Reaching the precinct of the Minster, they slowed their pace as they reached the plaza near the western entrance. The Doctor looked at Catherine as they walked in the direction of the TARDIS and asked, “Can you feel it, Catherine? Like a magnet drawing me to it.” He gripped her hand a little tighter as they continued towards the south entrance to the Minster near to where the TARDIS was parked.
She knew immediately to what he was referring and replied, “I can’t feel the pull, but then I’m not a Time Lord. But I do feel that there’s something definitely out of place from normal here. And I saw how the message seemed to draw you to it while you were reading it.” Catherine thought it wasn’t necessary for her to mention how much Gallifrey obviously affected him as well. That would be a bit too cruel, she thought. She just couldn’t do that to him.
But the Doctor saw more than she thought he did. He realised how much she cared about the effect this contact with Gallifrey was having on him. But he also appreciated that she didn’t express her thoughts aloud.
It didn’t take them long to reach the TARDIS, but they were forced to wait a short time before entering it. Catherine noticed that a group of tourists were having their photographs taken near the statue of Constantine. Unfortunately, their photographer was leaning against the back of the TARDIS. If the TARDIS suddenly dematerialised, Catherine knew that the photographer would almost certainly fall back onto the pavement and injure himself.
When she pointed this out to the Doctor, although it was a serious matter, she burst out laughing at the expression on his face. He looked quite nonplussed by the need for the delay and after all the gravity of the discussions about Gallifrey, she just couldn’t help herself.
However, her laughter was infectious and soon the Doctor’s sense of the ridiculous soon overtook him. His serious expression disappeared in favour of a large grin. Catherine could almost describe his eyes as laughing too, before he dropped her hand and hugged her lightly. She had relieved the tension beautifully, even if she was unaware of it.
The photographer, who had now finished taking photographs of the tour group, walked back around to the other side of the blue box that he assumed to be some sort of security office. He was just in time to see a tall man of striking appearance in black jeans, a ruby red jumper and a battered black leather jacket hug a very attractive tall blonde-haired woman who was wearing an orange blouse with a matching orange calf-length, tiered skirt.
As a photographer, he tended to have an eye for beauty whenever he saw it, but he had to admit that he did tend to be drawn to tall attractive women with long blonde hair hanging loosely over their shoulders. “Just my luck,” he thought. “She’s already spoken for.” And by the look of her companion, the photographer thought, he wasn’t a man to be crossed lightly either. That black leather jacket seemed battle-hardened. He shrugged his shoulders, sighed and went on his way.
The Doctor noticed the photographer walking away and realised that he and Catherine were now free to leave. He gently removed his arms from around Catherine’s shoulders and suggested to her that as the photographer had gone, they could leave. “Come on,” he said, as he walked towards the TARDIS door and unlocked it. Catherine quickly followed him into the TARDIS and secured the door behind them. By the time the door was locked, the Doctor was already busy at the console.
Before he dematerialised the TARDIS, the Doctor needed to upload the message source coordinates from the sonic screwdriver into the TARDIS console, so that the TARDIS would arrive at the correct location in time and space. He took the sonic screwdriver out of his inner pocket and twisting its black base about forty-five degrees clockwise, the Doctor inserted the sonic screwdriver into its console connection point and switched it on. The temporal and spatial coordinates were uploaded automatically into the console when the Doctor initiated the appropriate program by turning a knob to his right.
He turned towards Catherine, who was standing with her arm curved through a branch of one of the supporting tree-like structures of the TARDIS roof, and said, “Ready?” She nodded. His eyes twinkled with excitement as he firmly gripped the console with one hand and flicked the dematerialisation lever. The time rotor started to move.
As the movement settled down, the Doctor walked over to the two-seater near the console, sat down and stretched his legs out in front of him. Catherine walked over to stand in front of him and leaned back against the console. She took the opportunity to ask a bit more about the situation on Gallifrey in the time period they were visiting.
“Doctor, you said that in this time period, aliens were not allowed on Gallifrey,” Catherine said, in an attempt to prompt him for further information.
He replied, after taking a deep breath, “At that time, Gallifrey was extremely insular in its views. Those in control didn’t really understand other sentient life forms and didn’t want to change the situation. They were convinced that their way was the best and only way. Although they had nothing against them as such, they couldn’t see any point in allowing alien life forms to visit them. So aliens were forbidden entry to Gallifrey.”
