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- LORD TIME Divided into thirteen chapters, each with it's own link. CHAPTER BY CHAPTER - LT1 LT2  LT3 LT4 LT5    LT6   LT7  LT8    LT9      LT10    LT11   LT12 LT12b LT13

                                                                LORD TIME 

CHAPTER FIVE. THE HOUSE OF INTRIGUE.

As welcome home parties go it was a modest, solemn and subdued affair. Everyone who came to greet The Doctor and Maxil were naturally deeply saddened by the deaths of the Time Lords who were believed to have also travelled to Earth.

"I thought I was supposed to be going alone," growled Maxil, making quite sure that everybody overheard him. Many of the Time Lords present averted their eyes shamefully from his penetrating gaze. "Obviously, some of you round here donít trust me."

"Donít rub it in too much," The Doctor whispered, but Maxil ignored him.

The arrival of an official messenger helped to break the tension.

"There will be a plenary briefing session in two hours, followed by an emergency meeting of all the government officers and ministers, and the leaders of the major opposition parties. Consider it to be a Council of war, gentlemen." Lord President Heirom offers his salutations and best wishes to you both." Lord Regaldeacon, Heiromís grovelling, subservient herald, vanished as quickly as he could, before anyone could ask any questions. He delivered messages, but never elaborated on them, or explained them. He followed his duty to the letter, and chose never to engage in any dispute or debate on the meaning or subtext of his reports.

"Heís developing a hunchback from all his bowing and scraping," Maxil sneered.

Cutting away from the modest reception party, Maxil invited The Doctor back to his official quarters where he quickly changed out of the sixth Doctorís clothes and back into his own security fatigues. "Iíll get those back to you before you leave," he said, but The Doctor seemed disinterested.

Maxil did most of the talking, as he filled The Doctor in on recent events before showing The Doctor all the available Matrix footage that was pertinent and relevant to the crisis at hand. The Doctor watched and listened attentively, occasionally asking questions and making astute observations of his own. With Maxilís permission, he reran the footage of Ichabodís birth, his life in general and the escape he made from Galifrey.

"I donít often agree with our presidents, but I fear that Heirom may be right this time. Killing Ichabod may prove to be our only way to stop this. I hope I can find some other way though."

Maxil was astounded by the remark. He starting trying to protest. He wanted to denounce Ichabod as an evil monster of the worst order, but to his surprise he couldnít do it. ""youíre right," he found himself saying. "Thereís something terribly wrong with the whole picture. What made him do it? Just fear of dying?"

"Partly, Maxil, Partly. Weíre all afraid of dying, to some extent, but it doesnít make us all want to turn into TARDISís does it? Besides, from what I can see of his life and times here, Ichabod doesnít seem to have the kind of imagination to start doing these kind of things alone. Heís clever, and inventive, yes, but not imaginative."

"So, who do you thinkís been putting ideas in his head, Professor?"

The Doctor looked a little hurt to hear from Maxil the pet name that Ace alone ever used for him,. "Putting ideas in his head," The Doctor said. "Thatís a good way of phrasing it, very good. I think thatís literally what happened."

Maxil wasnít too sure what The Doctor was implying. He rephrased his question. "Who are we accusing, exactly? You sound as though you have a particular suspect in mind?"

"I canít tell for sure yet, but I have a few ideas. Lets work up a list of possible suspects and see if we can put something together. The obvious question is, "Who hates Ichabod?"

Maxil assured The Doctor that no one fitted that bill. Ichabod was regarded as a State hero. Many Galifreyans owed their lives to his MSR technology. Maxil added, "Ask who wants to take over Galifrey instead. That would give us a few thousand suspects to work on."

"Donít be too cynical, Maxil. Our suspect, or suspects, if there is more than one Time Lord behind all this, has to be in a powerful enough position to access the Matrix, hire assassins and by-pass a great deal of red tape in order to get things done both quickly and covertly. There arenít too many people with that kind of power to go with their megalomania. A few dozen at best."

"Any ideas on how to narrow it down further?"

"Yes, I think so. Mind you, I am only speculating at present. Picture this. Ichabod gets fed a few ideas and hypnotic suggestions. He goes on the rampage. He gets caught, stopped and possibly killed or executed. But who gets blamed? The evidence points to a government conspiracy or to government negligence at best. Heirom gets brought down in scandal and controversy. Political chaos follows. The real conspirators use the opportunity to seize control and treat their opponents as scapegoat conspirators in the Ichabod-gate affair. All very totalitarian and efficient. Iíve seen it so many times before. They do it all the time on Earth. But something went wrong this time. The plan hasnít worked.

"Ichabod grew too powerful," Maxil agreed. "He didn't behave as they expected him to. He came looking for you instead."

The Doctor nodded his head in full agreement. "Heís confused by whatís happened to him. Part of him wants to cause death and destruction. He feels compelled to do that. But at the same time, he wants to stop. He asked me for help. "

"Yes, I heard that. I think he really meant it too."

"He did. Heís terribly afraid of what heís doing, and what he might still do. He canít help himself." The Doctor sighed heavily. "Whatís done this to him, Max?" How could the man who gave us the Metamorphic Symbiotic Regenerator turn so evil? He was the one man who defended my at my first trial here on Galifrey, the only one. Was that the behaviour of a monster?"

The Matrix footage was still rolling as they spoke. On it, Ichabod watched closely the footage of The Doctorís adventures. he was now well into the highlights of the seventh Doctorís adventures. Ace was currently in jeopardy at the hands of The Kandyman.

Maxil was becoming aware of something The Doctor had just said. "You just mentioned your trial, from the end of your second incarnation. But didnít you have a second trial later on, when you looked a bit like me, but not quite as handsome?"

Apparently missing the joke, The Doctor reluctantly admitted that a second trial had taken place. "Not guilty this time."

Maxil got more serious. "Doctor, this tape, the last time I watched it, referred to your second trial. It mentioned something called The Valeyard, but that was classified information. That information is missing from the Matrix now. Someone has been in this room without my permission, tampering with these recordings."

The Doctor sniggered, apparently missing the full importance of what was being related to him. "I can think of several reasons why the Time Lords would want to keep that trial a secret."

"Doctor," said Maxil, impatiently. "Donít you get it? The information was right there. I saw it. So did Ichabod. I only saw it because I was spying on him!"

The Doctor looked around from the multidimensional interface as it showed his battle with the leech like Process creatures. The penny slowly dropped. "Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice."

"Who the hellís Alice?" asked Maxil.

"Oh, just an old Earth figure of speech. Youíre right, someone definitely has something to hide and cover up here. You say information on The Valeyard was freely accessible to casual Matrix users?"

"Fairly limited information, yes. I couldnít find out much more about the trial. Somehow, Ichabod did find out more. I think someone wanted him to get that information, and they made it easy for him, but who, and why?"

"Quite a delightful picture, isnít it?" The Doctor said, softly. "Someone played on Ichabodís phobia about dying. Someone gave him suggestive messages that he ought to look into my life. If anyone one else had looked, they probably wouldnít have seen those references to The Valeyard at all. They were put there exclusively for Ichabodís sake. Your seeing it as well wasnít really part of the plan. They probably didn't expect you to do your duty quite so diligently."

