Penne looked down the length of the gun pointed at his face to the eyes of the man who pointed it at him. They were Gallifreyan eyes, with no tear ducts. Penne lived among Humans with tear ducts, but his own eyes were Gallifreyan. He understood the difference.
He understood what was happening here.
A coup, rebellion, whatever the word, it certainly wasn’t that concept Chrístõ called democracy.
“Chrístõ!” he reached out in his mind and found that of his Doppelganger. He wasn’t sure if the people involved in the coup were telepathic, if they could read his mind.
He spoke in Andanan. He had been aware since he arrived on Gallifrey that he had been hearing both High and Low Gallifreyan translated to his native language by the psychic resonance of Chrístõ’s TARDIS. But Andanan was not a language most Gallifreyans would know. Chrístõ was an exception. He had studied languages. He would understand him but any Gallifreyan terrorist listening in to them would not.
“Yes,” Chrístõ replied in the same language. “Penne… what’s wrong?”
“Barricade the door,” he told him. “Lock yourself and your team into the operating theatre. Stay there until I come for you.”
“What’s wrong?” Chrístõ asked. “I’m still operating. I’m going to be at least an hour.”
“I don’t know exactly,” he answered. “But there are five men with guns holding me and the ladies prisoner…. Along with my security detail.”
“Sorry sir,” Major Ruana Beccan said to her king-emperor and commander-in-chief as he broke connection with Chrístõ and turned to her. “If we had our weapons it might have been a different matter. But as it was…”
“The Chancellery Guard disarmed them.” He was surprised to hear Valena address him telepathically in the language he recognised as Earth English. “Does that mean they’re in on this? Is it a military coup?”
“I don’t know,” Penne answered her.
He didn’t know what to do. He looked around. Natalie and Julia hugged each other fearfully. Cirena and Valena were both sitting very primly, looking, outwardly, as if they were unconcerned by what was happening, though he knew they were both frightened. His Guardia Real were also calm. He turned and looked at the people who were holding the guns on him. As he did his eye caught the clock on the wall. No more than five minutes had passed since this began.
Chrístõ had to be calm. If he wasn’t he could make a mistake. And he couldn’t afford to do that. Very calmly he told the head nurse to go and lock and bolt the door. He told another nurse to take his sonic screwdriver from where he had left it on the instrument table and set it for 1f56‚†65 and apply it to the lock.
“What is that, sir?” the nurse asked.
“Deadlock seal. Nobody will be able to open this door without a code only I know.”
“What’s happening?” the head nurse asked.
“Apparently there is some kind of coup. People are being taken hostage by men with guns. They may want us, too. But they’re not getting us until we’re done here.” Chrístõ continued the work to replace the diseased liver of his baby half-brother. He had already extracted the piece from his father’s body. The nurse had sutured his wound, not that it was needed. His body was capable of regenerating itself. But his father was still in the deep meditative trance he had put himself into in order for him to perform the surgery. He was vulnerable still.
Baby Garrick was even more vulnerable. He had no regenerative capability yet and he was weak from the illness. Whatever was going on out there, it would have to go on without them for the time being.
“Monitor his blood pressure and hearts rate,” Chrístõ said as he prepared to cut out the diseased and failing organ and put in the new, working one. “Make sure his breathing stays steady.”
“All right, little one,” he said telepathically. He knew Garrick’s telepathic functions were not yet active. The child would not hear him, would not recognise who he was and what he was doing for him. But still he reached out to him as he worked.
“So what is this about?” Valena demanded of the gunmen. “Why are you here, threatening innocent people? Frightening people who are GUESTS on our planet? What is the meaning of it?”
“These aliens are to be held here until further notice and then removed from Gallifrey, along with all half bloods and those who associate with half-bloods,” the apparent leader of the group told her. “Gallifrey will be purified of aliens and traitors.”
“I’m not a half-blood,” Valena said. “I am Valena de Lœngbærrow de Arpexia. My late father was Chancellor of the High Council. My husband is a former Lord High President.”
“Your husband is the father of the worst half-blood abomination of all. You and your child will be exiled along with them.”
“I’m not a half-blood, either,” Penne pointed out. “I am a full-blooded Time Lord.”
“YOU are an alien, who will be expelled from this planet when order is established. In the meantime you are prisoners and you will remain here until we have orders for your removal.”
Natalie looked at the man who spoke and then she looked at Penne. She saw his hand by his side. He seemed to be counting down with his fingers. Five… four… and his Guardia Real were watching his hand carefully. She realised what it was about. As his last finger slowly closed she let out a scream that split the air.
It gave the extra distraction they needed. The guards all looked at her, wondering why she was screaming. And in that split second the Guardia Real struck back. Before they had been taken by surprise. This time they were ready with unarmed combat techniques that could disarm without maiming or injuring the subject – or inflicting great pain if they chose.
They chose pain. Moments later the tables were turned. The hostage takers were wounded and sorry prisoners. At a word from Penne two of his people, now armed with guns, went out to raise the alarm at the hospital security. They came back a few minutes later to report that the security guards were all dead, shot with silenced weapons before they could move, and the nursing staff were all locked in the wards with their patients. They did, however, bring handcuffs and leg restraints from the security desk.
“All right,” Penne decided. “The other civilians are safe. Chrístõ… Are you all right?” he added telepathically.
“Somebody is firing at the door,” he answered. “I wish he’d stop. It’s very distracting just as I’m at the really tricky bit.”
