"I mustn't interfere," said the Doctor.
"You what?" Amusement and astonishment battled for McCoy's face.
Kirk stared at the Doctor. "You know something," he snapped. "What?"
"I mustn't say." The Doctor tried to stare Kirk down, but it didn't work. "Captain, you must understand -"
"I only understand, Doctor, that this planet, my ship, and my Federation are in danger, and you seem to be withholding information that may be essential to my mission."
The Doctor said nothing, but he resolutely remained seated.
"Well, if you won't tell me what it is, you'll show me," said Kirk. "Down there on Organia. You're beaming down with us. Whether it's under your own power or that of a couple of security officers' is up to you." He held out one arm to usher the Doctor into the starboard turbolift.
The Doctor hesitated a moment, but with reluctance that was obvious - and the more sincere for lack of bluster - he stood and led the three Starfleet officers into the turbolift.
"Long range scans show a Federation starship in orbit around Organia," reported the tactical officer.
Kor looked over to Koloth. He had the same information repeated on his flag console, just as he was certain that Koloth had it on the captain's display. "Time till the fleet arrives at Organia."
"Point five three hours," replied the helm officer.
Kor eyed the tactical readings. It was definitely a Constitution class cruiser. That meant it had to be Kirk's new Enterprise.
"This time, Kirk, it will be different," Kor smiled.
The Enterprise landing party materialized in the same city square where Kirk and Spock had beamed in years before. It looked like any humanoid planet in its medieval age. True to the analysis Spock had done then, the people didn't appear to have progressed culturally or technologically at all in the intervening time. Of course, in the end it had all been exposed as an illusion; presented by creatures of pure thought, to lull the combatants in the prospective Federation-Klingon war - until the Organians felt compelled to reveal themselves, step in, and stop the hostilities.
Kirk turned until he spotted the appearance of castle ruins that had housed the five Organians who had claimed to be what passed for leaders among them. "This way," he led them off.
Also consistent with their earlier visit, the natives despite their apparent primitiveness took no notice of having strangers teleport unannounced into their midst. Except of the Doctor. What was odd about it to Kirk was that it wasn't the Doctor's tastelessly garish and mismatched wardrobe that was doing it. When only coming into visible range of a native, the Doctor was paid no more attention than were the Starfleet officers. Only if passing within a few yards of the Doctor did a native turn and look, with varying degrees of startlement and alarm. Spock and McCoy saw it too. For his part the Doctor seemed to be ignoring his surroundings as hard as he could, a look of stubborn concern still on his face. Given the Doctor's reticence to discuss things on the ship Kirk didn't waste energy now asking him about the natives' reaction.
Kirk led the way to the decrepit-looking fortress and inside. In the meeting hall, just where he expected, they found Ayelborne, Trefayne, Claymore, and two others - the same calm quiet old men as last time, who again looked entirely unsurprised to see them.
"Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock," Ayelborne acknowledged. "How pleasant to meet Dr. McCoy." He didn't acknowledge the Doctor. Kirk was concentrating on the Organians, so if the Doctor took this ill he missed it. (Not that it was like the Doctor to take anything ill silently.)
"Ayelborne, we're here because the Klingons have sent a war fleet to this planet, and attacked another along the way. They're only minutes away. I want to know what's become of your promise" - the diplomat in him kept him from saying threat - "to prevent hostilities between us and them, and on your planet."
"Captain, I'm forced to confess that to you that it was not a spontaneous act that stopped your last battle," said Ayelborne in the calm urbane tone Kirk remembered, with no trace of apology for the confession of deceit. "It took a great deal of planning and resources. The like is not, as we led you to believe, something we can indefinitely maintain.
"We initially presented ourselves to you as less advanced than you are, so that when we presented ourselves as more advanced than we are, you would be the more inclined to believe. But we are not beings of pure thought."
"Though we shall be before you are," rumbled Claymore.
"The only object of the entire masquerade," continued one of the Organians whose name Kirk didn't know, "was to divert your conflict away from our world. We are not so advanced that living in the center of your war zone would have left us untouched."
"So you never intended to enforce this treaty?" Kirk demanded.
"Never," Trefayne admitted. "We interfered only as much as we believed needed to protect our own world, divert you away from it. It's our world's policy not to interfere in the affairs of others. We learned our lessons with the Minyans."
"Minyans?" Kirk snapped. He'd never heard of them.
Ayelborne turned to the Doctor, for the first time acknowledging his presence. "He knows."
All turned to the Doctor.
Beset from all sides, the Doctor finally bowed to the inevitable. He sighed and said, "The people of the planet Minyos rebelled against the benevolent fostership of the Time Lords, causing the Time Lords to create their non-interference policy."
"Of the Time Lords?" McCoy repeated.
Spock understood first. He turned to the Organians. "This is the planet Gallifrey. You are the Time Lords."
"Yes," said Ayelborne.
Kirk took a moment to grasp this. Then he turned on the Doctor. "Why couldn't you just say that? And what's the problem with your beaming down to your own home planet?"
"Captain!" The Doctor stared at Kirk as if he was being purposefully dense. "I am a Time Lord! I don't just travel through space, like you do!"
Now Kirk got it. "You mean ..."
"This person," the Doctor pointed at Ayelborne, "is not just any Time Lord! He is the Time Lord!"
Spock, who of them had known the Doctor longest and questioned him in the most detail about his background, and about the mechanics and consequences of time travel, visibly blanched.
"This," said the Doctor, "is Rassilon, the first and most revered Time Lord in our history!"
"That's why you didn't want to beam down!" Kirk said. "This is your past, your people's history - and you're afraid you'll do something that might cancel your history!"
END OF CHAPTER THREE
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