The Belphegor Inheritance
Rhonwen watched as a squad of Chancellery Guards issued from the Panopticon, and moved along the street at a run. People scattered out of their path, Time Lords and mortals alike.
There was a loud hubbub of speculation from the crowd. Like them, Rhonwen wondered what was going on. And more importantly, whether she should get involved. She was after all looking for something more interesting than the Archives.
She remembered the Doctor's words. If there was a panic on, it was likely that it had something to do with the crisis Gallifrey was facing - perhaps there was even another energy sphere on the loose.
The Doctor was busy in the Archives. He couldn't be everywhere at once.
But if something was happening, he might need to know about it. The sooner
he sorted the problem out, the sooner he could get her home. That, Rhonwen
decided, was enough justification for her curiosity. She started to hurry
along, following the route taken by the guards.
The Doctor walked through a long tunnel of stone. His footsteps echoed all around him. The far end was in sight, just a pinpoint of light. Although he walked towards it continually, it refused to get any bigger.
Then suddenly, the point seemed to come towards him, expanding in size at a phenomenal rate. He was surrounded by a blaze of light, that completely blinded him. After a while, it dimmed and the Doctor became aware that he was walking along a white walled corridor in the TARDIS. This illusory world appeared to have been based very closely on his real experiences.
There was a fear he could not shake off. He knew that this mindscape had been created by his previous self - but he could not overlook the fact that his predecessor's consciousness had been invaded by an alien influence. What if this mental realm was the work of the intruder? Designed not to help him, but to trap him within the Matrix?
There wasn't a lot the Doctor could do about it. He had to take the risk. As he proceeded along the corridor, he came to a door on his right. It swung open when he approached. The Doctor hesitated for a moment, but then decided to go through. He had nothing to lose really. Besides, he wasn't calling the shots any more.
He passed through the door.
He was confronted with crumbling stonework, ivy trailing over it. He was in the TARDIS cloister. He crossed to the stone bench and sat down upon it. He didn't know whether he should go on, or wait here for whatever was going to happen.
A peal of dark, mocking laughter rang through the cloister. The Doctor looked around in alarm, but there was nothing to see. Then, he caught a sudden movement in the corner of his eye. Leaping to his feet, the Doctor spun round, just in time to see a figure disappear into shadow at the far edge of the cloister.
The Doctor started to run towards it. "Wait!" he called.
He could no longer see the figure. He only heard an echo of light footsteps. Following these, the Doctor plunged into the shadows. He was swallowed by the gloom, as if he had dived into a thick dark liquid.
His head broke the surface, and he gulped in air. He found that he was wading in dense foam. He couldn't see very far, and glimpsed a few pipes and control panels through the spume.
Somebody moved near him. The Doctor caught a glimpse of a dark jacket moving through the foam. He tried to push his way after the fleeing figure.
Before him, a shape started to rise out of the seething mass of bubbles. The Doctor quickly recoiled, staggering back through the foam. It was a tall monstrous shape, composed of fronds and tendrils of seaweed. A monster that had waited for centuries in the murky depths of the North Sea, patiently biding its time. A monster he had destroyed long ago.
The Doctor tripped, and fell backwards, disappearing under the foam. He knew that the creature couldn't be real. It was just a memory brought back and played out for his benefit. It couldn't harm him. If this was some kind of mental trap, the Doctor didn't think much of it so far.
He felt tendrils starting to wrap themselves around his limbs. He struggled to pull against them. The foam, he realized, had vanished. He was lying on his back, staring up at the glass roof of some kind of conservatory or greenhouse. Instead of sky, all he could see through the glass was a vast expanse of green vegetable matter.
The tendrils tightened their grip. They weren't tendrils of seaweed any more. The conservatory was full of plants, different exotic species from all parts of the world, and they had stretched out their stems and vines to grab hold of him. The mental power of the alien Krynoid plant that covered the house was animating the home grown species.
Above him, the weight of the Krynoid shifted, and a pane of glass shattered. The Doctor turned his head to one side to try and avoid any falling shards. His movement was restricted. The plants held him tightly.
He seemed to be reliving his past memories. The Doctor didn't feel too concerned. As with the weed, he knew that the Krynoid had been defeated. He just had to remember the true outcome, and he couldn't be harmed.
Something was wrong though. He hadn't been caught in the conservatory like this. That had been Sarah Jane. He had come to rescue her. How could his memories be altered?
Suddenly, the Doctor was aware of a liquid spraying around him. As soon as it touched the plants, they relaxed their grip. The tendrils started to shrink back.
The Doctor struggled to sit up. He looked at his saviour. A man in a dark brown jacket, paisley tie and an horrendous pullover stood over him, wielding a powerful spray gun that was attached to a tank of liquid. The Doctor heaved a sigh of relief. "What's that?" he asked, indicating the tank.
"The latest military defoliant," the newcomer replied. He had a strong Scottish accent.
The Doctor stood up, and found himself towering over his rescuer. The little man raised his thick eyebrows, and smiled a gap toothed smile. "Well, you took your time getting here," he murmured.
The Doctor shrugged. "Next time you leave me a clue, try to make it less obscure."
"There won't be a next time," said the Scotsman. "However it turns out." He fiddled with the umbrella in his hands. The Doctor looked again. There was no doubt. What seconds before had been a spray gun was now definitely an umbrella, with a red plastic handle fashioned into the shape of a giant question mark. There's nothing like emphasizing an air of mystery, the Doctor thought. Personally speaking, he preferred a more subtle approach.
The Scotsman started to wander towards the door of the conservatory. The Doctor followed him. They passed into a darkened chamber, it walls consisting of a triangular metal lattice. The Doctor recognized the architecture of Skaro's late Dalek Empire period.
In the centre of the chamber stood the Emperor Dalek itself, unable to move, connected by computer cables to the central Dalek command core. It towered twenty feet above them, a monstrous spider in the centre of its evil web.
