The Belphegor Inheritance
The earthquake subsided in a matter of seconds.
The President found herself cowering on the floor of the technical control room. She was surrounded by thousands of fragments of stone, where the walls had cracked and crumbled. Her raised collar had protected her head from any falling masonry.
She straightened up and looked around. "Is everybody all right?" she asked.
There were a few moans from around the control room. Some of the technicians had received minor cuts and bruises, but otherwise appeared to be unharmed.
Chancellor Cabulas dragged himself out from behind an upended console. There was a gash on the side of his head, where a stone had hit him. He looked a little unsteady on his feet.
The President moved towards him, stepping carefully over the uneven floor. She reached out to support Cabulas by the arm. "Your Excellency," she asked, "are you badly hurt?"
Cabulas managed to form a weak smile. "I'm not ready for my next regeneration just yet," he replied. "It looks worse than it is."
They were startled by a strange grating sound that filled the control room. The President was alarmed that an aftershock might be about to rock the Capitol. But then she realized that the sound was coming from the door. The entrance was jammed with a large chunk of masonry, and the automatic door was grinding against it.
Half glimpsed through the settling clouds of dust, she could make out red figures beyond the door, trying to gain access. A number of Chancellery Guards were heaving at the huge stone. Someone shouted for a sonic lance to be brought, but the guards had managed to get a purchase upon the stone, and forced it out of the way.
A moment later the Surgeon-General was in the room, and starting to fuss around the President. She waved him away. "Attend to the others," she said. "The Chancellor is wounded."
She looked around at the damaged control room. "We must get some of these systems operational," she announced. "We need to be able to assess the damage."
Castellan Rodan had entered the control room behind the Surgeon-General and several of his assistants. To allow the medics space to work, the President moved towards Rodan, and asked, "Castellan, have you any idea of the state of the Capitol?"
Rodan shook her head. "We are without power in several districts. Internal communications are badly affected. We know there has been a lot of structural damage. So far, casualties appear to be light."
"Then we must be thankful," said the President. "Although I am surprised, with all this equipment at our disposal, that we couldn't predict the occurrence of a simple earthquake."
She turned to regard Chancellor Cabulas. The Surgeon-General had finished his work, and a layer of synthetic skin was just starting to solidify on the Chancellor's forehead.
"It wasn't a predictable earthquake, Madam," he announced. "Our forebears had more sense than to build the Capitol on top of a fault line. As you might have guessed, it is a result of the crisis that is affecting our planet. The gravitational fluctuations of the Eye of Harmony are wreaking havoc on Gallifrey's tectonic plates. The increased tectonic activity will cause unpredictable earthquakes all across the planet."
"Then anywhere could be struck by the next seismic disturbance?" the President asked.
Cabulas nodded gravely.
Taking a deep breath, the President turned to Rodan. "Castellan," she said, "is there any news of the Doctor?"
"None yet, my Lady," Rodan replied. "I last saw him at his quarters."
"Go there and find him. Let us hope he is unharmed. It's time he had a
look at our problem."
Covered in dust, Rhonwen sat upon a slab of stone that had once been part of the wall of her apartment. She had a few bruises, and a bad cut in her knee, but otherwise she was unharmed.
She was rather surprised to be still alive. Even as a chunk of masonry was falling towards her, she had seen the Doctor suddenly dart forward. He had managed to scoop her up in his arms, carrying her as if she weighed nothing, and lifted her clear of the danger. Moments later, everything was calm again. The earthquake was over as quickly as it had begun.
The Doctor crouched beside the ruins of the ornamental pool, dipping his handkerchief into the few puddles of water that still remained. With the damp cloth, he started to clean the cut on Rhonwen's knee. "How do you feel now?" he asked.
"A bit shaky," Rhonwen said. "I've never been in an earthquake before."
"I have," the Doctor replied. "San Francisco in 1906."
Rhonwen looked at him curiously. She had no doubt that he was telling the truth. She remembered the picture of the Doctor with King Edward VII.
People were starting to move at the edges of the square, clambering over the rubble that was partially blocking the entrances. Rhonwen saw the red uniforms of the Chancellery Guard, covered now in dust. The guards made some attempt to clear the debris, and hunt for buried survivors.
When a vague path had been cleared, the brown draped figure of Castellan Rodan emerged into the square. She looked around anxiously, and took in the Doctor's presence with an obvious sense of relief. She started to hurry over.
"Doctor," Rodan began, "I am glad you're not harmed."
"Thank you," the Doctor replied. "I think someone ought to have a look at Rhonwen's knee though."
