Lady President Romana stood at the window and gazed out at Gallifrey’s burnt orange sky. The second sun was setting on the northern horizon, and all was deceptively peaceful. It was all an illusion, however. Out there – way out there, in the far reaches of the galaxy, there was a war going on, and as loathe as she was to admit it, it was a war her own people began.
She cut a stunning figure in her scarlet, black, and golden robes of office, but she loathed wearing them. She missed the days of her long, tan coat, white scarf and funny hat. She missed being out there, traveling, having adventures with the one man she ever really loved: the Doctor. He was still out there, fighting the war…Fighting at her behest and orders.
Gods, what had they become? The Time Lords were sworn to non-interference. They were sworn to uphold and maintain the integrity of the timeline, and what were they doing? Void ships, Black Hole Carriers, N-Forms, temporal surgical strikes. They were attacking their enemy using the best weapon they had: time itself, violating their own sacred laws, but with no higher authority to stop them. Not that they could stop at this point, even if they wanted to. The Daleks were ruthless, and relentless, and were at long last on their mad quest to conquer the universe, and regardless of who started it, now the Time Lords were all that stood between the Daleks and that very brutal conquest.
If Romana were a nail-biter, now would be the perfect time. The war was going badly, and her only consolation was that it was just as bad for the Daleks as for the Time Lords. This was a war of attrition, a war of—it left a bitter taste in her mouth to even think it—extermination. She just hoped it was the Daleks who got wiped out. Somewhere and somewhen out there, a battle was being fought over an ancient and powerful artifact they’d previously thought a myth. And the winner of that battle could well become the winner of the entire war. The whole shebang, as the Doctor—her Doctor—would have put it.
The door burst open and in ran Councilor Susanowa, her closest advisor. If Romana could be said to have a friend on the Council (and she couldn’t), Susanowa would be that friend.
"Lady President, we must mobilize immediately. They're coming!"
"Calm down, Councilor. What in Rassilon's name are you talking about?"
"The Daleks, Lady President. They won. They've gained control of the Cruciform, and they're coming. It's an invasion, Romana!"
"Gods of Gallifrey!” Romana took a deep breath and asked the question that needed to be asked, but to which she already knew the horrific answer. “How many?"
"All of them."
* * *
The Cast finds themselves alone and sans TARDIS on Gallifrey near the end of the Time War, the ominous spectre of Skaro in orbit around Gallifrey hanging in the sky above.
Davan smacks the Artist upside the head and insists it's all the Artist's fault, somehow.
The Cast begin walking towards the Citadel of the Time Lords, the Artist and Susan desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to explain the concept of Temporal Paradox to Davan and James so that they understand why they can't "just change things so the Time Lords win."
As they walk, The Artist, Emilie, and Susan receive a telepathic cry from Angelique, who is trapped somewhere where there's no light, where it's darker than she'd ever thought possible, where she can hear people outside, but no one can hear her when she calls out. Susan is able to (barely) make contact with her. Angelique didn't run, it seems, but was dragged to wherever she's trapped, and there are massive forces trying to drag her further in; she's expending all her considerable will to remain where she is and can't escape. She begs the Cast to help her.
Susan tries to telepathically contact her grandfather, and while she is able to determine that he's on Gallifrey, he won't answer her for some reason. She's surprised at how different he seems, and the Artist explains he's on his eighth incarnation at this point (Susan was aware of the first seven).
Gradually, the Artist recalls a feeling as though something physically struck his TARDIS while they were in transit through the Vortex--an occurrence that is so unlikely as to be for all intents and purposes impossible, and which could have catastrophic consequences, amongst those breaking through the Event Horizon preventing travel into Gallifrey's past. The Artist proceeds to explain the situation: the war is nearly over; the Daleks have gained control of the Cruciform, an artifact that enables people, buildings, even planets to occupy two spaces in space and time at once, giving them overwhelming power in the war. Soon, he says, the Eye of Harmony will detonate, destroying both Gallifrey and Skaro. Davan, in a typical display of bravado, insists that given a "space plane," he could take the Cruciform back himself.
James and Davan also harp on how nice it would be to have guns right now, much to the Artist's irritation.
