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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 SEVEN . THOSE WHO WOULD BE GODS.

Before the Second Dark Age, when the new god came to the Doradi system, there was the First Dark Age, which ended when the Domnators were defeated in narrow, brutal, costly and hollow victory. The proud cities of the planet Thryxx were reduced to harsh fire stormed desolation.

Beragon sat in silent contemplative meditation by the scorched, headless bronze statue of the once great sky god, Helianos. He felt uncomfortable in the grey clothes of an outcast. All of his life he had proudly worn the red robes of the priestly Darshanon caste, but no more.

The torso of the statue lay on its side on top of the rusting hulk of a Quark Robot. Beragon had toppled the statue onto it in a desperate, but ultimately successful attempt to save the people of the temple from the fearful war-machine. The people had yet to forgive him for it. He resigned himself to the fact that they probably never would.

Beragon was a man alone, ostracised and alienated from his countrymen, and excommunicated from a religion he felt no longer able to believe in anyway. He looked old before his time. His hair had grown back from the shorn appearance adopted by all Thryxian monks. His weak, flabby muscles had become hardened by the years of intense guerrilla fighting. There was anger, bitterness, and defiance in his once soft brown eyes. There was a hard uncompromising arrogance about Beragon, a demand to be left alone, but he didn't want to be left alone any more. He wanted.... Ho, he didn't know what it was he wanted.... Some kind of purpose, or meaning... or was it..? Nothing made sense to him anymore. Nothing.

There were others who had resisted, and they had later been abandoned without forgiveness by their priests too, They were scattered around in various areas of the city, foraging for food, and observing the other people trying to build their world again, as it was before, as &ragon knew it could never be again.

The Resistance didn't trust Beragon though. He had been a high ranking priest. He had initially supported the dogmatic policy of ascetic pacifism; of allowing the sky-gods to have the exclusive right to deal with the Dominators.

Thryxx had been enslaved easily. The callous Dominators were not the least bit impressed by the desire for martyrdom. They just thanked their own mercenary gods for making their work so much easier.

Gradually, as the senseless killings, and the sadistic brutality had become too much to bear, many younger, more idealistic Thryxians had started fighting back. The priests had passionately begged, pleaded and called on them to stop. Beragon had also asked them to surrender and return peacefully. He had personally secured a written promise from Ugalo, the self-styled leader of the Dominators that any of the Resistance fighters surrendering immediately would not be harmed in any way. Some of them naively took up the invitation. They were quickly and savagely slaughtered. That was when Beragon betrayed the principles of his belief and culture too. The Quark attack on the Temple of Helianos had been a direct reprisal for his own successful assault on one of the Dominators' spaceships.

The Thryxian elders, women, and children had simply sat in the temple, praying, meditating, imploring their gods to act on their behalf. "Lords of the skies, we are but mortal. We know not what you wish of us. If we act, how do we know that we do not wrong? Guide us, as you wish, for we are your servants and slaves to do with as you will."

Helianos's followers had adopted a policy of purposeful inactivity. 'To act, is not to contemplate. Reasoning, thinking, and feeling, is far more spiritual than physical, material intervention. If you simply step forward, with your foot. You might stand on a fly. You can crush thousands of micro-organisms with every movement; you move the very molecules of the air around you. You stop the world created for you from being the way the gods chose it to be. Who are you to make things any different? If you choose a course of action, you are making yourself the master of your own destiny. How do you know that you are following the destiny that your gods choose for you? Is it not better to think some more? You must act only when you have to. Thinking is also a kind of action. When you think, your mind presents you with many temptations. You get tempted to secure riches. You get tempted to seek power, wealth, sexual liberation, licence. You must therefore be careful what illusions you think up, and equally careful not to chase after your thoughts. Dreams are thoughts, but then you wake up. What is to say that your riches, your new political, material way of life, your possessions, are not merely some other intangible, unobtainable dream? Think, by all means, but keep your thoughts where they belong, inside your minds. Never put your dangerous philosophies into action in the world created by the gods.'

Beragon reflected on those words. He had heard then in the temples so often, from his own lips. Other priests had aired similar sentiments and exclamations. They spoke of the many other worlds in the universe, ravaged by wars and conflict, where the peoples had fought and died over various causes, and national, international, or intergalactic destinies. On the planet Thryxx, the early migrant settlers had dedicated themselves to pacifism, meditation, to retreat, and monastic hermitage. The old ways were abandoned. Technology and science gradually became things of the past.

The arrival of the Dominators was looked upon by the priests as a severe divine test. Thryxians were taught that they were now able to see rapacious greed and materialism in action. They saw how distasteful these Dominators were; and how little they regarded the World and the people around themselves. The Dominators were seen as unblessed, and unholy. "The gods have sent us a sign that ours is the right way," a fellow priest had said, while Beragon was at the temple of Helianos. &ragon asked his mentor, Arti to elaborate. The elderly scholar was happy to oblige. He had spent several years in a vow of silence, from which he had emerged with a driving passion for discourse.

"They, the Dominators, are showing us what we would have become, had we not adopted our simple, humble ways. Yes, we will suffer, perhaps terribly, and that will remind us that our actions could also cause sufferings.... How can we tell the consequences of our actions on a generation one thousand years into our future? Our years of contemplation have prevented a thousand such dangerous actions. He who dares not act risks not the cause of suffering.

"How long will we have to endure these Dominators? Who knows? That is for the sky-gods to decide. Eventually, they will find some way to free us from the Dominators. Perhaps the Dominators will just choose to leave us. Remember that terrible plague that killed almost ten thousand of our forbears a quarter of a century ago? Did that not just leave as quickly as it came? I fully expect the Dominators will also simply depart one day.

Look also at what the Dominators are doing here; they are taking away our silver, our gold, our material temptations. They are removing the need for greed on our world. Let us help then carry it off, and bless them for the service they unwittingly perform on behalf of our gods."

Beragon, Later that sane day, saw a young boy, of seven blasted down where he stood, for throwing a stone at a passing Quark robot. The Dominator accompanying it had simply pointed to the child. The Quark had waved its arms in a gesture that always accompanied the power surge that preceded each attack, and fired. The boy had died instantly.

Beragon had returned to the temple and argued about this incident with Arti, but the older man had insisted that the boy had chosen to act, and intervene. Beragon had been reduced to tears, begging his old friend to accept that the victim was a mere innocent child, before asserting that active defence was becoming increasingly necessary. Arti had begged him not to follow the rebels down such a course, but the damage was done. Beragon's mind was made up.

Arti loudly told the Thryxians of the city of Dev that &ragon was possessed by the demon Nammamor, the beast that makes men try to put their thoughts into action. Beragon was asked in no uncertain terms to leave the temple. The people there decided to stay, and commit themselves to prayers for his possible future rejection of the desire for action. They were at prayer when the Quarks began to systematically demolish the Temple around them. No one ran. Trying to save your own life was considered a betrayal of divine law. They saw Beragon bring down the statue of Helianos to Save them. He saw them turn their backs on him, led on to snub him by Arti, his Teacher, his guide, long time confidant, and friend.