"Thanks," Maxil said, flattered by the compliment.

"The information was for Ichabodís eyes only. Thatís why it had to be erased once he went AWOL."

Maxil frowned. The Doctor explained what AWOL meant. "Absent without Leave. An Earth army expression I picked up in my UNIT days. It means deserting your post and your duties without cause or permission."

"So, all we have to do now is to find out who erased the information from The Matrix records in this room.."

"Yes, itís almost certainly the same people who put the information in The Matrix in the first place, and they are the same people who tried to have you and I killed. We know too much now. We had to be erased too."

"I think theyíll try to kill us again. They have to sooner or later."

"Inevitably, yes, but not here and not right now. There would be too much suspicion and not enough time to plan it out. Someone right now will be just hoping and praying that we donít find anything incriminating and that we wonít be able to put the evidence together quickly enough to be able to stop them."

"We still havenít achieved that, either. What exactly was the plan,. before it went wrong?"

"Probably to get Ichabod to kill a few prominent Time Lords. I don't think they ever really expected him to leave Galifrey. Then again, itís just as likely that someone wanted to create a new Valeyard. Ichabod was convinced that he was developing his own Valeyard personality. They tried to turn Ichabod evil, but the good side of his personality was too strong. They only succeeded in driving him insane. What Ichabod has done since then is completely detached from the original game plan. Theyíve lost control of their monster, and theyíll do anything to save their own skins now. Theyíll be fighting for survival. We must be careful."

Maxil agreed. "Men like that will stop at nothing."

"Desperadoes.," The Doctor said, "With nothing to lose." As though struck by a sudden revelation, The Doctor jumped up to his feet. "Thatís it! Thatís it!" Without asking Maxil to help, or explaining what he was doing, The Doctor rewound the Matrix footage of his own lifeís adventures and started running them through again. "Weíve watched this," Maxil sighed. The Doctor kept watching avidly. The Zarbi were there, along with Marco Polo and King Canute. Daleks and Cybermen cropped up repeatedly. The Doctor flinched when he saw Sara Kingdom grow old and die within minutes again. His own regenerations hurt his feelings too, especially the second one. Liz Shaw, The Brigadier, Jo Grant, Drashigs, The Master, K9. The rolling chronology of friends, foes, tragedies, terrible events and occasional happy endings or reunions were there, right up to his recent adventures with Ace. As he expected, there were inaccuracies in the record, and a number of gaps and omissions, especially from the early days and from his sixth incarnations adventures, but The Doctor was quite happy to keep it that way, for the time being anyway.

"Quite a scrap book, isnít it?" he said, smiling in pride and vanity. "Ichabod just casually tapped into the Matrix for information about me and they gave him all this. Why bother? It hardly seems worth the effort to watch it."

The Doctorís sudden negation of his own pride in his illustrious undertakings took Maxil completely aback. "Is it really so surprising to you, Doctor? Youíve lived quite a life."

"Yes, well, no, not really. There are other Time Lords who have done more than I have. Professor Chronitis for one, and Romana, both of her. Then thereís always Rassilon. Why not look him up?"

"And read a lot of blank pages and security warnings about proceeding further with such enquiries? Come on Doctor."

"Quite, but I ask again, why me? Even when Ichabod petitioned for leniency in my first trial, he never became this preoccupied or obsessed by me. What changed his mind for him? We keep coming back to that question, but nothing here tells us the names of possible suspects. Weíve found plenty of evidence that there has been a conspiracy, but nothing to give us clues as to the identity of the conspirators themselves."

Maxil had an idea. "Couldn't we send word to Ichabod that weíd like to meet him, and then we could send him news of what weíve worked out here. If we tell him that he was the victim of a conspiracy he might just ....

"No!" The Doctor shook his head adamantly. "Dangerous thinking. Far too dangerous. If Ichabod goes looking for revenge thereís no telling what he might do. We might never be able to stop him. He could become suicidal and nihilistic enough to destroy Galifrey itself. Heís already gone over the edge of his sanity. We darenít provoke him too much. He might not even believe us. He'll think itís all part of a clever ploy on our part to get him to surrender, and then heíll just carry on regardless."

"We have to try something, Doctor."

"I agree, but until Ichabod reappears in real time and space thereís nothing more we can do about him. The next move will be his, and he knows it. All we can do is keep our eyes on the Dalamari Quadrant. I canít imagine whatís so special about it though. There have been problems there from time to time. Iíve been there. So have the Daleks. I heard recently that The Dominators have been raiding planets in that region lately as well."

Maxil nodded his head affirmatively. "So, where does that leave us?"

"It leaves us tracking down Ichabodís creators," The Doctor said,. "As we canít do anything about Ichabod directly, for the time being, we should concentrate on that problem instead. We have to find out who tried to kill us off and ask what they were so afraid of us discovering."

"Something in the Matrix material that has been removed," Maxil suggested, helpfully.

The Doctor agreed. "Check the seals to se how recently they were used last," The Doctor advised.

"Theyíve been pretty clever to be able to override my access codes," Maxil said, as he pressed a number of keys on the Matrix access control pad. "Yes, someone has definitely been in here, and not long ago. Thirty minutes, maximum. Thatís when they took the material on your trial. Itís also the time we arrived on Galifrey from Earth. Weíre lucky the rest of the file hasnít been erased as well. Whoever came in here had to leave quickly, or they could have covered their tracks quite easily. I thought the furniture had been moved about slightly when we came in here."

"Whoever did this wasnít expecting you to come back alive, Max," The Doctor said. "Someone warned them you had made it out alive, and they just had to grab what they could and get out fast. If Regaldeacon hadnít addressed us we might have seen the culprits running away."

"What now?" Maxil asked, at a loss what to do next.

The Doctor grabbed his umbrella and looked round for a moment for his hat before he realised he was already wearing it. "I think we should start by paying a visit on your boss. What was his name again, Marcher?"

"Yes, Marcher, but .... "

"No buts. If heís your boss, he outranks you, and that means he shouldnít have any difficulty overriding your security access codes. Letís set the ball rolling by interrogating him."

The Doctor expected nervousness, reluctance, and excuses from Maxil, but the security officer positively leapt at the idea. He grinned at the prospect of having to deal with real intrigue and deception. The prospect of having an ordinary, mortal, humanoid villain, (even one of high rank and social respectability), to pursue, arrest, question, grill, shout and beat up, warmed his flagging spirits greatly.

"What exactly is The Valeyard, Doctor? I ought to have some sort of idea, if Iím to make any sense of all this."

The Doctor explained how his second trial was engineered around and mostly by an evil future incarnation of himself, who adapted the title of Valeyard. This was a response to The Doctorís largely accidental discovery of the sinister Ravalox Stratagem, which he also had to explain to Maxil in some detail. The Doctor explained that The Valeyard was not just a future persona of The Doctor who had voluntarily turned evil, but was much more likely to have been a product of some similar genetic malpractice by conspirators not unlike those who had driven poor Ichabod mad.

