Marion looked up into the yellow sky above the space port. A ring of sleek silver hoverships hung there in formation. The crowd on the ground were waiting with a sense of heightened expectation that even she could feel without any psychic ability whatsoever. Calliope Patriclian was almost vibrating with excitement. Her future father and mother in law, Lord and Lady Haddandrox, were watching the sky intently.

“Is it late?” Calliope asked. “I’m sure it was due at Noon. It’s gone that, now. You don’t suppose anything is wrong, do you?”

“Nothing is wrong,” Kristoph assured her. “The ship docked on Polafrey and Karn on schedule. It will be here in a few minutes.”

He looked up at the sky, too. the hover ship was a guard of honour to welcome home the Third Squadron of the Gallifreyan Space Fleet from their year long peace-keeping mission on the Andromedan border. Parents and loved ones of the men who did their duty for Gallifrey in far flung places were waiting to greet them. None was more anxious than Calliope as she waited to see her fiancé and soon to be husband.

“They’re coming home from peace-keeping duty,” Lord Haddandrox said. “They’ve had no campaigns to fight. No casualties. For that we can be grateful.”

“I remember,” Lady Haddandrox said. “When you came back from the Sarre campaign. There was a guard of honour, then, too. There were crowds waiting. But…”

“Some of them were waiting to receive coffins,” Lord Haddandrox said quietly. “And some… waited to hear news of men… men we had no news of.”

Marion looked at Lord Haddandrox. He looked about seventy in Earth years. But if he fought in the Sarre campaign, then he must be about Kristoph’s age. Of course, it was impossible to tell with Time Lords.

Kristoph said nothing. He didn’t look at Lord Haddandrox. He had his own thoughts on the matter.

“I can’t remember,” he said, turning his gaze towards the sky to avoid eye contact with anyone. “When the prisoners of war came home… was there a guard of honour for us?”

“There was,” Haddandrox said. “There were joyful cheers, triumphant banners. People celebrated. Until….”

Haddandrox stopped speaking. Kristoph turned and looked at him.

“Go on,” he said quietly.

“Until the wounded began to disembark. Then there was a silence… not merely the absence of sound, but almost a deeper silence than that. The shock was palpable. Nobody expected Gallifreyan men to suffer such wounds. There were men who had been blinded, men with limbs missing, faces disfigured… men whose minds were broken…”

Kristoph nodded. He was one of those who came back broken in mind and body.

“I… would have liked to have seen the crowds cheering,” he said. “By the time I was recovered enough to know anything about it, the war was in the past for everyone else. They didn’t even want to talk about it.”

“It was too much of a shock to Gallifreyan society,” Haddandrox said. “We discovered that we weren’t invincible. We found that even Princes of the Universe had vulnerabilities. We could be hurt. It would have been better if those wounded and broken men had been kept on a hospital ship until they were recovered. Letting their families see them that way…”

“I wouldn’t have made it,” Kristoph said. “It was only the people I loved, my family who cared for me every minute of each day that pulled me through. No nurse on a hospital ship… no matter how dedicated… could have brought me back from the dark place I was in. It needed kinder hearts and closer ties than that.”

“True enough,” Haddandrox conceded. “There were some who thought you were dead. When you were seen again, walking and breathing, it was quite a shock to us all.”

“It was worth it. The Sarre… They were a terrible, tyrannical people who would have massacred billions of innocents if we had not stood in the gap of danger and fought to our last breath.”

“And yet,” Haddandrox said. “Ask any graduate in any academy and all they can do is quote dates. It’s dull history to them.”

“Let it be so,” Kristoph said. “It was a bitter war, but in the end we won it decisively. The Sarre were broken. We have known peace, since. Your own boy was able to be a career soldier. His campaigns have been ones that prevented wars on far flung frontiers.”

“Rassilon be praised for that,” Lady Haddandrox said. “I am glad that Jarod is done with military service, now. The last time he will wear a uniform will be at his Alliance.”

She smiled at Calliope as she said that. She, too, was glad that Jarod was done with that life. She was looking forward to her Alliance and to their new life together as the new Lord and Lady Haddandrox.

“I hope our own children will choose other careers,” she said. “I am proud of Jarod. He is a fine officer, and very handsome in his uniform. But I think it is time to break with tradition.”

