Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

Mel Bush was carefully monitoring The Doctor’s exercise programme. That is to say she was sitting on a lounge chair drinking a cool glass of orange juice while keeping one eye on a stop watch that was counting down inexorably.

“Five more minutes, Doctor,” she said. “Keep pedalling.”

The Doctor groaned. He was a Lord of Time. Time was a part of his very being. He was born with an innate knowledge of the passage of time. His body clock kept perfect time. It was never fast or slow. Time never flew for him. It never dragged. It was constant.

But five minutes more of this exercise bike was stretching before him like an eternity.

“The TARDIS never had an exercise room before,” he complained. “At least not since the very early years of my first incarnation when I had a martial arts dojo. Why has it got a personal fitness emporium now?”

“Because your body is out of condition, Doctor. You should have kept the dojo. As it is, nothing short of a really intensive daily regime is going to get you back to the optimum level of fitness.”

“I could murder a steak,” he said.

“And a carefully controlled diet,” she added. “No red meat or dairy, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. When you’re done there you can have a nice cold glass of carrot juice to refresh you.”

The Doctor uttered a word that he learnt in a disreputable space dock in his far off youth. Fortunately, Mel didn’t know what it meant.

Then an alarm sounded and in case he was too distracted to notice the penetrating sound the lights flashed on and off, too. The Doctor leapt off the exercise bike more lithely than he should have been able to, considering Mel thought he was so unfit. She hesitated for a few moments before running after him.

“I wish… the TARDIS… had created the exercise… room… a bit closer… to the console room,” Mel gasped, holding a stitch in her side. To her surprise, The Doctor didn’t even look out of breath as he dodged around the console pressing buttons frantically. He did look extremely annoyed. “What is it… what’s the emergency?”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor answered. “We’re under automatic recall… to Gallifrey.”

“Oh no!” Mel groaned. “Oh, Doctor. Don’t tell me they’re going to put you on trial again. I thought that was all over.”

“It can’t be anything to do with that. But an automatic recall… Only in the most desperate times would such an executive command be issued. Gallifrey must be in imminent danger.”

“So they call on you?” Mel laughed harshly. “After the way they treated you the last time… When they need help they call you. I call that a bloody cheek.”

“So do I, in point of fact,” The Doctor told her. “Even so… Gallifrey… my people… I must… I cannot fail to answer her call in her time of need.”

“Well… yes, of course, you must,” Mel agreed. “Yes, of course. What sort of danger do you think it is?”

“Only something very dire. Perhaps the Daleks… our greatest foe. Or perhaps some dastardly betrayal from within. I won’t know until we get there.”

“And how long will that be?”

“Any minute now,” he answered. “There she is… Gallifrey.”

Despite being anxious about the nature of the recall, Mel couldn’t help being curious about The Doctor’s home planet. From space it was a curious sight. It seemed to be mostly red. She couldn’t see any oceans or green places at all.

“Your home world is a desert?” she asked.

“No, not all of it,” The Doctor answered. “It is a very beautiful place on the surface. There is an oxidising effect in the upper atmosphere. It makes the sky yellow-orange by day and burnt brown by night and from space the planet looks like a smouldering ember. But it is far from that. Look…”

He typed at the console. A filter screened out the effect of the oxidised stratosphere. Now Mel could see oceans and landmasses. The northern one was still mostly desert, but the southern continent had mountain ranges from which great rivers flowed over fertile plains.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

“It’s… my home…”

There was something about the way The Doctor said ‘home’ that prompted Mel to look at him curiously. She knew he had quite strong opinions about his people. The strongest of all was that he couldn’t be far enough away from them even at the other end of the universe. But there was a catch in his voice just then, and an expression in his eyes, just briefly, that told her that even Time Lords get homesick.

Then it was gone. The Doctor was speaking to somebody by audio relay. He was asked to state how many non-Gallifreyans were aboard his capsule.

“One,” The Doctor replied. “As you well know, having thoroughly scanned my ‘capsule’ already. Earth Human, female, Mel Bush from Pease Pottage. Don’t even pretend that you know where that is. She is under my protection and will not be interfered with in any way by pettifogging immigration officers.”

“Glad to hear it,” Mel commented. “The last thing I want right now is to be interfered with.”

“Permission to pass through the Transduction Barrier is granted,” said the voice with the monotone of a civil servant with a dull job to do. “Your landing co-ordinates have been automatically engaged. Please stand by.”

“No ‘welcome home’?” The Doctor asked with a hint of sarcasm. “Just once, it would be nice.”

“I don’t like the idea of automatic landing co-ordinates,” Mel commented. “Where are they taking us?”

“The Castellan’s office, probably,” The Doctor answered her with a gloomy sigh. “Don’t worry. Even if they’re about to drop some bombshell on me you will be treated well. They wouldn’t dare offer anything less than hospitality to you.”

“I’m not bothered about hospitality,” Mel told him. “I’m worried about you. Look at what they tried to do to you last time. They wanted to take your lives.”