Listening to all this, Maxil was rather saddened. He was full of admiration for The Doctor, but he was also envious and jealous of the man who had successfully rebelled against Galifrey for so long. The Doctor had seen so much action, while he, Maxil, born hero that he imagined himself, had been so long confined to pen pushing on Galifrey. He remembered almost killing The Doctor some years ago, in a vain attempt to save the planet of the Time Lords from Omega. He was glad now that he had failed to take his life. He wanted to tell The Doctor all this, but he couldnít bring himself to talk so candidly. Instead, in sheer frustration, he punched the wall with his fist.

"Feel better for that?" asked The Doctor, matter of factly.

"Not really, no," Maxil sighed, in all truth.

They set off to conduct their enquiries. Maxil locked his own office door securely, and walking quickly, they soon reached Marcherís private office. Maxil explained to The Doctor that Marcher was away, probably still attending a briefing with President Heirom.

"Do we wait for him?" asked The Doctor.

Maxil never answered in words. He just kicked out at the heavy wooden and locked door which immediately snapped clean off its hinges. The sight of the wrecked door made him smile childishly at his achievement.

"Thatís the spirit," said The Doctor, patting his friend on the back. "You know, you remind me of a man called Duggan He enjoyed hitting people and breaking things too."

******

Marcher had long since finished trying to appease Lord President Heirom regarding certain facts which the President was rather peeved not to have been previously informed about. This particularly concerned the precise number of extra Time Lord field agents who had travelled to Earth without returning. Heirom indicated strongly that further questions needed answering and that he felt that the Security Chief was carefully avoiding the issues at stake by stalling for time and waffling on with irrelevant, mundane and trivial details. Heirom promised that he would arrange to see Marcher again after the impending formal war council proceedings.

Marcher made full use of the break from Heiromís unpleasantly intense and probing line of question to give a similarly severe dressing down to Lieutenant Holt, his acting second in command, a cold-hearted man who was usually assumed to be an unquestioningly obedient dullard. "Where is The Doctor?" I thought you were keeping a close eye on him?"

The unquestioning dullard immediately began questioning and arguing back, very defensively; so defensively in fact, that Marcher felt for a moment as though he was the one answering to his superior officer. He started to wish he was back in the Presidential quarters listening to Heirom again.

"With all due respect, Sir," Holt began, speaking slowly with considerable contempt and venom in his voice. "Maxil and The Doctor are now here at Lord President Heiromís personal invitation, to serve us in our fight against your abomination, Ichabod. We tried to prevent their arrival, but we failed, or rather, Tarren failed us. If we now try to treat our guests as security risks, or if we are stupid enough to try to kill them here, on Galifrey, theyíll become suspicious. Our best option for the time being is to leave them alone. Theyíll only be thinking of Ichabod and how best to deal with him. They wonít even start to think about what you did, I mean, what we did. With any luck, Ichabod will eventually kill them for us. We have to be discreet and lie low for a while, that way no one will associate us with the way things turned out."

Holt had to stop talking in order to help Marcher get up off the floor, where he had fallen over the door to his office. The vandals responsible for breaking it down were nowhere to be seen. The office itself had clearly been ransacked. Papers and documents were scattered everywhere. Cupboards and filing cabinet draws were all open.

"Is that your idea of discreet, Holt?" Marcher snapped, loudly. "We havenít been discreet enough, have we? Someone is onto us." He pulled himself free of the younger manís helping hands and stood up by himself.

"Shall I report this intrusion, Sir?"

Marcher thought for a moment and came to a decision. "No, Have a repair crew come to fix my door. Make sure they donít ask questions. If Maxil and The Doctor have found anything, it should come out in the council sessions, and Iíll be ready for them. If we run round like headless Chelonians shouting Ďintrudersí people will start wondering what they were searching for. That will only bring more attention towards us."

"You donít sound too sure of yourself, Sir."

"Oh, Iím quite certain of my plans now, Holt. Believe me I am. I know exactly how to handle this. I suggest you get a few light provisions packed away. Weíre going to have to leave Galifrey rather quickly."

Holt saluted. "Understood perfectly, Sir, but what about The Doctor?"

Marcher grinned maliciously, but he looked nervous, in the same way that a cat gets nervous when it realises that the tin roof it walks on is getting more than just Ďwarmí. He wanted time to go and inspect the contents of his room, to gauge exactly what was missing from it, but a signal flash was sounding from his pager. The Council Of War was about to start at any moment. he knew he dared not be late.

"What will we do now," Holt asked.

"We have to keep our Doctor friend alive, for now. Trying to kill him was a mistake. Iím glad Tarren failed us. Iím going to use The Doctor as a replacement for Ichabod."

"Thatís impossible. How can we get him into ...."

"Shhh. Iíll explain later. I have to go." Without another word, Marcher set off to the Panopticon Council Chambers. Holt set off to find someone able to make superficial repairs to Marcherís office door.

*******

The Doctor and Maxil also received the signal to go to the main government administration Council Chamber for the first War meeting since the costly but decisive battle against the Great Vampire. The message came through Maxilís pager. They set off through a labyrinth of murky, dingy grey shadowy tunnels and corridors that could have harboured a dozen unseen Minataurs. They felt pleased with themselves over their findings. The Doctor found himself suddenly and unexpectedly apprehended. A hand grabbed him by the ear, and twisted the lobe sharply back. Pain surged through the Doctorís body as he was pulled up onto tiptoe from behind.

Maxil, far from rushing to the rescue or offer assistance to his friend, seemed somewhat amused by the whole incident, and looked as though he might actually double up with laughter. When he looked round, The Doctor was similarly delighted, as he realised that he wasnít actually in any danger from the assailant. He heard the old man behind him mumble a familiar phrase. "Just you pack that in, you noisy uncouth little whippersnapper."

The ear was finally released. The Doctor turned properly and greeted the man behind him with a hearty handshake. "Teacher! So good to see you."

"Sorry about the ear, Doctor. I couldnít resist doing it just once more, for old timeís sake, and the sake of an old Time Lord like me."

The Teacher started reminiscing about old times and happy memories. When he mentioned Susan and asked how she was now, The Doctor took cue from Maxil and mentioned the urgency of attending the Presidentís meeting, to which The Teacher wasnít invited. The Doctor did take time however to ask about the incident in the TARDIS museum. The Teacher described Ichabodís escape from Galifrey just as he saw it happen. His careful description of the location of Ichabodís TARDIS and its oh so convenient open door was particularly interesting to The Doctor. Maxil knew why. Only Time Lords of Marcherís rank or higher could obtain sufficient security clearance to get a key to unlock a TARDIS nowadays. It was a security measure introduced after The Masterís escape.

As the doddery Teacher left them, Maxil asked The Doctor just what significance he was reading into the theft of the TARDIS by Ichabod.

"It was the newest and best TARDIS in the fleet," The Doctor said, "And they left it open, just like that, for children to wander in and out of, with the key hung up near the door waiting to be taken. Itís a wonder one of the kids didnít take off with the TARDIS before Ichabod got there. Thatís how easy it was."

"Heís been set up right down the line, hasnít he?" Maxil said.

