The Belphegor Inheritance
Face to Face
Cabulas looked warily at the scribe holding the staser rifle. Feeling the Chancellor's eyes upon him, the man seemed to tighten his grip upon the weapon, as if to emphasize that resistance would be futile.
Cabulas raised a sardonic eyebrow, and glanced at Pandak's other two guards, both of them wearing the robes of technicians. They also were alert, and ran their eyes over the Council chamber, looking for the first sign of any resistance. They were so jittery, they might well start shooting at any sudden movement. Cabulas realized that they would all have to be very careful.
Moving slowly and obviously, Cabulas crossed to the conference table. He looked at the Doctor, and realized instantly that something was wrong. The Doctor was clutching his hand to his head, as if he felt some pain there. His eyes were screwed up, and he was mouthing silent words, replying to some unheard interlocutor.
Cabulas took the seat opposite him. "Doctor," he murmured. "Are you all right?"
The Doctor did not reply, but carried on with his silent conversation. At last he seemed to relax. He took the hand away from his head, and looked up slowly at Cabulas.
"What's the matter?" the Chancellor asked.
"I know where Belphegor is," the Doctor replied. "I even have the positional co-ordinates."
"How?" replied Cabulas, surprised.
"I just received a message. From my previous self."
"I don't understand, Doctor."
"It would take too long to explain," the Doctor muttered.
Cabulas shrugged his shoulders. "I don't think we're going anywhere," he said.
"Well, you might not be," replied the Doctor. "But I have to. Belphegor has got to be stopped."
"If he can be stopped," frowned Cabulas.
"Well, I'll have to try. I owe it to myself."
"What do you want to do?"
"We need a diversion," the Doctor said. "Something to keep our gaolers occupied, while I use the transmat."
The scribe on the door suddenly raised his rifle and shouted at them. "What are you two whispering about?" he demanded.
"We're very concerned about the weather," the Doctor replied smoothly. "I think it's going to rain today, but the Chancellor thinks it will hold off until this evening. What do you think?"
The scribe's eyes flashed with anger. "Don't make fun of me," he snapped. "Just shut up."
The Doctor smiled broadly at him, and then started to examine his finger nails. After a while, the scribe lost interest, and looked away.
"I'll see what I can do," Cabulas said.
Rhonwen opened her eyes, to find Stalred looking down at her. He was covered in dust and dirt. They were still underground somewhere - the only light was cast by the torch Stalred held, reflected off the smooth metal walls of the chamber. They were at the foot of a ladder.
Rhonwen was surprised to find she was lying half slumped against the wall. She looked down at herself. The purple dress was as dirty as Stalred's uniform. For some reason, she couldn't remember what was going on.
She put her hand to her head, and felt an enormous bump that had sprouted from the crown. Well, that explained a few things. She smiled bemusedly at Stalred. "What hit me?" she asked.
"Cardinal Lodar, I think," said Stalred. "I wasn't there at the time. K9 must have saved you."
Rhonwen nodded excitedly. It was starting to come back now. K9 had sneaked up behind Lodar, and fired some sort of gun from his nose. And after that, it was a blank.
"Where is K9?" she asked.
"Vaporized," said Stalred.
"What do you mean?"
"K9 was destroyed," Stalred explained matter of factly. "He was trying to deactivate the psionic generator. He couldn't prevent the overload, but he limited the extent of the explosion. No one was killed."
Rhonwen felt sad, and yet moved by K9's actions. She wondered whether machines understood such concepts as bravery and sacrifice, or whether K9 had merely calculated his behaviour based on the cold facts.
She looked around the chamber, and up at the ladder. "What are we doing here?" she asked.
"Trying to get up into the Capitol again," said Stalred. "I was able to bring you this far, but I could not carry you up the ladder."
"Well," replied Rhonwen practically, "I can climb it by myself now. Let's go." She stood up and grabbed hold of the ladder.
"Wait," said Stalred. "We must be careful. Much has happened. Pandak has taken the President hostage. And the High Council is being held prisoner."
"Well, what are we going to do?"