“Whatever lies ahead, I shall face it with the dignity of my race. I am a Time Lord, after all, a nobleman of the universe. I shall not let them diminish that nobility, even under torture and duress.”

“Doctor… you’re not helping…”

The TARDIS materialised automatically. Mel looked at the viewscreen. There were people outside. But they didn’t look like an armed guard about to arrest The Doctor. They didn’t really look like a welcoming committee, either. One of them was a woman in a very elaborate dress. The other was a man in a long robe.

“Good heavens!” The Doctor murmured as he looked at them. “I never thought to see…”

“Do you know them?” Mel asked.

“What… oh… well, no… I thought I did, but…. It’s been so long. I really don’t…” He frowned slightly, then smiled, then frowned again and reached for the door release. “Come on, then, let’s find out what this is about.”

He strode out of the TARDIS. Mel hurried after him.

“Doctor!” The woman greeted him effusively. “I am so glad you came promptly. So very glad.”

“I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter,” he pointed out. “Why was my TARDIS recalled?”

“Who is this young woman?” asked the man catching sight of Mel. “Doctor? She is not your wife, surely?”

“Ah!” the woman said. “That would certainly complicate matters. Haslam… You will need to prepare a Writ of Annulment for an invalid offworld marriage.”

“Wife? Good heavens, no. Mel is a friend, companion… my personal trainer and dietician… Wife. No, no. I have no need for one of those.”

“You do now,” said the woman. “That’s why you were recalled. So that our wedding can go ahead.”

“What?” Mel gave a short, astonished laugh. “Married… The Doctor… never!”

“My thoughts exactly,” The Doctor added. He turned to go back to the TARDIS, only to find the way blocked by two Chancellery Guards in their red and gold uniforms while four more attached anti-grav magnets to the TARDIS and then lifted it as if it was weightless.

“Your TARDIS is impounded until further notice,” said the man. “To prevent you evading your responsibilities.”

“What responsibilities?” The Doctor demanded.

“Your responsibilities to Gallifrey, and to my client.”

“Your client?” The Doctor peered closely at the man. “Ah… you’re a lawyer. I thought you must be. You have that air about you… of old parchment and dull ideas.”

“I am Haslam. I represent Madame Illissa Borusalan, and I hereby serve you with this Breach of Promise Writ.” The lawyer pushed a folded sheet of parchment at The Doctor who tried to refuse it. Two Chancellery Guards flanked him and he reluctantly accepted the Writ. “Either you marry within twenty-six hours or face imprisonment.”

The lawyer’s work was clearly done. He turned and walked away. The Doctor opened the parchment and read the terms of the Writ far more slowly than was necessary. Mel had seen him read whole books in minutes, but he studied each word of this document slowly.

“It… seems to be in order,” he admitted finally. “Illissa… it appears that we are engaged.”

“Of course,” replied Madame Borusalan.

“Ah.” The Doctor said with a fatalistic smile.

“You’re engaged?” Mel paced the floor of the room she and The Doctor were escorted to. It was a comfortable room, with soft furnishings and a low table with food and drink on it. There was a wide window with a view over the sort of city Mel usually found fascinating, a place of towers and spires of amazing proportions all under a great dome or shield making it like a huge living snowglobe. The air was full of flying cars. She couldn’t hear engines. Either the glass dulled the sounds or the cars were silent. But there were enough of them to give the impression of a city that bustled noisily on every level.

She turned away from it as she confronted The Doctor. “You’ve been engaged to that woman for centuries and you avoided her, avoided coming home to marry her?”

“I…” The Doctor began.

“I mean… that’s not very nice. If you got engaged you must have liked her. So why didn’t you get on with it?”

“Well… for one thing… I don’t even remember getting engaged. You have to understand, it’s not like it is on Earth. We don’t do the old down on one knee thing. We have contracts. Huge, complicated contracts. And I am sure I would know if I had signed one. And for another… yes… I suppose I liked her when we were younger. She was quite a beauty in her youth. Still is a very handsome woman… But…”


The Doctor blushed. He actually blushed. Mel was surprised.

“Well… I am sure I didn’t sign a Bond of Betrothal because… I always believed that we should get down on one knee… that it should be… about… you know…”


“Yes,” The Doctor admitted. “Yes… love. It is common practice to marry for political expediency on Gallifrey. Unions between the high caste Houses… property… wealth... that sort of thing. But I always wanted… I always thought it should be different. I married for love.”

“You mean you have been married?” Mel seized on the last sentence. “Really? I never would have guessed. But…”

“But I never loved Illissa Borusalan. She sat next to me in advanced chemistry at the Prydonian Academy. We shared a Bunsen burner. I escorted her to a ball, once. Just the once. But I never… we were never… I didn’t…”

“Well, she seems to think you did,” Mel told him. “And it looks like you will have to go through with it.”

