The Belphegor Inheritance
Return to Gallifrey
Rhonwen felt the Doctor's hand grasp her own. She opened her eyes in surprise. The first thing she saw was Tommy standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the shimmering energy behind him. For some reason, Tommy did not burst into flame. The sphere seemed to be unable to pass him.
Cho Je said, "Go now, Doctor. While there's still time."
The Doctor nodded. Everything started to happen at once. There was a terrible whining sound as the sphere seemed to gather energy. A sudden shock wave burst from the doorway, throwing Tommy forward into the room. The sphere swooped in towards the Doctor and Rhonwen. There was a tremendous flash of light, and Rhonwen found herself gently falling, as if she were floating through warm liquid. Somehow, she hadn't thought death would feel like this.
She was still aware of the Doctor's hand holding her own tightly. The blaze of light faded, and Rhonwen began to realize that she wasn't dead at all. She was standing with the Doctor in the cellar of the meditation centre, right next to the TARDIS.
The Doctor released Rhonwen and started to pull the key from its chain around his neck. "We haven't got much time," he said, as he hurried to unlock the door. "We want to get away before that thing catches us up again."
"How did we get down here?" Rhonwen asked, puzzled.
"That was Cho Je's doing. A form of psychic teleportation." The Doctor got the door open, and gestured for Rhonwen to enter. She didn't need telling twice.
They dashed through into the control room, and the Doctor closed the doors behind them. Then he busied himself about the control panel, his hands flicking switches and turning knobs faster than Rhonwen could keep up with. He reached out and threw home a huge lever. A terrific booming sound rang through the ship, causing the control room to shake. The Doctor pushed another lever, and the central column started to rise and fall. The protesting scream of the engines filled the air. Rhonwen found her head starting to swim. She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. The disorientation was not as bad as last time. She felt the roll of the floor beneath her feet and knew that the TARDIS was in motion once more.
Once her head had started to clear, Rhonwen asked, "What happened to Tommy and Cho Je?"
"Oh, they'll be all right," the Doctor reassured her. "That globe is a conglomeration of dark thoughts - evil, hate and greed. You see, Tommy can't be affected by negative psionic energy. His mind is totally innocent. It creates a psychic shield against evil thoughts. And Cho Je knows how to defend himself. He possesses immense mental powers. How do you think we got down to the cellar?"
He turned his attention back to the controls. He started to flick a series of switches.
"Where are we going now?" Rhonwen asked. "Back to London?"
The Doctor looked at her a little sheepishly. "Ah," he began, "I've decided that it's unwise to stay on Earth just at the moment. As long as that sphere of energy is hunting me, innocent people are going to be killed. You wouldn't want that, would you?"
"No, of course not," said Rhonwen. "I understand. So where are we going?"
"Your home planet?"
The Doctor nodded. "That's where I'm needed," he said. "Besides, it's likely that the sphere originated there. It would need some sophisticated exitonic circuitry to generate psionic energy like that, and Gallifrey is one of the few places where exitonics have been perfected. Once generated, the energy must have tracked me back through the time vortex, homing on my bio scan." He looked up from the controls with an apologetic expression. "I promise I'll get you home sooner or later," he added.
Rhonwen smiled. She decided to look on the bright side. There was no point getting upset about something she couldn't change. "I've never been to another planet before," she said. "I expect I'll find it fascinating."
The Doctor nodded. "That's the spirit. Knowledge can only be gained through discovery."
"So, how far is it?" Rhonwen asked. "Twenty nine thousand light years? Won't that take rather a long time?"
The Doctor shook his head. "Not by TARDIS," he said.
Images swam through her head, flooding her superganglion. The President closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. Joining with the Matrix was always the same initially. In a sense, it was like making instant telepathic contact with thousands of minds simultaneously.
Slowly she began to drain out the extraneous information. It was a futile search, and she knew it. An extensive examination of all available records had already been conducted, and had proved fruitless. Physically joining with the Matrix was the last resort, but there was no reason why it should yield any more data.
The strain became too much for the President. Of its own accord, the Circlet lifted from her head, severing her link with the Matrix. She slumped back into the throne, exhausted.
She was dimly aware of the Surgeon General fussing about her with various medical instruments, but the President paid him no heed. His examination was a routine procedure following a Matrix link up. The President knew she was physically unharmed. She was just drained of mental energy.
Slowly, the face of Chancellor Cabulas swam into view before the President's eyes. Behind him stood the other members of the High Council: Cardinal Lodar of the Patrex Chapter, Cardinal Tamos of the Arcalian Chapter, and Cardinal Zelara of the Prydonian Chapter.
