Paul Gadzikowski


The Tenth Carnival "Episode 2"
Or, Trial of a Time Lord 12c/14

"Are we too late?" Mel screamed.

The Doctor and Mel had materialized on the transmat pad on the tomb of Rassilon, and charged off it toward the bier of Rassilon. Then they came to an abrupt stop. High Councillor Nerttok was already there and covering them with a staser rifle.

"The late Doctor and the late Miss Bush," sneered Nerttok. "I wouldn't have thought degree came into it. But you couldn't be too 'late' to suit me!" He raised the rifle to fire.

The Inquisitor stops the presentation. She addresses the Doctor: "I have yet to see how this line of defence is relevant to the charge of genocide, Doctor. And surely you don't mean to persuade these august Time Lords that one of their number will behave in such a craven manner, including such an atrocious pun?"

"Undoubtedly, my lady," offers the Valeyard, "the Doctor will contend that the cravenness you object to is simply the manifestation of tampering with the Matrix."

"No," the Doctor shakes his head. "No, this is just how it occurs."

"The relevance, Doctor?" the Inquisitor insists.

"Shall become evident only with the conclusion of my evidence, mum," says the Doctor.

"Proceed," says the Inquisitor.

"But wait," said Nerttok suddenly, lowering the rifle.

"Why do they always do that?" Mel asked. The Doctor waved at her to be quiet.

"Before you go, you shouldn't be denied the opportunity to see an old friend one last time," said Nerttok. He backed toward the bier of Rassilon, keeping his eyes on the Doctor and Mel as he reached for the ring of Rassilon and put it on, even when he tripped to the floor from backing into the raised dias of Rassilon on which the bier of Rassilon rested. He also managed to put on the ring of Rassilon without dropping the rifle. The Doctor's estimation of Nerttok reluctantly went up two notches.

"I am Rassilon." The face of Rassilon swam into being over the embalmed corpse of Rassilon, just as in the Doctor's four memories of Rassilon from the Death Zone business. "You seek immortality?"

"He came to ask for a brain," contributed the Doctor.

"Where's the man behind the curtain?" asked Mel. The Doctor had to look at her twice before realizing she really meant it.

"I seek not immortality, but immortals!" shouted Nerttok. "I ask the release of those you have captured here, such as former Lord President Borusa!"

"I beg your pardon," said the Doctor.

"I seek not immortality, but immortals!" shouted Nerttok. "I ask the release of those you have captured here, such as former Lord President Borusa!"

The Doctor gave him a good long stare, then turned to Mel. "I don't know why we bothered to come."

"Why not?"

"Nerttok is on a fool's errand. Rassilon locked these fellows up to get them out of the way - he's not going to release them."

"For the entire indeterminate length of Time Lord history," Nerttok orated at Rassilon, "you gave gathered the most devious, the most labyrinthanly intelligent, the most ambitiously malevolent Time Lord leaders to your very bosom. But not to imprison them - to hold them in reserve! Until the ultimate devious, labyrinthanly intelligent, ambitiously malevolent -"

"I can't believe he said that twice without corpsing," said the Doctor.

"- Time Lord, your true heir, should see through all the puzzles you left behind and arrive here to demand of you the return of his High Council!

"And here I am!"

"I never thought to see megalomania elevated to an art form," said the Doctor, bursting into applause. "Bravo! Bravo!"

"Very well, Nerttok," said Rassilon. In an instant four late-regeneration Time Lords were standing on the dias of Rassilon with Nerttok.

"Zero out of ten, Doctor," said one of them.

"Stop!" cries the Inquisitor. The evidence halts.

"My lady," says the Doctor, "I have explained that the relevance -"

"It's not that," says the Inquisitor. "I have a crick in my neck from looking backwards at the Matrix screen all the time. This court is recessed for thirty minutes."

The Doctor turned to the face of Rassilon. He had only one chance - to gently persuade the founding Time Lord of the danger and foolishness of the course of action of Rassilon. He took a deep breath.

"What the hell are you thinking?" he bellowed.

"Give me the rifle," said Borusa to Nerttok. "I'll kill him."

As Rassilon hadn't reacted to the Doctor's admirable diplomatic skills one way or the other, the Doctor desperately turned to Nerttok and turned to another tack. "'Labyrinthanly intelligent'!" he scoffed. "You were a mental piker at Academy and you still are."

