It is a universal truth that even within the most well-planned and beautiful of cities there is always a quarter hidden behind the gleaming spires and the shining domes of the university halls and libraries, forums and art galleries, where the streets are narrower and the shadows deeper. It may be called Cheapside, The Backs, the Narrows, Downtown, the Shades, Oldtown, Skid Row, Shanty town or any of a dozen epithets that conjure up visions of places where it is not quite safe to walk at night. It is the place where the janitors who clean the gleaming buildings live, the seamstresses who make the gowns for the ladies of quality, the waiters who serve the food in the exclusive restaurants.

The gleaming Capitol of Gallifrey, under its envirodome, was no exception to that rule. The Caretaker district was, for reasons lost to time, known as the Yardages. Its streets were a little cleaner, perhaps, than their counterparts in other cities of the twelve galaxies, because dirt never accumulated under the envirodome, but the small houses where large families lived, some with the ground floor given over to workshops where the luckier Yardage residents had small, independent businesses, were still crowded together in narrow streets. The fronts of these buildings were dark brown. The streets were set with grey cobbles. Nobody had ever thought of decorating the walls of these dwellings with Cascadian marble such as graced the buildings on Rassilon’s Plaza or inlaying the pavements beneath the Caretaker feet with ornate mosaics.

The man who walked along the cobbled streets this evening in the month of Octima, dressed like he belonged in the Yardages, in a jerkin and loose trousers beneath a dark grey cloak, but there were clear signs that he was not a resident. His face was tanned. He had spent a very long time outside of the envirodome, exposed to the sun’s unfiltered rays. Untanned complexions were a giveaway sign of Capitol living, even among the working classes.

But it was more than his complexion that marked him out from the people of the Yardages. There was something in his eyes, in the way he held his head high and his back straight, that reminded them of their aristocratic employers.

Old men drew back into their doorways as he passed. Women hid their children out of sight. There was something about this stranger that made them want to keep out of his way.

That didn’t bother him at all. He had no time for old men or women, still less children. He had no interest in conversations with them. He made his way through the narrow streets to the meeting he had arranged with those residents of the Yardages who were worth his notice.

There was, at the end of one of the narrow streets what in other places and other times might have been called a Community Hall. The people of the Yardages didn’t really think of themselves as a Community. They simply lived there. But there was a building once used for the weaving of carpets before a bigger and airier premises was built elsewhere that was used in for communal purposes.

The young people gathered there tonight were all of that awkward age between a hundred and fifty and a hundred and eighty who weren’t yet considered adults with the rights and privileges that afforded even to Caretakers but were too old to be thought of as children. Many of them had jobs and helped support their parents and siblings. Most of them tried to complete their education part time so that they could aspire to the entry level of the Civil Service or the Panopticon Guards or anything that might be considered a ‘career’ as opposed to a ‘job’.

On this evening they were practising martial arts on a large square of carpet left behind by the former occupants of the building. The stranger watched for a while without them noticing him. They lacked finesse. Few of them had been properly taught the skills. The privileged youth who attended the great Academies learnt the highest forms of martial arts in the Galaxy, including Sun Ko Do, the discipline of the Monks of Malvoria who practiced and perfected their skills on narrow spars of wood across a deep chasm. Some even got to visit Malvoria and learn from the Masters of the art.

But that opportunity was not open to the sons of Caretakers. They had to learn second hand from a hologram tutor that could not correct their mistakes or tell them when they weren’t pushing themselves hard enough to truly advance in the discipline.

“Relax your muscles as you fall,” he called out to one of them. “Do you want to shatter all of your bones? That would happen if you didn’t have a soft landing.”

The youngsters all turned and looked at the man who had come into their midst. They, like their elders, saw in him the marks of aristocracy and immediately bowed in obeisance to him.

“Stand up,” he said. “I don’t come to make you grovel. I come to show you how to be Lords in your own right.”

“Lords?” The boys echoed the word. “We can’t be Time Lords. We are Caretakers. Only the sons of Oldbloods and Newbloods get to transcend.”

“I didn’t say you would be Time Lords. Those fools with near infinite power and no imagination to do anything with it are a waste of effort. I offer you a chance to be Lords and Masters of a new land where men will bow to you - if you have the courage and the intelligence.”

“Sir… who are you?” One of the boys asked the question they knew they probably should have asked first.

