The Belphegor Inheritance
The History Professor
Rhonwen Jones gazed forlornly into a plastic cup of coffee. She was beginning to wonder whether she had made the right decision to come here and study. It wasn't that she disliked her course. Far from it. History had always been her favourite subject, and she'd known for years that it was what she wanted to do.
In truth, she didn't like being in London. It was the throbbing hub of social life, certainly, the centre of the universe as far as the entertainment world was concerned. She could go out any night and hear the top bands playing. Just a few nights ago, she'd been to a Pink Floyd gig at the UFO club, and that had been quite an experience.
But overall London was too bustling, too confused, just too overpopulated for her liking. She yearned for the tranquillity of Llangadog, where she knew everybody and there were no unfriendly faces.
She knew she couldn't give up her course. Not only did she enjoy it, she knew she was carrying the family honour on her shoulders. Her father had made a success of his radio repair business, and determined that his only daughter was going to get the best start in life - the opportunities he had been denied - and that she was going to university.
Well, thought Rhonwen, here she was. It wasn't so bad really, and it was only for another couple of years.
A tinny racket began to squawk from the other side of the refectory. Rhonwen looked up, and saw without much surprise that it was coming from Douglas Shelley and his clique of friends. They had a transistor radio tuned to one of the pirate stations, and it was blaring out a recent single by the Stones.
Rhonwen didn't like Douglas Shelley. She had decided that the first time she'd met him. It wasn't just that he had tried to chat her up. She wouldn't have minded that so much. It was the way he had blatantly mentioned his father's huge house in Chelsea, his own sports car, and the absolutely heaps of cash he had, as if in some way that would instantaneously cause her to like him. "Oh God," he'd said at the Freshers' Ball, affecting a yawn, "it's so ghastly being rich. Really, it's such a bore."
And really, thought Rhonwen, it's such a bore that you have to keep telling everybody about it.
She glanced at her watch. She was going to be late for her appointment. She gulped down the last few cold dregs of coffee, and scrambled to her feet.
As she started to make her way towards the exit, Douglas Shelley caught sight of her. He waved, and darted up from his seat to intercept her.
"Ronnie," he said. "Hi, how are you?"
"Fine," said Rhonwen. "I wish you wouldn't call me Ronnie."
"Yeah right," said Douglas. "Rhonwen then. Listen, what are you doing tonight?"
Rhonwen fixed him with a cold stare. "Is this a proposition, Duggie?" she asked, deliberately abbreviating his name in retaliation.
He didn't seem to notice. He went on cheerfully, "Well, only if you want it to be. No seriously, some of us are going to a great gig tonight. Hendrix is playing, with Procul Harum and Denny Laine in support. Most of the tickets are sold out, but I know the right people. I could get you in if you want to go."
It sounded like a good gig, but if she went with Douglas, she'd have to be with him all evening. Rhonwen wasn't sure she could stand that. And anyway, he was bound to take it as a sign that she was interested in him. She'd never hear the end of it.
"And of course," added Douglas, "I could give you a lift there in my sports car."
Rhonwen opened her eyes wide in mock awe. "Oh well," she said, "that makes all the difference."
"So you'll come?"
He wasn't going to give up, Rhonwen thought. "I'm not sure if I can make it," she said. "I might have something else planned."
"Well, if you change your mind..." replied Douglas hopefully.
"Look, I've got to go now," said Rhonwen. "I've got a meeting with my tutor."
"What, Loony Smith?" said Douglas, laughing. "You'd better get a move
Rhonwen hurried along the corridor towards her tutor's office. For some reason she was annoyed by Douglas Shelley's comments. She knew that Doctor Smith wasn't mad. He was a bit eccentric perhaps. Sometimes he talked about historical events and figures with a strange familiarity, as if he had been there himself. Of course that was just a symptom of reading too many history books. Rhonwen was staggered by the vast knowledge Doctor Smith possessed. He didn't seem to have specialized, but to have paid equal regard to every period of history.
Rhonwen arrived outside the office door and knocked. There was no response. She tried knocking a bit harder. Still nothing. Finally, she tried to turn the handle, but the door was locked. Doctor Smith wasn't here. Rhonwen looked at her watch. She was only a couple of minutes late - it was unlikely that he had cancelled the appointment already and gone off somewhere. More likely, he was a few minutes late himself. He was a bit absent minded, but that didn't justify the snide remarks of Douglas Shelley.