Stalred tapped his wrist communicator. "I have been able to contact several of my men. I hope to organize some resistance."
He gently pushed Rhonwen to one side, and took hold of the ladder himself. "I shall go first," he added. "In case we run into any trouble. Stay close behind me."
"All right," said Rhonwen. She waited until Stalred had climbed the
first few feet, and then proceeded to follow him.
Pandak dragged the President along the concourse, towards the Panopticon. All along the route, the President looked for places where she could dispose of the Sash and Rod of Rassilon, to prevent them from falling into Pandak's hands. But there was nowhere suitable. No place from where Pandak couldn't retrieve the artifacts immediately afterwards.
Eventually, they arrived at the Panopticon. Milling around the entrance was a small crowd of idlers, mostly Shobogans and a few middle class servitors, probably off duty. A number of Chancellery Guards were holding the crowd back, for the security measures were still in force.
When they saw the President approaching, the guards snapped to attention. Then they noticed the presence of Pandak and his men, armed to the teeth. The guards became instantly alert, and brought their weapons to bear.
Pandak pulled the President to a halt. "Now listen to me," he shouted. "I have the President here. I will kill her without hesitation if you try to stop me."
Just to make his point, Pandak fired a couple of staser bolts into the crowd. A few Shobogans were hit, and fell screaming to the ground. "You people clear off," Pandak shouted. The crowd needed no further urging, and it quickly dispersed, the people running in panic towards every available exit from the square.
Pandak addressed himself to the guards once more. "I trust I make myself clear," he said. "Stand aside, and your President shall live."
The President felt tempted to call upon the guards to open fire, regardless of her safety. That would put paid to Pandak once and for all. But it went against all her instincts to throw her life away, even to defeat Pandak. Time Lords were so used to a virtually indefinite lifespan, the very thought of death was almost alien to them. While she was still alive, the President felt she had every chance of finding some way to defeat Pandak, without the need of making a sacrifice. She still held the Rod and the Sash, and she was not prepared to give those up as easily as Pandak might imagine.
The guards lowered their weapons, and stood watching cautiously as Pandak dragged the President through the entrance to the Panopticon. When Pandak's men had followed their leader inside, the guards immediately set about securing the entrance. If they could get Pandak trapped within the Panopticon, they could employ measures to rescue the President.
Even as they set about doing this, staser bolts started to ring out. The guards were caught in a cross fire, from snipers placed in alleyways, around the nearest street corners, and on top of some of the surrounding buildings. They were the men Pandak had earlier sent to the Panopticon to cover just such an eventuality. He wanted to make sure that his exit was not cut off, in case something went wrong.
Inside the Panopticon, Pandak looked up at monolith that contained the Eye of Harmony, standing up from the Presidential dais. "At last," he intoned. "Rassilon's Star is mine."
"What do you intend to do?" the President demanded. "You know that the Eye cannot be tampered with. You will destroy the planet."
Angrily, Pandak twisted her arm tightly behind her, and threw her to one of his men, arrayed in technician's robes. The President landed awkwardly on her knees before the technician.
"Hold her," snapped Pandak.
The technician hesitated for a moment. It was all very well for Pandak to manhandle the President. But for he, a mere servitor, to use violence against a Time Lady was strictly forbidden.
"Now, you fool," Pandak shouted. "I don't want her causing trouble."
Moved to action by Pandak's irritation, the technician grabbed the President's arm, and maintained a tight grip upon it.
Pandak wheeled around to face the President. "You underestimate me, Madam," he said. "Do you think I would endanger the planet? I have no desire to destroy my own kingdom. I shall rule over Gallifrey forever. So you see, I have every reason to wish to preserve it."
"How can you reign forever?" the President said. "Even a Time Lord must die eventually."
"Not so," said Pandak. "What of Rassilon?"
"You can't claim the prize of immortality," the President replied exasperatedly. "You must know that. One of our predecessors in the Presidential office attempted precisely that. And we all know what happened to Borusa."