“I am known as Lord Glasson,” he replied. “Though among you I might tell a secret never told to any man before. I am not of noble birth at all. I took the name from a young and foolish Newblood who died offworld more than a thousand years ago. I was his aide. My father had been his father’s servant, but both were dead. He had inherited a house and land and some investments in offworld mines that he thought he might manage. He didn’t reckon on a peasant uprising in which the overlords of that world were put to the sword. As a servant I was spared but I took his personal effects and travelled for a while under his name before coming back to Gallifrey and claiming ‘my’ inheritance.”

It was a long story but he held the youths spellbound by it. They could scarcely believe that this man with the bearing of an aristocrat had come from the same Caretaker stock as they did.

“But that means you are not….”

Every one of the youths dreamt of what was impossible to them – becoming Time Lords, the elite of the elite, a prince of the universe. They knew it was impossible. That door was closed to them already.

“Who needs those age old rituals and rites? I am already four thousand years old. I have regenerated twice. I never went to one of their academies. I never ‘transcended’ in the way they define it. But I have all the power of a Time Lord. And I can offer it to you.”

“How?” One of the boys asked.

“I know a secret the High Council would want to keep hidden – even from other Time Lords – a way to return to when this world was young, when pure Artron energy could be breathed in with the air, invigorating the body and soul. Those who return with me can be masters of the primitive people who live there. We can be patriarchs of a new Gallifreyan society free of a hierarchy that seeks to restrain you from your true potential.”

“You mean… the time before Rassilon, before he created the Time Lords?”

“Indeed, that is just what I mean.”

“There were no cities then. People lived in tribes, on the land.”


“There were no books.”

“We will write the books. We will build the cities. What they call civilisation is within our grasp if we have the courage to take it.”

The boys looked at each other. What he was telling them sounded wondrous. It sounded like a dream come true for them.

It sounded too good to be true.

“Why do you need us?” they asked. “Why not be master of the people that are there already?”

“They are too primitive, and they lack ambition. They see no further than the next leonate hunt, the next harvest, the ripening of fruit. Besides, the tribes are too small. They will be dangerously inbred in another two or three generations. There is need for new blood to mix with theirs – our advanced intelligence and their strength – our children could be gods.”

“I never wanted to be the father of gods,” said a boy. “My father is a skilled goldsmith. I am his apprentice. I expect to teach the skills to my own children in turn. That is ambition within my grasp. I would have liked to have gone to the Arcalian Academy. I worked towards the entrance examination. But the fees were too high.”

“What is this one’s name?” the man who called himself Lord Glasson asked of the others.

“Goran Amaat,” one of the others said.

“Goran Amaat, goldsmith to the rich, fashioning trinkets from gold that doesn’t belong to you for those who own the mines that other men dug the ore out of. Is that really all you want to be?”

“It is an honest ambition,” Goran answered, standing proudly and looking Glasson in the eye. “Sir, what you suggest – if it is real and not some tale spun to make fools of us, is not only Treason, but possibly the undoing of our whole world. We won’t listen to any more of this.”

The others looked at him. He was one of the smallest among them. Puberty lasted for some fifty or sixty years in Gallifreyan boys and for the late starters it often seemed as if they would always be catching up with taller, stronger friends whose voices had broken and their limbs lengthened and strengthened.

Goran, who was one of those who hadn’t caught up, could have been regarded as the least among his peers if they hadn’t grasped one concept from the martial arts they were learning – the level playing field. Goran’s slight body, his skinny limbs, could bring down one of his taller friends, and he often did. He was equal to them on the practice mat, and he stood before the stranger with his great but terrifying ideas and spoke for them all now that the thrall he had held for a while was broken.

“No,” he said again. “You cannot tempt us with promises of greatness. You, by your own admittance are a fraud and a liar. Why should we believe anything else you say?”

The others agreed with Goran, murmuring loudly against the Treason uttered by this stranger.

“Quite right,” said a strong voice from behind Lord Glasson. It was the Castellan himself. His Chancellery Guard poured into the hall, their weapons at the ready. “Take this man,” he ordered. “We will have him repeat his lies and his treasonable ideas in a formal confession.”

“One of you betrayed me!” Glasson cried angrily at the boys. “I offered you greatness and you ran to the guards.”

“These youngsters did nothing of the sort,” The Castellan responded. “Word that you had returned to the Capitol reached my office several days ago. You were meant to be arrested on sight, but the Lord High President changed his mind on that and ordered surveillance instead. He used the expression ‘give him enough rope to hang himself’, though I think that must be an offworld expression since the penalty for Treason is atomisation.”

