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.

With many, many thanks to luckweaver, not just for the loan of the Redjay, but also for writing most of the chapter. ♥


SherwoodBanner1


Chapter 6

Roda helped, but she was not happy.

She had no appetite for bureaucracy, and although she admired the Seeker’s drive and vision, she found his approach instinctively off-putting. Was it all necessary?

Talking to people was all well and good, but she needed to understand why. How was she supposed to explain things and get them on board when she herself chafed at a lot of his decisions?

Like the way he delved into every aspect of the humans’ lives, asking for explanations and justifications for every detail of the way they had structured their society, from child rearing to the construction of the drones.

It was as if he’d had a plan ready and waiting, and was trying to fit the situation into the plan, rather than the other way around.

Excepting of course the ‘peace process’, something which became more complex and difficult with every passing day. The Seeker was drafting a legal document fit for The Shadow Proclamation, clauses and subclauses multiplying, and Roda doubted anyone would ever be able to understand the final version, whenever it might be completed.

What good were legal documents, she thought, when the low-level anger was palpable wherever she went? A constant backdrop to everything she did, it was draining her so much it began to colour everything she did.

Now and again it would flare up unexpectedly, with no pattern or warning. It was like living on a fault line, constantly waiting for the next possible earthquake, and wondering how bad it would be this time.

~~~

For the past month, Roda had found herself walking the planet alone at night, careful to keep out of the watchful ‘eyes’ of the drones. Now, with the freedom to go wherever she wanted, she continued that.

The Seeker had imposed a curfew on both sides, with varying degrees of escalation. For the Crinitus it was much the same as the system the humans had put in place; the fences around their living areas were locked at night, now with the addition of a small toclafane-manned proximity alarm. They didn’t like it, but very little changed, and so it had been easy enough to enforce.

The humans were, of course, less happy about being shepherded into their spaceship-homes every night at sunset and being locked in, and no matter what way she looked at it, Roda found that she couldn’t blame them. But the Seeker had insisted - in that infuriating way he often did when his mind was made up - that he had more important things to do than ‘hold their hands at night’ and it hadn’t been worth the argument. ‘Both sides are scared they’ll be murdered in their sleep - and with good reason. The curfew removes that worry. Simple.’

In practice, there were very few problems. Roda added to her list of chores looking for any stragglers who had accidentally-or-not found themselves outside their area at night, and on the rare occasion someone slipped through the Seeker’s setup they were usually easy to handle. Tonight, however, was different.

Teenagers, she supposed, were teenagers whatever planet they were from. The three she had stumbled over had somehow found a blind spot in the Seeker’s defences - she noted, begrudgingly, that she would have to bring it to his attention - and had taken advantage of the fact to take part in some casual chaos. She reached out for their minds, staying hidden at first, to gauge the threat. All they were interested in was drinking the miners’ gut-melting grog and graffiting the complex. Lots of ‘Time Lords go home’ and ‘Our planet now’, interspersed with some particularly rude words.

She stepped around the corner slowly, her sonic pressed against her palm by the crook of her thumb, but her hands held up peacefully. All three spun around, the fear evident on their faces as their simplistic spray cans clattered to the ground. (Whether from seeing her, or whether from have been discovered stealing and misusing a precious resource like paint - or possibly both - was anyone’s guess.)

“Look…” she began, trying to keep a warm smile on her face. “You’re not in trouble, but if you want this peace to work you have to-”

“Screw you!” The youngest of the bunch pushed past his friends to shove her in the chest, and it took all of Roda’s willpower to remind herself that not only was he not a threat, but starting a fight would only make things worse. “We’re not doing nothing.”

“If you really need to deface the wall, at least do it during the day.” Catching herself before she fell Roda took a mental breath and tried to radiate a sense of calm, exercising telepathic abilities she hadn’t used in the longest time. It seemed to have the wrong effect.

“Is that one of your rules is it?” The teenager sneered, planning to shove her again before his friend grabbed his arm. Roda grit her teeth, continuing to force a grin. “I’ll show you where to stick your-”

“Hey!” She jumped out the way of a swung fist, her temper rising, and aimed the screwdriver without thinking. “Come on, I’ll take you home, no one needs to know this happened if you just calm down!”

“Who put you in charge?!” He started to shout, spitting with anger, and Roda was certain the Toclafane would appear any second now. She shook her head, trying to get him to quieten down as his friends began to drag him away, hissing at him to ‘shut up’ and 'Jacob, let it go’. Clever kids. He jabbed a finger in her direction as they led him back towards the ships. “Answer me that, Time Lady. No one made you the God of us.”

Refusing to rise to the bait she trailed behind them, shooting down his - Jacob’s - continued, much quieter ranting. She used her sonic to unlock the Seeker’s defences and usher them into the first spaceship they reached. The walk back to her TARDIS was much quieter, but no less unnerving. Who were they to restructure a society that hadn’t asked for their help? If only there was another way.

The next morning she tried to bring up the issue covertly. Why all the hundreds of rules, why the indepth enquiries on every level?

The Seeker 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.»

Tapping fingers on the control panel, unsettled, she shook her head.

«Look, it’s just that – it’s freaking me out. Like – I’m seeing it all from the other side?»

«What? The planning?»

«Yeah. You’re-»

She hesitated, biting her lip.

«A control freak?» he asked. «And you’re not used to being on the side of the control freak?»

«Yeah. That. I get what you’re doing, it’s good – like, it’ll probably work, even if it takes the humans a while to, y’know, get used to it, but you’re so much like the Master…»

He leaned back in the chair, steepling his fingers, and she had to suppress a shudder, even as she tried to listen to his response:

«Look, this whole situation is exactly what I have always been avoiding. Everything we do, they resent us for. There is no way to sweet-talk them, because we have come in as usurpers. So you’re right, I am drawing from my father’s rulebook somewhat, because there is no other way to do this. Please, if you can think of a way to make them all sit down and sing Kumbaya together, be my guest.»

She fell silent, frustrated and uncertain.

He was wrong, she knew he was wrong, but there was no magical solution. She had searched for one for a month and never found one, whilst observing and feeling continually more disheartened.

Being in charge hadn’t altered that.

Taking her silence as implied approval, the Seeker went back to work. What his feelings were, she couldn’t guess at.