"If we wore to be saved, it was by the gods, not by you," Arti snarled, angrily.

"Perhaps the gods want us to help each other," Beragon replied, storming out without daring to glance back. "If not, I want no more of the sky-gods."

Beragon sat staring at the ruins. The defeated Dominators had gone now; but there was no real sense of victory. The people gathered in clusters in the rubble to lament that the Great Lesson had not yet been learned. They said that the gods would now send some new kind of suffering their way, and that the suffering would continue until they realised the truth with all due humility. They were desperately trying to retain, and revitalise the old pre-war beliefs. A few of the survivors had argued for the right to commit suicide, but Arti forbade it. "The gads will take us if we must perish. We cannot reject their gift of Life."

Beragon, watching from the shadows, knew that it wouldn't work. There were too many activists among them; young survivors who had tasted the joy and freedom of making a stand of their own. There ware now too many people who had seen the power of putting ideas into action. Beragon realised that Thryxian culture had been thrown into a terrible schism, from which it might never recover.

It had been necessary to act though. Beragon was no longer in any doubt about that. He had seen the cobalt bomb that the Dominators had planned on using to destroy Thryxx as they abandoned it. Beragon knew now that the Dominators were not being used by the gods as any kind of object lesson in maintaining a pacifist principle at all. They planned to reduce Thryxx to a radioactive waste land. Beragon had quickly, if nervously, dismantled the bomb, and made sure that it's component parts were destroyed. 'Such weapons involved a degree of activity that no one should consider putting further than their minds,' he reflected.

Looking back, he saw how easily the Dominators had actually crumbled, once they were faced with organised and determined defence measures. The Dominators claimed to have mastered at least ten galaxies, but Beragon suspected that the cowards only preyed on worlds like their own, where military resistance was likely to be undisciplined, and severely limited.

Beragon stayed hidden, watching everyone closely. His people were slowly rebuilding their city of stylish ornate temples, and simple stone wall houses. It was a slow, arduous and piecemeal process. Much of the rubble Looked destined to remain in the streets as an eternal monument to the horrors of the recent past.

Beragon felt slightly ill. Denied his tithe-share of grain from the fields, which all priests received as a modest duty imposed on the masses, he now had to find his own food. He had reluctantly taken to killing and eating rabbits, which was playing havoc with a stomach so accustomed to vegetarianism. The rabbits, so used to coexisting with people, were relatively docile, and easy to catch. Seen capturing them by the people who had turned to him in the past far their spiritual guidance, Beragon was further condemned in his absence, for daring to eat such forbidden foods.

With his hand, he felt the hairline thin scar he had acquired from the battle. Far from making him ugly, it seemed to enhance and characterise his rugged handsome looks, but he never thought so. He just felt lucky that the gash in his cheek hadn't cut deeper. The resistance doctor who had healed him told him that the shadow of his teeth was quite plainly visible through the remaining tissue. Beragon felt fortunate, but he wished he could lose the scar tissue forever.

It was raining heavily. Beragon took shelter in the walls under the crumbling stonework ceiling of a temple antechamber. To his surprise there was a young fair haired girl there, dressed in the similar, but lighter coloured saffron robes of a novice priestess. Beragon felt embarrassed and uncertain of himself. Careful segregation of the sexes had usually ensured against such chance encounters. as a priest he was also sworn to celibacy and chastity. He knew that the pretty, dark haired young girl would also have taken a solemn vow of chastity. Beragon mumbled a brief apology, and set off to find another shelter, but the girl called him back, and smiled at him, in a very beguiling way. "Stay, please. Don't get cold and wet on my account."

He stood beside her, and she smiled at him. He said nothing. He didn't know what to say. She looked at him again, and instinctively, rather than politely, he smiled back. She was just to old to be thought of as a girl, and perhaps just too young to be regarded as a woman yet. Beragon felt a little bit afraid of her. His vows had long kept his mind pure of thoughts about relationships, passion, sex and love. Seeing this girl made him realise that the vow was now somehow redundant, but was it? He suddenly felt like he was a priest again. Such thinking was dangerous. Such thinking led to action and freedom of choice. It was such thinking that had led him to fight the Dominators, and now he was being punished by the gods he had abandoned..... So; they had abandoned him and his people. Perhaps there were no sky gads at all. His mind tore around in distress, confusion and contradiction. He started to fret. He suddenly found the girl comforting him; and wrapping her arms around him. It felt warm. It felt good.

"Come with me," she said, softly, sweetly. "There's some friends of mine who you really ought to meet."

She took the weeping man by the hand and led him out of their meagre shelter into the rain. Beragon didn't resist. He felt as though he could trust her, and he had nowhere else to go. He was gripped by a growing sense of curiosity. Alarm bells inside his head tried to warn him of something, but he couldn't think what. He just told himself that he had nothing to lose.

*******

A few days after Beragon's initial cult recruitment had begun in earnest, a little man stepped out of nowhere into the ruins of the Temple. Despite the continuing rain, which turned puddles into small muddy streams and brooks, he kept his umbrella folded. He simply didn't seem to notice that the weather was gradually deteriorating. He made a quick and careful tour of inspection around the area. The fallen Quark battle robot impressed him greatly. It was twice the size of the ones he had encountered, so long ago now. He felt as though he had neglected the Dominators far far too long, and yet here were a people who had fought them and won, without his help. Though it was a pleasant thought, it made the Doctor sad, and bitter. It reminded him that he couldn't be everywhere at once. Somewhere out there, in space, the Dominators were now laying siege to other worlds, so were his many other enemies. He thought of the planet Dorado, a world where the people were slaughtered to the last by the Cybermen. He'd gone there, but far too late.

Behind him, the Doctor heard a nervous shuffling noise, and saw the two young women watching him from the shadows. He doffed his hat towards them, and realising that they had been seen, the two bedraggled girls stepped out where he could see them clearly. The Doctor unfurled his Umbrella, and held it over the girls as they stared at him.

"Is something wrong?" he asked, smiling.

The two dark haired women might have been sisters, judging from their similar appearances, and the knowing eye-contact that they made to each other, with their very expressive glances. They had made several subtle, body language exchanges of information; unobservable to the casual eye, but quite plainly visible to any Gallifreyan. One of the girls looked at the fading wool of the Doctor's plain grey Jumper. The slightly taller girl reached to his hand, as though to take the brolly from him, but it soon became apparent that she was only looking more closely at the umbrella handle. Seeing that it was circular, and plated in bronze, she moved away again, with a look of intense disappointment an her face.

"You're not him, are you?" asked the smaller, younger girl.

" I don' t know who you mean. I might be him for all I know. Who do you have in mind?"

The girls glanced towards each other, but said nothing.

