“Your clothes are over there,” Marion said, pointing to a pile of carefully folded silver cloth with the Sash of Rassilon even more carefully laid on top of it. “But Kristoph... you have to rest. You don’t understand. The Surgeon removed one of your hearts. It was so very badly damaged. You can’t...”

“I know what he had to do,” Kristoph replied. “I can feel the gap in my chest. But every other humanoid species in the galaxy has only one heart. I’m fine.”

He stood up and swooned slightly. Marion caught hold of him.

“You’re not fine,” she told him.

“I’m better than I ought to be,” he admitted. “But not as well as I’m going to pretend when I go out of that door very soon. Losing a heart is bad for a Time Lord. Staying awake through the surgery to remove the damaged tissue is exhausting. I am not as strong as I should be. But I cannot rest. I have to talk to the boy. Where is he?”

“He’s been arrested, of course” Marion replied. “But how did you know it was a boy? You couldn’t have seen him.”

“I felt him,” he answered. “I felt a jarring note all through the proceedings. In the moments before he fired the weapon, he almost overwhelmed my senses. I knew what he was going to do.”

“I thought the Panopticon had psychic barriers. How could you...”

“He was so overwrought about what he was going to do, he was practically broadcasting himself to me. And if I could sense him, then at least one other man sensed him, too – the one who put the crossbow in his hand, the one truly responsible. The boy’s thoughts would have echoed back to him as well as to me.”

“Then....” Marion’s head was whirling as she took it all in. “Kristoph, you should know... the boy’s name is Gynell Dúccesci. The Castellan has arrested his brother, too. Talitha is out there, waiting. She believes he is innocent.”

“I believe her,” Kristoph said as he examined his presidential robes and saw that they were soaked in blood. He set the Sash of Rassilon over the plain rest robe. He was still President, even without fine robes, and the Sash was proof of that. Marion settled the Sash on his shoulders for him, then he took a deep breath and strode towards the outer doors, pushing them open. Everyone outside looked around in surprise then bowed towards him. Talitha Dúccesci rose first and was three paces ahead of the Chancellor and the Premier Cardinal as Kristoph stepped into the ante-chamber.

“Lord,” she began, then stopped, unable to find the right words to say to him. The male line of her family were prisoners, accused of his attempted assassination but she couldn’t find the words with which to plead for their lives.

“There are things I must do,” Kristoph said in a quiet, calm voice. “Much depends on what happens in the next hours. My wife is going to wait in the Presidential Chamber until it is done. You may keep her company.”

He touched her shoulder gently. She almost swooned with shock. If he had spoken coldly to her she would have understood. His kindness was overwhelming. Marion took hold of her hand and drew her away. A cohort of Panopticon Guards flanked them both as they went to the Presidential Chamber. Another cohort surrounded the President as he headed for the detention chambers of the Chancellery Guard beneath the Panopticon.

“Marion,” Talitha said when they were sitting quietly and completely safely, inside the guarded Presidential Chamber. There was a fresh pot of herbal infusion there. Marion poured for them both. It was a very small comfort in a comfortless time. “Marion, how could a boy like Gynell have taken a crossbow into the gallery? Even I... even you... passed through security arcs three times from the entrance to the Citadel.”

“I know,” Marion told her. “I thought about that, too. It means somebody else was involved. Somebody who could bypass security.”

“I wanted to tell the President. I thought it might help Gynell. But then I thought he might think Malika was the one. He is a High Councillor. He could have done it.”

“I am sure Kristoph has reasoned the same way,” Marion told her. “And he knows Malika isn’t the one who did this. What man, what Time Lord, would use his own brother in such a way? Even Lord Dúccesci, as hard and unyielding as he is, I could not believe he would do something so cowardly as letting a boy take the blame for his own deeds.”

“Do you think his Lordship knows that?”

“I think he does. And he won’t let any injustice be done.”

“The President... and my Lord... they are far from friends. They are opposed to each other for so many reasons.”

“Yes, they are,” Marion admitted. “But Kristoph won’t let political rivalry cloud his judgement. Be assured of that, Talitha.”

It was a comfort to her as three long hours passed with no news at all. Marion wondered if the Public Service Broadcast was saying anything, but she hadn’t the heart to put the screen on. The silence was easier to bear than the chattering of the PSB tele-journalists. She hoped they had at least broadcast the news that the President was alive and well and still in executive control.