"Totally, but Ichabod thinks heís a free agent in all this. I think its possible the TARDISís organic and telepathic circuitry has been tampered with too, to give Ichabod further psychological wear and tear."

Maxil was prevented from asking for further details or explanations as they had now arrived at the growing queue of Time Lords entering the Panopticon Council Chambers.

A spokesman for Public Access Video (PAV) Television was begging for permission to film proceedings, as his crew stood nearby with film and sound recording equipment ready for rapid deployment as soon as official go ahead was received. They were promptly denied admission. "Itís an Ďin cameraí meeting, and that means Ďno camerasí, doesnít it?" Lord Regaldeacon informed the poor spokesman. The producer shrugged his shoulders and the technicians started packing their equipment away again. Theyíd interviewed Ice Warriors on live TV, but their own people were refusing to let them film. "Bloody politicians," moaned the producer.

******

The Doctor looked and felt distinctly out of place among the formal ceremonial members of the Panopticon Parliament. Each attendant Time Lord wore the official colours of his respective chapter and order. The red and orange silk gowns of the majority Prydonians dominated the room. Maxil produced his robes from somewhere, and slipped them on over his uniform, and joined his Chapter.

There were fewer men in the green garb of the Archalian Lodge Order, and even less purple clad Patrexians. On Galifrey all politicians are elected through proportional representation, by the majority vote of the ordinary people of Galifrey. Everyone wore the badge of his party with pride, except for The Doctor. He walked in carrying his Prydonian robes under his arm, and refused to wear anything other than the clothes in which he had arrived.

The Time Lords took their reserved places at the dark oaken table, surrounded by a near infinitive gallery of the portraits of all the former presidents. The oil paintings came in various sizes, Rassilon had the largest portrait, surrounded by a diamond frame, while Borusa and other disgraced presidents had smaller, poor quality pictures set in cheap pine wood, and hung upside down at deliberately crooked angles. The Doctor was surprised to see his own medium sized painting there, in his fourth persona, in full presidential regalia. He shook his head, tutted, and wished that they had left something of his true personality in the picture, his hat or his scarf or even his yo-yo. They hadnít even given him a smile.

The table itself was set out in a scalene triangle shape, with all of its sides and angles set to different lengths. Lord President Heirom sat on a raised and burnished plinth at the tip of the longest line of the triangle, while the elected Prydonian politicians sat along that line, and the unelected party members who were invited to the meeting sat behind them, slightly further away from the table. Seating was set out in raised tiers, looking down towards the table as though it was a stadium arena. The Doctor, as a former President of Galifrey, as well as a fellow Prydonian, was invited to sit beside the current President, Lord Heirom, and reluctantly, he accepted. Maxil sat further down the same line, slightly further back from the table, as he was not an elected officer. The Patrexian party took the more distant base line of the triangle. The line of middle length was occupied by the Archalian Party, with their leader, Lord Kegman, Shadow President, who also served as Chief Communications Officer, seated closest to the President, as a reminder that he was never far from taking over power of the State.

Everything about the room, the table, and the formal clothing of the men gathered there, revealed pride in sexism and class division, snobbery and elitism. Very few female politicians, and only one Madam President had ever governed the Citadel, or Galifrey. While many political committees throughout the known cosmos chose to meet and round tables to give attendees some delusion of equality and informality, the ruling Council Of Galifrey chose to keep everybody firmly aware of his place in the grand pecking order.

The Patrexian membership began the meeting in full formality by collectively standing up and making a concerted effort to shunt the table forwards, and then reported their failure to achieve the task. This was all very traditional. They knew well enough that the table was bracketed firmly to the concrete floor. This piece of pomp served to remind the Time Lords that a former President, Lord Aytounporte, had once so provoked the audience that the formerly unbracketed table had been heaved forward by the delegates of his day with such force that the sharp tip of the triangle had stabbed him and staked him through the chest where he had bled to death, regenerated on the spot and bled to death again, and again in each of his new lives, before anyone could think of a way to save him. Turning that unlikely tragedy into a ceremony now reminded the current incumbent President that his office was still only held by the will of the people, as well as to remind the Patrexians of their currently limited strength and numbers.

The ritual table shunt ceremony at a close, the Patrexians sat down as a mass, sighing their often repeated and thoroughly well rehearsed disappointment, and made their usual silent vows to secure enough votes at the next election to be able to push the Archalians further down the table. The Patrexians needed a further fifty-seven more seats to achieve that, while the Archalians required one hundred and seventeen seats to overpower the current Prydonian rule. It could be done, they knew that. The Patrexians had once ruled Galifrey, and their support was slowly, steadily growing again.

The table itself actually changed dimensions proportionately and representatively as any party gained or lost seats, increasing the length of one side of the table at the expense of the others. It had similar chameleon circuits to a TARDIS, but of a much more limited functional capability.

Marcher was an elected Patrexian. He sat close to and staring at the table, desperately trying to avoid the gaze of The Doctor and Maxil who both smiled and waved to him in friendly mocking gestures.

The Doctor placed his hat on the table in front of himself and hooked his umbrella on the tableís edge. The tip of the brolly just missed touching the floor.

With other agenda issues temporarily shelved, by full unanimous agreement of those present, there were a series of brief summaries and briefings for the newcomers, and Time Lords who had been summoned back from secret field work and alleged Ďholidayí expeditions.

A digest report of the various sightings of Ichabod was given, and this incorporated some Matrix footage, mostly constructed from Maxilís memories of events he had witnessed. At one point in the discussion of Ichabodís known rampage through time and space, The Doctor was heard to exclaim; "Why does everyone want to impersonate me all of a sudden? Frankly, these days, I canít even stand the taste of celery."

Maxil grinned. "He might have chosen one of your more handsome bodies when he went to Sontar, Doctor. That last chap for instance. He had panache, and style, didnít he?" The Doctor glared at Maxil in mock fury.

The boot was soon on the other foot however. Maxil found his own initial encounter with Ichabod being screened yet again, along with the new footage of The Doctorís own meeting with the living TARDIS.

Redic, speaking nervously from the Patrexian base line, found his voice carried remarkably well in the acoustically fine tuned amphitheatre shaped hall. "Your Honour," he began, addressing the President directly, as was customary. "Official Earth reports list only seven fatalities in the incident, which they dismiss as a terrorist bombing atrocity, but our findings tell us that there were in fact nineteen deaths on Earth. That means that there were in fact twelve of our own people killed there and not eleven, as previously reported by Lord Marcherís team."

Commander Marcher, official Chief of security, unofficially head of the Celestial Intervention Agency, and Maxilís superior officer, stood up and cut in aggressively, but as Maxil senses, somewhat nervously too. Maxil smiled and winked at The Doctor, who gave no indication at all as to whether he too noticed that something was wrong. "Your Honour, The Terrans I mean, the Earthlings, will have covered up any evidence relating to fatalities no one among their species could account for. As far as they are concerned, they just lost a few of their own people."