"And who might you be, ladies?" asked the Doctor, doffing his hat yet again.

The taller girl seemed to have elected herself as spokesperson for now. "I am Sister Telesh, and this is Sister Lenatra." The Doctor smiled with an air of knowing gravity in his manner that alarmed the girls. He immediately recognised the two ancient Gallifreyan names. The girls were using adopted titles, rather than their own identities. The Doctor realised now that the girls were not sisters at all, not in any familial sense. They were simply showing the same plastic, remote, loss of. personality that made cult followers throughout the Universe look, sound, and behave alike. It was the drained, slightly vacant look of people who had been brainwashed.

"You look hungry, Sir," said the girl calling herself Sister Lenatra. The Doctor didn't feel hungry, but he played along. "Yes. I'm rather a stranger in these parts. Perhaps you could show me the best places to stay, and eat...."

"Come with us," Sister Telesh said, taking over from Lenatra. The Doctor recognised this trick too. Cultists invariably recruited members of the opposite sex. It gave an air of false sexual chemistry that made the selling of the cult creed much more exciting, more emotionally demanding, and less easy to think through in a rational manner. The Doctor knew that somewhere among the scattered ruins, men would be watching for girls to approach with the same feigned innocence. Cultists made carefully controlled and well rehearsed recruitment practices look like spontaneous events taking place during a chance encounter. Sometimes, the cultists also interchanged with one another in asking and answering questions. It helped to divide the potential recruits' attention, and made him more open to suggestion. The air of mystery helped too. Cultists invariably start out on a recruit by looking mysterious and enigmatic, as though in the know of some great secret. They give you the impression that by staying close to the cultists, some of the secret of their inner calmness might rub off on you. It all helps the sale of the false doctrine. The constant cross over in who is speaking helps to disorientate the recruit. Lenatra and Telesh were trying it on now. The Doctor had seen it before, on many worlds, and in many artificially created and contrived religions. He smiled and played along with the girls. They were following the book nn cult recruitment, and the Doctor knew who their Prophet must be; Marcher. When Sister Telesh asked him if he'd like to cone with them, to meet some 'friends of theirs', The Doctor smiled, and followed them out into the rain, using his brolly to keep then dry, rather than himself. He found the brass handle uncomfortable in his hand. He knew that he'd be very happy to get his old umbrella back. Strangely, the girls noticed, the Doctor hardly looked wet at all, while they were still drenched and cold.

The girls led the Doctor off the main city streets to a small area where the dwellings were still mostly intact, or had been repaired to at least habitable standards. The small, cramped houses were plain brick box constructions. There was very little to separate one house from another. Even the house that the Doctor was led to had little to distinguish it from the rest, though nearby was a similar looking building in a much larger size. "That is where Lord Cardinax lives," Sister Telesh said, reluctantly, when the Doctor asked her about it. Sister Lenatra gave her a baleful stare, as though she had said to much.

The Doctor was led inside, to a large plain white room, with no furniture. Before the girls could even ask him to do so, the Doctor removed his shoes and added them to the pile outside the room. Inside the room, the Brothers and Sisters were gathered, sitting and in a few cases standing, due to the limited space available. They had their eyes closed and they were breathing deeply and rhythmically, quite sharply. The Doctor recognised the hallmarks of hyperventilational over-breathing exercises; meditation techniques designed to overfill the brain with oxygen, creating a high as invigorating and addictive as any drug induced euphoria. A simple high, induced without any kind of artificial drug, but just as intoxicating and potentially damaging.

Only a large inexplicable painting of a naked humanoid foot provided the room with any decor. Several people laid roses and other flowers on the floor immediately beneath the picture.

As the Doctor was led in, a man leapt up and led him straight back out again. He looked very nervous and apprehensive. The girls made as though to leave the room too; and while Lenatra was allowed to go, Telesh was asked politely but firmly to stay inside. With a bow, she obeyed.

"Welcome Brother," said the middle aged man. I am Brother ViInas What is your current name?"

The Doctor stood watching, and smiling, hoping the man wouldn't press further. Brother Vilnas pressed further.

"Smith," the Doctor said.

The man gave him a big hug, that took the wind out of the Doctor's lungs. "Welcome, Brother Smith.... Welcome."

"Actually, I don't have a brother," The Doctor said.

"You have many Brothers, and many Sisters, Brother Smith. Perhaps you would care to tell me why you came here."

"No particular reason. I just followed the two girls. They seemed keen to invite me along, so I came. Tell me, Vilnas..."

"Brother Vilnas. please always address me as your Brother , Brother Smith."

The Doctor deliberately avoided the name as well as the title. "Tell me what this place is. What do you people actually do here? Is this all some sort of religion?" The Doctor tried to sound naive and curious, rather than deeply suspicious.

"You ask many questions, Brother Smith. Perhaps you should wait in here, until my colleagues come along to help you find the most appropriate answers."

Vilnas opened a door to a room identical to the other one seen by the Doctor, but here there were no people, just the bland white walls, and a picture of a naked foot, identical to that in the other room. The Doctor stood, waiting. He recognised the patience game. Isolate the newcomer. Keep him wafting, agitated, detached from proceedings. After about twenty minutes, the Doctor opened the door and stepped out into the Corridor. A very big man stood in the hallway as though waiting for him. "Go back inside, Brother Smith. Someone will be along to talk to you quite soon." The Doctor asked about a drink of water. "Soon," the big man said again, commandingly, and closed the door on the Doctor.

While outside, The Doctor had heard the singing noises coming from the main room. The acolytes were being taught to sing an ancient Gailifreyan hymn, but in praise of someone called Lord Cardinax. It called the messianic figure a new father, a new friend, and absurdly, a new mother.

After a few moments of time far reflecting on this, the door opened again, and a new figure appeared there. The man was tall, thinly haired, and slightly sickly in appearance. He looked tired, and drawn, as though he had been working far too hard. The Doctor recognised him almost immediately, despite his dramatically changed appearance. The man was casually wearing elaborate the purple ceremonial robes worn by Gallifreyan Presidents on Rassilon Day as a sort of everyday boiler suit. "Brother Marcher, I presume. I thought it was your nightclub bouncer friend coming back for me."

"Actually, no, Doctor. I am Lord Cardinax now, but I expect you guessed that anyway. The words spoken by the Doctor came back to him.

"Bouncer? What's that? Oh, never mind. You seem to be missing something from your usual clothing. Why?"

"I don't wear my question marks from compulsion, Cardinax. I wear them by choice. When I saw your ridiculous little Bible denouncing the one bearing the mark of the question, I simply changed my clothes, just as you changed your appearance to escape being noticed too soon." The Doctor paused. There was something about the tight skin around Marcher's face that betrayed the Doctor's immediate assumptions. "You haven't regenerated at all, have you? You've had extensive cosmetic surgery."

"Very observant of you, Brother Doctor. Had I forced my regeneration, the Matrix might have been able to track me down from the morphic resonation such a process gives out. I decided another way of disguising myself was necessary."