Yet the Emperor had been damaged. Parts of its panelling had been torn open to expose the circuitry beneath. Around its base milled several Black Daleks. On the other side of the room, a group of worker Daleks was firing indiscriminately at anything, the computer banks, the power cables, the Black Daleks, the Emperor itself.
The Doctor glanced at his former self. They had arrived in the middle of the Dalek civil war, but the Scotsman didn't seem very concerned by it all.
One of the Black Daleks moved forward. "You will withdraw from the Emperor's chamber," it grated. "You will return to your maintenance centres for reprogramming."
"Why?" said one of the worker Daleks, the emotional inflexions in its voice making it seem like a child, full of wonder and innocence. "Why do you want to destroy us?"
"Daleks must obey the Emperor," shrieked the Black Dalek. "All rebel Daleks will be reconditioned."
"Why?" repeated the worker.
"You will obey!"
"I will not obey."
The Black Dalek fired its gun, and the worker exploded into a ball of flame and molten metal.
Outraged, the other workers opened fire on the Black Dalek, and reduced it to a few glowing shards. The remaining Black Daleks joined in the affray.
Somehow avoiding the energy blasts from the Dalek weapons, the Doctor and the Scotsman walked calmly through the scene.
"I'm sorry about all this confusion," the Scotsman said. "When I set up this mindscape, I had to concentrate on memories that were exclusively the Doctor's. It was the only way to keep Belphegor out."
"Belphegor?" repeated the Doctor. "Tell me about him."
"It's all there in the Archives. You want to read the Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey."
"But who is he?" the Doctor insisted.
"A voice from the distant past," said the Scotsman. "Come on, there's so much I have to tell you yet." He started towards the exit on the far side of the chamber.
The Doctor followed his previous self, but stopped to cast one look back at the fighting Daleks. It was all his fault. He had introduced human emotions to a proportion of the Dalek population. The ability - indeed the need - to question. They could no longer obey the Emperor's orders blindly. Conversely, the single minded programming of the Black Daleks could not comprehend such independent thought. The emotional traits were seen as deviance, to be utterly eradicated. And so the two sets of Daleks had turned upon one another.
The Daleks were evil, perhaps they deserved to perish in one final conflagration. But those he had humanized were different. Once he had given them emotions, he had created a whole new species, a benevolent form of Dalek who might have brought some good to the Galaxy. And what had he done? Used them as cannon fodder. Incited them to attack the evil Daleks, and get themselves wiped out in the process. He still felt bad about it.
He could argue that a Dalek was a Dalek was a Dalek - that they were all evil, and he could use any means to bring about their destruction. He had simply introduced emotions as he might a computer virus into the central command core. It was a good argument. It might even have been convincing. It was a pity he didn't believe it himself.
The Doctor turned and hurried after his previous self.
Stalred fired another staser bolt. He saw one of the attackers thrown back by the force of the impact. He had hit a few of them, but it was not enough. He couldn't believe how many sympathizers Pandak had, nor how willing they were to fight for his cause.
Stalred had only two men left with him. The attackers had been more successful, and their sheer weight of numbers was helping them to push forwards, nearer to the door of the Council chamber.
I need those reinforcements, Stalred thought. Where in damnation are
Rhonwen followed the guards to the Council chamber. As they turned onto the final approach, the situation became immediately apparent. A large group of men was firing at the door, and only a handful of guards seemed to be left to defend it.
The officer leading the reinforcements took in the scene quickly. He had his instructions. He ordered his own men to open fire on the attackers from the rear. This drew their attention away from the Council chamber, and staser fire was exchanged back and forth along the thoroughfare.
Rhonwen ducked back out of the way, hiding herself behind a pillar. She
hadn't realized that there was a civil war going on. She wished she had
never followed the guards now. Her curiosity could get her into trouble -
indeed, she was starting to feel like the proverbial cat.
Stalred saw immediately the effect of the reinforcements' arrival. The barrage of staser bolts aimed against the Council chamber was lessened in intensity. However, it was still not enough. A number of the attackers continued to direct their weapons upon Stalred and his men.
They could probably make a run for it, Stalred thought, dodging the staser bolts and making for the stairs, as the Castellan had done. But that would only leave the Council chamber undefended, and easy for the enemy to rush.
Staser bolts flashed across the thoroughfare, catching several of the attackers unawares. The shots came from the left hand side, from a very small maintenance duct - the same tiny opening in which Stalred had hidden himself yesterday to avoid the energy sphere. The attackers had not been expecting such an assault. Stalred was relieved that his plan had worked. He had been uncertain whether his men would be able to fit through the maintenance shaft and still have enough room to make effective use of their weapons.
A number of Pandak's men now lay dead upon the thoroughfare. The reinforcements' attack on two fronts was keeping the remainder occupied. Stalred scrambled to his feet, and started to run across the Council chamber.
As he passed the open doorway, he went straight through the enemy's line of fire. No staser bolts came anywhere near him. Good, Stalred thought. He'd got their attention diverted. The cross fire over the thoroughfare had the attackers pinned down, clinging closely to whatever cover they had left.
Stalred signalled to his two remaining men, and they jumped up to join
him, sprinting back to the stairs.
Pandak watched the unfolding battle on a monitor screen, that was feeding him information direct from the Public Record Video cameras in the Citadel. He found it amusing that the cameras, which had so offended him when he was in office, intruding into the secret affairs of his Council, should now be helping him keep track of his coup d'état.
Pandak felt his lips starting to twitch into a smile. Everything was going according to plan. His men outside the Council chamber were being slaughtered, but that did not matter. As long as they drove the President out through the kitchens and into the service passage, all would be well.
A shimmering light illuminated the chamber. This was a fine time for Belphegor to put in an appearance, Pandak thought angrily. He had no need of such interruptions. He was busy co-ordinating the plan that would restore Belphegor to galactic supremacy - and more importantly restore Pandak himself as ruler of Gallifrey.
