Prithee, and When did the Mute Learn to Speak?
“... and look you there! The Rapunzelite woman in that picture is my, well, his sister, Innocet. She grew her hair to rather ludicrous length in protest of various deceitful maneuverings and proceeded to blame her once-beloved cousin Theta Sigma for the death of their father-figure, the Patriarch of their House. Theta Sigma is the Doctor, in case you’re wondering, and I know you are. It was the Housekeeper, in the kitchen, with the candlestick. Innocet killed herself once she realized his innocence, and well... once I, I mean the Doctor, was cleared of the Patriarch’s murder, things went to Wherever in a chips basket, which was, frankly, a waste of a good metaphor.”
Aloysius watched the CAT pause in its tale just long enough to poke a look at him from those jewel-like eyes.
“One supposes it escalated into something akin to a familial feud?”
The felinoid cried a laugh like a child’s plea into the ancient air, and the agent found a new source of fascination in the short absence of tête-à-tête. There was a shadow, small and deliberate, playing in among the broken bits of chairs and sticks of bookshelves. A small frame was quite visible to the albino’s heightened sense of sight, and soon the CAT was eyeing this person as well, flicking a cool tongue in and out as the figure came, mouse-like, into view.
“I remember it...” the boy in the corner said softly, scraping a hand through straggles of deep brown hair.
There was blood on his hands, too much blood, and Aloysius Pendergast could not help but recognize the signs of struggle in the mud on his shoes, or the smudges of grime on his shirt. And the tell-tale scratches sealed by dust on his arms and face told no better.
“I remember breath where there wasn’t any. I remember the first pico-second in which my lungs drank their fill.”
Then the boy’s eyes turned to the CAT and he said, “I don’t want to remember anything bad!”
The boy stepped away, his young face scrunched with tears and stained with the rage of someone who’d done... what he’d done. Pendergast couldn’t help it. Instantly he thrust a hand out, and the boy took it, shaking vigorously. Trouble was, the agent only realized he’d done it after it was over. A very long minute.
“My name is... well you don’t need to know that. Koschei won’t talk to me anymore, because of what I did to Torvic. This... ”
He held up his reddened hands. It could have been finger-paint.
“This is Torvic’s blood. I called Death with it still on my hands. It’s always on my hands... why did you come here, anyway? It’s dusty here. Did you know we’re underground? Oh yes. The House was buried. Something about patricide. It’s all nonsense, leastways.”
“Oh come on. Don’t you think it’s time you gave up the ruse?”
The CAT turned to them both, eyeing them with eyes like frozen blood.
A small hand grasped his this time, the grip of those young fingers full of a confidence at odds with their age.
“Don’t listen to it, Aloysius. That creature is not the Other.”
“Of course it’s not. I was wondering when you’d be able to join us,” said the agent, turning to the child even as the boy’s body grew into that of a man.
A man he recognized. An old friend.
Theta Sigma straightened to his full height beside Aloysius then, allowing himself one of his lopsided grins as the agent moved to give him space.
“I’m here now, Iraj, you naughty thing you! Why don’t you show the nice agent what you’ve been hiding? Come on! There’s my good girl!”
Suddenly the CAT roiled, shifting like sand in water, all blacks and greens and swirling creams until a new form was glimpsed in the dust. A woman stood there, a pale, tall slip with apple cheeks and long blonde hair straight as reeds. She was dressed in sailor blues, and her eyes held the promise of power, nestled in deep brown pools of innate intelligence that gleamed forth with pure predestination.
“Romana. I remember the last time you took her form. Iraj, this is not a game. Stop it now.”
Even standing unclothed as he was, psychologically naked and bared to the dust of his House, the refuse of so many scathing memories, the Doctor was, in mental avatar, just as formidable as in the normal sensual world. Pendergast found himself awed of this man, just as he had been before, all those years ago, when he as a child had met the Doctor in a moment of long-suffering youth. The ancient alien had taught him things. And he would never forget. He stepped forward, calling to himself all of the shining jewels of mental prowess the Doctor had restored.
“My name is Aloysius,” he drawled thickly, taking a step toward the Construct, with a smile to melt molasses. “I have a daughter who is in a rather unique predicament. You see, my Great Uncle Antoine was a genius who collected several rare substances and chemicals with which to create a poison-delivery weapon. The life-prolonging elixir he discovered served only as means to his end. To such ends, he conducted... experiments on the derelict and homeless of 1800’s New York. Consequently, my daughter, whom I have since adopted, was born 117 years ago, almost to the day. Her older sister died so she could live, and my Uncle, in turn, raised her as his own child over these hundred-odd years, both of them knowing that she wasn’t his blood. It became a somewhat healthy relationship, until my brother murdered my Uncle and left him in a display case for me to find.”
He glided toward the Romana-thing, careful to keep his dialogue carefully timed to the glimpses she kept taking toward the Doctor, to throw her off.
“You can imagine my angst. It is continual, much like the Doctor’s, in some regard, though not at all to such a scale, in any case. I could never claim his burden and hope to remain sane, regardless of my family’s disposition toward exotic psychosis, nor would I ever attempt to try, to my great regret.”
The Construct nodded, then turned to look at the Doctor once more. But he wasn’t where she remembered him standing. Wild with confusion, she looked around the dusty room, frantic for her beloved Time Lord. Her lips parted, and again the keening cry the CAT had uttered poured from her mouth, indeed, from her whole -body-. She had been bested. Now unwilling to keep Romana’s form, Iraj sank, blue and bald and voiceless, to the ground, her golden eyes to the dust, and wept dry tears. Lanky arms wrapped around her at once, petting and holding and squeezing, until at last the room began to shimmer before Pendergast’s eyes.
“There, there, love. It’s almost over. There now, that’s it. My Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect Ship. But seriously, if you’d taken Rose’s form I’d really have been cross. Ah! Now then! Do you promise not to lead us about with carrots and such anymore? Well, at least on this particular problem, eh? Eh? Gaah! There’s my pretty one! We really ought to get to the point of all this before those bloody Chronovores eat us out of house and home... ”