The ice mountains of Minas Luimnea were exactly what their name implied. They were mountains, towering peaks, made entirely of green-grey ice with facets like diamonds that shone in the sunlight.

They rose up high over the capital city even though it was a city of towers and spires that themselves ranked as some of the highest constructions in the galaxy. The official cars of the Gallifreyan consulate approaching across the plain were dwarfed by both the city and by the mountains.

“Absolutely beautiful,” Marion said as she drank in the view. “Hesthor must be so enjoying living here. Where is the Gallifreyan Embassy? I hope it has a good view of the mountains.”

“It’s that building there, madam,” said the embassy guard in blue and gold who sat in the front passenger seat of the limousine. He pointed to a building that reminded Marion of the Chrysler building in New York. It had a similar kind of stepped spire rising up, but instead of art deco circles there were elongated hexagons of a glass-like material that reflected the sunlight. “The grand ballroom and other staterooms are on the top floors, with the residency of the Ambassador and vice-consul below that, and the offices of the embassy staff on the lower floors.”

“So Hesthor is living in a skyscraper. I wonder what she thinks of that after the Lundar house on the Southern Plains.”

Hesthor seemed perfectly delighted about her luxurious apartments on the eighty-fifth floor of the great Tower of Goth, named, Marion was told, after the first Gallifreyan ambassador to this planet. This was far from a ‘flat’ in the sense Marion knew such dwellings in Liverpool. It really was a mansion in the sky. The rooms were beautifully appointed, and there was even a conservatory with one long wall and part of the ceiling glazed so that the best of the sun came into it. Sitting there at a table among delicately scented flowers, with a panoramic view of the city and the plains was almost as nice as being in Lady Lily’s garden or the rose bowers of the Venturan residency.

“It is perfectly lovely here,” Hesthor said. “The only slightly chafing thing is that I can’t go out of the Embassy without a male chaperone. There are strict rules about women being seen alone on the streets, and of course we must abide by the local customs. If Bolar is too busy to accompany me, I have to summon one of the staff. But there are some very lovely craft markets that are worth the trouble. And of course, a chaperone is always handy for carrying things. So I am quite enjoying it all. We are holding a ball tonight, of course, for the ambassadors and spouses from the other embassies and consulates. I’ve been very busy organising everything. I hope I won’t be too worn out to enjoy it.”

Marion smiled at her friend’s chatter. Hesthor loved parties of any kind. She would rise to the occasion and be the perfect hostess in an immaculate gown when the time came.

“I am sure it will be just fine,” she assured her. “Before then, I’m supposed to have a private audience with Bolar. Kristoph wouldn’t say what it was about except that it was nothing for me to worry about.”

“Then I am sure it is nothing to worry about,” Hesthor told her. “He would hardly lie to you, would he? But I am afraid I have no idea why you should need a private audience with Bolar. It’s not as if you’re planning to ask for political asylum on Gallifrey.”

Marion laughed at the joke. She was sure Hesthor was right. But the fact that this was not merely a social visit to her two friends spoiled the otherwise pleasant morning she spent with Hesthor and she didn’t really enjoy the lunch served to them in the flower-scented bower either. She was almost relieved when a liveried servant told her that the vice-consul was ready for her. Whatever it was, it would be over, soon.

The servant took her into a lift that seemed to go a very long way up, considering they were already very high. He bowed to her as the doors finally opened and she stepped forward. The doors closed and the lift descended again. She looked around in surprise at a room that had glass walls on all four sides. It must have been near the very top of the spired building.

“Almost,” said Bolar Lundar as he came forward and bowed formally to her before taking her hand very gently. “You’re not afraid of heights?”

“I didn’t used to be,” Marion answered. “But this… is it your office?”

“No,” he replied. “I have an ordinary suite ten floors below this. I had you brought up here because the glass walls and the great height give this room special properties.”

“I don’t understand. Why would you… the vice-consul… need to bring me here…”

“I’m not acting as the Vice Consul now,” Bolar Lundar said to her as he brought her to a chair that was in the centre of the room, equidistant from each of the four walls. She sat while he remained standing. “This is more to do with the work I used to do for the Celestial Intervention Agency.” Marion looked even more worried. He was quick to reassure her. “You’ve done nothing wrong, my dear. And there is nothing to fear. You’re thinking of the time when I came to you as the Truthtaker. An unpleasant experience for you.”


“I’m not looking to extract any truth from you, either,” he promised. “But my skills can help equip you for the future as a Gallifreyan Lady of high standing.”

“I still don’t understand…”

“Kristoph spoke to me last week, when we arranged for you to visit. He told me that you accidentally revealed to his aunt, Lady de Más??nt?n, some privileged information about the presidential nomination.”

“I… yes… I suppose I did,” Marion admitted. “Thedera said something about the nominations and I immediately thought of…” She stopped. If it was privileged information, then saying it aloud was even worse than thinking it.