The Doctor glared at Marcher with an intense look of anger and fury in his eyes. "Just Earthlings; well, thatís all right then, isnít it? No harm in that, is there? Who cares about them?" He mumbled on sarcastically. Lord Heirom banged his gavel and demanded order. Marcher turned and glimpsed Maxil signalling as carefully as possible to The Doctor to let the matter drop. The Doctor relented and turned his attention to Redic again. Marcher realised that everyone in the room was aware of his embarrassment and humiliation at the hands of the Doctor, so he too turned to look at Redic. "Carry on, boy," said, hoping to avoid being forced to apologise before the whole government.

Redic looked imploringly to Lord Heirom, who nodded his assent. Redic began. "Your Honour, our records tell us that only eleven of our field agents went to Earth to watch over The Doctor and Maxil. I have their names here, but I have no official record of Lord Tarrenís activities on Earth, or at least I didnít, until the Matrix files revealed that he had in fact gone there with a small firearm of Earth origin. This information comes from alpha waves captured by the Matrix as the body of knowledge accumulated in his mind during his eight lives returned to the Matrix banks as he perished. There is alas no available information on his motives for going to Earth in the first place. That information was either never received by the Matrix, or it has been deleted or erased by someone here on Galifrey as and when the information arrived."

Heirom turned to Marcher and immediately pointed an accusing finger at him. "Explain this, right now!"

"I felt it prudent to send an extra observer. I armed him to provide protection and security for the Doctor."

Maxil scoffed. "You knew Ichabod couldnít be stopped with a bullet. You've seen my Matrix footage."

Marcher felt sick. He dreaded the prospect of Maxil openly accusing him there and then of trying to assassinate The Doctor. He replied quickly, and a touch too imploringly to sound sincere. Heirom gave him a look that said everything without voicing the words openly. Marcher knew he was finished in Galifreyan politics.

"It was a rash and foolish, impetuous decision. Perhaps I imagined that I could distract Ichabodís attention long enough for Maxil and The Doctor to escape. I was mistaken. Please accept my apologies."

Redic spoke again, but not directly to the President, as protocol and etiquette decreed. He addressed his remarks to Lord Marcher instead. "You also forgot to instruct your extra field agent to use an Opticon-blocking devise. Thatís why Ichabod will have found it so easy to tell where the field agents were and what they were doing at any point in time."

"Thatís not true," Marcher protested. "I definitely ordered Lord Tarren to wear such a devise."

Redic looked flustered by the reply, and wasnít sure how to reply. The Doctor interjected quickly. "That could well be true, Redic." He restated the words Ďcould beí slowly and deliberately, casting considerable doubt on the likelihood of it. "I wasnít wearing any anti-eavesdroping equipment either, but then again, I wasnít expecting a visitation of this kind. Ichabod may have picked up on my telepathic awareness that there were Time Lords nearby. I was beginning to have such suspicions just before people started dying. I sensed that I was being watched and followed. Ichabod may well have had a better sense of just who was watching me, including Tarren."

Redicís face went red. "Iím sorry. That was presumptuous of me. Forgive me, Lord President."

"Forgiven," said Lord Heirom, dispassionately.

Heirom made a brief speech lamenting the loss of both the Galifreyan agents and the deaths of the Earth people caught up in the crossfire. The Doctor shook his head. He knew that Heirom was only saying this diplomatically, for his benefit. He felt as though he was being patronised. There was no sincerity or conviction behind the observation.

Heirom paused in his delivery, slightly taken aback by The Doctorís lack of grovelling acknowledgement of the official recognition from the President of the rights of Earthlings. He spoke again, though only the Doctor recognised the indignity in his voice. "We must prevent further attacks on our citizens and violence against the peoples of all other worlds in the Universe too." He added quickly, "I welcome your own suggestions as to how we proceed now. We, ... I, am frankly at a loss as to what we should do."

The Doctor was impressed by such an open and honest admission of powerlessness and despair from The President in front of his entire Parliament. It was the first genuine, sincere comment made by the leader during the proceedings. It was more than an attack of mere defeatist pessimism on Heiromís part. It was firm, total recognition that they faced a superior and apparently unstoppable deadly opponent. Normally, in any political or military crisis, the president, (any president, of any world), maintained an air of dignified control, and promised all manner of long term solutions and strategies to the crisis at hand. Heirom was openly and plainly admitting that he had run out of ideas and practical solutions to the problems. He did so, however in full confidence that no one among his opponents for office could or would be able to better him by presenting a practical, pragmatic and cost effective battle strategy right now. Heirom was maintaining power precisely by forcing his subjects to admit that they were as much in the dark as he was. By doing so, he was being extremely shrewd, daring and calculating. He still maintained every single ounce of his near supreme authority over them all. Though he was wary and suspicious of him, The Doctor, no stranger to manipulative behaviour himself, felt a strong and growing admiration for Lord Heirom.

The President cut through the doom laden silence his words had generated to observe that he still planned to attack Ichabod if necessary, with his Raston Warrior Robot led divisions, if all else failed.

At this point, The Doctor stood up, and put on his hat. The pause he created drew all the attention towards him. He coughed several times more than was strictly warranted to clear his throat, and started to talk as though he was delivering a college lecture. "I have a few helpful suggestions to offer, gentlemen. Ah!, forgive me, you first, Lord President, Your Honour. Might I recommend the use of a clever little devise known as a sublimator."

There was a general disruptive murmur of exaggerated confusion as everyone in the room asked one another quite loudly what a sublimator was, and many people present openly declared a complete lack of knowledge about what such a devise might possibly be.

The Doctor started walking round the lines of the triangle, drawing eyes and heads round towards him, and diverting attention away from The President. He walked purposely towards Marcher, along the line of Prydonian rule. His ham theatricality was beginning to get the better of him. "Allow me to remind those of you who may have genuinely forgotten, just what a sublimator is," he began. " Doubtlessly, from time to time, you have all heard rumours of the existence of such devises. I certainly have, even before my departure from ... Well, from a long time ago. The sublimator is a machine used for transmitting sub-frequency subliminal messages and suggestions, in the form of words, symbols and images, into the minds of anyone you like, throughout time and space, without the people receiving such messages being aware of how those suggestions came to them, or from where." His timing was perfect. As he finished speaking, he placed his hand firmly on Marcherís shoulder. "Thatís a fair summary, isnít it? Or did I leave anything out?"

Marcher flinched. Maxil laughed out loud.

Marcher struggled under the surprisingly tight grip the Doctor held him in, as a fish struggles on a hook. The Doctor smiled and raised his hat to the man. "Tell us all about it, please."

"Tell us everything!" The commanding order came from Maxil further down the line. The Security agent was now also on his feet, despite calls from those further back who moaned that they couldnít see.

Marcher was shaking quite visibly. His head kept flinching violently to one side, almost flopping against his shoulder. Maxil addressed him one minute, and The Doctor spoke to him the next. He found himself stuck there with the Doctor to his left, holding him down in his seat, and Maxil standing immediately to his right. He wondered whether he should prepare his escape immediately, but he knew that he still had a little time left yet to find out more. He decided to keep on bluffing it out and find out exactly what they knew.

Lord Heirom felt angry. He wanted to order the Doctor and Maxil back tot heir seats, but he could see that they were onto something positive and that Marcher was a broken man, desperately clutching at straws. He decided to allow the little charade to continue, for the time being.

