The Belphegor Inheritance
The Cardinal entered the vault. Pandak waited on the far side, not saying a word. He was taking a leaf from Belphegor's book as far as the intimidation of subordinates went.
The Cardinal approached a little hesitantly. "It's about the Doctor, isn't it?" he said. "I know he's still alive. I saw him in the Citadel."
Pandak shook his head. "That is no longer relevant," he said. "The Doctor can pose no further threat. Tomorrow shall see the realization of my dreams."
"What do you mean?" asked the Cardinal.
"Tomorrow, I shall capture that usurping woman, and reclaim my Presidency."
"Do you have enough men after today's debacle?" the Cardinal said.
"Enough," replied Pandak. "My plan for tomorrow is much more subtle. There is something you have to do."
"The psionic energy generator that you used to attack the Doctor," said
Pandak. "You must set it to overload. A huge explosion of psionic energy
will wreak havoc in the Capitol. It will prove an adequate diversion while
I make my move."
As time went on, Belphegor's power continued to grow. His grip became tighter, altering the Doctor's perceptions. Through Belphegor's eyes, the Doctor looked at Ace, and saw only that she was Fenric's tool. Fenric was trying to lead him into a trap. He ought to throw Ace out of the ship.
The Doctor fought to overcome such suggestions. He had come to like Ace, for all her problems. He disapproved of her fondness for weapons, particularly explosives - and yet somehow he was always half hearted in his efforts to prevent her using them. Perhaps that was the influence of Belphegor, who revelled in violence and destruction.
The Doctor understood now his conflict with Fenric. It was Belphegor's, not his. Yet it extended to him by virtue of Belphegor dwelling in his mind. Belphegor had been controlling him centuries ago, when he had trapped Fenric in the flask. But shortly afterwards, the spreading psychic shock had held Belphegor at bay, and suppressed the Doctor's own memories.
Now, the Doctor was growing aware once more. The time was coming when Fenric might free himself. Ace carried the curse of Fenric. She might ultimately be the cause of the Doctor's destruction.
So, what could he do? The obvious answer was to go on the offensive, and deal with Fenric before he could spring his trap. He heard Belphegor's words of approval. At last they were in agreement about something.
The Doctor began to trace his adversary. Fenric's flask had been taken to Constantinople by a merchant in the ninth century. Then it travelled across Europe, and was eventually stolen by Viking pirates. Many years later, believed to be a great treasure, it was carried by a Viking ship bearing settlers to England.
As the voyage progressed, the Vikings became aware of something following them through the water. During the nights, members of the crew would disappear, lost to the dark and the waves. The Vikings now believed that some terrible monster was following them, preying upon them.
They were right. Fenric had reached far into the future. After thousands of years of industrial and chemical poisoning, the Earth was dying. The human race was evolving into haemovores, undead creatures that fed on the blood of living things. As the food supply was exhausted, the haemovores started to die out.
Finally only one creature was left alive on the whole planet. Ingiga. Fenric conjured up a time storm, and brought the Haemovore back to Transylvania in the ninth century. Ingiga followed the flask across Europe, and followed the Viking ship. He was determined to free Fenric from the flask, so that he could be restored to his own time. His only desire now was to die along with the world he knew.
The Viking ship sank off Maiden's Point in Northumberland, but some of the survivors made it ashore, and settled in the area. They started families, and thought that they were free from the curse.
The Ancient Haemovore came ashore at night, and picked off the survivors, determined to have the flask. When only one man remained from the original crew, he buried the flask, knowing it was the cause of their suffering. He carved runes in the crypt of the local church, telling of the terror that had befallen them. Ingiga slept under the waves, waiting for the time when he would be awakened for the final battle.
Over time, the Viking settlers married into local families, and their culture and society was gradually absorbed, lost amidst English customs. And yet they were all tainted with the curse of Fenric. It was carried in their blood through the generations. Their descendants would be the pawns in Fenric's final game of traps - his wolves, as Fenric referred to them.
Centuries passed, and a naval base was built on the shores of Maiden's Bay. During the Second World War, it was used for research into computing machines. The crippled genius Doctor Judson built the Ultima Machine, that could decode Nazi cyphers. He was unaware of his role in Fenric's scheme. But like the base commander, Millington, he was one of the wolves of Fenric.
Millington was obsessed with Norse mythology, and with ending the war. He had discovered an underground source of deadly poison, beneath the local church. He tapped it, and refined it, and used it to create poison bombs. The poison seeped from the burial site of Fenric's flask. It was the Well of Vergelmir from Norse mythology.
The whole story of Fenric had become absorbed in the Norse legends. Millington knew the myths of his ancestors backwards. He believed that the Ultima machine should be used to decipher the Viking inscriptions from the crypt, which would release Fenric's power. With that power, Britain would emerge from the war supreme.
The Doctor and Ace arrived just as events were moving towards their conclusion. A squad of Russian soldiers had come ashore secretly to steal the Ultima machine. The Kremlin had foreseen a time after the war when they would need the decryption technology. Millington was prepared to let them take it. The machine was booby trapped with a poison bomb that could be detonated in the heart of the Kremlin, at any future time the British government saw fit.
But this was incidental to what was really happening. Fenric himself, from his prison, caused a new set of runes to be carved in the crypt. Deciphered, they read LET THE CHAINS OF FENRIC SHATTER. The meaning itself wasn't important. The very pattern of the runes formed a logic diagram, an algorithm for a computer.
Judson reprogrammed the Ultima machine according to the algorithm, and it went haywire, spewing out name after name. They were the names of the Vikings taken by the Ancient Haemovore. The crew of the ship, the settlers who had been buried locally, and even their descendants, tainted with the curse of Fenric.
The bodies started to rise from the sea and the graves. They were undead. Haemovores.
Finally, one last word came out of the machine. INGIGA. And the Ancient one himself started to stir on the sea bed.