~~~

Because of her TARDIS being in the woods - its existence unknown to the humans - Roda spent a good deal more time quite simply walking around than the Seeker. The humans thought she did early morning visits to the Crinitus, an idea she encouraged. But she also liked being aware of her surroundings, and made sure to make her way around every nook and cranny of the ships. The Seeker claimed he knew it all from maps, but Roda liked to see things for herself. There were things no map could tell you.

She more than suspected that the Seeker knew this, and was counting on her to report back anything worth relaying - discrepancies in maps, any alterations in living or working arrangements that might suggest something had changed - and she couldn’t work out whether it was taking advantage of her, or whether it was an efficient use of their time, so they didn’t duplicate work.

On the whole, it was a grim experience.

The ships were old, and built for space faring, not as planet based living quarters or work shops. Human ingenuity had of course done its best, but their resources were limited, and it showed. Their focus on the gemstone mining had left other areas lagging behind, and metal was scarce.

The difficulties of their situation became abundantly obvious after a very short time. Despite space being so limited, they dared not expand out of fear - fear of the Crinitus, fear of the planet itself and its toxic flora.

There was a claustrophobic atmosphere everywhere, more than just the underlying anger. It had begun to affect Roda much the same way it did them, making her quicker to anger. The Crinitus’ life on the planet clearly suited it much better, but her thoughts were a mess. Lights were low, ceilings and walls quietly rusting, paint peeling. And since they dared not bring the Crinitus anywhere near their living spaces - and any robots had been turned into drones - all drudgery was undertaken by the humans themselves.

Humans washing, cleaning, carrying, cooking; wherever she went they were busy. (She tried to help, too, but the Seeker discouraged it and she could see his reasoning, even if she disagreed with it. But the Crinitus wouldn’t accept her help at all, and she hated just watching.) The brightest children were taught medicine, engineering, biology and other essential functions, but the rest were tasked with simply keeping their society going. Technological advances fell by the wayside in favour of survival necessities. It was a hard life, with few upsides. Art, music, drama, fashion… All were rudimentary at best, remnants of whatever had been stored in the ships’ databases, and disintegrating fast.

Comparing their lives to what she remembered from Sherwood Forest, these humans’ lives seemed far less fulfilled. There was a grimness to everything that sat badly with her. They were clinging to life, desperate, so stuck in their ways that they couldn’t see beyond the narrow scope of their personal experiences and limited existence.

