There were few jobs more mundane on Gallifrey than monitoring incoming transmissions, except possibly those that involved monitoring the Transduction Barrier in Flight Control. At least it was for those pursuing a technical career. It was common practice for students in the technical stream to complete a rotation into this area as part of their training at the Academy. It was necessary training for them to understand the importance of accurate recording and the importance of patience.
One of the Premier Cardinal’s protégés in the technical field, while fulfilling his particular rotation into this area, was tasked with tracing the messages his patron had sent out to places where off-world Time Lords would reasonably be expected to be located. There were many messages sent, but no responses had been received. This meant that the messages had either arrived at spatial and temporal coordinates where there was no Time Lord within range or that they had been unable to make the appropriate psychic link.
Unfortunately, he had to document all of these results regardless of connection. He had just entered the result for Karn – as expected, nothing. “Sending a message to Karn was just ridiculous,” he thought contemptuously. “The only Time Lords that ever go there are those needing help themselves!”
Although he was bright technically, this particular protégé still had a lot to learn about life outside Gallifrey.
As he continued his task of meticulously registering the results he gleaned from the traces of the messages, he was rapidly becoming bored. His whole rotation had been like this; noting entry after entry of nil responses. He doubted that any of the messages would be successful. In his opinion, it was too haphazard a process. But knowing that the process had been an idea of his patron’s, he didn’t dare voice his thoughts on the matter. Patronage from someone as senior as the Premier Cardinal was not an honour to be thrown away lightly.
“What’s next on the list?” he thought, as he noted the next message in sequence. “Earth, again! What’s so special about Earth, I wonder?” He had lost count of the number of messages sent to Earth at different spatial and temporal coordinates.
But like the rest, all returned a nil result.
That was until he looked at the message sent to Earth in the Earth year 2007. He couldn’t believe his eyes at first. The message had actually made psychic contact with a Time Lord and a time capsule, albeit an old type forty. As befitted a Time Lord in his second year at the Academy, he managed to contain his excitement. He did wonder if any Time Lord who still relied upon an old type forty time capsule would be of any use to his patron, but that wasn’t his task, so he didn’t waste any more time on speculation. At least there had been contact with some Time Lord, even if he or she turned out to be practically useless!
After registering the link, he increased the psychic power to the link so that it became a type of physical link as well. It would pull the Time Lord, wherever he or she was, back to Gallifrey and their appointed task as soon as that individual neared the link terminal again…..
Before Catherine could decide how she should deal with the Doctor’s shocking revelation, there was a loud knock on the Chapter House door.
The Doctor immediately returned from his own personal hell. His face was momentarily devoid of expression, but he was in control of his emotions again. Catherine was ashamed to admit to herself that she was thankful for the interruption caused by the knock on the door because it lifted the burden of decision from her.
“You’d better stand behind me, Catherine,” the Doctor said, with an outrageous wink. “Unless you want to explain to whoever is standing at the other side of the door what we were doing in here behind a closed door!” He raised his eyebrows and an extremely mischievous twinkle appeared in his eyes.
Catherine’s first reaction was to reply with some comment which would have at the least been very impolite, but she curbed her impulse and glared at him instead. She had no intention of standing behind him. That would have been cowardly and she was no coward. Besides, she thought logically, her bright orange skirt would have been bound to peep out from behind his black jeans, which would look worse.
As it turned out, the person at the other side of the door, on receiving no reply from within, just walked away. Catherine clearly heard the retreating footsteps and suggested that she and the Doctor should follow after a suitable interval. He agreed.
The Doctor was also grateful for the interruption, but for a very different reason. It supplied him with enough time to put the horrendous image of Gallifrey’s last moments to one side – at least for the time being. But even more importantly, it allowed him the means to distract Catherine from asking what he was actually doing to be in a position to see Gallifrey’s demise. He was determined that she should never discover that he was the one who actually carried out the dreaded deed. His facial expression hardened at the thought. Although he had been given no choice, had in fact been placed in a situation where he had no choice, in his mind he was still solely responsible. Of course, this was why he thought he could not easily face the Gallifrey of his past again. It would be too difficult, even for him.