The flask had been found. The Doctor realized that he had to get it away from there, before all hell broke loose and Fenric was freed. He found himself in conflict with Belphegor, who would have destroyed the world if it meant he could deal with Fenric.
Ace realized that something was wrong. She faced the Doctor accusingly. "You know what's going on, don't you?" she demanded.
"Yes," the Doctor said. He didn't want to get into this.
"You always know. You just can't be bothered to tell anyone. It's like it's some kind of a game, and only you know the rules. You knew all about that inscription being a computer program, but you didn't tell me. You know all about that old bottle, but you're not telling me. Am I so stupid?"
"No," snapped the Doctor. "That's not it."
How could he tell her the truth? He hadn't told her what was happening, because of her own part in it all. She was one of the wolves of Fenric, doomed to die, to rise as a haemovore, to seek the flask and free Fenric. It would happen to her, as it would happen to the rest, unless he could stop Fenric now. Damn it, he didn't even want to be here. This wasn't even his battle.
Sealed inside the flask, Fenric was powerful but trapped. Evil needed a body. They had to get the flask back. But it was too late. The computer program reached its inevitable conclusion. The skies were torn open and a storm unleashed. Fenric emerged from the flask, and took over the body of Doctor Judson.
A battle broke out between the Russian and British troops. Millington believed it to be the final battle at the end of the world. He knew the Norse myths too well. Aware of Fenric's vulnerability to chess, he had ordered every chess set on the base destroyed.
But then Ace remembered that one of the Wrens in the radio room, Kathleen Dudman, had a chess set in her suitcase. With the help of the Russians, the Doctor rushed to retrieve it. The haemovores were starting to overrun the base. There was very little time left.
Ace wanted to stay with Kathleen Dudman. The Wren had a small baby, and Ace couldn't bear to leave the child at the mercy of the haemovores.
When the undead creatures attacked, Ace helped Kathleen to escape. She put the Wren and her child in a car, and told her to drive to Streatham, where Ace's grandmother lived.
How was Ace to know that a few months later, Kathleen would be killed in an air raid? Ace's grandmother would adopt the baby as her own. Ace had saved the life of her own mother, the mother she hated. One of Fenric's little games.
The Ancient Haemovore had arrived. Ingiga was to play the role of the Great Serpent from Norse mythology, who would rise from the sea and spew venom over all the Earth. There was enough poison gas in Millington's store to wipe out all life on the planet. Fenric gave Ingiga a capsule of the poison and told him to release it into the ocean.
Ingiga sent forth a telepathic signal that destroyed the other haemovores. That was one problem dealt with. But there was still Fenric, and the Great Serpent. The Doctor set up the chess board, with the same problem. As before, Fenric couldn't solve it.
The Doctor waylaid the Ancient Haemovore. The creature wanted to be returned to his world of the future, and to achieve that he would do Fenric's bidding.
The Doctor knew how to defeat Fenric. But he had to concentrate to fight the influence of Belphegor. The insane hatred his sub persona had for Fenric was blocking his efforts to reason with Ingiga.
But eventually the Doctor got through. Fenric was creating a temporal paradox. By releasing the poison, Ingiga would cause the terrible future world that had spawned him. He could prevent it happening if he turned against Fenric now.
The Ancient Haemovore accepted the Doctor's words. He knew what he had to do. The Doctor breathed a sigh of relief. It was an old trick. He'd used similar arguments before. He hadn't been certain it would work on Ingiga.
Fenric had tricked Ace, and from her discovered the solution to the chess puzzle. An illegal move. The white and black pawns join forces. A white pawn takes the white King. Black wins. Fenric was supreme. He ordered Ingiga to destroy Ace and the Doctor.
But Ace didn't believe it was the end. She had faith that the Doctor would have something up his sleeve. Her faith was acting as a psychic barrier to Ingiga. It was the only thing that could stop a haemovore.
The Transylvanian legends about vampires had come about because of Ingiga's activities in that country, creating other undead among his victims. The legends stated that a vampire could not pass a crucifix. But it was the belief behind the symbol that was important. Any religious icon would do if the belief was true. And Ace's faith in the Doctor was just as powerful.
Unless it was broken, Ingiga could not act. The psychic barrier held the Haemovore in check. He could not complete the bargain he had made with the Doctor. Ironically, Ace's belief that the Doctor had a plan was preventing that plan from coming to fruition.
The Doctor needed to destroy Ace's faith. Fenric unwittingly gave him the opportunity. He promised to spare Ace if the Doctor would kneel before him. The Doctor refused. "Kill her," he said.
Belphegor laughed inside his head. Let the girl die. She was no good anyway. Let Fenric take back his pawn. We will admit no defeat.
The Doctor's intentions weren't so callous, but he had to destroy Ace's belief in him. He seized on all her personality disorders, every misgiving he had had about Ace, and exaggerated them, threw them back in her face. He had only taken her in the TARDIS because he knew she was Fenric's pawn. If Belphegor had had his way, it might have been true.
It worked. Ace's belief wavered. Ingiga moved. But he didn't kill the Doctor and Ace. He took Fenric into a sealed test chamber, and released the poison gas. The two of them were destroyed, Ingiga and Fenric's host body.
The future had been preserved. The chemical pollution would not occur, and the haemovores would never evolve.
And Fenric was gone, his great plan come to nothing. The evil that formed his intelligence survived. One day perhaps it would take another form. But this round of the struggle was over. Evil had been vanquished.
For once, the Doctor didn't feel anger from Belphegor. The destruction of Fenric was a result that he desired as well. At this point Belphegor wanted to dump Ace, and go off in the TARDIS alone. But the Doctor was still in charge. He had bridges to mend. He needed to restore Ace's faith.
Things worked out after that. Ace was freed forever from the curse. Fenric was gone. They resumed their travels. The Doctor might have assumed that everything was all right, just like Ace did.
But everything wasn't all right. Belphegor was still very present in his
mind. The Doctor had done his bidding in destroying Fenric. But Belphegor
had other plans, greater plans. He wanted to exact his revenge upon
Gallifrey. He wanted to travel there, to retrieve the Hand of Omega.
