Chapter Nine

As the transmat finished operating and the Doctor, the Castellan and Catherine disappeared from view, there was a mixed reaction from those left behind in the so-called Colonnade of Academia.

The Ambassador was not impressed with the attitude of this Time Lord called the Doctor, not impressed at all. For a start, this Time Lord was not showing him the proper level of respect that his position as Ambassador demanded. Neither was his security expert companion. But that was only to be expected as she was an alien and she wouldn’t know the finer points of meeting with the Time Lord officialdom. With that observation – something Catherine, if she knew, would angrily describe as incredibly patronising and totally unbefitting someone of his position – he dismissed her from his thoughts.

But the Doctor could not so easily be dismissed.

The Ambassador knew that of all the messages that the High Council had authorised to be sent out across time and space, the message terminating in York of 2007 was the only one that was answered. And they did badly need a Time Lord to verify the situation on Lambe*Rt~ia before the High Council could determine what sort of action, if any, they should take. From the appearance of this one, he should suit the task admirably, the Ambassador thought. The Doctor quite obviously knew the correct procedures to be observed in official circles. His manner of discussion during dinner was correct, if a bit inquisitive. But most of all, from the orange and scarlet of his formal robes, it was clear he belonged to the order of Time Lords which were known for being more far-seeing than any other, the Prydonians. The Ambassador knew that if the Doctor was as far-seeing as the rest of his order that he would probably be successful in this task. However, in the Ambassador’s opinion, none of this excused his discourtesy to him…..

As soon as Chancellor Borusa was informed that the message had been answered by the Doctor, he could guess that his former Academy pupil would not necessarily react to the news of his task quite the way many would expect. When they last met, he had been impressed with the Doctor’s unorthodox method of hunting down the assassin in Gallifrey’s midst. He had exposed the driving force behind the assassination and the dreadful bargain the assassin had made with the Time Lord renegade known as the Master. Knowing the Doctor the way he did, the Chancellor wasn’t entirely surprised.

The Chancellor did not know Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia very well, but he didn’t expect that the Doctor’s love of unorthodox methods would be appreciated by the Ambassador. Borusa guessed that the Ambassador would see the Doctor’s use of such methods as frivolous and totally unacceptable. The Chancellor found his methods a clever application of the creative thinking that he had been taught in the Academy. It also showed the depth of knowledge that the Doctor had both retained and gained since graduating from the Academy so long ago. He was glad to see the Doctor back on Gallifrey and would be supportive, the High Council willing, if he wished to stay and pursue his responsibilities there. But somehow he doubted that the Doctor would choose to stay.

Chancellor Borusa had no particular opinions about the Doctor’s travelling companion/security adviser. Security was not his interest or speciality, being more politically and academically-minded. But if the Castellan was satisfied with her credentials, he was satisfied also. He had raised his eyebrows when the Premier Cardinal had asked for his support to allow Ms Mere the legal protection of the High Council while she was on Gallifrey. A member of the High Council had never requested permission for an alien to be allowed access to Gallifrey before, let alone including an alien in a select gathering like the one he had just attended in the Colonnade of Academia. He did wonder what the Premier Cardinal’s motives were in allowing such a thing, but without any evidence to the contrary, Borusa had no reason not to support the Premier Cardinal’s petition to the High Council.

Chancellor Borusa did suspect that the Premier Cardinal may have been trying to use this as a means to subtly persuade the Doctor to become more actively involved in the issue of Lambe*Rt~ia than otherwise intended. He doubted that his headstrong former pupil could be coerced that way, but the Premier Cardinal had been a friend of the Doctor’s as well as his personal tutor/adviser at the Academy so it was remotely possible that the Premier Cardinal knew more of the Doctor than he did. However, the Premier Cardinal had agreed to making the Doctor and his companion his own personal responsibility – the High Council had insisted on that condition before they would agree to his petition – so Borusa was largely unconcerned…..

After they arrived at the other transmat terminal, the Doctor stepped into the anteroom next to the reception room where they had all dined. He turned back towards his companions. His very serious expression which masked his anger at the Ambassador was temporarily replaced by a small grin as he saw Catherine in conversation with the Castellan. The Castellan would be a valuable and trusted ally – both to Catherine and to himself.