Pandak laughed loudly. "You really are the most narrow minded woman," he declared. "That must come from a career in the judiciary, I suppose. There are other ways to achieve immortality. I am not so stupid as to walk into Rassilon's trap. There was another, ancient even in the days of Rassilon, who possessed the gift of immortality."
"Belphegor," the President murmured, remembering the Doctor's history lesson.
"Ah, I see you're not so obtuse after all. What I do now, I do because Belphegor is my benefactor. He has powers we cannot begin to understand. He can alter the structure of the Universe at his merest whim. You will have seen that Kasterborus Gamma is dimmer today. And you will have felt the recent earthquakes. All Belphegor's doing. You who revere Rassilon, you have turned away from the truly great figure of our history. Belphegor is to Rassilon as a god to an insect."
The President tried to struggle against the grip of the technician. It was not as tight as Pandak's had been. For a moment, she thought that she might get free. But then, Pandak glanced at the technician, and the hold was tightened.
The President rounded on Pandak in anger. "If Belphegor is so omnipotent," she sneered, "why does he need you to carry out his dirty work? Perhaps he's too clever to put himself in the line of fire."
"You are not wise to mock," shouted Pandak. "I am the chosen servant of Belphegor. I shall do his bidding. Kasterborus Gamma shall be destroyed, and Belphegor's power shall be total."
"How can Gallifrey survive if the sun is destroyed?" the President demanded. She was trying desperately to dissuade Pandak from his course, but she knew there was little hope of that. Pandak was clearly insane.
"Gallifrey is to be my prize," he said. "Belphegor can preserve the planet, even from the destruction around it. Why, he can even create a new sun. Belphegor's power is such that he could create a thousand stars. And when he is victorious, Belphegor shall see you and Cabulas, and that pathetic Doctor, bow your knees before him."
"You have a strange notion of reality," the President remarked.
Pandak raised his staser, and aimed it straight at her. Anger boiled in his eyes, and the President thought for a moment that he was actually going to shoot her.
Then Pandak lowered the gun. He smiled. "We shall see," he said. "Give me the Sash and the Rod."
The President tightened her grip upon the ebonite staff. "These are the symbols of the Presidency," she said. "They will remain in the possession of the President."
"Well," said Pandak reasonably, "since I never resigned my office, and since I never appointed you my successor, I suppose they must be mine."
The President said nothing.
Pandak looked at his chronometer. "I grow tired of these arguments," he
said. "If you don't give me the artifacts, I shall take them from you."
Conscious of the scribe's eyes upon him, Cabulas walked casually past the Harp of Rassilon. He moved close to Rodan. They exchanged a glance, and the Castellan indicated her understanding with a tiny nod of her head.
Cabulas walked over to the conference table, and lounged against one of the chairs. The controls for the transmat were but a couple of steps away from him. He turned to look at the Doctor who got to his feet, walking in a wide circle around the table.
"Why don't you all stop moving around?" the scribe demanded, bringing up his staser rifle again.
"Oh, I'm sorry," said the Doctor. "Does it make you nervous?"
"Don't try my patience," snapped the scribe.
The Doctor glanced at Cardinal Zelara, who started to walk towards the scribe and the two technicians. Staser rifles swung around to cover him.
Zelara paused. He wasn't too sure about this plan. The guards wouldn't need to be pushed very far before they started to use their weapons.
Taking a deep breath, Zelara stared the scribe firmly in the eye. "Do you know who I am?" he demanded.
The scribe nodded. "Cardinal Zelara," he replied. "I'm sorry, your Eminence, but you must go back with the others. My orders are to keep you here."
"But you cannot keep us confined here indefinitely," Zelara said. "It's not good enough."
Whilst Zelara commanded the guards' attention, the Doctor started to slip casually towards the transmat terminal. He kept an eye on the door, just in case he was spotted. So far, he appeared to be safe.
"I have my orders," the scribe told Zelara.
"Exactly," said the Cardinal. "Orders given by Pandak, who happens to be a member of the Prydonian Chapter. He's not going to be pleased when he finds out what's happened to his Cardinal."
"I don't understand," the scribe said hesitantly.