Rodan signalled to the medics who had followed her into the square. One of them came across, and started to tend to Rhonwen's injury.
"What's the situation?" the Doctor asked. "Are there any dead?"
Rodan nodded. "So far, we have found a few Shobogans buried beneath the wreckage of their homes. Those slum dwellings in the outer districts were not of sound construction. Fortunately, no Time Lord appears to have been killed."
The Doctor wagged a reproving finger. "Surely as Castellan, you should be concerned for the well being of all the citizens," he said. "After all, it's the Shobogans' city as well."
He contrived to ignore Rodan's look of disdain at mention of the lower classes. She was clearly having a hard time adjusting to Gallifrey's restructured society. She probably wasn't the only one. The Time Lords had been so serenely assured of their supremacy for millennia, it was hard for them to concede any of their power.
Rhonwen came to join them. The medic had finished his work, and her wound was healing beneath a layer of synthetic skin.
The Doctor surveyed the scene in the square. The guards struggled to clear up some of the mess. They were not getting very far. There seemed to be an air of bewilderment about them all, as if they could not comprehend what had happened. Even with the concrete effects visible before them, they found it hard to accept there had been an earthquake.
The Doctor turned back to Rodan, and frowned. "You don't seem to be very well prepared for this emergency," he remarked.
"It has not been necessary to make preparations," Rodan replied. "Such a happening is impossible."
"Nothing's impossible, Rodan. You only have to take a look around to see that." The Doctor suddenly clapped his hands together, and started to rub them enthusiastically. Rhonwen had seen such a gesture before, during history lectures when he was starting to warm to a theme.
As if oblivious to the disaster around him, his face broke into a huge
grin. "An earthquake in the Capitol, eh?" he said. "You'd better let me
take a look at the Eye of Harmony."
Pandak shivered as a cold draught cut into him. Even through his thick robes, he felt it biting into his body. He was becoming fed up with his underground existence. He did not wish it to continue much longer.
He knew that his time was coming. The promises of Belphegor rang in Pandak's ears. He knew now that the promises were not empty. He had felt for himself the very ground shake at Belphegor's command. That would have frightened the Time Lords, if nothing else. Their precious Capitol threatened by forces beyond their understanding.
The vault was filled with the swirling blaze of the transmat beam. The figure of Belphegor materialized within the light. Once again, Pandak found himself screwing up his eyes, but he could not make out the face of the figure. All he was aware of was its limited stature. Pandak would have supposed Belphegor to be a towering figure, but this was not the case.
"Everything progresses well," Belphegor announced, his voice carrying that same lilting accent that Pandak couldn't place. "Soon, Gallifrey will be at my mercy."
"Yes, great one," said Pandak. "I have felt for myself the power that you command."
"A mere pinprick," Belphegor said. "A foretaste. When I am finished, the Time Lords will be on their knees."
"All will cower before you, mighty Belphegor."
"All save my trusted servant, Pandak. All save you. It will be a glorious day. But to achieve it, there is still work to be done."
"Command me, oh Belphegor," Pandak said.
"The one called the Doctor," Belphegor announced, almost spitting the name, his voice filled with hatred. "He still lives."
"How could he escape your wrath?" Pandak asked.
"He had help. From an interfering old fool I should have dealt with long ago."
Belphegor paused, and Pandak could sense his seething anger slowly subside. When he spoke again, Belphegor's voice was calmer. "The Doctor has arrived on Gallifrey. He is dangerous, for he may carry knowledge that could defeat me. He must be eliminated."
"Tell me what to do, great one," said Pandak.
"Summon your contacts on the High Council," Belphegor commanded. "There are tasks to which they must attend."
"And what of my plans?" asked Pandak. "My men can be ready to move at my word."
"Ah yes," Belphegor murmured. "Your plan to attack the Citadel. Do you think you can succeed?"
"I believe so, great one. The time has now come. I shall regain the Presidency, and the artifacts of Rassilon."
Belphegor chuckled to himself. "It may be harder than you think," he said.
Pandak was a little annoyed. He followed Belphegor's orders, but the ancient figure had not suggested any scheme to gain control of the artifacts. Pandak had instead adapted a plan he had already devised, to storm the Citadel and reclaim the Presidency. The acquisition of the Rod and the Sash would be included in such a scheme. Pandak failed to see why Belphegor always sounded less than enthusiastic about the operation.
Since it was the only plan he had, Pandak decided to press on regardless. "Before tomorrow is out," he said, "the so called President will be dead and control of Gallifrey will be back in my hands."
