Chapter Six

Castellan Spandrell was checking the terminal point of the physical message link that linked this corner of the Capitol across time and space to an unusual herb garden near the Minster in York in 2007. He was making sure that the link was as secure as it could be under the circumstances, so that the recipient of the message could be transmatted from York to Gallifrey safely and securely.

Just as he completed his security checks, the Premier Cardinal strolled past, saying, “Castellan, I don’t think you need to worry about that link. Somehow, I don’t think that Time Lord will come to us via our set link. I fully expect him to arrive by time capsule.”

The Castellan replied, “But security is my responsibility and I have to ensure all access to the Capitol is secure, whether that access is internal, transmat or even time capsule, regardless of whether it is used or not.”

The Premier Cardinal nodded and replied, “Well said. Your diligence is appreciated, Castellan. The time capsule is on its way.”

The Castellan asked, “For the security records, what sort of time capsule, Cardinal?”

The Premier Cardinal smiled and said, “A type forty time capsule, Castellan.”

The Castellan noted it down, and then said, “All type forties were decommissioned centuries ago. Except for one and that one belongs to the…..”

Before Castellan Spandrell could finish his sentence, a characteristic whining sound was heard and a blue box with a flashing light on top materialised near by. He had had dealings with the Doctor when searching for a presidential assassin. The Doctor had earned his respect for his knowledge of the law and for his courage in the pursuit of the assassin. He looked forward to renewing their acquaintance.

But the man who stepped out of the time capsule was not the man he knew. When he met the Doctor previously, the Doctor had had the appearance of a tall man of solid build with hypnotic blue eyes and brown curly hair. This man was tall and slim with intense blue eyes, high cheekbones and dark close-cropped hair. The Castellan realised that this man must have undergone another regeneration since they last met. He wasn’t to know that the Doctor had actually undergone five regenerations since their last meeting.

If the Castellan had any issues with the appearance of the Doctor, he didn’t have long to consider them. Following immediately after the Doctor, the Doctor’s companion stepped out of the time capsule and shut the door behind them. The Castellan was quite shocked to see that the Doctor had brought an alien into such a high security area, despite his knowing that aliens were not permitted there. He wished that he had had the foresight to have a few of the Chancellery Guards with him. But he couldn’t change what had already been done, so he awaited the Premier Cardinal’s reaction before calling for reinforcements…..

The Doctor watched the scanner as the TARDIS materialised in the Capitol on Gallifrey. Strangely for her, Catherine suddenly felt extremely nervous. She knew it wasn’t because of the role she would be playing as a security expert specialising in the vicinity of Lambe*Rt~ia. That type of thing had been part of her work as a Sergeant in Central Orion Protection and Security from time to time. She thought her nervousness was because they were visiting Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet. It was a place that was so special to him and because she knew that it no longer existed in his personal timeline, she was concerned that their presence there might affect him in ways he didn’t quite expect.

Some of her nervousness must have been more obvious than she realised, because the Doctor looked up from the scanner and smiled at her encouragingly. “Ready?” he asked her rhetorically, as the characteristic sound of the TARDIS materialising echoed around the console room. She didn’t reply, but smiled back and nodded.

As the time rotor came to its resting position, Catherine quietly made her way to the TARDIS doors to wait until the Doctor was ready.

The Doctor attended to the console, ensuring the TARDIS could not dematerialise accidentally and that everything was secured. Being on Gallifrey, he was extra vigilant with respect to this.

When he had completed his security measures, he bounded down the ramp to the TARDIS doors and said, with a grin and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, “This is an adventure, Catherine. Enjoy!” On that positive note, he opened the TARDIS doors and stepped onto the main level of the Capitol. To his relief, he noticed there were no Chancellery Guards present, just the Castellan and the Premier Cardinal.

Catherine quickly followed the Doctor out of the TARDIS and pulled the door tightly shut behind them. She wondered who the two official-looking men waiting for them were. But she relaxed slightly when she realised that there were no obvious signs of any guards or security officers in the vicinity. All she had to do now was to follow the Doctor’s lead…..

The Doctor nodded in the direction of the Castellan, who he had met on a previous occasion. He then quickly walked over to the Premier Cardinal, grinning broadly at him. Despite being perfectly well aware that the two men who awaited him were the Premier Cardinal and the Castellan, he deliberately chose to break protocol and greet the Premier Cardinal by name.