Glasson was taken away. The guards left the hall. Castellan Braxietel waited a little longer. He looked at the worried young faces around him.

“Go to your homes, boys. Do not worry. No blame is attached to any of you. Tell your parents what you feel you must tell them about this incident.”

“Was there any truth in what he told us?” one of the boys asked. “Could he really take us to the time before Rassilon?”

“No, son,” the Castellan answered. “That was another of his lies. Such a thing is impossible even for a senior Time Lord. He just sought to promulgate rebellion among the Caretaker youth. Think no more of it, any of you.”

With that, he went on his way. The boys drifted to their homes, to tell their families of their part in the curious drama that had brought the Chancellery Guard into the Yardages.

The Castellan reported the whole affair directly to the Lord High President. He thought over what had occurred. Later it may well fall to him to sanction a death warrant against Glasson – or whatever his true name might turn out to be. But not until after a trial had been carried out. There was a more immediate matter concerning him.

He discussed his concern with his wife, first of all, over dinner.

Later he talked to some other people.

A week later the boys from the Yardages were summoned to the Citadel, the great building in the centre of the Capitol that housed the Panopticon, the seat of the High Council of Gallifrey. They came nervously, wearing their best clothes and wondering if, after all, some punishment was going to be meted out to them.

They were taken to the Panopticon itself and told to sit in the seats usually occupied by the ordinary councillors when they debated points of law. They held their breaths in awe when the Lord High President himself came into the Panopticon. They started to rise in order to bow, but he told them not to.

“You only need to bow when I am wearing the Sash of Rassilon,” he said. He was wearing a plain red robe with a cloak of black with silver fastenings and no formal headdress, and he surprised them all by sitting on an ordinary chair among them.

“Which one of you is Goran Amaat?” he asked. The small boy hesitantly identified himself. “You are the one who gave voice to what all of you were thinking. I wonder if you have given the matter further thought to why Glasson’s ideas were so treasonable.”

“He said we would go back to before Rassilon and build cities – found a civilisation. If that COULD happen – then the cities we know would not be built. THIS civilisation would not be founded. Perhaps Rassilon himself would not be born. And if so, we might not be born. Which means we could not go back there and DO what he wanted. It’s a… a….”

“It’s called the Grandfather Paradox, but on a much bigger scale than those who named it imagined,” the Lord High President told the boys. “And that is exactly why travelling into Gallifrey’s past is forbidden even to the greatest of our kind. It is why barriers and protocols are in place to prevent any Renegade Time Lord from trying it.”

“So Glasson WAS lying to us?” the boys asked.

“Yes, he was. But I know he wasn’t lying in one respect. You Caretakers ARE denied the chance to achieve ambitions open to the higher classes of our society – including the highest ambition of all, to be a Time Lord. We made it a strict rule that transcension is only open to graduates from our five academies and made that a difficult and expensive thing to do, effectively closing the gates to you.”

“Sir,” one of the other boys said. “We make no complaint about that.”

“Then you should. It is an outrage. It is time something was done. And it will be. Do you know of the Arcalian school in the Red Desert?”

“Yes,” they said. “It is… a place of punishment.”

“It was originally envisaged as such a place. But the young Arcalians who went there are now shaping up to be the finest young Gallifreyans we could hope for. They are destined for greatness and the Chancellor of the Arcalian Academy is inundated with requests from fathers who want their sons to learn among the elite in the desert school.”

The boys took in that fact philosophically, and wondering just what it had to do with them.

“I have advised the Chancellor to refuse those requests up until now, but exceptions might be made. A bursary is to be available for Caretaker boys who pass a special entrance examination. Yes, I know. You’re not ready for an examination. The fund includes private tuition to prepare those interested in the scholarship. Those who pass will go to the desert school and learn alongside those high achievers who are envied by other students who merely study in our beautiful and ancient ivory towers of education. And it is my belief that the first wave of scholarship boys ought to include those who had the strength of mind to reject the temptations of a Traitor and Renegade and thus proved themselves true sons of Gallifrey.”

Almost all of the boys signalled their interest in the plan. The only one who didn’t was Goran Amaat. The Lord High President asked him why.

“I enjoy learning the craft of a goldsmith in my father’s workshop,” he said. “That is enough ambition for me.”

“Then good fortune to you in that, my boy,” The Lord High President told him. “Rassilon’s blessing on you and your heirs, goldsmiths of Gallifrey.”