The Belphegor Inheritance
All in the Mind
The force of the earthquake had broken the conduit away from its mountings, causing it to twist in the air. One end of the metal tube remained attached somewhere above. K9 found himself spinning around, trapped inside the casing of the conduit.
Finally, it came to rest, crashing back against the wall from which it had originally broken free. Through his outer sensors, K9 could detect the straining of the metal brackets above, which were all that now supported the weight of the conduit. They would not hold indefinitely.
He increased his speed downwards, trying to get clear of the conduit before it collapsed. Because of the way it was hanging, the tube was now inclined at a steeper angle. K9 had to keep his brakes more firmly applied.
At last, he reached the bottom. The end of the conduit had hit the floor and dented inwards, effectively sealing off K9's exit. He would have to blast his way out.
K9 examined his surroundings carefully. The smooth and shiny metal of the conduit might reflect the energy discharge from his nose blaster back at himself. To minimize the risk, K9 fired a low power burst. He managed to clear some of the twisted metal from his path. There was now enough of a gap created to force himself through.
K9's wheels ground uncertainly over the twisted metal, the servos
straining. Finally, he freed himself from the tangled end of the conduit,
and glided out onto a solid floor once more. Ploughing through the dust and
stone fragments, he started along the service corridor towards the light
Cardinal Lodar gestured angrily with his staser. "Get away from that machine," he said.
Rhonwen slowly started to inch away from the psionic generator. She moved sideways, keeping herself close to the giant heating boilers. She wanted to stay as far away from the gun as possible.
Lodar turned to follow her movements, the staser pointed at her continuously. "That's far enough," he snapped.
Rhonwen had reached a stretch of bare wall on the far side of the chamber, almost opposite the entrance to the service corridor. She kept her eyes fixed on Cardinal Lodar. The shimmering light inside the psionic generator cast dancing shadows across his features, making it hard to read his expression.
"What are you going to do with me?" Rhonwen asked.
"I could shoot you," said Lodar, as if toying with the notion. "But that would be too easy. A staser is too quick and too painless. No, I shall merely leave you here. Your death will follow soon enough. I will have to restrain you of course. I don't want you escaping and raising the alarm in time."
Lodar laughed. "I suppose there's no harm in you knowing now. I have set the psionic generator onto an overload cycle. In about ten minutes, it will explode. The released psionic energy will burst up through these lower levels, and erupt in the Capitol. It should be quite a sight. I will be watching from a safe distance of course. You will be somewhat closer."
He started to advance towards her. Rhonwen tried to back away, but she found herself pressed against the wall. She was running out of options. If she could keep Lodar talking, she might be able to think of something.
"Why?" she cried. "Why are you doing this? I thought you were opposed to Pandak."
Lodar smiled. "Oh," he said, "I have absolutely no interest in helping Pandak regain the Presidency. In fact, I would much rather see a Patrex President. But there are some things that go beyond loyalty to one's Chapter. Pandak promised me revenge."
"Revenge on the President?"
"No," Lodar snarled. "On the Doctor. His curiosity and meddling led to the downfall of Pandak's administration. And my father was among them. He was Patrex Cardinal before me, and totally innocent of any complicity in Pandak's actions. But he was hounded from office, and killed by the mob, just as if he was a criminal."
"You can't blame the Doctor for that," Rhonwen protested.
"If it hadn't been for the Doctor and his meddlesome ways, no one would ever have known about Pandak's crimes. The High Council would have continued, serene in its omnipotence. No normal Time Lord would have done anything to upset the status quo. But the Doctor is a deviant, a wilful iconoclast. And through his interference, he has led Gallifrey to ruin. My father dead, a High Council with no power, and Shobogan scum demanding equal rights with Time Lords. Thousands of years of the perfect society, according to the Rassilonic model, brought crashing to its knees."
Rhonwen caught sight of a dog-like metal shape on the far side of the room, emerging from the service corridor behind Lodar. She knew she had to keep the Cardinal talking.
"But if you felt this way," she stammered, "why didn't you try to do something about it through the Council?"
"It would do no good," said Lodar. "The Council has no power. The President may be a Patrex, but she is too weak to do anything. She fears another revolution if she offends the lower classes. And she may be right. Now the Ephemerals have had a taste of democracy, they won't give it up. They don't fear the Time Lords any more. This has all come about because of the Doctor."
Rhonwen kept one eye on K9, as he slid silently up behind Lodar. "There has to be another way than this," she said. "Think how many will die."
With a buzzing sound, a short metal cylinder extended from K9's nose. Lodar spun round in surprise. It was too late. A beam of red light shot out of K9's gun and hit the Cardinal. Lodar's body contorted, and he was thrown back towards Rhonwen. He managed to fire his staser once before he blacked out. As he fell, his staser bolt blew a chunk out of the already damaged wall. A piece of stone caught Rhonwen squarely on the crown of the head. She slid to the floor, falling across Cardinal Lodar.