But Gallifrey needed his help. He didn’t know why – the message was typically cryptic as he would have expected of the High Council of Gallifrey. All he knew was that it related to the defence of Gallifrey and one of its major trading partners, Lambe*Rt~ia. And, thanks to the stabilising effect from the beam of the sonic screwdriver on the message transmission, he knew from when and where it was sent and by whom.
Catherine broke in on his thoughts to say, “Shall we go now, Doctor?” He nodded and grasped her hand and led her out through the door of the Chapter House and back into the church. Without commenting, he led her down the Nave and out through the western door into the warm sunshine. Almost automatically, he turned towards the opening in the fence and the garden where the message transmission from Gallifrey had terminated. Catherine wanted to know about the message – even more so since she knew of his feelings about Gallifrey and his pain from its demise.
She was absolutely convinced that the herb garden where the message had found him was the last place they should go to now. At least if she was to be fully informed of the message’s contents and its effects on his actions. With her strong powers of observation, Catherine hadn’t missed the way the message seemed to draw him to it when he was reading it and she guessed that once he made contact again, she would be shut out again. And she was convinced that he needed her. He couldn’t ignore a message from Gallifrey, but she couldn’t let him deal with it alone – not now that she knew more about Gallifrey and how it affected him. In her opinion, his emotional state and logic were too uncertain where Gallifrey was concerned.
As they approached the strangely bordered herb garden, Catherine gripped the Doctor’s hand tightly and said, in an apparently cheerful voice, “Come on Doctor. Let’s see a bit more of York before we follow-up on that message.” She didn’t wait for a reply, just dragged him quickly away from that garden and away from the Minster.
The Doctor didn’t say a word as she pulled him along various streets until they reached a stone brick gateway, signposted as Bootham Bar. Catherine slowed down as they passed under the gateway arch into a square surrounded by buildings and a very high stone brick wall. The wall which was attached to the gateway looked to Catherine rather like a medieval battlement of some sort. As it was, being one of the old city walls.
Although the tops of the towers of the Minster were still visible from this square, Catherine was sure that she and the Doctor were far enough away from the herb garden now that they could relax. They halted their steps near a bus stop in front of a plaza and a civic building. She turned to look at the Doctor and he smiled back at her. Much to Catherine’s surprise, he dropped her hand and then enfolded her in a big hug, his leather jacket squeaking in protest. Before she could say anything, he said, “Thanks for understanding, Catherine.” Catherine didn’t know whether that was for her understanding about Gallifrey or the need to pull him away from the garden or both.
As she looked a bit confused – an unusual state for her – the Doctor thought he might lighten the moment with a bit of general information about their surrounds. He released her from the hug and his smile became a grin. The mischievous twinkle returned to his blue eyes and seemed to Catherine to reflect the sunshine back at her. He nodded towards the gateway they had so recently passed through and said, “That’s part of the old York city walls, Catherine. York’s old city gates are known as ‘bars’ and its old streets are known as ‘gates’.”
Catherine didn’t fully appreciate the humour in this as some elements of language had changed a bit in her time, but she did appreciate the switch between ‘gates’ and ‘bars’. And she did appreciate the Doctor’s effort to lighten the moment.
The Doctor guided Catherine to a nearby seat where they could not only be comfortable, but he could talk to her about the message he had received from Gallifrey. Even if he hadn’t known that she would be interested in its content – such as it was – and its relevance, he would have told her. He owed her that much. Particularly as he knew he would have to leave her behind in York while he dealt with whatever crisis it was that Gallifrey and Lambe*Rt~ia needed his services for. If the sonic screwdriver record of the Gallifreyan time period that the message was sent from was correct, and he was sure that it was, it wasn’t that long since his first return to Gallifrey after the end of his exile. And at that time, aliens were not allowed on Gallifrey – at least not in the Capitol which was where he was summoned to.
But he didn’t tell her that immediately.
He sat down on the seat beside her, his left arm resting lightly along the back of the furniture behind her shoulders. The Doctor’s arm wasn’t touching Catherine at all, but to any passers by they looked like any other relaxed couple making the most of the summer sunshine. Under those circumstances, the Doctor knew they were likely to be left undisturbed long enough for him to pass on the cryptic details of the message to Catherine.
