The videophone built into the limousine roof beeped indicating an incoming communication. Lord Haddandrox answered it since it was his car, but immediately handed the receiver to Kristoph. He listened to the message and then instructed the driver to return to the Citadel at once.

“What’s happening?” Marion asked. She could see by the expression on Kristoph’s face that it was something important – something disturbing. But he shook his head. He couldn’t tell her anything.

Marion reached out to hold her husband’s hand and was surprised and shocked to find that he was trembling.

“Whatever it is, it can’t be so terrible,” Marion told him. “Surely it can’t…”

Kristoph looked at her and smiled warmly. He reached and kissed her cheek.

“I have you at my side,” he said. “My strength and my shield.”

But he couldn’t say anything more than that. Nobody did. Marion noted that the limousine didn’t stop outside the grand entrance to the Citadel. Instead it hovered higher and brought them to the secure entrance on the flat part of the octagonal building before the great high tower rose up towards the protective shield that encompassed the Capitol. Chancellery Guards rushed to form a phalanx as the Haddandrox chauffer got out of his seat and came to open the door.

Nobody said anything, but Kristoph nodded to the Guard Captain and followed him. Marion almost had to run to keep up with his stride. Behind him, Lord and Lady Haddandrox came, too.

They were hurried into a turbo lift that descended quickly. The Guard Captain and two of his men came with them. When the doors opened there were more guards and, to everyone’s surprise, the Gold Usher.

“Lord de Lœngbærrow, please come quickly,” he said. “The matter is urgent.”

That seemed an understatement. Why else should they be hurrying along the corridors of the Citadel in such a way. But still nobody said anything.

Finally they reached the Lord High President’s Chambers. The double door of solid wood was flanked by two Guards, but it was opened at the Gold Usher’s command.

In the ante-chamber were more guards, and, sitting on a chair, was Lady Stillhaeven. She was a Gallifreyan, so she didn’t cry. But she was clearly distressed. Rika De Lœngbærrow was with her already. Marion went to her side at once. So did Calliope Haddandrox. Their two husbands carried on into the inner chamber.

“What’s happened?” Marion asked. “Alanna… what is it?”

“Almanzo,” she replied. “On the way to our official car, after the reception. He… just turned terribly pale and collapsed… he’s been barely conscious since. He looks deathly ill. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. The Chief Physician is in there with him, now.”

“Remonte is in there, too,” Rika said. “He wouldn’t leave his side. They have been friends for so long. He is upset… we all are.”

“But he is alive?” Marion clung to that one fact. She thought of the many pleasant times they had spent on Ventura as Lord Stillhaeven’s guests. She thought of how proud they had all been a little while ago when he was inaugurated as President and the hope they all had for the future under his rule. She tried not to think of him now, lying close to death, unable to help himself.

“Marion…” Lady Stillhaeven grasped her hand. “Marion… he has hardly been able to speak, but he managed two words… Lord de Lœngbærrow. He asked for your husband. You know what that means, don’t you?”

“No,” she answered. “No, I don’t know. I don’t understand.”

“Oh!” Calliope obviously did. She reached out and touched Marion on the shoulder. “Oh, my dear!”

She still didn’t understand, and none of the Gallifreyan ladies with her felt able to explain it to her. Nor could any of the Guards who kept silent vigil in the ante-chamber.

It was nearly an hour before Kristoph, Remonte and Jarod Haddandrox emerged from the inner chamber. Kristoph looked shocked, but he carried himself with dignity.

“Alanna, he is awake for the moment,” he said to Lady Stillhaeven. Go and sit with him.”

She nodded gratefully and silently walked away into the inner chamber. Kristoph sat by Marion and took a deep breath before speaking.

“The President has suffered an acute cerebral haemorrhage,” he said. Marion gasped. So did Calliope and Rika. The guards kept their composure.

“Naturally caused?” Calliope asked. “This isn’t… an assassination attempt?”

“As far as the physician could ascertain, it was natural,” Kristoph confirmed. “It appears to have been a weak blood vessel that was not detected when the President attended his mandatory medical examination prior to the investiture. When he accepted the coronet of Rassilon and was thus joined with the Matrix, the mental pressure was too much.”

“Is he going to be all right?” Marion asked.

“In time, yes,” Kristoph assured her. “He is very unwell at present, hardly able to speak, and lucid only for short periods. The physician does not believe there is any lasting damage to his brain. But it will be many months before he recovers. And even then it is doubtful whether he would be ready to take up his Presidential duties.”