Rodan moved lightly along the edge of the conference table, closer to the door.
"I feel faint," Zelara went on. "I have an aversion to enclosed spaces."
"Well, I'm sorry," said the scribe. "But there's nothing I can do."
Zelara's eyes suddenly rolled up, and he fell forward in a dead faint. A superior piece of acting, thought Rodan. The scribe was forced to let go of his rifle to catch the Cardinal. The other two also had their attention fixed on Zelara. The possibility that Pandak might be angered if something happened to his Cardinal was clearly enough to frighten them.
Rodan seized her opportunity. She jumped at the nearest technician, knocking him sideways. She managed to wrest his gun away from him. The other guard was more alert. He swung his rifle around to cover her almost instantly.
On the far side of the chamber, the Doctor had dashed into the transmat terminal. He whispered the co-ordinates quickly to Cabulas, who punched them in to the control panel.
The one technician who was still armed had Rodan backed against the wall, his rifle aimed straight at her chest. She threw down her gun, and raised her hands above her head. "You could shoot me," she said. "But I seem to recall Pandak wanting us kept alive."
She saw anger bubbling in the man's face, but he did not open fire. With the muzzle of his rifle, he gestured that she go to rejoin the others.
Then he saw what was going on at the transmat terminal. Without thinking, he loosed off a staser bolt. Cabulas ducked, but the shot went wide of the mark anyway. Technicians were not trained in the accurate use of energy weapons.
The other two guards had grabbed their rifles. Leaving Rodan and Zelara, they started to run across the room.
Cabulas hit the execute switch, and the Doctor's body was enveloped in a shimmering light. With a whirring sound, he faded out of existence.
The scribe stopped when he reached Cabulas. It was too late to bring the Doctor back now. All the scribe could foresee was the anger that Pandak would vent upon him, when he discovered that one of the prisoners had escaped. Feeling futile, the scribe suddenly lashed out, and struck Cabulas hard around the side of the head. The Chancellor staggered back under the force of the blow, which drew blood from his temple.
The scribe shook himself. He couldn't quite believe that he had struck a Time Lord, much less the Chancellor. He marched back to the door, and stood guard there once more. The two technicians rejoined him.
The scribe prodded Zelara with his foot. The Cardinal opened his eyes, and quickly got to his feet. He was surprised that his deception had fooled the guards at all. He looked around the room and noted that the Doctor had vanished.
The scribe said, "The three of you. Sit on the floor, in a circle facing outwards. I want to be able to see you all."
Cabulas, Rodan and Zelara did as they were told.
"Well, the Doctor got away," whispered Zelara. "I hope it was worth it."
"I'm not so sure," replied Cabulas. "The co-ordinates he gave me would have put him in space, about a thousand kilometres above the planet."
"Then he's dead," said Rodan. "Unless of course, there's a shrouded ship out there."
"That must have been what the Doctor was gambling on," said Cabulas. "If he fails, the planet will be destroyed and he'd be dead anyway. He must have thought it was a chance worth taking."
"Shut up," shouted the scribe, waving his gun threateningly.
The three prisoners decided to take his advice.
The blurred glow of the transmat faded, and the Doctor found himself standing in a metal corridor. The walls were decorated with a tasteful simplicity. He moved along the corridor, passing the doors of various rooms. Some of these were labelled with fading signs. The Doctor noted the Prosecution Offices and the Inquisitor's Chambers, and knew that he was indeed aboard the space station where his trial had been held.
So, the station had not been destroyed. The transmat co-ordinates he had used placed it in a wide orbit around Gallifrey, just a few kilometres inside the Transduction Barrier. Evidently, some kind of shroud device was hiding the station from the Traffic Control scanners on the planet.
The Doctor came to a large pair of doors at the end of the corridor. He pushed them open, and stepped through into the courtroom. It was much as he remembered it, right down to the distinctive machonite panelling. Immediately before him was the Clerk of the Court's desk. To his left was the prosecutor's station, a railed platform in the lower part of the court.
