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The Price of Art

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“Braxiatel?  What are your thoughts on the matter?” asked some dreary High Council member, her name might have been Apocretia or Apormia or some other name that began Ap that Braxiatel wasn’t too concerned with knowing.  She wouldn’t last long, none of these young Time Lords ever do.

Braxiatel almost corrected the High Councilor before realizing that he no longer held the rank of Cardinal or Chancellor and the home that he was a Lord of was long gone- lost to the winds of time.  He no longer had any rank.  It was funny what one could forget.  Sometimes the dusty old Council chambers began to feel like home- where he and Romana could make plans to open up Gallifrey to other races.  It seemed as though that had worked a bit too well as Gallifrey was certainly involved with the universe, just not necessarily in a good way.  Braxiatel decided to answer Apocretia before he was carried further away in his thoughts, “It is not my place to argue against the High Council’s wishes,” he responded in the most neutral way possible.

“But you disagree?”

“Although it is an admirable plan, I believe that it is simply a waste of time and resources to remain in Klansuss Nebula when Gallifrey could be directing its energy to more essential matters,” Braxiatel was a politician for an exceptionally long time, he knew the art of persuasion and manipulation well.

Braxiatel looked across the table and Romana simply raised an eyebrow, “And why might this be?” Romana asked.  She knew.

Braxiatel swallowed, “The Klansuss Nebula is an isolated outcrop in Dalek territory.  Yes, it does contain several important research stations and planets but soon the Daleks will notice our presence there and they will come and destroy everything before we can reap any possible rewards,” as a politician Braxiatel was also a skilled liar.

“And to where exactly should we redirect these funds and supplies?  The Garn belt?  The Proxima System?  Perhaps to our own facilities on Gallifrey?” Romana suggested with a bitterness to her comments.  She definitely knew and she was definitely baiting him.

There was a pause for just a moment while Braxiatel considered his options, “Actually I was considering the Ganeypt Cluster,” to anyone else this might seem to be an entirely innocent explanation, perhaps even a reasonable one, but Romana knew him better and gave Braxiatel one of those looks.  The kind of look that said “how idiotic do you think I am” and the expression didn’t fade until the meeting finished nearly a span later.

“What exactly are you playing at?” Romana hissed to Braxiatel as they walked out of the Council chambers.

“I was merely making a suggestion,” Braxiatel whispered.

“We’re fighting a war.  This isn’t a time for games and exploitation!” Romana said a bit too loudly, attracting the wandering eye of a Castellan.  She continued, lowering her voice, “The planet Haluk in the Ganeypt Cluster has a rich history and culture or will do in a few centuries but it is currently under threat of destruction by the Daleks before any of its unique art can be created.”

“That is… true.  The Halukean renaissance would be a great loss to the universe,” Braxiatel responded, avoiding Romana’s gaze.

“So assuming that the Gallifreyan army would sweep in and save the Haluk from certain death, the Halukeans would probably want to thank their savior.  And if that savior would be a high-ranking Time Lord with a large art collection and plenty of funds and support for their blossoming culture… well that Time Lord would be very fortunate.  Wouldn’t they?” Romana whispered.

“Well I suppose they would be fortunate,” Braxiatel said quickly, “But would you argue that it’s wrong to save billions of lives and centuries of history?” he asked, trying to shift the blame.

Romana sighed, “No, that is the right thing to do- but you can’t start manipulating this war for your own ends, Braxiatel.  It is impractical and irresponsible to start sending troops towards a tactically useless space and instead let the Daleks overrun our research stations.  You very well may be able to persuade other Council members to back this idiotic quest, but the CIA is not behind you, Braxiatel.”

Braxiatel paused, “I know the CIA doesn’t condone this idea, but do you- as my… friend?”

Romana shot him a look, “This isn’t the time for friendship, but I’m certainly not planning on arresting you.  Just know that I won’t be there.”

She never is, not anymore, Braxiatel thought to himself as he parted from Romana and began to wander the corridors.  Without Romana’s support there may be one or two Cardinals supporting Braxiatel but nowhere near enough to create any sort of movement.  Romana was right- Braxiatel was selfish but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t be right as well, that didn’t mean that saving art wasn’t important.  And if the High Council wouldn’t do anything about it, then someone else would…  Braxiatel already had a plan.

 

~     ~     ~     ~

 

The first step of Braxiatel’s plan was of course to assemble a small trusted team which would be extremely small considering his limited amount of contacts nowadays.  So naturally Braxiatel walked to the CIA Tower where his only allies remained.  He paused before entering a room, overhearing bits of a conversation.  It was definitely Narvin speaking, no definitely arguing, with an agent.  Braxiatel decided that he would time this well, he listened to the conversation.

