Kristoph returned to the executive lounge after the first session of the Jox-Fol Conference glad of the chance to rest. He wasn’t physically tired, of course. His Gallifreyan constitution gave him boundless energy. But the discussions about whether several planets in this sector should have trade and diplomatic ties with the Kasterborus sector were mentally challenging. He was glad of a chance to sit down and meditate for an hour and put the various arguments out of his head entirely.

An aide brought him food and drink and then left the well appointed lounge. The Presidential Guard were all outside the door, too. He was alone. Marion was enjoying the leisure facilities of this remarkable planet, and he was happy to leave her doing that until he was free to give her his full attention at the reception, later.

He knelt on the plush carpeted floor and began to put himself into a light trance, ready for meditation, but something jarred in his mind. He had a strong sense that somebody was nearer to him than the guards outside. He stood warily and moved towards the executive bathroom. The mental disturbance was from that direction.

The luxurious bathroom appeared empty. But he didn’t take anything for granted. He turned slowly and focussed on the corner next to the shower. The wall there had a very beautiful mosaic of glazed tiles depicting a stormy day on the Jox-Fol hydrochloric ocean. The waves were picked out in various shades of grey-blue and the sky above was iron grey except where electric blue lightning split it.

And across the sky was a jagged line of what he had assumed to be lightning, but now he looked closer, it was more like a crack in the sky itself. Not in the mosaic, but in the sky that the artist had recreated. He stared at the crack for several seconds before turning quickly and reaching out his arm. He tightly gripped a shoulder encased in a jacket.

“I’ve been around too long to be fooled by a perception filter,” he said in a stern voice. “Are you CIA?”

“No, sir,” replied the Time Lord dressed in a tweed jacket, bow tie and other assorted clothes that had never been in fashion on Gallifrey. “But I do have an important job to do. Please let me do it before I explain.”

He shrugged his arm out of Kristoph’s grasp only because Kristoph let him. Something in his voice made him trust him enough to let him go. He watched as the Time Lord raised what had to be a sonic screwdriver, though it was far bigger and chunkier than any version Kristoph had seen before. A green light issued from it, focussed on that peculiar ‘crack’ in the mosaic, which glowed with an eerie orange-white light before disappearing.

“What in Creation was that?” Kristoph asked as the Time Lord stepped closer to the wall and tested it carefully with his fingers.

“A crack in the fabric of time itself,” he replied without looking around. “I’ve been having big problems with them. I sealed the main one a while back, after a bit of a struggle, saved the universe from disappearing into oblivion, all of that. Most of the cracks sealed themselves. But I’m still finding persistent ones here and there.”

He turned then and slipped his sonic screwdriver into his pocket before visibly stiffening his body and then bowing respectfully.

“My Lord President,” he said. “Forgive my intrusion.”

“You are forgiven,” Kristoph replied. “Who are you, exactly?”

The Time Lord stood straight. He didn’t answer the question in words. He just met Kristoph’s gaze with one equally firm and unwavering. Kristoph noted that his eyes were a deep brown like his own. And he recognised something else in him, too.

“Sweet Mother of Chaos!” Kristoph murmured. “This is... You should not be here. Do you know how many protocols you have broken. You should NOT...”

“I know about the protocols,” the Time Lord replied. “I didn’t break them deliberately. These cracks... caused a certain rewriting of history. It’s all been rewritten back again, now. But the protocols that should prevent Time Lord from crossing timelines and prevent me from meeting you at this stage in your life were weakened temporarily. I apologise, sir. And... I promise I will be gone as soon as I’ve made sure there are no permanent localised effects. I can also assure you that now the crack in this temporal locality is sealed, I won’t be able to turn up like this again.”

“I accept your apology and your explanation,” Kristoph told him. “But...”

“I should go. This is... awkward for you... And... a little painful for me.”

“Stay,” Kristoph said to him. “Have a drink. This is a maximum hospitality lounge... all provided for my comfort. I should... I know there are things we cannot talk about. But I should like to have your company for a little while.”

The Time Lord’s eyes gave away his emotional conflict between what they both knew as the right thing to do and what they both wanted to do.

“I have a friend... a companion...” the Time Lord pointed out. “She’s in the ‘lunar’...”

“So is my wife,” Kristoph answered. “They can keep each other company.”

The Time Lord gave in and followed Kristoph out to the lounge where he poured two glasses of something that quite closely resembled an aged single malt distilled on Earth.

“You’re... Lord High President... at this time in your life?” the Time Lord said.

“I’m still getting used to it. I was only invested a few months ago.”

“You said... your wife... so... This must be your first term as President... before I was born.”

“First term?” Kristoph smiled. “We’d best not dwell on the implications of that.”

“I have a... a friend... another friend, not the one in the ‘lunar’ with your wife... who would call that a spoiler. I should have known better.”

“You look young,” Kristoph said, changing the subject. “But I don’t think you are. You’ve regenerated at least once?”

“More often than I would prefer to remember.”

