During the Gallifreyan holiday of Otherstide, secrets are revealing themselves. Who exactly is this “Theta Sigma”?
The night sky was as beautiful as ever. Looking out onto the horizon, Pantriss wished for a moment that the city wasn’t covered in glass, giving him an opportunity to feel the wind on his face. Then again, he considered, he probably wouldn’t feel the same way if it was raining tonight. He lingered for a moment, noticing that his ward had been looking at him for a while. Eventually, the youngster worked up the courage to break the silence. “So, what did you want to discuss?” Pantriss had a long time to think through what he wanted to say; the only thing holding him back now was the taboo. “You’ve done very well in the work I’ve given you, Maxika. Not many make it to the level that you have.” Maxika internally breathed a sigh of relief. When she was called up here, she thought she’d be in trouble. “Thank you, sir.”
“Enough with that. When it’s just us, you can call me Pantriss.”
“Oh. Well, thank you Pantriss.”
“I’ve been talking with The Order. They’re equally impressed with you.”
“Will I be able to meet the rest of them?”
“In time, Time Tot. How familiar are you with our planet’s history?”
“I’ve read through all the official texts.” Pantriss couldn’t help but chuckle at that. “Only the official texts?”
“Well, Gallifrey doesn’t exactly advertise what it doesn’t want its people to know.”
“Too true. Tell me what you know about the founders.”
“Okay, Omega first thought up the idea for time travel while he was in school, and Rassilon was able to engineer the means to give us enough power to time travel, making The Eye of Harmony and, well,” she gestured to the city below her, “all of this.”
“What else did Rassilon make?”
“The first TARDIS model, a handful of different weapons, our ability to regenerate-”
“Are you sure?” The teacher looked his student in the eye for the first time.
“What are you saying?”
“Rassilon and Omega weren’t alone. Nobody talks about it, but there’s one Other founder.”
Theta Sigma always felt weird about their birthday. On one hand, any excuse to get attention is most welcome, but on the other, how do they even go about it? Should Theta have been planning a party this whole time to invite their friends to? Is that their responsibility or that of their friends? Will their friends even care if they bring it up? They kept that train of thought until the only punctuation they could picture was question marks, feeling as if a slew of them were surrounding, closing in on Theta, until they heard a persistent knocking at the door. Oh, spack me! They thought, I’m gonna be late. In one fluid motion, Theta managed to leap off the bed, flinging the pajamas they were wearing into the hamper, and grabbing the robe they left hanging on the bed for today. The students at the Academy didn’t have a lot of choice in regards to their clothes, only being limited to their House colors, but Theta could swear that this one shines a much more brilliant Prydonian red than the other robes they have. As such, they only save it for special occasions. They went to open the door.
“Koschei, they heard you after the first few knocks, cut it out.” Ushas had her back against the corner of the hallway, trying to look as cool as you can be when you’re one of these three.
“Well, we’re, uh, going to be late for class!” he replied, clearly stumbling on his words a bit.
“I’m the only one of us who actually cares about showing up on time.”
“You know, they have a crush on you too. Just kiss already.”
“I do not-” Koschei’s words were cut short as he realized he accidentally bonked Theta on the head when they opened the door. Ushas closed up her book as Koschei cradled Theta’s face to make sure they were alright, ending the conversation with, “Case in point. Are you ready for class, Theta?”
“Yeah, let’s go losers.”
“Happy birthday, by the way.” Koschei didn’t let it show, but he was hitting himself in his mind, as her remark made him realize that he forgot Theta’s birthday.
Much like any student body, the Time Tots at the Academy would make fun of each other relentlessly. The big divider for many was class; living in a domed city where you can see the Shobogans living in less favorable conditions outside will have that effect. However, other reasons to be picked on can be discovered. Occasionally, they’ll pick on people on the basis of their House, but members of the same House tend to keep to themselves, only intermingling during meals or special events. When it comes to how to discriminate, they can be rather indiscriminate. Mortimus had the misfortune to catch Nesgar and Anzor when they were in a bad mood. As if that wasn’t enough, he had worn his father’s ceremonial headdress in celebration of Otherstide, making him stick out like a sore thumb.
“What’s with the getup, Morty?” Mortimus sighed, and tried to put on a false sense of confidence.
“Oh, hey guys. Wanted to look nice for the festivals.”
“Well, it looks really good on you, I gotta say.” The two brutes snickered. “Totally doesn’t look too big on you.” Anzor piped up, “you gonna get a position at the Capitol? Huh, Morty?” Mortimus tried to walk around them, but found himself caught between the two of them. Why are the teachers only ever around when I’m getting into trouble? he thought. Just then, Nesgar took the hat off of his head, the two of them tossing it back and forth. Mortimus tried to reach for it, but he wasn’t expected to hit his growth spurt until at least 90. “Aww, lookit, Anzor, the poor kid can’t reach.”
