Chapter Seven

Catherine had thoroughly refreshed herself, once again, in the TARDIS bath. Although to call it a bath was a bit of an understatement. It was much more like an exotic swimming pool. There were even exotic plants surrounding it. But it was certainly relaxing after the excitement of her first visit to Earth, albeit a visit unexpectedly cut short, and the strain of the Premier Cardinal’s message and the Doctor’s revelations, not to mention their arrival on Gallifrey. And the bathroom linen cupboard, as she discovered the first time she had taken a bath in the TARDIS, was well-stocked with fragrant bath gels, shampoos and conditioners, and the most enormous, thick fluffy bath towels and exotic feminine bathrobes. Catherine thought this was a lovely luxury for someone like her who was used to travelling light and residing mostly in regional operation sites. These buildings, while secure and comfortable, were built from easily mountable/demountable construction kits and because of their nature included showers rather than baths. The first time she visited the TARDIS bathroom, she had been relieved to see the lock on the bathroom door. It would be a bit embarrassing if the Doctor walked in on her unannounced! Not that she thought he would, of course. He was far too much the gentleman.

She finished drying herself, dressed herself in her underwear, tidied her damp hair and selected a full-length plain blue wrap-over bathrobe to wear. Quickly dressing in it and securing it tightly around her by firmly tying its matching blue sash, she stepped up to operate the internal transmat which would take her to the door of the TARDIS wardrobe room, so she could dress for dinner.

She arrived at the wardrobe room door and just as she was about to open the door to enter her part of this amazing room, she was startled to hear what sounded like uncontrollable sobbing coming from the Doctor’s part of the wardrobe room. At first she doubted her own hearing, but Catherine knew she hadn’t been mistaken. “It couldn’t be the Doctor, could it?” she thought. She knew that Gallifrey might affect him in unexpected ways, but surely not to this extent? But she had to be sure.

She quietly opened the door to his part of the wardrobe room, but only wide enough to see who was crying.

Catherine was shocked. She had seen the Doctor in tears before, but nothing even remotely approaching this. The Doctor was sitting on the floor, his back towards her, so she couldn’t see the expression on his face. He was bent over with his head nearly touching his knees. His shoulders were shaking with the sobs and his leather jacket was squeaking with each shake. Instinctively, she wanted to go to him to help if she could, but equally she knew that this was not something she should be witnessing. She would never tell him that she had. This was inadvertent she was sure and should be completely private. She gently closed the door again, so he wouldn’t even know she had been there.

Catherine entered her part of the wardrobe room deep in thought. She wondered, as she took her culottes off their hanger, what could cause a man like him such grief? This was more than just grief for a planet he knew to be gone in the future. The return to Gallifrey itself was causing him grief instead of allowing him the bittersweet joy of enjoying it as it was. What had Gallifrey or its people done to him that a return to his home planet could affect him like this?

Of course, Catherine didn’t know that that was only half of the cause. It wasn’t just what Gallifrey and its people had done to him, but what the future High Councillors (none of whom were councillors in this time period) had forced him to do to Gallifrey on its people’s behalf…..

The Doctor was so lost in his own private hell that he didn’t hear Catherine quietly open and close the door. All his senses were driven inward. He continued to sob his hearts out for perhaps another ten minutes or so. But somewhere deep inside he drew on that inner strength of character that had successfully seen him and his companions through so many dangers in the past. He forced himself to stop what he saw as a selfish indulgence. Taking a deep breath, he shook his head and a deep frown creased his brow as he stood up. He shook himself again as if to shake the thoughts, the memories and the feelings back into the deep recesses of his mind. It was the best and safest place for them. No-one on Gallifrey must ever know what the future held for them. The results from the paradox that would cause would be almost as bad as the Time War itself.

He looked at his watch and realised how much time he had spent in his bout of emotion. Moving quickly, he took off his leather jacket and hung it on a peg near the door. He left his jeans and his ruby red jumper on a couple of clothes hangers hanging on a rail nearby. Conveniently for him, the internal transmat to the shower room was located inside the wardrobe room. He was so exhausted from the energy expended from the unexpected outpouring of emotion that he knew that nothing would refresh him as much as a cold shower.

If Catherine thought the TARDIS bath was exotic, she should have seen the shower! The shower was not a shower head on a tiled wall in a shower recess as would normally be expected or even a light-weight shower such as those that she would have been familiar with from her regional operation sites. Like so many other facilities in the TARDIS, the shower was no ordinary shower.

Strictly speaking there was a shower recess of a sort, if a huge curved wall of about ten metres high with an arc of ten metres or so could be referred to as a recess. The wall was made in imitation of a rock cascade, complete with rockery ferns and a pool at its base of about thirty-five to forty centimetres in depth. Inside this strange shower recess were two large, smooth river rocks strategically placed either for sitting on or for use as footstools. But there was no sign of the actual shower itself or even water for that matter.

Like the bathroom, the linen cupboard in this room contained a selection of large fluffy towels. But where the bathroom’s linen cupboard was stocked with toiletries and bathrobes suited to a female, the linen cupboard in this room was stocked with toiletries, bathrobes and other necessities suitable for a male Time Lord.