Facing it across the floor was the dock, another platform from which he had rebutted the Valeyard's trumped up charges. The Doctor remembered his achievements in the judicial arena very well. He was proud of the way he had fought his case, running rings around the prosecution. But if he was honest, he knew it wasn't his case for the defence, but the exposure of Pandak's crimes that had got him off the charges.
The Inquisitor's bench was at the head of the court, with tiered rows of seats for the jury positioned behind it. Thinking back, the Doctor recalled with a start that the firm but just woman who had served as Inquisitor was now the President of Gallifrey. And she was also the hostage of the infamous Pandak. The Doctor remembered what he was doing here. He couldn't afford to waste time wallowing in the past.
He walked across the courtroom, noting as he did so that the walls were badly scorched and melted in places. Obviously the space station had been abandoned after the revolution. No one had bothered to make good the damage caused by the overloading particle disseminator.
Leave the past behind, the Doctor thought. Concentrate on the future. He pushed open the double doors on the far side of the court, beside the dock. He walked through into the reception area beyond, where the TARDIS had materialized after he had been summoned for trial.
The area now contained several large pieces of machinery, control consoles and banks of computers. The Doctor recognized some of them as having been stripped out of the TARDIS, or cannibalized from parts of his ship. A number of tools and discarded components lay scattered about the place, which suggested that whatever work was going on here was not yet completed. The equipment was clustered around a door set in one wall - the Seventh Door, the entrance to the Matrix.
Lying on top of the nearest console was a straw hat he had worn in his previous incarnation. The Doctor picked it up and examined it curiously. It was definitely the same hat.
Looking around, he caught sight of a sudden movement. The diminutive figure of the Doctor's former self stepped from behind one of the computer banks, still arrayed in the brown jacket and nightmare of a pullover. He started to operate the controls on the console before him. Without looking up, he spoke. "Come in, Doctor. I've been expecting you." His voice still carried a trace of the Scottish accent, but it was less discernible than before. "If you're looking for your previous self," he added, "you won't find him. I am Belphegor."
The Doctor took a step forward. "I'm rather surprised to find anything here," he said. "I thought this space station had been destroyed."
Belphegor smiled. "What the Time Lords took to be a meteorite," he replied, "was a projectile made of Validium. After you used the Nemesis to destroy the Cyber Fleet, it returned to Gallifrey. But during a moment when your consciousness had lost control, I programmed it with very special instructions. The Nemesis returned to Gallifrey certainly, but its target was this space station. There was a very convincing explosion, I assure you. It's no wonder the station was thought destroyed."
"But in fact," realized the Doctor, "the Validium powered a shroud device, to keep the station hidden."
Belphegor laughed. "Quite right, Doctor. You may be to me as pupil to master, but you grasp things with astonishing quickness. I have been well served by your mind these past centuries."
"And I suppose the Validium device punched a hole in the Transduction Barrier?"
"Not quite. The field of the Barrier was warped, to create a time phased orifice. It was undetectable to the instruments on Gallifrey."
"But big enough for the TARDIS to pass through," replied the Doctor.
"I am impressed," Belphegor said sarcastically, with a chilling smile. "I suppose you've already worked out what my plan is?"
The Doctor shrugged. "I can hazard a guess," he said. "You're using the Hand of Omega to reduce the mass and the energy output of the sun. I suppose you gave the Hand a back up program on another occasion when I wasn't looking?"
"Oh yes," Belphegor answered. "I was not prepared to lose my two greatest weapons."
"I imagine," the Doctor continued, "that you've duped Pandak into releasing the Eye of Harmony."
"Very clever, Doctor," Belphegor replied mockingly. "Pandak was so easy to convince. I only needed to use my psycho-manipulative powers a few times. Yes, you're right. At midday, Pandak will release the Eye. The gravitational forces will run wild. Gallifrey will be turned inside out, and sucked into the black hole. And the whole Kasterborus Gamma system will collapse into the centre. There will be a massive explosion of temporal energy. The panatropic net will be destroyed, and with it the trap that imprisons my consciousness. And then I shall be supreme over the Time Lords who once rejected me."
