“Could you see it, Catherine?” the Doctor said, not turning away from the garden’s centre. He knew she was observant, so he knew she must have seen it too. Just for a moment, a strange blurring in the herbs around the base of the tree.
If she had not known there was something wrong and the whirr and beam of the sonic screwdriver hadn’t confirmed it, she might have missed it. It had to be real; it couldn’t be an optical illusion. Catherine nodded and replied, “Reminds me a bit of the hologram doorway in that room on the Vulpesi ship.”
“Similar to a hologram, but far more sophisticated, Catherine,” the Doctor commented. He waited for her to make the right conclusion. There were still times that he liked to test her powers of deduction. Not because he doubted her abilities, but because he wanted to ensure those abilities remained finely tuned.
“But surely that’s too sophisticated for this time period, Doctor?” she asked.
He finally turned away from looking at the garden and grinned. “It’s not only beyond this time period, Catherine, it’s not from Earth.” The grin vanished to be replaced by a deep frown. He added, half aloud, half to himself, “But why would alien imaging technology be set up here?” His frown deepened even further. Particularly considering what the image was of.
Looking at the Doctor’s expression, Catherine recognised his mood as deeply worried and introspective. He was considering the problem but shutting her out or, more likely, momentarily forgetting that she was even there. But she didn’t want to be shut out or forgotten. She wanted to help; she knew she could help. If only he would let her.
Catherine commented, “I noticed that there seemed to be some type of an image that appeared, just for a moment, in the beam from the sonic screwdriver. But it was a blur. I couldn’t quite make it out. What do you think it was?”
The Doctor emerged from his introspection, but the frown had not disappeared from his brow. It had actually deepened. He realised then that Catherine’s human eyes were probably not sensitive enough to catch the composition of the blurred image – particularly when it was half-hidden behind a particularly lush rosemary shrub. How ironic, the Doctor thought, for an image of Gallifrey to appear in the midst of the leaves of a plant that humans always associated with remembrance. “Remembrance?” the Doctor thought bitterly, as tears started to fill his eyes and threatened to overflow his eyelids to run down his cheeks. “When am I ever allowed the chance to forget?”
He took a deep breath to calm the tendency to tears before he turned towards Catherine and replied to her question. “It was an image of Gallifrey,” he said, in a seemingly unemotional voice.
Catherine didn’t comment immediately. Even if she hadn’t seen the stricken look in his eyes, she realised instinctively that he must be close to tears. After having seen the effect that the TARDIS mural of Gallifrey had had on him, she would have expected nothing else. This garden image had been fleeting and unexpected. She knew that in a way it must have made the reminder worse.
The Doctor had noted Catherine’s excellent powers of observation, so he would not have been surprised to discover that she hadn’t missed the unshed tears in his eyes. But, being tactful and understanding, she wouldn’t comment on them. All she said in reply was, “What’s the point of an image of Gallifrey appearing in a garden in York?”
“Good point,” the Doctor replied. He thought for a moment and then added, “I wonder if it’s some type of psychic message?”
“Or maybe it’s a warning?” Catherine replied. “But who is sending it?”
The Doctor replied, after taking a deep breath to ensure his voice remained relatively unemotional, “Oh, there’s no doubt about who sent the message, Catherine. The image of Gallifrey was the signature of its High Council. But why send a message here? And why now?” The Doctor paused and put his hands in his jacket pockets.
Catherine looked puzzled for a few moments while she thought of an answer to his questions. There really was only one answer that made sense for both questions, at least only one that she could think of. She replied, quietly and a little hesitantly under the circumstances, “Perhaps the message was intended for you, Doctor?”
The Doctor didn’t comment. He knew that the message could not have been sent specifically for him; if that had been the case the High Council could have contacted him via the TARDIS. No, this was a message for any Time Lord who happened to be passing. Just the unlikely coincidence that he happened to be the one passing…..
The Doctor looked back at Catherine and said, “This message must be what drew the TARDIS off course in the vortex, Catherine. Psychic energy from Gallifrey would be like a magnet to a TARDIS.” He deliberately spoke in the hypothetical sense.
Before he could add anything, Catherine said, perhaps a little harshly under the circumstances, “And to a Time Lord, Doctor?”
The Doctor didn’t reply, but moved closer to the site where the image had been.
Catherine didn’t know whether he had heard her comment or not and thought that maybe it was better if he hadn’t. It didn’t seem unlikely to her that they could come across a message from the Doctor’s home planet. After all, they had travelled back in time. She didn’t follow the Doctor, but she watched him. He appeared to her to be deep in concentration with his thoughts a long way away from York. Whatever the psychic message was, it had made its connection regardless of the Doctor’s own wishes in the matter…..