Catherine asked, a little apprehensively, “So am I likely to be arrested for arriving uninvited?”
The Doctor looked down at the floor, as he considered his reply. He had some idea of Catherine staying in the TARDIS while they were on Gallifrey, on the premise that if she didn’t set foot on Gallifreyan soil she couldn’t be precisely accused of having arrived. It was ‘splitting hairs’, to use an Earth phrase, but it was still a valid legal defence.
He had always been good at manipulating the legal loopholes in Gallifreyan law. The first time he had visited Gallifrey after his exile was lifted, he had been granted his freedom by virtue of claiming his right to nominate for the recently vacant position of Lord President. It was a legal loophole which not only saved him from an unpleasant death, but allowed him to unmask the Lord President’s assassin. When he left Gallifrey that time, there were two vacancies – Lord President and Chancellor. Although he imagined that one of his Academy lecturers, Borusa, who at that time was the Premier Cardinal, would have been elected Chancellor soon afterwards. He wondered who succeeded Borusa as Premier Cardinal. “I wonder if it’s anyone I know?” he thought.
Thoughts of Gallifrey normally would bring him to the brink of tears, but he knew he had to block out all thoughts of Gallifrey’s ultimate end. In past incarnations, he had been very good at providing telepathic distractions so that it was difficult to read his thoughts. But now with his emotional state of mind re Gallifrey, he admitted to himself that if someone did attempt to probe his thoughts, he would be easily readable. Not that he expected it, but it was always best to prepare for the worst situation. With him visiting the Gallifrey of his past, he had to be so sure that there was no chance of him inadvertently referencing what to those there would be their futures. It was hard, so very hard, but it would be far worse if he caused a time paradox by letting them know Gallifrey’s future fate. And it could be extremely dangerous for both him and Catherine if the High Council discovered his role in it.
Only now he had more to be concerned about than Gallifrey alone. Catherine’s insistence on travelling to Gallifrey with him, something he wasn’t really displeased about, caused additional worries for him because she was an alien in a time when Gallifrey didn’t approve of alien visitors. But the more he thought about Catherine and her talents, her character and her past profession as a security officer, the less likely he thought that she would be likely to agree to remain in the TARDIS while they were there…..
Catherine knew the Doctor had heard her question and she interpreted his lack of reply as confirmation. However, she repeated her question anyway.
He then looked up and his apologetic blue eyes looked directly into her concerned hazel eyes as he replied, “Oh yes, quite definitely, I should think – if they see you.”
The Doctor’s assumption of Catherine’s reaction was confirmed, as she replied, “Well, I’ve no intention of spending the whole time we are there in hiding, Doctor. I also have no intention of being arrested. It’s a risk, but there must be another alternative.” She frowned in concentration as she tried to reason it out.
Then a solution suddenly occurred to him. His face lit up with excitement and he bounced up out of the chair, grabbing Catherine by the elbows. “Yes!” he said. “Of course, there’s an alternative. Why didn’t I think of it before?”
Catherine thought she knew what he was about to say, so she said, “Psychic paper again, Doctor?”
The excitement dissipated a little from the Doctor’s face as he said, “Nope.” He paused for a few moments, then continued, “Psychic paper doesn’t work on Gallifrey.” Catherine looked surprised. The Doctor added by way of explanation as he moved back towards the scanner, “Well, it was invented there, Catherine.”
Catherine didn’t say anything, just waited for him to continue.
“However, by the use of a little hypnotism, I should be able to manoeuvre you past the Chancellery Guard.” He paused for a moment and then added, seemingly unrelated to their discussion, “Have you ever visited the planet Lambe*Rt~ia?”
“No, Doctor. Why?” Catherine replied.
The Doctor grinned and his eyes twinkled mischievously as he said, “Well you have now!”
Catherine didn’t reply, but her eyebrows rose in surprise, as he explained, “I think, if we’re very lucky, I can persuade the High Council that you are a security expert with knowledge of that vicinity. As a specialist, being an alien might be overlooked in this case.”
“But mightn’t someone on the High Council have specialist knowledge and know that I don’t?” Catherine asked, quite reasonably.
He shook his head and laughed.