One thing that the revolution had achieved was to destroy the political stranglehold the Prydonians had previously maintained upon the High Council. No one could remember a time when there hadn't been a Prydonian president and chancellor. But after Goth and Borusa and more recently Pandak the Fifth, no one was prepared to trust them again. The President herself was a Patrex, whereas Cabulas was an Arcalian.
Cardinal Zelara no longer had the influence his predecessors had been able to command. He was the sole Prydonian left on the High Council, and he had only been elected because of the lack of suitable opposition candidates - something that would surely change as time went by.
Cardinal Lodar took a step forward, his purple robes billowing behind him. "Well?" he demanded. "What information were you able to glean from the Matrix?"
The President decided to forgive his impertinence as a symptom of his anxiety. He might have been her Cardinal, but he still had to display the appropriate respect to the office of President. Lodar was very young to hold his position, but so many of the elder statesmen had been killed or impeached during the revolution.
Lodar's father had been the Patrex Cardinal on Pandak's Council. He had been killed during the fighting, so it was impossible now to establish the extent of his complicity in Pandak's crimes. Traditionally, the Patrexes and the Prydonians were political opponents, so it was easy to believe Lodar's claims that his father was innocent. That had been the main thrust of Lodar's election campaign, stressing that his father had been one of the few Councillors to try and oppose Pandak's schemes.
The President took a deep breath. "Your Eminence," she began, "I cannot access the relevant information."
"But that is ridiculous," said Lodar. "The Matrix is the greatest store of knowledge in the Universe."
Chancellor Cabulas stepped between Lodar and the President. He knew she was still drained after completing the link, and wasn't well enough to successfully argue with the Cardinal.
"Your Eminence," Cabulas said, "it is as I feared. The Matrix has suffered great internal damage in recent centuries. The penetrations by the Vardans and the Andromedans have distorted the internal structure. We also believe that Presidents Borusa and Pandak may have erased sections to cover their tracks. The Matrix is not the great repository it once was."
"But surely there must be some records remaining of Omega's and Rassilon's work," Lodar protested. "Something that could help us in this crisis."
The President rose unsteadily to her feet. "It would appear not," she said. "The information has either been lost, or is inaccessible."
Lodar had an angry look in his eye. For a moment, it looked as if he was going to continue the argument. But thankfully he backed down.
The President looked around at the rest of the Councillors. "We are still searching for any Time Lord who may have the knowledge to assist us," she said. "Castellan, have any Time Lords responded to the summons?"
Rodan hovered on the far side of the Presidential throne room. "Many have returned to Gallifrey," she said. "Some of them even have knowledge of solar engineering."
"But none," said Cabulas, "seems to know enough about our present crisis to assist us. Oh, they work and struggle to formulate plans, but it seems fruitless."
"Can there be no one to save us?" asked Lodar.
"Not all Time Lords have yet been recalled," Rodan replied. "Perhaps those with the requisite knowledge are still to arrive."
"It is the only hope we have," said the President.
The Doctor activated the scanner screen. "There you are," he said. "Kasterborus Gamma Two. Gallifrey."
Rhonwen looked up at the screen. All she could see was a dull looking globe, a sort of greyish brown colour. Somehow she had thought that the planet would be brightly and exotically coloured. You never saw dull muddy planets in sci-fi movies. "It looks a bit grim, doesn't it?" she said.
"You should try living there," the Doctor replied.
Rhonwen looked at the control panel. The central column was still rising and falling. "Aren't we going to land?" she asked.
The Doctor nodded. "In a moment, I hope. I'm waiting for the TARDIS to contact Traffic Control. We have to receive clearance to be let through the Transduction Barrier."
"The Trans what?"
"The Transduction Barrier," repeated the Doctor. "It's the ultimate
defence of Gallifrey. No space or time vehicle can land on the planet
whilst the Barrier is raised."
The President had rested, and the Council reconvened in their debating chamber. Rodan stood half in shadow, just inside the door. She didn't like politics and tried not to get involved. Her only function in this chamber was to address the Council on security matters. She knew that this President and Council were full of good intentions, but the possibility of corruption always existed. If ever there should be another revolution, Rodan wanted to make sure she distanced herself enough from the rest of the Council, so as not to be condemned along with them.
Chancellor Cabulas was on his feet. "We have a multitude of temporal engineers at our disposal," he said, "and yet none has the expertise or the knowledge to intervene in this crisis."