“I’m coming to deal with it,” Penne answered. “You stick to what you’re doing.”
“All of you come along,” he said. “Ladies – can you take hold of our prisoners? I don’t need to waste my men on guarding them. Gag them if you please. We don’t want them making any noise.”
Valena took a silk scarf from around her neck and used it to gag her prisoner. The other three similarly found things to keep them quiet. All seemed mutinous but powerless as they were walked in the middle of the group, flanked by civilian women just to add humiliation to their capture. Penne was at the head of the group with Major Beccan and a Captain Norr, while two Lieutenants, Coran and Haffy took up the rear of their small party.
“Where are we going?” Julia asked.
“To get Chrístõ,” Penne replied. “I told him to stay put until I came for him. Two of my people can protect all of you in the operating theatre better than having you split in two areas of the hospital. But it could be dangerous still. When I say drop you all drop on the floor and keep still and don’t worry about getting your nice dresses dirty.” He looked at the prisoners. “You drop with them unless you want your own people shooting at you. And any funny business and you’ll find out just how it is that I rule seven planets by right of conquest.”
Everyone else was well aware that his conquest was largely a matter of luck, not military strength, but it had the right effect on the prisoners.
The sound of gunfire echoed around a corner ahead as they reached the surgical department. Penne raised his hand and signalled everyone to keep quiet. He made the women and their prisoners crouch low against the wall as Lieutenant Haffy went ahead and cautiously looked around the corner. His hand signal indicated that there were five hostiles attempting to break down the door to the operating theatre. Penne and Major Beccan made their guns ready and joined Haffy. As they rounded the corner they opened fire.
There was a silence then Lieutenant Haffy returned and signalled that it was safe for the rest of the party to move forward. As they came around the corner they saw five dead men and Penne knocking on the bullet marked door to the operating theatre and telling Chrístõ he could unlock it now.
“Told you I’d come and get you,” he said as he stepped inside. Two of his people guarded the door as the others came in. Valena pushed her prisoner down onto the floor with the others and then went to her husband. He was still unconscious but his operation scar was rapidly mending. She looked at Chrístõ as he ignored the distraction and completed the transplant operation.
“I think he’s going to be all right, Valena,” he said without looking up. “The new liver is already functioning. I’m just closing the wound. But he’ll need careful looking after. He’s still weak and this operation was hard on him. We just have to wait a few more hours to be sure he’s going to pull through.”
“You’ve got nothing else to do BUT wait,” Penne told him. “I’m going to lock this door again. Two of my people can guard the outside until we’ve sorted this out.”
“Let me come with you,” Valena said. “I’m the only Gallifreyan born pure blood here apart from my husband. You need somebody with that authority. Otherwise YOU represent nothing more than a foreign counter-invasion.”
“I thought you’d want to be with your husband and baby?” Penne told her.
“There’s nothing I can do for either of them,” she said. “I don’t want to do any more waiting. My WORLD is in trouble as well as my family. If there is nothing I can do for one let me help the other.”
Chrístõ glanced up momentarily at Valena. She could be surprising at times. With her upbringing she ought to be a useless snob, good at putting on dinner parties and looking attractive at them. Then again, come to think of it, when did the arrogant lecher that was the Lord of Adano Menor turn into the leader of an empire respected across a galaxy? People so often had hidden depths.
“Take her,” he told Penne. “She’s got a point.”
“Where are we going next anyway?” she asked as they moved quickly through the hospital, ensuring there were no more terrorists and liberating the staff and patients locked in the wards.
“The Chancellery Guard,” Penne answered. “The ones who were so enthusiastic about disarming my people. I’m going to find out where they stand in this.”
“You think they’re traitors?” Valena asked. “Surely not. They are chosen for their demonstrable loyalty to Gallifrey. They are our elite guard.”
There were several replies to that from the Guardia Real but they were all in Adanan and Valena didn’t quite catch the words. The tone was unmistakeable, though. They indicated a lack of confidence in the elite guard of Gallifrey.
“We are a peaceful people,” Valena said. “We don’t have any need for more than a small army. The Transduction Barrier protects us from invasion and our people are content.”
“Doesn’t look it,” Penne told her. “Those people we fought were Gallifreyan.”
“How come they died so easily then?” Major Beccan asked. “Begging your pardon, your majesty, but I’ve seen you injured and your body simply mends. But these died.”
“We aimed for the head,” Penne explained. “Sammie taught me that. A ‘double tap’ to the brain kills Gallifreyans just as easily as any other creature. So now you know what to aim for. And don’t hesitate.”
The Chancellery Guard house was disturbingly quiet. Penne ordered Valena to drop back as they entered the building that should have had over two hundred men in it by her estimate.
“Found one,” Lieutenant Coran said quietly as he spotted a pair of legs in high polished boots sticking out from behind the reception desk. Four more dead men lay barely concealed there, their hands on their holsters.
“Double tap,” he observed without obvious emotion. “But where are the rest?”
“This seems to be the work of a small unit, possibly the same one that attacked us at the hospital. They seem to like locking people up.” Penne thought about it for a moment. “Holding cells are below,” he said, pointing to a turbo lift.
“You sure?” Beccan asked then remembered their not so friendly welcome to Gallifrey. “Ah, good point.”
A turbo lift was a handy trap, too, of course. And none of them were that stupid.
“I’m sorry about this,” Penne told Valena as she crouched on top of the lift cage with the rest of them. “That dress really WASN’T made for this sort of thing.”