One day, about a week after the incident with the teenagers, she found herself accosted by an older woman, who had been busy scrubbing a wall as Roda walked past. Except as Roda carefully stepped around her, the woman reached out and grasped her arm.

She looked not unlike Francine Jones, but worn down by a life of drudgery, her face drawn and aged far beyond the woman Roda remembered painfully well. They hadn’t been able to speak much, but she remembered everything of that year.

Searching her eyes, the woman implored her, voice trembling: “My Lady. Listen. Please. You and the other one - you make all these plans, you think you can bring peace, that you can create Utopia. You don’t understand. You can’t let them free. They will kill us.”

“They didn’t start the war,” she replied, unable to allow the woman to cast the humans as victims, no matter how moving the petition, no matter how deep her guilt.

The woman abruptly pulled away, eyes glittering with anger and regret and bitterness.

“Our blood will be on your hands. Mark my works, Time Lady. You have brought ruin upon us.”

Roda’s hearts ached; she could hear the honesty in her words. Even as she walked away, muttering an apology that couldn’t ever go far enough, her words kept echoing in Roda’s head. The fear was real, and she didn’t doubt that it was well-founded. How many lives had the Time Lords ruined? How many worlds had they let be destroyed in pursuit of the Daleks?

Skaro, why had she been too late? There were no winners in this, slaves and masters both caught in a web of violence and anger. It wasn’t like Bandraginus V, where there had been a clear villain doing obviously villainous things for purely villainous reasons. Everyone was dying, and although she admired the Seeker’s almost clinical attempt at untangling the mess, she knew that it was all wrong. None of his books could prepare him for the reality of this kind of war, only the theory. She couldn’t pinpoint any one thing or action, but overall she could already feel the strain in every furtive look and every muttered word.

Why wouldn’t they let them help? What possible thing could they have promised them in order to get them on board?

~~~

One month into their ‘experiment’ (as she had wryly started referring to it in her head, already half-convinced of its failure), she happened to notice a child hovering by a door, looking awkward and scared. She seemed to be waiting for someone - a handful of adults were inside, meeting with the Seeker, and she supposed the girl could easily be one of their children. She smiled at her as warmly as she could muster - this wasn’t the children’s fault - and continued to walk, but as she neared by the child began to fuss expectantly.

“Excuse me,” she began, half-stepping forwards, “Lady Redjay…?”

“It’s just Roda,” she replied, slowing her steps, then stopping, still smiling.

The girl looked to be around ten… Roda hesitated… Possibly twelve years old. They were not exactly malnourished, but their growth had been stunted by their contained and curtailed living.

“I wanted to-” the girl twisted her hands, swallowed, bit her lip. Roda hated being scary. She had always had a soft spot for children, and an impossible desire to be a mother that had haunted her through the years. “The grown-ups keep saying that-”

“What?” Roda asked, possibly a little too sharply. Rumours. Whispers in the corners. Angry confrontations, quiet asides. It never stopped, and recently it had gotten worse. She more than suspected a plot of some kind, and the soldier in her was very alert.

And now this child…

“It-it doesn’t matter,” the girl backtracked, clearly worried she would get someone in trouble. “Just- just what will happen to us?”

Reaching out, she put a gentle hand on the girl’s shoulder. So young, she shouldn’t carry such fears on her slender shoulders. She knelt down on one knee, hoping that by being on the same level, the child would feel less intimidated.

“We want to look after you, make things better” she said, as firmly and carefully as she could. Then added, seeing as the child had gone silent: “What’s your name?”

“Aisha,” the girl replied, and Roda smiled. “That’s a very pretty name. It means ‘Alive’, did you know that?”

Aisha didn’t reply except shrugging, before briefly glancing at Roda’s face.

“They say that- That you will punish us. That we made the gods angry and now we have to pay…”

The humans were not particularly religious, but there were little pockets of believers, people who justified the treatment of the Crinitus with simplistic, blunted faith, and Roda could feel her teeth set on edge.

“It’s about right and wrong. No one is going to punish you, we are just trying to make things fair. You know that what you were doing to the Crinitus was wrong, yes?”

The girl nodded, but didn’t meet her eyes.

“Th- they’re just scary. Scarier than you.”

Eyes widening Aisha seemed to realise that she had spoken out loud what should have remained unsaid and fled in panic.

Swearing silently, Roda decided that it couldn’t carry on like this. She’d tried to ignore the warning signs, but no more.

She couldn’t do this any longer, not like this.




Chapter 7
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