Cardinal Tamos rose to his feet. "Surely, your Excellency, the men who design and build TARDISes are capable of devising a solution to this problem? The technological genius displayed in each new model of TARDIS speaks volumes for the skill of our engineers."
"I agree, your Eminence," said Cabulas. "But the fact remains that every new design of TARDIS is simply a refinement, a modification of what has gone before. For all the ornate features incorporated into the latest versions, two things have remained unchanged. The central control core, the semi-sentient brain of the TARDIS; and the briode nebulizer, which utilizes the Rassilon Imprimature in our DNA structure to give us a unique symbiotic relationship with our machines. Our research has revealed that those were the inventions of one man, the original designer of the first TARDIS. His was the true genius."
"Then where is this man?" asked Cardinal Lodar angrily. "Why is he not here to suggest an answer?"
The President raised her hand for calm. After a moment, Lodar subsided. The President said, "We have sought this man, but we cannot find him. Information about him is scarce. Among the surviving Matrix records, we have discovered his name, the fact that he was a Prydonian, and a member of the High Council some seven hundred years ago. But beyond that there is nothing. His present whereabouts are unknown."
"Surely his name is enough to trace him?" said Lodar. "You can check his bio data extract."
"I have thought of that, your Eminence," replied Chancellor Cabulas pithily. "But no data extract exists for any Time Lord by that name."
"After seven hundred years," added the President, "he may be dead. Even Time Lords do not live for ever, especially after invasions and revolutions."
"It is more likely," said Cabulas, "that he was the victim of political assassination. All mention of him ends seven hundred years ago, the time when Morbius dominated the High Council, and sought to bend all Gallifrey to his will. As you know, many High Councillors were purged under Morbius's regime. It is possible that the TARDIS designer was a sacrifice to Morbius's political ambitions."
A soft chiming sound drew Rodan's attention from the debate. She pulled back her sleeve to reveal her wrist communicator. She touched a control, and the face of a Traffic Control technician appeared. Rodan reflected that he was probably speaking from the same control room she herself had once occupied.
"What is it?" Rodan asked.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Castellan," the technician said. "There is a time vehicle requesting permission to land."
"Do I have to be troubled with every traffic control matter?" Rodan snapped. She'd left all that behind. "Can't you handle it yourself? That is your function."
"But Castellan," the technician protested, "it isn't using any of the recognized authorization codes."
"Why didn't you say so?" Rodan asked. "Is it one of ours?"
"It's a very old model, Castellan. A type forty. I don't think I've ever seen one before."
"A type forty?" Rodan said. She found memories stirring within her. "Allow it through the Barrier. Direct it to land in the precinct of the Panopticon."
Rodan pressed another control, and contacted the Commander of the Chancellery Guard. "Commander Stalred," she said, "take a squad of guards to the Panopticon precinct to greet an incoming time vehicle. The occupant is to be accorded the utmost respect."
"At once, Castellan."
Rodan took a step forward into the chamber. The debate was still going on. Cardinal Zelara had taken the floor. "I find it deplorable," he said, his orange robes swirling about him, "that this administration has allowed Gallifreyan technology to stagnate to such an extent."
"Your Eminence," Cabulas replied harshly, "you know very well that the stagnation of our society occurred over the past thousands of years, when we had to suffer beneath the yoke of Prydonian rule."
"That is a scurrilous accusation," snapped Zelara. "It is well known that the greatest figures in Time Lord history have hailed from the Prydonian Chapter."
"Oh yes," said Cabulas. "Morbius, Goth, Borusa, the Master. Need I go on?"
Zelara was momentarily silenced. Rodan took advantage of the pause to approach the President's seat. She said, "My Lady, I have to report that a TARDIS is even now crossing the Transduction Barrier."
"Another Time Lord answering the summons?" replied the President.
"I think just possibly this Time Lord may be able to help us," Rodan went on. The eyes of the Council were suddenly all upon her. "It is a type forty TARDIS," she announced.
There were blank looks from most of them. But in the President's eyes, Rodan saw the glimmer of comprehension.
The President got to her feet. "Cardinal Zelara," she said, "you will be pleased to know that the new arrival is a Prydonian. And as the Castellan says, he may be able to help us."
"But who is it?" Zelara asked.
"There is only one Time Lord who still operates an old type forty," the President replied. "The Doctor."
Zelara's face twisted into a sneer of contempt. "That renegade," he snorted. The Doctor had been responsible for the loss of the Prydonian power base in the High Council. Zelara had no reason to feel joyful at news of his arrival.