“It will mend,” she said smiling bravely despite her obvious terror. “So will I. We Arpexias are JUST as tough as the Lœngbærrows you know. Or the…” she looked at him for a long moment. “The Dúres.”
He smiled at her and wondered why it was that Chrístõ always seemed at odds with his stepmother. She was a far more understanding woman than he expected.
“We’re there,” he said. “Get ready.”
The lift stopped. The door automatically opened. Even before it was fully extended automatic gunfire strafed the back wall and continued for a full ten or twenty seconds before the gunmen realised they were just wasting ammunition. As soon as they stopped Lieutenant Coran dropped down through the access panel in the roof. He crouched low and opened fire with his own and Major Beccan’s weapon, one in each hand. Thirty seconds later he signalled and the Major dropped down beside him, taking back her own gun. The two of them stepped cautiously out of the lift and there were more sounds of gunfire as they cleared the immediate area of hostiles.
“How do they manage to do that for a way of life?” Valena asked Penne as they awaited the all clear signal. She had tried not to flinch at the sound and sight of sudden, violent death, but it went against everything her world stood for. She wondered about Penne, the young man with her stepson’s face whose life had been so very different from Chrístõ’s. She didn’t think killing came naturally to him, either, despite all those dreadful stories about his parents. He did what he had to do for them all. Most especially for her husband who he clearly loved like a father.
“They’re good people,” was all he said in answer to her question. “I trust them.” She nodded. It was as good an answer as any. She trusted him, too, when he held out his hand to lower her down into the lift before dropping beside her. He took her hand again as they picked their way around the bodies of the dead insurgents.
“Where are the guards?” he asked as he caught up with the Major and Lieutenant.
“In the cells,” Lieutenant Coran said. Penne ran to the first one and broke the lock with a single shot from his weapon. He pushed the door open and the men packed inside shrank back from another stranger with a gun.
“I’m Penne Dúre, king-emperor of Adano-Ambrado,” he told them. “You can call me sir.”
“A foreigner?” The expressions on the faces of the men were suspicious.
“Yes, he is,” Valena stepped beside him. “But I’m not. I am Valena De Lœngbærrow de Arpexia. In the absence of the High Council my husband is next in seniority in our government. In his absence I stand as your authority. You will do as I say.”
“Yes, ma’am,” a young looking NCO stood up a little straighter as he answered her for them all. “What do you wish us to do?”
“Obey every command given to you by the king-emperor of Adano Ambrado,” she replied and stepped back to let Penne take over.
“Get the rest of your people out of here, get yourselves fully armed and muster in your briefing hall in five minutes.” Penne said, grateful for Valena’s intervention not only for establishing his command, but also for giving him thirty seconds to work out what he SHOULD do with these men. “And leave those stupid looking ornamental tunics off,” he added. “I’ve got no time for toy soldiers. I need the real thing.”
“ARE the High Council absent?” Penne asked Valena as they made their way to the briefing hall.
“Yes,” she said. “I’ve been trying to contact my brother-in-law – The Chancellor – telepathically. I’ve got a cousin on the Council, too. I can’t get either of them. They’re either dead or they’re hostages, too.”
“What IS going on?” Penne wondered. Major Beccan looked at the communications viewscreen in the briefing hall and switched it on. Penne and Valena both looked startled as they saw what was obviously a recorded and continuously looped video address from none other than…
Valena stepped closer to the screen as she listened to him declare a successful takeover of the government. He claimed that he had prorogued the High Council by their unanimous vote…
“Unanimous vote?” Penne laughed hollowly. “I doubt that.”
Ravenswode went on to announce measures aimed at making Gallifrey a homeworld for pure Gallifreyans, free of outside interference, free of alien influences and tainted blood.
“We used to have people who talked like that on Ambrado,” Lieutenant Coran said. “They wanted to ban intermarriage with Adano.”
“Yes,” Penne sighed. “Chrístõ’s friend, Terry, once told me that on Earth it's about skin colour. Seems like people have these obsessions all over the universe. But… successful? Not yet he isn’t. His force is only small. He managed to infiltrate the city. Took out the guard - though that wasn’t difficult to do, took the High Council hostage – they dealt with us because as Valena said her husband was the next in line in authority. But he hardly has a complete victory.”
“Oh, my!” Valena cried softly as the pieces came together in her mind. “Penne… I think you were brought here as a diversion. The inquiry – it was to get the whole council together. This was the first time there has been a full meeting of them in years. Usually they meet in small committees…”
“I’m no pawn in a game,” Penne answered her with a cold expression in his eyes that made Valena shiver as she looked at him. “The things he said about me – and about Lord De Lœngbærrow…. All that just for a DIVERSION…. When I get hold of him…”
He turned and saw the Chancellery Guards pouring into the hall as he ordered them to do. He took a deep breath and held in his anger. Right now he needed to be in control of himself if he hoped to control these men.
“There are no commissioned officers here,” Major Beccan pointed out to him. And she was right. He looked at the assembled guards and asked the nearest NCO where their commanders were.
“Sir,” the man told him. “They’re all dead. The ones who did this… they picked out the officers and took them… we found the room… All of them shot…”
“Ok,” Penne decided. “Then we’re going to have to be your officers. Six sections. The first will go with Madame De Lœngbærrow to secure the hospital. Madame, when you get there, ask my men to meet us at the Panopticon to take over command of two sections of the main assault while you take care of your family once more.” He took Valena’s hand quickly as the sections got ready to move out. “Give my love to Cirena, and tell Chrístõ….” He didn’t quite know WHAT to tell Chrístõ. But Valena smiled and squeezed his hand. She understood. She turned and left with the guards.
