Chapter Thirteen

Catherine had just finished a short, but relaxing, bath and had returned to the TARDIS wardrobe room where she was carefully choosing her outfit for the all important meeting. She didn’t opt for the cinnamon silk culottes of the previous evening – she meant business and wanted to dress accordingly. Besides, in her opinion, silk culottes were not for meetings in the daytime. As she looked along the clothes hangers, she was strongly tempted to select her blue dress uniform. She looked at it for a few minutes. It was smart, businesslike and elegant. But she didn’t really want to appear in a uniform. At this meeting, she needed to appear calm and impartial and a uniform – even a dress uniform without insignia – could be misinterpreted. She didn’t know exactly how long these Gallifreyan time units were, but she assumed they were at least equivalent to an Earth hour, so she knew there wasn’t much time left to decide. As she flicked one coat hanger along the rod after another, she finally found exactly what she had been looking for. She quickly dressed and, after tidying her hair in front of the wardrobe room mirror and checking that her outfit was sitting properly, she headed for the console room. Undoubtedly, the Doctor would be waiting there for her by now…..

The Doctor, after a quick, yet refreshing, shower and a change of clothes, stood by the TARDIS console. He was repeatedly tossing a small spherical object into the air and catching it again, as he thought about the forthcoming meeting with the Ambassadors. The Doctor had never met the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador, but his background intrigued him – a Time Lord born away from Gallifrey, but educated as if he had been Gallifreyan born. “And now apparently being in a position to serve both planets,” the Doctor thought. He wondered where the Ambassador’s loyalties really were centred. Undoubtedly, he and Catherine would soon find out.

The Doctor had decided to wear his Gallifreyan formal attire again, just one more time. It wasn’t that he cared what sort of impression he made on these diplomats and officials, but that he knew it really was his last opportunity to wear these robes. Strangely enough, he wasn’t particularly emotional about it. There were no tears this time, just the inner strength that the Doctor had always had. He knew exactly how this meeting was going to proceed – up to a point at least. Catherine would need to do her part as well. But he had all the confidence in the world that she would perform her role perfectly.

He looked across the room as Catherine entered from the inner corridor. The Doctor grinned as he saw her choice of clothes. She had selected the perfect attire – a plain, long-sleeved, red blouse; black slacks with a matching thigh-length black jacket trimmed with a single red stripe around its edge; the black high-heeled boots from her dress uniform. It was very business-like, but still had an indefinable elegance which was most suited to a meeting with Gallifreyan diplomats. And the Doctor’s grin broadened as he noted that the red in her blouse and jacket matched the colour of his tunic perfectly.

Catherine immediately noticed that the Doctor was wearing his Gallifreyan formal robes again. Although, as she could have predicted, the predominantly orange ankle-length cape that was designed to cover his red tunic and close-fitting black jumper and trousers was hanging precariously from one of the tree-like roof supports behind the console. As she walked across the room towards the Doctor, thinking yet again how well the robes suited him, the Doctor stopped tossing the spherical object in the air and replaced it on the console. He turned a couple of knobs to the left of the scanner and tuned the scanner to show the Colonnade of Academia and its surrounds. “Ah,” he said as he looked at the officials starting to arrive for the meeting. “They’re starting to arrive.” He wanted to see exactly who was to be attending this meeting and to gauge the level of importance that the High Councillors and Ambassadors had placed on it. By the look of the number of officials turning up it seemed as if the High Councillors had taken his request seriously. “For a change,” he whispered aloud.

As Catherine reached the Doctor, she looked over his shoulder at the scanner. “Does that mean we are late for the meeting?” she asked.

The Doctor replied, without turning towards her, “Nah. We’ve plenty of time before we need to be there. Besides, I hate to be kept waiting around for the fun to begin.” Although he was half-joking, the Doctor managed to keep a straight face.

Catherine knew he was joking, but wasn’t going to be drawn on the comment. She raised her eyebrows and said, dryly, “There’s nothing like making an entrance, I suppose.”

The Doctor didn’t comment, but grinned broadly and his eyes shone encouragingly as he stood back from the console and folded his arms across his chest.