That was another reason Rhonwen didn't like London - having to meet people like Douglas. His father had paid for him to come here and learn business affairs, presumably so he could go and make even more heaps of money. He wasn't interested in history - only undergraduate historians, thought Rhonwen ruefully. Still, she had condemned herself to acquaintances like Douglas when she had chosen to read history at the London School of Economics.
There was a sudden flurry of tweed further along the corridor as Doctor Smith came into sight. He was wearing the same old threadbare suit as always, or one very like it, with a plain brown tie neatly knotted about his neck. A pile of books was balanced precariously in his arms.
He arrived at the door of the office, and seemed not to notice Rhonwen. He fumbled in one pocket for a bunch of keys, somehow contriving to keep the books balanced in his other hand. He found the right key and unlocked the office door.
"Doctor Smith," Rhonwen said.
He stopped and looked around at her, then back to the door of the office. He read the name from the little brass plate on the door. "John Smith. Yes, that's right."
Rhonwen thought it amusing that he shared his name with the singer who'd been popular a few years back. Doctor Smith was in his mid forties, and very old fashioned. His only concession to modern style was the fact that his light brown hair was worn long, falling over his collar.
"Have you forgotten our appointment?" asked Rhonwen.
"Forgotten?" he replied. "I've forgotten something. Something very important. It'll come back to me one day. I'm always forgetting." He peered at her closely. "It's Rhonwen, isn't it? Come in."
He led the way into the office, dropping his books onto the desk. He took the chair behind the desk, and waved her to the seat opposite.
Rhonwen looked around the room. It was decorated with various antiques. A chaise longue rested against one wall. Beside the door was a vase, which Rhonwen could swear was genuine Ming, being used rather casually as an umbrella stand. An elegantly carved hatstand held a long tweed overcoat and two hats, a trilby and a panama. Little pieces of bric-a-brac from a number of different historical periods were scattered over the various shelves in a seemingly haphazard fashion.
"Now," said Doctor Smith, putting on his gold half frame spectacles, "we've been discussing Austria-Hungary, and the latter years of the Hapsburg dynasty."
"Yes," said Rhonwen. "I'm a bit confused by the emphasis that you placed on the Mayerling tragedy. I mean, it must have been a bit of a scandal at the time, but it was just a lovers' suicide pact."
"Ah, but was it?" said Doctor Smith mysteriously.
Rhonwen was puzzled by his tone. "Crown Prince Rudolf was stuck in an unhappy marriage," she began, "and couldn't get a divorce to marry his mistress. So they decided to end their lives together, rather than go on in secret."
"The trouble with history," replied Doctor Smith, "is that there's no such thing as a straight fact. You don't know that Prince Rudolf and Mary Vetsera were deeply in love. And there's no proof that she agreed to the suicide pact. But there is evidence that Rudolf was carrying on affairs with other lovers at the same time, which doesn't really make him seem that devoted to Mary Vetsera, does it?"
"So, why did he shoot her?"
"Well, we don't know," said Doctor Smith. "But Rudolf is reported to have asked a previous lover to join him in a death pact, which suggests that the idea to kill himself was there long before Mary Vetsera entered his life. Perhaps he wanted the presence of a woman to make it seem like a lovers' pact. His death certificate said he was of unsound mind."
"But surely," said Rhonwen, "that was to get around the fact that he was a suicide, so the Catholic Church would bury him in consecrated ground."
"Perhaps there was more truth in it than it appears. You see, Rudolf told many people that he feared he was going mad. His mother suffered from mental instability, and she was a Wittelsbach, one of the Bavarian royal family. There was a history of hereditary madness in the line, and Rudolf may have believed he would succumb to that. So, perhaps to save Austria-Hungary from gaining a mad Emperor, he took his own life, covering up the reason by making it look like a lovers' pact."
A far away look came over Doctor Smith's face, and he started to gaze into space. "Maybe one day," he murmured, "I'll find out what really happened."
"Doctor Smith," said Rhonwen.
He didn't seem even to hear her.
"Doctor," she said more loudly. She had observed in the past that he responded to his academic title more often than to his name - perhaps he liked to be reminded of his achievements.
He looked back at her. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "Where were we?"
"The Mayerling scandal," said Rhonwen. "Why do you see it as such an important event, with regard to the end of the dynasty?"
"Well," replied Doctor Smith, "not the event so much as its consequences. The whiff of scandal tainted the Hapsburgs in the eyes of the Austrian people. It also lost them a popular Crown Prince. Rudolf had many modern ideas and might have changed the face of the Empire. After the scandal, there was a great belief amongst the people that when the Old Gentleman - as they called the Emperor Franz Joseph - when he died, the Hapsburg Empire would die with him. The new heir apparent wasn't very popular."