"Very well," replied Belphegor, with a trace of weariness in his voice.
"Proceed with your plan."
The Doctor strode purposefully into the Panopticon, causing the Chancellery Guards to scatter themselves out of his path. They stood beside the entrance, watching as he proceeded towards the dais. They did not dare interfere. The Doctor was accorded the highest honour, by presidential order.
Rhonwen had followed the Doctor inside, accompanied by Castellan Rodan. They too stood by the entrance, and watched as the Doctor climbed onto the dais and started to potter about the black monolith that contained the Eye of Harmony.
Taking various strange instruments from his pockets, the Doctor took a variety of measurements. Then he jumped down from the podium, and went to examine the monitoring devices that Chancellor Cabulas had set up. He took a small portable computer from his pocket, and punched the readings into it.
There was a sudden commotion amongst the guards, and they formed up in two ranks on either side of the entrance. Rhonwen turned around to see what was going on. The reason for the guards' sudden flurry of activity became clear. The President was entering the Panopticon. With her was one of the men who had accompanied her earlier, dressed in green robes.
Without even acknowledging Rhonwen's presence, the President moved towards Rodan. "Castellan," she asked, "why did you not bring the Doctor to the Council chamber?"
Rodan shrugged. "He insisted on seeing the Eye, my Lady. Besides, I could hardly stop him. He came rushing here almost at once."
They looked over to where the Doctor was still punching data into his portable computer. He seemed to be oblivious of their presence.
The President and Chancellor Cabulas made their way over to the Doctor. He looked up from his work, frowning. "Well," he said, "I can see what you mean by a crisis. You really ought to take more care of Rassilon's Star, you know."
"Doctor," began Chancellor Cabulas, "none of us understands this phenomenon."
"Huge gravitational fluctuations in the Eye of Harmony," the Doctor stated. "And yet according to your instruments, the mass of the Eye has not altered in any way. There's only one answer."
"The mass of the Kasterborus Gamma system has changed," Cabulas stated.
"Exactly," replied the Doctor. "Now when the Eye was rediscovered, two hundred and fifty years ago, I postulated that it was balanced against the mass of the planet. Your research since then has concluded that the entire system is the counterbalance. Am I right?"
The President spoke up. "At first we thought the Eye itself had become more massive. But the Chancellor's technicians discovered that in fact the sun had lost mass."
"Which would have created an apparent reciprocal reaction in the Eye," said the Doctor. "Your instruments would have readjusted to the background conditions, and would have seen the Eye as more massive. Chancellor, was it your idea to set up these monitoring devices?"
"Yes, Doctor," said Cabulas.
"All right. I've seen everything there is to see here. What steps have you taken to eliminate the problem?"
The President shook her head. "We have no idea where to begin. No Time Lord has the knowledge to repair the damage."
"Well," the Doctor replied, "I have one or two modest ideas that might be of use. I believe you wanted to speak to me in the Council chamber?"
Without waiting for their answer, he started to stride towards the door,
where Rhonwen and Rodan were still waiting.
Pandak stood on a high platform, overlooking a cavernous chamber. It was one of many ancient vaults he had discovered beneath the Capitol. There had been plenty of time for exploration during his years of exile.
The chamber had once contained the mighty engines which powered Gallifrey in the days before Rassilon. The platform was for overhead inspection of the machines.
Now the cavern was empty and echoing. It made an ideal place in which to address his followers, the inspection platform serving as a high dais. It was important that he was seen to tower above them. Such symbols helped to instill in his supporters a continuing sense of Pandak's supreme authority. Fifty years was a long time, and the longer he remained hidden, the more likely they were to forget him.
Standing below him were just some of his men, the leaders of various units. There were a few Time Lords of the lower grades. The majority of Pandak's followers were servitors - technicians, medics, minor scholars and record keepers.
Pandak could count only one Time Lord of high rank amongst his followers. He had exaggerated to Belphegor about his contacts on the High Council - he had the support of just a single member of that body. Still, that man was a Cardinal, and could wield a fair amount of influence. He had already proved his worth by accessing the Doctor's data extract.
The Cardinal was not standing with the assembled men below. He was too important an agent for Pandak to risk his cover being blown. Any one of the men below could be captured tomorrow, and would reveal what he knew under interrogation. Pandak therefore ensured that he gave his men only the barest details necessary for them to carry out their mission.
