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Time For A Change

By Marian Mendez
Page 3 of 3

"It's maddening," Dayna agreed.

"It's also impossible," Soolin added.

"Normally, I would agree," Avon remarked, "but this `rebel base' is actually part of an alien artifact which occupies an alternate dimension wherein the laws of physics, as we know them, do not necessarily apply."

"Very good, Avon," Romana said. "Perhaps you will be able to skip a few levels."
"Wonderful," Avon replied. "In the meantime, could you explain to my people how to get through this maze you've set up?"

"I didn't set it up. You did. You were obviously not ready to face them and your Tardis picked up on that. So it created a recursive loop in its interior arrangement."
"What?" Vila and the rest of the ex-Scorpio crew asked.

"It's a topological absurdity," Romana said helpfully. "Impossible to break out of. But if Avon is ready to see you, the Tardis should have reverted to its usual arrangement. Try walking straight out of the infirmary, take the first left, through the Zen rock garden, up two flights, past the aviary, and you should be right here."

"Rock garden? Aviary?" Tarrant was bemused. "All we saw were old brick basements."

"Dark dirty ones, with huge spiders," Vila added.

"Try it again."

"All right, Avon." Tarrant said, then caught himself. "Well, whoever you are. There had better be a good explanation for all this."

Romana turned off the monitor then said, "I'm off to the closet for something a bit more comfortable. I'm about to burst out of this. I want to get changed before your companions arrive."

"Vila will be disappointed."

"Will he? What a shame. Would you like me to bring you something?"

"Perhaps later." Avon began rolling up his shirt sleeves. "After my companions arrive."

"Yes, I see." Romana went toward the entrance that had come from the landing bay, then paused. "Don't fiddle with the controls while I'm gone. I'd hate for you to blow us up before we've all been properly introduced."

"I'll wait. But I won't wait forever. This ship is mine, and I will learn how to operate it. With or without your help."

"The young are always so impatient." Romana left before he could decide on a suitable comeback.

Tarrant came into the tracking gallery first. He was still wearing his scorched and torn garments, but he was fit and ready for a fight. He strode up to the man sitting with his back to the pilot, apparently studying one of the consoles. "Now, who are you really, and what's your game?" On edge after the trauma of the day's events and further frustrated by the rat-maze he'd run a dozen times since coming to in the infirmary, he grabbed the man by the lapels and dragged him up out of the seat, turning his quarry to face him. Half expecting the solid weight of Avon, he staggered back a step when the slender body he'd caught came up too easily. This man was half a foot shorter than Avon and much slighter.

"That was very stupid, Tarrant." It wasn't Avon's voice, but the arctic bite in it was familiar. So was the muzzle of the gun pressed against his ribs. Avon's hold-out gun. The one he kept hidden for emergencies. Being dangled with his feet above the ground probably counted as an emergency.

"Perhaps you're right." Tarrant lowered the other man carefully, so as not to jar the hand holding the gun.

"Then again," came Soolin's voice from behind Avon's ear, "maybe you're wrong." She pressed her own clip-gun against his back. "A stand-off."

Vila and Dayna had come in during the distraction. Vila was carrying Orac. Dayna pulled her gun and aimed it at Romana. "Stay put. Don't try anything."

"Oh, no. I wouldn't dream of it," Romana said, calmly watching the confrontation.

Vila put Orac down on a convenient console and reached for get his gun, then changed his mind after looking more closely at Romana. "Very nice dress," he commented.

"Yes, I think it suits me quite well." Romana twirled the long, midnight blue, velvet skirt. "I'm glad you like it. Avon thought you'd be disappointed."
"Never! I like a lady to look like a lady. I'm glad you changed."

"So am I," Romana replied, giving Vila a friendly smile which melted his remaining reserve.

"How come you're not upset over my gang threatening your friend?" He patted his holstered gun. "The guns are unloaded, right? I mean, you'd feel pretty silly getting killed by us after you fixed us up."

Dayna looked at her weapon, startled. She quickly slipped out the clip to check. "It's all right, Vila. The gun's not been tampered with."

"No," Romana said, "It didn't occur to me. I don't use weapons, certainly not anything as crude as those. I had thought we could simply have a civilized discussion. This childish squabbling isn't going to resolve matters."