“Don’t you two have exams to cheat in or something?” All of them turned around to notice the two students walking towards them. The one who spoke up was Iris, a righteous rage in her eyes that Nesgar knew was not to be messed with. Next to her was Drax, who was well into his growth spurt and could easily take on the both of them. Anzor looked Nesgar in the eyes. Say what you will about the both of them, they knew when to quit. As they both reluctantly walked away, Iris and Drax came over to check on Mortimus. Before they were completely out of sight, Anzor heard Morty ask for his hat back. For once, he honestly didn’t mean to throw it directly in the kid’s face, though he would never say that. Peeling it off of his face and putting it back on his head, Drax asked Mortimus, “You okay?” drawing him for a reassuring embrace. “Yeah, I’m alright. Just glad I didn’t catch them in the restroom.”
“Hey, that’s the spirit, chuck! You dressed up for Otherstide today?” Iris asked.
“Yeah, it’s my father’s headdress. You don’t think it’s too much?”
“I think,” retorted Drax, clasping his hand, “That you look quite handsome.” Sometimes, when Mortimus was given a compliment, he wouldn’t be able to tell if it was genuine, or if it was another joke being played on him. Thankfully, Iris and Drax were glued to his hips, so he could tell they meant it. The trio walked off to their class.
Neurochemistry was a rather interesting field of science, especially to Ushas. It’s a shame that the rest of the class didn’t share this sentiment. This particular block of the Neurochemistry class in the morning had received a bit of a reputation among students. Basically, if you were in this class, you were a loser. Whether this rumor started before or after the current semester started, nobody could say. One thing, however, was remarkably clear; This class had all 10 members of the Deca: Theta, Koschei, Ushas, Drax, Mortimus, Iris, Magnus, Vansell, Millenia, and Rallon. Most of them took the same or similar classes, and worked out a sort of buddy system so that each member would be picked on as few times as possible. While in school, they’d stick to 3 groups. Two of them, you already got to meet, with the last being Magnus and his cohorts. Then, when they’d go to classes, they’d be assigned members from the other groups to sit next to. They tried just sticking to the groups in classes, but they’d all get too rowdy when they’re together. For example, Mortimus was assigned to sit next to Ushas in this class. He was always a bit nervous, as those who aren’t friends with Ushas tend to find her a bit intimidating. She actually only noticed how Mortimus felt today; since it was the day before a short break for Otherstide, people were paying even less attention to class than usual, especially the teacher. When Ushas finished any notes she needed for today, she started passing messages to Mortimus, partially out of boredom, and partially to be nice to him. Her first note was a bit scribbly, but Mortimus could make out, “Why can’t the teacher ever focus on the interesting parts of the subject?” He passed a note back saying, “You like this stuff?”
“I like a lot of things.”
“Well, Theta got me interested in learning about Earth. Have you ever heard of dinosaurs before?”
“Can’t say I have. What are they?”
“Big reptilian creatures that were the dominant species of Earth for some time. Theta and I were going to learn more later on, you’re welcome to join us if you like.”
“Where are you meeting?”
“You’re going to the festival? I assumed from the getup.”
“Yeah, I’ll meet you both there.”
“Did you get a present for Theta?”
“Oh no, is it their birthday today?”
“Don’t worry, I think Koshei forgot as well.”
Speaking of Koschei, he was paired off with Magnus here. They were far back enough that they could actually talk, as long as they were quiet. “Trying to grow facial hair again, Magnus?” Koschei whispered.
“How does it look?”
“Do you want me to be honest?”
“That bad, huh?”
“Hey, we’re still in our first body, you have plenty of time.”
“I hear that some of the other folks plan on going to the festival. You coming?”
“Probably. I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to get Theta.”
“Win something for them at one of the games. Maybe they’ll confess their love for you.”
“For the love of, I don’t-” he started, before realizing he was getting too loud. Quieting back down, he continued, “I don’t love Theta, alright?”
“No skin off my nose. For what it’s worth, though, I think you’d look cute together.”
Equally as far back, but strategically placed on the other side of the room, sat Theta, paired off with Iris. Theta wasn’t a huge fan of this setup, mainly because Iris had feelings that they didn’t reciprocate, but it was the only class they were paired off with her, so they dealt with it. And it’s not like Iris wasn’t fun to hang out with, it’s just the romantic feelings that make it weird. They already got shot down by Ushas a while back when they had a small crush on her, so Theta has decided to try and avoid that with friends in the future, as best they can anyways. As they tried to pay attention, Iris kept poking them, so they finally gave in and whispered, “What is it, Iris?”
“Are you going to the festival?”
“Oh. I had forgotten about that.”
“How? It’s Always on your birthday.”
“That makes sense. I might go, are you?”
“The whole Deca’s gonna be there, lovey. Someone’s gotta celebrate your special day with you, right?” She gave them a playful nudge. Theta sighed with relief, glad that their birthday plans were able to work themselves out. Now, all they had to do was wait.
There are a lot of people in the Academy that Theta doesn’t talk to. There’s only one that they don’t talk to on purpose. Irving Braxiatel understood and accepted this arrangement; after all, nobody wants to be caught talking to their siblings at school. Still, he thought it a bit harsh if he kept this up today, so he decided to bring his little sibling a birthday present: a nice, big bottle of ginger beer. You see, despite not being alcoholic, the ginger in the beverage has a similar effect to Time Lords that alcohol has to humans, so a more apt comparison would be Irving, or “Brax” as he liked to be called, giving a bottle of Fireball as a gift. He wasn’t surprised to find Theta’s dorm room empty, picking the time to deliver his little surprise almost as carefully as he snuck into the room. He had to plan his steps, as the floor was awfully cluttered. Look on the bright side, he thought to himself, at least they aren’t doing this in my room. He was thinking about where in his sibling’s room to put the gift, but found that to be the last thing on his mind once the door was opened.