“I know that feeling well enough,” Kristoph admitted. “And yet... your eyes... you FEEL older than you really are. You’ve suffered greatly...”

“Definitely spoilers.” The Time Lord took a gulp of the liquor and looked into the golden liquid remaining in the glass. “Sir... My Lord...”

“You of all people don’t need to call me by either of those titles,” Kristoph assured him.

“I’m not sure I could cope with the other.”

“Perhaps not. What should I call you? What are you known as?”

“Doctor,” he replied. “The Doctor.”

“An alias?” Kristoph noted that without too much surprise. “There are two possible reasons for a Time Lord to bury his proper name. The first is a disgraced renegade who has lost the right to use it. The second is one who has won a nom-de-plume by his deeds or achievements. Doctor... sounds as if it could be the second. It is an honourable title...”

The man who was known as The Doctor, but whose real name Kristoph knew better than any man could know it, shook his head.


“Beyond spoilers. Please don’t... Tell me... is... my mother... is she well?”

“Yes, she is. It’s been a stressful time of late and I thought this trip would be good for her, even though it is strictly business for me. The leisure facilities of Jox-Fol are excellent. She is enjoying herself.”

“Good.” The Doctor’s eyes seemed focussed elsewhere for a moment or two. Kristoph knew well enough why, and he sympathised.

“Why are you running around the Galaxy fixing cracks in reality?” he asked, changing the train of thought neatly. “I hoped... my ambition for my offspring... the diplomatic corps, the High Council... maybe even following the male line of our family into the Presidency itself. Instead... you said you weren’t CIA... But... some kind of temporal plumber....”

The Doctor laughed at his future father’s description of his current mission.

“I’m not CIA,” he again insisted. “But... I am... somewhat adept at solving problems... other people’s problems. I hope you could be proud of me. I have always tried to live as a Time Lord should... according to the honour of our race, even when I am at odds with the strict letter of our law.”

“I am proud of you, my son.” Kristoph assured him. “I can see in your eyes that you speak the truth. I wanted you to go into one of those other professions... not out of any kind of snobbery... but because I wanted you to live a safer life than I have.”

The Doctor smiled wryly.

“Just how safe is the Lord High President?” he asked. “It is a position all too often filled by the age old tradition of dead men’s shoes. And I know full well that there were several attempts on you during your time in office. As for the diplomatic corps... not always safe, either.”

“Quite true,” Kristoph admitted, recalling some of the times in his diplomatic career when the experiences of his previous career as the Celestial Intervention Agency’s best assassin came in useful. “Let us try safer topics of conversation. Did you say you have a lady companion with you? Does this mean...”

“No,” he admitted. “Amy is just a friend. There have been... I have known... the sort of love you and my mother had... have. But at this time... I am content with friendship.”

“That is good to know,” Kristoph conceded. “I would be glad to meet your companion. But it is probably not a good idea at this time. Not while she is with Marion.”

“Probably not.” The Doctor sighed. That was another thing that wasn’t a good idea. The two of them had understanding enough of the complexities of temporal physics, of chance meetings outside of proper timelines, to avoid those ‘spoilers’ as his future son called them. But he really didn’t think this was the time for Marion to glimpse the future in such a way.

“It really is time for me to go,” The Doctor said. “I... am glad we had a little time... it has been too long... But I should...”

He stood up. Kristoph did, too. The Doctor bowed formally again, in respect of the Presidential regalia Kristoph was wearing. Then he reached as if to shake hands. Kristoph smiled and shook his head. He reached his arms around his future son’s shoulders and hugged him affectionately. The effect that brief intimacy had on him was remarkable. He almost trembled with nervous energy and his farewell was a stammered mess.

And he stepped through the door into the bathroom in his confusion.

Just as he did so, the outer door opened and four Presidential Guards stepped in. Kristoph began to ask what they thought they were doing intruding on his privacy, but they surrounded him and raised their rifles. The question was redundant. It was quite obvious what they were doing.

Another man entered the lounge. He was dressed in dark robes with a hood partially concealing his face in what Kristoph thought was an unnecessarily over-dramatic way. Who he was, and why he was commanding the Presidential Guard, Kristoph hoped to learn shortly. Keeping still and appearing to comply with the demand for his surrender was the best way to do that for the time being.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw The Doctor slipping past the guards. He was still wearing the perception filter and they didn’t notice him. Kristoph carefully didn’t look in his direction as he reached the concealed service entrance and quietly slid back the panel. He had stepped through and equally quietly closed it again before the hooded man noted that there were two glasses on the table.

“There is somebody else here. Find him. And send for his wife. She is in the Lunar. When I checked earlier, she was being attended by another female of her own species. Bring her, too. Quietly. I do not want the native guards alerted, and it is convenient to keep the women alive... for now.”

He turned and looked at Kristoph, then nodded to one of the Guards, who forced him to kneel and put his hands on his head. He still didn’t know what this was about, and his situation certainly looked bleak at the moment.

But he was not without hope.

He put that hope in his son, who was far more than a temporal plumber.