Marion sat in what she had known for the past six years as Kristoph's office. In a little more than an hour it would not be that any more. It would still be the Lord High President's inner chamber as it was properly known, but that title would be held by another Time Lord.

Kristoph was getting dressed for the official ceremony of resignation. He had already donned the heavy white linen robe with gold and silver embroidery making the fabric stiff and unwieldy. The elaborate high collar and jewelled skull cap came next. It took some time to get the collar sitting properly on his shoulders. He was annoyed about that and spoke sharply to his attendant.

"Fetch the Sash," he demanded brusquely once the collar was finally in place. The man scurried away. Kristoph turned to Marion and sighed deeply.

"At least this is the last time I have to wear that annoying object," he said.

His detestation for the artefact known as the Sash of Rassilon was something he kept from his fellow High Councillors, but Marion had heard him grumble about it more than once. The 'Sash' was made of two dozen pieces of solid gold and was ludicrously heavy. It was also a thoroughly ugly piece of official regalia. Marion had often expressed the opinion that any ordinary lord mayor of an English town had better chains of office.

But the Sash of Rassilon was more than a mere chain of office. It was, so legend told, one of the actual relics of Rassilon himself. The creator of the Time Lords had worn it. He had also carried the obsidian sceptre called - with a completely straight face - the Rod of Rassilon.

Rassilon must have been a broad-shouldered and strong-backed man, Marion had often thought.

Kristoph was broad shouldered and strong-backed, and for all of his grumbles, and whatever the ascetic problems of the regalia, when he wore the Sash and carried the Rod he looked splendidly presidential. More than that. When he stood there with the gold segments glinting in the artificial light he looked like a god. Marion felt a slight tinge of regret that he would not look like that again once he passed the honour and the burden of the presidency to his successor.

But he had decided to resign and she supported him in that decision.

"You look magnificent as ever," she told him. "You will still be magnificent when you aren't president."

"Are you sure you don't want to watch from the gallery?" he asked.

"No, I'll wait here where it is quiet and watch on the public broadcast."

"The official caretakers will be along to pack up my personal effects, but it is still my office until the new man and I return here later."

"Yes," Marion acknowledged. "I was watching the Public Broadcast earlier. There is still a lot of speculation about who your successor is. Everyone is expecting you to name another Prydonian."

"Everyone should realise I never do the obvious thing. I think my decision will surprise a lot of them."

"I don't know why it is meant to be a secret."

"We don't have presidential elections on Gallifrey with all the hype and excitement. We have to have some element of political intrigue."

Marion was sure that wasn't the reason at all, but there was no time to discuss the matter. Gold Usher was there with a phalanx of the Presidential Guard to escort Kristoph to the Panopticon. Marion kissed him briefly, taking care not to dislodge the traditional make-up worn by High Councillors on formal occasions. Kristoph turned and let himself be escorted with as much pomp and ceremony as Gold Usher could muster.

Marion was left alone in the quiet chamber. She switched on the screen where the scene inside the Panopticon was being broadcast. It took a few minutes for Kristoph to get there. Until then the commentator again speculated about the possible candidates. She noted that he was completely wrong.

Kristoph’s entrance into the Panopticon silenced the commentator’s rather pointless prattle, especially as he was accompanied by a loud fanfare played on a Gallifreyan grand organ - an instrument that created such a tremendously vibrant sound that Marion was sure it ought to be audible all around the Citadel even without the public broadcast.

As the strains of the Presidential March rose to a crescendo the wife of the man Kristoph was about to announce as the next Lord High President slipped into the chamber and quietly sat down next to Marion. Neither spoke. It wasn't a tine for conversation. They watched the broadcast as solemnly as anyone inside the Panopticon. They even stood respectfully for the anthem.

There were, of course, some ceremonial rituals to go through. It would not be a Gallifreyan Presidential Resignation without at least one. First, Gold Usher led Kristoph on a meandering promenade at a very slow speed all around the Panopticon floor and up and around the rows of assembled councillors, high and low, all seated according to their Chapters. Prydonian scarlet certainly dominated, but that was not because of any favouritism. Prydonians seemed more politically ambitious and many more of them entered that realm of public duty than other Chapters. The revenue department, it might be pointed out, was almost exclusively Patrexean and Arcalians dominated the security divisions.

Kristoph came back at last to the hexagonal dais where the Lord High President sat during the sessions of the High Council – on the great Throne of Rassilon, of course. He did not sit this time, but stood, bearing the great weight of the Sash and all of the regalia of office upon his shoulders. There was a hush that almost echoed in the great chamber. He paused for a long time, his gaze fixed upon the Seal of Rassilon at his feet, then he looked up and addressed the assembled Time Lords.

"My Lords, I shall be announcing in a very short time my successor as Lord High President of the High Council of Gallifrey. Before I put an end to the speculation that has reached fever pitch in these past weeks I wish to say a few words on a subject that ought to be closest to the hearts of every citizen of Gallifrey, but especially those of us with the privilege of being called Time Lord, and particularly those Time Lords who sit in this great chamber.”