The two day walk to the Citadel goes without incident, save the sounds of battle erupting constantly all around. Upon arrival, they note that the city has clearly been assaulted; buildings are in rubble, and refugees huddle in the streets. The Cast, hungry and tired, decide to head for the Artist's home, as the Artist knows his past-self won't be there. When they arrive, however, they discover that whenever they try and affect the world, they pass right through objects--they've become incorporeal. Trying to interact with the populace yields no results. The Artist, Chuck, and Davan determine that they've somehow become shifted just off the normal space-time continuum. With great concentration, they manage some small measure of affect on the world; Emilie is able to pick up a piece of rubble a foot or two off the ground, Davan manages to do the same for a few inches.
A wave of vertigo passes, along with ripples in space, and the Cast find themselves away from the Citadel on a battlefield, where they witness a woman that James and Susan recognize as the Queen of Time begging a group of Daleks not to kill her. One of the Daleks seems confused and affected by her pleas, but suddenly screams "EXTERMINATE!" and fires upon her...then self-destructs. The Artist explains that what they just saw was the Persephone he knew...but if she died in the Time War, how did she survive to become the Queen?
Another wave of vertigo and more waves in the air...this time their position doesn't shift, but the battle is long over. Persephone lies on the ground, apparently quite dead...until her eyes flutter and she sits up with a groan. She runs her hands over her body and says, "It worked. Now for my revenge," and runs off.
Time shifts again and they find themselves back in the Citadel. The Artist enters his house, walking through the wall, and manages through force of will to take a photograph of him and his wife, which he places in his pockets. Once the photo passes the dimensional transcendence of his pocket, it shifts into his continuum and stays put. He then rejoins his companions, and they decide to see if they can find President Romana and somehow make her aware that they are here and trapped off-time.
As they travel, they come upon a Dalek, crying "Exterminate!" and trying to kill Time Lords, but his energy blasts pass harmlessly through them. He also tries to call for help, to no avail. Somehow, it seems, a Dalek has also shifted off-time. The Cast take cover, and develop a plan to slap Silly Putty (provided by the Artist) over its eye stalk in hopes they can make it talk. James slips off into the buildings, walking through walls to sneak up on the Dalek, when the Artist notes that its distress call consists of "This is Dalek Caan. I require evacuation. Evacuate! Evacuate! I am Dalek Caan."
He is, understandably, taken aback by a Dalek with a name. James leaps out and slaps the Silly Putty over its eyestalk, and the Dalek goes mad, blindly firing its weapon until the Artist manages to talk it down. Grudgingly, Dalek Caan agrees to accompany the Cast until they can find a way to be freed of their condition. They also determine that it was likely Dalek Caan himself who crashed into Angelique in the Time Vortex during an "Emergency Temporal Shift."
Speaking of Temporal Shifts...another one happens.
This time the Cast witness the death of the Artist's wife, Zeidu, at the hands (or guns) of a Dalek force. They see the Artist dragged away by a small, retreating Time Lord squad, screaming his wife's name as she falls. The Cast then witness one of the Daleks go crazy, spinning around, firing its weapon blindly, until two other Daleks grab it with their plunger arms and fly it towards a Dalek mothership for "reconditioning."
Time shifts again and the Cast now find themselves just outside the Citadel. The Artist drops to his knees, near-catatonic with grief and shock, and Davan gives him a hug, talking him down and helping him to regain his composure. Chuck can only say, "I have no idea how that must feel."
The Artist manages to croak out that it's been over a year since that happened.
The Cast resumes their journey to find the President, heading towards the Capitol building, walking right through walls. They are frustrated when they attempt to pass through a security forces H.Q. to discover they can't pass through, possibly due to a Deadlock on the door. They walk around, but realize that the Capitol building is likely Deadlocked so they can't just walk in.
They manage with the use of chalk to scratch out two words on the ground in front of the two guards posted at the capitol's entrance: "Help," and "Trapped." The Guards, fearful of a Dalek trick, attempt to call inside for help, and panic when no response comes. They rush inside, and when the door opens, the Cast dashes through as well. They follow the guards up a long, spiral staircase and are caught aback when the guards are handily assassinated with sonic blasters...by fellow Time Lords outside the Presidential Suite.