Dayna was offended by the remark about the clip-guns being crude. She thrust her weapon under Romana's nose and said, "You'd be surprised what a gun can resolve."

Romana pushed the gun away. "Please." She raised her voice. "Avon, I enabled the Temporal Grace mechanism." She smiled at Dayna. "That means no weapons will work inside the Tardis."

Avon lifted his gun away from Tarrant's side, and aimed at a nearby pillar. He fired, but nothing happened. "Interesting. A field effect, Romana?"

"Not quite, but something similar." She frowned. "You know, shooting everyone you disagree with is a very bad habit."

"Yeah," Vila added, "look at poor Blake." Avon's head snapped up, and the light in his black eyes wasn't quite sane. Vila put his hand over his mouth, and turned white. "Sorry."

"So you keep saying," Avon replied. He turned away from Tarrant and Soolin, strode over to Orac, fished in his pocket for the key and activated the computer. "Orac."

* Yes, what is it, now? *

"Gracious as ever." Avon leaned his elbows on the computer casing. "Do you know who I am, Orac?"

* You choose to waste my time for that? Don't you know who you are? I don't expect much from humans...*

"My name is Avon and I'm not human."

* Avon? Ah, so you have finally completed your first metamorphosis. Fascinating. Will you describe the experience for my records? You are the first Gallifreyan I have had an opportunity to study.*

"You knew? All along, you knew what I am, what would happen to me?"

* It only came to my attention the first time I was utilized to monitor your recovery in the Liberator's medical unit.*

"Why didn't you tell me?"

* You never asked.*

Avon jerked the key out. For a moment, he hesitated, weighing it in his hand, as though he intended to hurl it the length of the tracking gallery, then he pocketed it. "One of these days, Orac..."

"Me first, Avon," Vila said.

Avon looked up at Vila. They had been of a height, although Vila's perpetual cringe made him appear smaller. Now, though, Avon was decidedly shorter. This regeneration business has its faults. "You are very quick to believe. In your position, I think I would be more skeptical."

"Yes, you would. That's how I know you're Avon," Vila said cheerfully. "When I saw you standing there, ignoring a beautiful woman, I said to myself, `self, I said, that's Avon all over' and when you gave Tarrant what for, that was a pretty big hint, but the payoff was Orac. If he doesn't know his master, who does?"

Avon's crew visibly relaxed. Apparently, they were willing to accept Vila's judgment. Even Soolin put her gun aside, although she transferred her suspicious looks to Romana. No one had vouched for her.

Avon winced again at the word `master'. He was not looking forward to telling them the details of his origin. Better to start out with the good news. "Blake is not dead," he said abruptly.

"Are you sure?" Tarrant narrowed his eyes. "Was he some sort of alien, too?"

"I doubt it. He always seemed very human to me. But he wasn't here. What I shot was a very sophisticated android. Not quite sophisticated enough." He gave Romana a very dirty look.

Romana spread her hands. "I bought them from a junk-shop dealer on Tara. Most of them couldn't even speak. Klyn was the best of the lot, but the body was too small for Blake." She sighed. "Still, you really didn't have to do such a thorough job of shooting it. It's going to be the very devil to fix."

"Why bother?" Avon asked.

"Well, if you insist on this revolution business, a Blake might come in handy."

"I would prefer the genuine article," Avon said. "With Orac, and the Tardis, it should be simple to locate him." He lowered his voice. "And I do mean to find him." He grimaced and rubbed his forehead.

"Avon?" Dayna said. "What's wrong?"

"I have a headache," he admitted. He opened his eyes to see her staring at him with a peculiar expression. Their first meeting flashed into his mind, and he smiled. "Are you no longer curious?"

Dayna grinned brightly, and stepped forward to kiss him. "You're still beautiful," she said softly afterward.

Tarrant groaned at the smug expression on Avon's new face. "Really, Dayna, do you have to feed his ego?"

"Ego?" Avon said, eyebrow arched. Vila couldn't help chuckling at the sight, so Avon, and yet not. "I am the very soul of modesty," Avon proclaimed. "As ever."

The `new' Avon's old crew all chuckled at that. Soolin recovered first and said, " It's nice to know some things never change."

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G.P. Blake
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