"The Archduke Franz Ferdinand?" said Rhonwen.
Doctor Smith nodded. "Yes. I hope you can see how events in history intertwine with each other. If Rudolf hadn't died, he might have been a great Emperor and the Empire of Austria-Hungary might still exist today. Rudolf might not have been in Sarajevo in 1914, or he might not have been assassinated. But, history can't be changed. Franz Ferdinand was there, and he was assassinated, and we all know where that led."
"The Great War," replied Rhonwen.
"And ultimately the disintegration of the Hapsburg Empire."
Rhonwen nodded slowly. "I think I'm beginning to understand the way you look at history, Doctor. It isn't about facts, it's about cause and effect."
"All time is one vast concatenation," said Doctor Smith, rather theatrically. As he spoke, his hand delved into the pocket of his colourful waistcoat and produced his watch. He studied the face, and said, "Well, I think that must be the end of this tutorial. We have a lecture later this afternoon, don't we?"
"Yes," said Rhonwen. She got to her feet. "Thank you very much, Doctor
Smith. You've given me a lot to think about."
A hundred and thirty miles and twenty six years away, a pair of eyes suddenly snapped open. Abbot Cho Je was jerked from his meditative trance with a start.
Finally, it had happened. He felt a vast surge of mental energy, and a fluctuation in the life force of his old friend. It was time to put the plan into operation.
Cho Je calmly settled himself back into a trance. He stretched out with
his mind. If the Doctor was to be saved, his other self needed to be
brought back to full understanding.
The long years of mental torment were coming to an end. For centuries, Belphegor had struggled to gain mastery of his host body. Now at last, the host was weakened enough for him to exercise full control. He felt alive once more.
Yet still Belphegor was not whole. He felt hollow, empty, a shell of his former self. He could think, but he was missing many of his memories, the core of experience that made him who he was. Belphegor needed to free the rest of his consciousness from the trap that Rassilon had laid all those centuries ago.
He had the means. He had access to the Hand of Omega, and he still knew how to operate it. A plan was forming in his mind - he supposed it was appropriate now to call it his mind, even if it was incomplete.
But Belphegor's struggle was not yet over. There were occasions when the consciousness of the host fought to regain control. Belphegor still felt him, somewhere in the darker recesses of the mind. It was a duel of intellects. Sometimes Belphegor lost control completely, and had to watch helplessly as the host made desperate efforts to reclaim his mind and body.
It was to no avail. Belphegor was the stronger. Even in his incomplete form, he was stronger. The host had so weakened himself, after many centuries of separation from the Eye of Harmony, that he could not maintain the fight for long.
The host had made a contingency plan to save himself. That posed the
biggest threat now. Belphegor knew he had to defeat the scheme - but he
felt no undue anxiety. He knew exactly what he must do. He would need to
contact his agent on Gallifrey.
The President of the High Council of the Time Lords looked out across the Capitol from the highest point of the Citadel. Beyond the vast expanse of the city, the sun was setting, and the orange sky was darkening. The President watched as shadow settled upon the Capitol, and wondered whether a similar shadow was falling upon Gallifreyan society.
Every day for the past fifty years she had come here to watch the sunset, and to wonder whether it would be the final sunset upon the supremacy of the Time Lords. She knew that she was in a position unique for a Time Lord president since the days of Rassilon. No longer could she feel certain of the power of the Time Lords. Gallifrey had changed greatly in recent years.
The President knew she was partly responsible for this change. She could still remember clearly the events which had brought down the previous administration. She had been a leading member of the judiciary then, and had been appointed Inquisitor over the trial of the Doctor.
During that long process, the real facts had come to light. The High Council had ordered the trial to frame the Doctor, to prevent him from exposing the truth of the Ravalox affair. It was established that the High Council had ordered the destruction of the ancient civilization on the planet Earth, in order to stop the Andromedans using the world as a base from which to steal scientific information from the Matrix.
The revelation had prompted something extraordinary, something no Time Lord had ever thought to see on Gallifrey. A revolution had started. Of course, the Time Lords themselves had not taken part - their unquestioning acceptance of a static society would have allowed them to overlook the High Council's actions. Earth was after all only one world of thousands, and it was necessary to preserve the Time Lords' monopoly of advanced scientific knowledge.
But the truth had been leaked to the lower classes. The workers and the technicians, even members of the Chancellery Guard, had turned against the rule of the Council. They had formed into a mob and stormed the Citadel, intending to drag President Pandak the Fifth and his corrupt advisers out into the open to face the condemnation of the public.