Looking at him, outside the window, was the face of what was most likely a student. It was vaguely familiar enough that Brax knew he’d seen the person somewhere before, but not enough that he could put a name to the face. Seeing that she was caught red-handed, she ran off. Without thinking, Brax took off after her, quickly opening the window. Thankfully, Theta’s dorm room was on the first floor, so he was able to just step outside after fitting through the opening. The mysterious student was ducking and weaving around the crowd heading to the Otherstide festival. An effective strategy, Brax thought, but predictable. And not good enough to lose me. Diving into the sea of young Time Lords, he couldn’t help but be pushed in a perpendicular direction to where he was going. Anticipating this, he moved with the current until he was able to find his opening, and resume the chase. Eventually, Brax was able to catch up with her, tackling the poor student and pinning her to the floor. “There. Now, would you mind telling me what you were doing?”
“Why is that any of your concern?”
“Well, when you’re looking into someone’s room, and then take off once you’re caught, that tends to be a sign that something fishy was going on.”
“You’re hurting me!”
Not wanting to get in trouble, Brax loosened his grip. “Alright, look. If I let you go, will you explain yourself?” Weighing her options, the student huffed, “Fine.” He got to his feet, helping her up. “Nothing broken?”
“No thanks to you.”
“Okay, I think we got off on the wrong foot. Let me start again; People call me Brax. What might your name be?”
The festival was filled with excitement. Games were set up, with prizes for those who did exceptionally well, a Maypole for the younger students, the aroma of dishes made just for the occasion, and the students were all having a blast. But nobody was enjoying themselves more than Theta Sigma. Walking through the aisles of booths set up, seeing everyone enjoying themselves, it almost felt like they were there for them. It was nice for them to think that people enjoyed their company. Sure, Theta has the Deca, but that doesn’t stop them from the nagging feeling that nobody really likes them. For once, even if it was pretend, Theta was able to feel like they belonged, and that was probably the best gift they could’ve asked for. A close second, though, would be what Koschei was trying to do. While waiting for the others, them and Ushas were going to the different games, so that Koschei could try and win a prize for Theta. The games proved to be a bit challenging for him, to which he swore with increasing fervor that they were rigged. Catching his eye, Ushas was able to initiate Contact with him to hatch a plan. While she brought Theta over to one of the stands to try some food, he slunk behind a different stand, plucking one of the prizes while the attendee wasn’t looking.
It was a force knife, a small handle when turned off, with a switch on the side, letting you extend the blade as little as the width of one quark to as large as a meter. Whoever thought this was an appropriate prize for students needed to have their position reevaluated. Koschei walked back to his friends, proudly proclaiming, “Too bad you missed it, I finally won one of the games.” Theta turned around, excited to see what he was going to give them. They couldn’t help but be ever so slightly let down, only because they never really liked weapons, but they weren’t going to say that. They honestly didn’t even expect to get any presents, and if nothing else, it was worth it seeing how hard he tried for them. Theta scooped Koschei up in a big hug, saying, “Thank you,” and giving him a peck on the cheek. His face turning as red as the planet they were standing on, Koschei gave Ushas a discreet high-five.
Shortly after, the other members of the Deca were able to find them, and they decided to get some food together. Finding a nice tree off to the side, away from the festivities, they all sat down in a circle. Drax piped up, “We would’ve found you sooner, but while we were walking there, we saw these two students chasing each other.” Ushas responded with, “Chasing each other? Why?”
“We couldn’t tell,” said Mortimus, “It’s kinda hard to stop and ask someone a question when they’re running through a crowd.”
Rallon continued with, “Yeah, was anyone able to tell who they were? I want to give that guy a piece of my mind for stepping on my foot.”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean to,” Magnus consoled, “Besides, we aren’t completely innocent of that ourselves. Remember the time we were trying to build a trans mat unit that ended up exploding right as your roommate walked by?”
Iris stopped eating her food. “You did WHAT? Why didn’t you tell me about it?”
He elaborated, “We wanted to find a way to sleep in for longer-”
“You wanted to find a way to sleep in longer,” Millenia corrected, “I wanted to use it to explore the planet on my down time.”
“We would’ve told you if it worked,” said Vansell, “but none of us were thrilled with having to clean all of that up.”
“Not a bad idea,” Koschei mused, “I’ve always wanted to branch out as well.”
“Maybe we could all steal a TT capsule after we graduate,” Theta joked. It landed well with the crowd. “So, what are you all doing after this?”
“Rallon and I were going to go to the library,” Millenia replied, “we wanted to learn more about this weird immortal guy who likes to play games. I think his name was, the Game Master? Something like that?”
“Toymaker,” Rallon corrected.
“You can join us if you like,” said Ushas, “Theta and I like to go there to learn about the Earth. Did you still want to come with us, Mortimus?”