Then the door opened. Marion expected it to be Kristoph. She was almost as relieved when Lord Dúccesci entered. Talitha completely forgot herself in her relief and ran to hug him. He, for his part, put his arms around her briefly before telling her to control her emotions in the Presidential Chamber.

“Are you... still a prisoner?” she asked, noting the guards at the door.

“I am not,” he said, giving no further details. “There is to be an extra-ordinary sitting of the Council. The President has requested that you both attend.”

“Why?” Marion asked. “What has happened?”

“Please come with me, now, madam,” Lord Dúccesci said. Marion did as he said. Of course, Panopticon Guards flanked them all. Nobody was taking any chances. Lord Dúccesci brought them not to the gallery, but to the Panopticon floor where two seats were given over to them at the end of the front row of councillors.

There were a group of boys – twenty or more - standing in front of the dais where Kristoph stood. They were surrounded by guards and had the chastened look of prisoners. Gynell Dúccesci was among them. He looked far more scared than any of them.

Gold Usher called the session to order then read an extraordinary statement of guilt on behalf of the group of boys. They were, he read, known by the title ‘Sons of Arcalia’ and they had planned the downfall of the High Council through the assassination of the Lord High President.

The Panopticon erupted in excited murmurings. Gold Usher had to strike his staff repeatedly before he could continue.

“The perpetrator of this desperate act confessed fully, as well as naming his co-conspirators. They are all here before the Council now.” Gold Usher then read a list of names. This, too, shocked everyone within hearing. There were sons of some of the greatest Houses on Gallifrey. Most of them were students, all of them from the Arcalian Academy, where the conspiracy had fomented. Three were older men who worked in the Panopticon. They were former Arcalians, and all three related to students implicated in the plot.

Marion looked at the faces of the boys who stood there, surrounded by guards. They were all dreadfully young. They were scared, some of them. Others stood defiant, still, convinced that they were in the right.

One of them seemed utterly convinced. He began to shout, silencing Gold Usher. When the guards tried to reach him his friends gathered around him, preventing him from being restrained physically.

“Let him speak,” Kristoph said. The boy was allowed to step forward. He gave his name as Riven Maxic of the Arcalian Chapter and gave an impassioned speech about the dominance of the Prydonian Chapter over the High Council. He pointed out that of the fifteen High Councillors, only Lord Dúccesci of Arcalia and the Premier Cardinal, who was a Cerulian, were not of the Prydonian Chapter. The Presidency had been held eight times in a row by Prydonians. He accused that Chapter of favouritism and corruption, and of serving their own interests and went on to say that the Sons of Arcalia meant to put an end to the Prydonian ascendancy.

“Is that it?” Kristoph asked in the silence when the boy finished speaking. “That is the reason why you boys have jeopardised your own lives and the good name of your Houses, to say nothing of tarnishing the reputation of your Academy? Over a matter of inter-school rivalry?”

“The Chapters are more than inter-school rivalry,” The Premier Cardinal said indignantly.

“Very little more,” Kristoph replied. “You are a proud Cerulian, my friend. Lord Dúccesci stands equally proud to be an Arcalian. I wear the scarlet of Prydonia on formal occasions. Lord Dúccesci, you do not yet have an heir. Nor do I. When we do, it would be unthinkable that your son would be anything but an Arcalian, or mine a Prydonian. These are traditions that we have upheld over countless generations. But the rivalry between Chapters ends with the senior inter-academy lacrosse trophy. When we go out into the wide world, our only true loyalty is to Gallifrey to whom we have all sworn an oath of allegiance that supersedes all others. It matters not the colour of robe worn by any High Councillor. It matters even less what House the President comes from. He wears the gold and silver of Rassilon. Lord Dúccesci, do you not agree with that principle?”

“My Lord, I do,” Dúccesci answered. “Yet, it is true that Prydonia dominates the High Council.”

“Then is that not the fault of Arcalia, Patrexea, Cerulia and Dromeian for lacking political ambition?” Kristoph replied. There was a ripple of nervous laughter around the Panopticon. Then he continued speaking. “That is a matter for discussion around our dinner tables over wine and food. The matter of who indoctrinated those boys with the idea that political colour can be changed by murder and rebellion is not. I do not believe the real culprit in that regard is standing before us in this sorry group of children. I am instigating a Presidential Inquiry into the teaching methods within not only the Arcalian Academy, but all of our Academies to get to the bottom of this affair. Meanwhile, we must consider what will happen to these foolish youngsters.”

