Marion walked by Kristoph’s side along Broadway. The bright lights of New York’s theatre land dazzled her and she hummed a tune from the musical they had just been to see. She was happy.

“Even after all this time, I still find it amazing,” she said as they turned down an alleyway and Kristoph opened a door marked ‘staff only’ at the side of the Italian restaurant they had eaten at earlier.

“Find what amazing?” he asked as he crossed to the console and initiated their journey home after their evening out.

“That we can come to a first night of any show, any year. I mean… this is 2009. If I stayed on Earth, it would still only be… 1996. And I wouldn’t be able to visit New York when I felt like it anyway.”

“When I was a student, many millennia ago, my masters at the Prydonian Academy instilled into us the importance of using the gift of time travel only for serious and necessary research purposes. Using a TARDIS to take a trip to the theatre would be considered extremely frivolous. I think my old masters would still think of me as an impetuous youth and shake their heads gravely.”

Marion laughed and went to the sofa. She poured coffee and opened up her laptop. There was something she wanted to find out about. She could have asked Kristoph, of course. But she preferred to find things out for herself.

Kristoph watched her for a while, and then turned his attention to piloting the TARDIS through the Vortex. There were ion pockets disturbing the time streams and he had to keep a close eye on them.

When he looked up again, he was surprised and disturbed to see that Marion was crying.

“What’s the matter?” he asked as he reached her side and put a reassuring arm around her shoulders.

“I was curious about something,” she said between sobs. “When we were in New York… I noticed the difference from when we were there last. So I just looked it up. I was wondering why they demolished the World Trade Centre. And I…. I found out…”

“They didn’t demolish it,” Kristoph said in a quiet tone. “I didn’t realise... that you didn’t know. I’m sorry it came as such a shock to you, Marion.”

He held her tightly as she cried empathic tears for the history of her world. When she was done. He dried her tears and brushed her hair from her eyes, kissing her cheek lovingly.

“I’ve... been with you at peace conferences all around the galaxy,” she said. “I’ve seen you make peace between warring people from different planets. Why... why couldn’t you make the people of my planet stop fighting between themselves?”

“Because the internal affairs of Earth – especially before they have official First Contact with the rest of the universe is not within the purview of my diplomatic mission,” he replied. “And yes, that is a glib and easy answer to your question, but it is the only one I can give you. There is nothing I can do to stop the wars that happen on your planet.”

“Can you stop THAT from happening?” she asked. “It’s not war. It’s... it’s something so terrible... so... Kristoph.... what if we went back in time... to the day before... and told somebody... told them who the terrorists were and what they were going to do. We could stop it happening.”

“No,” Kristoph replied. “No, Marion. We can’t.”

“Why not?” she asked. “Why… just this once. I’ve never asked… all the years I’ve been with you… all the great power you have… I’ve never asked you to change anything… I never asked you to try to stop my mother from dying in a senseless, useless car accident. I didn’t ask you to use your power to stop our baby from dying… But this once… just this once…”

Kristoph looked at his wife’s face. It was true, she had never put him on the spot in such a way. She had never asked him to do anything about the tragedies of her own life. Only now, in the face of a greater tragedy, did she even consider the possibility of using time travel to make things right.

It was an unselfish request, a grand, magnificent one that filled him with pride. But his answer had to be the same.

“I can’t,” he answered. “I really can’t.”


“Because it’s a fixed point in time,” Kristoph answered.

“I don’t understand. What does that mean? I thought time was fluid… that it could change. I thought that was the point… that’s why you … and other Time Lords… why you can do what you do…”

“Most of time is fluid.” He said. “But sometimes…. every century or so… events occur… and for reasons even we don’t fully understand, they become fixed points. They cannot be altered because if they do, time itself would unravel. They occur throughout the universe. Quite often they’re natural disasters like earthquakes or… Pompeii…. That was one. The Titanic hitting the iceberg. That was another. Sometimes it’s deliberate acts of violence... like this.”

“Are all fixed points terrible things?” Marion asked with a shudder. “Death and violence…”

“Not always,” Kristoph assured her. “John Lennon… he was a fixed point…”

“His assassination, you mean?”

“No,” Kristoph caressed her face gently and smiled. “His birth… bringing musical inspiration to the world…. To the universe. Remember when you insisted on nothing but Beatles music at the dinner party last week. That’s because of one Fixed Point that wasn’t quite so terrible.”