Mortimus looked at Iris, feeling as though he had to ask permission, but her trademark grin dissolved any worry he felt in that moment. “Yes, that sounds nice.”
“Does anyone want to stay at the festival for a while longer?” Vansell asked.
Considering it for a moment, Magnus replied, “Eh, not really. I never was all that partial to all the festivities they put out.”
“It’s better than Omegamorial, or even worse,” Koschei shuddered, “Rassilon Day.”
“What’s wrong with Rassilon and Omega?” Theta asked.
“I don’t think he means any ill towards the people,” Magnus inferred, “Just the holidays themselves. The only thing we ever get to do during them is sit in a giant auditorium and circlejerk about how great they are. You’re right, I should be grateful we don’t do any of that today.”
Then nobody spoke for a moment. Everyone made sure to look at everyone else’s faces, until they could all tell they were thinking the same thing. What was Otherstide meant to celebrate?
Think of the biggest library you’ve ever seen, in person or otherwise. Double it. Add a few extra floors. Maybe a few more. Oh, not that many. There, perfect. Now make it look less, for lack of a better word, human. That should give you a rough idea of what the Academy’s library looks like. It’s a shame that nobody ever uses it. Well, almost nobody. Due to the holiday, the only one tending to it this evening would be Pongoth, who had been working there since her 3rd regeneration. She warmly greeted the members of the Deca as they all walked inside. The Deca came to the library regularly, so they were automatically Pongoth’s favorite students.
Theta, Ushas, Mortimus, Rallon, and Millenia went to the student lounge. Most of the walls had windows made of Azbantium, to let in more natural light and preserve the books and scrolls, but the student lounge had walls entirely made of Azbantium, which looked, according to the professional opinions of the Deca, really cool. Vansell, Magnus, and Drax would hang around near the entrance to keep an eye on Pongoth. Koschei and Iris, however, had a special mission they wanted to go on. See, with the library being as big as it is, not all of the material is entirely appropriate for students. On a lower floor, in a section that nobody other than the High Council themselves dare visit, rests the forbidden section. This would be where you’d find such works as the last remaining copies of the Black Scrolls of Rassilon, although that wasn’t what they were aiming for. The plan to find anything about Otherstide bounced around in their minds as the Seal of Rassilon almost stared at them, or rather, it would if it had eyes.
“This could do with a dusting,” Iris said, flicking the seal.
“I didn’t think of this. We might need to go back.” Koschei replied.
“If we move the dust too much, people might know we were here.”
“Oh, come on Kosh-”
“Do not call me that.”
“You said it yourself, nobody’s actually been here in ages. We’ll be fine.” Iris strode forward confidently, picking out a scroll to look at. Koschei shrugged, and did the same. They found out some interesting information, but nothing they were looking at even mentioned Otherstide. Just when Iris was about ready to give up, something on the top shelf caught her eye. There didn’t seem to be any ladders or chairs nearby, so she got Koschei’s attention and put on as cute of a face as she could muster. “I don’t suppose I could ask you a favor, chuck?” This wasn’t the first time he had to have someone stand on his shoulders to hoist them up, but he hoped it was the last. Thankfully, Iris was now high enough up that she was able to easily pick out a small handful of scrolls. Let’s hope one of these will do. None of them were the same size, so the two wondered why they were all grouped together until they took a look at the seals. Written over the seal of Rassilon were 3 simple, abbreviated letters. R. O. O.
Meanwhile, Rallon and Millenia had given up on what they were looking for, as they were far more interested in the exchange between their friends, each thoroughly invested in their books.
“Do you remember that animal you told me about earlier, the parrot?” Ushas inquired, not waiting for an answer, “Apparently, there was a species of dinosaur called the Pegomastax that looked like that, but with quills. Its beak had teeth on it.”
Theta retorted with, “Apparently, the British Army found out what rockets were in the 18th century, relative time, when another country called India fired some at them. They, in turn, had taken the idea from another country closer to them than England called China, where the idea was first invented at the beginning of the 12th century.”
Finally starting to get the hang of it, Mortimus interjected, “That man you told me about, Leonardo da Vinci, apparently that isn’t his last name. Vinci is a small village near Florence, Italy, so this whole time he’s just been calling himself Leonardo of Vinci.”
Just when Ushas was about to drop another cool dinosaur fact, the rest of the Deca came in, several scrolls in hand. Once they double checked that nobody was watching them, Iris bursted out, “You are not going to believe this! Look what we found!!” Millenia took one of the scrolls to examine it. It felt weighty in her hands, not unlike some of the scrolls she’s had to read for history class, though clearly much older than anything she’s seen before. Koschei handed one to Theta. “Apparently, Rassilon and Omega weren’t the only founders.”
Wanting to not come off as rash, Brax stayed calm, and listened to everything that Maxika had to say. He could tell that she wasn’t giving the whole truth, but thought to wait to pry into that until later. However, he heard enough to know that his little sibling was going to be in some sort of trouble. Some of what she was saying, though, really made him raise an internal eyebrow. The Timeless Child? That just sounds like someone made it up. When Maxika was done, the first thing he thought to ask was, “I don’t suppose I could have a talk with whoever is telling you to do all this?” Maxika really didn’t want to, but she knew that if the Academy found out what she was doing, the Order wouldn’t be able to help her out. Their influence lies in the Capitol, not here. “Fine. Meet me back here tonight, after they finish putting the festival booths away. If you promise not to say anything, I’ll take you.”
