“I want to see this man first,” Kristoph said. “With my own two eyes. Before I have his very existence obliterated, I want to look at him. I want him to look at me.”

“I thought you might, Excellency” the Director answered with a grim half smile. “That is why I came to you personally.”

Director Artexian picked up the unsigned order of execution and put it into his pocket. He stood and walked to the north wall of the Lord High President’s chamber. There was a mural on it, painted some two thousand years ago by the orders of the incumbent President who despised the mural that had been there before.

This mural depicted Lord Rassilon himself with his twelve sons at his side. In addition to the gold and red robes familiar to any aristocrat of Gallifrey, Rassilon was wearing the Sash and the Coronet both now included in the Presidential inauguration, as well as the Rod in his left hand and a large key – the Great Key of Rassilon, lost many generations ago, its whereabouts unknown even to the Lord High President with access to the secrets of the Matrix itself.

Director Artexian pressed his hand against the image of the Great Key. Kristoph was surprised. He thought only the President himself knew how to open the secret passage behind the mural.

“You know one passage, my Lord,” Director Artexian told him. “The one that brings you directly to the Throne of Rassilon in the Panopticon itself. If you open the door, that is where it will take you. But if I open it, the passage goes to a very different place.”

Kristoph had absolutely no reason to doubt the veracity of that statement. The Citadel had many secrets of that sort. He pressed a button under his desk that signalled to his aide that he was not to be disturbed then he stood and followed the Director into the passage.

It was low lit. The floor beneath his feet was made of the same smooth, hard substance that all of the floors in the Citadel were made of, Betelgesian granite. In the public areas the granite was covered in a veneer of either black obsidian, white marble, or in the case of the Presidential ante-room beside the Panopticon itself, jade. The floor of this secret passage was bare granite. Some kind of dampening effect was in place, though, to prevent his footsteps making a sound as he walked. Obviously the Celestial Intervention Agency would want to walk around the Citadel without being overheard by secretaries working quietly on the other side of the wall.

“The door into my office,” Kristoph said as a thought came to him. “It works both ways, does it?”

Director Artrexian didn’t answer his question directly.

“The Celestial Intervention Agency does not answer to the Lord High President, or indeed any part of the High Council,” he reminded him. “If it did, then assassinating a rogue President would be Treason.”

“That is so,” Kristoph agreed. “I hope you never come to the conclusion that I am a rogue.”

“The Agency does not answer to the Lord High President,” the Director repeated. Kristoph knew that was as good a reply as he was going to get. Politics was a dangerous game on Gallifrey. Enemies could come from any direction. Now he knew one more such direction.

The passage ended abruptly at what appeared to be a very dark hole in the ground. A very nearly inaudible hum indicated that there was an anti-gravity elevator in the shaft. Kristoph stepped forward along with Director Artrexian onto the black nothing. They descended at a rapid but perfectly safe speed. Kristoph didn’t bother to try guessing how far they descended. Obviously they were going down past the Celestial Intervention Agency’s investigative offices and their communications rooms, separate to the one in the spire of the Citadel, down to the dungeon where anyone taken alive by them was kept for a very short but unpleasant time.

The cells were mostly empty. The Castellan had very little ordinary crime to report and the Celestial Intervention Agency were enjoying a quiet time, too. Both organisations were lucky that Gallifrey had no financial problems or an over-zealous oversight committee might decide they were too big and recommend down-sizing. The Castellan would probably have more to worry about in that case. The Celestial Intervention Agency would doubtless point to any number of cold cases involving absconded Renegades that they needed all their agents to work upon. They might also point out how many of their agents it had needed to track down the traitor that was occupying one of the cells today and to put a stop to his deadly plot.

One very small clue had led to the discovery of the seven bombs placed around the city. A janitor working in the League of Omega building had spotted a door that should have been kept locked and reported it to his superior, who had been conscientious enough to act right away. The uncovering of that first bomb had mobilised the Celestial Intervention Agency who had scoured the city for others, knowing that it would take a chain reaction from more than one source to cause the dreadful destruction intended. They had found some of them in the most innocuous of places – the library of the Prydonian Academy, the basement of the Opera House, beneath a sculpture in Rassilon Plaza. Others had been strategic. The tower of the Citadel would have been vaporised in seconds, breaching the enviro-dome into the bargain.

It was certain that few people would have survived in the Capitol. Only a deep bunker with independent life support would have been safe.

That was what gave the Celestial Intervention Agency the clue. What sort of person would have access to one of the deep bunkers beneath the city and to all of those places where the bombs were placed? The Prydonian Academy was not open to the public, the League of Omega even less so. The Citadel did admit any citizen who wanted to speak to a High Councillor or view the debates in the Panopticon, but there were security measures and identity checks for everyone. Besides, the Tower itself was off limits to anyone without high level clearance.

It pointed to somebody with the very highest level of security, somebody who could enter all of those places without question, or somebody so insignificant, a Caretaker doing menial tasks that nobody ever noticed. But a Caretaker would not have the knowledge to build the sophisticated bombs that had been found. It pointed to somebody with knowledge of offworld technology.

And that was how the Castellan’s own second in command, Lieutenant Hyra Russan, was identified as the bomber. A son of a Newblood House, he was formerly of the Gallifreyan Space Fleet, where he had distinguished himself in the small but necessary squadron whose job it was to disarm the weapons of planets that had made peace with their former foes. It was from that work he had learnt the subtleties of bomb-making.

When he retired from the service he had distinguished himself again in the officer class of the Chancellery Guard. He had been expected to take over as Castellan when Pól Braxietel retired.

But that glittering future had been destroyed by this madness, and the one question Kristoph wanted to know was WHY.