"Come come, your Eminence," said the President. "The Doctor is a hero of
the people. I do not need to remind you that he has saved this planet on
more than one occasion." She stood up from her chair, picking up the skirts
of her robes. "I suggest we go to greet him, with the welcome he
The TARDIS came to rest with a gentle bump. The instruments inside the glass column started to rotate, but the Doctor did not bother to check any of the readings. As this was his home planet, Rhonwen thought, there was no need for him to bother. He would know what to expect.
The Doctor turned on the scanner screen. Rhonwen looked up to see a tall building, its walls constructed from what appeared to be a dull green crystal material. "Right outside the Panopticon itself," said the Doctor. "We are honoured."
He turned his attention back to the control panel. "Now, just smile politely and leave the talking to me," he said. "The Time Lords get a bit fidgety about outsiders visiting Gallifrey. They might think you're out to steal their secrets."
"I'm sure they won't see me as a threat," Rhonwen protested.
"You don't know the Time Lords. Living in a society as insular as this, they start to get suspicious of everyone."
"All right," said Rhonwen. "I'll do my best to stay in the background."
The Doctor opened the doors, and they went outside. The TARDIS was standing on one side of a large square. The green crystal building was behind them. Other smaller buildings enclosed the square. Beyond them, Rhonwen could see other structures, some with tall towers and connected by high walkways. Up above, the sky was a sort of orange colour.
Her surroundings did not command Rhonwen's attention for long however. She was startled to find a number of armed men waiting for them. They were clearly guards of some kind, dressed in red and white ceremonial uniforms. They held strange looking pistols across their chests.
"The Chancellery Guard," said the Doctor. "Good old friendly Gallifreyan hospitality. Now I know I'm home."
One of the guards stepped forward. He wore a golden breast plate, which seemed to denote him as the leader. He said, "Welcome, sir, madam."
"I beg your pardon?" the Doctor replied. He was genuinely surprised to receive a friendly greeting on Gallifrey.
"I am Commander Stalred," the guard went on. "I have been sent by the Castellan to welcome you. My orders were to show you the highest respect."
"And not before time," the Doctor muttered.
Rhonwen's attention was suddenly drawn by a great commotion from a doorway across the square. More of the Chancellery Guards emerged, and started to form two lines, flanking a path from the doorway across the square to the TARDIS.
Then a number of peculiar figures proceeded along this avenue of guards towards them. There were six of them. They wore long flowing robes that reached to the floor, and close fitting skull caps over their heads. On their shoulders rested strange curved collars, that extended behind their heads into ornately carved shapes. At their head was a woman, her costume coloured white and silver. The others were dressed in purple or green or orange.
Crossing the square, the President looked carefully at the Doctor. For just a moment, she didn't recognize him. He had regenerated of course, but Time Lords never relied on physical appearances. They recognized one another by their telepathic signatures. The President was puzzled. There was something different about the Doctor. Something she couldn't put her finger on.
She was aware of the look of disappointment crossing her face. It was not the appropriate welcome to show their honoured guest. There was enough of the Doctor she knew in his signature to be sure that it was really him. The President smiled. "Doctor," she said. "It is good to see you again."
The Doctor smiled in return. "My Lady," he replied. "I see you took my advice and stood for the Presidency."
"I was not the people's first choice," the President said. "But I do my best. It is fortunate that you have returned."
"Doctor, Gallifrey faces a terrible crisis."
The Doctor raised a sardonic eyebrow. "Another one?" he said.
"We do not know whether disaster can be averted," the President went on, ignoring his comment. "We would welcome any suggestion you could make."
The Doctor scratched the back of his head. "Well," he began, "I shall be delighted to take a look at this problem of yours."
"Excellent, Doctor. I shall have all information made ready for your inspection. In the meantime, the Castellan will show you to your quarters."
With a final nod, the President swept back the way she had come, the rest of the High Council following her. They left just one woman behind, wearing robes of drab brown and grey. The Doctor looked at her closely. "It's Rodan, isn't it?" he said. "Seventh Grade Traffic Control Technician. I'm sorry, I don't seem to remember very much about our last meeting."
Rodan smiled. She had not expected anything else. The Doctor's memory of the Sontaran invasion had been lost at the time, wiped by the tremendous psychic shock of the exploding Demat Gun. "It's all right, Doctor," Rodan said.
"So you're the Castellan now?" asked the Doctor. "Well, I always thought you were destined for better things."