He announced, "The time has come." He could feel a thrill of expectation start to run through the assembled men. He had been priming them with promises for a long time, and he knew how to get up their enthusiasm. "You will have felt the ground shake. That was just the beginning. The very foundations of the new administration will tumble. The reign of this upstart President will soon be ended. Tomorrow, we move. You have your orders. Disperse to your positions."
The men started to leave the chamber. They were excited, but they maintained their silence. They were forbidden from speaking about their activities, even amongst themselves. It was safer that way.
Once the chamber was deserted, a maintenance hatchway opened in the wall to one side. The Cardinal emerged from his hiding place. He had been watching the meeting, unseen and unknown by any of Pandak's followers.
Pandak looked down into the gloom of the chamber, but all he could see was the outline of the Cardinal's raised collar.
"Had it not been for you," Pandak said, "my plans could never have come this far. You will be remembered when victory is mine."
"I have personal scores to settle," the Cardinal replied.
"Nevertheless, your reward will be substantial. When I am restored as President, you shall be my Chancellor."
"I am honoured," said the Cardinal, in a voice so quiet that Pandak had difficulty making it out. It seemed as if the Cardinal's reply was indifferent, as though such reward was unimportant to him - but Pandak couldn't hear him clearly enough to be certain.
"You understand the part you must play?" Pandak asked.
"Yes," replied the Cardinal. "My priority is to recover the artifacts of Rassilon from the President."
"I must have them," Pandak said. "First however, there is something urgent you have to do."
"You must be referring to the Doctor. Somehow he has survived the attack upon him, and is even now walking the streets of the Capitol."
"You must make another attempt on the Doctor's life," said Pandak. "You still have his bio data. Realign the psionic transmitter to close range."
"Very well," the Cardinal replied. "It shall be as you suggest."
A meeting was hastily convened in the Council chamber. The President paced the length of the chamber, waiting impatiently for the rest of the Council to arrive.
She glanced at Cabulas, who was sitting to one side, talking animatedly to the Doctor. They were doubtless discussing the situation in great technical detail.
The Doctor's companion, the young Earthwoman, was seated next to him. She did not seem particularly interested in the Doctor's conversation - since Earth was a technologically underdeveloped world, it was likely she could not understand what was being discussed.
The President did not approve of the presence of aliens in the Council chamber. The business of Gallifrey was for the ears of Time Lords only. She reminded herself sardonically that the business of Gallifrey was now for the ears of all classes, even as low as the Shobogans. One more outsider wouldn't make a lot of difference.
Castellan Rodan hovered by the door, talking quietly into her wrist communicator. She was trying to organize and co-ordinate the rescue and repair operations, that were continuing across the wounded Capitol.
Cardinal Tamos was the first to arrive. He entered the room, dispensing polite and formal greetings to everyone.
Some time elapsed before Cardinal Lodar appeared. His purple robes were crumpled and covered in dust. He made his excuses, explaining that he had been delayed by some fallen masonry. Fortunately, he was not injured.
They were still waiting for Cardinal Zelara. The President was anxious to start the meeting. She thought to herself how typical it was that the Prydonian Chapter was holding them up again. When Zelara did finally enter, he offered no apology or explanation. He merely took his seat, in a flurry of orange, taking time to aim a harsh glare at the Doctor. It seemed that the Doctor was not held in high regard by his old Chapter.
The President resumed her seat, and called the meeting to order. "Your Excellency, your Eminences, you all know the purpose of this meeting. And you all know the Doctor. Once again he has come in our hour of need."
The Doctor sensed all their eyes upon him, some welcoming and hopeful, some hostile and resentful. He felt that the President had rather overdone the introduction. The trouble with being heralded as a saviour was that people became upset when you failed to live up to your reputation.
"After lengthy analysis and discussion with Chancellor Cabulas," the Doctor began, "it is clear what the problem is. The questions we must ask are who, how and why."
The President spread her hands. "The first is simple to answer," she said. "Pandak the Fifth is certain to be responsible for this."
"Ah, your far from illustrious predecessor," replied the Doctor. "Did he escape justice then? I'm afraid I've been a little out of touch."
"Most of the former High Council who survived the revolution were brought to trial," Cabulas explained. "Some were exonerated. Most were found guilty. But Pandak himself was able to escape."
"Well, surely he would have fled Gallifrey?" said the Doctor.
"So we thought at first," replied Cabulas. "But in the past fifty years we have become convinced that he remained here."
"It is hard to know what to think," the President said. "We have been bombarded by rumours for half a century. People have seen Pandak. Maintenance engineers working beneath the city have glimpsed his figure in the shadows. Others claim to have spoken to him, that he tried to persuade them to join a counter revolution that would restore him to power."