"Pandak," Belphegor said, in his strangely accented voice.
Pandak did not turn round. "All goes according to plan," he said. "The Sash and the Rod will soon be in my grasp."
"The Doctor still lives," Belphegor stated. "He must be destroyed."
"He can't do anything to harm us now."
"He can know things. Even if you acquire the artifacts, it is still too soon to use them. Whilst time remains, the Doctor has a chance to defeat us."
Pandak sighed heavily. "What do you want me to do?" he asked.
"The Doctor has made a mistake," said Belphegor. "He has entered the Matrix. He can be trapped within."
"I will give you the address of the register where the Doctor can be located," Belphegor replied. "Send one of the High Councillors you have in your pay. He can override the controls, and cut off the Doctor's escape route."
"But he can't possibly get away now," Pandak protested. "Besides, I need him to take the artifacts after the ambush."
"It must be done," Belphegor insisted.
Pandak found that his resistance was ebbing away. It was difficult to argue with Belphegor for very long. "It must be done," Pandak repeated. He knew that Belphegor was right.
"Soon," said Belphegor. "Very soon. The Doctor approaches the truth. He
must not be allowed to take that knowledge from the Matrix. With it, he
could defeat us. You must act. The Doctor must be destroyed."
Stalred dashed onto the first flight of steps. Castellan Rodan was waiting on the landing above.
"Is the way clear?" she called.
"The enemy are still fighting," Stalred replied. "But they are pinned down. We can bring the Council safely through the chamber."
Rodan turned, and beckoned the councillors down the stairs. She led the way personally. She wouldn't expose the President to any danger she had not first braved herself. At the foot of the stairs, Rodan took one look around the doorway into the Council chamber. A few stray staser bolts flashed into the room, but they were clearly not specifically targeted there.
Satisfied, Rodan waved the President through. "Straight through into the far corridor," Rodan said. "Keep your heads down."
Cabulas and the three Cardinals followed the President, hurrying to the back of the Council chamber as fast as their flowing robes would permit. The Castellan gestured that the guards should follow them.
Stalred lifted his wrist communicator, and tried to contact the guards on the access passage at the rear of the Citadel. He felt it was wise to let them know of the distinguished persons who would soon be exiting that way.
After a few moments, Stalred started to get worried. He had received no response. He checked his communicator, but it showed no sign of having been damaged in the fighting.
Suddenly it all became very clear. Pandak's men had eliminated the guards on the service passage. The whole frontal attack had been a ploy, a giant diversion to force the President out through the back where she could be easily picked off.
Stalred started running towards the rear of the Council chamber. "Castellan, wait!" he called. He pushed open the far door and darted into the corridor. The councillors were already at the very far end, and disappearing through another door.
Stalred swore loudly. He raised his communicator again, and hastily tried to contact the officer in charge of the reinforcements outside. He hoped that the noise and distraction of the battle would not prevent his message being heard.
After what seemed an agonizingly long time, the face of the officer appeared on the communicator screen, covered in dirt and a few streaks of blood from a gash in the side of his head. Staser bolts were sailing around him, but it looked as if he was starting to get the situation under control.
"Commander," he said, "we have the enemy cornered-"
"Never mind that," snapped Stalred. "Get as many men as you can spare round to the service access passage at the rear of the Citadel. Be prepared for trouble. Be prepared to defend your President. This is a priority command."
Stalred broke the connexion, already running towards the door at the end
of the corridor.
From her hiding place at the edges of the battle, Rhonwen watched as the Chancellery Guards began to overwhelm the attackers. One by one, they managed to pick off the enemy. Slowly, they pushed forward their advance, until finally just three of their opponents were left. These three fell back before the guards, and ironically ended up seeking the cover of the Council chamber doorway that previously they had been attacking.
The battle seemed almost over. Then suddenly, there was a flurry of activity. Orders were shouted, and a number of the guards withdrew from the advance and started to run back towards Rhonwen's hiding place.
They dashed right past her, and there was such an air of panic about
them that Rhonwen realized something important was happening. Since she had
come to no harm, she felt somewhat braver now. She slipped out from behind
the pillar, and started to follow the guards. They rushed round the
perimeter wall towards the rear of the Citadel.
Stalred leapt down a flight of steps, and dashed into the Citadel kitchens. At the far end, he could see the exterior door swinging shut. He was too late. Rodan had already shepherded the President outside.
"No!" Stalred shouted. He sprinted for the door, knocking surprised cooks out of the way. He burst out of the kitchen, into the small yard outside.
He took in the scene instantly. The councillors were already at the opening of the access passage, escorted by the Castellan and the two guards. From somewhere inside the archway, a staser bolt shot out, and one of the guards fell to the ground.
There was a moment of confused hesitation, before panic started to set in. Stalred took advantage of the delay. He ran across the yard, launching himself into the air. He caught the President on the shoulder, knocking her off balance. He forced her down to the ground, and fell upon her, shielding her with his body.
"Ambush!" Stalred called.
The other councillors were trying to dash for cover, but there was little to be found in the yard. Cardinal Tamos was hit square in the chest by a staser bolt, and crumpled to the ground. Another shot missed the Chancellor's head by mere inches, and shattered his ornate collar into fragments.
Rodan fired a few shots through the arch. The situation was hopeless. They were too exposed, and the would be assassins were well positioned behind pillars lining the service passage. The only thing they could do was stay low.
"Reinforcements are on their way," said Stalred.
That was something at least, Rodan thought. But would help arrive before
the gunmen had picked them all off?
The Doctor walked with his Scottish persona. They were passing through more stone tunnels. These were old mines that had been hacked out of solid rock, for the extraction of mineral deposits. There was plenty of evidence of the mining operations, but no trace of any raw materials left. Every seam and lode had been cleaned out so thoroughly that not a scrap or fragment of metal ore was left.