I’m not going to the frontlines, I’ve been working for the CIA for centuries, I deserve at least a higher position!” the agent said.

Yes, well I agree with you for once.  I’m tired of this war and I’m tired of seeing people die, but we still have to follow orders and you’ve received your orders .” Narvin replied.

This could indeed work well in Braxiatel’s favor, he backed down the corridor a bit, keeping out of sight and waited.

A CIA agent walked out of the room looking somewhat flustered after arguing and Braxiatel paused.  Five, four, three, two, one.  He entered the office, “Ah, Narvin!” he exclaimed loudly, interrupting Narvin’s thoughts.

“Braxiatel?  What do you want?” Narvin asked, looking up from his work.

Braxiatel raised an eyebrow, “Why do I always have to want something, Narvin?  Why can I never just come here and have a nice friendly chat?” Braxiatel knew people and he knew that banter always eased Narvin’s suspicions.

Narvin looked back down at his work, “Come back and have a nice chat when we’ve won the war.”

Banter, apparently, was not the way to approach matters.  So now Braxiatel thought to try another strategy- being honest- or at least partially honest at any rate.  “Yes, well I do need your help with an extremely delicate matter.”

“I assume by extremely delicate you mean that Romana doesn’t know about whatever scheme you’re plotting?” Narvin correctly guessed.

Braxiatel ignored this comment and continued, “The High Council is planning to abandon Ganeypt Cluster and redirect resources and in order to properly do so and preserve the web of time, we must take certain actions.”

“What exactly are you suggesting?” Narvin asked.

Braxiatel hesitated, the truth was so much harder to tell than deceptions, “I am suggesting that in order to preserve your precious web of time, we must take progressive action to secure certain historical artifacts before they are wiped from the timeline,” he explained.

“And why is this sounding like some poorly thought out plan to use CIA resources in order to expand a private art collection?”

Braxiatel fought hard not to roll his eyes, “Is it not possible that just for once I actually want to do the right thing and preserve the web of time?”

Narvin thought for a moment, “Possible,” he decided, “but also extremely improbable.”

Braxiatel sighed.  “Look,” he said, “both of us are tired of fighting this war.  I’m tired of constantly making the wrong decisions and betraying whatever morals I have left.  And you’re tired of-”

“Wait,” Narvin interrupted, “You have morals now?”

This time Braxiatel did roll his eyes, “It may surprise you, Narvin, that I do have some sort of a moral code.  And as I was saying- you’re tired of being side-lined into watching all of your little agents that you spent centuries training, going off and being erased from the timeline.  So let’s both choose to make the right decision and actually do something productive instead of wasting away, watching the universe die…”

Braxiatel had several other dramatic phrases and half a monologue prepared but Narvin held up his hand, “Alright,” Narvin sighed.  “You’re right- I’m tired of this.  So what’s the plan?”

Braxiatel’s mustache twitched into something that could almost be mistaken for a smile, “Excellent.  But first, we need to find Leela.”

 

~     ~     ~     ~

 

Once Leela and Narvin were gathered in Braxiatel’s TARDIS, looking somewhat unsure of what they were getting themselves into, Braxiatel decided that this would be the appropriate time to reveal his plan or at least an idea that may be able to pass for a plan.

Braxiatel cleared his throat for a speech, “So, today we are gathered here as the last line of defense for the true, uncorrupted path of-”

“Braxiatel, what are you doing?” Leela asked.

Braxiatel paused, “Making a speech- it’s typically what one does in this type of situation.”

Leela looked confused, “Why?  Surely this is an urgent matter and we should not waste time.”

“She does have a point,” Narvin agreed.

Braxiatel sighed, maybe he should have picked a team that had a bit more appreciation for the dramatic arts, “Yes, well anyways, we are going to the planet Haluk which is currently under threat of Dalek invasion-”

“So we’re going on a suicide mission?” Narvin asked, only a bit sarcastically.

“Please stop interrupting me, Narvin.  And no, we’re not going to Haluk during the invasion.  We are going to Haluk in the far future before the invasion is a certainty so that we can save any remnants of their art and culture and place it in a time locked vault to prevent the art being erased from history while not interrupting any of Gallifrey’s business in the present,” Braxiatel explained.

Narvin didn’t look very pleased with this idea, “Braxiatel, in order to do this we would have to break the timelock around the war which is not only treasonous but extremely dangerous .  It would take a genius to safely break all of the locks and even then anything could escape the timelock and contaminate all of history!”

“As you say, Narvin, it would take a genius.  And I don’t doubt that you have the knowledge and the brains to figure out how to break the timelock without alerting the High Council…” Braxiatel said.

“Well obviously,” Narvin replied.

Braxiatel gestured at his TARDIS’s computer, “Then I would suggest you get started.”  Narvin began typing in his CIA access codes while giving Braxiatel a look that could kill a Dalek.

