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ishi slowly walked up the steps and took his customary place on the middle tier of the Filiate House’s circular chamber. This was where all the filiators met regularly to debate and vote on the important decisions affecting the settlement on Guangzongshi. At the centre of the chamber was a perfect circle, about 10 metres in diameter. Surrounding this, were comfortable, red leather seats upon five levels of metal flooring, which rose in elevation the further you got from the centre.

Dishi was now sitting with the other 9-12 year olds in the third tier. He remembered back to only a few years ago, when he would sit in the front row and command the complete respect of the house. Now his views were considered less important than the younger statesmen seated in front of him. Surely, he was just as capable as they were, so why then was his age counting against him? In his mind this was institutional injustice. He had once travelled for trade purposes to a human colony on a nearby planet. He was shocked to see how old age was seen as a sign of wisdom rather than a weakness. Why couldn’t his society be the same? If only, there was a way in which this society could be changed.

These aspirations would have to wait as this day was turning out to be something out of the ordinary. He wondered with both excitement and bewilderment as to the reasons why the Empress Seetha had called this unprecedented emergency meeting of the ‘House of Filiate’. He wondered whether this had anything to do with the three visitors that had come to his classroom a week ago. Although by now, whatever remained of them would surely be lining the stomachs of the wild, carnivorous HuHows.
A loud trumpet sounded and the entire chamber fell silent in anticipation. The floor of the centre circle parted into two and slid apart to reveal a passage beneath the chamber. Loud, dramatic music deafened the chamber as a small saucer-like podium slowly floated up from the gap in the centre. Seated upon this podium in her familiar lotus position was the Empress Seetha. Her eyes closed in silent meditation as she smoothly floated upwards. As the podium established itself at the centre of the chamber, the floor slid back into position several metres below it. The tiny Empress opened her eyes and the podium on which she was floating, now rotated very slowly so that she was able to see all the filiators in the chamber
My dear brothers and sisters, you may be wondering why I have called you here today for this special meeting.’ said the Empress in a high-pitched voice, ‘It is my unfortunate duty to inform you that the fateful day that we have been warned about for centuries, has finally arrived.’

She paused for a few moments to let the enormity of the news sink in with the filiators, before continuing. ‘In a few moments, there will be a loud noise, a gushing wind and the arrival of a blue casket, just here to my left.’ said the Empress Seetha pointing her left arm down to a spot on the floor.

‘From inside, will emerge a very powerful and wise man. A “Time Lord” with the power to alter the destiny of our well-established society forever. His desperate actions to save his friends and himself could jeopardise the way we have lived for centuries. His actions threaten to revert us back to the ways of our barbarous forefathers. However, we must do everything to encourage the three of them to join our society. At all costs and no matter what happens, we must never mention “The Fountain of Maturity” to them as that could have grave consequences for us all. The time has now arrived for the TARDIS. My dear brothers and sisters, please welcome the Doctor, Amy and Rory.’

On cue, the TARDIS materialised below the levitating Empress and the Doctor emerged from its double doors. He was still pulling apart his two companions, who were trying to scratch each other’s faces. The three of them were far too pre-occupied to notice the three hundred pairs of eyes that were staring at them.
‘That short-term sedative I’ve given you both should kick in a minute. It will hopefully keep your minds in check, so please try and behave yourselves until then, will you?’ pleaded the Doctor.

‘Welcome back, Doctor, Amy and Rory to Guangzongshi. Our planet is honoured by your presence here.’ the Empress called from above them.

Her sweet, babyish voice seemed to stun the three travellers back to reality and they looked up at the floating child empress, who had now stopped rotating. Rory and Amy suddenly became aware of all the children seated in orderly fashion around them and tried unsuccessfully to pretend that they hadn’t been fighting.

‘I’m so sorry for the behaviour of my friends. Kids these days, eh? You know? Actually you wouldn’t know? Anyways, as you probably heard, we visited your planet to enjoy the beautiful views of the suns, but the rays have affected our minds and made us immature. We are hoping you can help us get back to being grown-ups or in my friends’ case, as grown up as they ever were.’ said the Doctor.

‘Doctor, we know of your affliction. We have been expecting your visit for many years. We are here to help you in the best way possible.’ advised Empress Seetha.

‘Coooool, so you can cure us, right?’ said Amy.

‘Unfortunately there is no cure for what ails you. We have had so many visitors to this planet and each one of them has been affected in the same way that you have. We have welcomed them all into our society and helped them live out their remaining years in happiness and tranquillity. We extend that same hospitality to all three of you and would like to welcome you into our society. A society that has been designed specifically to help our elders.’ the toddler explained.

‘Just like the Hotel California,’ mused the Doctor, ‘such a lovely place. You can check-out any time you like but you can never leave. So what you’re saying is that you won’t be helping us at all.’

‘Doctor, you are much wiser than your old body would suggest.’ said the Empress.

‘You know, I can honestly say that no one has ever said that to me before.’ the Doctor said.

‘It’s not fair! This place should have a health warning or something!’ shouted Rory.

‘There are several intergalactic warnings to stop people from visiting here. The planet has been designated a no-go area on every intergalactic map in the quadrant. The last people to visit here had crash-landed. Were you not aware of the warnings, Doctor?’ asked a four year old filiator from the front row.

‘I must have missed that particular warning when I read up on this planet in the 700 wonders of the universe brochure.’

‘So it’s your fault again, Doctor,’ screamed Amy, ‘you never read the fine print, do you?’
artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
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