When Catherine and Castellan Spandrell reached him, he said to the Castellan, “Castellan, I need background information on the current threats – either proven or unproven – to Lambe*Rt~ia and to Gallifrey before I can work out the best way I can help.” Although this really was a request to the Castellan for the information he had, the Doctor’s words sounded more like a statement. As far as the Doctor was concerned, the need for the information was too important for him to worry over semantics or modes of expression in his voice or even courtesy. Castellan Spandrell was the one who had access to that information; he was going to pass that information on to the Doctor; a fait accompli.

The Castellan wondered what the Doctor intended, but having a healthy respect for his knowledge and intuition, he didn’t query his reasons for asking. He knew from previous experience that the Doctor did not ask questions idly and that his concern for and loyalty to Gallifrey were real. Castellan Spandrell knew that despite Ms Mere’s undoubted security expertise and whatever level of knowledge local to the region of Lambe*Rt~ia that she actually had, it was not enough to provide the information that the Doctor needed. As the one responsible for the security on Gallifrey, Castellan Spandrell was privy to all the specific security information that the Doctor needed. But he also knew that there were many who would like to see the Doctor fail for various political and personal reasons, so would strongly oppose any provision of that information to him.

“Doctor, Ms Mere, that topic is highly sensitive. May I suggest somewhere more secure for our discussion?” the Castellan replied.

The Castellan’s intention had been for them to adjourn to his chambers where the security was such that no-one could overhear such an important discussion. But before he could be more specific, the Doctor grinned broadly and said, “Fantastic! I thought you’d never ask! Come on.”

The Doctor raced out of the anteroom and headed out into the corridors beyond, the cape of his formal robes swinging out behind him as he ran. Catherine and the Castellan quickly followed him, hoping he knew where he was going. It didn’t take long for Catherine to realise they were heading in the direction of the TARDIS. “Where else could be more secure?” Catherine said, quietly.

The Castellan raised his eyebrows at that and asked Catherine where this place was.

Catherine, knowing he deserved an answer, replied, “The Doctor’s TARDIS.”

Castellan Spandrell nodded and commented, “His time capsule. Of course. It must be centuries since I’ve seen the inside of an old type forty.”

As they turned the next corner, the Doctor was leaning against the TARDIS, his arms folded as he waited for them to reach him. When they did, he unlocked the TARDIS doors and ushered Catherine and the Castellan inside. The Doctor quickly followed them and, securing the doors behind him, said with a grin and a wide all-encompassing gesture of the hands, “Welcome, Castellan, to my TARDIS!” Castellan Spandrell nodded and then walked up the ramp and around the console. Catherine quietly followed.

Castellan Spandrell said, “It’s such a long time since I’ve seen the inside of one of the old models, Doctor. Interesting.”

The Doctor’s grin broadened even further, Catherine noted.

He moved past the Castellan and Catherine to the console scanner, removing his cape and tossing it onto a fork in one of the tree-like roof supports of the room as he went. The scanner was still showing the picture of Lambe*Rt~ia seen from space that Catherine had been looking at before she and the Doctor were escorted to the reception room. Frowning with concentration, the Doctor turned his back on Catherine and the Castellan for a short time as he entered details into the scanner’s keyboard and initiated a computer program to search the TARDIS database and retrieve the exact details of the business relationship between Lambe*Rt~ia and Gallifrey. The Doctor knew that if the details of the trading contract between the two planets were accessible, the details of the business relationship must also be accessible as part of the contract documentation –
at least in theory.

While the program was running, the Doctor turned away from the scanner towards the Castellan. No grin this time, just a serious look of enquiry. “OK, Castellan, the threats to Lambe*Rt~ia. What are they? Where do they come from?”

The Castellan didn’t reply immediately. He looked at Catherine, wondering how much she really did know about the region around Gallifrey’s most important trading partner. For a long instant, she returned his look. Undoubtedly, she thought, the Castellan was wondering if she knew enough about the region to be helpful to their discussion. Her intuition and her logic told her that this was one of those times where she needed to pre-empt the outcome.