The Doctor entered the shower room, quickly undressed and stepped down into the shower recess. He pressed an unassuming switch on the far wall. Immediately a huge gush of water seemed to erupt from the rock wall in front of him from about one metre from the top of the wall, giving the effect of a nine metre high cascade. The water was icy cold, but the Doctor stood under it enjoying its refreshing effects on his body as it washed his exhaustion and pain away…..

Catherine turned the corridor and entered the console room. The Doctor wasn’t there yet, but she didn’t expect him to be under the circumstances.

As Catherine walked across to the console scanner, the green glow from the time rotor reflected off the gold threads in her cinnamon and gold-coloured silk culottes. She was not displeased with the effect which made the silk seem to ripple with gold and green as it floated around her. The culottes’ matching high-heeled ankle length fashion boots in a cinnamon-coloured material were very soft and comfortable. They also made almost no sound when she walked.

Catherine looked at the scanner for any sight of their Chancellery Guard escort. He hadn’t arrived as yet. She breathed a sigh of relief. They still had time to spare then.

Catherine really had nothing to do, but wait for the Doctor. But being unaccustomed to appearing to be in a position where she had nothing to do, she decided to fill in time by closely examining the coral surface on one of the tree-like roof supports near the ramp to the TARDIS doors.

She was running her fingers over it to gauge the feel of the texture when a familiar voice spoke in a soft Northern accent, “I’m pleased you chose the culottes. They’re perfect. Pity about the hair.” He smiled to himself. Catherine actually looked perfect for her role, but he thought it wouldn’t do to tell her that!

Catherine, who had her back to the console, was a bit annoyed about his comment as she had put a lot of thought into how she should style her hair for this dinner. She decided to stay with the long, flattened ponytail tied back in a gold clip rather than a more sophisticated look. A sophisticated look hadn’t seemed appropriate to her for her role. She turned around quickly to tell him what she thought of his comment. “Doctor, I…..” Catherine was glad she had the roof support to cling onto. She couldn’t quite believe the sight of the Doctor in his full formal Gallifreyan robes.

The Doctor smiled and then said, “Catherine, I think you’d better sit down.” And without any further comment, he quickly strode over to her, put his arm around her and helped her to the two-seater near the console. Once she was seated, he stood in front of her, leaning against the console with his arms folded.

He said, cheerfully, “A bit over-powering isn’t it? Full Gallifreyan formal wear. Not quite my taste, but appropriate to wear under the circumstances. Think of it as Gallifrey’s equivalent of your dress uniform.” He took the cape off and threw it on the console.

Catherine couldn’t think of any suitable reply, except a nod. How could she say to him that it wasn’t just the robes? The whole effect was a bit over-powering but most of all, it was the shock of how well the formal robes suited him. And the feeling wasn’t alleviated by him removing the cape. It actually exacerbated it. Removing the cape exposed Catherine to the sight of him in the red silk tunic with matching tie belt, the close-fitting black jumper with matching trousers, and the knee-length black boots. The outfit became him so well that Catherine couldn’t prevent herself from staring and whispering, “Gorgeous!”

The Doctor, who had very good hearing, heard her whisper, but chose not to embarrass her by commenting. He just grinned very broadly and his eyes twinkled mischievously. All signs of the emotional Time Lord crying his hearts out had now gone. He was back to his usual self, at least for the moment.

“Are you alright?” he said, as he walked around to stand in front of the console scanner.

Catherine stood up and replied, “Yes, Doctor. I’m fine.” She picked up the Doctor’s cape, in case he forgot it, and walked over to stand next to him.

But the Doctor seemed bemused. His frown descended upon his brow again as he watched the scanner. Not only had their escort arrived early, but the Doctor recognised the young, newly-graduated recruit who was their escort. His name was Andred…..

Andred was proud to have been chosen to provide official escort to these mysterious visitors. He hadn’t been told their names and he wouldn’t ask. It wasn’t often that a young graduate would be singled out by the Castellan for such responsible duty. The Castellan even knew him by name! His ambition hitherto had been to rise as far as a Commander in the Chancellery Guard, something which he knew wouldn’t happen overnight. But now that ambition had changed. He now would strive as much as he could to reach the ultimate position of Castellan, even if it didn’t happen until his last regeneration…..

Catherine wondered what had happened to dampen the Doctor’s enthusiasm. And she said as much.

The Doctor replied, nodding towards the scanner, “Our escort’s arrived early.” Before Catherine could comment, the Doctor added, “And I know him.”

Catherine looked at the scanner and said, “But that isn’t a problem is it?” Before the Doctor could reply, she shrewdly realised how there could be a problem. She continued, “You know him from the future, don’t you?”

“Yes,” the Doctor replied. “But I never knew Andred at this stage of his career. This call to Gallifrey has changed that. I met him after he had risen through the ranks to become Commander. We prevented an invasion of Gallifrey.” He didn’t mention that this was in an earlier incarnation of himself. The Doctor wasn’t ready to explain to Catherine about Time Lord regeneration. So he didn’t tell her that he had also met Andred in the events that led to the horrific end to the Time War and the destruction of Gallifrey, when he was in his eighth incarnation and Andred was the Castellan of Gallifrey.