“Yes, it does.” The Doctor sighed glumly. “Oh, dear, Mel. After so many centuries fighting Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, the Poojip Beast of Potosh… I have met my match.”

The door opened. Haslam the lawyer came in, followed by Madame Borusalan.

“My client wishes to make a proposal to you,” said the lawyer.

“Isn’t that how we got into this mess in the first place?” The Doctor answered. “With a proposal…”

“My dear Doctor,” Madame Borusalan said with a smile on her carefully made up face. “Your sense of humour… I remember it well. You made me laugh. But let us be serious. I need to marry. You need to fulfil your obligation. But I know of your wanderlust. I will not expect you to remain at my side against your will. If you allow me full Power of Attorney over your assets I am quite happy for you to have your TARDIS back. You may go where you wish. I shall not hinder you.”

“How generous of you, Illissa,” The Doctor replied with just a hint of sarcasm in his tone. “Your lawyer has a contract guaranteeing that you will keep your word?”

“I don’t think that is necessary,” Madame Borusalan answered. “I am not the one who has evaded my responsibility for five hundred years.”

“Oh, I think it is very necessary,” The Doctor countered. “I want a contract or the wedding will not go ahead.”

Madame Borusalan looked at him sharply, then turned to her lawyer. He spoke quietly with her for some time then she turned back to The Doctor.

“Very well, it will be done. The contract will be ready to sign first thing in the morning, before the ceremony begins. Now, I will leave you to make your preparations.”

She turned and left. Her lawyer followed her. Mel looked at The Doctor. The first of a dozen questions formed on her lips but went unsaid. The door opened again. A man stepped into the room. Unlike Madame Borusalan or her lawyer, both of whom gave her the creeps, there was something about his face that Mel liked straight away.

“Andred!” The Doctor cried. “My dear old fighting comrade! It is good to see one friendly face, here.”

“You don’t regard your bride-to-be as a friendly face?” Andred queried. “I thought not. That is why I gained permission to see you. I am sorry for this trouble, Doctor.”

“Never mind that,” he said. “What of you? How is Leela?”

“She is well. She is visiting her friends in the Red Desert… the Outlanders. She… is quite a lady of Gallifrey these days. Perfectly accomplished and gracious. But she gets restless from time to time and spending a few weeks living by her wits with the tribesmen and women… she seems to enjoy it.”

“Ah,” The Doctor nodded. He didn’t explain to Mel who Leela might be. But she understood that Andred at least was an old and trusted friend and she knew The Doctor needed one of those right now. “It is a pity. I should have liked to see her. But let me introduce my friend, Mel Bush from Pease Pottage on planet Earth. Sol Three in the Mutter Spiral to you. Mel, this is Commander Andred.”

“I am pleased to meet any friend of The Doctor,” Andred replied. “But I am not Commander of the Chancellery Guard any more. I… resigned.”

“Indeed?” The Doctor’s eyes asked the obvious question.

“The Guard is not what it was. Not since Madame Borusalan became Castellan.”

“Illissa is Castelan?” The Doctor’s eyes widened. “A WOMAN is Castellan? I never thought to see the day…”

“Well, I like that!” Mel responded caustically. “Why shouldn’t a woman be Castellan, whatever that is. Has women’s lib never come to Gallifrey.”

“No!” The Doctor and Andred both responded at once.

“Not entirely true,” The Doctor admitted. “Women hold many high offices on Gallifrey. But at the same time, there are some institutions that could never… The Presidency, the Office of the Castellan. She has become a powerful woman if she has broken into that bastion of misogyny.”

“She is VERY powerful,” Andred told him. “She has become so in recent years.”


“Through marriage. She has had five husbands in twenty years. All men of property and political power. The Lords of Arcalia, Artexian, Kannois, Cerulian, Cronuos, all Patriarchs of their Houses. And all died within a year of the Union, leaving her in sole possession of everything. And now she has the political power, too.”

“They all died…” Mel queried. “Every one? Within a year… and nobody questioned it? Nobody… thought to conduct an autopsy?”

“They all looked like accidents,” Andred explained. “Lord Arcalia was drowned in the river that runs beside his demesne. Lord Artexian was mauled by a wolf while hunting on the southern plain. Lord Kannois fell from the roof of the Prydonian Academy library and was impaled on the ornamental gate below.”

“Nasty!” The Doctor commented.

“He might have lived otherwise,” Andred continued. “He was younger than the others. He still had four lives left. The others were old men on their last incarnation. Cerulian died in an accident in space. No body could be recovered. Cronuos… he died in the Panopticon itself, a few minutes after the marriage ceremony was completed. The cause of death couldn’t be established because Cronuos WAS the chief Coroner. There was nobody to order an investigation. Of course there were rumours, whispers. Widowhood was certainly profitable for Madame Borusalan. But nobody would dare speak out of turn. Even the High Council are wary of crossing her. That’s why it was so easy for her to order your TARDIS recalled and the Writ issued. Everything is about Writs. Haslam issues them like parking tickets. Anyone who criticises Madame in the slightest way will have a Writ of Slander issued against them.”