She took a deep breath and then said, carefully, “Castellan, I’m not familiar with the finer political points of the region around Lambe*Rt~ia, but from the discussion at dinner, I’ll make an educated guess. Being in charge of security on Gallifrey, you are fully aware that Lambe*Rt~ia has been threatened. They have indicated as much and asked for Gallifrey’s help. And there are the signs of unusual activity in the vicinity.”

The Castellan didn’t contradict her, just raised his eyebrows in interest.

“But you don’t actually know what type of threat it is or from where as yet?” Catherine continued.

The Doctor couldn’t fault the logic and intuition in her questions. But he was a little concerned that the Castellan may not appreciate them. Although Catherine was expert in security matters, her knowledge of Gallifreyan etiquette and procedure was, of course, minimal. She didn’t know that the Castellan’s support could be withdrawn at any time, if he so chose.

However, the Doctor’s concerns for her were unnecessary. The Castellan was not offended by Catherine’s questions. He was relieved that she had pinpointed the very issues that were troubling him.

“A fresh perspective untainted by either planet’s politics would be quite welcome,” the Castellan thought. The Doctor obviously had matters he wished to discuss with him, but equally, he would be pleased to ask for the Doctor’s and Ms Mere’s advice.

But, being used to erring on the side of caution, the Castellan didn’t reply to either the Doctor’s or Catherine’s questions directly. Instead, he asked the Doctor about what plans he had to visit Lambe*Rt~ia and verify the information supplied by the Directors of Lambe*Rt~ia.

The Doctor pursed his lips and considered his reply for a moment. Should he tell him? “Why not?” he thought. He looked across at the Castellan and said, airily, “Plan? Don’t have one. At least, not one for visiting Lambe*Rt~ia.” The Doctor didn’t look to see the effect if any, those words might have on the Castellan and Catherine. The computer program that he initiated earlier had just completed execution and its results were taking up his full attention. As he read through the results, his frown deepened.

The Castellan was a patient man. He knew the Doctor would pass on the results he was reading eventually, so he wasn’t going to ask for them. Instead, he chose to find out more about the Doctor’s companion. From their discussions in the reception room, he already knew enough about her security expertise and professional background. So much so that he had given her his support. He had already guessed that she was human and from one of Earth’s colonies. What he didn’t know was how she happened to be travelling with the Doctor, just at the time when her security expertise could aid the Doctor’s task for Gallifrey…..

Castellan Spandrell may have been prepared to wait for the Doctor to pass on the results he was reading, but Catherine was not prepared to wait. It wasn’t that she was impatient, more that she recognised the Doctor’s deepening frown as an indication of trouble ahead. Or at least that something was worrying him. And if something worried the Doctor, she knew that it wouldn’t be trivial.

Catherine walked around the console to stand next to the Doctor. If the Castellan hadn’t been present, she would have asked to see the results herself or, more probably, looked over the Doctor’s arm at them as he was reading them. Instead, bearing in mind the image she was portraying for the Castellan’s benefit, she asked, carefully, “Doctor, would you care to share the results with us?”

The Doctor looked up from his reading and turned towards her. He didn’t say anything to indicate his appreciation of her careful approach, but his eyes twinkled briefly as he replied, rhetorically, “Why not?”

He turned towards the Castellan, who had moved and was now standing behind him, and asked, “Castellan, how much do you actually know about the relationship between Gallifrey and Lambe*Rt~ia?”

The Castellan raised his eyebrows in surprise and then replied, “Enough, Doctor, to know that Gallifrey’s security is bound up with Lambe*Rt~ia’s irrevocably.”

“But do you know why Gallifrey’s security is tied up that way?” the Doctor asked, slightly irritated at the Castellan’s non-committal response.

The Castellan then surprised Catherine by replying, “No. The High Council of Gallifrey doesn’t normally disclose the details of their business to others.”

“Not even to the Castellan when it is relevant to matters of security?” Catherine asked. “I find that hard to accept.” She carefully didn’t say ‘hard to believe’ because that could have been interpreted as accusing the Castellan of lying. And whatever else he may be, Catherine knew instinctively that he was no liar.

The Castellan continued as if Catherine had not spoken, “Doctor, do you know the nature of that business?”

“Not the details of the transactions. No. But the results of those transactions, yes,” the Doctor replied. He stood back from the scanner and gestured towards the scanner. “See for yourself, Castellan.”