He turned to the others as the Major and Lieutenant organised them. “I’m going on the assumption that the High Council are still in the Panopticon. These insurgents seem to prefer to keep people where they are and that’s where the High Council are.”
“There are secret passages into the Panopticon,” one of the Chancellery Guard told him. “We use them for security operations. One comes out in the balcony. Another by the president’s chair.”
“Ok, that could be useful,” he said.
“There’s a curfew in force. It’s just been announced.”
“Even better. That means there won’t be any civilians to get hurt, but we may run into hostile patrols.”
They ran into hostile patrols twice before they reached the Panopticon, the largest building in the Capitol, the seat of the government, the home of the rather mysterious source of power that Chrístõ called the Matrix, and the control centre for the Transduction Barrier that protected Gallifrey.
The Chancellery guard took some casualties. But they had never expected to be unscathed and the hostiles came off the worst as the main bulk of the guard reached the great centre of Gallifreyan society housed in an imposing Hexagonal building in the centre of the city. Its main advantage from their point of view, Penne noted, was that it did not have any windows and the roof rose to a steep-sided point. There was nowhere to mount a lookout or for snipers to dig in. He consulted with the local people who knew the layout of the building and then sent two sections to secure the main door and the emergency side exit while two sections went to find the two secret entrances and get into position.
“All right,” Penne added to the two sections that remained. “You know what to do. He co-ordinated by radio with his officers and confirmed that they were all ready to take up their first positions within the building . “Ok, all units, go.”
It worked like clockwork. Penne felt a surge of pride not only in his own Adano-Ambrado people, but the Gallifreyans, too.
“Why are you doing this, sir?” one of the guards asked as they moved swiftly through the corridor towards the Panopticon itself. “You… you’re a king of another planet entirely. What do you care about what happens to Gallifrey?”
“A very good man taught me not to be a selfish git. And I care what happens to his planet. Lord Ravenswode wants it to be a military dictatorship. He wants to throw out all aliens and half bloods and anyone who doesn’t toe the line. The way of life you lot serve and protect will be gone. It might not make a lot of difference to me, but it would make a difference to my friends. So that’s what I’m doing it for.”
His speech seemed to rally the men to him. As they approached the Panopticon they obeyed his instructions quickly and without question. Over the headsets he learnt that everyone was in position and he gave the order to attack. Two of his section went forward to fling open the main doors at the same moment that stun grenades were thrown down from the balcony sections who were already in position. Gunfire from the balcony took out the hostile guards at the door and gave them a clear way through. Hostages and hostage takers alike were disorientated by the after effects of the stun grenades. They took careful aim, making sure they killed only the terrorists.
It took no more than a minute. Five minutes more and he had confirmation that all hostiles were neutralised and the building secure under their control.
“You’re safe now,” he said to the Lord High President as he slowly rose from the ground and looked about him at the devastation. The Chancellor rose too and stared at Penne.
“No,” he replied. “Penne Dúre.”
“But…” The Chancellor stared as one of the Chancellery Guard, who he was technically in command of, came to Penne with a message. “But you can’t… you’re a foreigner…”
“I thought the point of my being here was to prove that I’m a Gallifreyan,” he replied dryly. “If you would prefer to be ousted by a military dictatorship, then feel free to countermand my orders.”
“No,” the Chancellor said. “That’s…. Is the city under your control?”
“Not yet,” he answered. “I’m just sending out two sections of these men to mop up. But we may have another problem. That message came by runner from the hospital….”
“The child is fine,” Penne told Garrick’s uncle. “So is Lord de Lœngbærrow. The message is from him.” He turned to the messenger and told him to go back and tell the group at the hospital to join them here now the Panopticon was under their control “His Lordship has some disturbing information he got out of the prisoners we took there. This isn’t over yet.”
He turned as another message was delivered to him. “Space Communications centre… where is that?”
“It’s in the same place as the Transduction monitoring centre,” Chancellor Remonte de Lœngbærrow told him. “I’ll show you. But…”
“You’re taking a foreigner to the Transduction Room?” one of the High Council members spoke up in outrage. “What are you thinking of?”
“I’m thinking that we were all facing execution or exile once Ravenswode established his military junta and we owe this young man a great deal already,” the Chancellor answered. “Come on….”
Penne went with the Chancellor. Major Beccan fell into step alongside him, his loyal officer and protector.
“Well?” he asked as he stepped into the room and noted the huge, wallsize viewscreen that showed the planet from a space orbit. Before it was a massive computer control system for the Transduction barrier which no craft could pass through without it being lowered for them from this central control.
There were ordinary communications, too. Penne was very surprised to find that it was his own flagship trying to reach him.
“Your Majesty, we’re an hour away from orbit around Gallifrey,” the captain of the flagship told him. “We understand you have some trouble.”
“Yes, we have,” he said. “But who mobilised you?”
“I did,” Major Beccan admitted. “I sent an emergency subspace code out when you were taken by the Guard yesterday. I didn’t know what was going to happen to you. But I thought a show of strength might help.”
“What use would it be?” The Chancellor asked. “The Transduction Barrier is unbreakable. Without permission to land they could not get through.”
“When they reach Gallifreyan orbit,” Penne told the communications officer. “I want to know about it.” He turned and went back to the Panopticon.