“And now… The Doctor is her next husband… her next VICTIM!” Mel was outraged. She reached out and held The Doctor’s arm as if she was offering him her protection. “We can’t allow it. We can’t.”

“What I really don’t understand,” The Doctor said in surprisingly calm tones. “Is WHY she wants me. What possible use could I be to her, alive or dead?”

“Well, isn’t that obvious?” Mel answered. “Your assets. The ones she wants Power of Attorney over.”

“But I don’t have any,” The Doctor pointed out. “I… used to. I was born of one of the most powerful Houses on Gallifrey. I inherited property and money. But when I left Gallifrey I was declared a Renegade. Everything I owned was taken from me. They… pardoned me eventually. I was allowed to return home… but they never actually got around to giving me back my inheritance. And I never bothered to ask them.”

Mel was intrigued. There was more about The Doctor’s past in that one paragraph than she had got out of him in all the time she had known him. She would have pressed him further, but the door opened again. It was another pair of Chancellery Guards.

“It is time for you to make your preparations, Doctor,” he was told. “The marriage ceremony will begin at the ninth hour tomorrow morning. You have fifteen hours to meditate and purify your mind and body. That is barely enough, so do not delay.”

“Doctor, I would be honoured to join you in your vigil,” Andred said. “If I can do nothing else at this time, I can at least offer my companionship…”

“The offer is a kind one, Andred. But you would do me better honour by looking after my good friend, Mel. She is interested in history, you know. Show her the Hall of Records. It would be educational for you both.”

With that he left. The guards flanked him all the way. He had no opportunity to escape. What would be the point if he did? He had nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. Andred was probably the only friend he could depend on, and he had his own mission right now.

They came to the Panopticon, the place where the High Council met to make the laws that governed Gallifrey. Beneath the floor was the repository of all Time Lord wisdom, the Matrix. It was also the place where important ceremonies took place – presidential resignations, presidential inaugurations, weddings of important members of Time Lord society…

The Panopticon was, of course, a place imbued with Time Lord power. And one way that manifested itself was in the changing appearance of the great Chamber. In his youth it had looked something like the Albert Hall on Earth. He rather liked it like that. Later, it had looked very modern and angular.

Now it resembled the inside of a dark honeycomb. The floor was a polished black and red hexagon, and around it rose hundreds of tiers like boxes at a theatre, cells of the honeycomb where three or four Time Lords each would watch the proceedings on the floor below.

He looked up. There used to be a great domed roof of diffused glass that lit the Panopticon with natural sunlight by day. It was aligned so that the full moon would illuminate it once a month and a special sitting of the Council would take place under that light.

Now, the roof was black and red, exactly like the floor. The light came from artificial sources and it was impossible to know if it was day or night beyond its walls.

Not that he needed to know the time. It was a little less than fifteen hours until his wedding, right here in the same Chamber where he was to spend the night in meditation. The ceremony would normally take a further twelve hours if it was being done properly, with choral music and recitations of Gallifreyan poetry and a three hour section where the bride’s mother pledged her allegiance to the Groom’s house. Illissa Borosalan’s mother went to her eternal rest long ago, and he suspected there would be no need for music and poetry. The whole thing could be done in a little over four hours.

Nineteen hours. Not even a full Gallifreyan day. That was how long he could call himself a free Time Lord for. And how long could he expect to live after that? He doubted if she would keep her word, even with a contract, and allow him to leave Gallifrey. And when she found out that he didn’t actually have any money or property to further her powerlust he couldn’t expect her to let him live. Not with so many other rich Time Lords on Gallifrey.

Actually, that did puzzle him. He was thinking about it as he took up the meditative position, on his knees, in the middle of the hexagon. It was exactly the wrong way to begin a purifying ritual. Clearing the mind was usual, not filling it up with questions. But he couldn’t help thinking that Illissa wasn’t stupid. Nor was Haslam the Writ issuing lawyer. And they would both have to be incredibly stupid not to know his circumstances. His escape from Gallifrey all those centuries ago was notorious. Declaring the Patriarch of a high caste house Renegade was a huge scandal in Time Lord society. Everyone knew about it. And it didn’t take much checking in the land registry and other public records to find that he had never been properly re-instated.

So exactly WHAT assets did Illissa want to get her hands on? What WAS this all about?

Then he thought of something and his hearts quickened in exactly the way they weren’t supposed to do in a purifying meditation.

“Oh, she is mad!” he thought. “If she thinks… Oh, no!”

“Nobody seems to object to me wandering all over the place,” Mel pointed out as she and Andred passed two Chancellery Guards in the corridor of the building that was, apparently, called the Citadel. It was, as far as she could gather, the equivalent of the Houses of Parliament in London, with all sorts of business of government going on in different rooms apart from the main one called the Panopticon. She was sure she wouldn’t be allowed to go all over the Houses of Parliament like this.