“Very well. I look forward to seeing you again, Maxika.” Brax swiveled around, and walked back over to his little sibling’s dorm room. Even if they weren’t there, Brax wanted to make sure that window was closed and locked.
It was quiet outside, that night. Looking up at the sky, Brax was able to remember which one was Sol. Whenever he had a rare opportunity to actually be with Theta, they would always point out that star as having a planet they’re really interested in within its orbit. Remembering who he was with now, he opted not to mention it. After some time, Brax grew curious about where they were going; he doesn’t remember anything of note being in this direction. Though, judging by today, it seems there were a lot of things that he wasn’t aware of. He decided to break the silence with, “If you don’t mind my asking, why are you doing all of this? What’s your endgame that involves you tying yourself to this Order?”
“Well, same as what anyone wants, really. I want to be on the High Council.”
“Ideally, Castellan, though I’m not terribly picky. Truthfully, I’m not let in on every secret myself, though I’ve been told they have connections to important figures.”
“Well, what’s to say you need to be with them to reach that goal? I’m sure you’d have a good enough shot at it if you do well in your classes.”
“Well, that’s just it. I’d only be doing well. I can’t just do well, I need to be excellent. And, I don’t think I can do that.” Brax could tell this was a bit of a sore spot for her. “Isn’t that what you want to do?”
“Not really,” he said, “I mean, it would be nice if I could achieve a position like that, but it’s not really where my passion lies.”
“The thing I really want to do is collect art.”
“Art? That’s what you want to spend your life doing?”
“Art’s more important than people give it credit for. You have respect for our founders, yes?”
“Well, of course, but-”
“If it weren’t for artists, we wouldn’t have statues of Rassilon or Omega. We wouldn’t have the wall decorations in the Academy corridors that glimmer when the sunlight hits it.”
“Alright, I see your point. We’re here, keep your voice down.” Peeking over her shoulder, Brax could see a sealed entrance to a tunnel of some sort. Maxika entered in some kind of password, that she deliberately obscured from his view.
The tunnel led to Arcadia, in a building that Brax had never been to before. This could be essentially any building, as Brax hasn’t been to the Capitol very often. Maxika instructed him to wait outside a room they eventually got to, and did his best to eavesdrop on what they were saying. He could hear the voice of an older man, at a rough estimate, between 700 and 800 years old. He was disappointed at first to see that she didn’t come back with who she was looking for, but changed his attitude when she mentioned who she did bring back. He made to look like he was just waiting patiently when he heard, “Bring him in.” The room’s ceilings were higher than any building at the Academy, and a fire was burning in the fireplace in the back of the room. Obscuring the fire, a large, ornate chair was directly in front of him. Brax stuck out his hand to greet the man sitting in it. “Good evening, it’s a pleasure to finally speak to you.”
“And you as well. I must say, I’m fascinated to be talking with you.”
“Oh? Why would that be?”
“From what I could learn about you, you seem to be an interesting case. Most of you young Time Lords have your Houses and your cousins, but it’s not often I hear about a Time Lord having a direct brother.” This threw Brax off a little. Clearly, he would have to keep his cards close to his chest. “Brother?”
“You don’t need to play dumb. I have my sources. Oh, but where are my manners? Allow me to introduce myself. I go by the name of Pantriss.”
“Well, if you’ve done your research, you must know that my name is Irving Braxiatel.”
“Well, Irving, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but there’s something you should know about your sibling.”
“I should warn you, you better not do anything to hurt them.”
“Oh, perish the thought. Do you know how many times they’ve regenerated?”
“You know we’re talking about a student at the Academy, right? I’ll admit, sometimes they aren’t all there, but they’re sensible enough to still be in their first body.”
Pantriss leaned forward. “Are you sure?”
Theta Sigma couldn’t really put into words what they were feeling as they read about the Other. At first, they thought it was a sense of betrayal that none of their teachers would ever tell them about this mysterious other founder, until they realized that most of their teachers probably don’t know about this either. Perhaps it was the tingle of taboo, when you get a combination of fear and excitement from knowing that you’re doing something you aren’t supposed to be doing. But the most persistent thought was a sense of connection. Somehow, Theta could immediately feel some sort of bond with this figure that they were reading about. It was something like the respect they had for Omega, only stronger. Everyone else in the Deca was reading a different scroll, trying to absorb as much information as they could. Millenia and Rallon were looking at the scroll that mentioned the Eternals. Whichever one Koschei had, he seemed to be taking diligent notes of. “Well, what do we do with all this?”
“What do you mean?” Drax asked.
“Well, it seems we found what we came here for. This is big, guys.”
“You think we didn’t notice that, lovey?” Iris retorted. The “lovey” made Koschei a twinge angry. “What do you suggest we do, tell someone we were snooping around a restricted area? Crime is only fun if you don’t get caught.”