"Thank you, Doctor," Rodan replied graciously. She turned her attention to Rhonwen. "This is your companion?" she asked.
The Doctor turned round, startled. He had quite forgotten about his former pupil. "This is Rhonwen Jones."
"An Earthling?" asked Rodan. "Very well. Welcome to Gallifrey, Rhonwen Jones."
Rhonwen nodded her head very politely. She felt too overwhelmed by everything to speak.
"Follow me, please," said Rodan. She set off, leaving the square by the nearest passageway. The Doctor and Rhonwen followed, and the squad of Chancellery Guards brought up the rear.
As they walked, the Doctor took notice of several unusual features. Firstly a gang of Shobogans, the unruly underclass of Gallifreyan society, shuffled down the street past them. They did not show any deference to the Castellan, nor did they appear frightened of the guards. Usually, Shobogans wouldn't even be allowed in a main thoroughfare like this. It was reserved for Time Lords and senior servitors only.
The Doctor stopped to examine a wall, on which had been painted a large mural. It depicted a pleasant scene of sand dunes, with the sun setting over them. It was a fairly accurate depiction of the landscape beyond the Capitol, by a talented but clearly untrained hand. The Doctor said, "The Time Lords don't normally go in for street art, do they?"
Rodan turned and regarded the painting with disdain. "It is the work of the Shobogans," she said contemptuously.
"More vandalism, eh?" the Doctor asked. "I suppose you arrested them for it?" It was typical of Gallifreyan society to suppress creative expression. The Time Lords had such a low opinion of the Shobogans, dismissing them as vandals and trouble makers, and assigning them the most rotten jobs. Yet, this painting clearly showed that there was more to the Shobogans than that. The artist responsible possessed a talent, that deserved to be nurtured.
Rodan shook her head. "It is not vandalism," she replied. "It is a mural. And the artist was not arrested. He had as much right to paint there as anyone else. The streets belong to everyone."
"Even to the Shobogans?" the Doctor asked, surprised.
"To everyone," repeated Rodan. "Much has changed since the revolution." She didn't sound too happy about it.
"So I see," the Doctor murmured. He had come back to a world he hardly recognized. Gallifreyan society was changing, evolving. The Time Lord oligarchy was at an end. Perhaps the next few centuries would see a brave new Gallifrey, the birth of a truly democratic system. Or perhaps hard line Time Lords would seek to regain their power, and oppress the lower classes once more.
The Doctor thought of how exciting it would be to witness such a development. How much more exciting to be a part of it, to help shape a better future. It was almost enough to make him consider living here permanently once more.
He shook his head to clear it. Heady thoughts, but they were for the
future. For now he had to concentrate on saving his former self. He turned
to follow Rodan once more.
Summoned by an urgent message, the President marched into the technical control room. She knew instantly that something was wrong. The atmosphere was perceptibly filled with an increased tension. The technicians were hurrying about their tasks, almost with an air of morbid excitement. The President was unaccustomed to witnessing such a level of activity on Gallifrey.
She saw Chancellor Cabulas, leaning over one of the technicians, studying the display on his monitor screen. Cabulas turned round, and straightened up as he saw her.
"What is it?" the President asked.
"A large earthquake in the Southern hemisphere, my Lady," Cabulas reported.
The President moved forward towards the monitor. "Is there much damage?" she asked. "What about casualties?"
Cabulas shook his head in confusion. "We are still attempting to collate all the data, Madam. The epicentre would appear to be in open country, away from any of the major towns."
"Then at least we might be spared a great loss of life," said the President.
"A few Outsiders, perhaps," remarked Cabulas. "Although since the revolution, there are fewer of those."
He turned back to the monitor screens. "This is merely symptomatic of the conditions that are afflicting Gallifrey," he went on. "There has been an increase in seismic activity across the planet. The effect is spreading to the Northern hemisphere now. Tremors have been detected mere kilometres from the Capitol itself."
"And all of this is linked to the changing dynamics of the solar system?" the President asked.
"It must be," said Cabulas. "The Eye of Harmony is starting to gain apparent mass more rapidly. Which means of course, that the sun is losing mass at a faster rate."
The President turned away and sighed heavily. "What about the instruments you set up to monitor the Eye?"
"We cannot even begin to understand the readings," replied Cabulas, gesturing futilely at the monitoring consoles. "But it is clear that the Eye is now experiencing massive energy fluctuations. We believe that these are responsible for the seismic disturbances."