Entering the offices, the Cast discovers Romana under arrest by what the Artist explains are "Pythian Cultists," led by a woman named Inquisitor Darkel who is supposed to be dead. The Artist sees Romana send a signal with a Sonic Screwdriver, and a computer terminal flashes. He rushes over and sees her sending a message to the Doctor: "Situation Dire. Bring me the Hand of Omega."
Susan is astonished that the Hand is on Gallifrey, and the Artist and her explain to the Cast just what the Hand is: a device capable of creating and controlling black holes.
It also becomes readily apparent that aside from Romana, the Time Lords have become corrupted by their own hate and rage. They begin talking of a new empire once the war is over, a Time Lord empire that will ensure no threat like the Daleks ever rise again, as they "guide and shepherd" all the primitive races under their rule. The Artist and Susan are disgusted.
Davan and James hatch a plan to assassinate the rebels by taking pointy sticks the Artist carries on his person, and materializing them through force of will through the rebels' chests. The Artist and Susan admonish and beg them not to mess with the flow of time, and in grand tradition, James and Davan begin "What if"-ing and second guessing themselves.
In the end, the Artist determines that given the clues she's dropped, Angelique may be in the event horizon of the Eye of Harmony, and determines to go there and see if he can get her out. Davan tells James to go with the Cast; he's going to watch events unfold here, and only as a last resort will he enact his plan to take out the cultists. Dalek Caan stays with Davan; the rest go to the Eye of Harmony...when another temporal shift occurs.
To be continued...
Davan (Slapping the Artist): "This is clearly your fault!"
Chuck: "Lots of impossible things seem to be happening. Shall we attempt to divide by zero?"
The Artist: "Dividing by zero is rather easy. Earth will figure it out in ten or fifteen years."
The Artist (Handing Davan and James pointy sticks): "Here, weapons. Are you happy?"
Davan: "Sarcasm duly noted and will be used against you in the future."
The Artist: "Susan, can you try to send a response to Angelique?"
Susan: "As well as you can... Oh, wait, right. I'm telepathic. The distress call was a little disconcerting."
James: "Like the Enterprise did? In the movie?"
The Artist: "Chuck, did I give you permission to take the duct tape off your mouth?"
Davan: "What's the Cruciform?"
The Artist: "I'll try to explain it in terms you will understand. It's a doohicky that makes whatchamacallits exist in two places at the same time."
Davan: "What did I tell you about the sarcasm?"
The Artist: "The TARDIS is like a sports car. Janis had a Vortex Manipulator, which is more like... well, a unicycle."
James: "You've clearly never seen a souped up unicycle, have you?"
Davan: "Rocket powered unicycles."
The Artist: "Very good, Davan. You get an A+."
Davan: "This is the third time I've warned you about the sarcasm."
Chuck: "Perhaps we are on the Holodeck."
The Artist: "Will you stop watching Star Trek?"
Chuck: "It's like counting grains of sand in the desert, just to try to find the one made out of diamond."
Susan: "That's a very good analogy."
The Artist: "Chuck, I had no idea you were so eloquent."
Chuck: "I am a technical writer."
The Artist: "Who wants to try putting silly putty on the Dalek's eye stalk?"
James: "No, wait, give it here."
Davan: "So the Dalek has a unicycle?"
The Artist: "Yes, Davan, he has a unicycle."
The Artist: "Well, sorry, but we're in a very traumatic place for me at the moment."
Emilie: "We are stranded in the middle of a war, our TARDIS is gone, and we could die at any moment. I think we're all in a traumatic place."
The Artist: "Well, not as traumatic as me."
Emilie: "What are we, five?"
Davan: "What if we jump into the Eye of Harmony?"
The Artist: "The would be a 33% chance that we would be ripped apart at the atomic level, a 33% chance that we would be ejected into random points in space and time, a 33% chance that we will end up in the Void between universes or another universe all together, and a 1% chance that we will rejoin normal time."
Davan: 'So... There's a chance?"
The Artist: "I require at least a 40% survival rate before risking my life."
Davan: "But in three of those scenarios, we live!"
Emilie: "Who are these people?"
The Artist: "Cultist, cultists, traitor, traitor, traitor, cultist, President."
James: "We don't have a 'Plan A.' We have 'Plan Pointy Stick' and 'Plan Flounder Around.' I'm a fan of 'Plan Pointy Stick.'"
Emilie: "You're using up all my minutes!"