“So if Narvin is here to break the timelock,” Leela reasoned, “Then why am I here, Braxiatel?”

Braxiatel hesitated, “About that…  Well the artwork on Haluk isn’t exactly up for the taking so there may be some force involved in extracting the artifacts…”

“You mean we will have to break into a museum,” Leela concluded.  “That is good.  It is more exciting then remaining on Gallifrey.”

“Well at least someone is happy with this lunatic plan,” Narvin commented from his computer station.

“You agreed to come, Narvin,” Braxiatel replied.

Braxiatel went on to pull up a blueprint of the Halukean museum and he and Leela worked to determine the best points of entry and exit since unfortunately it was not possible to materialize inside of the museum.  After a few minutes of planning, the TARDIS lurched to one side, throwing all three of its passengers on the floor.

“I think I broke through the timelock!” Narvin shouted above the blaring alarms and tried to reach the console only to be thrown back on the floor.

“Did you set the coordinates?!” Braxiatel shouted back, barely able to hold on to the TARDIS railing.

“Possibly!” Narvin stood up once again and managed to reach the console, frantically pressing a few buttons before the TARDIS lurched once more.

“That’s very reassuring, Narvin!” Braxiatel yelled while the Cloister Bells began to ring.

Meanwhile, Leela had somewhat more success at reaching the console and failed to remember exactly what buttons to press so she proceeded to press them all which in fairness was what Braxiatel would try to do himself.

After a microspan or so, the TARDIS stabilized and all three passengers were able to regain their balance.  Braxiatel checked the coordinates, they were indeed in the right place and the right time.  They had escaped the war.  Of course, they were about to enter the war again in a few spans, but just the fact that they were away from all of the violence and carnage that the war had caused was remarkable.

“Well?” Narvin asked, “Are we there?”

Braxiatel turned back to his partners, “Yes.  We’ve made it.”  There was silence for a moment while everybody processed this fact.  They could just escape- leave the war and never return and they would be safe.  Safety was such a luxury nowadays.  But no, Narvin was still loyal to Gallifrey and Leela was still loyal to Romana.  And even Braxiatel was not so self-obsessed as to abandon all of his people to the Daleks.

Leela placed a hand on Braxiatel’s shoulder, “Braxiatel, we should go now.”

Braxiatel snapped out of his thoughts, “Yes we should.”

In all honesty, it’s not difficult at all to steal priceless art.  Braxiatel had done it many times before and robbery is so abysmally easy it may even be boring.  Haluk was only a level five civilization and had only a few basic security alarms that could be disabled with some basic technology and Leela easily knocked out any security guards.  Braxiatel almost missed his days as a small time criminal.

Together Leela and Braxiatel wandered the museum as if they owned it, occasionally grabbing a statue or painting until their bags were nearly too heavy to carry.  But Braxiatel was careful to leave space because he knew there was more to discover, the treasures that defined Halukean culture and made it famous across the galaxy.

“Do you know where we are going?” Leela whispered to Braxiatel as they entered yet another long corridor.

“Yes,” Braxiatel gestured to an adjacent room, “The Halukeans plan all of their museums out in the form of a labyrinth- each entrance and corridor goes down a different era but they all converge in the center with the masterpieces of the planet’s artwork and history.”

“This artwork… why is it so important?” Leela asked.

Braxiatel paused, trying to figure out how to explain such an innate concept, “It just is.  Many people are inspired by novels and paintings and those people go on to advance society or create more art and the process repeats.  And many art movements precede scientific and social breakthroughs.  Art constantly moves society forward.”

“But if we save this art, it will never be seen.  It cannot be used to inspire when it is locked away in a vault,” Leela said and Braxiatel didn’t know how to respond.  Art is art.  It has to exist or else things begin to fall apart, the web of time unravels itself and it is his job to preserve and save art.

They walked in silence for the remainder of the journey.

“We’re here!” Braxiatel proclaimed as they entered a large circular hall with walls lined with bookcases and glass cases containing statues of gods and paintings of history.  Pure thought and emotion in its finest form.  This is where Braxiatel belonged, not in old Council chambers, but among the books and treasures of a whole civilization.  He had missed the feeling of seeing the weight of history for himself.

Braxiatel walked along the shelves and hummed to himself, deciding which artifacts were the most important and which were not.  In the end, he picked several different play manuscripts, a collection of photographs, two landscapes, a small portrait collection, and a small idol of a local deity.  In short, everything to sum up an entire planet’s history.  Well maybe an abridged version of planet’s history.

Braxiatel turned to exit the gallery when he found Leela missing.  “Leela!” Braxiatel shouted, he had really not made time for a rescue mission as well as a robbery.