He was relieved when he reached it, to see Chrístõ come into the room with Julia and Natalie. Behind him was The Ambassador and Valena. The Ambassador was walking a little stiffly but was otherwise fine. Valena was carrying a small blanketed bundle very preciously.
“He’s all right?” Penne asked Chrístõ, looking at the child in Valena’s arms.
“He’s going to be fine,” Chrístõ answered. “I believe you’ve taken over command of Gallifrey’s army.”
“Only temporarily,” he said. Then he turned to The Ambassador. “Your Lordship… I understand you have something to tell me.”
“This isn’t over,” The Ambassador said. “This was just the advance guard. Ravenswode has a massive army ready to march on the city.”
“That’s not possible,” The President declared. “Where would he get an army? Granted he might have enough people in his pay to form the militia we have dealt with…” There was a rather significant cough from the Chancellor and he amended his comment. “This young man and his quick action dealt with… Ravenswode must be arrested, of course. I will have his family home placed under guard….”
“I interrogated the men that Penne Dúre and his people captured at the hospital,” The Ambassador continued. “And I probed their memories to ensure I got the truth. You KNOW I am very good at THAT.” There was a significant pause and the two brothers glanced at each other. “Ravenswode has a bunker in the desert. He has massed an army there and the second wave will be coming before this day is out.”
“HOW has he massed an army?” Chancellor Remonte asked. “Has he brought in mercenaries?”
“No,” Chrístõ said. He was examining one of the black clad Ravenswode men that the Chancellery guard had killed. “Clones.”
“WHAT!” The shock of that one word went around the High Council like a seismic tremor. “Has he gone mad?”
“Clearly he has,” The Ambassador answered coolly. “Or he would not have begun this nonsense in the first place.” He shuddered as he recalled what he had seen inside the head of the prisoners. A massive bunker with cloning chambers stacked fifty high, a thousand chambers on each level, with force grown clones trained to understand only two things.
To obey Ravenswode’s orders.
To kill all who opposed his orders.
He was reminded of the time he saw a Sontaran ‘Academy’. Not a school as he knew it, but a place where a million Sontaran ‘hatchlings’ at a time were trained to the only career a Sontaran was born to – their army.
Ravenswode had created his own Sontarans.
Only these had Gallifreyan DNA.
“We’ve got to act fast,” Penne said before he turned and ran back to the communications room, followed by Major Beccan as ever. The Ambassador and the Chancellor followed him. They neither of them knew what he meant to do but he was the only one who had done ANYTHING so far.
“Sir,” the communications officer said as he reached the room. “Your flagship just reached our orbit.”
“Good,” Penne said. “Get the transduction barrier down and let them send down troops. And get my fleet commander online now.”
“You want to admit a foreign army to Gallifrey?” Chancellor Remonte was startled by the concept. “No. Gallifrey is a peaceful planet. We do not…. I thank you for your help, but this is a step too far.”
“Gallifrey will be nothing unless you accept my help,” Penne retorted. “As it is, the flagship only has a limited number of troops.” He turned as his fleet commander came on screen. “Admiral Nillim,” he said. “Relay an urgent message to the fleet command. All available ships to come to Gallifrey as soon as possible.”
“It would take up to eight hours to get the fleet here via hyperspace,” Nillim answered him.
“That long?” Penne’s hearts sank. “They may be our last hope by the time they do get here. But mobilise them now. And stand by ready to land our available troops at….” He turned to the communications officer and asked him for the co-ordinate to bring his people into the city. The officer turned to the Chancellor who sighed and gave his consent to lowering the barrier and allowing Penne’s troops in.
“Get it back up again straight afterwards,” Penne told them. “If word of this attempted coup has got out… if it is known that GALLIFREY is vulnerable….”
“There are plenty of races out there who would see an advantage,” The Ambassador said. “Sontarans….” He added under his breath.
“Be prepared to engage hostiles,” Penne told his flagship. After the ground troops had been deployed they would still have fighters and thermic torpedoes to fight a space battle with. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that, though.
“How big was that clone army?” he asked The Ambassador.
“Bigger than anything we’ve ever seen before,” The Ambassador replied. “I think even with your troops we will be outnumbered. The Chancellery Guard can call up reserves but…”
“Ok,” he turned to the Chancellor. “You and the President must address the citizens. Every able bodied adult must be ready to fight for the Capitol and for Gallifrey.” He looked at Remonte’s face. “FIGHT. Is the word alien to you? If it is, then you are all going to have to become accustomed to it very quickly. Get your children and elderly and vulnerable people into shelter and get everyone else ready. We have no time to waste on niceties.”
The Ambassador was rather surprised to find that HE was counted as one of the vulnerable people. Though he had to admit he felt far from battle-ready. His wounds were healed but his body was drained physically by the operation and he could not, in all honesty say he was mentally ready. He went with his wife and child and the rest of the women to a basement room below the Panopticon where they were assured they would be safe.
They were a scared, worried crowd even if they knew they themselves were protected. Cirena’s reserve of dignity was becoming increasingly stretched with her husband leading a siege army of citizens and soldiers against the oncoming attack. Julia and Natalie were beyond scared. They sat holding each other’s hands as they hoped for Chrístõ’s safety. He was beside Penne in the head of the force. Valena was the only woman with anything to be thankful for. Her husband and child were with her.
“I still can’t believe what Chrístõ did for him,” Valena said as she hugged her baby close to her. “He is a good boy.”
