back before there was a Federation and prevent its existence."

"No." This time Romana's refusal was flat. "You can't interfere with your own time-line. That's not a Time-Lord rule. It's a fact. If you try, you may think you have changed your future, but what actually occurs is a split in the Time Continuum, creating a new reality. Enough of that sort of meddling and the cosmos would rupture."
"All right, so that's out. It can still travel faster than any space vessel- virtually simultaneously, I should imagine."

"If properly navigated." Romana shook her head. "And if you think I'm teaching a child how to pilot a Tardis, you'd better think again!"

"No, actually I was thinking of Tarrant." Avon frowned and glanced in the direction the androids had carried his crew. "That is, if he's still alive."

"He should be. The Master always traveled alone and usually in hostile territory, so his infirmary is highly sophisticated and automated. Do you want to see it?"

"Yes." Whatever else had changed, those four people were his crew. His brain had begun to settle, and fewer wild thoughts leaped out to distract him. He should have checked on them before. How long had he been content to simply sit and listen to Romana lecture him? His life had changed, so be it. Accept and move on. He no longer felt the personal drive to defeat the Federation, but from both an ethical and a practical view, he would strongly prefer that system abolished. For that task, his present -companions- were ideally suited. They had the skills, the motivation, and for whatever reason, they trusted him to lead them. Of course, they might change their minds when they learned he had changed his body.

"Watch that monitor." Romana gestured toward a section of wall which didn't look much different from any other until a panel slid back, revealing a glasslike screen. Depicted on it Tarrant was standing toe to toe with Vila. There was no sound but it was obvious they were arguing.

"He's still alive," Avon said."Pity".

"Which one do you mean?" Romana asked.

"Take your pick. Can they hear us?"

"If you like." At Avon's nod, Romana flicked one of the many switches set in the panel before her and Tarrant's voice came through. Avon automatically noted which switch Romana had used. He also noted that the console which activated the monitor had not been there before. Apparently, the interior of the Tardis was not only extra-dimensional, it was also mutable. Even if the machine accepted him as its master, he would still need Romana to tell him how to operate it.

"Vila, Tarrant." He was gratified to see them jump.

"Who's that?" Vila backed up, and suddenly he was with Tarrant against an enemy.


Tarrant stiffened. "I don't know what kind of fools you take us for, but you're not Avon."

"Don't sound anything like him," Vila added.

Dayna slid off the examination table she'd been sitting on. "What have you done with him?"

"And what do you intend to do with us?" Soolin was in the corner, arms crossed, looking very cross herself.

"Romana, let them see me." Avon spread his arms, and grinned, enjoying their reactions to his new body in his old, ill-fitting clothes. "I was Avon. Apparently, I didn't know me as well as I thought. I'm not human."
"I could have told you that," Vila muttered, automatically, his eyes still bugging out.

"And you would have been right. What a novelty," Avon teased gently.

"Well, Vila," Tarrant demanded, "you've known him longer than any of us. Do you think that's Avon?"

"I dunno. I dunno," Vila wailed. "It talks like him. But maybe it's one of those things that blew up Star One. The Andromedans. Avon... Avon told me about them, they looked just like people until you killed them and then they melted into great, disgusting globs of lime aspic."

"Yes, that's true," Avon said, brow creased in thought. "However, that particular test is very final. Well, it would be if I were human. I won't melt when I die- will I, Romana?" He queried, as it occurred to him that he really didn't know.

"No Gallifreyan has ever melted, as far as I know," Romana answered him, mildly. "I must admit, you are rather advanced for your age. Usually that sort of philosophical question comes much later."

"I've had a rather strenuous childhood." Avon still did not take Romana's attitude seriously. No matter what any Gallifreyan calendar said, he was no child, couldn't even remember being one.

"Yes, that's true. I'll have to take that into account when we start home schooling."

Avon glared.

"Would you rather go through life ignorant of even your basic biology, Avon? Not to mention your history, legends, social development, sciences, and technologies?"

"I haven't time..." Slowly, Avon's smile widened. "I do have time, don't I?"

"If you don't get yourself killed while fighting this Federation."

"You aren't my mother. Even if I let you stay on my ship..."

"Your ship!"

"You've already acknowledged that the Tardis does not respond properly to you and it will to me. Therefore it is, ipso facto, my ship. Between myself and Orac, with possibly a little assistance from Tarrant, it should prove possible to pilot it, without your help. You are therefore surplus to requirements and if you prove annoying enough will be set down on the nearest habitable planet."

"You are a spoiled brat."

Avon grinned. "I've been told that before. Ah, speaking of Orac, it may be able to come up with a non-lethal test of my identity." He turned back to the monitor, where his crew had been mystified by the by-play between `Avon?' and the beautiful woman wearing the clothes of a rebel technician. Vila, it must be admitted, had been speculating on how much strain the buttons on her shirt could take. "Vila, can you come to the tracking gallery and pick up Orac on your way? It's just outside the second level stairwell, behind the fire suppressant system."
"I know where the bloody box is. You stood on my shoulders to wedge it there..." Vila trailed off. "Well, Avon did, anyway."

"Then get it and come here."

Tarrant stepped forward."We can't. Every time we leave this infirmary, we wind up right back here, no matter which way we go."

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Marian Mendez

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