Long before the Emperor of the Daleks had actively declared war on most other sentient species of the universe – the war that was to become known as the Time War – there was another threat to Gallifrey. Or more precisely, to one of Gallifrey’s major trading partners, a small planet in the same part of the galaxy, known as Lambe*Rt~ia.
It wasn’t often that the Time Lords of Gallifrey disturbed themselves enough to become involved in the affairs of other planets, but Lambe*Rt~ia was an exception. Not only were they a major supplier of vital goods to Gallifrey, but centuries ago by Earth’s time scale Gallifrey had promised to protect them from harm in exchange for exclusive trade options. It wasn’t an agreement that had involved Gallifrey in much effort to date, as their suppliers hadn’t been at serious security risk before. But this situation had changed and the Directors of Lambe*Rt~ia expected Gallifrey to honour in full their side of the bargain. If Gallifrey did not honour the agreement, the Directors of Lambe*Rt~ia would have no hesitation in withdrawing their supply of goods from Gallifrey – indefinitely, if necessary.
Lambe*Rt~ia’s request for assistance was delivered to the newly-appointed Premier Cardinal of Gallifrey in person by the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador. The two men were very much alike. Both were very able, excellent negotiators and known for their direct, but tactful, approaches to their business dealings. They were also good friends. As good friends, that is, as their responsibilities would allow them to be. Despite their frequent socialising with each other, both the Ambassador and the Premier Cardinal were very shrewd individuals and well-used to hiding their true thoughts from others.
The Premier Cardinal, in particular, was so shrewd and such an excellent judge of character that he had risen very quickly through the ranks of the Gallifreyan ruling oligarchy. His recent promotion from Cardinal to Premier Cardinal of Gallifrey had arisen because the previous Premier Cardinal, Borusa, had recently been appointed Chancellor of Gallifrey. At this time, the future seemed to be a rosy one which would see the new Premier Cardinal eventually become Lord President of Gallifrey. Of course, not even he could guess that the future would also see him as one of the last Lord Presidents of Gallifrey. And one of his most promising protégés from the highest Academy stream, the same stream that in an earlier time period had included the Doctor, the Rani and the Master among its candidates, would be the last Lord President of Gallifrey and the one who arranged for the Doctor’s eventual involvement in Gallifrey’s destruction.
It was at one of the Lambe*Rt~ian embassy dinner parties that the Ambassador petitioned Gallifrey’s assistance for Lambe*Rt~ia. He reminded the Premier Cardinal that the Lambe*Rt~ian and Gallifreyan governing bodies had specific rights and duties under their trade agreement. The Premier Cardinal, of course, did not need to be reminded of the clauses to the agreement. But he undertook to pass the official request documents that his friend had presented to him, on behalf of the Directors of Lambe*Rt~ia, to the High Council of Gallifrey for their earliest possible consideration…..
Eventually, the High Council of Gallifrey had reluctantly accepted the documents from the Premier Cardinal, who at this stage in his career was a non-executive member of that same Council. He, of course, was exempt from voting on this issue – not only had he tabled the documents, but it was recognised that he was a friend of the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador, so his vote may or may not have been impartial. Impartiality and non-involvement were characteristics the High Councillors always prided themselves upon. To refuse the documents would be a direct snub to Lambe*Rt~ia. However, accepting the documents and acting on them were two different situations.
The High Council appointed their best contract lawyers to investigate and review the legalities of the agreement but ultimately found there was no choice of action. Although the petition for assistance did not specify the exact nature of the threat to their security, from a legal perspective, Gallifrey must comply with Lambe*Rt~ia’s request. Even if they had not been required to comply legally, the Doctor, if he had been present, would have pointed out that the High Council had a moral obligation to comply. But the High Councillors of Gallifrey, as usual, were not really interested in moral obligations. And the Doctor, as usual, was not on Gallifrey.
However, Gallifrey no longer had any means to physically protect others. The Time Lords had long ago dispensed with the use of battle fleets as a means of defence. They much preferred the use of a magnificent piece of precision engineering called the Transduction Barrier. As they were convinced it could never be breached or destroyed, they could indulge themselves in what the Time Lord Academy described as the ‘supreme art of observation’. Other planets’ leaders had been known to privately describe this policy as the ‘supreme art of never becoming involved’.
At the special meeting of the High Council to determine their course of action with respect to this problem of Lambe*Rt~ia, there was much discussion about the various different ways of dealing with this. But one thought that did reach some form of consensus was an idea put forward by the Premier Cardinal.
In listening to all the arguments being put forward by the other councillors, he realised that at no time had anyone even remotely suggested that the Lambe*Rt~ian issue be investigated and evaluated personally. This was not surprising, given the Time Lords’ preference for non-involvement. But like it or not, they would have to become involved at some point. He knew enough of Lambe*Rt~ian politics to realise that this was not a matter that the Directors of Lambe*Rt~ia would let rest.