Why did a loyal servant of Gallifrey turn to a traitor and potential mass murderer?

The Director stopped in front of one of the cells. The prisoner within was chained with tempered steel but he didn’t look as if he had the strength or the will to try to break out.

“You used the mind probe on him?” Kristoph asked. It was a rhetorical question. Only the mind probe could leave a man quite so utterly wrung out without a physical mark upon him.

“In a case like this, there could be no room for doubt. Not that he hid his guilt very deeply. It was a matter of minutes to extract the truth from him.”

“The rest was to punish him for his deeds?” Again the question didn’t need an answer. Kristoph didn’t waste any emotion on the matter. Yes, using the mind probe as a torture, especially after the confession was obtained, was an unnecessary cruelty. As Ambassador and as Lord High President he had been party to intergalactic treaties that barred the use of ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’ Yet such punishments went on in the dungeon beneath his own Presidential office. He ought to have felt the hypocrisy of it.

But he didn’t. He thought about the Capitol in ruins, a million people dead or dying, the whole fabric of Gallifreyan society destroyed and the planet at the mercy of any invader who might be ready to take advantage of their weakness. He didn’t even need to conjure up the faces of friends who would have been killed instantly. He didn’t need to think of the children in the Academy who would have been at ground zero of one of the bombs. It was enough to think of them in nameless numbers.

Enough to make him sorry that interrogating this man wasn’t his job. He would have done far worse to him than merely letting the mind probe go deeper than it needed to go.

The Director opened the cell door. Two guards silently moved into place when he did so, with neural disrupter guns set to inflict maximum pain if the prisoner tried to attack the Lord High President.

Kristoph stepped into the cell. The Director stayed outside, but close enough to come to his aid if necessary.

“Stand up,” he ordered the prisoner. “Stand up, now, and face me.”

The prisoner stood, slowly, clumsily because the shackles were heavy and weighed him down. Kristoph waited. He had plenty of time.

The prisoner had the humility to look down rather than try to look him in the eye. He knew he was beaten.

“You know who I am?” Kristoph asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“You know who I USED to be when I spent more time in these dark parts of the Citadel than I do now?”

“I do.”

“I don’t intend to torture you further. It is not befitting the Office I now hold. And besides, I have no desire to get your blood on my robes. I just want to know one thing of you.”

The prisoner raised his head slightly.


“They used the mind probe on me,” the prisoner said, the longest sentence he had yet managed. “You need only look at the transcript record.”

“Indeed, I can,” Kristoph replied. “But that isn’t good enough. Look at me, man. Look into my eyes and tell me, in your own words, why you did what you did. It won’t change your fate, but it will satisfy me before I sign the order that seals it.”

The prisoner looked into the eyes of the Lord High President. To those he loved, they were a soft brown, full of gentle kindness. But to this man they were dark pools of pure hatred.

The prisoner told the President why he had tried to destroy the Capitol. It took only three short sentences. Kristoph listened carefully. He controlled his anger and resisted the urge to strangle him with his bare hands.

Kristoph stood a moment longer looking at the prisoner then he turned and walked out of the cell. He reached into his robe for a gold-plated pen that he always had with him. It was a gift from his brother on a birthday some years ago. It had upon it an inscription in High Gallifreyan that translated into the common vernacular as ‘Now is the Time’. Time for what did not signify. Time for whatever was necessary.

Time to affix his signature to an executive order to summarily execute the prisoner. His name did not appear on the order. He was just referred to as ‘The Prisoner’. Even in the official records his deeds would not be known. His name would not be known. The people of Gallifrey would never know how close they came to death and ruin. That was why it was being done this way. There would be no trial in front of the public broadcasting cameras. There would be no execution in the public square. His family would be told that he was dead, and that his body had already been destroyed. They would not be told what he had done. They would not have to live with the knowledge that they had bred such a traitor.

Of course, Kristoph understood the importance of ‘due process’ and a ‘fair trial’. They were tenets of civilised society.

But civilised society was too often the tip of the iceberg, the visible surface. Beneath it was a darker place where the same rules couldn’t apply.

He signed the order. The prisoner watched him do it. He gave it to the Director and then walked away. One of the guards walked with him back to the door into his office. He sat there and waited until that door opened again.

“I am really not sure I should allow that, now I know of its existence,” he said. “I should have it blocked.”

“We would have another built,” the Director answered.

“It is done?”

“It is.”

“Then it is over… this time.” Kristoph sighed deeply. “Would you tell me, because I can’t understand it - we have a good society here on Gallifrey. People are happy and prosperous. Even our Caretaker class are far better off than the underclasses on almost every planet I have ever visited. Yet our privileged classes regularly breed Renegades and traitors. I spent five lifetimes tracking them down across the galaxies. Your agents continue even now. Why is it that the Shining World of the Seven Systems produces so many such aberrations?”

“I do not know the answer to that, either, Excellency,” the Director answered. “If I did, I think my job would not be necessary. But so long as the question goes unanswered, I shall keep on doing what must be done.”

“Yes.” Kristoph nodded. The Director bid him good day and left the way he had come. Kristoph turned and looked out of the window again at a city that did not know how lucky it was to be still standing. Then he turned back to his desk and opened a videophone link.

“Marion, my dear,” he said. “I am sorry about yesterday. The intolerable business is finished, now. I am sending an executive shuttle for you and Rodan and for Mia and little Jari. Lord Reidluum and I will meet you all for dinner and then the theatre that we were denied yesterday.”

Marion smiled widely at him and said that they would be ready. That smile was all he needed to light the dark places of his soul that had been opened in these fractious hours.