Chapter Ten

The Doctor didn’t say anything immediately. He was restraining himself, with a lot of effort, from swearing in front of the Castellan. “How typical!” he murmured. “Shutting the door after the horse has bolted. Nothing ever changes.”

Catherine was pursuing her own train of thought. “Lambe*Rt~ia does have an Ambassador to Gallifrey, resident on Gallifrey?” she asked the Castellan. The Castellan nodded in reply. “Interesting, particularly when the High Council has a policy of not allowing aliens on Gallifrey, unless supported by a member of the High Council,” Catherine continued. “My knowledge of the politics of Gallifrey and Lamber*Rt~ia is vague. But surely, from a security perspective they would be subject to the same provisions that I have been? Or do Ambassadors have exemption from such a rule?”

The Doctor could appreciate Catherine’s concern about this, but he wondered what the Castellan’s reaction would be.

When the Castellan replied, his answer was surprising. “No, Ms Mere, there is no exemption from that rule. Under normal diplomatic circumstances, if a foreign diplomat was to be resident on Gallifrey they would need to be vouched for long term by a member of the High Council who can show that they know them well. Usually, foreign diplomats aren’t resident here. They normally reside on their home planets and have an isomorphic and highly secure video connection to Gallifrey which is used on a regular basis. Because of the importance of the trade relationship with Lambe*Rt~ia, it was deemed important for Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador to Gallifrey to be resident on Gallifrey. But the man chosen to represent our most important trading partner is not technically-speaking an alien. He is a citizen of Lambe*Rt~ia by place of birth, but he is a Time Lord by parentage and by education. The alien provisions don’t apply specifically to him.”

The Doctor raised his eyebrows in amazement. Catherine was confused by this apparent inconsistency in the ruling. That is, until the Castellan clarified the point for them by adding, “Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador to Gallifrey was educated and graduated from the Academy here on Gallifrey. He graduated in the same year as the Premier Cardinal.”

Catherine asked, without thinking, “You’re very familiar with the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador’s background, aren’t you, Castellan? I wonder why?” Her security training made her suspicious of a diplomat whose personal history was uppermost in the mind of the most senior security official on the planet.

The Castellan replied, “Ms Mere, it is my business to know the general background of all the Ambassadors from the planets that Gallifrey trades with – and most of Gallifrey’s Ambassadors and their key staff as well. Even Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia and the irritating Sir Zedga.” Looking at the expression of surprise on Catherine’s face, the Castellan smiled kindly, as he added, “It’s part of the normal security procedure on Gallifrey. Of course, Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador to Gallifrey is a special case, being a Time Lord, but not a Gallifreyan citizen.”

Catherine remarked, “I suppose that, if necessary, he would be vouched for by the Premier Cardinal?” As she saw there was no denial from the Castellan, she continued, “But being a special case he was always going to be of interest wasn’t he?”

The Castellan didn’t commit himself by making a comment to what he saw as largely rhetorical questions.

But the Doctor, who had listened to Catherine’s conversation with the Castellan with interest, was not so circumspect. Following his own train of thought, he replied, with more than a little harshness to his voice, “I expect that Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador actually handed the petition for Gallifrey’s assistance directly to the Premier Cardinal – both for convenience and to ensure that his old friend would be involved in the process. He probably thought that the Premier Cardinal would be sent to Lambe*Rt~ia to verify the situation there. But he obviously didn’t know that the High Council would never agree to one of the councillors becoming involved directly in the business of another planet – even just for verification of the situation there.” The Doctor paused to prevent himself from displaying too much bitterness in front of the Castellan.

Not being aware of the finer quirks of Gallifreyan politics, the Doctor’s comments raised more questions in Catherine’s mind than they answered. She thought she understood why the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador would want the Premier Cardinal involved. They were old friends, after all. But why was the Doctor so sure that it was intended for the Premier Cardinal to visit Lambe*Rt~ia? And why wouldn’t the High Council allow him to be involved? But she refrained from asking as she could see that the Doctor was keeping a tight rein on his emotions. Bearing in mind his outpouring of grief earlier, she didn’t want to stir anything further by asking him awkward, or at least unwelcome, questions.

The Castellan knew the Doctor was right and said so. Like the Doctor, he realised that the High Council needed a means of retreat from the situation without having to admit that they were even there. Outsider involvement was the only answer.

When he had finished discussing security matters with the Doctor and his companion, the Castellan hoped to investigate one more thing before he left the TARDIS. There seemed, to him, to be some strong bond between the Doctor and his companion – what it was, he didn’t know. But he was curious to find out. He wondered if it had any bearing on why she was travelling with the Doctor at such a crucial time…..