The Doctor buried his head into the pillow. He knew it had been a mistake to go to bed tonight. He had suspected that he might suffer another dream. And yet he had forced himself to go through with it. He needed the information that his missing memories could impart.
There was another reason. He had hoped that somehow he might dream once more of his wife, and unlock some proper reminiscences from his shattered mind. Even to be able to glimpse her face again after seven centuries would make a world of difference.
It was not to be. He was left with just more confirmation of the evil he had suffered at the hands of Belphegor. It was terrifying to see how the mental influence had increased. How it had become more pervasive, and harder to resist. And to see himself, caught up in Belphegor's plans, forced to carry them out for his own well being. He felt like a laboratory mouse in some colossal behavioural study.
And yet certain things became clearer. Belphegor had been intending to return to Gallifrey and use the Hand of Omega to exact revenge on the Time Lords. This confirmed the Doctor's own hypothesis concerning the current crisis. At least he had definite information to go on.
The Doctor thought for a moment of Ace. His memories of her were still hazy. The poor girl, she had been manipulated by Fenric and Belphegor, even by the Doctor himself. He wondered what had happened to her.
The Doctor got out of bed. He couldn't go back to sleep now. He glanced out of the window. The first pale light of Kasterborus Gamma was starting to stretch above the towers of the Capitol. If anything, the sun looked dimmer than usual.
The Doctor felt a great sense of futility weighing upon him. He didn't know whether he could defeat Belphegor, and save himself. The research he had conducted yesterday, although useful, had filled him with foreboding. What chance could he possibly have? Even Rassilon himself had barely succeeded in breaking free from Belphegor's influence.
There was no sense worrying about it, the Doctor decided. All he could do was proceed with his investigation.
Slipping outside, he passed Rhonwen's apartment. No light was on. She was probably still sound asleep. He wouldn't disturb her. Let her get on with looking for the psionic generator. It would give her something to do.
The Doctor set off for the Castellan's office.
Pandak surveyed his motley army. There were around twenty men, mostly servitors and a couple of loyal guards. They would have to do. If he took the Council chamber entirely by surprise, they would be all he needed.
Another small group had gone to the ducting beneath the Panopticon. They would be needed to help secure the Eye of Harmony if all went according to plan. Pandak smiled to himself. He could foresee no difficulties now. Victory was his.
He came upon the entrance to a narrow service shaft. It extended up high above his head, about wide enough for one man to crawl through at a time. The shaft was inclined very steeply, and there was no inspection ladder. Maintenance would have been carried out by a magnetized drone robot.
Pandak gestured for one of his men to come forward, the one who seemed the most lithe and athletic. He wore the robes of a technician. To climb the shaft, he would have to brace his back against one side, and work his way up with his feet. It would be a long and difficult climb. Once he got to the top, he could unfurl a rope ladder, and the rest of them could ascend with relatively more ease.
Once the ladder was in place, and the technician had ensured that the Games Control room above was safe, Pandak would follow him. Even with the ladder, it would take a couple of hours for all his men to follow him up the shaft, but Pandak had planned carefully. He would take the Council chamber on schedule, and the Panopticon would be his before the appointed hour of midday.
There was no point wasting further time. At a nod from Pandak, the
technician clambered up into the narrow space, and began to climb.
Fresh from an unusual but quite appetizing breakfast, Rhonwen returned to the Archive section. She found Stalred already there, hunched over a computer monitor.
K9 had called up a schematic of the underground chambers, based on the information gleaned by the drone robot.
"Did you find the generator?" Rhonwen asked.
"Affirmative, mistress," K9 replied. "It is situated in sub basement 578-FJD."
"I think I can see a route down," Stalred said. He pressed a control to obtain a print out of the plan.
"Affirmative," said K9. "All possible routes have been computed and recorded. Hard copy is unnecessary."
Stalred shrugged and folded the map up, stuffing it into his uniform pocket. He trusted that K9 would have a perfect record of the schematic in his holographic memory, but he might as well keep the paper copy. Just in case it was needed.
"All right," said Rhonwen, "let's get started."
The Doctor paused before the door of the Chancellor's office. "Are you sure you want to go through with this?" he asked.
"Yes," Rodan replied emphatically. "It is my duty to investigate all possible breaches of security."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "You can't seriously be suggesting that a member of the High Council is responsible," he said sarcastically.
"Do not mock me, Doctor," replied Rodan.
The Doctor smiled apologetically. He nodded to the guard on the door, and then strode straight past him into the office.
Cabulas was standing beside the far wall, apparently examining a painting that hung there. He spun around with a guilty start. "Doctor," he said, relaxing visibly. "I do wish you'd learn to knock."
"There's no time for that," the Doctor replied. He walked over to Cabulas, and started to scrutinize the painting. It was a simple depiction of a blue circle on a black background. "It's a DX-64729 original, isn't it? Not one of its best. I've always said that computers can't paint. I never knew you were an art connoisseur, Cabulas."
"It provides a distraction," the Chancellor replied. "What can I do for you, Doctor?" He looked up at the doorway where Rodan was hovering uncertainly. "Come in, Castellan," he suggested.
Rodan moved cautiously into the room, and the guard shut the door behind her. Now that she was actually here, she felt rather less certain about confronting Cabulas with her accusation.
"Did your research yesterday provide any clues?" asked Cabulas.
"Oh yes," said the Doctor. "I know now who we're up against."
"Exactly. As I suspected, he's using the Hand of Omega to alter the sun's structure."
"And how does Pandak fit into all this?" Cabulas replied.
"I'm not really sure," the Doctor admitted. "But even Belphegor can't be in two places at once. Obviously he's using Pandak to carry out part of his plan that needs to be executed here in the Capitol. Possibly just a diversion."
"But there's more to it than that," Rodan put in. "Your Excellency, we have evidence of a high level conspiracy. At least one member of the High Council is working for Pandak."