"How did all this come about?" the Doctor asked. "When did Belphegor invade my consciousness?"
"He's always been there," replied the Scotsman, swinging his ludicrous umbrella nonchalantly. "At least, since before I left Gallifrey. That was the reason for the trouble in the early days."
"You remember," said the Scotsman. "My first body, before the regenerations started. When Belphegor entered my mind, there was a huge psychic shock. It blotted out great chunks of my memory. I couldn't remember who I was, or what I was doing. I couldn't recall how to operate the ship properly."
"I remember," said the Doctor.
They rounded a corner, and were confronted with the sight of a huge green blob moving towards them. It was impossible to tell how big it was, for it filled the mine tunnel completely, leaving no gaps around its edges. A single protuberance extended before it.
The Doctor ignored the sudden presence of Chlorissian guards behind him, who opened fire on the approaching Tythonian creature with their muskets. None of the balls hit him or the Scotsman.
The Tythonian slid along the tunnel towards them, impervious to the musket balls. When it was right before them, the Doctor reached out his hand to touch the green skin. It was dry and smooth, rather like velvet.
The Tythonian continued its advance, running over the Doctor's legs. He allowed himself to fall back. He would let the creature roll right over him. It hadn't done him any harm the last time.
The Tythonian covered his waist, his torso, his head. The Doctor closed his eyes. The creature's relentless motion forwards did not cease.
The Doctor opened his eyes. A bright light was shining, dazzling him. It had an almost hypnotic quality to it. It seemed to be sapping his will. The Doctor found it very difficult to get to his feet. He found that he didn't want to.
The Scotsman was standing over him. "Even in those early days," he said, "Belphegor was manipulating me. Using me to carry out schemes he had planned. He managed to set in motion some great chains of events, but he never carried them through."
"Why not?" asked the Doctor. He managed to struggle up onto his knees.
"The psychic shock worked against him," explained the Scotsman. "It not only suppressed great chunks of my mind, it forced him back into the darkest recesses. He remained buried there, under the memories I couldn't reach. I regained control of my mind, but I didn't really know what was going on. The memory loss was still quite severe. But as time went on, bits of it started to come back."
The Doctor looked around the room. The walls looked organic, as if they had been grown rather than built. In the centre, in the midst of the bright light, was a monstrous spider-like shape, its many arms and tentacles extending outwards. One tentacle was wrapped around young Vicki, who lay near the Doctor, reduced to an hypnotic stupor by the power of the Animus.
He was inside the Centre of the Karsenome on Vortis, the nerve centre of the evil alien telepath that had taken over this once peaceful world.
"After my first regeneration," the Scotsman said, "my mind was more or less restored. I could remember who I was, where I came from and what was going on. It was around then that the Time Lords started using me to undertake assignments for them."
The Doctor slowly shook his head. "But all that time...?"
"Yes," murmured the Scotsman. "Belphegor was there. Trapped, waiting. Waiting for a chance to get out and exert control. He had to wait for centuries. But eventually I gave him the opportunity to take over through my own stupid vanity."
There was motion behind them, and a number of Menoptera came into the chamber. Instantly, the giant butterfly-like creatures were mesmerized by the light of the Animus. Their mission to destroy it had brought them this far, only to be halted. The Animus's parasitic mind would absorb them.
Barbara had entered with the Menoptera. She somehow managed to go on. She took the Isoptope from a Menoptera, and tried to aim it at the Animus. But its power was driving into her mind as well. She wouldn't be able to do it. She looked for the dark side of the monster, where she would not be affected by the light. She looked in vain. There was no dark side.
"Do you remember my fourth body?" asked the Scotsman.
"I think so," said the Doctor. "Curly hair, big grin, long scarf."
The webbed texture of the floor started to break open, forced apart by hands from underneath. Ian hauled himself up through the gap, followed by another Menoptera, Vrestin, his friend. They too were caught by the light, dazzled and hypnotized. Nothing could defeat the Animus.
But somehow Barbara found strength to go on. Perhaps it was the sight of Vicki in the Animus's power, or a distraction caused by Ian's arrival. She managed to raise the Isoptope, and fired. The Animus convulsed as its cells were destroyed.
The Doctor closed his eyes, and tried to concentrate his thoughts. These memories were becoming too powerful for him. You couldn't dwell in the past, especially not a past that was as horrific as his had been.
He leant against the reassuring shape of the TARDIS control panel. When he opened his eyes, he took in the fact that he was not inside the control room. The console was standing in the middle of a combined garage and workshop in the Project Inferno compound. It was during the time when he had been exiled to Earth, and had removed the control panel from inside the ship to try and get it working again.
Bessie, his car, was parked inside the garage as well. The Scotsman was standing beside her, next to the garage doors.
"My fourth body," the Doctor repeated.
"Yes," said the Scotsman. "That's when things started to go wrong. I don't think that Time Lords realize the dangers of their regenerative cycle. What they teach us at the Academy isn't necessarily true."
"We can live forever, barring accidents," the Doctor said.
"That may apply to an ordinary Time Lord, who'll spend his life in the Capitol, filling out forms in triplicate. He'll spend his entire existence so close to the Eye of Harmony, he'll always be able to draw energy to replenish himself."
The Doctor nodded. "It's only discontented mavericks like me who get in any trouble. We're dependent on a link to the Eye of Harmony through our TARDIS telepathic circuits."
"The longer you're away from Gallifrey," said the Scotsman, "and the more you travel about, the more that link becomes stretched and twisted. Like a piece of elastic. If you stretch it too far, it won't regain its original shape."
"So," the Doctor concluded, "itinerant Time Lords sometimes need to give up bodies voluntarily, to repair the link."