"Didn't you do anything about these rumours?" asked the Doctor.
"Of course. We made a thorough search of the vaults. But the best efforts of the Chancellery Guard were unable to find anything."
"It is possible," put in Rodan, "that vaults exist of which we no longer have a record. Pandak may well have a secure hiding place which we could not locate. I have also not ruled out the possibility that he is receiving help, from supporters in the Capitol. They might even be hiding him now in their homes. Without turning the city upside down, I don't think we can find him."
"All right," said the Doctor, "even if Pandak is plotting a coup, what makes you think he's behind this disaster? Surely he couldn't have the power to affect the sun, especially not if he's a subterranean exile. He wouldn't have the necessary equipment to convert solar energy. He doesn't have the Sash or the Rod."
He glanced at the President, as if to check that the artifacts were still in her possession. "Those are the originals, I take it?"
"Of course," the President nodded.
"Then there's the Great Key," the Doctor went on. "Has he got that?"
There was an uneasy pause, and all eyes turned to the Chancellor. The Great Key was his responsibility, its whereabouts hidden from the President, so that no one person could have ultimate power. After some hesitation, Cabulas nodded. "The Key is in my safe keeping," he said.
This seemed to satisfy the Doctor. He turned back to the others, but his head sunk forward, his chin resting on his hand. He seemed to have lapsed deep into thought. Without looking up, he said, "To mutate the structure of Kasterborus Gamma, he must be using the Hand of Omega. It's the only other explanation."
"But Doctor," said Cardinal Lodar, "the Hand of Omega vanished after the Morbius scandal, seven hundred years ago. I think it was assumed that Morbius had stolen it, but even after his execution, the Hand was never recovered."
"No," replied the Doctor, "Morbius never took it. Surely I explained all that in my covering note?"
He looked hopefully round the faces of the councillors, but all he received were blank looks. Suddenly the Doctor found himself starting to worry. "The Hand did arrive back on Gallifrey?" he asked.
The President shook her head, puzzled. "No one has seen the Hand of Omega for seven hundred years," she said.
The Doctor took a deep breath, trying to calm the panic that was
dragging at his rational consciousness. He had to force himself to think
straight. "But I used it," he began, "to defeat the Imperial Daleks. I
thought..." He tailed off. He couldn't remember what he had thought. He'd
believed that he had regained his memory. It was disconcerting to discover
that he was now losing chunks of it once more.
Outside the Council chamber, Commander Stalred paced up and down. Under his gaze, the guards on the door stood smartly to attention.
Stalred was worried. He felt as if he was failing in his duty. His job was protect the Capitol and its citizens. Although he could do nothing about the earthquake, he had no idea how many might have died in the immediate aftermath. How many had perished amid the wreckage, waiting desperately for a rescue that never came? Stalred was well aware that his actions were woefully inadequate. He had been given no indication that an earthquake could even be possible in the Capitol.
A chiming sound came from his wrist communicator. Stalred adjusted a control and the face of one of his guards appeared on the tiny screen. "Commander," the guard said, "I have made a discovery."
"What is it?" Stalred asked.
"A dead body."
"A victim of the earthquake? Very well. See if you can contact the family. They may have a preference for the disposal of the body."
"No, Commander," said the guard. "It is not a result of the earthquake. It is something different. I think you should come and see."
Stalred considered for a moment. He had been ordered to guard the
Council chamber. On the other hand, he had to ensure the safety of the
Capitol. He said, "Give me your location."
The Doctor tapped his fingers aggressively on the conference table. He was finding it hard to think logically, when he couldn't even trust his own memories.
He also felt a vague fear that he might be running out of time. He was, after all, only a projection of his potential future regeneration. He was a temporal paradox, merely borrowing the life force to animate this body. If something fatal had happened to his previous self, then gradually that life force would ebb away, as his own history caught up with him.
The Doctor pushed the fear to the furthest reaches of his mind. It would do him no good to worry about it. All he could do was hope that the previous Doctor was still alive, and would eventually be rescued.
For now, the Doctor would concentrate on helping Gallifrey through its latest crisis. "If the Hand of Omega isn't back in your safekeeping," he mused, "then someone must have waylaid it on its return journey. That's the how. Now for the why."
"What could Pandak hope to gain," asked Cardinal Zelara, "by altering the sun's structure?"
"The destruction of Gallifrey," Cabulas replied. "The earthquakes are just the first symptoms. Once the mass of Kasterborus Gamma has dropped below a critical point, the gravitational effects of the Eye will pull star and planet together into a singularity."