“Maybe we need to dig deeper. I mean, why would they just not tell us about someone who helped to start our civilization?”
“Well, what does it say in your scroll?” Vansell inquired. Theta read on, skimming past the Other’s contributions to society, something about regeneration, and started reading the ending to his friends. “And so the Other’s mind broke. Not wanting to give any more of themself to the great and powerful Time Lords of old, they flung themself into a Loom, where their life force was unfurled. They became-” Theta stopped. They tried to read under the markings, but the redaction was pretty complete. If there’s one thing Gallifrey is good at, it’s hiding information. “I can’t read the rest of it.”
“Oh, I’ve had that problem before,” Koschei replied, “You just need a decent light source directly behind the paper. If it was redacted before I was peeking my nose into other restricted areas that one time, it should be easy.” Theta went up to put the scroll against the Azbantium walls, but they had been there for some time, and it had gotten just barely too dark to make it out. They thought about this for a little bit, until a spark seemed to flick into their eyes. “Koschei, you’re as smart as you are adorable!” As Theta was feeling around their pockets, Koschei tried to play it off with, “Well, I could’ve told you that.” Carefully adjusting the blade so as not to hurt anybody, everyone seemed almost mesmerised at the all-encompassing purple glow of the force knife. They handed it to Rallon, because he wanted to practice surgery after graduating, and has been taking time to train his hand to keep steady. Everyone seemed to hold their breath as the scroll was held less than a centimeter away from the knife. Theta could definitely read what was being redacted, but whether or not he could manage to say it was another thing entirely. After all, most people who choose to go by a name will have a negative reaction to the name they were born with.
“You’ll forgive me if I find this hard to believe.” Theta might be a little, well, out there, but Brax knew the kid. He had to. At the very least, this all had to be greatly exaggerated.
“I predicted a reaction like this. I was incredulous myself.”
“But no Time Lord can regenerate more than 12 times. You remember the ones who tried, don’t you? Anytime someone tries to mess with that, they lose themselves.”
“You’re right. No Time Lord could do something like that. Your sibling isn’t just a Time Lord.”
Trying to process this information, Brax only responded with, “I see.” The silence in the room felt as though it lasted an eternity. He turned to Maxika, who had remained silent throughout most of this, inviting her into the discussion with, “And what do you think of this?”
“Oh! Well, if it ends up being true, the Order will-”
“Now now, Maxika, we don’t want to spoil the surprise, do we?”
“I think I can handle being spoiled, Pantriss. What are you trying to do with them?”
“It’s simple, my boy. We want your sibling to become President.”
“You see, we call ourselves the Order of the Prydonians. We’re very dedicated to our House. I’m sure you’ve noticed that Presidents tend to be Prydonian more often than not. Well, we don’t want to just lose control of our Capitol like that, now do we? That’s what makes them the perfect candidate, if Theta Sigma can regenerate as often as they want, then we can effectively keep Gallifrey under our grip forever.”
“And what if people start to get suspicious after body number 13 has come and gone?”
“My boy, by then we’ll have had enough time to change laws to whatever we please.”
“That sounds a tad corrupt.”
“Corrupt? We just want to make sure that the politics are swayed in the direction that we know Gallifrey can prosper. Think of it: we can make even more cities, just like this one. We can make an entire planet of Time Lords!”
“And what of the Shobogans?” piped up Maxika. Pantriss dismissed this with a hand wave. “We won’t need to worry about that for long.”
Some of Brax’s friends would occasionally think of him as two-sided. He didn’t quite like this notion, and was glad that his friends weren’t here to see this. “Well, when do I get my membership?” Pantriss had wanted this to happen, but didn’t expect the boy to be so gung-ho about it. “You wish to join?”
“On one condition.”
“I want to be present when Theta is inducted.” As he finished saying this, a device in Pantriss’ pocket beeped. He smiled when he saw what the beeping was meant to indicate. “It appears that you’ll get your wish even sooner than I thought.”
The rest of the Deca was in a heated debate over what to do next. Mortimus, Drax, and Vansell thought it best that they keep this secret. Iris, Millenia, and Ushas were considering busting down the door of the High Council, demanding they explain themselves. Rallon considered asking one or two trusted teachers about it, perhaps someone like Borusa. He might be a bit hard on his students, but he was certainly a good source of information. Magnus was thinking out loud about ways to use this information to their advantage. Theta just looked distraught, and Koschei was mentally beating himself up for not knowing how to comfort them. Koschei did this often. He was never good with that “vulnerability” thing. Their discussion was so loud, it could be heard from outside the library, which they should’ve paid more attention to. While she was originally going to the library to find some references for the scribes she was writing, Jeltra paused when she first heard the commotion. As soon as she heard the words, “The Other” she knew there’d have to be a change of plans. Reaching into her pocket, she pressed the sole button on the special communicator made by the Order for this exact scenario.
As Pongoth was getting ready to leave the library, she noticed Jeltra stepping in cautiously. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, but the library’s about to close for the evening.”
“That’s alright, I just wanted to return this.” Pulling out an older reference she was using, Jeltra mentally patted herself on her back for her awesome half-truth.