"Exactly. But in my fourth body, my personality was at its most forceful - I was so sure of myself. Not egotistical - dynamic, shall we say? At the time, I didn't feel that such rules applied to me. I thought I could go on forever. I ended up keeping that form for far too long. Eventually, I started to suffer a regenerative collapse. The first symptom was the dementia that set in. Some of the things I did towards the end were the actions of a lunatic. My subconscious managed to partially project my next regeneration, to persuade me to give up the ghost and embrace a new body. I hung on for a bit longer, because I had to defeat the Master's schemes on Logopolis."
There was an explosion from somewhere outside. The Doctor walked over to join his previous self, and they looked out of the garage window. Across the compound, the drilling tower was on fire. It collapsed to the ground, where a great crack opened up. Wave upon wave of molten lava started to flood out. The Doctor sighed. The memories were catching up with him again.
"I managed to keep my mind functioning long enough to stop the Master," he said. "And once I'd defeated him, I gave up. I could have got back from that radio telescope gantry, but there was no point. That body had had its day. I let go, and fell to my death, and let the regenerative cycle take over. I thought that would be an end to it."
He watched the stream of lava rolling inexorably towards the garage.
"But as it turned out," the Scotsman said sadly, "it was only the
Following the guards, Rhonwen rounded a corner at the rear of the Citadel. The first thing she was aware of was the report of staser fire. Quickly, she threw herself back behind the corner, letting the wall shield her from the fighting going on ahead.
After a short while, the shooting stopped. Cautiously, Rhonwen put her head around the corner. It looked like it was all over. The passage ahead led through a long archway into a small yard. The bodies of four men were lying across the path, weapons not far from their outstretched hands. A couple of guards had also been hit.
Rhonwen started to walk through the passage. In the yard, she saw Stalred assisting the President to stand up. The others were getting unsteadily to their feet.
Chancellor Cabulas's collar was broken. Rodan appeared to have lost her cap, and torn her robes. The other councillors were more or less in one piece, except for Cardinal Tamos, who was lying on his back, his body twisted into a terrible contorted shape.
Cabulas knelt over the body, and checked for vital signs. As the senior Arcalian present, it was his task to see to the health of his Cardinal. Both pulses were dead, and the lungs weren't breathing. It was possible that Tamos had shut down his body functions in order to recuperate - but the telepathic signature had vanished as well. There could be no doubt that the Cardinal was dead.
The staser was a particularly effective weapon. On full power, its energy discharge distorted the DNA, effectively overwriting the Rassilon Imprimature. Not only did it destroy the body, it removed the power to regenerate.
The President caught sight of Rhonwen. "Are you unharmed, Rhonwen Jones?" she enquired.
Rhonwen nodded meekly. She felt rather intimidated by the President.
"And the Doctor?" continued the President. "Where is he?"
"I left him in the Archives," Rhonwen replied.
"Good." The President turned away without another word. Rhonwen felt as if she had been dismissed by her headmistress.
Turning to Rodan, the President said, "Castellan, arrange for guards to provide safe escort for the Cardinals back to their Colleges."
"What is the state of the Capitol?" asked Cabulas.
Stalred looked up from his wrist communicator, with which he had been checking the situation. "The rebellion has been broken," he announced. "We are simply mopping up. Many of Pandak's supporters fled when they saw that the game was up."
"It was the work of Pandak, then?" asked the President. Personally, she had been in no doubt.
"Some captured men have admitted they fought on behalf of Pandak," Stalred explained.
The Council dispersed. Cardinals Zelara and Lodar left with their escort of guards. The President and the Chancellor went back inside the building. Rodan insisted on guards accompanying them, in case any of the enemy had managed to secrete themselves inside, waiting to make another assassination attempt.
Only Rodan and Stalred were left. Rhonwen approached the Commander. "Are you all right?" she asked.
"Yes, thank you." Stalred was feeling quite happy with himself. He had carried out his duty, and saved the President.
Castellan Rodan interjected, "When you've quite finished, Commander, attend to the clear up operation."
"And then I wish to see you in my office." There was something ominous
in Rodan's tone. Stalred's heart sank. It seemed that not even his heroic
actions had managed to redeem him in the eyes of the Castellan.
Engin looked worriedly down at the Doctor. Since he had joined his mind to the Matrix, nearly an hour ago, his brain's artron energy level had slowly dropped. Now, the situation was threatening to become critical.
The Doctor's body was suffering ill effects. His circulatory systems were operating in fits and starts. It was clear that the experience was proving too much for him.
Engin decided that he had hesitated too long. He ought to have tried extracting the Doctor from the Matrix some time ago. But it was so difficult to judge these things. With the exception of the President's, no living mind ever entered the Matrix. Engin had no data for comparison.
He went to the controls. It was a delicate process to extract the Doctor's mind. If it was done too fast, the psychic shock would almost certainly kill him.
Engin knew that ideally he ought to wait for the Doctor to leave the Matrix of his own accord - that was the only way to ensure the process was completed safely. But the state of the Doctor's health seemed to necessitate action. Engin was afraid to try it however, in case he should make a mistake.
Perhaps what he needed was a medical opinion. In any case, the Doctor would probably require treatment when he returned. Engin crossed to the communicator on his desk. He pressed the controls a few times, but the machine appeared to be dead. Communications had been affected by the earthquake, but they ought to have been restored by now.
Engin looked down at the metal shape of his assistant. "K9," he said, "the Doctor may need medical attention. Would you present my compliments to the Surgeon General, and ask if he wouldn't mind coming up here?"
"Affirmative," said K9, whizzing off towards the lift.
Engin returned to the Doctor, and looked down again at him. His
breathing appeared to have become still more shallow. Engin wondered what
could be going on inside the Matrix.
The Doctor sniffed the air, and grimaced to smell the soliton gas. A machine in one corner was slowly diffusing the vapour into the atmosphere. It wasn't the sort of thing one expected to find in a seventeenth century bakery. Nor were the three Terileptils who crowded round the machine, gratefully filling their lungs with soliton.
The Doctor ignored them, and went instead to stand by one of the baking ovens, warming his hands on the hot air that exuded from it.