She smiled back at him. But then her eyes returned to the laptop and the news item that had upset her so much. She looked back at Kristoph again.

“Is there absolutely nothing to be done?”

“I can’t stop it from happening. About the only thing I could do is dig in the rubble alongside those brave souls who made the effort in the aftermath.”

“Then… let’s go and do that,” Marion said. “Let’s use the gift we have in this TARDIS, in your alien strength – and lets go and do something to help.”

Kristoph thought about what she was suggesting.

“It won’t be pleasant,” he warned her. “We’re talking about a place of utter devastated. Crushed and dismembered bodies, burnt flesh, blood…”

“I know,” she assured him. “But please….”

“All right,” he conceded. “All right. We’ll do this.”

“Thank you.” Marion reached and kissed his cheek before he went to the console and set their new destination. She, meanwhile went to the wardrobe and selected suitable clothes, trousers and a jumper and flat, comfortable shoes.

When she returned to the console room, Kristoph had changed, too. He must have been even quicker than she was. He was wearing dark blue denim jeans and jacket with a plain black t-shirt underneath. Marion was surprised. She had never seen him wear clothes like that before. But they were certainly practical for where they were going.

“We’re there,” he said. “Are you ready?”

“Yes, I am,” she answered.

“All right, then.”

Kristoph took her hand. They stepped out of the TARDIS and noted that it had disguised itself as a New York Police Department van.

“That’s useful. Nobody will question a police van parked there. Come on.”

Marion clung tightly to his hand as they approached the cordon the police had erected around ground zero. She shivered nervously. She wasn't sorry she had suggested doing this, but now they were here, the sight of the still smouldering ruins, the sounds of the ongoing rescue operation, the smell of smoke and choking dust that still hung in the air, overwhelmed her a little. She was glad Kristoph was beside her.

At a checkpoint, he produced ID passes for them both. Marion had long since ceased to wonder how Kristoph did things like that. She was directed to a long trailer with the words ‘voluntary relief’ on the side. He was given a hard hat and a fluorescent tabard and sent to the rescue effort itself.

The trailer was being used as a rest place for firemen, paramedics, police and engineers who were helping with the rescue effort. Marion set to work along with other volunteers giving them coffee and sandwiches. She listened to them talking about the desperate situation. There were some happy stories of pulling people from the wrecked buildings alive. But there were also horror tales of finding bodies or parts of bodies, just as Kristoph had warned her. She found herself listening as one young policeman described what he had seen. He cried as he did so. She stepped closer and pressed a cup of coffee into his hands. He looked up at her, wiping his eyes, and thanked her. She felt like crying herself in his place. But then more men came in, dusty and tired, some of them with cuts and bruises from shifting lumps of masonry and steel. She and the other women working to take care of them were ready with towels and first aid kits and more coffee and sandwiches.

It wasn’t heroic work. She never expected that. She couldn’t do what they were doing. But she could pour drinks and butter bread. She could take care of the people who were doing the real work. She could help in that way, without altering the timeline or damaging causality or whatever it was that Kristoph feared would happen.

Kristoph was among the men doing the real work. He used picks and shovels and his bare hands to move the debris and find the injured, the dying and the dead. It was hard work. It was distressing work. And he continued for hour after hour. He tired less than the humans around him. He rested only when it might arouse suspicion if he didn’t. Twice he went to the trailer where Marion was working. The second time he was so covered in dust and dirt and sweat that she almost didn’t recognise him.

“I’m all right,” he assured her as she pressed coffee into his hands. “Come and sit with me a few minutes. You’ve been working hard, too. I bet you haven’t sat down at all since you started?”

“I did for a little while,” she answered. “There was a young man in here earlier… a fireman. I thought he was going to faint. He was so tired. I sat with him and made sure he ate all his sandwiches before he went back out. He’s still working. They all are. They came here in their normal work shifts, and have stayed long after their day’s work ended. They don’t ask to be paid for their time. They just want to do as much as they can.”

She lapsed into silence, sipping her coffee. The trailer didn’t have windows, but she looked at the wall as if she could see right through it. Kristoph knew what she was thinking. The second hand stories from the men and women who came in for a respite were etched deeply on her mind.