“Any ideas for the meeting, Catherine?” the Doctor asked. The Doctor knew she had been shocked at the Premier Cardinal’s ignorance of the nature of the threat to Lambe*Rt~ia and shrewdly guessed that as her shock dissipated that she would become angry. As he would be if he hadn’t been inured to the tricks and deceptions that various High Councils over the centuries had used to persuade or coerce him into carrying out the tasks that they deemed necessary, but didn’t want to soil their hands with. He put the momentary bitterness aside as he waited for Catherine’s answer.

Catherine frowned in concentration as she watched the arrivals on the scanner and considered the Doctor’s question. None of those she saw arriving at the Colonnade were faces she had seen before. She assumed they must be officials of some sort. The arrival of Sir Zedga and the Gallifreyan Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia closely after confirmed this.

“I haven’t any concrete ideas for the meeting, Doctor. But I do have a few questions that I’d like answered,” Catherine replied at last.

The Doctor nodded in encouragement.

Catherine continued, “Well, apart from the nature of the threat to Lambe*Rt~ia, which only Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador can tell us…..” As the Doctor nodded in encouragement again, she added, “I’d like to know why Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador is needed to remain on Gallifrey and other Ambassadors are not. And how Gallifrey’s Ambassador can think he can satisfactorily conduct his duties by visual link without ever setting foot on Lambe*Rt~ia.” She paused, before adding angrily, “And why such an obviously sophisticated civilisation like yours should be so insular and so bigoted, as to object to other races even visiting your planet. There’s so much that they could learn from others, if they just gave them a chance.”

Catherine calmed herself and nearly was angry all over again when she looked at the Doctor’s expression. He grinned at her, and then said by way of explanation, “Good points, Catherine.” The Doctor looked at the scanner and noticed that the Chancellor, the Premier Cardinal and the Castellan had all arrived for the meeting. “It’s time for the meeting. Come on,” he added, heading for the TARDIS doors.

Catherine sighed and turned to follow him, pausing to collect his cape on the way. When she reached his side, she tossed his cape to him and asked, “Forgotten something, Doctor?”

He grinned, put his cape around his shoulders and replied, “Nope.” Looking at the expression on Catherine’s face, he added with a grin, “Not now. Thanks.”

Catherine shook her head in exasperation as she followed him out of the TARDIS and secured the doors behind them. The Doctor touched her lightly on the shoulder and they headed along the corridor in the direction of the Colonnade of Academia and the meeting with the Ambassadors and the officials.....

Chancellor Borusa was the last of the invitees to the meeting to arrive at the Colonnade, except for the Doctor and Catherine.

Like most of the other invitees, he had aides who were attending the meeting with him – a penalty, he always thought, of his senior position. He thought it was a pity that the Doctor had called for this meeting so openly and so directly. The Ambassadors would be bringing their aides with them and when their aides came, the option was for other officials to come too. At least with an exclusive dinner like the one they had attended the previous evening, only invitees were present and any discussion later was by invitation only. There was no opportunity for additional officials to be involved. An openly canvassed meeting was a different matter. The Chancellor had only managed to send his aides to the Colonnade ahead of him because he had been summoned to a private audience with the Lord President of Gallifrey, at which they wouldn’t have been welcome. He had been required to present him with a progress report on the High Council’s task as specified in the message and had come to the Colonnade directly from that audience.

Borusa had shrewdly guessed that the Premier Cardinal would have chosen the Doctor as the Time Lord to undertake the High Council’s task, if he were able to. The high percentage of messages sent through time and space to that unremarkable planet that the Doctor quite often frequented seemed to confirm that hypothesis. Although he would never admit it openly in a meeting such as the one he would be attending soon, Borusa had to agree with the Premier Cardinal’s choice. But none of this was discussed with the Lord President. All the Lord President was interested in was the results.

The Chancellor had had an extremely busy day. He had started his official duties by conferring with the Premier Cardinal over breakfast to discuss the various issues relating to Lambe*Rt~ia requesting defence assistance from Gallifrey.