Braxiatel took a look outside of the gallery and found Leela a few meters away, staring at a painting.  “Have you finally realized the value of art, then?” Braxiatel asked as he approached Leela.

“No,” Leela stated quite adamantly, “but I do know the value of history.”

“History?” Braxiatel wondered aloud.  He looked at the painting Leela had seen.  Oh.  That history then.

“You had said that we are in the future, Braxiatel.  So is this the future?” Leela asked. 

“Well it’s certainly not the past,” Braxiatel muttered.  The painting in question was of Arcadia ablaze after some attack.  Braxiatel looked at the name of the painting- Gallifrey Falls .  This was most definitely something Braxiatel should not be seeing.  “We should go,” he said.

“But what about the painting?” Leela asked.

Braxiatel was tempted.  He wanted to take the painting, to keep it safe and prevent this future, but there are some things that even Braxiatel will not meddle with.  “I think it’s best if we forget about the painting, Leela.  Just between you and me.”

Leela nodded, understanding Braxiatel’s reasons on some level.

The walk back was quiet and somewhat emptier than Braxiatel had recalled- artifacts were being erased already so they didn’t have much time left.  He quickened his pace.

Eventually they had reached the TARDIS and found Narvin sitting in one of his finest chairs, “Back so soon?” Narvin asked.

“Yes, we found everything that we need,” Braxiatel replied, setting down his bags of priceless art.  “Now do you have a way back into the timelock, preferably somewhat of a smoother ride, if possible this time.”

Narvin rolled his eyes, “Oh how about you pilot the TARDIS through thousands of locks and barriers cutting through six dimensions?”

Nevertheless, the ride was somewhat smoother back to Gallifrey and hopefully no artifacts were seriously damaged throughout the flight.  Once they had reached Gallifrey, the three travellers slipped out, Leela went back to train more soldiers, Narvin presumably went to finish his paperwork, and Braxiatel put all of the stolen artwork in a secure vault so they wouldn’t be erased from history.  Everything seemed to go to plan.  It was always nice when that happened.

It was nearly four days later before everything decided not to go to plan as Romana made an unexpected visit to Braxiatel’s office.  “Did you really think that I wouldn’t notice?” she asked Braxiatel.

Braxiatel made the most innocent face he could, “Notice what?”

Romana raised her eyebrows, “The fact that you left Gallifrey and breached the timelock?  Are you trying to play innocent or can you just not remember all of your illegal antics anymore?”

Braxiatel swallowed, “Ah, yes.  That.  Well I did presume that Narvin would cover our tracks a bit better.”

“He did.  Narvin is just an extraordinarily bad liar as well,” Romana commented.  “Now, where did you go?”

Braxiatel clung onto some hope that Romana would actually be pleased about the stolen artwork, “Haluk,” he stated.

Romana’s face became very serious, “Braxiatel, just yesterday the Daleks erased Haluk from existence.  I think that whatever you did on Haluk was rather a waste of time and a dangerous waste of time at that.”

Braxiatel was nearly pleased at this news, “So I did make the right decision after all,” Braxiatel reached behind his desk and uncovered the time vault and pulled out a variety of artifacts and Romana picked a few up.  “I went to a museum in order to collect these objects to preserve them and preserve the history of Haluk before it was erased,” Braxiatel explained.

He waited for Romana’s reaction.  Maybe an appreciative glance or some gratitude or even a smile, but no.  Nothing.  “Brax, these don’t mean anything,” was all Romana said.

Braxiatel snorted, “What do you mean?  These are some of the most valuable objects in the quadrant, they can’t just be valueless.”

“And maybe they’re not valueless.  But you would agree that art is built on history,” Romana said and Braxiatel nodded, “but Haluk doesn’t have a history so how could this art have any meaning?”

Braxiatel just stared at her and Romana continued, picking up a statue, “Take this idol for example.  I assume that it represents some god, but there is no history, no context for it so it’s just a lump of stone.  And this play, I believe that it’s a satire about events that never occurred.  And-” Romana could have continued.

“Yes,” Braxiatel interrupted, “I understand.  It’s the price of art.  You can’t capture emotion or own ideas without them loosing impact…” he began.

“And eventually there is only one person left to appreciate the beauty,” Romana finished.

“Yes,” Braxiatel agreed.  He stared at his papers and statues that time consumed.  “Art is dead,” he put simply.

“No,” Romana corrected, “art isn’t dead, not forever.  We just have to win a war first.”

Romana was right, as usual.  This isn’t a time for art, this is a time for fighting.  Romana walked out of Braxiatel’s office and Braxiatel looked back at his art, if it was even art anymore, and followed Romana out the door.  It was a waste of time to try to preserve what goodness remained in a war torn universe.