Somehow Pandak himself had managed to escape, but his colleagues were stripped of their office and imprisoned. Things had happened quickly after that. Even the normally stoic Time Lords joined the rebellion, quick to denounce Pandak and his High Council and distance themselves from any association with it.
The people began to call for a new popular leader, and the Doctor was unanimously declared the new President Elect. But the Doctor had no interest in high office, and had already departed Gallifrey. With the power of the Time Lords disintegrating, the Inquisitor had led an investigation into the activities of Pandak and his Council. At least the revolution was orderly enough to let the Rassilonic Law be properly exercised. The Inquisitor had gained the trust of the people during the inquiry, and they had voted her in as President.
Now, fifty years later, she knew she did not have the authority that previous incumbents of the office had enjoyed. She looked down onto the high walkways above the Capitol. There were far more people moving about than there might have been before the revolution. The walkways had once been exclusively for Time Lords. The lower classes now claimed the same rights and privileges, and they could not be denied. They had proved already that they could overturn the rule of the High Council. The President knew she could not risk another revolution.
Gallifrey had changed. The Time Lords were no longer an elite. The new High Council was still composed exclusively of Time Lords, but that might not be true in the future. The people now insisted on electing their rulers.
Traditionally, the three Cardinals - the leaders of the three Chapters of Time Lords - had possessed an automatic right to a seat on the Council. That right no longer existed. Much to their own consternation, each Cardinal now had to campaign for office along with every other prospective councillor. To an outsider, it would appear that nothing had changed, for the Council still retained its traditional composition - but that was only because no real opposition party had been organized, and no other candidates fielded. That would change in time.
It was inevitable that one day ordinary mortal Gallifreyans would get themselves elected onto the Council. One day, there might not even be any Time Lords in office. It seemed impossible to imagine, but it could not be dismissed so easily. The power of the Eye of Harmony in the hands of mere Ephemerals? What would be the fate of the Universe then?
There was a polite cough behind her. The President turned to find Chancellor Cabulas standing framed in the doorway of the lift. "Excuse me, Madam President," he began. "I did not mean to disturb you."
The President waved away the apology. "It's all right, your Excellency. I was about to come down anyway. What can I do for you?"
"I have to inform you of a worrying development," said Cabulas. "I have just received an urgent report from the technical section. I felt that it should be brought immediately to your attention."
The President started to walk back towards the lift. "What is it?"
"The technicians have begun to detect major fluctuations in the power flow of the Eye of Harmony. They have no explanation for it."
"Could it be dangerous?" asked the President. They started to descend into the Citadel.
"It is hard to say, Madam President," said Cabulas. "The technicians do not really understand the Eye. As you know, it was lost for millennia, buried beneath the Panopticon. It supplied us with the power to control Time, and with our very nature as Time Lords, and yet we didn't know it was there. We took it for granted. Since its rediscovery, the technicians have tried to study and comprehend it, but the true secrets of Rassilon's Star elude us still. We merely measure and monitor it."
"Well, what are you measuring at the moment?"
"It appears that the Eye is becoming more massive. It is a slow process, but there could well be a danger."
"As I understand it," the President replied, "the Eye is balanced against the mass of Gallifrey in an eternal dynamic equation. If the mass of the Eye alters, surely the equation would not balance."
Cabulas nodded gravely. "That is true, Madam. There have been slight tremors reported from the Southern hemisphere. It would appear that the planet is becoming more unstable as a result."
The lift doors opened, and they walked along a corridor to the technical control room. Entering, the President and Cabulas moved over to a row of monitor consoles, where technicians were at work studying the Eye of Harmony, the planet about them, and the entire universe. All physical and technical data was processed here, from wherever in the cosmos it was gathered, before it was stored away in the Matrix.
The technicians looked up and offered a formal greeting, but the President thought that they were not quite as deferential to her person as they might once have been. Being a Time Lord - even the President - no longer carried quite the same prestige on Gallifrey.
The measured data confirmed what Cabulas had said. The Eye appeared to be growing more massive. Yet the Eye was the stabilized nucleus of a black hole, held in an eternal balance by the genius of Rassilon. It could not become more massive - it was inconceivable that Rassilon's greatest feat of engineering could fail now.
"If the Eye does indeed grow more massive," asked the President, "what will happen?"
One of the technicians spoke. "Gallifrey would be destroyed, Madam. Our entire star system would collapse into the black hole, and cause an explosion of temporal energy."