The Premier Cardinal had been the Doctor’s personal tutor/academic adviser and close friend when he was studying at the Academy. Although Time Lords could always recognise each other by their brain pattern signatures – it was how they recognised each other despite regeneration – Gallifreyan protocol demanded that when a Time Lord held public office, others addressed him or her by their title not their name or nickname.

When he reached his old friend, the Doctor said, enthusiastically, “Fantastic! I always knew you would do well, Tgamisealr. The role seems to suit you.” The Doctor paused briefly, before returning to his reason for being on Gallifrey. His enthusiasm disappeared as he said, “I assume that you are the one behind the message I connected with in York?”

The Premier Cardinal laughed and then said, “You haven’t changed much from when you were at the Academy have you, Doctor? Still that intelligence and perspicacity, but strangely mixed with a certain reckless lack of respect for authority. Chancellor Borusa would not approve!” They both laughed at that, looking to Catherine like a pair of university students cum conspirators planning a prank on their Dean.

The Premier Cardinal stopped laughing and then continued, “But I think for your own safety – and your companion’s – it would be better if you called me ‘Cardinal’ in public. I can’t answer for the tolerance, or otherwise, of other Senior Time Lords, Doctor.” He nodded towards the Castellan, before continuing, “For instance, the Castellan is trying extremely hard to resist the temptation to call the Chancellery Guards and arrest your alien companion for illegal entry. Maybe you should introduce her to us?”

The Doctor, of course, knew his old friend was right. He called Catherine over and introduced her by saying, “Cardinal, Castellan. Let me introduce Ms Catherine Mere. She is an expert in galactic security and has a particular interest in Lambe*Rt~ia and its surrounds. Under the circumstances, I am sure that you both will agree that despite her being alien, her expert advice would be of great advantage to us.” He paused, briefly, to allow them both – but particularly the Castellan – to envisage all the possibilities that having access to such a consultant’s advice would provide. Then he turned to Catherine and said, formally, “Ms Mere, allow me to introduce the Premier Cardinal of Gallifrey,” he gestured towards the Premier Cardinal who inclined his head graciously in response to Catherine’s smile, “and Castellan Spandrell. The Castellan is responsible for the maintenance of the continuing security of Gallifrey, its personnel and its visitors.”

Catherine realised that the Doctor had provided her with a perfect opening here, so she was not going to miss the opportunity to avail herself of it. She smiled at the Castellan, looked him straight in the eyes and said, formally, “I’m pleased to meet you, Castellan. Security has been such an integral part of my career, but I am unfamiliar with the processes on Gallifrey. I am eager to learn and would be pleased if you could enlarge my knowledge on this subject.”

The Castellan nodded politely. Catherine then turned to the Premier Cardinal and said, “Cardinal, thank you for this opportunity to visit Gallifrey. I look forward to my visit.”

The Premier Cardinal smiled and then said, rhetorically, “Doctor, perhaps you and Ms Mere would like to meet with me in the small reception room for dinner? We have much urgent business to discuss. Your escort from the Chancellery Guard will meet you here in two time units to show you the way. I look forward to our discussion.”

The Doctor nodded his agreement, as he watched the Premier Cardinal and the Castellan leave the room. He knew that any exploration by himself or Catherine at this point would almost certainly be watched by Gallifrey’s equivalent of closed circuit television. However, as he and Catherine would undoubtedly be expected to ‘dress’ for dinner, he knew that it would not seem strange for them to re-enter the TARDIS at this point.

Catherine didn’t comment when the Doctor returned to the TARDIS and unlocked the door, just followed him back inside, securing the door behind them. He had seated himself on the two-seater near the console and characteristically stretched his legs out in front of him. There was a strange look on his face, a mix of puzzlement and despair.

“What’s wrong, Doctor?” Catherine asked. There was no reply.

She realised that something was wrong even before she looked at the expression on his face. There was something badly out of place, but she didn’t know the Doctor well enough to be able to judge properly what it was. That it definitely had something to do with Gallifrey and the message was obvious. But what could it be? And what could she do to help?