"How can you be so sure?" Cabulas demanded.
The Doctor rubbed his hands. "The energy spheres that have been attacking me were patterned to my mental frequencies. Someone has recently accessed my data extract."
"I ran security traces," said Rodan. "They have revealed the name of the culprit."
"Who was it?" asked Cabulas.
"Your Excellency," Rodan began slowly, "your name was revealed."
Cabulas widened his eyes in surprise. "I see," he muttered. "You realize of course that I have been framed?"
"Well, of course you have," said the Doctor. "A technical expert of your calibre, not to mention a CIA agent, would be able to scan my DE without leaving such an obvious clue."
Rodan looked from the Doctor to Cabulas. Now that the moment of accusation had come, she found it rather annoying that her evidence had been swept aside. She found it more annoying that the Doctor hadn't mentioned the flaws in her theory sooner.
"So," said Cabulas, "who are we looking for?"
"One name has been suggested," replied the Doctor, looking at Rodan.
The Castellan nodded. "I don't like to make accusations without
evidence," she said. "But there is a possibility that Cardinal Zelara is
Stalred shone his torch along the narrow passage. It sloped downwards with a gentle incline. A great many beams and pipes cut across the width of the corridor.
"It looks very cramped," he said, turning back to Rhonwen and K9. "Are you sure this is the right way?"
"Affirmative," replied K9.
They were standing at the foot of the Traffic Control building, looking through a panel that Stalred had opened.
"I'll go first," said Stalred.
"Negative," responded K9. "I must precede."
Before Stalred could argue, K9 trundled through the opening and started to glide along the passage.
Rhonwen shrugged. "I suppose he knows where he's going," she said, reaching out and taking the torch from Stalred's hand. She ducked into the shaft and began to follow K9.
Stalred resigned himself to taking up the rear. He stepped through the
opening, and closed the panel behind him.
Cabulas looked up from the communications panel on his desk. "I have summoned a meeting of the High Council to examine these allegations," he said.
Rodan looked a little uncomfortable. She had no real evidence to present against Cardinal Zelara. Just the suspicions of Stalred, which hardly amounted to proof. "There has to be a traitor," she said, trying to justify her hypothesis. "A High Council security code would be needed to access the bio data records. But I do not know who that traitor is."
"We shall call this an investigation, then," replied Cabulas.
The Doctor said, "There's circumstantial evidence pointing to Zelara. And you have to admit, he's got the motive."
"As Prydonian Cardinal, he would welcome Pandak's return to power," Rodan replied.
"And he doesn't exactly like me," added the Doctor. "After all, it's all because of me that the Prydonian Chapter fell from its exalted position."
Cabulas held up his hands for peace. "You don't have to convince me that there are grounds for suspicion," he said. "But I have to observe the forms of law. What is this circumstantial evidence you speak of?"
Rodan said, "Commander Stalred apprehended the Cardinal in suspicious circumstances."
"Then we had best call him as a witness," Cabulas suggested.
Rodan raised her wrist communicator. "I shall summon him back to the
Rhonwen swept the torch beam around the chamber. Attached to the walls and ceiling was an impossible tangle of pipes and conduits. They branched off in all directions, extending into the gloom of the innumerable small passages that radiated from the chamber.
She was glad they had brought K9 with them. Without him, Rhonwen knew they would have been hopelessly lost by now. K9 had no hesitation in choosing the correct passage. At each junction they came to, he barely halted.
There was a bleeping sound from behind her. Rhonwen turned to see Stalred raise his wrist communicator. "Yes, Castellan?" he said.
Rodan's voice came from the communicator. "An emergency meeting of the High Council is being convened. We will investigate whether there is a traitor in our midst. You are to present yourself, to give evidence against Cardinal Zelara."
Stalred looked up at Rhonwen for a moment. "But Castellan..." he began.
"That is an order, Commander," Rodan snapped. The communicator went dead.
Stalred shrugged. "I have to attend the Council," he said. "We'd better go back."
"Well, I haven't been summoned," Rhonwen replied. "I'll go on with the search."
"But you can't possibly go by yourself," insisted Stalred.
"Because you're a young lady."
Rhonwen snorted contemptuously. "I won't tell anyone if you won't," she said. "Besides, I'm not on my own. I've got K9 with me. He'll look after me. Won't you, K9?"
"Affirmative, mistress," K9 replied.
"See?" said Rhonwen.
Stalred looked dubious, but it was obvious he wouldn't be able to dissuade her. "I suppose so," he said. "But be careful."
"Of course we will," Rhonwen replied.
Stalred nodded, and turned to go back the way they had come. He hoped he'd be able to remember the way. It was a good job he'd obtained a hard copy of the map.
Rhonwen and K9 continued further into the maze of tunnels and passages.
The President sat down at the head of the conference table. She tried to understand the ramifications of Chancellor Cabulas's technical report.
"Are you entirely certain, your Excellency?" she asked.
"The figures have been rechecked, Madam," Cabulas replied. "There can be no doubt. The rate of solar mass loss has increased dramatically. The energy output is beginning to dwindle. Kasterborus Gamma is dying."
"Today's the day," remarked the Doctor, who was idling near the door of the Council chamber.
"Doctor?" the President queried.
"Whatever Belphegor's doing, it's going to happen today. I don't know if anyone's noticed, but the sun is definitely dimmer today than it was yesterday."
"What do you think is going to happen?" the President asked. She looked from the Doctor to Cabulas to Castellan Rodan. The two Cardinals had yet to arrive.
"Oh, the whole system will be destroyed," said the Doctor matter of factly. "Not to mention half the Galaxy. It's probably some twisted form of revenge. Belphegor's been plotting this for thousands of years, so he may well not stop to consider the consequences."
"But why?" demanded the President. "Who is this Belphegor?"
The Doctor took a deep breath. "Well, much of this is history that Rassilon deliberately suppressed. Are you sure you want to hear it?"