K9 moved forward and extended his probe, scanning both bodies. Lodar would be unconscious for a few minutes. Rhonwen was rather more insensible. She would be out cold for several hours at least. Fortunately however, K9 did not think she would suffer any permanent damage.
Turning to the psionic generator, K9 quickly scanned the energy readings
within the glass sphere. It was clear that the machine was building up to
an overload. K9 quickly analysed the situation. There was no way he could
move Rhonwen's unconscious body away from the area of the explosion. He
would have to attempt to reset the machine before it went critical.
Chancellor Cabulas looked up from the communications panel. He was once more in contact with the rest of the Capitol. He turned to the Doctor. "Guards have now been despatched to secure all Matrix terminals," Cabulas announced, "even those no longer in regular use. Aside from those under constant attendance, there is no evidence that any of them has been used recently without authorization."
"There wouldn't be," replied the Doctor. "Belphegor must have opened an illegal link into a Matrix sub conduit."
"I'm having a flow trace program prepared," Cabulas said, "but I don't lend your theory much credence. After past violations of the Matrix, security was tightened up considerably."
"Yes, I know," snapped the Doctor irritably. "The Keeper was appointed, and given the only key."
Cabulas shook his head. "The Keeper of the Matrix disappeared shortly after the revolution. He was probably killed by the some of Pandak's supporters. There was some fighting still going on even after the new High Council was elected."
"Had the Keeper repaired the Matrix by then?" the Doctor asked.
"No, most of the work was done by Co-ordinator Engin and K9. I ensured that new security measures were built into the panatropic net. It was clear that we could no longer rely on the Key of Rassilon for security. It had proved too easy to duplicate, and when the Keeper vanished, there was no telling what had become of it."
"So what did you do?"
"Everything was tied in to the main Matrix controls," said Cabulas. "The panatropic flow was directed to the authorized terminals only. If there was a violation at any other point, it would be registered on the control computer."
The Doctor frowned, lapsing deep into thought. Struck by a sudden inspiration, he rounded on Cabulas. "What about disused terminals?" he demanded. "As long as they were still authorized, there wouldn't be any deviation in the monitored panatropic flow."
"I agree," replied Cabulas, "but as I told you, the guards have secured them all."
"Not quite all," said the Doctor. "I've just realized. The Matrix will probably dissipate quite soon after the destruction of Gallifrey. But there's no guarantee that Belphegor can get his consciousness out of the Matrix before the net breaks down. He couldn't risk using a planetbound terminal. The controls might be destroyed before he had achieved his aim."
"But the only terminals are in the Capitol."
"What about the Seventh Door?" the Doctor asked. "The remote Matrix
terminal on the space station where you held my trial? Is that still
Pandak watched as the last of his men clambered out of the service shaft. They were now all cramped into the Games Control room.
There was no power in the chamber, and it was in darkness. Pandak could vaguely make out the shape of the central console, where the movements of the unwilling players in the Games were controlled. The dead mechanism for the Time Scoop was situated to one side.
Pandak shone a torch towards the door that led into the Council chamber. He found the controls that would open it. He keyed in the access code that Belphegor had provided. Now, he had merely to press one final control and the door would open.
In the light of the torch beam, Pandak looked at his chronometer. There
was still some time remaining before he could make his move.
Stalred consulted his map in the light of his torch. He then shone the beam around the narrow corridor. Ahead, he saw a small opening which revealed the top of a ladder. According to his map, that led down to the heating system. Assuming he had the right corridor and the right ladder.
The passages beneath the Capitol were interminable, and all looked alike. It was quite possible that he was lost.
Stalred didn't let himself worry about it. He had promised the Doctor
that he would find Rhonwen, and that was what he intended to do. He grabbed
hold of the ladder, and started to descend.
K9 plugged himself into the psionic generator. He attempted to break into the operating system, to terminate the overload cycle. It was a difficult task. The generator was protected by several security programs. Getting past those would be difficult.
Engrossed in his work, K9 failed to notice Cardinal Lodar's hand flexing. His arm extended slowly across the floor towards where his staser pistol had fallen.
His fingers closed around the gun. Lodar leapt up, shoving Rhonwen's body to one side. He turned the weapon on K9. The automaton was unable to disconnect from the generator fast enough to defend himself.
A staser bolt rang out. It caught Lodar in the shoulder and spun him around. Staggering backwards, the Cardinal tried to bring his weapon to bear on his attacker.
He fired once, but Stalred was able to duck beneath the staser bolt. He brought his own weapon up, and fired once more at Lodar. This time, the shot hit the Cardinal in the chest. Lodar crumpled to the ground.
Stalred rushed over to Rhonwen's body, and tried to check for vital signs. "Is she all right?" he called.