Catherine had heard enough from the Doctor to realise that the demise of Gallifrey and its people hurt him deeply. That was understandable. She had seen enough of his reactions to certain references or visuals over the time she had known him to understand those too. But there was more than that causing the problem here. After the strong recall from that message in York, Catherine could not logically see why they should waste time on pleasantries. Why don’t they commence the business of their presence here immediately?

It seemed to her that there were two alternatives here. Either her presence was a real problem to these Time Lords or they were awaiting some other event or arrival before they continued with the real task of the message. If her presence was the problem, regardless of what they thought her business on Gallifrey was, surely all they had to do was to banish her to the TARDIS and place it under guard until the Doctor had completed the task for them. And they would have the power, she shrewdly suspected, to enforce their will upon him if they so wished. So logically, there must be someone else of importance at this dinner tonight that was integral to the process, but not mentioned. This appeared slightly suspicious. Yet she still was invited to the dinner as well. Why?

She must have spoken some of those thoughts aloud or the Doctor had anticipated them. Because his first words to her were, “High Councillors move in mysterious ways, Catherine.” She knew he was speaking flippantly, but with a serious edge, as he continued, “They often don’t act the way others – even other Time Lords – expect that they should.” He wasn’t only thinking of the events leading to the demise of Gallifrey as he said that.

“For instance, your presence here. They accepted it far too easily.” He saw her surprised expression and clarified his comment. “I don’t mean that the result was unexpected. Castellan Spandrell acted exactly as I thought he would when he had no guards to support him. He and I have a certain respect for each other from our previous meeting, so he would be inclined to accept my word. However, his duty would demand that you be arrested, but with no guards to do so and the Premier Cardinal showing you favour, he would most sensibly decide to err on the side of discretion and await further enquiries. He is surprisingly open-minded for a Gallifrey-based Time Lord and is a just and honest man. While we are here, he could be your strongest enemy or your strongest ally. I imagine that at dinner or afterwards that he will be questioning you more closely. Be as honest with him as you can afford to be, allowing for your cover story, and don’t be tempted to elaborate on details of which you know little. He won’t know the details either, but all Time Lords are telepathic to a certain degree and he will pick up on any uncertainties you have.”

Catherine was about to say that she didn’t need the advice as she knew full well how to keep within the flexibilities of an undercover persona, when the Doctor caught the look in her eye. The look was somewhere between militant and indignant. He grinned and his eyes twinkled mischievously as he added, “I know you don’t need the advice, but if I don’t offer the advice, I wouldn’t be doing my role properly would I?” She had to agree with that. It made sense.

He continued, “It’s the Premier Cardinal’s reaction that bothers me the most. He is the one who issued the urgent message, yet he wishes to wait until after dinner to discuss it. I wonder why? Presumably, as this is of some importance to Gallifrey, other very senior members of the High Council will be present at dinner or at least afterwards. So that is not really surprising. But his reaction to you? That is unusual without some effort of persuasion. I know my old tutor pretty well and he never took risks on anything of importance without reducing the risk first.” The Doctor thought for a moment, before looking at Catherine closely. “Tell me, were you at all concerned for me and how this would progress once we left the TARDIS?”

Catherine remembered a couple of very brief moments when she had been concerned for him. She didn’t reply, but the very attractive shade of red that flooded her face at the memory was all the reply the Doctor needed.

The Doctor continued, “That explains it. My old friend’s telepathy has picked up on your concern for me and it has intrigued him to a point where he wants to find out more. Be very careful with your emotions tonight, Catherine. Human minds are difficult to read because they veer off on so many delightful tangents and distractions. That’s one talent I have learned from humans. Provide enough tangents and distractions and your mind is unreadable. However, human emotional responses can sometimes be misinterpreted.”

Catherine wondered whether she should reply with a pithy comment to that, when the Doctor said, “We don’t have much time until our escort arrives. Particularly, if we want to freshen up and ‘dress’ for dinner. I’m afraid that Gallifreyan manners, particularly at High Councillor levels tend to be rather formal.” They both headed for their quite separate areas of the TARDIS wardrobe room to select their clothes for the occasion…..