Marcher started to talk, through a veil of desperate tears. "Sublimators are a product of rumours, conjecture and overactive imaginations. Itís the kind of apparatus Archalian conspiracy theorists have been accusing me, I mean us, accusing us. Please record that as Ďusí not as Ďmeí,. They have been accusing m .. us of using sublimators for centuries. Such a manipulative devise would always have been declared as too unethical and controversial for use in such a civilised society as our own, even if it ever actually existed. But it doesnít exist. I would personally protest if I learned of the existence or use of such a devise on Galifrey. It is nothing more than a myth. A myth, I tell you. "

His words became increasingly hysterical and imploring in pitch as he spoke, beseeching and begging the listeners to agree with him. Many faces, including Maxilís displayed a deepening sense of disgust at the wretched display of self pity Marcher was presenting. The Doctor looked at him more judgementally; he was acting like the Chief prosecution Council barrister in final summary of his case. The Doctor even wished he still had the lawyerís Old Bailey wig he had once worn in presenting a similar legal case, but it was lost somewhere in his cavernous pockets, or he had left it in the TARDIS long ago. "Show them the myth, Max," said The Doctor, picking up on Maxilís shortened name, as other Time Lords were doing habitually after seeing the Matrix film.

With neither word nor smile, Maxil skimmed a six inch discus like cartridge across the smooth table surface towards the President. It rolled off the table straight into Lord Heiromís lap. Most men of such status would have been immediately alarmed by such a blatant breach of security procedure, especially as the devise closely resembled an Ogron limpet mine. Heirom simply, and casually picked up the devise and started to inspect it closely. "Surprisingly light, isnít it?" he observed, almost envious of the machine.

Marcher snarled and tried to stand up again. His anger was overcoming his hysteria now. "Where did you get that? Where? You had no right. No right!" The Doctorís iron grip restrained him and subdued him again. Maxil took up the lecture. "This mythical product of an overactive imagination was located a few hours ago, in your office, Sir. To be more precise, it was in your locked drawer, in a filing box marked ĎTop secret, next to some truly fascinating documents labelled ĎRavalox Stratagem Two. Preliminary Synopsis Of Proposals." Perhaps you would care to explain."

The Time Lords watching all this became increasingly excitable and restless. Heirom called for order, as did Lord Regaldeacon. The banging of gavels and demands for order merely added to the noise and increasing bedlam in the chambers, but as Marcher so visibly caved in tot he pressures being exerted over him, a hushed silence slowly filled the auditorium. The last one to become silent was Lord Regaldeacon, who continued to demand Ďorderí long after it was necessary to do so.

"Thatís enough," whined Marcher. "Youíve said enough, Doctor." He struggled for more words, and somehow, in the end, he seemed to find them. "As much as I resent your intrusion into my private office, and as concerned as I am that such a devise as you have presented to this council got into my room without either my knowledge or my consent ... " He stopped. He knew from the looks on the faces around him that no one believed him any more. His words sounded hollow and empty even to him. He was ready to give up and prepare for his escape. Then he noticed that the source of discomfort affecting his audience was not his words at all. Except for Maxil and The Doctor, everyone in the audience was rubbing their throats and licking their dry, parched lips. Many, including President Heirom, were sweating. Marcher suddenly realised that he felt the same way too.

"Would it be all right if I just slipped out to get a glass water, Your Honour?" asked a young member of the Archalian Order.

"What was that?" Heirom asked. "Oh, yes. You may. Perhaps you could get one for me as well. And if you can find one, will you also bring me a Choc Ice, whatever that is. Now, why on Galifrey did I say that?"

The Doctor clapped his hands and quickly grabbed Marcher by the shoulder again. "Your Honour. Fellow Time Lords. You are not as thirsty or as hungry as you imagine. That is the sublimator working. I programmed it before we came in here to suggest certain ideas to your subconscious minds. It should stop feeding you its suggestions at any moment now."

Maxil joined in. "Works remarkably well, for a myth, doesnít it, Lord Marcher?"

There was a general demand from the floor and from members of all three parties for Marcherís immediate resignation from office.

Marcher sank back dejectedly in his chair. The word Ďconfessí began to echo around repeatedly in his head. He wasnít sure if it was the will of the Time Lords around him, or just another message from the sublimator, set against him by The Doctor. He knew he had to act now though. He pushed his chair back quickly, levering it with his feet pressed firmly against the floor. He slammed the chair right into The Doctor, who momentarily lost his grip on his captive. Marcher made the most of the situation and leapt up to his feet and shot past The Doctor quickly. Maxil was also just too late to reach him. As he jumped up, Marcher produced a staser gun from somewhere within his robes. It appeared so quickly that few even realised from where. In fact, he used a simple shoulder holster. He aimed the gun straight towards Lord Heirom.

Maxil, and two Prydonian security guards who followed his lead, moved forward to shield and protect The President, but Heirom himself ordered them to stay clear. "Wait," he insisted. "Letís hear him out. He canít do anything if he expects to live." The Presidentís calm, reserved courage astonished everyone.

Marcher started ranting. "Fools. Itís obvious I had to have The Doctor killed. Ichabod canít be stopped. He mustnít be stopped. He must be invited home. He should now be our new leader, our new God."

"Is that why you created him?" asked The Doctor.

Marcher swung round, pointing the staser towards The Doctor, and realised almost, but not quite too late, that Maxil was making the most of the opportunity afforded to move in towards him from the other side. He aimed the gun back towards Maxil, and the other security guards closed in, along with The Doctor. When he pointed The Staser at Lord President Heirom, everyone moved towards him. He found himself swinging the gun from target to target, but each time someone was left unguarded, they moved closer still. Marcher threatened to shoot. He was looking at The Doctor as he said it. The final assault came from a more unexpected quarter. The sublimator smashed into his wrist, cracking the bone and knocking the gun from his hand. The Presidentís aim was perfect. Maxil jumped forward to grab hold of Marcher before he could try to recover the weapon, but to his surprise, Marcher didnít even seem inclined to try. He reached instead into the pockets of his robes. Fearing another weapon, Maxil dived between Marcher and The President, but too slowly. Marcher vanished before his eyes.

Maxil crashed dazed, winded and confused against the table close to where his target had stood. He ended up shoving some of the frightened Prydonian spectators over as he stumbled. "Where the hell did he.... "

"He had a time ring," said The Doctor, softly, in bitter disappointment, genuinely surprised and feeling slightly foolish for not having anticipated such an obvious possibility.

Heirom ordered one of his officers to begin immediate inquiries as to where Marcher had gone. While the Council attendees were waiting for this vital piece of information, Heirom allowed a brief recess in which the Time Lords were able to settle their cravings for drinks and other refreshments. Heirom was somewhat disappointed to hear from The Doctor that ĎChoc Icesí were only available from the planet Earth.

Members of the Patrexian and Archalian orders were secretly overjoyed by the scandal Marcherís treasonous behaviour had created for them. They knew that there would be an inevitable public backlash and outcry as the story was leaked to the masses, as they would ensure. There would now be a by-election for Marcherís seat, and possibly even call for a full scale general assembly election. While Heirom himself would undoubtedly survive and weather the impending storm, there would now be new seats to gain, and the shape of the triangle of power was shifting. They all felt it.