"The proof is in the pudding, Doctor," said Nerttok, nettled nevertheless.

"No, I'll kill the Doctor," said another of the immortals of Rassilon. "It was the shame of having opposed the Doctor's involvement in the Black Hole affair that lost me the Chancellorship and drove me to seek immortality."

"I'll wager you're not even up to a good old-fashioned word contest like the ones we used to have," taunted the Doctor.

"Am so!"

"I doubt it, Nerttok!" the Doctor hissed. "You're brain's been in the tank too long, it's gone soft!"

"Tank?" said Mel.

"I've got precedence on both of you," said the third immortal of Rassilon. "I was driven to the riddle of Rassilon because I was discredited when discovered to be the secret benefactor of the War Chief after he was exposed by the Doctor. I was framed of course," he added perfunctorily.

"You!" Nerttok pointed the staser rifle at Mel. "Pick a topic!"

"A topic?" asked Mel. "Er - animals?"

"Precedence, is it?" growled the fourth immortal of Rassilon. "I was on guard duty the night he nicked his TARDIS!" The argument proceeded to degenerate.

"Ewe couldn't have chosen better," the Doctor assured Mel.

"Give it up, Doctor," sneered Nerttok, "ermine."

"Like 'Dewey defeats Truman', the Chicago tribble have that headline."

"Skarasen-sitive or younger audience, Doctor, you won't scare me."

"Enough!" came a cry from Borusa. The argument among the immortals of Rassilon had reached a crescendo, and now Borusa lunged for the staser rifle. The others joined him in grappling with Nerttok for it, and it went off, vapourising the lot.

"You were a lot of help!" the Doctor snapped at the face of Rassilon.

"Come, Doctor," said the voice of Rassilon, "I knew you'd realize that the sensory deprivation shall have driven them mad, and all that was required from you was a delaying tactic so they'd destroy each other."

"Well," said the Doctor, mollified, "I suppose I should have known you'd be relying on me."

"On the other hand," said Rassilon, "perhaps all Nerttok said was true, and I've just told you this so you'd go away and leave me to try again." The laugh of Rassilon sounded, and vanished as the Doctor squinted nastily at him.

"Is it over?" Mel asked.

"We'll find out one day," said the Doctor. "Let's get back to the TARDIS."

The final scene of the defence presentation fades from the screen. The Inquisitor says, "Well, Doctor?"

"Well, my lady?" says the Doctor smugly.

"I still fail to see the relevance of this evidence to the charge of genocide."

"The relevance is to the continued existence of Gallifrey!" says the Doctor, coming to his feet with impatient condescension. "I remind you this event, like my adventure with the Vervoids, is from my future! You can tell because Mel is in it. No one but I could enthrall Nerttok as I did/shall!"

"That much is certain," the Inquisitor admits.

"I cannot be put to death as a result of this trial or Gallifrey is doomed!" The Doctor resumes his seat smugly.

"I suppose Gallifrey does owe you, Doctor," starts the Valeyard.

"Thank you, Yardstick," says the Doctor, about scraping the bottom for Valeyard puns by now.

"But not all that much!" shouts the Valeyard. "After all, you have brought Nerttok's plot to light before it was put into action. Before it was even conceived, according to Nerttok's testimony in a message I have from the High Council." The Valeyard brandished a flimsiplast.

"Testimony?" The Doctor's composure falters. "They've confronted him? Now?"

"Among my humble duties at this trial," says the Valeyard modestly, "has been to keep the High Council apprised of all developments."

"They can't do this!" The Doctor explodes back onto his feet. "To upset the timeline like that the High Council of the Time Lords would have to be the most manipulatory, self-centered," as the Doctor lists adjectives his indignation seems to lose steam, "discompassionate, power mad, reckless ... oh bother." Limply he falls back into his seat in a dejected sulk.

"The events you've presented here shall not require your intervention," says the Valeyard, looking in his smugness oddly like the Doctor, "because they shall not occur! In fact, within a very few moments, your presentation shall never have occurred ..." Suddenly the Valeyard seems to lose his train of thought.

"Doctor," says the Inquisitor, "have you any evidence to produce in defence against the charge of genocide?"

"None," gripes the Doctor.


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