"Affirmative," replied K9, resuming his probing of the generator software. "She will recover."
"Is that the psionic generator?" Stalred asked.
"Affirmative," said K9. "The generator is set on an overload cycle. It will explode in four minutes."
"What?" Stalred exclaimed. "We've got to do something."
"I am attempting to cancel the overload cycle," K9 reported. "Suggest that you evacuate the area."
"Perhaps I can help."
"Negative. I have now accessed the energy flow control program. The nature of psionic energy necessitates a controlled shutdown of the generator. The possibility of success is only fifty three per cent."
"Then we'd better leave it," said Stalred. "Come on."
"Negative," insisted K9. "I could not get clear of the explosion area in time. You could reach a protected alcove at map grid 453-FTN. I shall remain and attempt to terminate the cycle."
Stalred took out his map, and noted the location of the safe chamber. He considered his options. K9 was only a machine, but it didn't feel right leaving him to tackle the danger alone.
"Protect the mistress," K9 said.
Stalred looked again at Rhonwen's unconscious form. He remembered his promise to the Doctor. Picking her up, he hoisted Rhonwen over his shoulder. He looked back at K9. "Good luck," he said.
Stalred started to rush back towards the service corridor. Carefully
supporting Rhonwen over his shoulder, he moved as fast as he could towards
the safe location K9 had pinpointed.
K9 continued to work. He had succeeded in writing a power damping subroutine into the generator's main program. It reduced the power in small controlled stages. Unless this procedure was followed, there would be an energy feedback through the system, resulting in a premature overload.
K9 had to remain connected the generator. The damping subroutine needed to be continually updated and rewritten. Only if the final stage of the shutdown was completed would the generator be safe. If not, the overload would still occur on schedule.
K9 monitored the time carefully. There were one hundred seconds remaining. It seemed unlikely that the shutdown would be finished before the generator overloaded. His actions had however succeeded in reducing the available energy for the explosion.
Time continued to elapse. Less than a minute was left. The power level dropped another stage. The explosion would probably not extend much further than this chamber and the surrounding corridors. The Capitol above would be safe.
There was a further drop in the power level. K9 adjusted the subroutine to proceed from this new base value. He decided to continue with his work regardless of the time remaining. There was no way he could save himself. His priority function was to attempt to reduce the risk to others.
The point of overload was reached. The glass sphere shattered. Psionic
energy spewed out through the rupture, filling the underground chamber. K9
was flung back towards the far wall. His casing was ripped open by the
crackling energy, and his innards incinerated. Fibre optic connexions were
burnt out. K9's circuits went into gross malfunction, before they were torn
to fragments. Within seconds, K9 was reduced to molten metal and plastic,
and scattered to the edges of the chamber.
"It's impossible," said Chancellor Cabulas.
The Doctor shook his head emphatically. "It's the only explanation," he insisted. "The Seventh Door was the only off planet Matrix terminal, wasn't it?"
"But the space station was destroyed," replied Cabulas, exasperatedly.
The President came towards them. "It's true, Doctor," she said, resuming her seat at the head of the table. "The space station was struck by a meteorite about four years ago."
The Doctor shook his head in wonder, and slowly sat down. "But I was so sure," he muttered. "Are there any other off world Matrix terminals?"
"None," replied Cabulas, shaking his head.
"Bang goes that theory." The Doctor thumped the conference table to emphasize his point. "Then Belphegor must have hacked into the Matrix at some point."
"We would have detected it," insisted Cabulas.
"Perhaps you are mistaken," the President suggested.
"I got the information from an unimpeachable source," said the Doctor. He didn't understand why his previous self would have lied to him - unless of course the Matrix mindscape had been created by Belphegor for the express purpose of misleading him.
Castellan Rodan approached the conference table, indicating her wrist communicator. "It's Commander Stalred," she said. "He wants to speak to you, Doctor."
Cabulas turned to the communications panel. "I will patch him through to the main screen," he said.
After a moment, Stalred's face appeared on the wall screen. He was covered in dust and grime, and had a small cut in his temple.
"What happened?" the Doctor asked. "Did you find Rhonwen?"
"Yes, Doctor. She's with me now. She's unconscious, but otherwise unharmed."
"She found the psionic generator, but she ran into Cardinal Lodar."
"Lodar?" repeated the President, in a little strangled voice.
"Yes, Madam," said Stalred. "He set the psionic generator onto an overload cycle. The explosion would have wrecked half the Capitol."
"What have you done about it?" asked the Doctor.
"I carried Rhonwen to safety. K9 remained behind to tackle the generator. He was able to reduce the power level, but he could not prevent it from overloading. He has been destroyed."
"I see," the Doctor replied quietly.
"I cannot carry Rhonwen back up all the ladders," Stalred continued.