Catherine wondered what the results were. As the Castellan looked closer at the scanner, the Doctor looked at Catherine, nodded and smiled in encouragement. Smiling back at him, she then stepped forward to join the Castellan in looking at the results displayed on the scanner.

The Doctor’s program had not been able to extract details of the business relationship between Gallifrey and Lambe*Rt~ia. Not because anything had been omitted in the computer program, but because the details of the relationship were not included in the contract documentation. The program had located a short preamble to the contract which was reasonably straightforward, but the contract itself was written in detailed Gallifreyan legal jargon which would take more than a few hours to wade through. Gallifreyan contract law was some of the most complicated in the universe.

But the Doctor’s computer program still managed to provide a sufficiently detailed extract of the important paragraphs in the preamble and the important clauses in the contract. It was detailed enough to cause both the Doctor and Castellan Spandrell strong concern. Knowing the Gallifreyan military situation the way they did, they both knew there was good reason to be concerned.

But Catherine didn’t know Gallifrey’s background, so looked upon it with a different perspective. As the Doctor knew she would. It was partly because of that and partly because of her strong instinct for the out of place, her perceptiveness and her logic, that he asked, “Ms Mere, you’ve read the extracts. What do you think are the implications for Gallifrey?”

Catherine considered her response carefully before she answered. She didn’t know much of Gallifrey’s history or of the High Council of Gallifrey’s dealings with the Directors of Lambe*Rt~ia. The preamble to the document didn’t assist her knowledge of the cultural relationship between the two trading partners either. Her assumption was that the relationship between the two cultures had at least been cordial since the contract was enacted, if not before. She wasn’t concerned with the actual supplies regularly sent from Lambe*Rt~ia to Gallifrey under this contract, but was more concerned about the price Gallifrey paid for it.

Catherine knew nothing of contract law, but she guessed that the contract negotiators from Lambe*Rt~ia had been just a little bit shrewder than the negotiators from Gallifrey when they had guaranteed a regular supply of the Lambe*Rt~ian goods to Gallifrey providing Gallifrey would guarantee to assist Lambe*Rt~ia militarily if the need ever arose, regardless of the aggressor. But she wouldn’t phrase that so tactlessly in front of the Castellan.

And the only request for assistance required – according to the third paragraph of the preamble – was a simple written petition for assistance presented by Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador to Gallifrey to a member of the High Council of Gallifrey. Once that petition had been tabled with the High Council, regardless of their agreement or otherwise, it was deemed to have been accepted. Gallifrey was then compelled legally to provide military assistance to Lambe*Rt~ia.

Catherine looked at the Doctor, who smiled encouragingly. She said, remembering her role as a security expert with special interest in the region around Lambe*Rt~ia, “I can’t answer for any political implications, but the security implications are obvious. If Lambe*Rt~ia is under threat, Gallifrey must provide military protection or the supply of goods from Lambe*Rt~ia will cease indefinitely. There seems to be no exceptions permitted. And as the preamble seems to indicate that those goods are essential to Gallifrey, there is no real choice. Gallifrey must comply. The only condition in the extracts that I can see to avoid this is if the written petition of assistance hasn’t been presented to the High Council of Gallifrey.”

Catherine paused before she added something that was only speculation on her part, but had crossed her mind briefly when she discovered that Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia never actually visited there. She said, “Although it’s not mentioned in the extracts, I imagine that if there is no real threat that Gallifrey would be absolved from involvement in Lambe*Rt~ia’s security issues.”

The Doctor said, quietly to Catherine, “Gallifrey hasn’t had a battle fleet for centuries. There’s no military support that Gallifrey can provide to Lambe*Rt~ia.”

“So Gallifrey couldn’t honour its side of the contract, even if it wanted to,” Catherine replied.

“Nope,” the Doctor replied with a grimace.

“Our only solution then must be to prevent any petition for assistance for Lambe*Rt~ia being tabled with the High Council or to show that the threat is not real,” Catherine added.

Before the Doctor could comment, the Castellan said, regretfully, “But a petition for assistance for Lambe*Rt~ia was already tabled with the High Council before the message that the Doctor received was transmitted from Gallifrey…..”

(* To be continued….. *)