Like Chancellor Borusa, the Premier Cardinal wasn’t entirely surprised when the Doctor hadn’t submitted tamely to the High Council’s request for help in exactly the way they had intended him to. The Premier Cardinal was interested to see that time and regenerations hadn’t blunted the edge to his character that he had seen in him when he was a student that he mentored at the Academy. Usually, it would be expected that such an edge would have disappeared as he aged and matured, but in the Doctor’s case, it had obviously only consolidated more through experience.

He still remembered the Academy speech that the Doctor had given for his final assessment – a speech that was controversial in its content, but about a subject that was close to the Doctor’s hearts. It was a speech that was remembered at the Academy as one of the greatest and most controversial speeches ever given for a final assessment and the only one ever to be published. The Premier Cardinal had advised the Doctor against delivering such a speech, both as his tutor and as his friend. Not because of its content precisely, but because in delivering it he would be jeopardising his chances of graduation. The examiners preferred the students’ topics to be uncontroversial, but to still be original and from the hearts. But the Doctor had refused to accept his advice and had delivered his well-written, but highly controversial speech. However, the speech was delivered with such passion and conviction that the examiners could not have failed him if they tried.

The Premier Cardinal smiled at the thought of the determination of the Doctor even then. And from the recent discussions at the Colonnade and during dinner, his former tutor knew that the Doctor was still just as determined and probably still as passionate in his convictions as he had been as a student. Which, as far as this task was concerned, might not be such a bad thing for Gallifrey or for Lambe*Rt~ia either.

The Doctor had always been the Premier Cardinal’s first choice, after himself, for this task. It was why he had ensured that the majority of the High Council’s messages of contact were sent to Earth, a planet he knew the Doctor was interested in and frequently visited. He had congratulated himself on the success of this stratagem, but as he thought about it, he suddenly wondered if the Doctor had been the High Council’s choice for this task all along. It was highly probable that his past association with the Doctor might have lead some of the High Council into assuming that he could successfully contact the Doctor where they might not be able to…..

“Cardinal!” Chancellor Borusa repeated for the second time. He repeated it with a sharper edge to his voice than before. He could see that the Premier Cardinal was clearly in some type of reverie and not attending to those around him. This time, Borusa finally managed to permeate the Premier Cardinal’s musings and brought him back to more immediate matters.

The Premier Cardinal was embarrassed. To be caught not attending to the Chancellor was a major social faux pas at the very least. But he quickly recovered from his embarrassment. Putting his thoughts about the High Council to the back of his mind, he replied, “Yes, Sir.”

Chancellor Borusa continued, with just a touch of sarcasm in his voice, “It would seem as if our guests of honour and the Castellan have left us for the moment. Perhaps we should adjourn this meeting until tomorrow?”

It seemed like a request, but the Premier Cardinal knew it was really a direction. He replied, “Of course, Chancellor. And do I have your permission to arrange for the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador’s presence at our meeting? It would seem as if his presence may be required.”

The Chancellor inclined his head in agreement and then almost spoiled the effect by the twinkle in his eyes when Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia angrily objected to the Premier Cardinal’s request.

Borusa, who knew exactly how to crush objections when necessary, turned to the Ambassador and asked in his most urbane voice, “To what are you objecting, Ambassador? Surely not to your counterpart’s presence at our meeting tomorrow?” His eyebrows rose in mock surprise as he spoke.

The Ambassador, who did indeed object to the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador’s presence, did not reply. Being a diplomat, he knew when to raise objections and when to keep silent. It was one thing to object to an idea suggested by the Premier Cardinal, but an entirely different circumstance when that idea was supported by the Chancellor of Gallifrey. The Chancellor, being the second-most important member of the High Council, was not a man to be ignored without an extremely good reason. Politely taking his leave of the Premier Cardinal and the Chancellor, the Ambassador headed for the transmat terminal, his executive officer quickly following him.

After the Ambassador and his executive officer had transmatted away from the Colonnade, the Chancellor asked the Premier Cardinal to stay. He asked him for his opinion of the Doctor and what he thought his attitude to their task was.

The Premier Cardinal was quite taken aback by this. He was momentarily speechless. The Chancellor never asked for anyone else’s opinion. Did he really want his opinion or just a mirror of his own?

Borusa was amused by his colleague’s reaction. It was most impolite to read another Time Lord’s thoughts, but he didn’t need to in this case. He could see from the Premier Cardinal’s reaction what he was thinking. The Premier Cardinal, like the Doctor in a later period, had been yet another of his students at the Academy. As part of the training in the non-involvement policy of Gallifrey, he had lectured him then on when it was appropriate to give an opinion and when not to. Surely he hadn’t forgotten?