Word was quickly brought back to the shocked and bewildered audience within minutes of the emergency hearing reconvening. The President read the formal announcement to his Parliament. "Lord Marcher, the criminal, has rematerialised within the Dalamari Quadrant. Time Ring frequencies are much easier to monitor, track and trace than TARDIS co-ordinates, as you will all be aware. It looks almost inevitable that Marcher is heading for some kind of rendezvous or meeting with Ichabod. The strange thing is, that while Ichabod gave us a more specific time period for his impending arrival in The Dalamari System, Lord Marcher has gone there about two hundred years prematurely. Perhaps he has miscalculated his landing sight and time co-ordinates. He has gone to the Rairbor Space Port."

Maxil recommended an immediate pursuit division be sent to track Marcher down at any cost. Lord Heirom assured him that such a pursuit was already in progress.

The Doctor intervened in the discussion. "Lord President Heirom; pursue Marcher by all means in your power, but I fear you may be too late. Rairbor is an extremely busy port and space vehicle docking station. Iíve been there, and through there many times. Marcher will have had no difficulty getting transportation from Rairbor to virtually any destination in the Dalamari system. I think that is what he has in mind. As to being two hundred years early for meeting Ichabod, I suspect that is no accident either. This escape was too carefully planned for my liking. Marcher certainly knows precisely what he is doing."

"I agree entirely, Your Honour, " Maxil added.

Heirom nodded his head. "Mmmm. I expect you are right. We must assume so, anyway. Marcher will probably try to head for whichever planet Ichabod has in mind, but we donít know which one that is as yet. If we can trace Marcherís whereabouts, we may well be able to get to him before Ichabod does."

The Doctor corrected him again, provoking angry looks from President Heirom. The Doctor carried on unabated. "Sir, it is rather unlikely that Marcher has any real idea where Ichabod will materialise in the Dalamari System either. Whatever he originally planned to do, Marcher has now completely lost control of Ichabod. He probably never intended him to leave Galifrey. Right now, he probably just has some vague and desperate notions about forming an alliance with Ichabod, and teaming up with someone else who has a grudge against Galifreyan society."

Heirom thanked The Doctor for making such an observation. "Youíre quite sure Marcher is as much in the dark as we are?"

"Yes, Your Honour, but we can still make use of the sublimators to influence Ichabod. I suspect Marcher was probably using a sublimator to provoke Ichabod into rebellion in the first place. Such a devise may well be linked in to the telepathic processors inside Ichabodís TARDIS."

Heirom remained uncertain. Maxil stood up, bowing politely. "I am in full agreement with The Doctor, Sir. Sublimators must be used."

The Doctor took over again. "You saw how effective a sublimator was here, during our demonstration. We could now use one to send out messages through time and space to places we know Ichabod has been to. Earth, when he came for me and when he sank the submarine; Sontar, Earthís Moon in 1969, The Dalek ship. The messages must be short, sharp and to the point. Maxil and I have prepared a rough sample draft for your consideration. See what you think of this."

Maxil started walking round the table, handing out copies of rough and readily prepared notes. He started with President Heirom and walked down the Prydonian line, and then as custom dictated, he walked back to the top of the line and down the other side, along the Archalian ministers and finally he gave out the papers to the Patrexians. Most of the Time Lords failed to thank him for the effort. He handed the papers out in tens and twenties, which the Time Lords then shared out among their colleagues. There were not quite enough papers to go round. A few Patrexians found themselves sharing.

After a long dramatic pause, Lord Heirom started to read his copy of the memo. Then and only then, the Time Lords turned their copies of the papers over and also started to read.

The list was quite simple in presentation. It consisted of a series of strong statements and short monosyllabic command phrases.

LOSE! GIVE UP! ACCEPT DEATH! SURRENDER! PEACE! LOVE!

GUILT! RIGHT OR WRONG? ARE YOU A TIME LORD? GALIFREYAN OR LAJOXIAN? THINK! WHAT WOULD YOUR MOTHER SAY? STOP

NOW! LET ACE GO! END THIS!.

A few Time Lords suggested adding words of their own, notably ĎDieí, and a few swear words involving impossible sexual contortions. The Doctor, Maxil, and President Heirom rejected all such proposals.

"Doctor. Ah, my apologies, Lord President. May I address The Doctor directly for a moment."

"Permission granted, Lord Kegman."

Kegman, the Shadow Cabinet Communications Control Department Officer from the Archalian ranks, stood up and loudly, proudly and grandly commended The Doctor for such sterling suggestions. The Doctor pointed to Maxil and tried to include him in the credit too, but he was drowned out in the cries of ĎBravoí and ĎHear Hearí. Maxil found such sycophantic grovelling truly nauseating and a waste of precious time. He said as much. Kegman carried on praising the men for some time before getting to the point of his talk. "You are aware, are you not, Doctor, that we are currently screening ourselves against Ichabodís attention by utilising Matrix APC dampening fields?"

The Doctor replied to Lord President Heirom, as though he was the one asking the question. "An excellent move, Your Honour. Alas, I fear that Marcher and any supporters he may have here, may have released any plans you have discussed in their presense into the Matrix. Transmission of sublimator messages is straight forward enough. It just involves allowing the messages to slip through the APC Network. The messages will take mere billionths of a second to take root in Ichabodís subconscious mind. Whatever you do, please donít transmit all the messages simultaneously, or too frequently. Spread them evenly over the time span in which we know Ichabod has been most active. Repeat them every now and then, and keep on sending the signals once he reappears in normal time and space again."

The Doctor was cut short as messengers brought in word of new alarming developments. A note was handed to Lord President Heirom, which he read first of all to himself, quietly, with a deeply troubled look upon his brow, and then he read it out aloud, slowly for all to share in his growing sense of despair. "Fellow Time Lords, it grieves me to have to be the one to inform you that some thirty-three other Time Lords have used Time Rings with which to flee from our world. Every one of them set co-ordinates for the Rairbor Space Port. Lieutenant Holt, Marcherís second in command, seems to have co-ordinated the mass escape. He has gone too. Our investigators searching in that region in that time period have found only a few of the discarded time rings. However, upon several worlds in the Dalamari system from that time forward, since the arrival there of many of our former once trustworthy Time Lords, there are cults, sects and new religions arising. These cults are proclaiming the impending arrival of a new god who will descend with a new and terrible love for all. Most of these cults are so far proving weak and politically ineffective, but on the planet Thryxx, they are clearly starting to get themselves noticed. An obscure wilderness prophet calling himself Lord Cardinax, has issued forth a book, a scripture of sorts. It has no set title, and is simply referred to as ĎThe Bookí. It is a mishmash collection of badly written Galifreyan myths and legends. The Book opens with the words; ĎIn the beginning the brave new God said ĎLet there be Time, and Lo! There was Time. Then the Brave New God said, ĎLet there be Lords to master Time and rule over Time. Let the Time Lords teach the peoples of The Universe to use their Time most wisely. For mortals are not like Time Lords, and have but little Time to live."