“So the High Council manages to involve me in cross-issues again. Even if they don’t know they’re doing it this time,” the Doctor said bitterly. He looked at Catherine. The frown had gone, but there was a flash of real anger in his eyes.

She automatically stepped back a couple of paces from him and held on to the roof support she had so recently been examining. The animosity felt so real. Catherine knew it wasn’t directed at her, but still she couldn’t prevent her reaction. This didn’t really seem like the Doctor at all.

The Doctor saw her reaction and was immediately ashamed of having directed his anger at her. He owed Catherine an explanation.

“I’m sorry, Catherine. I shouldn’t have directed my anger at you.” He paused before continuing, “We need to be very careful of avoiding a paradox here. While there is no problem with my knowing the younger Andred, the problem is in the younger Andred knowing me, because that could change his future.”

Catherine was not tempted to make a facetious comment. This was serious. Or at least the Doctor thought so. After all, time was his business, so to speak.

While the Doctor frowned, trying to think of a way around the problem, Catherine had worked out her own solution. She said, “The easiest solution is just to make sure that Andred doesn’t know you. From my experience, when an escort is provided simply to accompany someone from one place to another, the officer involved rarely knows the name of the person he or she is detailed to escort.”

The Doctor raised his eyebrows and looked sceptical. She continued, “Junior officers, like Andred, would just be given a description of the person and where they were to meet them and where they were to take them to. Surely, Gallifrey’s internal security arrangements can’t be that different from everywhere else?”

The Doctor considered Catherine’s suggestion and said, “Good point. So your advice would be just to ensure that if he doesn’t know who we are, that we don’t enlighten him?”

Catherine nodded. She always thought that the simplest and most straightforward solutions usually worked best. Assuming, of course, that Gallifrey’s internal security administration wasn’t different in practice to every other security administration she had come across in her previous profession.

The Doctor certainly hoped that Catherine’s assumptions were correct and Andred had never heard of the Doctor and certainly didn’t know who he was escorting. However, security had been her profession before she accepted his invitation to travel with him and he trusted her judgement.

He wondered if when dealing with Andred he should play the ‘aloof’ character. It was a role he hated, but one that was so typical of many of his people. Andred would see nothing out of place in that. If he did that, Andred mightn’t make the brain pattern connection that he could recognise when he met his fourth incarnation later in his career. It was a calculated risk, but it just might work. Calculated risks often did.

He didn’t have time to explain this to Catherine, but he did suggest that he should stay in the background and she should handle any queries from Andred during their short walk to the reception room.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because you are the security expert, not me!” the Doctor replied, with a grin.

At that point, Andred knocked on the TARDIS door.

Catherine handed the Doctor his cape which he quickly replaced around his shoulders. They walked down the ramp, opened the TARDIS doors and stepped through the opening to meet their escort. While Catherine talked to Andred, asking questions about his background and how he managed to be allocated the role of escort, the Doctor securely locked the TARDIS doors behind them.

The Doctor caught her eye and looked at her with an unspoken question in his eyes. Catherine nodded very, very slightly and briefly winked at him. It was her way of saying, “No, Doctor, he doesn’t know who we are.”

He breathed a sigh of relief. Catherine continued to occupy Andred with small talk as they traversed the corridors to their destination. The Doctor quite enjoyed seeing how she gently drew him out without telling him anything about either the Doctor or herself. If he hadn’t been trying to play the aloof Time Lord, he’d have grinned broadly and his eyes would have shone. As it was, he had to curb his appreciation.

The corridors of the Capitol were extremely unimaginative from both an artistic and architectural perspective, so the Doctor ignored the décor and started to plan his approach to this dinner and how he was going to respond to the requirements of the message.

Soon the trio had reached their destination. Andred walked ahead of the Doctor and Catherine and knocked respectfully on an ornate imitation oak door. Although this was the small reception room, like all reception rooms within the Capitol, it was inscribed with the pattern of the seal of Rassilon. The door was opened by Castellan Spandrell who said, “That will be all, Andred.”

Andred replied, “Yes, Castellan,” and without even looking at his recent ‘charges’ he quickly walked away, disappearing from sight.

The Castellan said, rhetorically, “Welcome, Doctor, Ms Mere. May I show you to your tables?”

Catherine suddenly realised that they were to be separated. The Doctor smiled at her, encouragingly and nodded. She understood that to mean that this was what he had expected all along. He would be dining with his old friend the Premier Cardinal. She would be dining with Gallifrey’s most senior security expert, the Castellan.

The room was relatively small and intimate, but it still had a real feeling of opulence about it. Catherine didn’t know whether it was the lavish display of exotic-looking food and wine on the tables or the room itself with its plush red velvet walls and deep pile carpet. She looked around her and saw the Doctor in the distance, his cape discarded, deep in conversation with the Premier Cardinal. All would be well if she could play her part and convince the Castellan of her knowledge of Lambe*Rt~ian regional security…..

(* To be continued….. *)