"It's worse than that," added Cabulas. "We generally believe that it could set off an anti-matter chain reaction. The fabric of the continuum would be torn open by the temporal explosion, and the boundary between the universes of matter and anti-matter would be breached. Anti-matter would flood into our continuum, and destroy half the Galaxy."
"What can we do to stop it?" asked the President.
Cabulas hesitated for a long moment. "I don't know that we can," he said finally. "None of us understands the Eye, nor how Rassilon stabilized it. If it is now unstable, there may be nothing that can save us. It would take a cosmic engineer of Rassilon's genius to attempt to restabilize the black hole."
There were no such engineers on Gallifrey. The scientific feats of the past were taken for granted. There was no need to understand them - Rassilon's work was supposedly everlasting.
One of the technicians suddenly uttered an exclamation of surprise. The President and Cabulas hurried over to his position. "What is it?" Cabulas asked.
The technician indicated his monitor screen. "I have been studying the
energy output of stars," he explained. "As a control reading, I used
Gallifrey's sun to calibrate the instruments. Checking the controls
afterwards, I have discovered a significant drop in the energy output of
Pandak looked around the dank vault. It was in subterranean chambers such as this that he had eked out a miserable existence for the last fifty years. It was the price of being a political exile.
After he had been deposed from the office of President, Pandak had been presented with several options. He still had a few friends amongst the Time Lords. They had helped to smuggle him out of the Citadel. They could have provided him with a TARDIS and allowed him to flee Gallifrey altogether. Pandak had considered it, but ultimately rejected it. His place was here. He was Lord President of Gallifrey, elected legally by the High Council of the Time Lords. He was not going to bow to the pressure of a disorganized rabble. He would remain on Gallifrey, in hiding if necessary, until the day when he had enough support to seize back the Presidency.
On that day, he would pay back all those who had offended him. The Time Lords who had been far too quick to join the rebellion would be suitably rewarded for their disloyalty.
Pandak would not lightly forgive that accursed woman who had stolen his office, with her talk of fairness and legal procedure. What did she know of politics? Would she have sat back and let insolent Andromedans steal the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of millennia from the Matrix? If one world had to suffer, then so be it. Earth was insignificant beside Gallifrey.
The mob, who had risen against him, would soon know Pandak's wrath. The reprisals he would take against them would ensure that they were never again tempted to question the authority of their betters.
His return to power would come not a moment too soon. Pandak still maintained contacts within the Capitol above. Now there was even a member of the High Council among his followers. The tales he had been told of Gallifreyan society, of the sheer insolence with which the plebeian classes now treated their superiors, filled Pandak with horror. He would soon put a stop to all that.
It would shortly be time to move. He had command of a group of men, perhaps enough to engage the Chancellery Guard in combat. They would not be enough to overcome the mob, but that was no longer necessary.
Pandak had spent fifty years in the dark chambers below the Capitol. His allies had provided all the comforts and supplies he needed, but they had been unable to cheer him. He had known in his hearts that he would never be able to gather enough support to take back the entire planet.
That was before he had met his new ally. A voice had spoken to him - a voice that came from the very darkest reaches of Gallifreyan history. Pandak was offered absolute power, and all he needed to do was storm the Citadel and steal the regalia of Rassilon. With it he could take control of the Eye of Harmony. The rest would be done for him.
Pandak waited now for final confirmation.
There was a shimmering of light on the far side of the chamber, and a whirring sound that he knew precipitated some kind of transmat beam. A figure materialized in the midst of the light. The glare was too bright for Pandak to make out anything more than a silhouette, but it was clear that the newcomer was short in stature. He would not seem very impressive to someone who did not know his true identity.
When the newcomer spoke, it was in a soft and lilting voice, carrying a distinct accent that Pandak could not place. It was not a recognizable Gallifreyan dialect. "How have you progressed?"
"All is prepared, great Belphegor," replied Pandak. "The men are ready to move at my signal. We shall have the Sash and the Rod."
"Perhaps so." The voice of Belphegor sounded dubious. "The Citadel is a very defensible position. It may not be as easy to take as you suppose."
Pandak felt himself bridling. He had planned long on behalf of Belphegor, and it angered him that his master possessed such a low opinion of his talents. "I shall succeed," he affirmed.
"Very well," replied Belphegor, but there was still a doubtful note in his voice. "Once you have the artifacts, you must move quickly to the Panopticon and release the Eye of Harmony. Can you do this deed and avoid capture?"
"I believe so," said Pandak. "I have friends on the High Council who can cover my tracks, and my men will keep the Chancellery Guards occupied." He hesitated before going on. "Mighty one, will not the release of the Eye destroy Gallifrey?"