It seemed that he hadn’t. The Premier Cardinal realised that Borusa wouldn’t have asked for his opinion if he hadn’t wanted it, especially when it pertained to the Doctor. So he quickly told the Chancellor how he thought the Doctor would address this situation between Gallifrey and its trading partner. When he had finished, the Chancellor seemed to consider his words for a few moments, then said, drily, “Not unexpected, knowing the Doctor’s choice of the, shall we say, creative approach over the perhaps easier and more straightforward one. But possibly his approach may be the more effective one.”

The Premier Cardinal nodded in agreement. After all, despite it being hushed up in true Time Lord style, even he had heard of the way the Doctor had chosen to discover the identity of the late President’s assassin and how he had managed to prevent his own execution at the instigation of the assassin. It had been very risky, but also very, very effective. “Even at the Academy he never worried about the risks involved in his actions,” the Premier Cardinal thought. There were times when he really admired the Doctor’s courage and impulsiveness.

The Chancellor needed no further information, so indicated that their discussion was at an end, before making a dignified exit via the transmat terminal.

As he waited for the transmat to be available to him, the Premier Cardinal wondered what the Doctor and the Castellan were discussing. Presumably, he thought, it must be something of a security nature – either Gallifrey’s or Lambe*Rt~ia’s or both. It made him wonder how the Doctor’s security expert companion would contribute to the discussion. Somehow, despite her being an alien, he didn’t expect that she would sit by on the sidelines of any security discussion.

The Doctor had suspected that Catherine’s concern for him when they first arrived on Gallifrey had intrigued the Premier Cardinal. But for once the Doctor had been wrong. The Premier Cardinal had noted Catherine’s concern for him, certainly, but it was an impression of confidence that she exuded that made him wish that he could be present at their conversations. It had been an instinctive reaction for the Premier Cardinal to provide his support for Catherine to be allowed relative freedom on Gallifrey, despite the policy against aliens that prevailed.

The transmat arrived at the terminal. As he walked to the terminal and transmatted back to the reception room before heading to his private quarters, the Premier Cardinal considered the current situation on Gallifrey.

He wondered why the High Council persisted with such an archaic rule as the one regarding aliens visiting Gallifrey. In his opinion, non-involvement was one thing, but deliberate isolation was another. He was convinced that there was much that Time Lords could learn from other races and it would add to the Time Lord knowledge base. It was also absurd that other planets received ambassadors from Gallifrey into their midst whereas, with the exception of the Ambassador from Lambe*Rt~ia who wasn’t technically alien, their ambassadors were not welcome on Gallifrey. He thought this was an imbalance that needed to be changed. But how? He needed the opportunity to show the High Council that an alien could make an advantageous difference to an expected outcome.

The Doctor, travelling here in his own time capsule, bringing his alien, security expert companion with him, provided him with the opportunity he needed. Ms Catherine Mere’s credentials had been accepted by the Castellan and he was no fool. The Premier Cardinal also knew that the Doctor was no fool either. Ms Mere would provide valued input to this issue with Lambe*Rt~ia. He was convinced of that…..

The Castellan had no sooner closed the TARDIS door tightly shut behind him as he left for his quarters, than the Doctor flopped down on the two-seater near the console. He seemed to be relaxed – his right arm was stretched out along the back of the chair and his long legs, encased in the black close-fitting trousers and knee-length black boots of the Gallifreyan formal robes were stretched out before him. But the pose seemed a bit too forced to Catherine. She didn’t say anything at first, just watched to see how long the pose remained.

After about ten minutes, he turned to her and smiled with one of his illuminating smiles. His eyes twinkled as he said, “Even I need to sit down at times, Catherine. You probably do too.”

Catherine didn’t comment, but just walked towards the chair, carefully ensuring that she didn’t catch the hems of her silk culottes on the Doctor’s boots as she did so. She carefully sat down on the two-seater next to the Doctor and leaned back into the back of the chair, touching her shoulders gently against his arm as she did so. Normally, she would have apologised and leaned forward again, but she was more tired than she would admit and the feel of his arm and the back of the chair was very comfortable.

The Doctor had been going to discuss the plan for tomorrow with her, but it could wait until the morning. It had been a very long and stressful day for both of them. From their unexpected arrival in York to the message that recalled the Doctor to Gallifrey, it had been an emotional rollercoaster for both of them. Instead, he just quietly said, “Thanks, Catherine. You’ve been fantastic, today.” He gently squeezed her right shoulder as he said the words and looked at her just in time to see her eyes close. She really was very tired. He often forgot that his human companions tired sooner than he did.

Her last memory before she dropped to sleep was of a strong arm holding her close, silk touching silk, the feel of a light silk tunic against the left side of her face and a familiar voice with a soft Northern accent telling her she was fantastic…..

(* To be continued….. *)