“By the time your children are old enough to choose careers, there will likely be no Gallifreyan military to speak of,” Lord Haddandrox said. “Even our peace keeping forces are being scaled down. The High Council are civil servants with no military traditions in their family. They believe as long as Kasterborous is protected there is no need for us to be a military presence beyond our own stars.”

“That’s short sighted,” Kristoph said. “It’s the same insular attitude that seeks to restrict our trade ties with non-humanoid systems. They would have us close the Transduction Barrier and cut ourselves off from the rest of the universe altogether.”

“I don’t think it’s as bad as that,” Haddandrox argued. “But I think they’re wrong to scale down our military strength. We may rue that decision one day.”

Calliope repeated her hope that the children she and Jarod might have in the future would not need to choose military careers. Marion said nothing, but she felt the same way. Kristoph had been a soldier. But she didn’t want their son to be one.

She thought of the boy whose face she had glimpsed in the Well of Foretelling at New Year. The memory was dimming, despite her effort to retain it, but she still could picture a handsome young man with dark hair and brown eyes. For a moment she tried to picture him in a military uniform. He would look just as handsome, she was sure. But the image would not stay in her mind. She felt that was not the destiny of her future son.

The crowd around her cheered. The flagship of the Gallifreyan fleet was coming in to land. It was called the Pride of Rassilon II. Marion looked at Kristoph and Lord Haddandrox. Neither gave away anything in their expressions, but she had read a little about that war the two of them had fought. She knew that the ship which took them to the front line was the first Pride of Rassilon. The name must have stirred even more long-buried memories for them both.

But both smiled now as they watched the ship land, saluted by the other ships. There was an agonisingly long wait before the hatch opened. Calliope caught her breath as she saw Jarod at the head of the smartly dressed troops who stepped down the gangway. She waved happily. Of course, he did not wave back. The troops marched solemnly into the space port where they would muster before they were dismissed and allowed to join their families for their period of shore leave – or in Jarod Haddandrox’s case, for the rest of his life.

It seemed another interminable age before that happened. But when it did, the moment was worth it for Calliope. Her smile when Jarod finally appeared, still wearing his smart blue uniform with cap and cloak was so wide her head might have fallen off any moment. As he drew closer she could wait no longer. She broke ranks and ran to his arms. Jarod kissed her lovingly before he held her hand and went to greet his parents. He bowed to his father and then all protocol was forgotten as his mother hugged him almost as tightly as his fiancée had done.

“They look happy,” Marion said as she and Kristoph stepped back and let the family have their special moment.

“They are happy,” Kristoph answered. “Jarod and Calliope are going to be a fine couple. He’s done his duty to Gallifrey. He can retire with honour to be patriarch of his House with his wife at his side. A future I would recommend very highly.”

“As long as there are no more wars,” Marion said. “Calliope would be devastated if Jarod had to go away again. She has been so looking forward to having him to herself. And besides… I… think I agree with her. About our children. I don’t want our son to be a soldier, either.”

Again the image came into her mind, the boy with the dark curling hair and brown eyes. Again the idea of him in a military uniform like Jarod was wearing seemed to slip from her imagination.

“Who is that?” Kristoph asked her. “The young man you’re thinking of.”

“Our son, in the future,” she answered. “I can’t quite see his face properly any more. It’s fading. I wish it wouldn’t. I like to think of him. But not… not that way. Kristoph… if it’s within your power, please make sure our son doesn’t grow up to be a soldier. Or an assassin. I know Gallifreyans set store by children following their parents. But make sure he's an exception.”

“He will be,” Kristoph assured her. “Or if he must follow my example… it will be as a diplomat, a peace maker. I’ll make sure of that. But… my dear… How long have you had this vision of our son and heir in your thoughts? How?”

She told him about the Well of Foretelling. He was startled at first, but then he understood.

“Yes, the vision will fade. That can’t be helped. It’s how it works. But I’m glad you had a chance to see him. Hold onto that precious thought. But I hope he shall never have to make the choices I made in my life.” He smiled and kissed his wife fondly. “Back to the present now, my dear. It’s time to join Calliope and her young man for that welcome home dinner he so well deserves.”