“I may not be Commander any more,” Andred answered. “And the men are under orders from Madame Castellan… I don’t even know most of them. She’s packed the Guard with her followers. But they know who I am. My past reputation still affords me some respect.”

They stepped into a turbo lift. By turbo, Mel understood that it was fast, though there was only a slight sensation of movement inside. Even so it took several minutes before it stopped descending. The floor they stepped out on to had to be a very long way underground.

“The Hall of Records,” Andred said. “The Doctor thought we might both learn something here. I am not quite sure what. But I will put my trust in him, as I and my wife have always done. In any case, it was clear he wished us both to come here.”

“If The Doctor thinks we should come here, then this is where we should be,” Mel agreed. “But… Hall of Records?” She looked around the room. It had bright, clean, white walled and was well lit from above. There were long rows of shelves on which huge leather bound books were stored. Some of them weren’t even books. Some of them were scrolls in coverings that were darkened with age. “I’m surprised a place like Gallifrey wouldn’t have everything on computers.”

“Everything is copied into electronic memory,” Andred told her, indicating a bank of computers. “But we also keep original documents. We… value paper… parchment… pen and ink… that which is written and sealed cannot be corrupted.”

“I couldn’t have put it better myself,” said a voice that Mel thought she knew.

“Doctor…what are you doing here?” she asked. “And… wow. Those clothes… an improvement on your usual get up.”

“I’m not The Doctor,” the man replied. “Though I understand how the confusion could arise.”

“Mel,” Andred said. “This is Maxil. He, too, is a former Commander of the Chancellery Guard.”

“But… he looks… and sounds… exactly like The Doctor.”

“A coincidence of astronomically huge proportions,” Maxil said. “When I last met The Doctor, he looked very different. His latest regeneration was a surprise to everyone. But since he is rarely home on Gallifrey it has never been a problem to either of us. Especially since I spend most of my time down here these days… down in the sub-sub-sub-basement among the historical records. I don’t think my own family would recognise me if I popped home.”

“So… you’re in charge of the Hall of Records?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered. “I left the Chancellery Guard some time ago after a little incident involving….” Maxil paused and seemed to remember something. “Anyway, lets just say that I found this job refreshingly quiet after all the excitement.”

“I can imagine,” Mel said politely, although she hadn’t a clue what was left unsaid by former Commander Maxil. Andred obviously did know, but he wasn’t saying anything. “Anyway… The Doctor said we would learn something here…. I think he meant something that might help him. So… have you any idea where we start?”

“I’m afraid I don’t. If there was ANYTHING in these records that implicated Madame Borsalan in so much as an income tax evasion I would have found a way to use it. I have as much respect for that woman as I do for…”

Maxil stopped and looked around cautiously. They seemed to be alone in the Hall of Records. But he looked guilty as if speaking out of turn about Madame Borusalan was dangerous even in private conversations.

“I don’t know what we should be looking for. But we have until morning to find it,” Andred said. “The obvious thing is to look into everything concerning The Doctor to work out what might connect him to Madame.”

“There are two of us to search,” Maxil added. “We might be lucky…”

“Two? Excuse me,” Mel protested in her most indignant tone. “What am I? The tea girl?”

“I would not expect an alien woman to understand our complex file systems,” Maxil answered. But the words ‘alien’ and ‘woman’ in such a context were clearly not going to help matters. When Mel ran out of alternative words for ‘misogynist’ and ‘male chauvinist pig’ and her voice stopped echoing around the Hall of Records, Maxil admitted that a computer programmer from Pease Pottage might, conceivably, be of some help.

They set to work, quietly and steadily. The Hall of Records echoed with the click of fingers on keyboards and three faces were illuminated by the screens in front of them. They read through hundreds of documents relating to the Time Lord known as The Doctor. They went back centuries and some of them contained the most surprising details.

Mel had known, because he often told her, that The Doctor was hundreds of years old. But she had never really thought about it before. She had even, occasionally, wondered if it was even true. Now, as she read through the recorded history of his life, as represented in every official document concerning him, she began to realise that those centuries hardly seemed long enough for the full life he had lived.

“Oh…” she murmured. “Oh… I see…” It was several hours later when she looked around at Maxil. “Oh… I didn’t realise… the reason you left the Chancellery Guard… it was because of The Doctor…”

“It was not his fault,” Maxil told her. “We were both used by traitors within our government. He chose to leave this planet and resume his life as an exile. I chose to work in a section of our government that could not be corrupted. Not even by HER.”

“I would not be sure of that,” Andred said. “Look… this… purports to be the Bond of Betrothal that The Doctor signed five hundred years ago and reneged upon.”

Maxil and Mel both drew close and looked at the document on Andred’s screen. Mel had some trouble understanding what the facsimile document said. It was written in very archaic language. But she clearly saw a signature on the document.

“It looks authentic. But is it?” Andred split the screen and streams of data scrolled down one side, too fast for a Human eye, but clearly Time Lords could read at that speed.

