elisi: (Stepping Sideways)
[personal profile] elisi
Summary: How do you save people that don't want to be saved?

For notes etc, please see The Prologue, or just follow the tags.

Note: Gallifreyan will be indicated by the use of « and » any other language uses "". It seemed the simplest solution.


SherwoodBanner1


Chapter 5

«Right – we will need to put out some sort of statement, explaining what’s going to happen. Look at how everything’s organised, think about a viable way for the humans to stay, should they want to-»

He paused, belatedly noticing Roda’s silence. «I hope you don’t mind me taking over like that?»

And still she was just looking at him…

«Oh, of course. I promised you a zero room. Sorry, my mind gets stuck in grooves sometimes.»

He held up the laser and summoned his TARDIS.

«Some time out would probably be good?»

Eventually she spoke. Sitting up straight, she was still looking at him what that incredulous look, the one she hadn’t really lost since he’d saved her.

«Why?»

He met her eyes, and knew she wouldn’t back down until she had an answer that satisfied her. And any moment she’d ask ‘In your world, what are we to each other?’ and that led to a whole avalanche of awkwardness.

«I don’t like to see you hurt,» he replied.

«You’ve seen me hurt before,» she said. A statement, not a question.

He fell silent. It would be easy to share the story of the first time he had met her as an ‘adult’ – how she’d turned up in the Doctor’s TARDIS whilst he was studying, covered in bruises and scratches and with a dislocated shoulder from an encounter with his father and a waffle iron...

But that would not answer the implied accusation.

«I told you when and where I was born. I remember you…»

«Why did you never mention any of this before?»

He quirked an eyebrow, trying to stop a wry smile.

«Because ‘One of my earliest memories is of my father torturing you’ would have gone down a storm… Look, I would like to get you to a zero room – do you trust me enough for that?»

A long look.

«Fine. Lead the way.»

~~~

The Seeker’s TARDIS control room was white and gold inside, very different to her warm reds, but it was the decor that threw her most. Sofas and cupboards and other comforts around the edges. It had to be something to do with his human upbringing, she reasoned, but it oddly did more to reassure her than most of his words. He sent one of the Toclafane off 'to put the kettle on' and though she'd rather he sent them away for good the warm drink was reassuring, too.

It wasn’t quite her idea of comforting, but it was the thought that counted. And of course there was the fact that he had saved her life, but she was not yet able to process that. Being looked after was nice, however.

A zero room, a cup of tea (he claimed he grew his own), and a general concern for her wellbeing… She couldn’t remember the last time. They chatted, like new friends might, and for the first time in forever she felt herself relax.

Just for a moment.

~~~

Roda never shared her reasons, but she seemed to have made some kind of decision to trust him.

Which was nice since he’d saved her life, but he knew her well enough to understand that the one did not lead automatically to the other. But since she did trust him (more or less), they set about trying to restructure the society as best they could.

He contacted The Shadow Proclamation, and whilst they were happy to come and deal with the Captain, they were even happier when the Seeker volunteered to re-organise the planet on their behalf.

They’d send a commissioner to inspect everything in due time and to take away the Captain for a proper trial, but that was all.

The Seeker smiled. Challenge accepted.

Although of course it would have been a lot simpler without all the people…

He held a small referendum for the humans to begin with – a simple enough choice: To either let The Shadow Proclamation take over wholesale (with Judoon trampling through everything, and the very real possibility of forced removal of the humans to places unknown), or let himself and Roda attempt to reorganise their society, adding and updating sorely needed technology (making the slave labour obsolete in the process), and creating some kind of way forward for the two species to co-exist.

As foreseen, the referendum had worked well, and they had upwards of 90% of the people behind him. In theory at least.

A somewhat similar effort was put into place for the Crinitus, but in their case it was more about discovering how their society had functioned before the humans’ arrival; which aspects could be salvaged, and which could be augmented by the technology now available. As Roda had foreseen they were harder to talk to, and less willing to work with anyone who, in their eyes, looked to be human.

He would have been quite happy to do a little show-and-tell, to convince them of the differences between Time Lords and humans, but Roda refused. So no fancy show, although he was sure it would have made things simpler… Of course, quite simply being able to speak with them marked them out as other-than-human, so possibly Roda had a point.

Deciding early on that there was no point in doing anything by half-measures, he cast his net as wide as possible. The change had to be real, and it had to be deep, going down to the very roots, to the point where it had all gone wrong initially. He knew it’d be an uphill battle (humans disliked change that inconvenienced them in any way, of that he was well aware), but if he had known just how difficult it would become he might have given up before he had even started.

But to begin with, it was simply a new and exciting challenge that he thought himself more than capable of meeting. Neither humans nor Crinitus were particularly happy with his approach - but it was his way, or the highway.

And he was sure it could be done. Whether borne out of arrogance or idealism the result was the same, and his innate stubbornness did the rest.