"I think we must know," said the President quietly.
"All right." The Doctor sat down at the far end of the table. "Belphegor was a tyrant who ruled Gallifrey for thousands of years during the Dark Time. Long before we possessed the power of time travel, Gallifrey had a huge star empire, covering most of this galaxy. The other planets were so underdeveloped back then that there was no one strong enough to resist us. Belphegor came to power at that time, and somehow he discovered the secret of immortality. His mind was immortal, but his body was not. When he came to the end of a natural life, he projected his consciousness into another body, erasing the mind of the host.
"After thousands of years, the empire began to crumble. Other civilizations were starting to grow, and they wouldn't take the tyrannical rule of Gallifrey lying down. So Belphegor decided to branch out into other times. He sent Omega to blow up a star, and that created a resource of temporal energy. Basic time capsules were designed, and the Time Scoop was invented. As far as I can tell, the Death Zone was Belphegor's own idea."
Cabulas shook his head in bewilderment. "This is preposterous," he said. "If this Belphegor were so important a figure in our history, we would have heard of him. And why has Rassilon not featured in your story so far?"
"I'm coming to that," replied the Doctor. "After a few thousand years, Omega's temporal energy started to dry up. Belphegor needed to create a constant, everlasting source of power. That's where Rassilon came in. He created the Eye of Harmony. Belphegor was afraid of Rassilon's power and tried to kill him. But Rassilon had been working on a genetic conversion, and had imbued himself with the energy of the Eye. He regenerated, and gathered a group of followers around him. They became the first Time Lords. That is, as we understand the term today."
"What do you mean?" asked Rodan.
"Well, Belphegor and his people called themselves Lords of Time, simply because they were the only race back then who possessed the power of time travel.
"Anyway," the Doctor continued, "Rassilon defeated Belphegor, and had his body vaporized. But Belphegor had an immortal consciousness. His powers of mental manipulation were phenomenal. He projected his consciousness into Rassilon's mind. And a struggle ensued as to who would eventually control the body. Belphegor was confident he would win. That's why he gave Rassilon the gift of immortality. As the mental battle continued, Rassilon's personality altered. He suffered mood swings and his very nature seemed to change, one day apparently cruel, the next day benevolent."
He looked around at them. "Don't you see? That's the reason for the dual legend. The two completely opposed accounts of Rassilon's reign. One describes him as wise and kind, the other as a tyrant."
"I suppose it might explain the discrepancy," the President replied cautiously.
The Doctor got up from his chair and nervously began to pace the room. "I know this is difficult to take in," he said. "You've lived with the official history for centuries. Rassilon wanted it that way."
"How did Rassilon defeat Belphegor?" asked Cabulas.
"He realized," replied the Doctor, "that to overcome Belphegor's influence, he had to become his equal in mental powers. That's why he designed the Coronet of Rassilon - to emphasize his own will over Belphegor's. He was able to eject Belphegor's consciousness from his mind."
"Into the well of thoughts," said Rodan, remembering the end of the transgram she had heard yesterday.
"Exactly," said the Doctor. "That has to be a reference to the Matrix. Rassilon sealed Belphegor inside a panatropic register, and then removed all mention of the tyrant from the histories. Rassilon was forced to remove much of his own story, because it was so entwined with Belphegor's. That's why he became a shadowy figure of legends and nursery rhymes."
"But surely," began the President, "Rassilon could never hope to cover up Belphegor's existence. People would remember him, and perpetuate legends about him."
The Doctor shook his head emphatically. "With the Coronet, Rassilon had absolute mental powers. He could force the Time Lords to forget about Belphegor completely. All memory of him was driven from their minds. The only trace left now is a feeling of familiarity when you hear the name - which you can't put your finger on. That's a reaction of subconscious race memory, the only part of us that still recalls Belphegor's tyranny.
"Rassilon himself retained the secret of immortality. Eventually, he surrendered his Presidency and went voluntarily to the Dark Tower. His body had reached the end of its regenerative cycle, but his consciousness lived on. Unlike Belphegor, he didn't try to project his mind into the body of another. Rassilon had no desire to become an immortal tyrant."
"But if Belphegor was trapped," said Cabulas, "how is he responsible for our problems today?"
"Somehow," replied the Doctor, "Belphegor freed his consciousness - or part of it. I haven't been able to work out all the details yet."
"What can we do?" asked the President.
The Doctor shrugged. "If we knew where Belphegor was," he replied, "we
might be able to stop him in time. As it is, we'll just have to wait for
inspiration to strike us, before it's too late."
Belphegor laughed. The moment of his revenge had arrived. The destruction of Gallifrey and its sanctimonious Time Lords was nigh.
It had taken many thousands of years to achieve this end. First to free himself from Rassilon's trap. And then centuries locked inside the mind of the Doctor.
Now, at last the Doctor's mind was his. The body in which it was situated was far from inspiring. It was short, gawky and spoke with a strange accent. Pandak had clearly been unimpressed.
But it had been easy to trick Pandak. Belphegor's powers of mental manipulation were immense. And the deposed President was so hungry for revenge, he would have accepted any suggestion Belphegor made.
True, Pandak was impulsive. He had launched a frontal attack on the Citadel that was doomed to failure. But today he would have more success. At midday, Pandak would release the Eye of Harmony, and that symbol of Rassilon's power would destroy the Time Lords.
Belphegor turned his attention to the Hand of Omega. It was time to
execute the new program.
Cardinal Zelara entered the Council chamber. He stopped nervously in the doorway. The sight of the President, Cabulas and Rodan all staring at him was rather disconcerting. Looking around, Zelara caught sight of the Doctor standing on the raised dais beside the Harp of Rassilon.
Turning, the Doctor caught sight of the newcomer. "Ah Zelara," he said. "Glad you could make it."
The President got to her feet imperiously. She respected the Doctor greatly, but she wasn't about to let him take over this enquiry. If a member of the High Council was to be accused, she was going to make sure it was done properly. "Come in please, your Eminence," she said. "Take a seat."