“Oh no!” Marion groaned. “Oh, I am so sorry. Poor Alanna. They were both so… but what happens now? Will the Chancellor take over from him?”

“No.” It was Calliope who spoke. “Marion… that’s why we were summoned back to the Citadel. Or at least, why Kristoph was summoned. Lord Stillhaeven was only President for a few hours, but he was President. And as long as he was able to speak, as long as he was able to name a successor…”

“He asked for Lord de Lœngbærrow,” Jarod Haddondrox added. “Marion… Kristoph is the new President Elect.”

For a long moment, Marion didn’t quite take in what they were telling her. She looked at Kristoph. He was still dressed in his formal robes although he had taken off the headdress in the car. She was still dressed in her formal gown for the Inauguration. It was hard to believe it all happened only a few hours ago.

“Marion,” Kristoph said. “Lord Stillhaeven named me as his successor because he knew I most closely shared his ambitions for Gallifrey. But the Constitution allows me to suggest another name. I can do that. I can name a man who would take the honour and the burden of the Presidency for the good of all our people. Marion… all the reasons you didn’t want me to be nominated…”

“You’re… asking me if you can do this?” She was astonished. “Kristoph… you don’t… at a time like this… what I want doesn’t matter. Your duty is to Gallifrey. I will stand by you. Nothing else matters right now. You must do it. Gallifrey needs you.”

“Thank you,” Kristoph said to her. “My dear, thank you.” He reached out and hugged her tightly. “For your understanding.”

“My Lord…” Gold Usher cleared his throat meaningfully. “Time is pressing. We must…”

“Yes, we must,” Kristoph agreed. “Marion… I am to be sworn in immediately. Will you come to the Panopticon and be witness to it?”

Marion looked around at the door to the inner chamber. Lady Stillhaeven was her friend. She didn’t want to abandon her. And yet, to see Kristoph become President, even in such dreadful and urgent circumstances was an honour she could scarcely refuse.

“I will wait,” Rika volunteered. “I’ll make sure Alanna isn’t alone in her distress. You go, Marion. Go and stand by your husband at this time.”

The decision was made. Marion grasped Kristoph’s hand tightly. As they moved swiftly again, flanked by Chancellery Guards, she was glad she did. She felt as if she might easily have been left behind in the rush.

They reached the Panopticon. The lights had been turned out except for two spots that lit the dais where the inauguration took place. Kristoph stepped up onto it. Gold Usher tapped his staff upon the floor and began the formal words of the inauguration. This time there were only a few people to see it happen. Remonte de Lœngbærrow and Jarod Haddandrox were there. So was Calliope, who stood at Marion’s side. Chancellery Guards stood to attention. The Castellan himself stepped into the pool of light. He made one more witness to the ceremony.

It was the worst possible circumstances. Marion’s thoughts were still with Lady Stillhaeven, sitting at her husband’s bedside. She was sorry for them both. But at the same time, she felt a certain thrill when she saw Kristoph accept the sash and rod of Rassilon and the non-existent key before he took the formal oath of office.

“Do you swear to uphold the laws of Gallifrey?” Gold Usher asked him.

“I swear!” he replied.

“Do you swear to follow in the wisdom of Rassilon?”

“I swear.”

“Do you swear to protect the laws and the wisdom of Rassilon?”

“I swear.”

“I invest you Lord President of the Supreme Council. I wish you good fortune and strength. I give you the Matrix.”

Kristoph knelt as Gold Usher placed the coronet on his head. Marion watched him carefully. When she saw this part of the proceedings before, she had thought it just one more piece of ceremony. But now she understood that the coronet was more than a rather gaudy piece of gold with chunky red and blue jewels. It actually formed a mental connection between the President and the Matrix, the mysterious and fantastic repository of all Time Lord knowledge. It was something that the President needed to prepare for mentally. Lord Stillhaeven had done so for many weeks. Kristoph had no more than a few minutes.

For a heart-stopping moment Marion wondered if he, too, would suffer a terrible brain injury trying to do his duty for Gallifrey.

But as he rose to his feet, he seemed to be well enough. He reached and took the coronet from his head. Gold Usher took charge of it again, along with the Sash and Rod. He stepped down from the Dais and embraced Marion. He kissed her on the cheek.

“President de Lœngbærrow,” she whispered. “Congratulations.”

“My First Lady,” he answered.

“What happens now?” Marion asked. “What do we do?”

“We go back to the President’s Chambers and make sure Almanzo and Alanna are going to be all right, and then we will finally return with Lord and Lady Haddandrox to their town house and some much needed rest. Tomorrow… tomorrow is a new day. And we will face it when it comes.”