Both Time Lords were well aware that Gallifrey was required under contractual agreement to provide this assistance, but equally they both knew that any assistance of a military nature was no longer possible. Gallifrey had long ago dispensed with its battle fleets. Borusa would have been interested in the exact nature of the threat to Lambe*Rt~ia’s security, but knew that his former pupil, the Premier Cardinal – a friend of the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador’s since their Academy days together – would not have asked for the details. Details were not required, or even desired, to table the petition for assistance with the High Council. And transactions with Lambe*Rt~ia had always been culturally and politically sensitive.

It was because these transactions were so sensitive that the High Council of Gallifrey had entertained the practically unthinkable – to allow Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador to Gallifrey to be actually resident on Gallifrey itself. Of course, the High Council had placed conditions on the residency. To reside on Gallifrey, the Ambassador, who naturally needed to be a citizen of Lambe*Rt~ia, must also be highly knowledgeable about Gallifrey, its history, science and culture, including a working knowledge of the ancient language known as High Gallifreyan. Borusa always privately thought that the conditions were placed there by the High Council, expecting that they could never be met. At the time, Borusa was only a non-executive member of the High Council, but he used his former position as one of the senior lecturers at the Academy to suggest the one person who would actually fulfil all those conditions.

The current Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador to Gallifrey was certainly an unusual case. He was the only one to have ever graduated from the Academy without being Gallifrey-born. His parents were both Time Lords, but were resident on Lambe*Rt~ia at the time of his birth due to his father being Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia, so his presence on Gallifrey did not contravene Gallifrey’s law against aliens. Technically, he wasn’t an alien. It was inevitable that he would follow his father into the diplomatic service in some form and once he had graduated from the Academy, what was more natural than that he would look to capitalise on the combination of his Lambe*Rt~ian citizenship and his Time Lord background, education and contacts. For instance, he owed a large debt of gratitude to Borusa in suggesting him as the only person that would acceptably meet all the High Council’s criteria for a Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador to be resident on Gallifrey. This was a debt that had never been truly repaid by the Ambassador, and the Chancellor fully intended that it would be repaid in full when the time was right.

And after the audience that the Chancellor had just had with the Lord President, Borusa reflected that that time could be fast approaching.

However, the Chancellor didn’t immediately contact the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador or even the Premier Cardinal when he arrived at the Colonnade. He sought out the one person present who probably had more knowledge of what the Doctor was looking to achieve from this meeting than anyone else – Castellan Spandrell. The Castellan had met at length with the Doctor the previous evening and the Chancellor knew that they had met again this morning. But as to the content of their discussions, that was open to debate.

Security issues would have certainly been part of it, particularly with Ms Mere being an expert in security matters. But the Chancellor suspected that the Castellan was a man of wide interests, so it was not beyond the realms of possibility that their discussions may have covered other issues. And the Chancellor was very interested in which issues those may have been.

Chancellor Borusa was just about to question the Castellan on his meetings with the Doctor and Ms Mere when the transmat arrived with the last of the meeting attendees.

The Doctor and Catherine left the transmat terminal and stepped into the Colonnade, to find themselves in the midst of at least twice as many people as either of them would have expected to be present at the meeting. Catherine whispered, “I told you we’d be making an entrance, Doctor.”

He didn’t reply immediately as his attention was claimed by one of Chancellor Borusa’s aides. The Chancellor wanted to have a private word with him before the meeting, but the Doctor politely refused. As far as he was concerned, the less time he spent privately with the Chancellor the better, both for the Chancellor’s sake and for Gallifrey’s. Besides, it was one thing to leave Catherine on her own at a select formal Gallifreyan dinner, under the auspices of the Castellan, but quite another where there were almost certainly those that would have no compunction in harming or discrediting her because of her being an alien. The Doctor could see about a dozen officials present, apart from Sir Zedga, and was determined that she was not going to fall foul of any of the bigotry prevalent among so many of his own people. He looked back towards her and gave a small half-smile and the ghost of a wink to reassure her of his support, if indeed she had needed reassuring.