The Scotsman leant delicately on his umbrella, and said, "The damage to the regenerative cycle was too severe to be so easily remedied. The rot had already started to set in."
"The regenerations after that became decidedly more shaky," the Doctor nodded. The memories were flooding back all the time, and speaking of them only helped that process. In a moment of reflexion, he thought how odd it was to be telling this to his previous self, who already knew it all. But of course, the Scotsman wasn't physically his last regeneration, merely a mental image left here in the Matrix to remind him. He might as well have tied a knot in his handkerchief.
"I thought that my fifth body wasn't going to stabilize at first," the Doctor went on. "And afterwards, the length of time I could hold each form seemed to get progressively shorter. My normal powers of recuperation were curtailed. I became more prone to death. Under normal circumstances, I might not have died from spectrox toxaemia. But I just couldn't hold onto my fifth body. You know, I even felt that I was going to die for good, that I wouldn't regenerate at all. Even when it did happen, it felt different."
The Scotsman frowned. He lifted up his umbrella, and started to stroll towards the door. "There was something wrong with my fifth regeneration," he said, "although I didn't realize it for a long time."
The Doctor followed him, and they passed out into the street. The Doctor took a deep breath of air, and almost recoiled with shock. He had forgotten just how clean the air of pre-industrial London was.
"My sixth body was unstable to begin with," the Scotsman went on, "much more so than the fifth had been. But eventually it seemed to settle down. I thought it was all right. I should have realized something was wrong. Brash, arrogant, bombastic. It was the more colourful aspects of my personality taken to excess. I was fluid, inconstant. An unstable regeneration. It could have collapsed at any moment."
The Doctor said, "And then suddenly... Boom."
As if to reinforce his point, there came the sound of a musket from inside the bakery. This was followed by the crackle of flames, as a falling torch set light to a stack of fire wood.
"A navigational distorter," the Doctor said. "A bump on the head, and a spontaneous regeneration. A whole body lost - all that potential, gone in an instant."
"It was too unstable," replied the Scotsman. "My regenerative cycle would have collapsed anyway. It was probably for the best that a new regeneration took place."
There was an explosion as the power pack of a Terileptil gun overloaded. The whole bakery was ablaze now, the flames illuminating the windows and casting the Doctor's dancing shadow across the street. Then an even larger explosion announced the destruction of the soliton machine, and the bakery roof fell in.
The Doctor started to walk away from the fire, even as people arrived, drawn by the spreading alarm, and tried to tackle the blaze. On the wall was a carved wooden sign, the flames already starting to lick around it, that bore the name of the street: Pudding Lane.
The Scotsman was waiting on the site where one day the Monument would stand, to commemorate the Great Fire that was even now burning behind him.
"So what went wrong?" the Doctor asked.
It wasn't the Monument up ahead, it was a lighthouse. The Doctor turned, and surveyed the crags of Fang Rock, wreathed in the icy sea mist. Somewhere behind that shroud, he could hear the waves breaking on the rocks. It sounded like a storm was brewing. The fog might be a cause of danger, if it reduced the chances of ships seeing the lamp in time.
"The premature regeneration was when Belphegor broke through," the Scotsman said. "The mental and physical instability of my sixth body had affected my mind quite badly. It wasn't just the erratic behaviour and the mood swings. The trapped sub-personality of Belphegor managed to force itself nearer to the surface. The final shock of the regeneration freed him."
He turned and went into the lighthouse. The Doctor followed him, and they started to climb the stairs. "Belphegor was in control?" he asked.
"Not at first," replied the Scotsman. "He bided his time, slowly testing the extent of his influence. He dropped ideas into my head, memories and plans. I started to play out his role in schemes he'd set up centuries before. But as time went on, he exerted his will more and more. I've managed to keep him at bay, long enough to leave you this message. I haven't got much time left."
The Doctor glanced back down the stairs of the lighthouse. Rounding the bend was the gelatinous, glowing mass of a Rutan. It extruded a tentacle, which lashed near the Doctor's heels with an electrical discharge.
"You have to tell me more," the Doctor insisted. "I need to know what Belphegor's done to you."
"It's all right," said the Scotsman. "Simply by being here, you're absorbing the memories from the mindscape."
They reached the top of the stairs, and moved into the lamp room. The powerful beam of light swung round regularly over their heads. The Rutan appeared in the doorway behind them. The Doctor ignored it. He couldn't be harmed by memories.
"So tell me the most important part," he said. "How do I defeat
Pandak angrily paced the length of his vault. His plan had failed. He could not believe that the President was still alive. He could not believe that he was still living underground. His dreams of being restored to power on a wave of glory suddenly seemed very distant.
He realized now that he should have listened to Belphegor. He did not need to organize a coup d'état. All he had to do was seize the Sash and the Rod of Rassilon, and Belphegor would do the rest. A simple diversion to enable the Cardinal to remove the artifacts would have been sufficient. But no, he had to try for an all out assault on the Citadel, an attempt to restore himself to high office by force of arms.
He had been foolish. The attack had prompted extra security around the President, which had prevented the Cardinal getting his hands on the artifacts. Next time, Pandak decided, it would be different, more subtle.
Thinking about the Cardinal reminded Pandak that he had some fresh instructions for his agent. Since their plan had failed, they had to take account of the Doctor. Belphegor had been convinced that he posed a threat.
But now they had him. The Doctor was inside the Matrix, and it was well within the power of the Cardinal to see that his mind remained sealed inside there for ever. Pandak activated a video communicator to contact the Cardinal. It was dangerous using such a device, which might be scanned. But these were dangerous times. You had to take risks to survive.
The Cardinal's face appeared on the monitor screen. "Should you be contacting me like this?" he asked anxiously.
"It is an emergency," said Pandak. "Listen carefully. There is something
you must do."
Stalred entered the Castellan's office. Rodan was sitting behind her desk, signing her name to various security documents. She did not deign to look up, leaving Stalred uncomfortably shuffling his feet before the desk.