“Hold on,” Mel said. “Slow it down and let me look. I think I know what you’re looking for. This system is nothing like anything I’ve ever used before, but there are a few things that are the same in any computer. And I think I know what we want.”

Andred slowed the scrolling data. Mel looked at it carefully, then pointed to the discrepancy she expected to find.

“A simple checksum error,” she said. “So simple it would be overlooked in a system as complicated as this. But you know what it means, don’t you?”

“Maxil…” Andred said very quietly and calmly. “Look for the original copy of this document. If you can.”

Maxil went to the shelves where the scrolls were kept. He searched them carefully for a long time before reporting that there was no such document.

“It… could be misplaced,” Mel suggested. “But that would be too convenient.”

“It never existed,” Andred insisted. “It is a fake. This facsimile document was not entered into the electronic database until seven days ago. There is no real document. I would stake my life on it.”

“So would I,” Maxil agreed. “But it is precious little to confront Madame with. She will have a way of getting around this… probably having both of us consigned to Shada on trumped up charges. We need more.”

“And we still don’t know WHY she is interested in The Doctor,” Mel added. She didn’t know what Shada was, but she definitely didn’t want to be consigned there.

“Oh… I think I do…” Andred said. “Oh… she cannot be serious. Oh, that is too much. She wouldn’t dare!”

“She would!” Maxil replied. “Oh, she would. Now it all makes sense.”

“It doesn’t to me!” Mel pointed out. “What’s going on?”

“I need to check the stacks,” Maxil said. “We cannot trust the computer. This time we have to have the original documents. But… oh… that woman. The audacity…”

Maxil was still murmuring about Madame Borusalan’s fiendishness as he disappeared among the rows of documents. Mel turned to Andred who seemed equally stunned by what the computer records had revealed.

“Well… would you please explain it to me?” she asked.

“Many years ago,” Andred said. “The Doctor was inaugurated as President of the High Council… the highest office in all Gallifrey. The supreme power on this planet and… because the President has command of the Matrix, power over all Creation. He… of course, never remained on Gallifrey long enough to wield that power. For a century or more we had a President in absentia and the Chancellor, taking the title of President-Candidate, performed the duties of the President in his stead.”

“The Doctor is President of Gallifrey?” Mel was impressed.

“He WAS formally impeached when he was put on trial for interference,” Andred continued. “I think you know the circumstances. The trial was a farce devised by a corrupt High Council to destroy The Doctor and allow them to get away with their collective crimes. But that government was itself impeached when The Doctor exposed them in the course of the trial. And that means that his impeachment no longer stood. He IS still the only living duly inaugurated President.”

“Does he know? He doesn’t ACT like a President.”

“The Doctor is his own man. He is the most individual and free-thinking man our race has ever given birth to. He is… remarkable. But… he is doomed. It is clear enough now. Madame Borusalan intends to marry The Doctor… then kill him… perhaps immediately after the ceremony itself… and use a very obscure piece of ancient legislation to take the Presidency herself.”

“Very clever, Commander Andred!” He and Mel both gasped out loud as Madame Borusalan’s voice rang around the walls. They turned to see her standing there, wearing the elaborate robes of the Castellan and flanked by Chancellery Guards. “But it will do you no good. Seize them both. Lock them in the Chancellery cells. When I take the Presidency I will order his execution and her deportation to the nearest frozen rock in space.”

“Are you mad?” Andred demanded. “You can’t do this.”

But clearly she could. Andred made no attempt to fight. He knew there were too many of them. It would have been fatal for him and for Mel. He allowed them to pinion his hands behind his back.

“She’s no danger to you,” he said as they tried to do the same to Mel. “Leave her alone.” But Madame Borusalan was in no mood to be merciful. Mel had her arms painfully pulled behind her back and secured. The two of them were marched away by the Guards. Madame Borusalan didn’t go with them. She obviously had better things to do.

They were taken to the Chancellery Guard headquarters, still in the sub-basements of the Citadel but a few floors above the Hall of Records. Their hands were unfastened before they were put into separate cells. Mel watched the door close on her and sighed deeply.

“Oh, Doctor. What are we going to do?” she whispered as she perched on the hard, narrow bench and pulled her knees up under her chin.

Maxil watched the Guards take Mel and Andred away then moved far more quietly than a man of his bulk ought to move. Madame Borusalan thought she had eyes everywhere, but that was only because she had either bought or intimidated most of them. And there were some things she didn’t know.

She didn’t know about the concealed door at the far end of the stacks. It led to a narrow, dimly lit corridor and a series of stairs that the Chancellery Guard used to move around the Citadel when discretion was needed. And discretion was never needed so much as it was needed now. Maxil knew there were only a very few people he could depend on and two of them were Madame Borusalan’s prisoners. The other was in the Panopticon under close guard.

But only until morning when his vigil was over. Then he would be taken to the robing room to dress for the wedding ceremony.