"That's extremely dangerous. When you do regenerate, the non-Time Lord tissue could cause you problems. It won't be a very pleasant experience at all. "

"I'll worry about that if the time ever comes. My main concern right now, is what to do with you."

"What do you have in mind?"

"You'll see, in due course. For now however, I must ask you to give me that little metal wristband you are wearing. No, don't try to trigger it."

The staser gun in Marcher's hand convinced The Doctor not to try it. He carefully handed Marcher the Time ring. Marcher took a box out of his pocket. It had a little green light on it. Marcher smiled and held his hand out again, like a child waiting for sweets. The Doctor shrugged his shoulders and produced a second Time Ring, which he gave to Marcher.

"You can't blame a Time Lord for trying," he said.

"Indeed, Doctor. It was a good idea, but rather old hat I'm afraid. I take it you planned on clipping the second ring onto my wrist and sending me back to Galifrey with it?"

The Doctor nodded his head sheepishly. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

"I have a rather good idea it will be your last idea, Doctor."

"I wouldn't advise you to kill me, Brother Marcher.."

"Cardinax... and it's Lord Cardinax to you, not: Brother. No, I won't kill you. I've got other plans for you. "

"So has Ichabod. Don't you think you ought to wait to see what he has in mind for me first?"

"You let me worry about Ichabod, Doctor. You just worry about yourself."

"I'm not alone here, Marcher."

"Yes, you are. My cardio-vascular-graph encephlometers can detect the presense of a Time Lords' twin hearts. I was aware of your arrival here within minutes. My followers here think I learned of your coming by some miracle. May Ichabod bless the dolts for their naiveté."

"How did you get here?"

"Oh, I went to the spaceport, at Rairbur, a:~ you'll know, but I didn't fly out by space-jet. I used a variety of concealed Time rings I had scattered around various worlds and time periods, until I arrived on Valamarius Five. I've built my own TARDIS. I transported it there, over several years, and assembled it, just before I came here."

The Doctor's eyes opened in incredulity. "Making a TARDIS on any world other than Galifrey is strictly forbidden in our law. If the secrets fall into the wrong hands."

"They're not in the wrong hands. They are in my hands." Marcher spoke in an incredible sense of rage.

"My point entirely," the Doctor said, sarcastically. "The wrong hands."

"You should understand, Doctor. You have your own TARDIS too. That's not exactly been given to you with permission from Galifrey either, has it?"

The Doctor said nothing.

"What do you think of my little religion, Doctor? Don't I make a good Guru?"

"I'm appalled. You're playing with these peoples' beliefs to further your own greedy interests. You're just as bad as Ichabod, but you haven't got a conscience like he has. You don't care who gets hurt, just as long as you get power and money out of it."

The Doctor fully expected Marcher to fly off the handle about those kind of comments, but the big man laughed in approval of the observations. "Thank you for such flattery, Doctor, but that is just how it should be. The Universe is a cold, cruel and Godforsaken place; survival of the fittest is its only rule. Time Lords are the fittest, but we behave like the weakest. It's time we started ruling the universe with a rod of iron. And religion has always struck me as the best way to achieve that."

"People should establish their own beliefs and their own cultures. We shouldn't interfere."

"Oh that's so rich coming from you, Doctor. If anyone ever played God with time and space, it was you. "

"No, I just redress the balance occasionally. I give people back the opportunity to find their own answers. I keep history on its proper course. I don't allow people to manipulate time to their own interests. I won't let you do it either."

"You can't possibly stop me Doctor. I only have to give the word, and these people will do anything I like."

"Don't be so sure of that."

"Oh, I'm sure of it, Doctor. I've studied religions. I know exactly how the game works."

"Game! You call religion a game?" the Doctor snapped, venomously.

"0f course it's a game. Didn't you read my library when you went through my papers to embarrass me on Galifrey?"

"I saw them. Quite a formidable collection." The Doctor sounded genuinely impressed.

"Yes, but if you'd looked more closely, you would have noticed that the books there are not on theology and arguments for or against to the existence of God. They deal with the religions themselves, as a social apparatus for people control. How to make people buy a belief; how to manipulate desire.. selling dreams and peddling rainbows. Religion is power, and Galifrey has never shown its power until now. It's high time we got started."

"It's high time you stopped."

Marcher hadn't noticed the interruption. "On your precious Earth, over nine hundred people committed suicide in the country called Guyana, on the whim of a single preacher. Nine hundred people, Doctor. Nine hundred.. think of it.. "

"The preacher died with them, though, Marcher. Are you willing to die for your beliefs? I doubt it. That kind of evil power isn't yours, is it? You're no Jim Jones or David Koresh," The Doctor said, with no effort to disguise his disgust. "Ichabod's the real force at work here... or he soon will be. What will you do if his plans don't involve you?"

"Doctor, Ichabod might be powerful, but he can't be everywhere. He can't do everything by himself. He'll need supporters, followers, allies. I can give them to him, on a plate....."

"What if he doesn't want your help? What if he doesn't need your religion?"

"He will."

"No; I doubt it, Marcher. He'll find out that you made him... he won't trust you. What were you planning to do with him anyway? make a new Valeyard?"

"No, Doctor... not a new Valeyard. something else, something much bigger. The Valeyard idea was just a test. I've got better things in mind."

"What?" The Doctor felt a sense of genuine alarm. Marcher didn't seem to be boasting. He was speaking very matter of factly. The Doctor couldn't imagine, at least for now, what he might have in mind.

"You'll find out, soon, because if Ichabod can't do it for me, I'm going to have to use you instead."

"For what?" The Doctor asked again, with his feelings running close to hysteria.

`All in good time, Doctor. All in good time. For now, I want you to meet my followers. Come along. You say I can't make them do anything, well, just watch. you'll see, you'll see."

Marcher stood, and opened the door. The large man who had been blocking the door now behaved like a genial butler, bowing before Marcher, and opening the door to the adjoining room for him.

"Bouncer," Marcher thought. `Yes, he does look as though he could bounce. Brother Bouncer. Not a bad name that. Has a sort of ring to it." Marcher led the Doctor into the crowded room, where the singing had ended. The people in there were in deep meditation again. As it stopped, and they opened their eyes, they saw Lord Cardinax, and rushed forward to greet him. They were laughing and cheering, as to they bowed to kiss his feet.

The significance of the wall painting became very apparent to the Doctor now.

The Bouncer looked at the Doctor, and then in a knowing way to the edge of the dwindling queue of eager worshippers, several of whom were in danger of fainting at the thought of the proximity of their leader. "You are also expected to kiss his feet," the Bouncer said.

"No, thanks." laughed the Doctor, I gave at the office."

"Come", Marcher said, beckoning him over, for the sake of the followers who also took up the call.