Zelara sat down cautiously. "I came as soon as I received your summons," he said. "Has there been a new development?"
"I'm afraid so," replied the President. "Castellan?"
Rodan took a step forward. "We have reason to believe that a member of the High Council is a traitor," she announced.
Zelara raised his eyebrows. "That's terrible," he said. "Do you have any idea who it is?"
"We're still gathering evidence," replied Rodan. "But we have our suspicions."
The door opened, and Commander Stalred was revealed. He stood to attention, his helmet tucked beneath his arm. "Come in, Commander," said the President.
Stalred entered the room. Zelara turned his head to regard him. Stalred could not meet the Cardinal's gaze. He didn't want to be here. It wasn't his place to cast suspicion on the Cardinal of the Prydonian Chapter, particularly when there was no hard evidence.
"Commander," began Castellan Rodan, "will you please tell us about your encounter with Cardinal Zelara yesterday?"
Stalred shuffled his feet in embarrassment. He spoke hesitantly, recounting the sequence of events. He didn't want to lay too much emphasis on Zelara's presence, so he mentioned it as casually as possible.
When he had finished, Rodan turned to Cardinal Zelara. "Well?" she demanded. She seemed to have taken on the role of prosecutor.
A smile started to play across Zelara's features. "I don't see that there's any mystery," he murmured.
"You had no reason to be in that service duct," Rodan countered. "You will remember that this was shortly after the attempted rebellion yesterday. I had sent you back to your College with an armed escort. It is therefore surprising that you should choose to go out unescorted, when some of Pandak's men might still have been at large."
"I don't need guards to take care of me," said Zelara. "I am the Prydonian Cardinal. I resented being sent back to my College. I wanted to know what was going on, so as soon as your guards had left, I returned to the Citadel. Whilst I was there, I saw Commander Stalred talking to the Doctor's Earthling companion. When they left, I decided to follow them."
"Why?" asked the Doctor quietly.
Zelara seemed almost apologetic. "Well, Doctor," he replied, "I thought I might find some evidence against you."
The Doctor started to laugh to himself. "You thought I was the culprit?"
"The Prydonian Chapter doesn't hold a very high opinion of you," Zelara said. "If it hadn't been for you, we would still control Gallifreyan politics."
"Maybe it was time for a change," suggested the Doctor. "We all know the trouble with absolute power."
Rodan turned an accusatory glare on Zelara. "You would certainly be in favour of Pandak returning to power," she snapped.
Zelara shook his head. "No, I wouldn't. Whatever my opinion of the Doctor, the fact remains that Pandak's actions can never be excused. I would welcome the return of Prydonian supremacy, but not under his rule."
The Doctor looked up at Rodan. "I believe him," he said.
"I'm not convinced," the Castellan replied.
Chancellor Cabulas cleared his throat. "There is hardly enough evidence to convict Cardinal Zelara," he said. "I suggest that this investigation continues with an open mind, rather than as a witch hunt of one man."
"Where's Lodar?" the Doctor asked suddenly.
"He's had plenty of time to arrive by now," replied Rodan.
"I'll see if I can locate him," Cabulas said, turning to a
Rhonwen looked cautiously into the narrow conduit. The walls were made of smooth metal, and it was only a yard or so wide, and not much taller. "Are you sure this is the way?" she asked. "I don't think I'll be able to crawl through there."
"Negative, mistress," K9 said. "There is a service ladder ten metres further to the right. It leads to an access corridor near sub basement 578-FJD."
"You can't climb down a ladder," Rhonwen said.
"Precisely, mistress. We must separate here. I shall proceed along this conduit. It terminates in the same location. The route is circuitous, and will take me approximately thirty two minutes to traverse. You will arrive before me."
"All right," Rhonwen replied. "If I find anything, I'll wait for you to turn up. I guess you're the technical expert."
"Place me inside the conduit, mistress," K9 said.
Rhonwen stooped to lift K9. It was difficult to get a grip on his casing, and he was heavier than she would have thought. But eventually she managed to heave him up and into the opening of the conduit.
"I'll see you later," Rhonwen said.
"Proceed with caution, mistress," advised K9.
"I will," Rhonwen promised.
K9 started to roll slowly along the conduit. There was barely enough clearance for him, and it had a slight incline, so clearly he had to keep his brakes applied.
Rhonwen waited until he had disappeared from sight, and then moved to
the right, looking for the ladder K9 had mentioned.
"Cardinal Lodar is not answering messages," Cabulas announced.
"That seems suspicious," replied Rodan.
The President looked up at her sharply. "Castellan, you cannot simply throw accusations around at anyone who suits your theories. Especially not at the Cardinal of the Patrex Chapter. It is a preposterous suggestion. What possible motive would his Eminence have for supporting Pandak? Do you really believe he would be in favour of a movement to depose a Patrex President?"
"It seems unlikely," agreed the Doctor, "but this is an investigation designed to eliminate suspects. Lodar ought to be co-operating with us."
The President turned angrily to Cabulas. "Your Excellency, kindly send a message to the Dean of Patrex College. The President presents her compliments. Would it be possible to speak with Cardinal Lodar?"
Cabulas busied himself with the communications panel. After a few moments, he looked up. "The Dean says that Lodar is not in College. He hasn't been in College all day."
"That doesn't prove anything," the President said.
"Exitonics," exclaimed the Doctor.
Ignoring the startled looks of the others, he turned to Cardinal Zelara. "How much knowledge do you have of exitonic circuitry?" he asked.
Zelara shrugged. "Only the basics they teach you at the Academy," he said. "I did not specialize in sciences. I'm an historian."
"Really?" said the Doctor delightedly. "So am I. At least, I am sometimes."
"What are you getting at, Doctor?" asked the President.