“My Lord!” Talitha Dúccesci could hold her silence no longer. She stood and pleaded for clemency for her nephew and the others who were named as conspirators.

“If they were sent to trial, there is no question. The charge would be High Treason. The penalty is death,” Kristoph said. “But what good would that do? What would come of Gallifrey if it cut down twenty of its sons, twenty heirs to Houses of repute? What kind of a people would we be if we execute children?”

Nobody could answer him. Nobody dared. Talitha Dúccesci shook with emotion. Marion wondered what the mothers of these boys all felt just now. Some, if not all, of their fathers were here. Many of them were Councillors who had been shocked to discover their offspring involved in such a terrible deed. But the mothers were at home, watching the proceedings on vid-screens. What must they be thinking?

“IF they were sent for trial. But as Lord High President of Gallifrey I have another option. I can sentence them by my own prerogative right now.”

He paused just long enough for everyone to understand what he was telling them before he went on.

“The three adults, those who betrayed our trust by allowing a weapon to be brought into this place where laws are made, will each be sentenced to three hundred years’ hard labour. They will be stripped of their Chapters. Arcalia will not bear their shame. Their families may decide whether to allow them to keep their names.”

The three disgraced men were taken. Kristoph looked at the students, the Sons of Arcalia. Some still looked mutinous. Most still looked scared. It had sunk in that he was not going to have them summarily executed. But what else might be done to them? The cryogenic prison of Shada, where the worst criminals of all served terrible sentences came into all their minds.

“These, too, shall be stripped of their Chapter. They are no longer Arcalians. In the Red Desert, there is a camp where, until recently, the Celestial Intervention Agency trained their men in extreme survival. It is a bleak place, where water and food are rationed, where the only shelter from the cold of night or the heat of day are wooden huts with pallets on the floor for beds. This will be their ‘Academy’ for the duration of their years of education. Able teachers will be appointed. They will learn, in bare rooms in the desert, the lessons they should have learnt in the grand halls of Arcalia. They will be drilled and marched. But they will not be beaten or cruelly treated. They will learn the meaning of discipline. Those who exhibit good behaviour will be allowed visits from their families, who will doubtless wish to be assured of their welfare. But they will live and work and learn in the desert until they graduate. It is to be hoped that they will then return to Gallifreyan society as better men than they would have been. Some may still Transcend. Most will still be heirs to their Houses. They might yet stand in this hall as honoured members of the Council. But that remains to be seen. For now, let them be taken to a safe and secure place. Arrange for their mothers and fathers to have a little time with them. Then their journey to their new home will be arranged.”

There was a long silence when he was done, then the guards obeyed his last instruction. When they were gone, Gold Usher stepped up to the dais where Kristoph still stood. He gave him an envelope and stood back.

“It seems a long time since we were gathered to hear the vote of the Councillors on the matter of the Caretaker Franchise Bill,” he said. “But that must be heard before this Session is concluded.” He cleared his throat and then read the result of the secret ballot. “In respect to the votes of the Council for the Caretaker Franchise Bill, six abstentions are recorded. Of the remaining two hundred and ninety four votes, one hundred and forty-six voted against. One hundred and forty-eight voted for the Bill. Combined with the votes of the High Council, there were one hundred and fifty five votes against and one hundred and fifty seven votes for. The Caretaker Franchise Bill is carried, therefore, by a simple majority of two.”

The most relieved face in the Panopticon was not Kristoph’s. It was the Premier Cardinal’s. His protest vote had not killed the bill, after all. Kristoph smiled as the facts sank in around him. But although this was a victory for him, he did not celebrate. The other events of the day had made this a hollow victory. He crumpled the envelope and the results of the vote in his hand while Gold Usher called the Council to order and formally dismissed them. Kristoph left the Panopticon in something approaching solemn procession with the Premier Cardinal and Chancellor. Then the High Council broke ranks. Lord Dúccesci crossed the floor to where Talitha waited.

“It is time we went home,” he said to her.

Marion agreed with that sentiment. She hurried, still escorted by Panopticon Guards, of course, to the President’s Chamber. When she stepped in Kristoph dismissed everyone else who was around him. In the quiet of the Chamber he held her tightly in his arms and kissed her lovingly.

“You did it,” she told him. “The Bill passed.”

“By two votes.”

“And you did the best you could for those boys. That was magnificently Presidential. I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you, my dear,” Kristoph said. “But to paraphrase an ancient Greek general with whom I am feeling a lot of empathy just now, ‘another such victory and I am undone.’”