"Do not fear," said Belphegor. "I shall preserve this world. I have the ability to control mass and energy. When I have the power of the Eye, I shall grant you the gift of immortality, and you shall rule Gallifrey forever."
"Yes, great one," replied Pandak, his voice an awed whisper. "Give me the word to begin."
"Not yet. There are still preparations to make. And first, there is something you must do."
"Command me, oh Belphegor."
"There is one Time Lord who may yet defeat me. He and he alone has some power to use against me. He must be neutralized before he can do any harm. You may have heard of him. He calls himself the Doctor."
"I have good cause to remember that name," Pandak replied bitterly.
"You must get access to the Archive section," said Belphegor. "One of
your contacts could help you. From there, you must obtain a copy of the
Doctor's bio data extract. Then you must use the information within to
construct a defence against his meddling. I shall instruct you how to go
The discovery of the fall in solar energy had set off a flurry of activity in the technical control room. One of the supervisors had suggested a possible explanation for the phenomenon, and investigations had proceeded along those lines.
A technician handed a printed final analysis to Cabulas. The Chancellor scanned the sheet, and looked up at the President. "I think it is true," he announced. "Energy is inextricably linked to mass. The sun has lost some of its mass."
"Is that possible?" the President asked.
Cabulas did not have an answer. Instead he went on with the technical conclusions. "That would explain the apparent fluctuations of the Eye. It is not unstable in itself. Our instruments for monitoring the Eye are calibrated to the mass of the Gallifreyan solar system. If the sun has lost mass, the instruments will have adjusted themselves to that new total of mass in the system. The Eye would appear to have become more massive, when in fact the background conditions have changed."
"But even if the Eye is the same," said the President, "if the sun loses mass the equation will still not balance."
"Yes," replied Cabulas. "Gallifrey could still be destroyed and the Galaxy still endangered."
The President shook her head in perverse wonder. It seemed to her that someone must be responsible for this looming catastrophe. But who could possess such a destructive power? There was only one person she could think of - her infamous predecessor, Pandak the Fifth.
She had long lived in fear that Pandak would seek revenge upon Gallifrey. He had escaped justice, so he had to be at large somewhere. There were many vaults and chambers lost in the depths of the Capitol, forgotten for centuries. It was almost certain that he had taken refuge somewhere amongst them. Rumours abounded that he had amassed a number of followers, and might even now be plotting a counter coup to take back power. Such rumours started to look more likely now - except that the President failed to see what Pandak would gain by destroying the planet.
"Could someone be responsible for this?" she asked.
"I do not know who might be able to influence stars in such a way," said Cabulas. "Except..." His voice tailed off, as if he did not dare to speak what he thought.
"Except whom?" the President prompted.
"I was going to say, except one of the great cosmic engineers. Someone like Omega or Rassilon."
The President wondered what they could do. In the past, they would have been able to visit Rassilon and ask him. He might even have been able to tell them how to correct the imbalance. But that was impossible now. One of the first actions of Pandak's presidency had been to order the time looping of the Death Zone, to seal it forever. At the time it had been welcomed as a good decision. Now, it meant that they could no longer get into the Dark Tower and beg Rassilon for assistance. Gallifrey was on its own.
"Is there anyone who understands the Eye of Harmony?" the President asked. "Who might yet be able to save us?"
"I shall institute an immediate search, Madam," said Cabulas. "But I fear it is futile. The knowledge of the stellar and temporal engineers belongs to the past. It has never been necessary for we Time Lords to understand such things. The Eye of Harmony is not something to be understood. It simply is."
"Has it come to this?" asked the President. "Have we grown so complacent in the knowledge of our supremacy, so scientifically stagnated, that we have lost the means to save ourselves?"
"Omega and Rassilon never shared their secrets," explained Cabulas, "even with their contemporaries. Their writings from that time are cryptic and semi-mythological. There was never a chance for us to understand their achievements."
"But we have had the means for centuries to conduct our own research, to
develop our own knowledge and understanding. Instead, we have taken
Rassilon's legacy for granted and allowed the dust of time to settle upon
our society." The President looked up with sudden determination. "Begin
your search, your Excellency. There may be some still alive who worked on
the temporal engineering projects centuries ago - who may have some clue
how to deal with this menace. If not, we are doomed."