The Doctor watched Catherine disappear in the direction of the TARDIS wardrobe room. His laughter had cost him a lot. It was extremely difficult for him to laugh off anything related to Gallifrey. In describing Catherine as a specialist on Lambe*Rt~ia, he would be gambling on the desperation of the High Council under the circumstances and also on their lack of off-world travel. He knew he was taking a risk, but it was the best he could think of at the moment. If he was honest with himself, he enjoyed the challenge of ‘taking on’ the High Council again. But he wouldn’t have even considered it if he hadn’t thought Catherine would also enjoy the challenge…..
Catherine closed the wardrobe room door behind her and looked at the array of clothes before her. She hadn’t the faintest idea what should be worn for a visit to Gallifrey, so she was hoping the TARDIS would provide her with a choice of outfits suitable for the place and time. After all, if it could help her when she was dressing for Earth, why not for Gallifrey? But there was no reference to Gallifrey anywhere. She wondered if it was because, as an alien, she wasn’t allowed on Gallifrey in that time period. There was also no reference to Lambe*Rt~ia. She thought, with a shiver, maybe it’s because in the Doctor’s own personal timeline, Gallifrey and Lambe*Rt~ia no longer exist?
Catherine looked at the clothing in the wardrobe and tried to decide which would be the best for her to wear. If she was to be a specialist, she thought, probably either of her uniforms from her previous career would be appropriate. But as she suspected that she would be better to fade into the background if she met any of these Gallifreyan officials, she chose her more casual uniform rather than the dress uniform. The tan slacks and matching battle jacket seemed appropriate. But that didn’t mean she had to wear the plain blouse and the regulation boots that went with it. She chose to keep the orange blouse she was wearing and exchanged the boots of her uniform and the tan sandals she was wearing now for some comfortable-looking tan walking shoes she had seen just inside the doorway. As she looked at herself in the full-length mirror that was thoughtfully provided in the wardrobe room, she brushed her hair back from her shoulders and clipped it back into a loose ponytail with a large gold hair slide.
When she returned to the console room, she saw the Doctor leaning over the console. He appeared unconcerned, but Catherine doubted that he was quite as relaxed as he looked.
She said, “If I’m supposed to be an expert on Lambe*Rt~ia, I’d better read up on it so that I can pretend to be an expert convincingly. Do you have any information on it?”
The Doctor didn’t even look in her direction as he replied, “Nope.” He continued looking at the scanner.
Catherine asked, “What sort of a planet is it, Doctor?”
He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I don’t know, Catherine. Its inhabitants never welcomed visitors. But I can show you what it looks like.” He entered a few details into the scanner keyboard and then said, as an image of Lambe*Rt~ia appeared on the screen, “Come and take a look.”
The Doctor stood back from the scanner and gestured towards it as Catherine walked over to view her ‘specialty’. It was nothing remarkable to look at. Its appearance was a standard blue-green planet with no satellites – either natural or artificial. Catherine did wonder how she could be an expert about a planet that no-one knew any details of. When she said as much to the Doctor, he just grinned and said, “It’s a challenge, Catherine. You’re up for it, aren’t you?”
Catherine looked at the Doctor’s cheeky grin and the mischievous twinkle in his expressive eyes. What else could she do but concede defeat? She smiled at the Doctor and said, “Why not?”
It had been his hope all along that the Doctor would be the one who answered the call. Although the High Council had been definite that messages should be sent to locations far and wide, both temporally and spatially, the Premier Cardinal had managed that there were more sent to the planet Earth than anywhere else. It was known by those that had – as far as had been possible – monitored the Doctor’s progress that his interest in Earth, even after the lifting of his exile, had been consistent. So where else was a better place to start to look for him?
The Premier Cardinal had known the Doctor from when he was a student at the Academy. He had been the young Time Lord’s personal tutor/academic adviser. They had become close friends, each respecting each other’s points of view even if they didn’t agree with them. He remembered warning his young friend not to deliver the speech about emotional involvement and the alien perspective as his final speech for examination. But as was so typical of the Doctor, even then, all advice was ignored. The Premier Cardinal smiled at the memory. He didn’t imagine that the Doctor had changed as he had matured, but he did look forward to renewing their friendship. From all he had heard of the Doctor’s exploits, his experience was exactly what Gallifrey and Lambe*Rt~ia needed at this time…..
(* To be continued….. *)