Roda seemed slightly taken aback at his wide-ranging plans, and queried and questioned his every choice, something he was not used to and which chafed somewhat. He did his best to be polite, but he was, and always had been, best working on his own, and having his motives quizzed was a strange curveball. Not so much what, but why.

When her questions got insistent, he replied that he needed to be aware of all the facts, in order to go forward.

«Everything is connected. Every single part of a society is important. If we want to create change, change that will last, we need to make sure the whole of their society is going to reflect that change.»

She would snort, and drop the subject, but he had the feeling it was more to avoid conflict between them than anything else. Adjusting his initial assessment, he concluded that she trusted him with her own safety – the rest of the world, not so much.

She was fantastically capable of course; dealing with most of the actual interactions with the two factions, firm but fair, telling him the outcomes of meetings and discussions. But there was always that barrier, mistrust in her looks and attitude. He knew her well enough to know when she was holding back, and if it hadn’t been for their shared project - and the fact that he couldn’t really afford a (probably heated and prolonged) argument with the only other person in charge - he would have had it out immediately.

As it was, they talked ‘shop’, discussed strategies and plans and the slowly unfolding nightmare that was their peace and reconciliation programme.

His evenings were mostly spent drafting a legal document fit for The Shadow Proclamation, clauses and subclauses multiplying. No one else seemed to care, but he knew that without a solid legal framework everything would collapse the second they left. Roda of course chafed against any kind of authority, but they were a long way from Sherwood, and in these forests there were no merry men…

He researched countless peace and reconciliation programmes, which in their case would have to be integrated with updating the industry and food production, giving the Crinitus back their freedom without adversely affecting the human population.

Neither side was willing to meet with the other - the Crinitus suspected a trap, and the humans thought it fruitless to attempt a dialogue with the ‘savages’, who would probably only be out for revenge and might turn violent…

The impulse to snarl that they were all bloody primitives to him was a constant temptation, but so far he’d managed to avoid it.

On top of all this, there were the links with the black market. Having shut down the mines with immediate effect (the conditions had been… unspeakable), the humans were wailing that now they had no income, that the smugglers and black marketeers would punish them, that he was ruining everything they had done.

He’d replied coldly that any human was free to go work in the mines, and the delegation he had been speaking with had walked out, incensed.

After that he had met with the Crinitus, something which always made him question every choice he was making, and put him on edge.

They were an evolving species which had been thrown off course; dragged not just millennia forwards in terms of technology in the space of less than a century, but also enslaved and brutalised, and they were rightfully furious. Having finally been given a voice, they did not hesitate sharing their thoughts:

{ This was our land. This was our world. The demon-naked-strangers fell from the sky, tearing our lives apart, destroying everything that was ours, desecrating our sacred places, hiding in huts made of shiny-hard-tall, carrying pain-fire-hurt in their hands and you say you bring us justice, but you don’t! Justice would be giving them our fate. They should be our slaves! Why do they not pay? Why do they not leave? They don’t belong here! }

He didn’t have an answer, partly because he found himself agreeing. Being aware of the conflict of interests, he noted down his preference and endeavoured to be as impartial as possible. The personal and the public were different things. And Roda was good at speaking up for the humans.

However, one night he travelled a few hundred years into the past (only gone for a few moments in the present), spending many days observing the Crinitus as they had been, unseen.

He found them fascinating, a thrilling new species with a culture all their own, and could have wept at the humans’ unfortunate landing…

Now and again he’d overhear one of the humans quoting one of their sayings, yet another one of the tiny details which he would have to eradicate somehow.

“What kind of bird doesn’t even sing?”

The implications and accusations were multilayered. As if the Crinitus’ lack of song somehow made them inferior by not conforming to the stereotype; as if they owed it to their human masters to at least provide something in the way of beauty, not just labour. They should suffer with song, not with silence.

But, he discovered on his brief sojourn, they did sing. The basic communication used for everyday life was the same, simple chirrups and clicks, but for all community-centric occasions - hatchings, celebrations, funerals - they would sing, sometimes hundreds strong, and the sheer spine-tingling beauty and potency of it made him catch his breath in awe and wonder.

The humans’ arrival had destroyed this, without them ever realising. He wasn’t exactly keeping a tally of black marks against the humans, but he was getting very fed up with them. Especially their attitude, which was nigh on impossible to deal with.

If they had straight up admitted to being in the wrong, everything would have been much easier.

A simple ‘We were scared, we did terrible things out of fear and greed, but we know it was wrong. Help us how to make amends and how to forge a way forward’ and the whole thing would have been child’s play, comparatively.

But no. Every step of the way they had to attempt to justify their actions, and it was more infuriating every time it happened.

Most galling of all had been the explanations for why they had forced the Crinitus to do their mining for them.

“Look, they started it!” an elderly engineer stated, holding her head high as she tried to look down her nose at him. “Tunnels all over the planet. Weren’t good at it, so we streamlined the whole thing, found richer ores for them to mine, but they were the ones to start the digging. Been going on forever as far as we can tell!”

He stared at her, almost too bewildered at the sheer stupidity to be angry at the bald lies.