Dinner with members of the High Council of Gallifrey was a special occasion. Catherine wondered whether her dress uniform would be quite special enough. She looked at it hanging in the wardrobe. “No,” she thought, “I don’t think it is really good enough for members of the High Council.” Catherine looked at the outfit hanging on the next hanger in the wardrobe. It was a full-length set of culottes in silk which was cinnamon-coloured shot with gold. Catherine had worn these when she and the Doctor had dined with the Rani, so she knew they were comfortable and seemed to float around her as she walked. On the floor beneath the outfit was the pair of gold high-heeled fashion sandals that she had worn then. Now there was also a pair of matching high-heeled ankle length fashion boots in a cinnamon-coloured material that looked like very soft light-weight leather. Catherine was very drawn to this outfit, particularly with the boots, but what decided her definitely on choosing to wear it for this dinner was the unexpected label attached to its hanger. There were only two words on the label – ‘Gallifrey, Formal’…..

The Doctor visited his part of the TARDIS wardrobe looking for a formal shirt to wear with his jeans and leather jacket. As any dinner on Gallifrey involving members of the High Council would be formal – he believed they didn’t know any other way – he knew he would be expected to ‘dress’ for the occasion. So he realised his jumper would not be deemed appropriate and the power of suggestion had never worked on Gallifrey. He sighed, knowing that he would probably need a silk shirt or similar. It wasn’t that he had anything against shirts or silk ones in particular, but it reminded him too much of his previous incarnation. And anything related to his previous incarnation reminded him of the events leading to his regeneration. As if he needed any reminding!

He was flicking through the hangers on the rail when he found just what he was looking for – a bright red open-necked silk shirt with a stiffened collar and lapels which would sit easily under his leather jacket and would set off his black jeans well. “Perfect,” he thought. That was until he saw the outfit on the hanger behind it labelled, ‘Gallifrey, Formal’.

It was something he never thought to see again – the formal robes of his home. To his knowledge, there had never been a set of these robes in the TARDIS wardrobe before. He had certainly not worn them since leaving, some would say running away from, Gallifrey centuries ago. These were of course not the great ceremonial robes that were worn for exceptional occasions like inaugurations, but the ‘normal’ robes for formal occasions. “Gallifrey’s equivalent of ‘black tie’,” the Doctor thought, dismissively.

They were strange by Earth standards and laughable by some other planetary standards, but the Doctor wasn’t laughing. The formal male robes of Gallifrey – at least for those holding no office – consisted of three parts. Part one was a close-fitting, long-sleeved, black round-necked jumper and matching close-fitting, black trousers. Both jumper and trousers were knitted from a special Gallifreyan synthetic material which was cool, light-weight and flexible enough that the wearer could perform gymnastics or athletics if he so wished. Not that many Time Lords would wish to do so!

Part two was a loose-fitting, knee-length tunic in a light silk. It was round-necked and stitched together at the shoulders, but open down the sides, being secured around the middle by a wide tie belt of the same fabric. The tunic was a deep red in colour with a rich orange-coloured trim along the shoulders. Footwear was a pair of highly-polished, knee-length, black boots that Beau Brummel would have been proud to have owned.

Part three was a cape that the Doctor in his third incarnation would have been envious of. It was made from a single piece of very soft woollen fabric and was wide across the shoulders at the back, rising to a stiff half-collar behind the neck with two continuous pieces of fabric that flipped forwards over the shoulders to hang down the chest, poncho-like. The ankle-length cape was a rich orange colour with a deep red trim and collar.

The combination of parts one, two and three together was magnificent, as intended.

This represented the formality he had grown up with and hated so much. He had unsuccessfully fought against the wearing of these robes when he was growing up. Yet….. There was something about them that simply said ‘Gallifrey’. And strangely for one who was so much against such clothing, there was never any doubt in his mind that he was going to wear these robes to this dinner on Gallifrey. He could reason that it was to ensure that he was treated seriously at the discussions; that he would be accepted, so discouraging the other traps that would undoubtedly be set for him; that if he showed himself to be following convention, Catherine would be more likely to be accepted also.

But the Doctor was not one to lie to himself. All those reasons were valid, logical and would hold true, but he knew that they were not the reasons he would be wearing that outfit tonight. The only reason that he would be wearing those robes was purely personal – because it was a chance to feel Gallifrey again; to feel a part of Gallifrey again; to believe that Gallifrey really existed.

And then, to his complete surprise, he sat down on the floor of the wardrobe room, put his head in his hands and cried as if his hearts were breaking…..

(* To be continued….. *)