I hate Romana, even though I just met her. I know I should be respectful of a Time Lord of her stature and importance. She had been the Lord President of Gallifrey, for goodness sake. But before that she had traveled with the Doctor, along with her pesky robot dog. (Oh dear god, it’s rolling up to the TARDIS console next to me and connecting to it with some interface from between its eyes.) And that’s the problem. Romana knows the Doctor, knew him long before I ever did, and I have always suspected there was more between them than he has ever told me.
I doubt it would surprise anyone to know that I’ve completed a full biography of every man, woman and android that every joined the Doctor on board the TARDIS.
Romana was the only Time Lord to ever travel with the Doctor (well, except for his granddaughter Susan, but I’ve never been able to confirm they were really blood-related).
Romana had regenerated once while on board, and clearly had done so again since she had last visited, because the youthful face in the TARDIS database doesn’t look a thing like the
battle-tested solider across the console from me. This Romana is beaming confidence, courage and strength. She works the TARDIS console with more ease and grace than I ever could. And just when I think I don’t like her enough, I remember how the Romana of the past may have been in a romantic relationship with the Doctor.
Oh, I hate her.
“No you don’t,” I can hear the Doctor reply in my head, but I brush the thought aside.
“I’m Amy,” my mother replies, shaking the harlot’s hand. “And this …” she pauses, still unsure of how to introduce people to me. Am I her daughter, her friend, her comrade, an escaped felon, a murderer, a professor? “This is River,” she sighs in resignation, choosing to opt out of providing any additional information as to my character.
“This is K-9, my companion,” Romana says as she nods to me. “He will interface with the TARDIS and get us away from here.” She ruffles her fingers through her long, black hair, pulling a small knot out towards the bottom. “Now then, where is the Doctor?”
“I thought you were looking for the warrior?” Amy asks, folding her arms across her chest. Good. She doesn’t trust Romana either. I know my mother has had a crush on the Doctor since the day she met him. Even though she is now happily married to my father Rory, I know Amy will always keep a little place in her heart for the raggedy man she’d met that night as a child. Somewhere in her mind, that child was warning Amy that her competition was standing right in front of her.
“Come now,” Romana smirks, “you must know they are one and the same. Well, few do considering the glorious victories he has achieved since he joined the war. Not quite the same celebrity he had attained with the Time Lords in his lives before the war,” she chuckles. “With his help, we finally had the Daleks on the run until …” she pauses, looking downward.
“Of course I am,” Romana answers, as if I’d said the most obvious thing ever spoken. “You … you don’t know?”
“Know what?” Amy asks.
“About the latest Dalek offensive? The time trenches. Their new weapons? You didn’t get my distress call?”
“Well, we did,” Amy sputters, “but we couldn’t figure out what you were saying.”
Romana sighs and begins to work the TARDIS controls. “We need to get to Gallifrey. I must inform Rassilon what I have discovered immediately.”
“But what about the rift?” Amy asks.
“We do only have 13 minutes left until the end of all existence,” I sneer, challenging Romana with a look. “Perhaps we should do something about that first, don’t you think?”
“Yes, yes of course. You’re right, River.” Best words I’ve heard all year. “Let’s take a closer look at that rift then, shall we?” She pulls the scanner away from me and begins to analyze the scanner readings. “You sound surprised to learn that I am from the Time War,” Romana whispers. “Why?”
“The War was time locked,” I say while I pretend to adjust some controls on the console. “We don’t know anything that happened during the war, and you certainly shouldn’t have been able to get out of it.”
“K-9, is this true?”
“TARDIS records confirmed, mistress,” the tiney voice confirms from beside me.
“Time locked. By whom?”
“By the Doctor.”
“Why would he do this?”
“The Moment,” K-9 answers. “It required the War to be time locked. He had no alternative, mistress.” The dog’s robotic voice is starting to get on my nerves.
“The Moment?” Romana gasps. “He wouldn’t. He couldn’t!” She regards Amy and me with such a sad look of betrayal and sorrow, I actually start to feel sorry for her. “We must have … we lost the war?”
“I’m afraid so,” I answer with more sympathy in my voice than I’d expected. “There was no record of what happened to you, and the Doctor has never mentioned you since the war ended.” Ah, there is my hate again. Take that, Time Lady. Perhaps I still know the Doctor in a way that you never can.
Romana’s mouth remains open a moment, catching whatever flies or truth she can hope to find in the air. “Perhaps we can change that now. The Daleks, they have been trying to take down the time trenches since the war began. They didn’t have anything that could scratch the TST’s, until now. If we can save the trenches, perhaps we can still win the war and avoid … the rest.”
“I’m sorry, but wha?” my mother asks. “What are time trenches?”
“Protective fields that surround Gallifrey and shield the planet, including its past, present and future, from any interference by time travelers. They are the first and most powerful line of defense against the Daleks or any other army that wishes to battle the Time Lords. The time trenches instantly freeze any attacker and then erases them from history, no matter where in time and space they try to attack from. For countless millennia they have protected Gallifrey from our enemies. But now, now they stand of the brink of failure.”
“Because of the Daleks and the war,” I ask, suddenly more interested in her story than I had been before. The implications are starting to stack up in my head.
“Precisely. Before now, my forces have been able to hold off their attacks, and their weapons were useless against the temporal stability towers. This time, they came with some new weapon, a way they hoped would destroy the towers and take the trenches down. They tested it first on my battle TARDIS. When I realized they were attempting to destabilize the Eye of Harmony and my TARDIS’ matrix simultaneously, I initiated a temporal implosion.”
“Which caused your TARDIS to explode and implode at the same time,” I interrupt. “You caused an event powerful enough to tear open the time locks around the war and allow us to pull you free. But you ripped a whole in the universe in the process!” I said it more accusingly than I wished, but she had it coming.
“I had no choice,” Romana spat. “If I had let my TARDIS matrix fail, it would have surely destroyed the entire universe.” I saw my mother nod. Even she understood that. She had seen it happen not that long ago. The Doctor’s TARDIS had been destroyed by the Silence, and all of the universe was wiped out in the wake. Thankfully, the Doctor, my parents and I had managed to restore the universe. Well, the Doctor called it rebooting, but that was just his own clever way of putting it. My mother clearly remembers just how dangerous an exploding TARDIS can be.
“We … we understand,” I say with as much sympathy as I can muster, “but in doing so you may have destroyed the universe anyway. The rift you created is growing, extending into all space and time, undoing what we had already rebooted.” Damn. I hate it when I talk like him.
“Confirmed, mistress,” K-9 answers from beside me. “Universe collapse will be completed in twelve minutes, forty-two seconds.”
“We must inform the Time Lords,” Romana says, moving towards the communications array.
“They’re all gone, Romana,” I answer. “They’re all dead now, time locked inside the War, just like you should be. They can’t help us.”
“What about the Doctor?” Amy asks, her eyes bright. “Maybe he can help?”
“I would welcome his assistance, as always,” Romana spat, “but he’s no doubt off gallivanting on his own bloody schedule.” I had to admit, the same thought had crossed my mind numerous nights as I lay alone on my cot in Stormcage. The Doctor always looked out for himself first, often forgetting about those around him who might need him or just want him. Even his wife.
“Yes,” I answer. “I’m afraid we are on our own this time.”
“Warning, mistress,” K-9 bleets. “Dalek forces have discovered the rift. They are in pursuit. Estimate fifty-three seconds to extermination.”