"Will you kiss my feet too?` asked the Doctor, pointing his foot forward. "Will you allow your followers to kiss each others feet? Are they able to see each other as equals?" The sense of anger that filled the room was intense.

One man, with a starkly visible scar on his rugged face stepped forward as though to hit the Doctor. Marcher ordered him back. "Calm yourself, Brother Burson. You know that is not our way. Sisters, Brothers. You must pray for guidance for Brother Smith and Brother Burson here. They show a lack of faith in us. Brother Smith has doubts, and signs of a questioning spirit. Brother Burson feels anger. Anger canes of thinking, and pride. Why should he have the right to attack Brother Smith when no one else had stepped forward? Does Brother Burson consider himself to be a cut above his fellow brethren? Are we to allow his bravado to make us all look like cowards? We must show him the error of his ways. Brother Burson, you will remove your robes, now, here."

The man nervously took off his clothes while the others were watching him. He seemed a little shy, but it was done with the attitude of someone who had acted in such a way before, or who had witnessed it done to others. His clothes removed, Burson was ushered into a corner, where he was forced to stand, being silently stared at by his fellow converts. Occasionally, he instinctively tried to place his hands over his private parts, but a sharp rap over the shoulders with a whip by the man the Doctor saw as a nightclub bouncer stopped him. For an hour and a half the cold merciless silent staring continued. The young man was subjected to the faintest scrutiny. He felt totally exposed, totally vulnerable. Someone whispered in the Doctor's ear. It was Sister Telesh. "Each time he flinches, or moves, he adds another five minutes to his sentence."

The young man stood passively, bravely accepting his fate. The Doctor pitied him, and the man seemed to sense the look of concern in his face. That puzzled him. He was also very aware of the scar on his face now. It made him feel ashamed rather than proud. The Brothers and Sisters stared on. So did Lord Cardinax.

Finally the torment was over. As though on a whim, Lord Cardinax gave the wretched man the right to put his clothes back on.

"Children." he said. "Our Brother has suffered enough for his wretched sins. Please do not remind him of it; at least not too often. Love him and forgive him for erring from the one true path. You must also show your love to Brother Smith here. He is a man of doubt. He feels most uncomfortable here."

"Oh, perish the thought," laughed the Doctor, sitting himself down with his legs crossed in the midst of the believers, as though he had always been a member of their sect.

"Make him welcome, my sacred children. Tell him your stories. Tell him your feelings. The evening meal is not yet ready. Why not pass the time away for now by showing our love to Brother Smith. Brother Burson, you will go first."

Marcher left the room. He grinned to himself. He knew the meal was ready. Keeping the cultists hungry for longer made then much more manageable. He laughed again as he told himself how ridiculously easy it all was. He'd seen it in the books, but now, in practice, what a way to rule. He regretted not starting his religion off sooner. You just had to find a people who are uncertain about a few things; people with a broken education, people in grief, people who've just survived a war, and you promise them something that sounds meaningful and significant. Their own desire for it did the rest.

"Bless you, Ichabod," Marcher mumbled to himself, "I could almost worship you myself."

In the main worship room, the man they called Burson took to his feet and addressed the believers, in a stumbling, faltered spontaneous unrehearsed testimony. He spoke as one who is uncertain of what to say.

"You know me, Brothers, and Sisters. I was the one who was proud enough to rebel. I helped to drive away the accursed Dominators before our gods could show us that they were ready to act on our behalf. I am a man of pride. I am a man of no patience. I carry the burden of guilt that is the gift of the Doubting One. You saw what just happened when I tried to attack Brother Smith here. You were right to remind me of my humble nature. You were right to expose my ego and my inner nakedness. I want to serve the new God. I want to be an equal with each of you. None of us should stand out from the crowd. Each of us must accept his place. Each one of you sitting here now reminds me of Lord Cardinax's wisdom. I see his love in your eyes. I see his love in your hearts. We should all be equal in our love for him. We all have the same sacrifice to make, for him. Who was I to stand alone and apart? I am nobody. I am nothing."

The Doctor was tempted to shout out that Cardinax was making himself an exception to the rule about not standing out from the crowd, but he knew that it would be unwise. He listened, and looked intently at Brother Burson. There was an uncertainty about him that would be useful. This man had so bravely helped repel the Dominators, but now here he was, totally prepared to become subservient and unquestioning before Marcher's nonsensical, borrowed theological ravings. He was being made to regret his truly heroic actions. He was being robbed of his self-identity and self respect, but they were still there, trapped within him, suppressed, and oppressed, by the hateful cult indoctrination. There was the lack of sleep that left the acolytes on the brink of exhaustion, the meals being delayed while the talks went on, and on, and on, affecting even the most hardened of sceptics in the end. The Doctor wondered if Marcher planned to convert him, and how long he might resist it himself, but somehow he doubted if that was actually the intention. Marcher had spoken of some much bigger scheme .

Burson broke down in tears, and started to meditate. The audience were mostly absorbed in meditation too. Eventually, Burson stepped down, and randomly nominated another speaker, the girl called Lenatra. As Burson sat down, the Doctor started to applaud him by clapping. No one else bothered, and a few looked at him in dissatisfaction. Burson walked towards him, and whispered in his ear. "No clapping, or signs of appreciation, Brother Smith...."

"Why not? You spoke well... Credit where credit is due..."

"No, Brother. No. Praise makes us feel as though we have achieved something for ourselves. It feeds our pride. All our praise must go only to Lord Cardinax."

"And all the blame? Does Lord Cardinax take that too, when things go wrong?"

The words seemed to shake Burson. He sat down, away from the Doctor and tried to concentrate on listening to Sister Lenatra.

"I was lost out there," she said. "My family had been killed by the Quark Robots. I had no one left to turn to. I had no faith. The Brethren took me in. I came here, just for food, and the promise of a proper bed for the night, but I found a family, a freedom, a real commitment, a cause. Sadly, there are those on our world, and on other worlds, who do not yet believe in us. We must try harder to reach them, and show them the love our Lord Cardinax has for them. Those who start believe before the new God comes, says Lord Cardinax, will be doubly blessed. Those who join us after the new God cones will never know love as we know of it. Before, we expected our gods to serve us; that was proud and defiant of us. Now, we must serve them. Ask not what God can do for you, but what you..."

"Can do for your God," added the Doctor, yawning. The girl spoke just as Burson had done, but with less individualism peeping out from behind a tired routine delivery she had doubtless used many times. Also, in her mannerisms, she seemed to imitate Marcher's shrill little exclamations in speech, and made similar flamboyant waving movements with her arms.