Before the Doctor could answer, Chancellor Cabulas jumped in, snapping his fingers excitedly. "Of course," he said. "Cardinal Lodar is an expert in exitonic circuitry. Don't you see, Madam? Only someone with his skills would be able to falsify the security records."
"And he'd be able to build a psionic energy generator," the Doctor added.
The President resumed her seat, a confused expression on her face. "It doesn't make sense," she muttered.
Clearly she was shattered by this latest news. That some doubt had been cast on the integrity of her Cardinal was painful enough for her. But to be presented with evidence that suggested there might be some foundation for that doubt made it worse.
The Doctor tried to speak reassuringly. "It doesn't necessarily prove anything," he said. "There might be any number of explanations for his absence."
The President looked up to meet his eyes, but instead her gaze fixed upon the carafe of water in the centre of the table. It was starting to shake, ever so slightly. As the President watched, it began to vibrate its way across the table.
"It's another earthquake," exclaimed the Doctor.
They jumped up from their seats. The whole room was starting to shake now. Cabulas stayed by the communications panel, trying to get through to the technical control room. The panel exploded in a shower of sparks.
Rodan and Stalred were both shouting into their wrist communicators, giving frantic orders to their subordinates whilst there was still time to organize some emergency measures.
The Doctor watched a crack appear in the far wall, that slowly spread up from the floor towards the ceiling, like a streak of lightning upside down. The ground started to shift beneath his feet.
One of the stone columns framing the doorway suddenly broke near its base, and toppled to the floor. It narrowly missed Stalred, who leapt back just in time. The pillar shattered into fragments of stone as it hit the floor.
The Doctor looked up to see part of the ceiling cave in. A shower of
alabaster and stone started to fall towards him. He threw his hands up over
his head, but it was too late. He slumped to the floor in a cloud of dust.
The ladder started to shake violently. Rhonwen clung on tightly, her hand grasping the rung with all the strength she could muster. A shower of dust and stone fragments fell around her.
She was about half way down the ladder. She could just make out the floor far below, illuminated in an eerie cathode glow. It was visibly vibrating.
A clanking sound accompanied the fall of a piece of metal. One of the pipes had sheared off the wall above, and fell clattering past her.
There was another flash of metal, and a large grille cover from an air vent came towards Rhonwen. She tried to move her body, still clinging to the ladder. She was not fast enough. The corner of the grille caught her in the shoulder, knocking the wind out of her.
A sudden sensation of shock passed through her, and she felt her grip slipping on the ladder. She could no longer keep hold of the rung. She started to fall.
Somehow she managed to hook an elbow through the ladder, a few rungs lower, which brought her jerking to a stop. A sudden pain tore through her arm as it took her weight, and she felt as if it were being ripped from its socket. She crashed hard against the ladder, her legs slamming into the hard metal edges.
Then the tremor started to subside. Rhonwen did not think she could hold on much longer. She took advantage of the growing calm to steady herself on the ladder, moving her arms to get a firmer hold.
Her breath burst from her mouth. Her lungs were burning with the pain of exertion and clogged with mouthfuls of stone dust. Even with the earthquake subsiding, she couldn't stay clinging to this ladder any more.
As fast as she could manage, Rhonwen clambered down rung after rung.
Finally she dropped the last few feet, and came to rest unceremoniously in
a heap on the floor. She fell flat on her face, and lay there gratefully.
Still Belphegor's influence grew. He managed to exert total control once more. This time, it was longer before the Doctor could take his body back. The longer the process went on, the more powerful Belphegor became. The urge to return to Gallifrey grew stronger.
One black day, the Doctor collapsed on the floor of the console room. Belphegor burned into his mind, seizing and twisting, crushing independent thoughts. He was no longer content to be a passenger. He needed the Doctor's mind and body as his own.
He saw Ace looking down at him, concern written on her face. Damn her! She was Fenric's tool, and he still kept her around. He wanted to get rid of her. He didn't need any interference in his designs.
Staggering to his feet, the Doctor opened the TARDIS doors. He said, "End of the line, Ace."
"What do you mean, Professor?" she asked.
"Get out of here. Now! While there's still time."
"Doctor, what's the matter?"
With an angry cry, the Doctor grabbed hold of her, and thrust her towards the doors. "Get out of my TARDIS!" he screamed. He pushed her outside, closed the doors and dematerialized.
He slumped against the side of the console. What had he done? Ace had been left in eighteenth century England. They'd been visiting Edward Jenner, and helping with the early smallpox vaccinations. The Doctor hoped that Ace would be all right. Jenner would probably help her out. The Doctor had a long acquaintance with the scientist, so he felt Jenner could be relied upon.
The ship was in flight, the co-ordinates set at random. There was no way he could go back for Ace now. Belphegor was to blame. But it was perhaps for the best. At least now Ace was out of harm's way. Belphegor might well have decided to kill her. At least, the Doctor thought, that wouldn't be on his conscience. He recalled that he had seen an eighteenth century portrait of Ace once, hanging in Windsor Castle. That suggested she would have some future life to speak of.
The Doctor pressed his palms against his temples, as if somehow that pressure would drive the evil out of his mind. He seemed to have regained control, but it was getting worse. He couldn't let this go on much longer.
And yet, he knew that Belphegor's power was continuing to grow. There would come a time when the Doctor couldn't resist him any more.
The Doctor thought of the past. When he had been a child, he had had a day like today. A day that had seemed the blackest day imaginable. Then, he had climbed the mountain above his house. There, amidst the dirty brown rocks and murky grey snow, had sat the old hermit who was reputed to know the secret of life.
The Doctor had poured out all his troubles, and the old man had merely pointed to a pale weed-like flower. And suddenly the flower was alive with colour, shimmering and glittering like a cut jewel. And the rocks were glorious hues of red and brown, and the snow was shining brilliant white in the light of Kasterborus Gamma.
The old man had passed on the secret of life. The only secret was that the Universe existed, and wouldn't stop existing just because you were having a few problems. No one person was the centre of the Universe. Everything was alive, and everything was beautiful.