"Very well, Commander," said the President. "You had best remain there until Rhonwen Jones recovers. Then both of you come to the Council chamber."
"My Lady." Stalred's face vanished from the screen.
The Doctor bowed his head for a moment, mourning K9. It was certain that the little automaton's sacrifice had saved countless hundreds of lives. The Doctor felt better for that, and for the fact that there were two more, subtly different versions of K9 still at large somewhere in creation.
The President was shaking her head in bewilderment. "I don't understand why Cardinal Lodar would betray us," she said.
Even as she spoke, there came a grinding sound from the far end of the Council chamber. Everyone turned to the dais on which stood the Harp of Rassilon. The wall behind the instrument slid aside to reveal the entrance of the old Games Control room.
Pandak stood in the opening, a staser pistol in his hand. Behind him were a number of men, armed with pistols and rifles. Several of them rushed into the room, covering the Councillors with their weapons.
Rodan had already drawn her pistol, but she found herself in the sights of two staser rifles.
"Put down that weapon, Castellan," Pandak said, striding into the room as if he owned the place.
Rodan tried to assess her chances, but they weren't good. She would be shot before she could try anything, and worse the President or the Chancellor might be killed in retaliation. Rodan dropped the staser pistol to the floor.
"That's better," said Pandak. He turned to another of his men. "Secure the door. If anyone comes through it, kill them."
He stopped behind the President, and raised his pistol to the back of her neck. "I believe you're sitting in my chair."
The Doctor slowly stood up, and faced Pandak squarely. "If we're going to get proprietorial about the furniture," he said, "I think you'll find it was my chair before you took it."
Pandak's face broke into a vicious smile. "Why Doctor," he declared. "How gratifying to find you here. Perhaps it is as well that you survived the attempts on your life. You shall be able to witness my final triumph. And perhaps then you will realize how insignificant you are."
Turning to the President, Pandak went on, "You were wondering about Cardinal Lodar? His weakness was his anger at the death of his father. And revulsion at the plebeian society you have created. It made him very easy to manipulate." Pandak's manner suddenly became brisk. "But I am not here to discuss my actions with you. You will give me the Sash and the Rod of Rassilon."
The President turned in her seat to look up at him. "The artifacts are for the President of Gallifrey only," she said. "I have been legally elected to that office."
"Legally?" Pandak laughed. "By a group of illiterates? Would it surprise you to learn that I don't count the votes of Shobogans as valid when deciding political appointments?"
"If you felt yourself worthy of office," the President replied, her anger rising, "you should not have fled justice. If you believed yourself innocent, you should have submitted to trial. If you had been acquitted, you could then have stood for office fairly."
"Madam, you speak like a jurist. Effective rule is not accomplished by law, but through strength, and the courage to make difficult decisions."
"Ah," exclaimed the Doctor, "I suppose destroying all civilization on Earth was a difficult decision?"
Pandak shook his head with mock solemnity. "On the contrary, it was simple. I am aware that you have some inordinate fondness for that miserable little planet. I can't think what you see in it. I had no hesitation in ordering the use of the Magnotron. The Tellurian civilization was no great loss for the Galaxy."
"How can you make such a judgement?" the Doctor asked, his voice a horrified whisper.
"A race of barbarous savages?" said Pandak dismissively. "They spent thousands of years fighting each other. And when they got fed up with that, they took their aggression into space, and found new enemies to fight. Martians and Daleks and Draconians. All victims of Earth's desire for conquest."
"Teething troubles," the Doctor said. "Even Gallifrey went through a long imperialist period. Earth eventually became one of the founder members of the Galactic Federation - the greatest force for peace and justice that ever existed."
"I am not going to debate history with you," snapped Pandak. "My decision can hardly be changed now. Not that I would change it."
He jabbed his staser into the President's back. "Give me the Sash and the Rod," he demanded.
"Never," the President replied quietly.
Pandak smiled. "It doesn't matter. I can take them from you later. Get up."
He grabbed the President by the arm and pulled her roughly to her feet. "Nobody make a move," he ordered. "If you do, I'll kill her."
"Pandak," the Doctor snapped. "I don't know what Belphegor's promised you, but you're making a mistake."
A look of confused surprise passed over Pandak's face. "You seem remarkably well informed, Doctor," he said. "Belphegor told me you were dangerous. Perhaps I was wrong to underestimate you. But it doesn't matter now, does it? I've won."
"You're wrong, Pandak," the Doctor implored. "Belphegor isn't interested in returning you to power. He's just using you, to achieve his own ends. He'll sacrifice you as soon as he's finished with you."
Pandak hesitated momentarily. The Doctor thought that he might have got through to him.
But then Pandak laughed contemptuously. "You're most convincing, Doctor. But you will have to do better than that to fool me. When we next meet, I shall be victorious, and you will be nothing. I shall let you live long enough to witness that event."