"Well, you must remember that the Eye is effectively a black hole, its forces held in check. Now that the equation has been altered, those forces are gradually being released. The gravitational pull of the black hole is distorting the shape of Gallifrey."
The President tried to fix her face into an expression of brave determination. "We must be thankful that the Doctor is here, your Excellency."
Cabulas grunted dubiously. "Do you really think he will be able to help?
I know the people have great faith in him, but this problem may be beyond
even his capacity for working miracles."
Rhonwen dipped her hand into the cool water. She sat perched on the raised edge of an ornamental pool, in the middle of a little square. Just opposite her was the entrance to the small apartment in which she had been accommodated.
She had three or four rooms to herself. There weren't many creature comforts, but everything was clean and smartly appointed. The Doctor had been given a similar apartment adjoining hers.
Rhonwen slid her hand through the water, letting it slosh between her fingers. From time to time, people walked past her. A few of them gave her a curious glance, but no one said anything. Most of the people wore long robes, reaching to the floor. Some seemed haughty and imperious, moving as if they owned the place - Rhonwen assumed that they must be Time Lords. Others were less important, and seemed to be about some task, perhaps carrying some tool or document. But even they were impressively dressed in ornate robes.
There were other people, dressed in rougher clothing, who clung together in small groups or gangs. They didn't appear to have much purpose, they merely shuffled about talking amongst themselves. They were presumably the lower class, the Shobogans as the Doctor had called them, of whom Castellan Rodan didn't approve.
The door to the Doctor's apartment opened. Rhonwen looked up as the Doctor emerged. For some reason, she had expected him to change his clothes, and dress up in robes like the others. But he was still wearing the same old tweed suit. He looked as out of place as she did in her miniskirt.
Seeing Rhonwen, the Doctor made his way towards her. "Hello," he said. "How are you finding Gallifrey?"
Rhonwen looked around the square. This part of the city hardly seemed alien at all. The walls were made of strangely coloured metal and plastic, but otherwise it looked quite normal - houses with doors and windows, an ornamental pool. It wasn't what she expected another planet to be like. She had been more impressed by the green crystal building beside which they had landed. Rhonwen glanced upwards. The sky above was still orange. That at least was unusual.
"Is this really where you come from?" she asked.
"Well, not here exactly," replied the Doctor. "I tried to avoid the Capitol as much as possible. No, my family home is on the other side of the planet. The ancestral seat, you might say. It's halfway up a mountain, overlooking a small town." There was a far away look in his eyes, and his voice seemed to drift across centuries. "I haven't been back there for longer than I can recall. Perhaps if there's time later, I might pay the old place a visit."
Rhonwen stood up from the edge of the pool. She took a step towards the Doctor. "Are you an important person here?" she asked.
An expression of complete innocence descended upon the Doctor's features. "What do you mean?"
"Well, when we arrived, there was an honour guard and everything. And that woman, she was the President, yes?"
The Doctor nodded.
A woman president, Rhonwen thought. She knew she was on an alien planet. It would never happen back home. For instance, there was never likely to be a female prime minister, not in her lifetime.
"Well," she went on, "they don't normally send the President out to greet any old visitor, do they? And she seemed pleased to see you, so I was just wondering..." Rhonwen's voice tailed off, and she looked up at the Doctor expectantly.
He seemed to be deep in thought, as if deciding what he ought to tell her. Rhonwen wondered whether he had any dread secrets he wanted to keep hidden.
Finally the Doctor said, "I was President myself, a couple of times as a matter of fact. But that was all a long time ago. I don't remember very much about it."
Rhonwen was about to reply, but she suddenly found herself shaking. For a dread moment she thought she might be going down with a fever. Perhaps this was a consequence of travelling through time and space. After a moment, Rhonwen took in the fact that she showed none of the symptoms of fever. She wasn't sweating, nor was she shivering with a chill. The shaking had a different, external cause.
Her eye was caught by the water in the ornamental pond, and she saw that the surface was covered with hundreds of little ripples. The whole square was shaking. Rhonwen turned to look at the Doctor. She could see the worry written in his face. That didn't inspire confidence.
Suddenly, the floor beneath her feet started to move. The air was filled with a great rumbling sound, and she felt the ground heaving upwards. The side of the ornamental pool split open and water spilled out across the square, running into the cracks that were opening in the ground.
The floor lurched again, and Rhonwen stumbled. She fell and tripped over, tumbling against the wall of her apartment. The metal wall above her shattered, and the masonry behind it started to disintegrate. A large chunk of stone became dislodged and fell straight towards her.