"There would be a massive explosion of temporal energy," added the Doctor, "that would tear apart the fabric of the continuum. An anti-matter chain reaction would spread across the Galaxy."
"It makes no sense," said Zelara. "Pandak - if he is the culprit - would not wish to destroy Gallifrey. He would destroy himself in the process. Not even a fanatical desire for revenge would induce him to commit suicide."
"I'm inclined to agree," replied the Doctor. "Which would suggest that he has some other intention."
The President held up a hand to silence the discussion. "We cannot sit here debating Pandak's motives," she declared. "Our priority must be finding a way to defeat the forces that now threaten Gallifrey."
The Doctor nodded enthusiastically. "Chancellor Cabulas tells me that no one has been able to suggest a solution."
"Doctor," replied Cabulas, "all of our technicians, scientists and engineers are applying their skills to the task. But it remains outside their experience. It has been centuries since we have needed to understand the fundamental forces of temporal and stellar energy."
Despite the seriousness of the situation, the Doctor's face broke into a smile. "So you simply take for granted the legacy of the great engineers of the past. You observe and record, but you don't develop. Now you're up against the wall, and you expect a figure to step out of history with the answer."
Cabulas's eyes filled with a mild anger. He had received similar lectures from the President. There wasn't a lot he could do now about the stagnation of Gallifreyan technology. "We can hardly speak to Omega or Rassilon now," he snapped. "We did try to find the builder of the first TARDIS. He was the last engineer whose work changed the face of Gallifreyan society. I have a transcript of his Matrix record here."
He handed a sheet of printed plastic to the Doctor, who scanned through the meagre details.
"His great work was a radical rebuild of an ancient type forty vehicle," Cabulas went on. "It seems the High Council did not take him seriously at first, but his finished design was so revolutionary that it was soon incorporated into a new mark two model."
"We suspect he may be dead now," added the President. "It was seven hundred years ago."
"Seven hundred and four years to be precise," said the Doctor.
"The records are not clear on the exact date," replied Cabulas. "How can you be so sure?"
The Doctor shook his head slowly. He was discovering new pockets of information in his memory, that were somehow bubbling to the surface. The miasma of impressions and images was distorting, altering its content. He had forgotten some more recent events, whilst distant ones were being uncovered. He felt like some kind of mental archaeologist, slowly digging away the top soil to reveal a treasure hidden beneath - memories of long distant events that had been forced to the very recesses of his mind, as if suppressed by some irresistible force.
As the newly restored information flooded his head, the Doctor spoke. "The last great temporal engineer of our race. The man who revolutionized time travel technology. The builder of the first prototype TARDIS." He gestured at the transcript. "I never was too fond of that name."
"Then you know who he was?" said the President. "Does he still live?"
The Doctor nodded. "Oh yes," he replied. "It was me."
Commander Stalred arrived at a maintenance access hatchway set in the foot of the communications tower. Opening the hatch, he passed through into a narrow inspection duct.
The flash of a torch beam came from somewhere ahead. Stalred started to make his way towards it.
He discovered the guard who had summoned him, standing over a dead body. Stalred looked down at the corpse. There was very little left of it, only some charred flesh and bones. A few scraps of cloth remained twisted around the body, which Stalred thought had probably once been part of a technician's robes.
"To be reduced to so little," said Stalred, "the body would have to burn for several hours. When did you discover these remains?"
"Just before I called you, Commander," replied the guard. "I was passing the communications tower and noticed the access hatch open. I came in to investigate, and discovered him."
"I am surprised that no one else noticed the open hatch," said Stalred. "Several people must have used the pavement outside in the last few hours."
"That's just it, Commander. After I spoke to you, I contacted the technical section. They confirmed that they sent a technician to repair a heating duct, a mere fifteen minutes ago."
"Then you must have found him shortly after he arrived here himself," Stalred mused. "Which wouldn't have given the body much time to burn."
"So he must have been instantly incinerated," replied the guard. "Is that possible?"
"Clearly so," said Stalred, gesturing at the body. He reached out a hand for the torch, and shone the beam over the walls. A panel had been opened to one side, and a number of tools were lying around. "He must have been working here when it happened. But even if the heating system malfunctioned, he would have received no more than major burns. He would not have burst into flame."
"What is the explanation?" asked the guard.
Stalred shrugged. "Something strange is happening here," he said. "I must report this and seek instructions."
"Shall I contact the Castellan?"
"No, she is in a meeting of the High Council. I shall speak with her when she is free."