“Ah! Right on time too. Thank you, er, Jeltra, was it? Did you find it helpful?”
“Yes, I did.” Motioning to the raucous debate still going on, she asked, “Don’t suppose you need any help getting them out?”
“You mean it? I never want to make students feel like they aren’t welcome here, but they’ve been like this for hours.”
“Not to worry,” she replied. One of the benefits of having psychic abilities is that your persuasion can be much more effective than most if you know how to use it. Content with this, Pongoth made her way out with an exasperated yawn. Double checking to make sure nobody was around, Jeltra pulled out a stasis bomb. A bit much, she thought, but when am I gonna get to use this again?
At various points around the Academy and Arcadia, Prydonian Time Lords donned their robes and made their preparations. Maybe it was a bit off schedule, but most of them weren’t thinking about that. A great deal of them were hoping that the legends were true about The Other having infinite regeneration energy.
Theta Sigma felt somewhat like how they remember being in the Loom. They were certainly existing in the Loom, but not in a way that humans would recognize. There wasn’t a neck for you to stretch when it felt stiff, no hands to scratch your nose, no nose to be scratched by nonexistent hands. They tried to look around, but were only able to achieve the slightest movement. Yep, this was a stasis field. Their peripheral vision was able to at least tell them that Ushas and Koschei were in the same boat. Directly ahead of them was the domed city of Arcadia. Theta had never been there before, at least, they don’t remember ever being there before. They felt weird, being somewhat excited about this. Only question now was, what to do? Reflecting on it for a moment, they used every ounce of strength they could muster to start moving their hand in the direction of their pocket.
Pantriss could feel that the room was tense. Everyone was anxious to get the ball rolling, but all waited in silence for the Other to finally arrive. After what felt like an eternity, Jeltra brought the Deca in. A murmur of confusion rose, which Pantriss silenced. “We were not expecting more than one guest tonight, Jeltra. I hope you have a good explanation.”
“I found this group of students arguing in the library. Apparently, they found some of the ROO texts.”
“I see. The others, they are Prydonian as well?”
“To my knowledge, yes.”
Pantriss asked the congregation, “Well? What do you all think? Should we invite them into the Order?” to which Brax piped up, “Why not? More members means more potential influence, right?” Everyone seemed to agree. With a snap of his fingers, Pantriss ordered the Deca brought out of stasis, save for Theta. Everyone fell to the ground with an unceremonious plop.
“Whoo boy, let’s do that again!” shouted Iris. The levity evaporated quickly when they all came to their senses. “Welcome,” said Pantriss. “It seems you all have been poking around where you shouldn’t have.”
“Why does that concern you?” asked Magnus cautiously.
“Well, one could get in a lot of trouble doing that sort of thing.”
“Strange,” said Koschei, “It feels like we’re in trouble now.”
“On the contrary. I’m here to present a rather unique opportunity. We want to look after our own.”
“Our own?” asked Rallon, “What do you mean?”
“Look at our robes, Time Tots.” They noticed at that point that the room looked menacingly red.
“So if you’re so interested in looking after “your own”,” Ushas inquired, “Why is Theta still stuck in stasis?”
“Well, we’re all aware of the fun little fact you learned about him.”
“Them,” Ushas and Koschei corrected.
“Whatever. The point is, we’re going to make the kid President. If the legends are true about infinite regeneration energy, then the Order of the Prydonians will have a stranglehold on the politics of Gallifrey.” The other members of the Deca weren’t sure what to say. Drax decided to go into Contact with everyone else. They all agreed on a few things: 1. Theta was in trouble. 2. They should keep talking so they don’t notice whatever Theta is trying to do, really really slowly. It’s a shame, usually Theta was the one who was best at distracting people. Oh well, Iris would have to do. “And exactly what is it about Gallifrey that you want to change? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we aren’t exactly living in struggle.”
“That is of no concern.”
“I think it’s of great concern, actually. People don’t usually try to get into politics unless there’s something they want to change.”
“That’s not true,” piped up a random member of the Order. “The Castellan did it for the salary.” a few people chuckled at that.
“From what I’ve heard,” said Brax, “It has something to do with the Shobogans. Pantriss was staring daggers at him. “The Shobogans? What did they ever do to you?” asked Mortimus.
“They are the one thing keeping us from true godhood. We have the ability to control the universe, and if it wasn’t for them wasting around, not contributing anything to society, we could be the new Eternals.”
“Afraid you got it mixed up a bit,” piped up Iris, “Society is made to serve people, not the other way around. People don’t have to be whatever you deem productive to deserve to live.”
“You speak as if we intend on killing them.” This confused the Deca. “Well, don’t you?” a few of them asked.
“You must have missed the part where I said infinite regenerations. We can just rip enough energy out of your little friend to outlive them. It may hurt a little, but I’m sure he can forgive us when we make him President.”
Just then, everyone heard a noise coming from the center of the room. The stasis field holding Theta Sigma had broken. Everyone could see the blade of a force knife jutting out from the field. Once the blade let in the flow of normal time, Theta was able to whip the blade around, freeing themself. “You were told already. It’s “They.” And why in Rassilon’s name would I want to be President?”
