AUTHOR'S NOTES: This novel length story was previously published in it's own zine by Chaos Unlimited.
The story format has been stolen unapologetically from the "Trial of a Time Lord" series. It is broken into six parts with an addendum at the end that gives the story within the story in chronological order. This will make more sense as you read on...
TRIALS & TRANSMUTATIONS
By Margaret Price
The enormous space station spread out and sparkled like a jewel-studded star, its many arms reaching out, stretching toward infinity. A single spire rose from its center, the lights affixed to its surface seeming to twinkle in time with the stars surrounding it. An elegant structure hanging alone in the vastness of space.
Directly above the central spire, the TARDIS hovered as though contemplating the station's very existence. Within the time machine's impossibly large interior, the Doctor stood motionless beside the control console, his eyes fixed on the scanner screen. He, too, was contemplating the space station, but not for aesthetic reasons. The coordinates had been included in an urgent message from Gallifrey. His first thoughts had been to ignore it. It would serve them right after what they put me through, he thought a little self-righteously. The last time he had been to a similar Gallifreyan outpost, he had been put on trial for his very lives.
Now, here they were again, calling him back as if absolutely nothing had happened, requesting his attention on an urgent matter. No, that wasn't it. Glancing back at the communication link, he reread the transmission. "A matter of the gravest urgency," he said with an indignant snort. He turned back to the screen, his face darkening further. "What've I done to upset you now?" he sighed wearily.
Having come this far already, it seemed silly to just leave without finding out what they wanted, the Doctor rationalized. Not that he had to rationalize at all. His curiosity had been piqued and there would be no stopping him until he learned what all the fuss was about. He hit the dematerialization switch and the TARDIS disappeared, reappearing a few seconds later inside a circular storeroom. The floor was decorated with the ornate figure eight pattern of the seal of Rassilon, the Police Box making a perfect bull's eye at its center as it materialized.
The Doctor popped his head out and looked around, another frown creasing his usually bright and cheerful face. The room was empty.
"Ah, Doctor," a voice said as he stepped from the door. "Thank you for coming so quickly."
The Doctor turned, the frown on his face deepening further. The newcomer was dressed in the ornate ceremonial robes of the Time Lords. To his credit, the man was not wearing the stiff high collar that always reminded the Doctor of an enormous butterfly.
"This can't be good," the Doctor muttered under his breath. Putting on a brave face, he smiled. "Hello. When I got your message, I must confess to being more than a little curious. It isn't often I get polite requests from Gallifrey." To his own surprise, the Doctor actually recognized the man as he drew nearer. "Cardinal Eustis, isn't it?"
The equally surprised Eustis inclined his head. "I didn't think you'd remember me, Doctor."
"Yes, well… The last time the High Council decided they wanted me, they put me on trial for my lives." The Doctor's voice dropped in pitch. "And I remember you were one of the few jurists who wasn't a party to that travesty of justice."
Eustis cleared his throat, clearly embarrassed. "No." He held out a hand, and then turned toward the door. "This way, Doctor."
The Doctor did not move. "Before I go anywhere, I want to know why you sent for me."
Readily understanding his guest's reluctance, Eustis smiled reassuringly. "This will come as a bit of a shock, I'm sure, but—I need your help."
The Doctor blinked. "Really?"
"Yes. It's to do with Eldeberon…" the Cardinal began.
"Eldeberon?" A dark cloud passed over the Doctor's face, the events all too fresh in his mind. "Tragic business."
"Yes," came the somber reply. "I'd like you to appear at the inquiry about it."
Amazingly, the Doctor was at a loss for words. This was the last thing he expected to hear.
"You were there, Doctor," Eustis reminded firmly.
"Yes, well…er, um…if you think it'll help…" the Doctor stammered out finally. "When is this inquiry to convene, anyway?"
Make that the second last thing he expected.
Within minutes of his arrival, the Doctor found himself being whisked away by a small mob of individuals who claimed to be preparing him for his testimony. Instead, they all seemed to talk at once, each having a differing opinion on how the Doctor was to behave during questioning. Within minutes, they were embroiled in a heated disagreement on points of law, codes of conduct, presentation of evidence and anything else that could possibly be argued over. So busy were they with their legal battle that they failed to notice the Doctor slip out of the room.
One of Eustis' aides was just passing in the hall and watched in mild amusement as the Time Lord made his escape. The Doctor turned and came face to face with the grinning man, who smiled sympathetically and volunteered to escort him to Cardinal Eustis' chambers where he could await the start of the inquiry in peace.