Regarding the little man before him, the Doctor raised an eyebrow. "You don't cut a very imposing figure for a would be conqueror."
"Appearances are deceptive, Doctor, as you well know. This pathetic body serves its purpose for now. Soon I shall have no more need of it. It will be destroyed along with the rest of this system."
"So, you'll free your consciousness from the Matrix," the Doctor said. "But you won't get very far without a body."
"You are a fool," said Belphegor, "if you believe I haven't thought of that. I have not waited fifty thousand centuries without working out my plan in great detail. Behold."
He pressed a control, and a panel slid open. Revealed in an alcove was a tall silver shape, somewhat like a statue. But it was only roughly formed, and the facial features had yet to be sculpted.
"The Nemesis?" asked the Doctor.
"Quite so," said Belphegor. "It no longer imitates the appearance of
Lady Peinforte. When my plan comes to fruition, it shall be charged with
the released temporal energy. It will be my new body, immortal and eternal,
and possessing powers beyond imagining. Do you not think it a fit shape for
the ruler of the Universe?"
Stalred emerged from the service shaft at the foot of the Traffic Control building. He turned to assist Rhonwen, but she shook off his gallantly offered hand.
A Chancellery Guard officer was waiting for them, with a number of guards behind him. He stood to attention as Stalred approached.
"Has the situation changed?" Stalred asked.
"Pandak has taken the Panopticon," the officer reported. "He holds the President hostage there. His forces have secured the entrance. We cannot get near it."
"Are there many of them?"
"They massacred our men on guard duty. Their numbers and firepower are effective enough."
Stalred cursed under his breath. The Chancellery Guard did not exist to fight civil wars. Since - theoretically - nothing could get through the Transduction Barrier, there was no need for Gallifrey to maintain large armed forces. There were less than one hundred guards in the Capitol, and most of them carried out ceremonial duties in the Panopticon and the Citadel. A few men were stationed at small posts on the outskirts of the Capitol, but it would take them a while to arrive.
Stalred said, "We ought to rescue the President, but we have to be practical. The Panopticon can be well defended by a superior force. We need to wait for reinforcements to arrive from the outer districts. In the meantime, the Council chamber will be easier to recapture. How many guards do you think Pandak has left there?"
"No more than five," said the officer, "but we haven't dared make a move while they hold the councillors hostage."
"There must be some strategy we can employ," Stalred murmured.
"There is," said Rhonwen. "What about a bit of subterfuge?"
"Have you got an idea?" asked Stalred.
Rhonwen smiled. "Well, it's a bit of a risk," she replied, "but it might
"Ruler of the Universe, eh?" said the Doctor. "Well, no one can say you're not ambitious." He started to move closer to the equipment Belphegor was using, his eyes keenly searching for something that could be easily sabotaged.
"Oh, I'm not greedy," Belphegor replied. "I'd settle for ruling just the Galaxy. To begin with."
"Absolutely," agreed the Doctor. "There's no point doing these things by halves, is there?"
Belphegor smiled. "I know you are trying to annoy me, Doctor," he said. "But you forget. I have lived in your mind for seven centuries. I am quite used to your sense of humour by now."
Belphegor drew himself up to his full height, which in the Doctor's old body was about five foot four. "It is my right to rule the Galaxy. Once, I ruled it for thousands of years, before I was overthrown by the ungrateful wretches whom I had made masters of all things."
"Well, there you are," murmured the Doctor. "Absolute power corrupts the morally immature. Rassilon and his followers had grown out of all that. They were content with their lot - they didn't need to dominate the lesser races just to prove they were better than them. Your time is past, Belphegor. The Time Lords - with a few exceptions - don't need to demonstrate their omnipotence. They just accept it, and get on with their lives. Whereas you're like a spoilt child. A bully, that's what you are. The boy who'll pull the wings off a fly because it makes him feel superior."
"There's no point in possessing powers," said Belphegor angrily, "if you don't use them for dominance."
"I've heard that line before," the Doctor replied. "Now, who was it? That's right, Morbius. You'd have got on with him."