Keeping a tight grip on the President, Pandak started to pull her towards the door. "Come with me, Madam. You are my insurance policy."
He signalled for one of his men to open the door. When there was a large enough gap, he fired his staser directly at one of the guards outside. The victim's body slumped to the floor before his comrades.
Satisfied that he had the attention of the other guards, Pandak shouted to them. "Listen to me. I have your so called President here. I am coming out. Lay down your weapons. If you try anything, I shall kill her."
Indicating that several of his men should follow him, Pandak forced the President to the door. He paused on the threshold, and turned to one of his troops, who wore the robes of a scribe. "Watch these others. Make sure they don't leave the Council chamber."
"Shall I kill them?" the scribe asked.
"No, hold them. They must witness my victory. I couldn't let them die without knowing the extent of their defeat."
Pandak thrust the President before him, keeping the gun levelled at her head. Followed by his little band of armed men, he moved slowly away from the Council chamber. The Chancellery Guards lined the approach, and watched helplessly as the President was dragged past them.
The Doctor absent mindedly tapped his fingers on the conference table. Keeping an eye on the three men Pandak had left behind, he started to sidle up to Rodan and Cabulas. "What do you think?" he mumbled under his breath.
"I don't know," replied Cabulas, just as quietly. "I don't see what we can do without endangering the President."
"We'd better try and let Stalred know what's happened," the Doctor suggested. "He might be able to organize some of the guards."
He glanced at Rodan, and then flicked his eyes down towards her wrist. She nodded almost imperceptibly.
The Doctor made a big show of yawning, which attracted the attention of Pandak's men to him. Making use the distraction, Rodan slipped off her wrist communicator and slid it onto the tabletop.
Still commanding the attention of the guards, the Doctor sat down at the table, right in front of the communicator. He lounged in his chair, placing his hands behind his head with an air of nonchalance.
After a while, the guards' attention drifted away from the Doctor specifically, and back to the group as a whole. The Doctor took his hands from behind his head. He placed one finger to his lips, as if he was thinking of something. The other hand he slid casually onto the table. He gave the communicator controls the slightest of touches.
The screen lit up to show Stalred's grimy face. The Commander was about to answer the communication aloud, when he caught sight of the Doctor's finger to his lips. He nodded silently.
The Doctor gave a tiny nod in return. Then he looked up at the scribe by the door. "It won't work, you know," the Doctor called.
"Be silent," the scribe shouted.
"Why?" the Doctor demanded. "Because you're holding the High Council at gunpoint? Because Pandak has taken the President hostage? He can't win."
From the corner of his eye, he saw Stalred nod in acknowledgement, and the screen of the communicator went blank.
"I will not warn you again," the scribe said. He brought his rifle to bear upon the Doctor.
"If you insist," the Doctor shrugged. "You're obviously not much of a
conversationalist." He slumped back into his chair. There was nothing to do
but wait for Stalred to rescue them.
Belphegor shuddered. He felt a searing pain tear through his mind. The host was fighting him. Belphegor was momentarily disorientated. He had become used to thinking of the Doctor's body as his own. He had believed the last resistance crushed some time ago.
But now the Doctor was kicking and screaming, struggling up from the depths of his consciousness to try and regain control of his mind. Belphegor was unprepared for such a conflict. He had encountered no opposition like it since Rassilon. The Doctor's mind possessed an unusually high level of artron energy.
Memories shifted. Belphegor felt his consciousness invaded. The Doctor
was deliberately dredging up distant memories. Trying to drown Belphegor in
a flood of personal nostalgia.
He held up a slim silver component.
"What is it?" asked Hedin.
"It's a briode nebulizer," the Doctor replied.
"What does it do?"
"It gives us the power of unlimited time travel."
Hedin laughed. "Time Lords already have the power of time travel. I don't know why the High Council have poured so much funding into your experiments, if this is all you can come up with."
Feeling a little hurt by Hedin's mockery, the Doctor shook his head. A note of mild irritation crept into his voice. "I wish you'd have a bit more faith. Time travel is costly and wasteful of resources. You know what the working life of a jumpship is - four years. After that, the thing starts to fall apart. Look at this type forty the High Council have so graciously donated - its systems have been replaced hundreds of times over the centuries."
"That's molecular destabilization," said Hedin. "It happens to all time machines. And to all people as well. Only Time Lords can make repeated trips through time without ill effects."
"Exactly," the Doctor declared. "And why are we immune? Because there's a genetic pattern in our DNA, that's unique to Time Lords. It gives us the power of regeneration, and protects us from the ravages of the time winds."
"The Rassilon Imprimature," Hedin agreed. "What of it?"
"It's the cornerstone of my new time travel theory. This briode nebulizer will be fitted into the new time machine. Then I shall prime it using my genetic print. The effect of the Rassilon Imprimature will be extended over the entire vessel. It will give me a symbiotic control of the machine. And more importantly, the ship and any occupants will be protected from the molecular destabilization. In effect, you'll have a time machine with an indefinite life span."