It was a long, lonely night for them all. Mel curled herself up on the bench in her cell and tried to sleep a little, reasoning that she would be no good to anyone if she was exhausted. Andred sat quietly, though his mind was anything but. He raged against the injustice of all that had happened, not only his own desperate situation, but the ruin his world had become at the hands of a murderess. He thought about The Doctor, a good man who was going to be her next victim in a very short time. He thought about his wife. What would happen to her under Madame Borusalan’s tyranny? She and the Outlanders would make a fight of it, of course. But eventually she would crush them, too. She would never let them live freely out there in the desert, beyond her control.

Maxil had an uncomfortable night hidden in the cupboard among the robes. He spent part of it carefully reading the document he had found moments before he made his escape. Yes, he could see how Madame planned to work her way using The Doctor’s unique situation.

The Doctor’s night was spent kneeling on the black lacquered floor of the Panopticon in a low level trance. His hearts and lungs slowed and his brain waves were tranquil and calm.

He roused himself slowly from the trance before the Guards could do it abruptly. He remained still and quiet for a few minutes, thinking about the ordeal ahead of him and the few options remaining to him. Then he rose to his feet and walked towards the Robing Room.

“Wait outside,” he said to the guards. “There is only one way in or out of here. There is no need to watch me. I shall have privacy while I dress.”

To his surprise they conceded that much. He stepped into the Robing Room and looked first at the ion shower. He hated ion showers. He decided to find his wedding robes first and then face that. His inner voice told him that procrastination was a terrible thing in a Time Lord. He told his inner voice to shut up.

He opened the cupboard and looked at his doppelganger uncurling himself from the floor.

“I’ve got an idea,” Maxil told him.

In common with the wedding traditions of many cultures, it was usual on Gallifrey for the groom to be ready before the bride. In this case, the groom was unlikely to be late. Not with a close guard around him to ensure he arrived at the Panopticon. Two of them flanked him as he waited. The Chancellor and Premier Cardinal took their places, ready to conduct the ceremony as the two highest ranking men in the Government. The High Councillors, Cardinals and Time Lords of the Chapters of Gallifreyan society filled every tier of the honeycomb.

Then the bride entered with as much ceremony as she could muster. She was dressed in shimmering white. Again, in common with many other cultures, a bride in white had special significance, but Madame Illissa Borusalan obviously cared nothing for that. She wore white in defiance of convention. She stood beside her groom and nodded to the Chancellor. He cleared his throat and began the solemn invocation of the marriage rite.

Mel looked at her watch. She knew it was useless on Gallifrey, since it told Earth time, but it told her just how many hours had passed. The wedding ceremony would be happening by now. The Doctor’s fate was sealed.

Andred knew exactly what time it was. He was a Time Lord. He could feel the passage of time in the fabric of his being. He knew just how desperate The Doctor’s situation was.

When the cell door opened he wasn’t entirely surprised to see two Guards outside. He was surprised when they saluted him and called him Commander.

“Some of us aren’t putting up with this any more,” he was told. “Madame Borusalan is destroying everything the Chancellery Guard stands for. We’re… at your command, sir.”

“How many?” Andred asked. He stepped out of the cell and was relieved to see that Mel was already released. When he learnt that all but a few Guards who were newly recruited by Madame were on his side his hearts swelled with hope.

“What do you want us to do?” his loyal troops asked.

“Take the Panopticon, stop that wedding, arrest that damned woman,” he answered. “But just wait a few minutes, first. There’s something I have to do.”

Mel was a little surprised that he used those minutes to change into a Commander’s uniform with brass breastplate and a helmet with plumes. It seemed unimportant when The Doctor’s life and the future freedom of all Gallifrey were at stake. But when he put the helmet on and shouldered a bastic rifle, she understood why he felt it necessary. He was the leader of these men. He had to look as if he was.

“If we fail, we will be called traitors,” he said. “So let’s not fail.”

The ceremony was almost at an end. All unnecessary frills had been trimmed and the important, legally binding parts were swiftly but thoroughly gone through.

The Chancellor drew himself up as he came to one of the most important of those legally binding parts.

“I am bound to ask you now, before you make the final vows and bind yourselves to each other, if there is a slightest doubt in your mind. This Alliance once made cannot be unmade except by death.”

The Doctor looked, for a few seconds, as if he might say something. Then he shook his head sadly.

“I am bound to ask the company present, if any one among them has a doubt as to whether this Alliance should be made?”

There was a silence that was almost palpable. The Chancellor was about to move on to complete the ceremony. Then a voice rang out clearly.

“I have a doubt,” said The Doctor stepping forward from the shadows beneath the lowest tiers of Time Lord spectators. “I am afraid this ceremony is invalid, because the wrong man is getting married.”

“What?” Madame Borusalan looked at the man by her side, then looked at The Doctor himself. “What is the meaning of this? Guards… arrest them both. And… you… finish the ceremony with the RIGHT man.”