“I don’t regret coming,” she assured him. “I really don’t. It is dreadful. But I’m glad to be here, still. I’m glad we’re helping.”

“So am I. But don’t push yourself too hard. “Get some rest, soon. Go back to the TARDIS for a while.”

“I will, but not yet. I’d be letting them all down if I give up. You’re going out again, aren’t you?”

“Yes. There’s plenty for me to do.”

“Then I’ll be right here.”

He knew there was no point in arguing. She would stay here, working, as long as he kept going. He kissed her tenderly and turned to go back into the fray.

There was still much to be done. It would still be called a ‘rescue’ effort for several days more before the miraculous survival stories stopped happening and it became about finding the dead.

There was a small miracle happening now. He could feel it. Somewhere near beneath his feet, somebody was clinging on to life, and to hope. He reached out with his mind and felt for it, then he began to dig with his hands, careful not to disturb a spar of metal that was creating a void where a body could fit.

Somebody else joined him in the work. A young man, clothes and face covered in dust. He worked steadily, with a strength that belied his youth. Neither of them spoke as they cleared the way and reached together to gently lift a middle aged man in the tattered remnants of a smart business suit from what he had expected to be his tomb.

“Put him down carefully,” Kristoph said as they brought the man to a clear piece of ground. “Check his breathing, pulse….”

Then he watched as the young man pulled off his gloves and placed his hands over the victim’s forehead. After a half a minute he nodded and stood up, waving to a stretcher bearer who waited to take him to an ambulance.

“He’s got a broken arm and severe dehydration, some cuts and bruises, but otherwise he’s ok,” the young man said. He watched as the lucky man was taken away to recover from his ordeal, then turned and looked at Kristoph.

“Your hands are bleeding,” Kristoph said, pulling off his own gloves. His were, too. Orange blood oozed from the grazes and cuts that they had both ignored in their anxiety to save a life.

“They’ll mend,” the young man replied. “There are others who need our help, still. I can feel them. Over there…”

“Somebody else has that covered,” Kristoph said. “You can take a rest for a few minutes.”

“I don’t need to rest.” He looked at his hands. The grazed knuckles were mending as he spoke. So were Kristoph’s. “I can do what I have to do. For as long as I have to. It’s the only thing I can do. I tried… tried everything. Before… the day before… I tried to tell them. They didn’t believe… They thanked me for the information… gave me a souvenir pen…”

Tears of frustration rolled down his cheeks, making tracks in the dust on his face. Kristoph put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He felt the telepathic connection with another Time Lord. One with a unique ability – to cry Human tears.

“You tried to warn the authorities that a terrible atrocity was about to occur?” he asked. “Even though…”

“Even though I know I shouldn’t. Even though I knew it was wrong. A fixed point… the Laws of Time… I know I shouldn’t. But I had to try. I hoped… But all I could do was dig in the dirt till my hands bled. All the power I have… all the knowledge… and this is all I’m able to do…”

“It’s more than any other of our kind would do. Our obsession with non-interference… we don’t get our hands dirty, much less bloody. You get it from your mother. That boundless capacity for compassion that brought ordinary Humans here from far and wide to do what needs to be done. It was she who persuaded me to lend my own strength to the effort.”

“My mother…” Tear wet, deep brown eyes shone with momentary joy. “She’s here, too?”

“Making coffee and sandwiches until she drops,” Kristoph answered. “But it would be better if you didn’t…”

“Yes, I know.” The same deep brown eyes glanced at the refreshment trailer. “Knowing she’s close… that’s… nice. But… I won’t… I promise.”

“While you’re in the mood for promising, you can give me assurance you won’t risk causing any more causal paradoxes by interfering with Fixed Point Events,” Kristoph added. “And we’ll say no more about that.”

“Yes, father,” his future son acknowledged.

“All right. If you’re ready to go on again… there is much to do.”


They stepped forward together, their two alien minds reaching out to search where Human minds couldn’t, to help make a few more miracles happen on this dark day. Kristoph took this chance meeting philosophically. It really was no great surprise that their paths had crossed. They both had vested interests in planet Earth. It was, technically, a paradox for him to be walking here beside his son who wasn’t even born yet. But there were more important things to worry about just now, a bigger picture than their two lives.