After the Doctor had told her the contents of the message and provided her with a bit more background knowledge of the relationship between Gallifrey and Lambe*Rt~ia, he waited for her comment. He was interested in her perspective on it all. Particularly now she knew a little about Gallifrey. And, he reluctantly admitted, how Gallifrey and its policies affected him personally.
Catherine didn’t comment on it immediately, but she did ask some pertinent questions.
“Why is the situation with Lambe*Rt~ia so important that the High Council of Gallifrey would send a cryptically worded message through time and space to terminate in a strangely bordered herb garden on Earth? It seems to me that as only a Time Lord would be able to tune into the message’s psychic wavelength that the High Council was taking a very large risk that the message would not find anyone capable of reading it. Also, assuming the message had made the appropriate psychic link with the Time Lord in question, how could the High Council be sure that the Time Lord would agree to become involved? Particularly when the role the High Council has in store for them is not clearly defined?” Catherine paused briefly and looked at the Doctor’s face before continuing, “You did say that the Time Lords specifically promoted non-involvement in issues.” She watched and waited for the Doctor’s response.
The Doctor knew that Catherine, with her excellent powers of perception, intuition and logic, would see straight to the flaws in the High Council’s reasoning. Strangely enough, despite the lack of detail in the message, all the pain that resulted from his last summons to Gallifrey and all the anger he felt at being left without a choice in his role in the demise of Gallifrey, it never occurred to him for more than an initial few moments that he could refuse Gallifrey’s call once he had absorbed the contents of the message. He had even been nearly, but not quite, prepared to return there via the physical time link that he knew they would have established at the garden by now. If Catherine hadn’t been intuitive and perceptive enough to forcibly drag him away from there, beyond its influence, he might indeed have done that.
The Doctor thought through Catherine’s questions and answered them in reverse order.
“The lack of a clearly defined role or agreement to become involved would not be a problem to the High Council. They couldn’t believe that their summons wouldn’t be obeyed without question,” he replied, dryly. As he thought a bit more about it, he added, in an emotionless voice, “That’s another reason why they used a psychic link message rather than direct contact via a TARDIS in vortex. The High Council would be able to exert temporary mind control over the Time Lord through the psychic link. Then, once the physical time link to the location was established, and the Time Lord had abandoned their TARDIS and been transported to Gallifrey via that physical link, the Time Lord would be fully dependent on the High Council’s whims.”
From what Catherine had gleaned from the Doctor’s comments on Gallifrey to date, she expected the High Council to be dictatorial, but she had not expected them to be quite as manipulative as that. Yet he still retained a strong feeling for Gallifrey. She wondered if that was because he had been forced to stand by and watch it be destroyed, powerless to save it, or if it went deeper than that.
Looking at the frown of concentration which had reappeared on his face, she knew he was going to become involved in this issue of Gallifrey and Lambe*Rt~ia. He couldn’t help but become involved, that was his nature. But Catherine was determined that there would be a role for her in this. She wasn’t about to let him face this issue alone.
Before she could ask him when they were leaving for Gallifrey, the Doctor said, abruptly, “Catherine, I have no intention of being transported to Gallifrey via a time link. If the High Council wants my involvement, then I travel in the TARDIS! I recorded the required time and space coordinates of the link in the sonic screwdriver while I stabilised the message.”
Catherine wasn’t tempted to smile at that. She had the impression that the Doctor hadn’t finished yet.
He continued, in a distinctly unhappy voice, “But there is a problem, Catherine. In the particular time period on Gallifrey that the message issues from, aliens weren’t allowed. So I’ll have to leave you here in York while I…..”
Catherine interrupted the Doctor, almost rudely, “No, Doctor. I’m coming with you.” She didn’t add the obvious phrase that he needed her. But her tone of voice wouldn’t allow for refusal and her hazel eyes flashed in defiance as they met his unhappy blue ones.
The Doctor, who had been reluctant to leave her behind, smiled suddenly with one of those smiles that illuminated his whole face and swept the unhappy expression from his eyes in favour of a shining gleam of mischief. He stood up and held his hand out to Catherine, saying, rhetorically, “Come with me?”
Catherine smiled back and stood up as she placed her hand in his and they headed back to the TARDIS…..
(* To be continued….. *)