"I expected to find the Cardinal here already," the Doctor remarked in mild surprise, looking around the empty room.
"I'm sure Cardinal Eustis will be along momentarily," the aide replied as he straightened the Inquisitor's desk, laying out the paperwork he had brought with him.
The Doctor nodded, strolling casually around the room. He paused at the door leading to the courtroom, taking it in with a shudder, the memory of his false trial returning vividly to mind. This room had a slightly different layout. There was a gallery area behind the Inquisitor's station, which was currently devoid of spectators, something that struck him as odd. His own trial seemed to have been standing room only. At the back of the gallery was the enormous screen connected to the Matrix of Time. At its base sat a small shadowbox, a blue light dancing across its front. While this unobtrusive object blended in with the ostentatious trappings of the room, the Doctor knew it had a more practical purpose. The device was a barrier generator and would prevent any Alterran within range from changing form, or transmuting, and reduce their strength to human levels. The Doctor had a sudden, horrible feeling he knew the real reason he had been asked to appear.
"May I get you anything while you wait, sir?" his escort asked from the opposite doorway.
"No, nothing," the Doctor replied absently. A sudden thought struck him and he asked hurriedly, "Tell me, is anyone else to appear in this inquiry against…um, against…?"
"Prince Jason of Tel-Shye," the bailiff said helpfully. "I don't know, sir."
"Thank you." His worst fears confirmed, the Doctor turned back to look into the courtroom. He had parted company with his former traveling companion immediately following the events on Eldeberon. Unlike all the other times, however, this was to be their last. He had told the Alterran in no uncertain terms to never contact him again.
When Eustis finally arrived, he found the Doctor beside himself with anger. "Just when were you planning on telling me I was going to be testifying against Jason?" he exploded. "Just before I was called? Or were you going to wait and let me find out as I walked in?"
"Doctor, please calm down," Eustis soothed. "This is a criminal inquiry, not a trial."
"So you say!" the Doctor snapped. "I have no doubt you've been given full authority to turn this inquiry into a trial at a moment's notice. And I'm sure the High Council will be ready to step in just as soon as—" He broke off as another thought struck him. His voice dropped in pitch and took on a threatening edge. "I am just a witness, aren't I? Or am I a part of this criminal inquiry, too?"
Eustis squirmed in his seat under the Doctor's angry glare and cleared his throat nervously. "Well…as one of the only survivors, Doctor, you would naturally come under suspicion."
"Naturally," came the icy reply. "And?"
"And…using the Matrix archive, the judiciary tribunal viewed Eldeberon's final moments." Eustis paused before adding, "And what followed."
The Doctor straightened, a stunned look coming to his face as he realized what he meant. "They saw our confrontation."
"Yes. The High Council felt it was rather straight forward from there."
The Doctor did not have an answer for this, asking instead, "Just how did Gallifrey get jurisdiction in this, anyway?"
"Ah, that was the Prince's doing, I'm afraid," Eustis replied in an almost defensive tone. "He used his Ambassadorial status to get past the transduction barriers and gain access to the Capitol. Then he—I'm not sure confronted is the right word here. He actually accused Cardinal Wythe of being a party to a plot that ended with…well, you know the rest of that."
"Cardinal Wythe?" the Doctor repeated in disbelief. "Of the High Council?
"He was quite adamant. Had to be physically removed from his office."
"Arrested, you mean."
"Yes. It was quite a scene, as I understand it."
Having witnessed Jason in more than one fit of pique, the Doctor could easily envision the scene, as well as the reactions of the sedate Time Lords when confronted with the volatile Alterran when in an inflamed state of mind. "Yes, I can imagine."
The Cardinal smiled but did not reply.
"So what now?" the Doctor wanted to know. "Am I supposed to cool my heels in here until I'm called?"
"No, no. You may observe the proceedings from the gallery, if you wish."
The Doctor considered a moment. "Does Jason know I'm to appear?"
"I believe so," Eustis replied. "Will that be a problem?" The last thing he wanted was a repeat of the scene in Wythe's office.
The Doctor hesitated, recalling the harsh words and finality of his parting with his one time traveling companion. There was no telling how the Alterran would react to his presence. He only knew it would be less than sanguine. "I don't know. We'll just have to see how it goes."
Eustis gave him a disapproving look. "I won't stand for any disruptions, Doctor."
"I wasn't planning on starting any," came the injured reply.
"You may observe from the gallery. And I stress the word observe. It's a practice I believe you're not usually in the habit of making."
"Ah! Yes," the Doctor said guiltily. "Point taken."