The Doctor had decided then that he wouldn't become a Time Lord, and wouldn't go to live in the Capitol. Things hadn't quite worked out like that. But he had determined to champion life and to oppose all those who stood for evil and darkness.
He had been right to destroy Fenric. But Belphegor was just as bad. And the ultimate cruelty was that Belphegor was using his body. The Doctor had to act before it was too late. That old man on the mountain had been a sort of mentor to him during his formative years. He had been ancient beyond reckoning, and had told the Doctor tales of the past, of history long forgotten by the Time Lords.
Now, that same old hermit had regenerated a couple of times, and finally retreated to Earth where he had taken up Buddhism. He was currently using the name of Cho Je, and was ensconced in a meditation centre in Mummerset.
This, the Doctor realized, was his last chance. Before Belphegor took
him over completely. Cho Je could help him. A plan was forming in the
Doctor's mind. It was the only hope he had. He set the co-ordinates for
Chancellor Cabulas shook the Doctor awake. "Are you all right?" he asked, as the Doctor finally opened his eyes.
"Yes," replied the Doctor. "It all makes sense now."
He didn't resent the dream this time. It showed him how he had resisted Belphegor, and sought Cho Je to work out a possible solution.
And yet he felt a twinge of sadness at the way he had treated Ace. She didn't deserve to be bundled out of the TARDIS, dumped in a time that wasn't her own with no choice in the matter.
The Doctor wasn't sure whether it had been Belphegor getting rid of Ace, or some part of his own subconscious - getting her out of the way in order to save her from Belphegor's wrath. He hoped it was the latter case. At least then he had been showing some compassion for her at the end, even if it hadn't seemed that way at the time.
The Doctor stood up, and looked around the room. The Surgeon General had turned up and was treating minor injuries. Fortunately, no one in the Council chamber appeared to have been badly hurt.
Catching sight of Commander Stalred, the Doctor was hit by a sudden realization. "Where's Rhonwen?" he asked. "Stalred, did she go down into the vaults?"
"Yes, Doctor," said Stalred. "I tried to persuade her to turn back, but she seemed to think she was capable of going on. She had K9 with her."
Turning to Cabulas, the Doctor asked, "How much damage is there? Are the foundations of the Capitol in one piece?"
"Communications are down, Doctor," replied Cabulas. "I have no way of knowing."
The Doctor cast an anxious look at Stalred. The Commander nodded. "I'll go and look for her." He started to dash from the room.
Satisfied that at least something was being done to find Rhonwen, the Doctor pushed his worry for her safety to the bottom of his mind. It wouldn't do him any good fretting about it. He had other things to occupy him.
Turning back to Cabulas, he said, "I've realized what Belphegor is trying to do. Part of his consciousness is still trapped in the Matrix. If he destroys Gallifrey, the Matrix might well survive as a disembodied communal intelligence."
"It's possible," said Cabulas. "But the Matrix will probably dissipate without the panatropic net to bind it together. And the fabric of the net will be destroyed along with the planet."
"Belphegor is maintaining an open Matrix terminal. He'll need the controls to pull his consciousness out when the net is destroyed."
"We will secure all Matrix terminals," replied Cabulas. "As soon as communications are restored, I shall give the order."
The Doctor nodded cautiously. "I don't think he'll be using one of the known terminals. He's probably hacked in to the Matrix somewhere. You could trace it with a flow test program, but it would take time."
"I'll see what I can do," replied Cabulas.
The Doctor rubbed his chin thoughtfully. This was the only lead they
had, and it wasn't promising. Yet he felt sure there was something he was
Rhonwen picked herself up from the floor. Her dress was covered in dust and grime. She hoped there was a good launderette on Gallifrey, or Castellan Rodan wasn't going to be very pleased.
Despite the terror she'd been through, Rhonwen started to laugh. It seemed to act as a release of her pent up emotions. She felt much better afterwards.
She had grazed her hands on the chunks of stone that littered the floor. She hadn't noticed that before. The palms were raw and they hurt quite a bit. Rhonwen wondered whether she ought to try and get back to the surface. Some of that magic spray-on skin from the medics was just what she needed.
But she decided to wait a while. She'd managed to get here now. She might as well look around. She was standing in a narrow service corridor, the walls lined with pipes and cables. The cathode glow she had seen from up on the ladder still illuminated the narrow passage. It came from somewhere ahead, where Rhonwen could see the corridor open up into a wider chamber. The earthquake hadn't affected whatever was down here.
Rhonwen started to move towards the light source.
She suddenly thought of K9. What had happened to him? If the conduit he was using had been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake...
Rhonwen didn't want to think about it. Even if he was just a machine, K9 was a real personality. In the short time she had known him, she'd become quite fond of him. She looked around for any opening that might be the metal conduit. She couldn't see anything in the immediate area. The corridor extended for some distance behind her, but the cathode glow wasn't bright enough to illuminate much further back. She couldn't see well enough to look for the opening. Rhonwen decided to put K9 out of her mind, and just hope that he turned up later. It was better than upsetting herself.
She moved along the corridor, into the larger chamber beyond. There, she located the source of the eerie light. It was a weird, alien piece of apparatus, set up in the gap between two larger machines, which Rhonwen reckoned to be boilers for the heating system - or whatever the Gallifreyan equivalent was.
The strange device appeared to be made up of transparent glass tubes set in a metal frame. These were wrapped around a large glass sphere, in which blue light pulsed. It seemed almost to be alive. Rhonwen could well believe that this was the source of the psionic energy.
A control panel was fixed to the front of the weird machine, but she couldn't make sense of any of the switches.
Suddenly, a voice rang out behind her. "Well, if it isn't the Doctor's pet Earthling."
Rhonwen spun round, to find herself facing a figure in long purple robes. She recognized him as Cardinal Lodar. He held a staser pistol levelled squarely at her chest.
"How clever of you to find the generator," he said. "But I'm afraid you've arrived much too late."