Several other people spoke, all alike, all of being lost, and then being saved by Lord Cardinax. Some hinted at the work they did in the large Factory Of Time, but they gave no indication what kind of work this involved. The final speaker, a frail old man, called Brother Tamark, spoke of his pride and stubbornness, and how he had denied Cardinax's teachings at first. He told how he had not believed in the new God at first, and that he had stubbornly clung to beliefs in the old gods, long after most other followers had abandoned that creed. On the brink of madness and depression, he had learned of the new religion. At first, he had looked upon it with envy and jealousy, until Cardinax had told him that it was a sign at last that the old gods were acting on behalf of their people. The Old gods are sending their new god to walk among us. Tamark retained a degree of doubt and scepticism, but on Lord Cardinax's advice, he had made a drastic leap of faith. "Belief must start somewhere. If our old gods do not help us, we must find new ones, and unless we start by believing in them, the new gods will nut help us. Do as I do, Brothers. Ignore your doubts and fears... Believe with ail your hearts, less you become like the Doubting One. Supposing there is no new god. Suppose the old gods aren't real either.... Then there is nothing to believe in but ourselves....."

The Doctor was tempted to suggest that belief in yourself was the best place to start, but he didn't.

Tamark went on for a while babbling about the sense: of security found in having basic fundamental beliefs. Finally, he finished and looked around for the next speaker to elect.

To his astonishment, the Doctor realised that Tamark had picked him. With a shrug of his shoulders, and gestures of disbelief at being picked out, the Doctor stood up and walked to the corner of the room. Instead of speaking, he took out a pair of spoons and started to play them. A few people laughed. Most looked apprehensively at him.

"Let's play a game," he said, speaking at last... "A game can be , an unusual way of getting your attention. When you get peoples' attention you can start putting your ideas in their heads.... You can become an authority, someone who they look up to. Someone they will respect. And then you can abuse that power to make then do things they don't want to do. Is there anyone among you who doubts that I can make you do what you do not want to do?"

No one replied. They were looking in confusion and fear at each other. The old man suddenly seemed to regret having invited him up to speak. As most speakers had given a virtual confession of their innermost feelings and desires, it usually followed that newcomers started to open up and reveal their inner fears and anxieties too. Brother Smith wasn't doing that. He was being hardened, cynical, proud and self conscious. Tamark stood up and went to the door, exiting in a hurry. The Doctor knew that he would somehow be stopped fairly soon, so he spoke more quickly.

"You, Brother Burson... think of numbers... any numbers you like, at random, except for the number forty-two..... "

Burson found himself playing along. At first, he was alarmed that the Doubting One should single him out for special attention, but his curiosity about this strange game gradually got the better of him, but try as he might, the number forty-two kept popping into his head. The Doctor looked at him and the other cultists who had played along. His look was one of knowing and cunning. They felt afraid of him, especially as there was a distinctive pattern growing on his faded jumper. Several Large red rows of question marks seemed to rising out of the wool. The umbrella he carried also seemed to change slightly. Its handle turned red, and rounded, like a large question mark. The Doctor was as surprised and alarmed by it as the rest of the people in the room. He touched the jumper and felt along the handle of the umbrella, with a growing look of shock and indignation on his face.

"Games," he went on, trying not to notice the obvious changes occurring with his attire. "Devices and games, for controlling your attention. In order not to think of forty-two you had to consciously have it in your minds. You couldn't possibly not think of it. My jumper, why be afraid of it? it's just another game, another device. Is it really wrong to question or to doubt? If you hadn't challenged the authority of the Dominators, you would all be dead now, wouldn't you? Think for yourselves. Brob lairg skrwlty zxcktrw fgytrzaq..."

The Doctor quickly realised that his words were starting to come out as utter gibberish, and nonsense. He thought the right words, but they came out in a different sound. He stopped speaking. He saw little point in going on. As he stopped, the audience leapt up, hysterically babbling in their own non-existent languages, with no two people speaking entirely alike. Their noise made it difficult in the end even to distinguish any one voice from another. The Doctor had seen people speaking in tongues before. In a certain pitch of. religious hysteria, many Earth based evangelicals began to speak in a special kind entranced gobbledegook, called Glossolalia, often in an attempt to convince themselves and others that there was something supernatural and miraculous going on. Though he recognised some of those aspects here, the Doctor also realised that something more was taking place. He knew that he wasn't speaking fn tongues himself, but his words were coming out equally scrambled.

Marcher walked in, in his robes. "Games, and devises, Doubting One..." he said, and everyone understood him perfectly. Their own voices returned to normal. The Doctor found that he could speak again too, but he chose to listen to Marcher. "Devises and games... mere aids to reality. A teaching tool. Relax, Brother Smith, for the meal is almost ready now. Come Brothers; Sisters. Pray that the meal is a good one.".

The Doctor realised what Marcher had done. There is a Gallifreyan telepathic trick that allows Time Lords and their companions to understand the language of anyone or anything, on any known world. It was known that a few Gallifreyans, in the early years of Time Lord power had used the same skills to confound and confuse the language of peoples of other worlds. The Doctor suspected that the Earth based biblical legend of the tower of Babel had some root in such a game by a Time Lord. He had never really considered its genuine possibility before, but Marcher had clearly mastered such a skill. The Doctor also knew that a TARDIS, or at least the telepathic apparatus usually associated with a TARDIS had to be somewhere close nearby for such a skill to be practised properly.

Cult members who had obviously been slaving in the kitchen brought the food in on large trays. The food was all dry, spicy and salty. It looked like a very a sumptuous feast, but the Doctor realised that it was intended to dry the throat and create a sense of thirst. Even as the meal was being offered, the cultists were being severely deprived of true and essential nourishment. It was a common cult practice. Sugary foods are eaten in the mornings to create a sense of energy and vigour for the days' work, but this is allowed to wear off by the evening, to create a mild sense of depression, and to make the cultists cling more strongly in their fatigue to their doctrines. At the later times, discourse and collective guilt share practices take place.

Water and orange juice were provided in small mirror glass goblets that created a sense that that there was more liquid in then than there was. As the cultists dined, with a greed that indicated how ravenously hungry they were; Marcher openly and loudly chastised the old man who had invited the Doctor to speak to the group. The old man looked very ashamed.

The meal was not yet fully eaten, but Lord Cardinax signalled to the serving girls to take the plates and dishes from the diners.

"Brothers, Sisters. I can bring you the gift of time travel and space travel. I can bring you the new God too. Oh yes, I know he comes. Prepare yourselves to adopt new ways of seeing, and new ways of being. Beware however, the Doubting One, for he would deny you that Birthright." As he said 'Doubting One', Marcher pointed his finger directly at The Doctor.

The sermon was spoken softly. the Doctor was reminded of listening to someone reading a discreet soft passage in a nursery rhyme to a child. The effect gave Marcher a chillingly charismatic air.

"On my birth-world, Galifrey, we knew of the Dominators. long ago. We saw them come to your world. Many of asked if we could come to assist you, as you had prayed for support from your quiet gods, but our people heard only the voice of the Doubting One; they were beguiled by his ways, and his superficial wisdom. I, and others like me, were banished forever from our precious world, for no other desire than to make others aware of the wisdom and knowledge we had at our disposal. Now, Children of the new God, I have something to show you, something that concerns Brother Smith, as he now chooses to call himself. Brother Gideus, would you start the transmission."