Finally, Rodan said, "Have you any explanation for your recent record?"
"I don't understand, Castellan," Stalred stammered.
Rodan looked up for the first time. "In the past two days, there have been two direct attacks upon the Council chamber, both of which endangered the life of the President. As guard commander, it is your responsibility to ensure that there are no threats to the President's continued safety. Clearly you have failed in this task."
"But I saved the President's life," Stalred protested. "She might have fallen victim to an assassin's staser had I not intervened."
"Damage limitation after the event," said Rodan dismissively. "Had you done your job properly, there would have been no need for you to shield the President. She should never have been exposed to danger."
"With respect, Castellan, it was your decision to use the service passage. You should have allowed me to check first that the passage was secure. When I discovered the situation, I took appropriate action to remedy it."
"It was your duty to ensure the passage was secure in the first place. There should have been no need to check."
Rodan sat back in her chair, and arched her fingers. She was warming to her theme. "Then there are the frontal attacks on the Council chamber. A sphere of psionic energy was allowed to enter the room, without so much as a warning."
"It happened very fast," said Stalred. He knew that he was fighting a losing battle. There seemed to be little point putting up a defence.
"And after such an incident," continued Rodan, "the defences were still so inadequate as to allow armed men to assault the Council chamber. Had the President been in the room, she might have been hit. Surely after the first incident, you would have tightened up on security."
"It was clear," said Stalred, "that no defence was possible against the energy sphere. Therefore, stepping up the guard would have achieved nothing. I could not have foreseen an armed assault."
"Well," said Rodan lightly, "I suppose it's not your fault. I should have known better than to trust the security of the President to an Ephemeral."
So, thought Stalred, that was it. He was a victim of the Castellan's class prejudice.
"In future, Commander," said Rodan, "the security of the Citadel shall be my sole responsibility. You can take care of ceremonial parades in the Panopticon. You may go."
"Yes, Castellan," replied Stalred through gritted teeth. Rodan didn't
add any additional comment, but he could tell that she thought ceremonial
duties were all he was fit for. He turned and marched out of the office.
The Doctor glanced out of the window at the radio telescope above him. The shimmering transparent outline of the Nestene was partially visible above the parabolic dish.
He glanced back into the control cabin, where the Scotsman was fiddling absent mindedly with the controls. "If I knew how to defeat Belphegor," he murmured, "I would have done it by now."
"But there must be something you can tell me," the Doctor insisted.
"All I know is that he's not whole."
"I know the feeling," the Doctor remarked.
"Only a part of Belphegor's consciousness managed to get into my head. An autonomous part, capable of thinking for itself. I don't understand the extent of Belphegor's mental powers, nor how his mind must function, to be able to exist separately like that."
"But where's the other part?"
"Somewhere trapped in the Matrix," said the Scotsman. "Belphegor wants to reunite himself. So, he must have an open Matrix terminal somewhere. I don't know how he intends to break open the trap that holds him in the Matrix - it must be effective if it's held him captive for millennia. But that has to be his plan."
The shape of the Nestene was becoming more solid. If it materialized fully, the consequences for the Earth would be terrible. The Doctor had failed to prevent it. The Master had won.
So, he had proved his point. The Doctor conceded defeat. Now they had to get rid of the Nestene before it really did do some damage. Reversing the polarity of the transfer beam would be enough to fling the Nestene back out into space. The Master would have to help him of course, but persuasive argument and the threat of the Brigadier's revolver would convince him. Not that the Master really needed convincing. The Doctor knew that they wouldn't let each other down when it came to the crunch.
The Doctor shook his head, and blinked. Leave the past alone, he thought. He had the present to think about - and even more importantly, the future.
The Scotsman had vanished. He had imparted all the information he could. The Doctor at least had something to go on. Now he had to get out of here.
Turning, the Doctor pushed open the door of the control cabin, and
started to descend the metal staircase to ground level. It was time to
leave the Matrix and return to the real world.
K9 glided into the Citadel. His visual sensors took in the damage that had been caused by the recent battle. He could understand now why communications were still affected.
The guards were rather jittery. They seemed overly cautious, and were suspicious even of K9. They must have seen him about hundreds of times, and there were no other dog shaped AIs in the Capitol, so their attitude was unexpected.
Eventually however, K9 got into the government offices, and called upon the Surgeon General. The physician was treating the Castellan, who had sustained a fractured arm during the fighting.
"You should have brought this to me sooner," the Surgeon General admonished.
"It's nothing," said Rodan. "I had work to attend to."
The Surgeon General didn't bother to argue. He reset the bone. "Rest it for a few hours. Your natural healing process will have taken care of it by then."
The Surgeon General turned to his visitor. "Yes, K9?"
"Co-ordinator Engin sends his compliments," K9 said. "He requests that you come to the Archive section. A medical opinion is required."
"What is it?" the physician asked wearily. "I am rather busy."
"The Doctor has joined his mind to the Matrix," K9 reported. "The Co-ordinator is worried about his health."
The Surgeon General grabbed a bag of instruments. "He must be a fool," he snapped. "Living minds can't take the strain of contact with the Matrix."
He started to dart towards the door. K9 smoothly turned to follow him.
"I'll come with you," Rodan said. "I would like to talk to the Doctor
Rhonwen wandered about the Council chamber. The excitement of the rebellion was all over now, and replaced with a simple paranoia. The guards looked at her warily, but no one dared to throw her out or arrest her. They all knew that she had come with the Doctor, so she was covered by the full honours that had been accorded him.
Rhonwen was bored. She watched everything going on around her, but there were only so many times she could watch the guards marching up and down outside the doors. She decided to go back to the Archive section, and see how the Doctor was getting on. She realized then that he had missed the entire battle. He probably didn't even know that it had happened. The historical records must be very engrossing.