As he spoke, the Doctor's eyes fell upon a large unit of exitonic machinery. It was connected to cables, which trailed through the Seventh Door. This clearly was Belphegor's tap into the Matrix controls.
"Morbius was President for a while," the Doctor went on. "He wanted the Time Lords to be conquerors and galactic rulers. He kept the High Council in fear of their lives, so they'd all obey him. Eventually, an underground movement was formed, and Morbius was driven out. He didn't give up though. He fled Gallifrey, and formed a mercenary army of the riff-raff of the Galaxy. Of course, he was defeated in the end."
"He had vision," said Belphegor. "I could have done much working with such material."
"And instead you were stuck with me," replied the Doctor. "Probably not what you expected. Oh well, luck of the draw, I suppose."
Belphegor laughed. "Your body has been a convenience - although sometimes your mind has been an inconvenience. But its usefulness is almost at an end. When Gallifrey is destroyed, total supremacy shall be mine and mine alone.
"You think that you can conquer the whole universe?" asked the Doctor. "By yourself?"
"Of course. I have never needed anyone else. Once, millennia ago, I was contacted by the Black Guardian. You know he has no power to physically intervene in our dimension. He wanted me to be his agent. I refused his request. Why should I share my power with any other?"
"I expect the Black Guardian was annoyed," said the Doctor. "There can't be many people who'd show him the door."
"If he is so powerful," sneered Belphegor, "he should not have need of servants. He has no place in this universe. I refused to dance to his tune, merely for his amusement."
"Didn't he seek revenge?" the Doctor asked. "I've known him to bear a grudge for hundreds of years."
"Oh yes," said Belphegor. "He found himself a different servant. An embodiment of the evil forces of this universe. Fenric."
The Doctor snapped his fingers. "So that's it," he exclaimed.
"Fenric set about trying to destroy me and seize my powers. But he was no match for me. Or should I say, for us? The trouble with Fenric was that he was a force of pure evil. He couldn't help himself. Whereas I am infinitely more flexible. I choose freely to be this way."
Belphegor's eyes started to shine with a new intensity. "I alone shall be supreme," he intoned. "I will have power over all time and space. All will kneel before me."
"In your shiny new body, I suppose," the Doctor muttered, gesturing towards the incomplete Validium statue. "You know, you might have problems with that. In my experience, people prefer their monarchs not to be silver and glowing. I know a good image consultancy firm in London. I've got their business card somewhere, if you'd like to get in touch."
Taking advantage of Belphegor's distraction, he reached out surreptitiously to the makeshift Matrix control console. Quickly flipping up a couple of panels, he pulled out some modular components, slipping them into his pocket. That would prevent Belphegor getting the rest of his mind out of the Matrix. He would be forced to delay his plans. The Doctor had bought himself some time to think.
Belphegor said, "Enough of such banter. The moment approaches. I have allowed you some minutes of my precious time, Doctor, so that you will know who has defeated you. I know of your thirst for knowledge, and I wouldn't want you to die in ignorance."
Reaching below one of the control panels, Belphegor produced a staser pistol. He levelled it at the Doctor's chest.
"You seem to have me at a disadvantage," the Doctor said. "Shooting me point blank? That doesn't seem your style somehow."
"It was necessary before to destroy your mind without destroying your body," said Belphegor. "I needed the life force from the Doctor's regenerative cycle, which had been projected into you."
"You were afraid of defeat," realized the Doctor.
"It was possible that I would be killed," Belphegor conceded. "This body no longer has the power of regeneration. That has been bequeathed to you. By destroying your mind, I could take back the life force from your body, and the Doctor's remaining regenerations would be mine."
"Crushing my mind in a Matrix pulse loop would have achieved that," replied the Doctor. "But what about the psionic energy sphere?"
"Programmed with your bio data, Doctor. It would have sucked out your life force and transmitted it through the time vortex to me."
The Doctor looked at the muzzle of the staser. "But now you have no more need of me?"