Heirom spoke in growing dread. His audience sat with their hands over their faces, many of which were frozen in poses of mortification and horror.

Maxil was the first to speak as Heirom finished reading. "Marcher has started telling the peoples of other races and other worlds about Galifrey. He is making us out to be some sort of fallen religious order."

"Scandalous," murmured Kegman. "Absolutely scandalous."

The Doctor agreed entirely with Maxilís analysis of what had occurred. "Thatís it. Thatís exactly what Marcher has done. He is trying to establish his own power base on worlds in The Dalamari System. Heís washed out here, so wants to make another planet into something like Galifrey and start again. Heís perverting our history into some sort of cult dogma, so he can simplify it and get it written down quickly. No, thatís not quite right. Heís simplifying it so he can preach it."

"Preach what?" asked Kegman, as the colour drained from his face, indicating that he already suspected the answer.

"The cult of Galifrey," Maxil said. "Heís revealing our entire secret history as his own religion."

"This is extremely dangerous," The Doctor said. "As dangerous as anything Ichabod is doing. Marcher has to be stopped right away, Your Honour."

"I agree," Heirom said. "But we donít know where Marcher is. These cults are springing up all over the Dalamari System. Marcher canít possibly be running all of them."

"Heíll be co-ordinating things, though," The Doctor said. "Most of the gurus and messiahs running the cults will be our renegade Time Lords."

"Marcher knows an awful lot about metaphysics," Maxil added. "He has quite a formidable library of books on the Universeís various belief systems. Heís quite an expert."

Heirom stood up. The other Time Lords followed suit. "I will have a a team of top field agents sent out immediately to infiltrate and investigate the various cults that are using Galifreyan legends in this way. We have always endeavoured to keep our worldís existence, and our knowledge of time travel, the secrets of our longevity, and our arcane history, a closely guarded secret. Sometimes, other races and species in the Universe have discovered some snippets of truth about us, notably The Daleks and the Sontarans, but they have never discovered enough. Marcher is seriously trying to spread our entire history to the peoples of other worlds. He is a traitor to the whole concept of what a Time Lord is. He must be captured or killed at once."

"Aye," everyone shouted at once, including Maxil. The Doctor alone declined to join in with the general call. Instead, The Doctor raised the question that was now forming in many Time Lord minds. "Sir, what do you suppose Ichabod will make of these cults that are springing up in his name? How will they affect his plans?"

"I donít know, Doctor," Heirom confessed. "I really donít know. It is all taking rather too long. Religions donít usually take this long to get started, do they?"

The Doctor nodded his head. "Quite. Marcher has been lying low and keeping his head down, I expect, Sir. He knew Ichabod wasnít due to arrive in the Dalamari system until two hundred years after he got there himself, so heís given himself a long time to plan his strategy. That takes phenomenal patience. Most megalomaniacs act right away, but Marcher bides his time carefully. Iíll have to be extra careful this time."

"Youíll have to be careful, Doctor?" Heirom asked, sardonically. "Why Ďyouí in particular?"

The Doctor smiled. "Sir, I think I should go to The Dalamari System myself, to se what is taking place there. We shouldnít send our shock troops and investigators in. If religious fanatics feel persecuted, they start behaving like martyrs, and their religions tend to grow stronger. We should investigate more discreetly. These religions are getting stronger in the period of time we expect Ichabod to arrive in Dalamari, so we should be doubly careful. I think I should make preliminary investigations there, alone."

Heirom took a moment to reflect upon the request. "Permission granted, Doctor."

Maxil stood up, but Heirom spoke before he did. "Can you go with The Doctor? No. You heard the man. He said Ďaloneí. Oh, I know you really want to go, but I need you to help me prepare for our possible battle with Ichabod himself, rather than with Marcherís religions. Youíll be serving with the team controlling my Raston Warrior Robot divisions. That should allow you to fight Ichabod from a relatively safe distance."

Maxil protested strongly. "Sir, with your permission. I would rather move in close."

"That would not be wise, Maxil. Ichabod has let you live twice now. I doubt if you would be so fortunate in a third encounter. He seems rather more keen however to let The Doctor live. I think so anyway, and I hope so, for all our sakes."

"I hope so, too," agreed the Doctor. "If only for my sake." He excused himself and set off to prepare for his journey to The Dalamari Quadrant of The Galaxy. He read quickly through the scripture known simply as ĎThe Bookí, noting quickly how it was filled with contradictions and lies. Rassilon and Omega were described frequently for example as one and the same being. The Doctor found himself described in glowing satanic terms as the leader of an evil band of exiled Time Lords aiming to overthrow and undermine the very fabric of Time and Space. The Doctor prepared himself for what he now knew to be an extremely dangerous mission. ĎSafeí, The Doctor mused on Heiromís last remark to him. Safe from Ichabod for the time being, perhaps, at least while the living TARDIS had some use for him. But safe from Marcher and his followers? No. The Doctor began to appreciate what having companions meant to him. He wished Ace, or Maxil could travel with him right now. He felt utterly alone. Securing materials from the time ring suppliers, he set the co-ordinates for Thryxx, in the Dalamari System, and left Galifrey.

*******

Ichabod examined the information coming through his Matrix Banks. His time was almost upon him. He knew that The Time Lords would soon be crawling over every inch of the Dalamari Quadrant looking for him, intent either on killing him, or joining up with him in order to save their own hides. The Time Lords were keeping their own activities out of his line of vision through the use of sound and thought blocking devises. That worked to some extent, and made Ichabod angry that there were still limits to his power, but no one could stop him from picking up on the thoughts and feelings of ordinary peoples that were picked up routinely by the Matrix Banks. The emotional and mental reflections of the people of the Dalamari system were strong. Their history was right there, and Ichabod intercepted thousands upon thousands of routine and subroutine space communications from traffic moving through the system. Eavesdropping was easy. Recently, he had picked up growing numbers of calls concerning various cults arising in The Dalamari system, promising some kind of new god.

"Fine," thought Ichabod. "If itís a new god they wanted, they would get one, every bit as powerful and terrible in his love and majesty as they preached. For the time being at least, such a move helped to further his own plans.

He laughed at the cheap and vulgar derivative scriptural wretchings he had picked up on from readings secured by the Matrix Banks. "Beware the Man Of Doubt. You shall know him by the mark of the question."

It would be good to play god again, if only for the day. Everyone should get to try it once, and after all, he had the qualifications required to fill such a vacancy. Who else had a curriculum vitae that showed acts of divinity and miracles among their various recently acquired skills? Ichabod knew that he could create, destroy, see all, hear all, be anything and be anywhere, at any time. Yes, he was clearly the best applicant for the job.

It was not his ultimate destiny, however. Merely the final grand experiment with his abilities before he put the great plan into operation. Before then however, he had to deal with the girl who was wandering nervously around in his chest cavity. He had very definite plans for her too.

- LORD TIME Divided into thirteen chapters, each with it's own link. CHAPTER BY CHAPTER - LT1 LT2  LT3 LT4 LT5    LT6   LT7  LT8    LT9      LT10    LT11   LT12 LT12b LT13

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