“Not a boy,” The Ambassador corrected her. “He is a man. I should have known that for a long time, but I’ve only now realised it fully. He’s a man, and a better man than I am in so many ways. So is Penne. The two of them…” He stopped. He couldn’t think of it. There was no communication screen here, and the room was far enough down not to hear anything going on above even if the building was bombarded. They would know nothing until somebody told them it was over. They could only hope that whoever came to tell them was on THEIR side.
Chrístõ looked at the computer graphic showing Ravenswode’s clone army ringing the city. Thank Rassilon for the Capitol’s second line of defence. They had always been confident that the Transduction Barrier would protect them from invasion, but even so, the Capitol was protected by a shield that prevented unauthorised craft from flying over it. Except for the few minutes that it was lowered to allow the Adano-Ambrado troop ships to land there was no danger of aerial bombardment. This was a land battle, a fight to keep the army from penetrating the city at ground level.
Even so, the size of the army was frightening. Could they possibly hold out for eight hours until Penne’s fleet arrived? The Chancellery Guard, Penne’s soldiers, and whatever force they could muster from among the citizens of the Capitol.
The Capitol was a seat of government, a place of learning and culture. The majority of its citizens were politicians, teachers, philosophers. They never expected to have to man the walls and fight for their lives.
“And we will get tired long before they do,” Chancellor Remonte said with a deep, resigned sigh as if he knew they were helpless. “Force grown clones…. Take no more than twenty-six hours to be made battle ready. He has an endless supply of men… expendable men. They will fight to the death, because life has no meaning to them.”
“That is why we have always rejected the very concept of cloning,” The President added as he, too, watched the computer display. “Soulless beings controlled by their creator. That is not our way.” He glanced at Penne. “You think us weak. We have power over time and space but we are helpless in the face of an enemy such as this. And you are right. The Time Lords rejected the ways of other men. We do not fight battles. We do not raise armies. We have no fleets of fighters and bombers. We fight no wars. We live in peace.”
“Until your peace is challenged,” Penne replied. “But… this bunker…. This cloning factory… Do we know where it is?”
“We do,” Chancellor Remonte said. “But we can do nothing. It is deep below ground. It is guarded by automatic defences. It is shielded even against TARDIS penetration.”
“Ravenswode thought of everything,” Chrístõ noted grimly. “And nobody noticed that he was doing all of this? Nobody suspected he was a traitor.”
“There were suspicions,” the President admitted. “Ravenswode has been opposed to Gallifrey’s development of external relationships such as those we have with Adano-Ambrado. It goes without saying that he is opposed to interracial marriages. He has tried, twice, to re-enact the ban.”
Chrístõ shivered as he thought of what that would mean. He had promised Julia they would be married in the Panopticon as an aristocrat of Gallifrey. He had promised her that she would be honoured as his wife among Gallifreyan society. If the likes of Ravenswode had their way he would only be able to marry her by becoming a permanent exile from his homeworld.
No. He told himself. Ravenswode was the Renegade. The one who had dishonoured Gallifrey by these actions. HE was on the side of right and so were the High Council. Reluctantly in some cases. But nonetheless, they were all fighting against Ravenswode and his plan to turn Gallifrey into something it never was and could not be.
“You should take a break, sir,” somebody told him. He turned to see a young man in the uniform of the Chancellery Guard.
“I’m all right,” he said. “All I’m doing is monitoring the situation. Those people out there… they’re the ones dying for us.” He looked back at the screen in front of him. He had been staring at it for three hours now. Watching red blips and blue blips winking out. Red were Ravenswode’s clone army. Blue were the defenders of Gallifrey. Every time one blip winked out another soul had died. And despite what the President had said, even the clones had a soul of a sort. They were life. Three hours of watching life reduced to a computer game that he and others in the command centre were playing as they ordered their troops to take up this or that position, to strengthen one side where the enemy was strongest, to send back up to that place.
He was starting to lose his sense of reality. For whole minutes at a time he saw only red and blue blips and measured the battle in terms of how dense those blips were. He forgot that each one of them was a living Gallifreyan, and even if the red blips were just soldiers created with one purpose, every single one of the blue ones was a member of a family with parents, children, people depending on them, who loved them.
“I think I DO need a break,” he said, relinquishing the chair. He turned and left the communications room. Penne followed him as he, too, was relieved for a while. As they made their way down to the basement Penne reached out and clasped his hand. He stopped for a moment and turned to look at his friend.
“When this is over…”
“When it is over, none of us will be the same again,” Chrístõ told him.
“You may be right. But you and I will always be blood brothers. This doesn’t change anything. And… if… if we fail. If you and your father are exiled… you KNOW you will always have a home on Adano-Ambrado.”
“I know that,” he said. But failure was not something he could contemplate. They HAD to win. His world could not go down to something as horrible as Ravenswode planned. It was impossible to contemplate.
When they entered the basement room where their loved ones were waiting there were looks of hope and expectation. They were quickly dashed as Chrístõ explained that the battle still raged.
“I just need a moment,” he said. “I need to remember what this is all about.” He reached out his arms to Julia and she ran to his embrace. “I need to know what I’m fighting for,” he told her. “For OUR future, Julia. And for…” He turned, still holding Julia in his arms. “Valena...” He reached out and she came to him, holding Garrick in her arms. He looked much better now. The yellowness was fading from his skin and his eyes were brighter. “If… If I don’t make it, Garrick will be the heir after all.”
“That…” Valena looked at him. “Chrístõ… I don’t care about that. Once… yes, I did. I wanted my son to be primogeniture. I thought it best…. But I was wrong.”