"Precisely," said Belphegor. "Now, I have succeeded. It is time for you to die. But before I kill you, I want you to replace the exitonic circuits you removed from that console."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow in mock surprise.
"Do you think me stupid?" Belphegor snapped. "I ought to know your mind by now. You did not just come here for a chat. I knew you would make some pathetic attempt to halt my plans."
The Doctor shrugged, and took the modules from his pocket. He held them up for Belphegor's inspection.
"Replace them," Belphegor snapped, gesturing with the gun.
The Doctor turned back towards the console. Then suddenly he span round, and threw the components straight at Belphegor's face. Instinctively turning away to protect himself, Belphegor threw his arm over his face. He had not been concentrating. Now he no longer covered the Doctor with the staser.
The Doctor did not hesitate to take advantage of this lapse. He launched himself at Belphegor, vaulting over a power generator. The two grappled, the Doctor trying to wrest the gun from Belphegor's grasp. Belphegor managed to fire the staser once, but the bolt shot off at random and scorched a hole in the ceiling.
The Doctor managed to get Belphegor in an arm lock. He smashed Belphegor's wrist down hard on the edge of one of the consoles. The staser fell from Belphegor's hand, and clattered to the floor.
Somehow relaxing his muscles, Belphegor managed to slide himself out of the Doctor's grip. The Doctor recognized the technique as one he had learnt from Harry Houdini. Belphegor clearly had access to all his memories and experience.
The gun had slid across the floor into a corner. Belphegor was already starting to run towards it. Springing forwards, the Doctor caught the hem of Belphegor's jacket, and managed to get him in a spectacular rugby tackle he had learnt on the playing fields of Eton. The two of them fell crashing to the floor.
Belphegor was already trying to wriggle out of the Doctor's grasp. Infuriatingly, the Doctor found that he couldn't remember any of the complicated holds of Venusian Aikido. Once he had been a black belt. He could remember a Venusian lullaby, but he didn't feel that was especially relevant at the moment.
Belphegor broke free, and tried to scrabble his way across the floor to the staser pistol. Looking around desperately for something to use as a weapon, the Doctor spotted a small hatchway set in the wall near where the gun had come to rest. A miniature control panel was mounted beside it.
The Doctor grabbed the first thing that came to hand, a spanner. He threw it over Belphegor's head, and it connected with the control panel. The hatchway slid open, and a glowing light shone from within. It was a waste disposal unit.
Belphegor had reached the gun. He snatched it up and turned round onto his back to fire at his opponent. But the Doctor was already leaping at him, and succeeded in locking one hand around Belphegor's wrist, keeping the gun pressed down against the floor. Belphegor was struggling furiously. He was very strong, despite his small stature. In fact, the Doctor realized, the body was much more powerful now than when he'd inhabited it. Doubtless the result of some telekinetic power his adversary possessed.
Belphegor tried to force up the hand that held the gun. The Doctor kept the pressure on for as long as he was able. Then suddenly he let go. Belphegor's arm sprang upwards very fast, with all the force he had been using to try and beat the Doctor. His hand shot up over his head, and he banged the back of his wrist against the wall, dropping the staser in his surprise.
The Doctor managed to lash out a hand, and knocked the gun through the hatch into the waste disposal. There was a blaze of light, and the staser was atomized.
A look of pure anger came over Belphegor's features. He pushed up against the Doctor, and managed to force him off. The Doctor slumped back onto the floor as Belphegor slid from underneath him. Scrabbling on the smooth floor, the Doctor turned himself around to face Belphegor. The little man jumped at him, and locked his hands tightly around the Doctor's throat.
The Doctor reached up to grab Belphegor's hands, to try and wrench them away. But Belphegor maintained a tight grip. He didn't attempt to throttle the Doctor. He knew that Time Lords were rarely killed by strangulation. Instead, Belphegor used some of his enormous strength to push the Doctor bodily across the floor. He manoeuvred the Doctor closer and closer to the open hatchway of the waste disposal.
Finally the Doctor's head was right by the opening, about to be plunged into the atomizing beam.
Belphegor smiled. "Goodbye, Doctor," he said.