"It's incredible," said Hedin. "Will it work?"
"Ah well," the Doctor replied, "that is the question."
No more, cried Belphegor. Your time is done, Doctor.
Another wave of artron energy coursed through his mind. Belphegor staggered back, recoiling from such an onslaught. It was as though the Doctor had marshalled every last drop of resistance, carefully drawing on his scattered reserves of artron energy, for this one final effort.
Belphegor felt overwhelmed once more. The memories washed over him.
He stood in the gleaming white control room, a glow of pride suffusing his face. He couldn't help himself. It was a tremendous achievement.
It was hardly recognizable as the decrepit type forty he'd started out with. Lights flashed, tape spools whirled round, and the room throbbed with the hum of immense power.
Councillor Goth appeared in the doorway. He looked around the control room, running his eyes over the roundels set into the walls, the banks of computers, and the central control panel. The crystal instruments within the glass column slowly rotated, gathering information from the world around.
"It is a magnificent invention," Goth said.
"Truly you deserve the accolades that have been heaped upon you," Goth went on. "You are the greatest engineer of our age."
"You flatter me." The Doctor lowered his head, feeling some mild embarrassment. He hadn't done this to receive the praise of his peers.
"There is something we must discuss," said Goth. "The President shall be resigning shortly. He will require advice on who to choose as his successor."
"Do you intend to recommend me?"
"Your name has been mooted," Goth admitted. "I do not know what support you will get from others."
"I don't want the Presidency," the Doctor said. "I never even wanted to be a High Councillor. I'm not a politician."
"Maybe not," said Goth. "But you are a man of vision. I think we can all see that." He swept his arms around the control room to emphasize his point. "Perhaps it is not a politician we need now. There are dark murmurings on Gallifrey. Some think that we should use our powers for more than just observation and study."
"They could be right," the Doctor replied.
"Well then, you may be the man to lead us."
The Doctor lapsed deep into thought. "I don't know," he muttered. "It's all very well being a visionary. But how much support would I get? There can't be that many Time Lords who would want us to exercise our powers openly. The Minyos incident is like a scar across our collective memories."
"There doesn't have to be another Minyos," replied Goth. "That was a mistake, a gross miscalculation. Our ancestors took it upon themselves to play gods. They took the Minyans up from barbarism and gave them a nuclear civilization. Was it any wonder the Minyans virtually wiped themselves out? There are few races who can handle the potential for self destruction when they've grown up the hard way. Besides, Gallifrey was younger then. Our forebears were not as morally advanced as we are. What would you do, if we could interfere with other species?"
The Doctor looked away into space. "I wouldn't try to speed up the development of any culture," he said.
"Of course not," said Goth.
"But then again, there will be others who do interfere - advanced races who try to conquer and dominate those less developed. Unfortunately, very few species have the moral integrity of Time Lords. That's where we should intervene. To stop aggression, to suppress evil."
"Precisely," Goth murmured. "You are just the man we need."
For a moment, the Doctor was taken with the idea of the Presidency. He could bring Gallifrey to a new awareness of right and wrong. It was no good just observing. There was evil to be fought, and they were in the position to do it.
There were obvious complications however. "The President would not choose me as his successor. I have been a High Councillor for so short a time."
"He would listen to me," Goth replied quietly.
"And then there's Cardinal Morbius. I believe he wishes the Presidency next. And he ranks more highly than I do. He would be the natural choice."
"Don't worry about that," Goth said. "Just think about your own position. If you do want the Presidency, let me know." He nodded in farewell, and stepped out through the double doors.
A moment later, the internal doors were pushed open. A slim, dark haired girl came into the control room. She was ten years old, and possessed inquisitive eyes set in an elfin face.
"I didn't want to come in whilst the Councillor was here," she said.
"He doesn't bite," the Doctor replied.
"Don't tease me, grandfather," the girl replied petulantly. "Are you going to be President?"
"You shouldn't eavesdrop on people's conversations, Susan."
"I'm sorry, grandfather," Susan replied. "But are you going to be President?"
The Doctor ran his hand through his fine silver hair. "I don't know, child," he said. "I haven't decided."
"Then I'll never see you," Susan said sulkily. She folded her arms, and marched away into the corner. "Since grandmother died, we've never been out of the Capitol. You spend all your time in Council meetings and in your workshop. I think you're neglecting me."
The Doctor sighed. It wasn't easy for him, having to bring up his granddaughter single handed. Her parents had both been killed in an aircar crash several years ago.
"What would you like to do?" he asked.
"I want to go back home," replied Susan. "To our house on the mountain. I don't like it here."
"We'll see," the Doctor said. "I don't like it here much, either."