He paused for dramatic effect before revealing his most important subject.

“I speak of honour. The honour of a Time Lord is a precious thing. It is above the price of diamonds. It is – like a diamond - inviolate. It cannot be broken easily and cannot be given away cheaply. It should not be sullied by shallow and debased actions.”

Again he paused. The public broadcast camera swept around the Panopticon focussing on the faces of men who did not dare look anything but fully concentrated upon his words.

“Yet in my short tine as Lord High President I have witnessed acts of despicable treason that have shocked our society to the core. The culprits in those cases have been dealt with as they should. But as well as the great acts of treason, Gallifrey is bedevilled by another kind of dishonour, by acts so shabby, petty and deplorable that it is a wonder any Gallifreyan can even hold up his head and speak of the honour of a Time Lord. Indeed, the very idea of Time Lord honour has begun to have the hallmarks of a very bad joke. It is time that the joke stopped being told. It is time that honour became – once more - the touchstone of a Time Lord - not just in name but in deed. The shabby and the petty must not tarnish what it means to BE a Time Lord of Gallifrey as it has for far too long."

He stopped speaking once more, this time for longer than a dramatic pause. There was a silence that deafened once again. The Panopticon was not a place for spontaneous applause, but even if it were, those present would be too puzzled about whether they were guilty of the shabby and petty dishonour Kristoph had spoken of. Perhaps some of them were thinking of offworld bank accounts they had not declared to the Revenue or some small corruption, a favouritism or a deal brokered behind closed doors that wasn't quite illegal but not exactly honest, either.

Kristoph's words implied that very few Time Lords were blameless. All of them had to look into their own souls and root out the shabby, the petty, the dishonourable before they could hold up their heads and claim to be above all of that.

"My nominee to follow me into the august and worthy role of Lord High President is a man who shares my views about Time Lord honour. He does not share my views on many other issues, but in that one point we are united, so I am confident that honour, if nothing else, will prevail in our great society under his leadership. And if that is so, I shall be satisfied."

He paused again and looked directly at the public broadcast camera as he continued.

"I name Malika Dúccesci as Lord High President elect."

There were surprised gasps around the Panopticon and the public broadcast commentator attempted to analyse the Lord High President's reasons for such a choice. Marion turned down the volume on the annoying voice.

"He's laid down a challenge for Malika's presidency," she said as Lord Dúccesci was escorted to the dais and for a brief time Gallifrey had two presidents.

"It is a challenge he is happy to accept," Talitha Dúccesci answered. "He dislikes the underlying corruption as much as Kristoph does. He will root it out with a vengeance."

"He's a good choice - and not a Prydonian.”

"As if that mattered," Talitha responded scornfully. On the silent screen a ceremony of divestiture saw Kristoph surrender the Rod and Sash of Rassilon. Dúccesci would accept them in his turn in a few days time amidst as much pomp and ceremony as possible. But from the moment Kristoph gave up the Sash he was no longer Lord High President.

At that moment the men arrived to move Kristoph's belongings from the chamber. They did so quietly and quickly. Marion and Talitha watched and waited quietly while it was done and the men withdrew.

Talitha quietly approached the now nearly empty desk. She placed a small object on it - a paperweight made of polished obsidian etched in silver with the family crest of Dúccesci - a stylised leonate under the constellation of Urbis.

"It belonged to his father," Talitha explained. "It sat on his desk since Malika was a boy. He once took it to use in a game and there was uproar in the house. It was thought that a servant had stolen it. In the midst of the accusations Malika came to his father and admitted his 'crime'. A sound thrashing was threatened at first, but he was so contrite that his father forgave him on the spot."

"Like George Washington and the cherry tree," Marion commented. Talitha didn’t understand the reference, but the analogy and the precedence was there. Kristoph had chosen a successor who held honesty in high regard and admitted his own faults readily. He was the man Gallifrey needed to reclaim its honour.

A little time after that the former president and the Lord High President Elect came into the chamber. The Premier Cardinal and Gold Usher tried to follow, but Malika dismissed them all before sitting at the Lord High President's desk. He touched the obsidian paperweight and gave a deep, deep sigh.

"Do you really think I can do this?" he asked.

"You can," Kristoph assured him. "You rose to the occasion during the quarantine crisis. You can do it again. Just never doubt your own convictions - and make sure you have a secretary out there in the ante chamber who can say no to Gold Usher and the Premier Cardinal for those times when you don’t want to speak to either of them.” He looked at the two women and winked. “You might even ask him to keep your wife out on the same basis.”

“I wouldn’t dare,” Malika answered with a laugh.

“I never dared, either,” Kristoph responded before being serious again. “Keep honour as your touchstone, as I said in my resignation speech. With that you cannot go wrong – or if you appear to do so it is only in the minds of other men.”

"I will do that," Malika vowed. "Now, as my first act as Lord High President, I invite you and Marion to take a quiet dinner at my town house at which no politics will be discussed at all.”