“Lord Stillhaeven!” Bolar Lundar smiled wryly. Marion was aghast. She hadn’t said anything, but of course she had thought of the present Venturan ambassador.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t help it. I keep forgetting that people on Gallifrey can mind read easily.”

“That name is beginning to be spoken of quite freely among the hierarchy,” Lundar assured her. “You’re not committing any act of treason with that thought. But Kristoph is concerned. There is a possibility that he could be elected to some senior position on the High Council when the new President is inaugurated. And he doesn’t want to have to keep his work a secret from you. But if you are party to more important secrets than that one, it would be unfortunate if your thoughts could be read while you lunch at the Conservatory with the ladies…”

“But what can I do about that?” Marion asked. “I can’t stop people from doing it. Hesthor and Cally and Isolatta always tell me when they’re speaking to each other telepathically, and they always tell me if they’ve caught any of my thoughts. But if other people…”

“That’s why I’m going to help you,” Lundar said. “We probably should have done it sooner, really. But it was hard enough for you to adjust to living on Gallifrey without putting this upon you. The time really has come, though. I’m going to help you to hide your thoughts from telepathic minds.”

“Oh.” Marion wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. “Will it… hurt….”

“I hope not. I have not done this procedure with a Human mind before. It’s something that we do in the Celestial Intervention Agency when operatives are going undercover among telepathic races, when they need to hide their true motives from dangerous people. But Kristoph and I have discussed it and we are certain it would do you no harm.”

He walked around the back of the chair where she was sitting. She turned her head to look at him, but he gently told her to face forward. She felt his hands on the side of her head, then a feeling like quick silver running through her brain. He was in her mind. It wasn’t an unpleasant sensation. Kristoph had done that many times. But it was strange having somebody else do it. It was a little like having to undress for a doctor to examine her compared to undressing for Kristoph in their bedroom. She trusted Bolar Lundar as she would trust a doctor, though. She knew he would not do anything inappropriate to her. She did her best to relax.

“That’s it,” he told her gently. “Now, I want you to concentrate and tell me what you see in your mind’s eye.”

“A brick wall,” she said after a very short time. “Just a blank wall. Like…”

“Kristoph told me there was an Earth literary allusion – somebody thinking of a brick wall to hide a secret.”

“Yes,” Marion said. “In a book… about… about telepathic aliens…”

“He thought that would be the easiest way for you to visualise what we want you to do. I’ve put the wall into your mind. You put the things you want to hide from others behind that wall. It’s not meant to stand up to a mind probe. If you were a criminal and I were interrogating you in my capacity as the Truthtaker, I could smash that wall in an instant. But that’s not its purpose. It’s just there to guard against casual and accidental revelations of things other people shouldn’t see. Anything that Kristoph might say to you in confidence, or that you might hear in conversation when you are with him at official functions. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I think I do,” Marion answered. “I think I see how to do it. But… how would I know?”

“Put something behind the wall… something I wouldn’t know about you… perhaps a memory from your childhood, long before you knew that Time Lords existed. And I will try to see it. I won’t be trying to break down the wall. This isn’t an interrogation. But it’ll just be a sort of guessing game.”

Bolar Lundar walked around the chair and stood in front of her again, holding her hand very gently. Marion thought of something. She felt his touch on her mind for perhaps thirty seconds.

“You’re thinking of your mother,” he said after a while. “I can feel the emotional connection. But you’re hiding your actual memory of her. I don’t know what she looked like.”

Marion smiled and let the memory she was concealing out from the wall. Lundar nodded.

“She was a lot like you. Brown hair and grey eyes and a pretty smile. She was wearing a yellow dress and you were by a very small lake with her.”

“The paddling pool at Southport,” Marion said. “When I was very little. But… you really didn’t see it at first?”

“No. You managed to conceal her from me. And that was a very special memory for you. Something less important, like some detail of a vote in the High Council, that isn’t important to you at all, will be easy to hide. I think we’ll practice a few more times just to be sure. And then I think you’ll be all right.”

He made a sort of game of it. Marion found herself laughing as he tried to guess what she was hiding from him behind the wall in her mind. She was laughing so much that she didn’t hear the lift door open and somebody else step into the room. She was surprised when Kristoph put his arms around her shoulder and kissed her cheek.

“You seem to be having a pleasant time,” he said to her. Then he looked at Bolar Lundar and something obviously passed between them telepathically. Lundar nodded and Kristoph responded. Then he hugged her again.

“So now you know how to keep secrets from me?” he said teasingly.

“I’ve never kept a secret from you,” Marion answered. “And I don’t intend to start now. But I shall at least be able to keep some of yours if I have to. And that was the object of the exercise.”

“Indeed it was. Now, come on back down to Hesthor’s domain and bring her up to date with all the gossip from the ladies of the Conservatory while Lundar and I talk politics and dull stuff of that sort. And we shall take tea together in a little while before getting ready for tonight’s embassy ball.”