Out, far out, beyond any semblance of Creation, they gathered.
Under a dead sky, consisting of the last, cold stars of this Universe, they stood on a ball of rock.
There are many myths about the Time Lords. That they had all burned in a great Time War with a long extinct race of mutants. That was just one of them.
No, that's not right, protested some. They had been thrown out of time in a bubble of their own making. Isolated, malicious and scheming. Another.
To some they had attained the status of supernatural saviours. To others, bogeymen.
Some prayed to them, some spat at the very mention of their name. Some doubted whether they had ever existed at all. Most had never even heard of them.
Whatever the truth, this assembled baker's dozen in their high-necked robes stood in a horseshoe-shaped group around the crude wooden cot. They were the last of all, summoned by a message impossible to ignore. A death cry from one of their own.
The End of a Time Lord, any Time Lord is a big deal. But this one - this special one - out here, commanded their attention like no other. They had thought-warped to this place in an instant.
One of their number, nominally titled 'President', stepped forward and crouched over the dying figure in the cot. He recognised him of course. Although Time Lords can regenerate; changing their appearance and persona to outsiders, they always remain identifiable to each other.
But they were not immortal. The President could see that the fires of regeneration had died in this one. His lives squandered, hand over fist. He faced the finite.
"You came." A whispered voice from the cot.
" Did you ever doubt it?"
"Even for a renegade like me?"
"Even for you. But you knew we would come. And you know why."
A dry laugh. "I might have guessed you would have an ulterior motive."
The President bent forward. He spoke urgently. Time was running out. "Where is it?"
No answer. But the eyes flickered, scanning the President's face.
"The Spark. Tell me quickly. It is of no use to you now," said the President.
"It never was. I could never control it..." Interrupted by a burbling cough.
"You didn't think it would be as easy as that, did you? It's hidden."
The President straightened. "You know the consequences. We need it now."
"There's a chance that HE might find it for you."
"All of him. But there can only be one winner in this Tontine." The hand fell back onto the cot and his last words were a mere gasp. "Winner take all..."
The President held out his hands over the body, as if cupping water. They filled with a liquid, appearing from nowhere. The liquid hardened, first becoming gel, then a perfect transparent sphere.
An Elder from the group stepped forward beside the President. He looked at the transparent globe in the President's hands almost reverently. "A Matrix Orb." he said, whispering. The Elder then looked down at the corpse. "Did he tell you where to find the Spark?"
The President shook his head. The surface of the Orb began to smear with colour, pale at first, then becoming pulsatingly stronger.
The President permitted himself the merest smile. "It has a trace," he said to the Elder. "Faint, but something."
"Then we have a chance," murmured the Elder.
The President nodded. He threw the globe overarm into the freezing empty sky where it vanished with a tail of fire, ripping through temporal sinew.
The President looked down at the withering body, crumbling into dust as he watched.
"I never really understood why he adopted that stupid title," said the Elder at his side.
"Simply a declaration of intent," said the President. "He wanted to rule. Master of all he surveyed."
(End of Part One)