“Chrístõ,” Natalie, too, came and hugged him tightly. “What ARE you going to do? You’re talking as if…”
“There’s something we have to do. Penne and I. We can’t do it yet. We need the back up from the fleet. But when we do…” He hugged Julia again and clung to Natalie’s hand. “In your timeline I saw us married and happy. But the future is not written in stone. If I don’t make it, my father will look after you. He’ll look after you both. Natalie… if I can’t keep my promises to you… forgive me.”
“There’s nothing TOO forgive,” she told him. “But Chrístõ…”
“Come back safe,” Julia told him. “My Chrístõ.”
He held her for as long as he dared. The girl he loved, who represented the happy future he longed for. He tried to put thoughts of war and fighting out of his mind and imagine the Panopticon above them made ready for a high society wedding, attended by the elite of Gallifreyan society. He imagined Julia, older, a young woman, ready to be his wife, dressed in a pure white satin dress covered in diamonds, taking her place beside him as the President himself conducted their Alliance of Unity.
That was the future that SHOULD be. But that future hung in the balance and he knew there was only one way to swing the balance their way.
And that way meant him RISKING that future.
Until the fleet arrived there was nothing for him to do but watch the monitors, to watch the computer game go on, watch the red blips winking out by the hundreds only to be replaced by hundreds more, to watch the blue ones wink out slower, because the city was well defended by its walls, because they had the higher ground, but when they did wink out they were not replaced. They had less and less able-bodied people the longer this went on.
What was this doing to their world, he wondered. How many of the great Houses would be losing their patriarchs, their heirs right now. How many caretaker families were losing their only breadwinner? What would be left when this was over?
“The fleet is approaching orbit,” Major Beccan informed Penne. “They say they would have been here half an hour sooner, but they had to deal with something called Sontarans on the way.”
“Sontarans?” Penne looked at Chrístõ.
“Ask my father, he knows about them. Meanwhile, let’s get the Transduction Barrier down and get your people down here. Do they know what they have to do?”
“The fighter-bombers are entering the atmosphere now,” Penne told him. “They have the co-ordinates.”
“Ok, let’s go,” Chrístõ said. Penne walked swiftly alongside him to the place where his TARDIS waited. He thought briefly of Julia and his father and hoped to see them both again. If he did this right, he would be back soon and this whole dreadful situation would be over.
“I thought the bunker was protected against TARDIS penetration?” Penne said as he watched Chrístõ dematerialise the ship and set its course.
“It is. But it's a physical barrier, a lead and steel skin. And if your people are on target with their bombardment they should crack it open like a shell. If the physical barrier is even slightly breeched I can get in there.”
“We’re going into a hornets nest.”
“My life was so much simpler before I knew you, Chrístõ. I had a nice, small planet where everyone did as I told them and I spent my days taking long baths with very attractive and scantily clad attendants of both sexes. Now I’m fighting a war for a planet that doesn’t even LIKE me!”
“You’re a better man, Penne.”
“Perhaps I am, but I don’t get so many long baths.”
“Well, you’re a married man now. Frolicking with the servants isn’t appropriate.”
The TARDIS materialised in mid-air as he planned it to do. He was rather proud of the manoeuvre. Mid-air materialisation was not easy and he rarely did it. But this operation called for it.
“Wow!” The TARDIS was shook by the shock-wave as the bunker-busting missiles burrowed themselves into the ground before exploding. At the same time the external defences were blown to smithereens by conventional bombardment. Chrístõ skilfully kept the TARDIS in position and watched the environmental monitor carefully.
“There!” he cried triumphantly. “The shields are penetrated. The TARDIS can read the layout of the whole bunker. Oh…. Sweet mother of chaos…”
“What are THEY?” Penne asked as he viewed what seemed to be a funnel going deep into the ground. A funnel of pale blue blips, all stationary, but all clearly life signs.”
“The next wave of clones,” Chrístõ said. “They outnumber the whole population of the Capitol. What is he thinking of?”
“Conquest?” Penne answered. “Beyond Gallifrey. He wants an empire. Probably mine,” he added.
“He’s not going to get one,” Chrístõ declared. “Stand by.”
The TARDIS could be unpredictable sometimes. He had sometimes materialised thousands of light years from his destination, and in the wrong century entirely. But this time it could not have been more accurate if he tried.
“The power generator for the bunker,” Chrístõ murmured as he stepped outside the TARDIS. “Ionic fusion. Nasty stuff. If it went into overload it would turn this whole place into a crater in seconds. Any living being within it would be vapourised.” As he spoke he used his sonic screwdriver to open up an access panel. “Ok… here we go…”
“Here we go where?” Penne asked as he watched Chrístõ climb into the space behind the panel.
“To the ionic core. I’m going to create an overload. Need your help. That’s why you’re here with me. Not just because you’re a pretty face.”
“It's a fusion core…are we safe…”
“We’ll be all right if we’re not in here more than a minute,” Chrístõ explained. “I reckon thirty seconds is more than enough.”
He straightened himself as he emerged from the access space and looked at the ionic core. The glowing mass within the containment shield LOOKED deadly. If he touched it he would be turned into ionic particles and feed the power generators. But he didn’t have to touch it, only the four levers, two either side of the containment shield.
“Ready,” he whispered to Penne and they snapped the levers up together. They saw the containment shield begin to raise and heard an alarm sound somewhere above warning that an overload was imminent. They were already scrambling back through the access panel and back into the TARDIS.