Susan looked at her grandfather, and smiled a little guilty smile. She looked around the control room. "What do you call it?" she asked.
"What, the ship?"
A puzzled frown settled on the Doctor's face. "It's a type forty time travel vehicle. Well, strictly speaking, I suppose it should be designated a mark two model."
"But it ought to have a name," said Susan. "I mean, it's better than the other thirty nine types, isn't it? It's something new, something special."
"I suppose you're right, Susan," said the Doctor.
"I hoped you'd say that. You see, I was thinking about it, and I started to write down some names on a piece of paper. I thought, it's a time vehicle, and it contains its own interior dimension, relative to the external universe."
"Yes?" the Doctor murmured.
"Well," said Susan, "I rearranged those ideas, and I came up with Time
And Relative Dimension In Space. TARDIS for short. What do you think?"
Belphegor gathered his strength, and struck. He forced himself through the fog of images, driving aside the memories.
Leave behind the little family scene, Doctor. It doesn't apply to you any more. You no longer exist.
Belphegor knew that he was stronger. One last futile effort on the part of the Doctor would not be enough to defeat him.
I will have control of this mind, Belphegor thought. Nothing will stop me now.
The Doctor's struggle continued. Long lost memories forced themselves to the surface. Belphegor fought to keep his head above the waves. He would not sink again, would not lose his control beneath a storm of emotional images.
Exert strength. Suppress resistance. Crush the will of the host. Play
him at his own game. Grab a memory, a tortured memory, and relive it. Show
him that any struggle was a waste of time.
He entered the Archives late at night. There was no one around. That meant he would have to access the records himself, but he preferred it that way. He didn't want anyone to know what he was up to.
The Doctor crossed to the control area, still spotlit amidst the gloom of the Archives despite there being no one to benefit from illumination. He activated one of the computer consoles, using his access code. Being on the High Council had its advantages.
Gallifrey was going through a period of upheaval. For the first time that anyone could remember, the High Council was without a President. Just a few weeks before his resignation ceremony, President Pandak the Third had died suddenly in his sleep.
No one could understand how it had happened. The President had not been in his final regeneration, and there should have been plenty of life left in him. Even if he had contracted some terminal disease, a regeneration ought to have cured him.
The Surgeon General had postulated all manner of theories at the inquest. There were several obscure conditions which could attack the DNA, and mutate the genetic code, thus destroying the ability to regenerate. It seemed that Pandak must have succumbed to one of these. Unfortunately, they were virtually impossible to detect. It seemed an ignominious end for a President who had reigned for nine hundred years.
There were of course rumours of foul play. Some suggested that the President had been poisoned by a political rival. There were plenty of candidates, but there was no evidence to suggest that any of them was guilty.
Even the Doctor himself had a motive of sorts. The premature death of Pandak the Third meant that he had not named his successor. There would have to be an election, which meant that all the prospective candidates would be in with a chance.
The Doctor didn't think that he would be accused of killing the President. The possibility that he would be elected was very slim. Cardinal Morbius had announced his own intention to stand, and it seemed certain that he could command the votes of the majority of the Prydonian Chapter, and most of the other colleges as well.
So be it. The Doctor didn't want to be President anyway. He was starting to think of the future now.
The TARDIS was finished and tested. Several design problems had been located. The guidance system was a little erratic, but he was working on that. Or trying to. He'd never been very good with navigation - temporal engineering was child's play in comparison.
The Chameleon Circuit wasn't the great innovation it was supposed to be either. The ship's plasmic shell adopted a new form wherever it landed, supposedly to blend in with the background. The sensory instruments gathered data instantaneously during the materialization process, and selected a shape for the ship's exterior. What the instruments couldn't gather was context.
On a brief test flight to Earth, the TARDIS had landed in New York Harbour. The ideal form to assume would have been an ocean liner. Instead the TARDIS had chosen the shape of the nearby Statue of Liberty. The Doctor had dematerialized quickly, before anyone had seen a replica of the Statue floating in the water.
Well, he'd have plenty of time to perfect the mechanism in future. He wasn't going to become President. He could devote his time to his work.
But the Doctor had another idea in mind, and that was to take Susan and leave in the TARDIS. Not forever, but just long enough to take a look around the Galaxy. Maybe he would get an impression of the extent of injustice and evil - armed with such information, he could come back and try to convince his fellows to do something about it. Maybe then he would seriously run for the Presidency. But not now.
And so he was here, checking the Archives while he could still get access to them. If he was going to leave Gallifrey, he wanted to make sure he had every bit of information he could squeeze into the TARDIS memory banks, and into his own brain. He had already downloaded half the Archives into the ship's computer. Every little helped. He didn't want to visit some planet ignorant of the local customs.
The information the Doctor was after now was rather more personal. He was an acknowledged genius in temporal engineering. He also knew by heart the writings of Rassilon and Omega concerning the early time travel experiments. Not that there was much to be gleaned from such myth laden texts.