Catherine didn’t need reassuring, but she was glad of the Doctor’s presence. Being human, she was no telepath, but she realised that there were probably many people present who would at the very least like to see her falter in her role. And she guessed probably a few of those attending would like to see the Doctor fail as well for various political reasons. She stopped herself from instinctively moving closer to him to provide the proverbial ‘united front’ to the attendees. In her role as his security expert, she didn’t think that that would be appropriate.

However, she did look across to where the Castellan was standing and nodded in his direction. But, as she half-expected, she received no answering response from him beyond a slight inclination of his head in acknowledgement. She wondered who was going to be conducting this meeting – the Premier Cardinal or the Chancellor.

As it turned out, neither of them was conducting the meeting. The Premier Cardinal introduced all the principle attendees to one another – the Castellan, the Chancellor, Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia and his counterpart from Lambe*Rt~ia, various other executive officers, the Doctor, Catherine. As she had anticipated, some of those executives seemed a little more reserved when it came to both the Doctor and herself. But she and the Doctor were there to do a job and that was all that was important. And what that job entailed exactly depended on the outcome of this meeting.

After all the introductions were completed, the Premier Cardinal said, “Doctor, you requested this meeting…..”

The Doctor pursed his lips, as he considered the matter. He hadn’t expected them to hand over all responsibility for the meeting to him. But then again, it was typical that the Time Lords would wash their hands of the final responsibility for managing their difficult issues. He just wished he knew what was in Borusa’s mind about this. Although he shrewdly guessed that the Chancellor, being the political person that he had become, would be following direction from the Lord President himself. There was no-one else present who could represent the Lord President, so Borusa had to be fulfilling that role. And he guessed that this meeting would have been thoroughly discussed by the Chancellor with the Lord President sometime in the time between him leaving the Premier Cardinal’s rooms and arriving here.

The Doctor deliberately flicked his cape back from his shoulders and then folded his arms, before saying, “Yes, I did.”

Before the Doctor could continue, Sir Zedga asked a question which was probably on the minds of some of the others present. He asked, “When do you plan to visit Lambe*Rt~ia, Doctor?”

The Doctor raised his eyebrows in surprise at the suggestion. He replied, in an even tone of voice, “I don’t, Sir Zedga. If your own Ambassador hasn’t felt the need to visit Lambe*Rt~ia himself in all the time he has been Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia, then why should I?”

Sir Zedga looked shocked that this matter would be brought up in front of Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador to Gallifrey. He hadn’t expected that his Ambassador would be criticised so openly. But then he didn’t know the Doctor well.

The Doctor continued, “This problem will not be solved by my visiting Lambe*Rt~ia. It will be solved by using diplomacy.”

The Doctor addressed himself to the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador. “Didn’t you broach this matter with the Gallifreyan Ambassador before you presented the petition to the Cardinal?”

The Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador shook his head and said, “No, Doctor. It is not the way these matters are done on my home planet.”

Catherine interrupted at this point to ask, “But you were educated here, Ambassador. You’re a Time Lord. Surely you realised that Gallifrey might do things differently?”

“Yes, Ms Mere. But it is not my role to try to see things from Gallifrey’s perspective, only Lambe*Rt~ia’s,” the Ambassador replied coldly.

A sense of shock seemed to pervade the meeting. The Premier Cardinal was the most shocked of all. He suddenly realised that his Lambe*Rt~ian friend had used him and had placed him in a very difficult position politically because he had been the one to table the petition with the High Council. So Gallifrey was now bound to provide support that was no longer possible for them to provide.

Catherine, however, wasn’t shocked. She was angry. In her former role as a Sergeant in Central Orion Protection and Security she had seen many conflicts and crimes start from misunderstandings of a political, cultural or diplomatic nature. But there was no such excuse here. The Gallifreyan Ambassador was lazy in his knowledge of the current details of Lambe*Rt~ian politics and culture, and the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador was knowledgeable in the ways of Gallifrey, but chose not to consider them. In her opinion, each was as bad as each other and both showed an arrogance which was unpardonable.

And in her anger, she said so.

She went on to say, “You have both placed the security of two great planets and trading partners at risk because you chose not to speak to one another directly. This is not true diplomacy!”

(* To be continued….. *)