Stalred glanced at the guard. It was clear that he was a bit shaken by his discovery, and probably nauseated. Stalred didn't think his own stomach would hold up much longer. "Withdraw and seal off the hatchway," he said. "Stand guard outside."
"Yes, Commander," the guard acknowledged gratefully.
Stalred turned on his heel and started to stride back towards the
All eyes were turned upon the Doctor. His sudden revelation had taken the Council by storm. "Doctor," began the President hesitantly, "is this really true?"
The Doctor nodded. He was beginning to regret dropping his bombshell. He didn't have the necessary memories to back it up. A sudden spurious image had popped up in his mind, and he had known it to be true. But the rest remained buried. He needed more time. More time to set his mind in order. More time to work out what on Gallifrey was going on.
"Why have you never mentioned this before?" demanded Cardinal Zelara.
"I've only just remembered it," the Doctor replied.
"According to the Prydonian annals, you stole your TARDIS from a repair shop and fled Gallifrey to begin your interference in the affairs of others. You were not recaptured for one hundred and fifty years."
The Doctor racked his brain, but couldn't get anything more out of it. However, he found it easy enough to interpolate from the known facts. "There's one obvious flaw in your story," he said. "All TARDISes are isomorphic. To have a symbiotic control of the machine, it would have to be one whose briode nebulizer I had charged myself. In other words, my own personal TARDIS."
Another memory slipped itself into the Doctor's head, so innocently that he'd never have realized if he hadn't been looking for it. "I didn't just run away out of boredom," he continued. "It was a self imposed exile for my own safety. Political pressures had made it impossible for me to stay behind. My escape was contrived with the help of the Celestial Intervention Agency - on the condition that I occasionally carried out missions for them. They gave me a new identity and recoded my data extract accordingly. I believe they even carried out selective memory reconstructions on my close friends, so they'd never remember me as the same engineer and politician. To all intents and purposes, I was dead. Under an assumed name, I was allowed my freedom - but the CIA knew where I was the whole time."
"That is not possible," said Zelara. "I remember your malfeasance tribunal. You were found guilty of meddling."
"Of course," replied the Doctor. "I was forced to give away my position. Suddenly all Gallifrey was aware of me. The CIA had no choice but to deny all knowledge of me. They didn't want anyone to know what they'd had me get up to. But they rigged the trial, you know. The sentence was light, and it was rescinded a few years later."
It looked as if Cardinal Zelara was going to argue further, but the President interrupted him. "We are not here to debate the Doctor's antecedents, remarkable as they may be," she said. "We are here to resolve the crisis. What can we do?"
The Doctor sat back in his seat, and ran his hand through his hair. Then he took a deep breath, and blew it out through his teeth. "There's not a lot you can do really," he said.
Cardinal Zelara snorted contemptuously. "That is the best you can offer?" he snarled. "Then it's lucky you are here. We were so right to pin our hopes on you."
"I was going to say," the Doctor went on, raising his voice a little,
"there's nothing you can do until I've had a chance to research the
situation fully. For now, you had better watch your monitor devices like
hawks. If there's the slightest sign of a gravitational fluctuation in the
Eye, batten down the hatches and make what preparations you can for another
Stalred made his way back to the Council chamber. He didn't know how he was to explain the grisly discovery to the Castellan. There was nothing at all to account for the death.
He had checked with the technical section. The dead engineer had been sent to close off the heating duct, for the mechanism had been damaged by the earthquake.
The worst that could have happened was a blowback through the heating system. Yet the monitoring instruments in the control room offered no indication that such a thing had occurred. The technical staff were being cagey about the value of their instrument readings. They suspected their equipment might have been damaged during the earthquake.
But even so, it was academic. A blast of superheated air would have burnt the technician badly, perhaps enough to kill him, but it would not have incinerated his body so completely, and not in so short a time.
There had to be another explanation. Some kind of energy weapon had been used, and something Stalred hadn't seen before. Even a staser set on maximum power and fired repeatedly could not have produced such an effect. No, it was something different and much more deadly. Stalred was concerned that so powerful a weapon had been brought into the Capitol without his knowledge.
Entering the Citadel, Stalred walked the long thoroughfare that led to the door of the Council chamber. When he arrived back, he checked with the guards outside that nothing was amiss.
He considered making an inspection tour of the Citadel perimeter - he ought to ensure that there were no threats to the President's safety. He was stopped by the chiming of his communicator once more. He activated the screen. "Yes?"
One of the guards appeared, and even in miniature it was clear that he was worried. "Commander, there is some kind of disturbance in concourse seventeen."