The attack was coming. Across twenty nine thousand light years, Cho Je
could feel a great burst of mental energy directed towards the Doctor. The
Abbot's mind extended across the years and the miles to London in 1967. He
had to reach the Doctor's mind, and release the blocked memories. The time
for hiding was over now. The time had come when the Doctor must fight for
Rhonwen looked up from her notebook. Doctor Smith was standing by the blackboard, scribbling down names and dates to supplement his lecture. His jacket was lightly coated with chalk dust. He seemed to have a wonderful memory for such small details, which was surprising when he seemed so absent minded about other things. Of course the bare facts were just supplementary to the thrust of the lecture. Doctor Smith believed that history was a pattern of cause and effect, and not a dry catalogue of events.
There were ten other students in the lecture class, and they were all scribbling notes furiously, trying to copy down everything the Doctor said. Rhonwen had discovered that it was impossible to keep up with him, and still understand what he was talking about. She found it better to listen and digest his theories, and then to discuss it all with him during personal tutorials.
"So," said Doctor Smith, "we're looking at the rulers of Europe in the years before the First World War. We come now to the Romanovs, whose dynasty came to an abrupt end at Ekaterinburg after the Russian revolution. I recall, in fact, the Grand Duchess Anastasia saying how terrified she had been by the revolutionaries, and how distraught she was at the death of her family. She never really recovered from that, and it hasn't helped her that she's unable to prove her true identity and gain access to her family's fortune."
He had drifted off into a kind of nostalgic reverie. Rhonwen was almost tempted to wonder whether he had in fact met Anastasia. There was a woman, called Anna Anderson, who claimed to be her, and was trying to acquire the Romanov fortune from the Swiss banks who held it. Perhaps Doctor Smith had even met her, but he couldn't possibly know whether her claim was genuine. He was just speculating. It was more likely that he had simply read a lot on the subject.
Doctor Smith returned to the present, and said, "So, who is the most important figure in the story of the Romanovs' last days?"
There were a few suggestions from around the class, such as Nicholas II and Lenin, but Doctor Smith rejected these. Rhonwen realized what the answer was. She said, "Rasputin?"
Doctor Smith clapped his hands in delight. "Exactly," he replied. "Grigory Rasputin, the so called holy man who held the Tsarina in his power. He was a remarkable figure. He came from a peasant background in Siberia, the son of a horse farmer, and he had no proper theological training. He was a starets, a wandering holy man without a formal ordination - there were many such men in Russia at that time. Yet Rasputin possessed an almost hypnotic power of persuasion, that not only elevated him into high society, it brought him to a point in the early years of the Great War where he was virtually ruling Russia. His influence over the..."
His voice trailed away. He seemed to have difficulty finding his next words. The class watched in puzzlement as he pressed his forehead against the blackboard, screwing up his eyes as if he were in some kind of pain. Rhonwen was on the verge of asking if he were all right. But then Doctor Smith took a deep breath, and with a great effort turned to face the class. "I think that's all for today, ladies and gentlemen," he said. "You'd better go and read up on the Romanovs, and we'll discuss it next time."
He clutched his hand to his forehead, and winced once more. Then, without another word, he picked up his books and walked out of the room.
Rhonwen looked around at the rest of the class. They were all looking confused by what had happened. Then someone cracked a joke about "Loony Smith" and they all started to laugh. That was it, they dismissed it all with humour at the Doctor's expense. Rhonwen was annoyed with them. Anyone could see that he had been in pain.
She picked up her bag, and hurried from the room. She felt that she ought to check on Doctor Smith, just to make sure he was all right. She supposed he would have gone back to his office. She started to walk towards that wing of the building.
Just as she was coming off the staircase, Rhonwen walked straight into Douglas Shelley. He beamed a huge smile, which somehow conveyed not his pleasure at meeting her, but the fact that he thought she should be pleased to meet him.
"Ronnie," he said, "it's good to see you again. We must stop meeting like this." He started to giggle childishly.
"Oh, what do you want now?" Rhonwen snapped. She was in no mood for him at the moment.
Douglas affected to look hurt by her tone. "I just want to see whether you've made up your mind about tonight. The offer's still open, but you'll have to hurry. There are plenty of other girls who want to go to the gig."
"Well, why don't you take one of them," said Rhonwen in exasperation, "and leave me alone?"
"That's not very nice. I'm trying to do you a favour here. There are people who would kill to get into that gig."
"Yes well, it's very kind of you, Douglas," replied Rhonwen, "but I really don't have time for this now." She tried to push past him and into the corridor.
"Where are you going?" Douglas asked.
"I have to see Doctor Smith," Rhonwen explained, "not that it's any of your business."