The Premier Cardinal stood up and addressed the Chancellor, whose responsibility included chairing these meetings. This chairing arrangement allowed the Lord President to remain apparently aloof to one side so that he could avoid any contentious issues if he wished to, without losing his authority.
The Premier Cardinal suggested that a Time Lord be sent quietly to Lambe*Rt~ia to verify the situation. He or she would then report back his or her findings to the High Council before a final decision on action was taken. The Time Lord in question should be allowed a certain freedom of action while there. This meant that they could take the opportunity, if it presented itself, to correct or avert the situation.
To the Premier Cardinal’s surprise, there was no argument put forward against his suggestion. It was accepted and a vote was taken. There was not a unanimous vote, but those eligible to vote who did not approve of the suggestion abstained from voting, so the resolution was carried easily.
Although the Premier Cardinal had secretly hoped that he might be the one chosen to visit Lambe*Rt~ia, the Lord President, when agreeing to the resolution, stipulated that no member of the High Council was to carry out this task. This not only meant that the investigation was more informal and anonymous, but if anything went awry, the High Council of Gallifrey could deny all knowledge of the action. It was decided to use one of the currently off-world Time Lords as their agent.
Messages were, of course, sent out to many places and times, all places where visiting Time Lords could reasonably be expected to be. But most messages were sent to Earth. It wasn’t that Earth itself had any special relationship with Gallifrey. The people of Earth did not know that Gallifrey even existed. But the High Council of Gallifrey knew that Earth was a place that was visited quite regularly by one Time Lord in particular. Although many on the High Council didn’t have high opinions of the Doctor, there were enough of them who did to make it worth their while sending messages which might be expected to reach him. While any Time Lord would fulfil their intended purpose adequately, there were several individuals – including the Premier Cardinal and Chancellor Borusa – who knew that the Doctor would achieve it more thoroughly and successfully. And they knew that the Doctor, despite having spent a long time in exile there, still maintained a fondness for the planet Earth, even though the planet had a rather pedestrian location and political naivety from a galactic point of view. It never occurred to these individuals that even if the Doctor found the message, or the message found him, he might just not respond the way that the High Council of Gallifrey expected that he would…..
While the Doctor was absorbing the contents of the psychic message from Gallifrey, Catherine turned away from the Doctor and looked back at the building behind them.
The northern façade of York Minster, like the rest of the building, was an excellent example of Cathedral architecture in the Gothic style. But even Catherine’s knowledge of and interest in antiquities and art did not extend to an in-depth knowledge of the fine details of church architecture. What she saw was an enormous greyish to light brownish coloured building, made of some regular rectangular-shaped blocks which she correctly assumed to be stone of some sort. To Catherine, everything about this side of the building was regular-shaped, with the exception of the small spires at the top and the decorations around the arched windows and between the window levels. And the stained glass windows and the gargoyles. The towers were square and the whole effect was of a building that had been carefully designed, planned and built to deliberate specifications. As indeed it was. Although this face of the building was less ornate than either the western or southern facades, it was no less interesting. But despite the deliberate nature of the designs and the clean lines of the building, Catherine was awed by not only its magnificence, but its undoubted beauty. She had seen nothing like it on any of her travels. “Maybe there is something special about Earth after all,” she thought. She felt quite a warm glow of pride to think that her ancestors had come from this planet.
Catherine composed herself again and then turned back towards the Doctor. The Doctor must have finished whatever he was doing with the message as he deliberately switched off the sonic screwdriver and placed it in the inner left pocket of his leather jacket before turning to face her. His frown had gone.
Catherine expected that ‘reading’ that message from Gallifrey would have disturbed him. After all, he was the last of the Time Lords and in his own time zone his planet had gone. There were so many emotions he could have shown on his face – unshed tears, a deeper frown, hurt, anger, regret, even a forced cheerfulness for her benefit. Catherine expected any of those. But she wasn’t prepared for what she saw there.
His face was like a mask. There was no real expression on his features. Even his normally intense blue eyes seemed to have lost their sparkle and were like a pair of frosted windows – nothing to be seen inside from the outside. Catherine wasn’t even sure he was fully aware of her. However, she knew there was only one way to find out.
“Doctor,” she said, carefully not showing any of her concern in her voice. She was uncertain as to what reaction she might receive from him when he was in this state.
The Doctor didn’t respond immediately, although he was certainly aware that Catherine was there. It wasn’t until she accidentally brushed his hand with hers that he reacted. He gripped her hand, not tightly enough to hurt her, but firmly. The simple touch of her hand seemed, appropriately, to bring him back to Earth. The frosted windows that were his eyes thawed, although there was still none of their familiar sparkle. “Shall we take a look at the inside of the Minster, Catherine?” he asked. As she nodded in reply, he smiled and a small glint returned to his eyes as he added, “It is supposed to be just as beautiful on the inside as on the outside.”
(* To be continued….. *)