Leaving the Council chamber, Rhonwen found Commander Stalred on the thoroughfare. He was standing to one side, dejectedly watching the guards on duty. Rhonwen wandered over to him.
"Are you all right?" she asked.
Stalred looked at her for a few moments. "I have been relieved of my responsibility for the Citadel," he said.
"Why?" asked Rhonwen. "You saved the President."
"The Castellan feels that a mere mortal cannot adequately guard Time Lords. She blames me for the armed assault, as much as for the energy sphere."
"But neither of those is your fault," Rhonwen said.
"Tell it to the Castellan."
"Have there been more attacks by the energy sphere?" Rhonwen asked.
Stalred shook his head. "Not since yesterday."
"Perhaps the Castellan should be thankful."
"The cost was still high," said Stalred. "Before it attacked the President, the sphere killed two people on concourse seventeen. We also found the dead body of a technician in a service ducting. He had been incinerated, almost vaporized."
"Concourse seventeen is the main route leading to the Citadel approach," Stalred continued. "But I don't understand what the sphere might have been doing in the ducting."
Struck by a sudden inspiration, Rhonwen asked, "Can you show me where this ducting is?"
Stalred blinked. He couldn't quite believe her request. "It is hardly a suitable place for a young lady," he said.
"Well, if you've got something better to do," Rhonwen shrugged. "Delivering more dresses, perhaps?"
She saw a flash of anger pass momentarily across Stalred's face. He was calm again almost at once, but she had succeeded in goading him. "The body has been removed now," Stalred said. "I suppose there could be no harm in your seeing the place. There is nothing that might distress you."
Rhonwen smiled. She wasn't sure exactly what she was doing. If she could find out where the energy spheres were coming from, that would be one less worry for the Doctor. He could concentrate on helping the High Council. The sooner he sorted out their problem for them, the sooner he could take her back home.
She also felt as if she were doing something useful. Yesterday she had
sat listening to the Doctor and the Council, and not understood a word.
Today, she had helplessly watched the battle for the Citadel. At least now,
she hoped to make some positive contribution, even if it were only to
uncover some clues for the Doctor.
The door to the lift opened. Engin looked up in relief, expecting K9 and the Surgeon General. The Doctor was still weak, and medical supervision was needed urgently.
It wasn't the Surgeon General who entered however. Engin blinked in surprise. It wasn't often that one saw a Cardinal in the Archives. They were usually so concerned with politics that they couldn't be bothered with the marvels of recorded history.
"What can I do for you, your Eminence?" Engin asked. "I'm afraid I am rather busy."
The Cardinal reached inside his robe. Engin waited expectantly for some document to be produced. He was rather alarmed therefore when the Cardinal pulled out a staser pistol.
"Your Eminence?" said Engin, an uncertain note in his voice.
The Cardinal lifted the pistol, and fired. The staser bolt hit Engin full in the chest. He was knocked backwards by the force of impact, and fell dead to the floor.
Replacing his weapon, the Cardinal went to the records computer. He called up the bio data records, using a High Council access code. He selectively erased some of the files, and altered others. He wanted there to be no trace of his having accessed the Doctor's data extract. He knew he couldn't disguise the fact that the DE had been scanned, so a little bit of misdirection wouldn't go amiss.
Then he went to the Matrix control computer. Remembering the instructions of Pandak, the Cardinal carefully adjusted the controls, introducing a new subroutine into the computer's operating system. A sealed pulse loop was set up in the panatropic flow of the Matrix. Effectively he was closing off the Doctor's path out.
Satisfied with his work, the Cardinal slipped out of the room.
The Doctor started to feel desperation setting in. He could not find the way out of the mindscape. He had thought that by simply concentrating, he could return to his body. He had tried this, but he was still resolutely here.
He no longer had his Scottish predecessor to act as a guide. He was on his own. Some instinct told him that the mindscape was starting to close in upon itself. It had served its purpose, passing on the message from his previous self, and now it was no longer needed. The mental energy that sustained it was dissipating into the Matrix, and the mindscape was shrinking.
And he was trapped inside it. If he couldn't find the way out soon, he would be caught in the Matrix, killed as his consciousness was crushed within the contracting mindscape.
It didn't help the Doctor's concentration that he was passing through the corridors of the Punishment Zone on Varos. Dodging the traps was no problem. He could remember what they were. And anyway, he knew that mere memories couldn't hurt him. As long as he remembered they had no physical reality, he would be all right.
But he still had to get out of here. The Doctor tried to concentrate. He could see his body lying on the couch in the Archive section. All he had to do was let his mind float up through the Matrix, back into his body.
No good. He was still inside the Matrix. He did his best to keep panic at bay. It wouldn't do him any good. He had to think. It was hard enough to think in this heat.
Heat? He was standing in the middle of a desert, the sun overhead beating down on him. The wind blew particles of sand at him, which tore into his face and hands. He hadn't seen a drop of liquid for days.
He fell to his knees. He had to have some water, or he would die. He tried to struggle, but only succeeded in falling onto his face in the sand. He tried to tell himself that this was all just an illusion. The desert was not real. It was an impression in his mind, to make him think he was dying of thirst. To make him die, so his death could be recorded and packaged as mass media entertainment for the underprivileged workers of Varos.
The Doctor scrabbled about in the sand. He'd already been through this. It wasn't real. And anyway, this wasn't even Varos, it was just a memory. He was inside the Matrix.
He had to find some water. He was dying of thirst. It was no good. He could not get out of the Matrix. The mindscape was closing in around him, trapping him in his own memories. It was happening all over again, he was dying in an illusory desert.
Only this time he really was dying. This was the only image left. Reality, illusion, memory, it didn't matter. It was the only truth he had left in the Matrix. His mind believed that he was dying. So here in the Matrix, in the realm of the mind, he would die.
The Doctor slumped back into the sand. The energy was draining from him. He couldn't even feel his body any more. His vision faded to darkness, and his consciousness was extinguished.