"Twice in one day, eh?" said Douglas. "What's going on? You're not getting yourself into a student-tutor relationship, are you? You know they never work out, don't you? Besides, I can't think what you see in him."
"Oh, shut up!" snapped Rhonwen. She shoved him back out of the way, and walked past him into the corridor. Leaving the surprised Douglas behind her, she started along towards the door of Doctor Smith's office.
She found it slightly ajar, and knocked upon it. There was no answer. She tried knocking again, but still there was no response. Eventually, Rhonwen simply pushed open the door and went inside.
She found Doctor Smith crouching on the floor, hunched up beside his desk. He had produced a key from somewhere, and used it to unlock a drawer at the bottom of the desk. Lying inside it, Rhonwen could see a number of strange artifacts, the like of which she had never encountered before.
In contrast, on the floor beside the desk was a quite mundane object. It was a golden picture frame, that presumably had come from inside the locked drawer. Rhonwen couldn't remember seeing it in the office before. Doctor Smith had evidently been looking at it, and had now laid it on the floor, the picture facing downwards. Rhonwen made her way over to Doctor Smith, and crouched down beside him. He didn't seem to notice her presence. She reached out a hand for the picture and lifted it up.
She studied it for a few moments before she realized what it was - a photograph of Doctor Smith and King Edward VII. There was no mistaking the former monarch. His face was easily recognizable from the photographs in history books. Edward VII had been dead for fifty seven years, and yet in the picture Doctor Smith looked just as he did now. Rhonwen estimated that the Doctor was about forty five years old, so it was impossible for him to be in the same picture as King Edward, wasn't it?
The Doctor's body started to shudder, as if in pain. Rhonwen laid down the picture and turned to him. "Are you all right?" she asked. "Doctor Smith, are you all right?"
He did not respond to her. She laid a hand upon his arm. "Doctor Smith," she implored.
With what seemed a great effort, he turned his head to face her. A look of puzzlement spread across his features. "Doctor who?" he murmured. He didn't seem to understand the use of his name. He suddenly looked at Rhonwen with great seriousness. "The blocks are starting to come off my memory," he said. "That probably means I'm in great danger. I wish I could remember. There's someone I have to talk to. He'd know."
Rhonwen let go of his arm, and shook her head in confusion. "I don't understand," she said. She looked again at the photograph of Edward VII, and wondered whether she was having a dream.
Doctor Smith - or whatever he wanted to call himself - reached into the open drawer and pulled out the objects within. One was a jet black box, which had two brightly coloured controls set in the top. He put this carefully down on the desk top. The second item was a thin silver cylinder, with an attachment on one end that looked as if it could be pressed down.
"What are those?" Rhonwen asked cautiously.
The Doctor indicated the box. "This is a psionic force field amplifier," he said. "I wonder why it's here. There must be a clue in that." He held up the metal rod. "And this is a Stattenheim remote control."
"What does it do?" asked Rhonwen.
"It summons..." Doctor Smith seemed to lapse into thought for a moment. "It summons an old friend," he said finally.
Then he raised his head, suddenly alert as if he had heard something. "I think it's starting," he said. "There may not be much time."
There was a sound from the far side of the room. Rhonwen looked up with a start, but all she saw was Douglas Shelley standing in the doorway. He must have decided to follow her along the corridor.
He raised his eyebrows at the sight of Rhonwen and Doctor Smith crouched on the floor behind the desk. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to interrupt. Don't stop on my account - whatever it is you're doing." His mouth started to twitch with laughter.
Let him think whatever he wants, thought Rhonwen angrily. I don't care.
But as she watched, Douglas suddenly turned away and looked down the corridor. From somewhere further along, a woman's voice could be heard screaming. Douglas slowly backed into the room.
A shape appeared in the doorway. It appeared to be a glowing sphere. It didn't seem to be made of any tangible substance, rather it consisted of some kind of shimmering energy.
It suddenly swooped into the room, heading straight for Douglas. Before Rhonwen's eyes, the ball of light seemed to pass right through him. Douglas's body instantly caught fire, and flames leapt from every part of him. He tried to scream, but all that came out was a terrible gurgling sound as his throat started to melt.
In mere seconds, all that was left of Douglas were a few charred remains, falling haphazardly to the floor. The ball of energy was still there however, hovering where his body had been standing just moments before.
Rhonwen watched it, transfixed. She felt so afraid that she couldn't move. She didn't think she would get very far anyway. Douglas hadn't stood a chance.
Before Rhonwen could think of anything else, the sphere started to move again, swooping with incredible speed towards her and Doctor Smith.