The man who the Doctor had thought of as being a bouncer bowed politely and left the room. A moment later, a wall opposite the portrait of Cardinax's feet turned into a film projection screen. The film showing there was three dimensional and hologramatic. The Doctor recognised it as a direct copy from the Matrix Field itself, another act strictly forbidden by Galifreyan law.

The Doctor thought he recognised the planet being shown. A volcanic world, When he saw Jamie and Zoe, he realised that he was watching a reconstruction of his second adventure on Dulkis, an adventure that pitted him against the dominators Then he saw himself. He was not as he should have appeared, in the grubby tramp outfit; he was dressed and given the same face as he had now, in his seventh incarnation. The footage showed much of the action as it went in the actual events, but sometimes, there were startling anomalies. The Doctor was seen encouraging people to submit to the will of the Dominators; and stopping their bold attack on the Quark robots. He was also shown returning the Dominators bomb to them.... before leaving the planet Dulkis at their mercy, as the Dominators activated the Planet's volcanoes. The Doctor realised now why Marcher had been so interested in the Ravalox Stratagem. The plans for moving the Earth had also involved detailed, careful manipulation, and falsification of the Matrix data on Galifrey. Marcher had made the camera lie, and he had used the Ravalox Stratagem as n learning vehicle. The Doctor had wondered why Marcher had made use of files relating to an incident which he, Marcher, had had no part in. Now he knew.

The acolytes moved away from the Doctor, as though he was a poisonous snake, or a rabid dog, despite Cardinax loudly assuring them that they would not be harmed by him ever again.

The Doctor started to voice his protests, but again, his voice came out garbled. The followers of Cardinax began speaking in tongues again, to drown him out. Cardinax simply smiled at hi:. The Doctor knew now how the brainwashing had been completed on the poor wretches before him. If any of them expressed doubts or reservations, the Babel trick would be used to tie their tongues and possibly their minds as well. They would be surrounded by people chanting strange phrases in a state of religious ecstasy. Their willpower would have quickly broken as they became swept up in the waves of hysteria, especially as they had little of the correct food and the minimum of sleep too.

The Doctor stayed silent. He knew that struggling to communicate was impossible, at least for now.

"Cat go your tongue, has it, Doctor?" Marcher whispered to him, turning then to Brother Gideus, who was just re-entering the room with a large roll of plastic flex.

"Bind the blasphemer. He careful though. He will do all he can to escape from you."

Cardinax turned from Gideus, to address the cultists again. "Tomorrow, we will celebrate the capture of the Doubting One, by staging a loyalty test. You must show me that your faith in the new God I will be bringing you, soon, does not falter or waver. The Doubting One has come here to stop you from finding the truth. He renounces the new God who comes to you. If he remains obstinate, proud, and so free in his thinking as to set himself above you, you must test his loyalty too. He may fail the test; I believe .... I see now, a vision that saps he will fail the test of Loyalty, for he has many Doubts. Pray for him, my children. Pray that we don't have to excommunicate him, as we have done with so many others, lest he corrupts our humble minds and souls with his accursed doubts."

"Handy, you just having that flex on you isn't it?" the Doctor said, even though the words came out as gibberish, Gideus nevertheless seemed to be able to tell that he was being insulted, Cardinax continued to address his followers, as the Doctor's hands were tightly bound behind his back, with barely enough slack to allow circulation to continue. The Doctor admired the handiwork of an obvious expert. The slightest struggle now would cut his wrists, and tighten the bonds. The Doctor knew that even his old friend Harry Houdini would have had problems with this one. The Doctor also received mental sensations that told him Brother Gideus was another renegade Time Lord, and not a native citizen of Thryxx. The Doctor didn't recognise Gideus, so he realised that he hadn't been present at the war Council.

Cardinax spoke on. "Beware of this man. He makes you doubt that which you value. That is why he carries the brand of the question mark. He will try to make you all doubt the existence of the new God who is coming. He, the Doubting One, will make you doubt your own existence if you let him. He is cunning. He is sly. Beware the Doubting One." The dirge-laden sermon against the Doctor droned on in considerable repetition. Eventually, though, while the followers were eagerly absorbing every spiteful word, Cardinax himself grew weary of it.

"It will be dark soon, so you must take to your beds. Tomorrow, at first light I think we should demonstrate our loyalty to the cause. We should show Brother Smith here the strength of our faith. Go now, my children, to your rest. Dream of the new dawn, and the new God. Tomorrow we go to the High Place Of Sacrifice, for the loyalty tests."

The cultists stood up, and filed out one by one, pausing only to kiss the portrait of Lord Cardinax's feet. For some reason, he seemed keen to deny them the chance to kiss his actual toes a second time. They were content to embrace his idolatrous image though.

Some of the cultists glanced in fear and contempt at the Doctor, who smiled politely at them, and looked each of them in the eye, until they flinched and looked away again. Only Brother Burson continued to look at his, with a glimmer of doubt in his mind, until Sister Lenatra urged him to leave, by making him aware that he was holding up the queue.

The Doctor found himself alone with Marcher and Gideus. "You can speak freely now," Gideus said.

"Shouldn't Lord Cardinax say that, Gideus? you're getting ideas above your station here, aren't you?"

The evil Time Lords looked at each other. With a nod of permission, Gideus stepped forward and hit the Doctor across the face with the back of his wrist.

"Ouch," said the Doctor, with exaggeration, covering his genuine sense of pain. "Shall I turn the other cheek now, or would you prefer to hit the same one again?"

Gideus stepped forward as though to do just that, but Marcher restrained him. "No! We aren't here to break him that way. Leave us for now. Let me speak to him." Gideus glared at the Doctor with a cliched expression, as though to say that he would be back to commit further acts of violence, given half the chance, and then he left.

Marcher walked over to the painting, and pushed it aside. Behind it there was a small metal wall safe.

"It's a good painting, Marcher... but there are no bunions on the toes. Are you sure the artist didn't draw Gideus's feet instead?"

Marcher laughed, finding the scorn somehow perversely amusing. He opened the safe by using the basic combination lock on the outside, and took from it, a Time Ring, similar to those which he had confiscated from the Doctor. He walked over to the Doctor, went round behind him, and forced the ring onto his wrist, where it rubbed abrasively into the bindings, and dug into the Doctor's skin. "If my followers ask, this is an amulet, designed to keep your demonic doubts at bay," Marcher said, casually.

"Are we going on somewhere?" The Doctor asked. "You will be, tomorrow, Doctor."

"Anywhere in particular in mind?"

Oh, yes..." Marcher laughed. "My colleague, Holt, has been working on a small space vessel for you, which is now in orbit just beyond the traction range of the Black Hole of Tarsarus."