He had come repeatedly across references to other works, which no one in the Archive section seemed to know anything about. The Doctor had decided that, if he was going to perfect the TARDIS design, he would need access to the sum total of Gallifreyan engineering knowledge.
Which was why he was here, in secret, looking for historical records that had probably been suppressed by presidential order. It was not the first time he had visited the Archives at night. After much investigation, he had discovered some lost records in the Matrix, about Omega and the creation of the temporal energy source.
There were more files attached to these, but they were under such a heavy security classification that not even a High Council override code would unlock them.
There was one possibility, but it seemed extremely dangerous. If he linked his mind to the Matrix, he might be able to get inside the files and see what they contained. It had never been attempted before. It might well prove impossible. Ideally, he should have medical supervision, in case something went wrong, but that might alert his fellow Time Lords to the fact that he was planning to leave Gallifrey. He would have to work on his own.
Lying upon the couch, the Doctor placed the neural connectors onto his forehead. Then he reached across to the computer and pressed home the appropriate switches. His body arched as a sharp pain tore through his mind. Then he was falling through shimmering blue and silver light.
The Doctor felt the pain recede. He seemed to have things under control now. It was a simple matter of finding the files, memorizing the contents and coming out of the Matrix once more. There had never been any need for him to worry.
He found himself standing in the Council chamber in the Citadel. It took him a moment to realize that this was not the real chamber, but an historical record, preserved as a memory in the Matrix.
Several Time Lords were standing in the chamber, looking up at the dais. The Harp of Rassilon was not there. In its place stood the figure of a huge and powerful man with bushy side whiskers. His black robes were trimmed with gold. The Sash of Rassilon was about his neck, the ebonite Rod was clasped in his hand, and he wore on his head a golden jewel encrusted coronet.
"The battle is over," he declaimed, very dramatically. "Gallifrey is secure. Gallifrey is ours. The reign of the Time Lords has begun."
The Doctor was intrigued. He supposed that the man on the dais was Rassilon himself.
"The evil one shall never again hold Gallifrey in thrall. His body is destroyed, and his mind is trapped forever. In his eternal prison, he will be able to contemplate the enormity of his sin."
The Doctor didn't have time to stay and listen. He had to find the locked files and return to his body. Ancient history was fascinating, but it was time travel theory he needed to swot up on.
He concentrated on finding his goal. The wall behind Rassilon slid aside. The Doctor ran towards the dais. He hopped up beside Rassilon, who didn't bat an eyelash. The Doctor moved towards the opening, and found himself looking down at a stone staircase, that seemed to descend into the depths of the planet.
The Doctor hurried down the steps, three at a time. He couldn't afford to stay in the Matrix for much longer. At the bottom of the staircase was a wooden door. The Doctor pushed it open, and went through.
He found himself facing a wall of fire. It was a barrier he could not cross. Flames leapt out at him. The Doctor tried to jump back, but there was no longer a door and staircase behind him, just a bare stone wall.
The Doctor was trapped, surrounded by the roaring flames. They seemed to close in around him, filling his field of vision. The image of the fire was driven into his consciousness.
And with it came something else. Thoughts, memories, echoes of another mind. The Doctor felt savage claws slice into his head, as the force of an immense intelligence tried to enter his mind. It threatened to overwhelm him. The Doctor screamed.
He woke up as if from a bad dream, sitting bolt upright on the mind transfer couch. The neural connectors were torn from his head. The Doctor gripped the sides of the couch firmly, as if to reassure himself that he was back in the real world.
The whole experience seemed to have been nothing more than a bad dream. The Doctor slumped back onto the couch, and tried to get his breath back. One thing was obvious. The locked files were nothing to do with time travel theory. He should never have put his life at risk. At least there was no harm done.
Something exploded inside his head. A huge shock coursed through his
mind. The Doctor's trip into the Matrix had not been without result. He had
not retrieved any lost engineering secrets. But dimly he realized that he
had brought something back with him.
Resistance is futile, said Belphegor. From that moment, Doctor, you were mine.
A massive shock tore through Belphegor's consciousness. The final kick of the Doctor's suppressed artron energy. Belphegor screamed in anger. No more protest. No more opposition. I will not allow it.
Then it was all over. There was nothing left of the Doctor's consciousness. Belphegor's will was dominant.
And yet, for a split second, he had lost control. Tricked by the Doctor's dying will. Belphegor had let himself become too involved in the Doctor's memory. A sense of triumph had enveloped him as he forced the Doctor to relive the moment of his possession.
Revelling in his own superiority, Belphegor had allowed the Doctor to make one final desperate effort. The Doctor had forced out a telepathic message. A summons to his next incarnation.
The transmat co-ordinates for Belphegor's location.