"What kind of disturbance?" asked Stalred.
"I don't know, sir," replied the guard. "I have only just arrived. People are screaming and running. I believe there have been deaths. Some of the Shobogans are jabbering about balls of lightning."
"Try to calm the situation," said Stalred. "I shall come down."
Sighing heavily, he turned to leave once more. But he did not take a
step. Flying up the thoroughfare towards him was a glowing sphere of
energy, shimmering and crackling as it hurtled along.
The High Council meeting had broken up, the Doctor pleading tiredness and the need to think. Having risen from the table, the councillors took to talking in small groups. Rhonwen moved over to the Doctor, who was once more talking earnestly to Chancellor Cabulas.
The Doctor acknowledged her presence with a vague smile, but did not halt his conversation. Cabulas might not have noticed Rhonwen at all, for all the attention he paid her.
"Do you really believe Pandak is behind this?" the Doctor asked.
"I don't know," said Cabulas. "The President thinks so, but she is somewhat biased. The fact that Pandak escaped justice irks the jurist in her. Personally, I cannot see what Pandak's motive could possibly be."
"I have only vague suspicions," replied the Doctor. "I can't put my finger on it. I'll sleep on it tonight. Tomorrow, I shall need to check the Archives and the Matrix records."
"That can be arranged. What are you looking for?"
"Anything I can find about Omega and Rassilon and their work. There might be valuable clues there."
The Doctor paused, and a look of uncertainty crept across his face. It was with some trepidation that he went on. "Tell me, Cabulas. Does the name Belphegor mean anything to you?"
The Chancellor furrowed his brow. "No," he murmured, "although I feel it ought to."
"Yes," agreed the Doctor, nodding. "I feel the same."
Stalred jumped back out of the way, cramming himself into a maintenance shaft that opened onto the thoroughfare. The ball of energy whizzed past him, and soared straight towards the Council chamber. Stalred shouted a few garbled orders at his guards, telling them to get out of the way. In the back of his mind, he noted that this shimmering sphere was probably what had caused the trouble on concourse seventeen.
Although his colleagues had scattered, one of the guards at the door of the Council chamber stood his ground and raised his staser pistol. He tried to loose off some bolts at the ball of light. They made no difference to its progress.
The sphere continued towards the door. When it reached the guard, it seemed simply to pass through him. The guard erupted into flame, and a few charred remnants fell to the floor. That, thought Stalred, would seem to explain the mystery of the dead technician.
Touching the doors of the Council chamber, the sphere simply burnt a
huge hole in them and passed through. Stalred found himself back on his
feet and running towards the doors, staser pistol in hand. Even if he
couldn't do anything, it was his duty to protect the President and the
A sudden explosion of flame erupted in the doorway, and from its midst came a glowing, shimmering sphere of energy. Rhonwen found herself starting to shake. It was the same nightmare that had killed Douglas Shelley, and attacked them again in Cho Je's sanctum.
The High Councillors started to panic, and ran towards the edges of the room, seeking whatever cover they could find. Cardinals Zelara and Tamos both tried to hide themselves behind an ornate golden harp that stood on a dais against the far wall.
The Doctor grabbed hold of Rhonwen's arm, and pushed her into an alcove, that was lined with strange glowing panels. She tried to cower as far back as she could, but there wasn't much space to hide.
Cabulas was at the Doctor's side. "What is it?" he asked.
"Psionic energy," the Doctor said. "Just keep out of its path. I'm the one it wants. I'll try to lead it off."
He started to sprint into the centre of the room. Sure enough, the ball of energy moved to follow him. The Doctor circled the conference table, keeping it between him and the sphere.
Crackling with energy, the sphere made a sudden swoop towards him. The Doctor ducked beneath the table, and the sphere passed through the space where his head had been a moment before.
He heard a buzzing sound as the ball of energy turned for another pass. The Doctor rolled out from under the table, just as it burst into flame, having received a touch from the sphere.
The Doctor managed to get to his feet, and tried to run towards the door, which was still wreathed in smoke. At that moment, a figure loomed out of the dense cloud, a splash of red armed with a staser pistol. The Doctor stopped short. He couldn't lead the sphere straight into Stalred.
He doubled back into the room, hoping to evade the energy once more, and cannoned straight into the President. They fell over one another, the Doctor tumbling in a tweedy whirl, the President a swirl of silver and white.
And then the sphere was bearing down upon them. It buzzed and whined, the sound filling the Doctor's ears. The shimmering light burned itself into his retinae, a huge burst of negative energy blotting out everything.