The Doctor remembered how the Vervoid infested Hyperion Three science base and space cruiser which he had been on board had almost plummeted into the Tarsarus Black Hole. "What of it?" the Doctor asked, genuinely puzzled, but with some alarm bells signalling a sense of recognition here. "What happens then? Does Holt come and offer se jelly and ice cream?"

"What happens, Doctor? What happens? I'm surprised at you. Do you not remember another Gallifreyan Pioneer taking a space ship into a Black Hole? History repeats itself, Doctor. His story repeats itself! Have you guessed who I'm talking about?"

The Doctor's face went pale. "You're barking mad if you think you can recreate Omega's experiment. No one knows how he actually achieved it. The original plans and notes were deliberately destroyed afterwards, by Rassilon. "

"I may be mad, Doctor, but I can do it. You are going to be my Omega. Before I can destroy Galifrey, I must create a new Eye of Harmony. For that, I will need a new Omega, and that, Doctor, will be your job."

"Is that what you planned for Ichabod?"

"Yes, but, well, things change you see. I'll have to work out something else there...."

"I think Ichabod is just as likely to sort you out, Marcher."

Marcher shook his head and laughed.

"So, when are you going to kill me? Now'?"

"Kill you? I'm not going to kill you. I just explained all that."

'Yes you are. You can't possibly achieve what Omega did. You're not a genius. All you'll do is to kill me and probably wreck a perfectly good Black Hole in the process."

"What makes you so sure that I will fail?"

"You're using an established Black Hole. Omega created a black hole out of a star. He used a devise called a Hand Of Omega..."

"Yes Doctor... and that is what the small spaceship is... You are going to materialise on board a new Hand Of Omega device. I've worked on it for years. I'm now convinced I have the right theoretical premise to work from. It will work. "

"I doubt it, Marcher. I very much doubt it."

"Why?"

"You might have eventually done it, if you'd had time, but in running away from Galifrey, you've had to speed things up, and take short cuts. You can't do that in science, and. certainly not with something as dangerous as a Hand Of Omega. I stand by what I said before. You're just committing a pointless murder."

"Your murder wouldn't be pointless Doctor. As to my success or failure, we'll see at sunrise, in the morning, after the loyalty tests. All the best executions take place at the crack of dawn you know. The Time Ring will take you onto Holt's ship, which will then immediately be launched into the Black Hole, by remote control, naturally,.,"

"Naturally. You wouldn't expect me to fly it there willingly.."

"Quite so, Doctor. You see, as they learned with Omega; an Eye Of Harmony requires direct contact with Galifreyan atomic properties; the properties of the kind of Time Lord its energies must serve. Your essence will provide the Black Hole of Tarsarus with such a source of nutrients. I'm quite literally going to feed you to the Vortex beyond the Black Hole."

"Charming. I think even the Master would be thoroughly disgusted by you, Marcher.`

"For us, it will be over quickly. We will see you vanish, get crushed down, trigger the explosion, and give us a new Eye Of Harmony, but you know how Black Holes devour time, Doctor. Tine virtually stands still there. Your agony will last a whole eternity. I wish I could be there to see it. "

"Couldn't you make your spaceship into a two seater and come along with me for a closer look?"

"I don't think so, no," Marcher said, abruptly, and walked out of the room, without a backward glance. To the Doctor's surprise, Marcher left the oil lamps burning, He'd expected to be left in the dark.

The bindings made movement impossible, The Doctor rested his arms, by relaxing the muscles. He still had his hat on, but his umbrella was lying in the corner of the room.

The night was a long one on Thryxx. The chair itself looked light, and wasn't bracketed to the floor, but the Doctor found it impossible to move it even an inch. He knew it had to be another one of Marcher's devious inventions. He admired the man's inventiveness, but easily dismissed the possibility of him being another Omega, or a new Rassilon.

From the distance, outside the room, and possibly outside the house of worship, a Gallifreyan hymn was being slowly, lovingly recited, praising Lord Cardinax. The Doctor remembered the song as an innocent Lullaby he used to gentry sing to his granddaughter in her infancy. He took his mind off it by hoping Maxil was having more good luck than he was. He wasn't expecting help just yet. He hoped it would arrive fairly soon though.

He anticipated a long cold lonely night of silent captivity, but the amount of activity in the house surprised him. The cultists were restless, possibly due to the expectations and reservations they must have had about their impending loyalty tests. The Doctor reasoned that they must also have been nervous about having the One Who Doubts in their midst. Occasionally, the dour would open, and someone, presumably on security duty, would peep in at him. The Doctor turned his head and sailed at them, which caused them to quickly scurry away again.

After what seemed a few hours, the house became quiet again. Sleep finally took its sway over the cult Marcher had begun, with beliefs, borrowed and stolen from another world, and taken completely out of their original historical contexts.

The Doctor stayed wide awake, planning, scheming, thinking and contemplating. It kept his mind off the Time Ring that was chafing his wrist. He felt his arm cramping up in the restrictive pressure from the flex that bound him. By concentrating on every creak and movement made as the house's woodwork settled, The Doctor kept his thoughts from dwelling nn the pain and discomfort he was in.

The floor trembled suddenly under the Doctor's feet. His unusually heavy chair seemed to shift slightly. It felt as though some subterranean creature had tried bashing its way up through the ground.. A few seconds later it happened again, and then once more shortly after that. Soon, the rumbling, shaking sensations became a single constant, as with pregnancy labour pain contractions. The Doctor wondered how long it would be before his chair fell over.

From around the house came screams, and running noises. The Doctor saw a large crack appear in the wall in front of him, as the painting of Marcher's feet lurched sideways, and hung down precariously, crookedly, reminding the Doctor of the distorted paintings of corrupt Presidents in the Panopticon Parliamentary Chambers where the War Council had net. Pieces of the ceiling began to crumble, but just as suddenly as it started, the earth-tremor ended.

The cultists went quiet once more and returned to their beds. No one checked to make sure the Doctor was all right. He was feeling confused. He'd studied the basic geological layout of Thryxx. It was an old planet. Its tectonic plates should have been very well knitted together by such a stage of development. Earthquakes should have been very rare phenomena there. Could it really have been a mere coincidence that they had one just now, at such a time, with Ichabod's arrival so imminent?

The Doctor tried to move his chair but the effort only made the pain in his arms more excruciating as his weight pulled against the flex.

By his untethered feet, a small brittle piece of ceiling plaster lay. The Doctor knew that he couldn't get it into his hands, and that it would be too blunt to cut through the flex with anyway. The Doctor used his feet to carefully raise the small lump of plaster, and when it settled onto his ankle, the Doctor took careful aim, and kicked out, launching the little missile into the glass on Marcher's painting. At first, the glass just looked as though it had cracked. The Doctor thought he had failed, but slowly the crack Widened, and several large slivers of glass fell to the floor. They were too far away yet to be of use to him, but the Doctor smiled, with insufferable patience and cunning. Tomorrow was after all, another day.

- 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

Copyright. Arthur Chappell

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