“35 seconds,” he said. “Slightly slower than I intended. But never mind.”
“How long till the bunker blows up?” Penne asked.
“About five minutes,” he answered. “Time enough to grab Ravenswode and get him back to the Capitol.”
“Grab Ravenswode?” Penne looked at him in astonishment. “But…”
“There he is… the only true Gallifreyan lifeform. You know, for all his talk about half-bloods and impurities, I think he actually used some alien DNA mixed into his clones. Ghikirian, I think. Warrior race.”
“Ok, so he’s a hypocrite as well as a genocidal maniac,” Penne answered him. “But why…”
Chrístõ hushed him while he materialised the TARDIS around Lord Ravenswode’s lifesign. Penne was startled to see, for a brief moment the TARDIS and Ravenswode’s private quarters at the same time. Then they dematerialised again bringing the startled man with them. Chrístõ pressed a switch and a beam emerged from the console and enveloped him. He became very still, like a statue, though Penne, looking at him, thought he could JUST see him breathing.
“Stasis,” Christo explained. “He’ll go to trial. He will either be executed or he will go to Shada, our prison planet, consigned to an eternity in cryogenic hell.” Chrístõ looked at the man. “I’m not sure I care which. But what is worse… his House will be disgraced.”
“You all set such store by the honour of your Houses. Even you, after all that you have seen beyond Gallifrey. Even though you are a half-blood and they despise you.”
“Yes, we do,” Chrístõ said. “I know it's stupid, snobbish, backwards, even. But yes, we do. That’s why you came as such a shock to them. The last of the House of Ixion.”
“Damn the House of Ixion,” Penne said. “I DON’T care about it. I’m NOT Gallifreyan.”
“I know,” Chrístõ answered him quietly.
He materialised the TARDIS inside the communications centre. His father and Uncle Remonte were both there as he and Penne stepped out.
“You did it,” The Ambassador said. “We saw it on the monitors a moment ago. The bunker is gone. All the new clone soldiers were evaporated. There’s nothing left but a smoking crater. Penne’s reinforcements are finishing off those that had the city under siege. It’s all over.”
Chrístõ looked at the screen. The red blips were blinking off all over. The blue ones were still there in sufficient numbers to claim it as a victory, though there would be hundreds who would find it a bitter one as they mourned their loved ones.
“That’s the nature of war,” The Ambassador told his son as he embraced him. “This is the first time Gallifreyans have tasted that bitter pill. May it be the last.”
“I need to see Julia,” Chrístõ said. “Can somebody deal with Ravenswode?”
“You took him alive?” Remonte was astonished. “I thought he was vapourised.”
“I thought he should face our justice system,” Chrístõ answered as he and Penne walked out of the communications room. They could hear shouts and cheers of triumph as the news got around that the battle was over. But neither of them cared to celebrate. The last act of the war had been the extinguishing of thousands of lives. Yes, clones, but lives, all the same and Chrístõ knew they would both have to find a way to justify that to their own consciences.
But right now he just wanted to be with Julia and Natalie, and even Valena and Garrick. He wanted his family, the reason he had fought.
Ravenswode’s trial was swift. The verdict was unanimous. He was sentenced to lose all but his last Time Lord life and that to be spent in cryogenic prison on Shada for the next 10,000 years. Chrístõ almost felt sorry for him when he heard the sentence. The atomising chamber was an almost painless and instant death. Cryogenic prison was an eternal torture.
“There was no evidence that any other member of the Ravenswode family was involved in the plot,” Chancellor Remonte told his brother as they watched the disgraced man removed from the Panopticon where the trial had taken place before the full Council and viewed on televideo by the entire population of Gallifrey.
“Then the House of Ravenswode remains,” The Ambassador said. “That is good. The oldblood Houses are the backbone of our society.”
“His brother takes the title of Lord and patriarch,” Remonte added. “His son has chosen exile rather than live here with his father’s disgrace. I’m not sure where he plans to go…”
“As long as it's not Earth,” Chrístõ said pointedly.
“He needn’t look to Adano-Ambrado either,” Penne added.
“You’re leaving Gallifrey now?” Remonte asked him.
“I stayed longer than I planned because I was a material witness at this trial, and also because my people were helping your Chancellery Guard to rebuild themselves after the losses they suffered. But now it is time for my queen and I to return home.”
“I thought you might stay a little longer. There is still the original matter to be resolved. The restoration of the House of Ixion…”
“That was a diversion by Ravenswode to take control of the High Council,” Penne answered. “Nothing more.”
“Nevertheless, you should know that the Council have made a decision. In the light of your own actions they are willing to expunge the shame and restore Ixion with you as its patriarch.”
“No,” he said.
“No?” Chancellor Remonte looked startled. “Young man… do you realise…”
“The correct address is your Majesty,” he said. “I am… please remember…. King-Emperor of a seven planet Hegemony. I am not just a ‘young man’. And I do not wish to belong to the House of Ixion. I belong to the House of Dúre. Accept that name among your own if you wish.”
Chancellor Remonte looked at him for a long, long, tense moment and then bowed low to him.
“The House of Dúre will be honoured among the great Houses of Gallifrey from this day forward,” he said.
“That is satisfactory,” he said. “When I choose to visit here again I hope I shall have some proof of that honour. But meanwhile I shall be returning to my home.” He nodded to the Chancellor and turned and swept out of the Panopticon. Chrístõ and his father followed him. Whatever the High Council thought, they both were of the opinion he had made the right decision.