“Guards, stand to!” called out Commander Andred as his loyal men poured into the Panopticon and surrounded those already there and disarming them. “Madame Borusalan, you are under arrest for treason, corruption and….”

“And murder,” The Doctor said. “Hello, Mel. I’m sorry you had such a bad night of it. But everything is all right now. We’re just going to deal with Madame, now.”

Mel came to his side and he smiled warmly as she gripped his hand.

“Murder?” Madame Borusalan laughed dismissively. “Prove it, or face a Writ of Slander as well as Breach of Promise. As for you, Andred…”

“Oh, be quiet,” Maxil told her. “Doctor, present your evidence.”

“My evidence is here,” The Doctor said holding up what looked like a small, glowing marble. “While Maxil stood in for me here, I have been in the Matrix. As the only living President of Gallifrey, even in absentia, I have full access to the repository of Time Lord knowledge, as you know. I was able to use it to communicate with the dead. As everyone knows, the Matrix contains the wisdom of the generations. Every Time Lord who dies in circumstances where it is possible to do so, barring accidents, leaves their consciousness in the Matrix. All but one of Madame Borusalan’s husbands died in accidents where their consciousness was, sadly, lost to posterity. But the last, Lord Cronuos… died here, within the Panopticon, and his consciousness was able to find its way into the Matrix.”

“So?” Madame Borusalan was getting impatient. “Really, Doctor, what is your point?”

“My point is this…” The Doctor drew back his hand and threw the marble into the air. The light expanded and then a disembodied face appeared in the air.

“I am Lord Cronuos,” the face said. “This is my death testimony. I was murdered by my wife as soon as our marriage was finalised. She poisoned me with her kiss… the noxious stuff was within her lipstick. It paralysed me and stopped my two hearts before dissipating in my bloodstream so no evidence would be found.”

“Untrue!” Madame Borusalan screamed. “Absolutely untrue.”

“A death testimony is irrefutable,” The Doctor said. “Haslam, I see you skulking there. I am sure you can confirm that?”

“It… is true,” Haslam managed to say in a nervous tone. “Lord Cronuos’s testimony cannot be denied.”

“Fool!” Madame Borusalan raged against the unfortunate lawyer. She grabbed him in a vicelike grip and, to the astonishment of all present, kissed him. Haslam gave a strangulated cry and collapsed. One of the Guards bent and confirmed that he was dead.

“All right, that’s enough,” Comander Andred said in a firm, authoritative voice. “Madame Illissa Borusalan, you are under arrest for two counts of murder and one of attempted murder. Take her away.”

It was two of her own loyal Guards who actually stepped forward and took her in custody. They knew which way the wind was blowing and Commander Andred looked like a man who meant business.

“There is a very old clause in the Gallifreyan legal system,” The Doctor said later. “It is called Dvoratre’s Law after a President three millennia ago who died in office. His wife, a very formidable lady, claimed the Presidency in his stead and held it for many good decades in which she ruled very wisely. Dvoratre’s Law has never been used since. Mostly the presidents have been unmarried men, probably to avoid such a thing happening. But Madame would have invoked it within minutes of my death. That was her whole plan. If she had succeeded, Gallifrey would be a very sorry place.”

“That’s an understatement, Doctor,” Mel said. “I’m so glad you didn’t marry her.”

“We all are,” Andred agreed. “Madame is under close guard. Later I intend to have her full confession. It will save a lengthy trial, and you needn’t be inconvenienced by having to stay to give evidence, Doctor. I know you will want to leave as soon as you possibly can.”

“There is something I have to do, first,” he answered. “To ensure this situation doesn’t arise again. I intend to formally resign my Presidency and name my successor, as is my right under our Constitution.”

“Excellent idea, Doctor,” Maxil agreed. “Who do you have in mind?”

“A man whose wife, in the event of his untimely demise, would make a very formidable replacement for him,” The Doctor replied. “Andred…”

“Me?” Commander Andred was astonished. “But… Doctor…”

“You need a new Castellan, too, of course,” The Doctor continued. “You need somebody you can trust implicitly, especially with so much work to be done rebuilding public trust in the Chancellery Guard.”

“That is certainly true,” Andred agreed. “But…

“It is entirely your decision, but you couldn’t go too far wrong giving Maxil the job. That’s if he doesn’t mind leaving the Hall of Records in the sub-sub-sub-basement.”

Maxil took a few seconds to take in what The Doctor was suggesting, but when he did it was clear he would happily leave the Hall of Records any time.

“That’s settled then,” The Doctor said. “Excellent. It’ll take a few days to sort out the fine details. Time enough for me to catch up with old friends and show Mel some of the sights. I think I might put the TARDIS in for a service while I’m here. Maybe they can look at that old chameleon circuit. Then again… no, on second thoughts, it’s fine as it is.”

Mel smiled happily. The Doctor was definitely himself, and she wouldn’t have him any other way.

Well, maybe a few pounds lighter, but otherwise she wouldn’t change a thing.