“Those are the burrows they dig for hatching! They live in them-”

“Don’t be ridiculous Mr Seeker, they live in huts.”

Could they genuinely be this ignorant? Could they have lived with another species for more than seventy years and never realise-?

Centering himself he spoke slowly and carefully, trying to remember that they were all refugees and that although they were skilled in their respective areas of expertise, their education had been severely lacking. (The education system was yet another area that needed a complete overhaul.) And they had, brutally, but effectively, enforced their rules on the Crinitus, without ever trying to discover anything about the other species.

“Yes, you are correct. They live in huts. However. As a species, they evolved to dig burrows underground for laying eggs, and for raising the chicks until they were old enough to fend for themselves. It’s a very clever tactic, and the burrows are very safe, with - as I am sure you know - many exits for each hatching place, should any predators come for them. With time, they became more elaborate, a sort of hatching chamber equivalent to the ancient Earth-that-was custom of burial mounds…”

The humans were not interested.

“So, they had eggs instead of mining. Still underground. Easy mistake to make.”

One of them chuckled. “The irony is somewhat delicious, don’t you think? So preoccupied with laying eggs that they never discovered the riches they’ve been living on top of.”

“Speaking of eggs, have you ever seen one of their chicks?” an elderly Medic asked. “Ugliest thing alive. Was called in ‘cause they were dying left right and center, and we had to bring out make-shift incubators to keep them alive.” (‘No wonder,’ the Seeker thought to himself, ‘if you forced them to hatch their eggs in the middle of a slave camp.’) “Wasn’t happy about as you can imagine, but we did need them to survive, obviously. If we had proper resources we could have started actual genetic manipulation, making them sturdier, more obedient, and better suited for the work, but our business contacts were pushing the prices up way past what could be considered reasonable. And now-”

He spread his hands in a gesture of hopelessness, before realising that he’d spoken out of turn, taking in the Seeker’s silent, expressionless face, then abruptly standing.

“Look, they’re fucking birds! I’ve been over them from beak to claw, I don’t know why you’re so bloody bothered, Mr Time Lord, Sir. As a medic, I can give you my word that they’re no different from the birds our ancestors used to eat.”

“Thank you for your input,” he replied, not allowing any emotion to rise to the surface. “I will make a note of it.”

“You want to ‘make a note’ of what I say?” the Medic replied, anger rising. “Make a note of this - I didn’t get into medicine to help birds, but that’s what I was assigned to do, so that’s what I did. Doing my bit to keep us going, and I have saved more bloody furries than you can count. And not once - not ever - did they ever show the slightest display of gratitude. Now I may not speak squawk the way you seem to, but I have observed them for many many years, and I know how they communicate. And never have they cared what I did for them!”

If he’d been Roda, maybe he’d have found something better to say, some way to reach out.

As it was he tilted his head, and raised a single eyebrow, wondering if maybe forcing them all to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved might help them to see past their prejudices, but he had a feeling they would say that the Crinitus weren’t people, and thus the analogy was flawed. Maybe blunt was the way to go? So blunt they couldn’t miss the point.

“Well, I must confess I’m beginning to understand how you feel. It is increasingly frustrating to help creatures with no sense of gratitude...”

The Medic, furious as he took in the meaning, turned on his heel and left.

The rest of the humans observed in silence, but he could tell they wished they could applaud their colleague.

The Seeker looked round the sullen, rebellious faces. The room they were sitting in had until recently been used for sorting, cleaning and polishing the gem stones. There were still roughly fashioned wooden crates all around the edges of the room, filled to varying degrees with their ill-gotten riches. He knew they hated being here, being reminded of their wealth and the attendant crimes. If it had been possible, he’d have organised meetings in the mines themselves, but that was obviously not feasible.

This however was a perfectly serviceable room, and since the humans were crammed into their ships to overflowing, it made sense to use what available space there was.

“If you want to leave, please leave. Unless of course you want to have any kind of input into the process, and the rights of your people. The Shadow Proclamation will be along in due course - what they see when they arrive is partly up to you.”

The remainder glared, but stayed. And slowly, dragging their feet, questioning and querying and hindering anything they could, the process continued.

Nothing helped. Not explanations, not patience, not threats (unless they were explicit).

He infinitely preferred the Crinitus. They were downright murderous in their fury, and he was (much to his regret) forced to keep them contained as he feared they might go on a rampage, but their anger was honest, and it was justified. He could deal with that far more easily than the humans’ constant attempts at manipulation and machinations and the million and one hindrances they threw in his path.

For the millionth time he’d wish for his army of Toclafane, wondering if he was mad for trying to reconcile two hostile peoples with no visible power to speak of, except the still distant arrival of the Shadow Proclamation. It was all well and good organising a world as if he were a conquering Roman army, but he worried that he was entering a metaphorical Germanic forest...

He could feel things coming to a head, knowing that Roda’s discomfort was growing day by day.

But what else could he do?



Chapter 6
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