Theta Sigma’s theatrics caused a bit of an uproar within the Order. The Deca, still in Contact with each other, was able to formulate a plan together. Koschei had gotten close enough to Jeltra to pickpocket one of her stasis bombs, and threw it at the crowd. Millenia and Iris charged at Jeltra, knocking her off her feet. “That’s for stasis bombing us!” Then, everyone scattered out of the room in different directions. Pantriss was about to yell, “Bring them back here at once!” but he was cut off by Brax and Maxika kicking him to the floor. “Should’ve done a more thorough background check, sir,” he heard Maxika say, “Shobogans can find their way anywhere.” The two thought it would be best to follow the Deca’s lead, and take off running, with Brax grabbing Theta on the way out.
“Gotta hand it to you little buddy, that was pretty badass.”
“I thought you were in on it with them.”
“Are you kidding? You’re not my favorite person to be around, sure, but I’m not letting people make you into a pawn.”
“I apologize,” Maxika told Theta, “They never told me about all of this.”
“We can worry about that later. Let’s find everyone else and get to safety.” They could hear footsteps getting louder behind them, which they dare not turn around to check on. “This way!” Maxika spent enough time here that she was able to map out most of the building. The corridor they were running down split up into a few different ways, and at this moment the storage room was the best bet. Theta would feel a lot more exhilarated, running like this, if they weren’t afraid for their life. Or rather, lives. The storage room was big enough to hold them, but awfully dark. “Does anyone have a light?” Brax asked.
“I still have my force knife.”
“Preferably a light that can’t slice through us.” A lightbulb came on, and they turned around to find Koschei. “Better?”
“Koschei!!” Theta scooped him up in a hug and kissed him on the lips. “Thanks for standing up for me.”
“Well someone’s got to, right?”
“How long do you think we should wait here?” Maxika asked.
“Let me check in with everyone else.” Koschei concentrated on the Contact, slowly fading as they were getting farther apart. To his surprise, everyone seemed to be getting away just fine. Curious, he poked his head out the door. No noise. “It looks like the coast is clear.”
It didn’t take long for word of this to get to the High Council. Nobody would say who, but one of the members took part in the Order. All the other members needed to hear was “The Other” to be propelled into action. It’s been a while since they had to wipe some memories away.
Theta Sigma woke up. Something felt especially groggy about today. Must’ve gotten a bit too rowdy last night.
What did I do last night?
They had absolutely no recollection of what happened. The only thing that came to mind when trying to remember was a vague sense of, well, dread. They looked around the room, seeing if anything could give them a clue, but the only thing that definitely wasn’t there before was a bottle of ginger beer. They looked under the bottle. There was a card for them. They’ll have to thank Brax later. Well, if they were feeling this bad, some ginger beer would absolutely liven things up. They established Contact with the rest of the Deca. You guys wanna hang out at my place?
“Yeah, I can’t remember anything either. Maybe the High Council came and wiped our memories or something.” A few people stifled a laugh.
“I doubt that. We were probably just celebrating a little too hard,” Ushas said, holding her head.
“Maybe we’re just all sick of being here,” replied Drax. “I know I am.”
“You’re telling me,” said Iris, almost spilling her cup of ginger beer, “These hoity-toity know-it-alls can do whatever they want, yet they keep themselves secluded in that overgrown hamster ball they call a city. Once I get my hands on a TT capsule, I’m going on a permanent vacation across the universe.”
“Why just a vacation?” Koschei said, “Why not try and screw them over?”
“It’s not like all of Gallifrey sought out to spack with us specifically,” Millenia replied.
“Maybe not us,” Magnus thought aloud, “but Gallifrey does have their fair share of missteps. I highly doubt the Vampires were as antagonistic as they make it out to be.”
“Then why spend so much effort just trying to get back at them?” Theta asked, “Wouldn’t it be more worth the effort to help out the people who’ve been affected?”
“Why even be concerned with either?” Ushas interjected, “If we had a TT capsule, think of all the different experiments we could carry out.”
“We could see if the Celestial Toymaker actually existed.” Rallon said.
“Well, I know what I wanna do now, at least” Vansell replied.
“What’s that?” asked Mortimus.
“I’m gonna get properly spacked up on this ginger beer.”
After the initial layer of bitterness at something they couldn’t quite determine, they had a lot of fun with each other. Debating about any and every topic they could think of, singing different choir songs, each of them not worrying about anything other than having a good time. They felt safe together. When the ginger beer was gone, they all eventually got very tired, to the point where they didn’t feel like moving to anything resembling a bed. Ah well, the floor was good enough anyway. They started falling asleep in pairs, not exactly snogging, but definitely getting a little more intimate than their teachers would’ve been comfortable with. Millenia was with Rallon, Vansell was with Magnus, Mortimus was with Drax. Just as Ushas started feeling sad that she wouldn’t have anyone to fall asleep with, Iris scooched up next to her and said bluntly, “Hope you don’t mind, lovey.” Feeling her head resting on Ushas’s chest, she decided that she didn’t mind one bit. Even if she did, she was close to passing out herself. The last thing she saw was Theta Sigma and Koschei, snuggling together, with Koschei looking very protective of Theta. She thought they looked cute together.
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