“Amy,” The Doctor said. “I’m sorry. I promised this would be an easy afternoon. But the Lord High President is in terrible danger.”

Marion gasped audibly. The Doctor reached out and touched her on the arm. She was too worried about Kristoph to wonder about the expression in his eyes as he did so.

“You mean... Marion’s husband?” Amy asked. “How? What happened?”

The Doctor quickly explained about the guards coming into the lounge and his own escape.

“You... ran away... you left him?” Marion’s eyes flashed with anger. “They could kill him... and you just left...”

“No,” The Doctor replied. “If I could have done any good by staying, I would have. I wouldn’t have left him... in a million years I wouldn’t. But he didn’t want me to stay. He wanted me to get to you. He wanted you safe... Mo... m.... Ma... Lady de Lœngbærrow... his only concern was for you.”

“Of course it was,” she sighed as her initial anger subsided. “He’s like that. He Presidential Guard turn on him?”

“Sounds like a military coup to me,” Amy said. “Just like...”

“No,” The Doctor insisted. “No. That couldn’t happen. It didn’t happen... No. Time can’t be that messed up. His presidency was peaceful... He wasn’t... he can’t be... this can’t be right... It CAN’T be.”

“What do you mean, was?” Marion asked. “I don’t understand.”

“He... The Doctor... he’s a time traveller,” Amy explained. “He’s from your future. He means... that he knows about when your husband was president.... as history. And...”

“And there was no military coup. I don’t know what this is about. But it’s not that. Unless... unless history is being rewritten because of the time crack. But it can’t be. It just can’t be. Because I’m....”

He stopped mid-sentence. Both Amy and Marion looked at him curiously, wondering what else he intended to say. But he shook his head.

“Just... believe me. This is not what it seems. But I have every reason to believe that the President is in danger. So are you, madam, and my first job is to make you safe...”

“Make me safe?” Marion laughed softly. “I’m not a bomb.”

“I know. You’re the First Lady of Gallifrey. And... and you’re important. And I have to look after you. He needs me to look after you.”

“He needs you to help him,” Marion responded. “I can look after myself. He’s your president. I... I order you to protect him.”

“You, first,” The Doctor insisted. “Come on. Amy, you too. You’re neither of you safe. I’m taking you back to my TARDIS. Then I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure he is all right. Because this REALLY can’t be happening.”

“Doctor,” Amy protested. “I’m not just going to hide in the TARDIS. You might need back up.”

“Amy, this once, trust me. The best thing you can do to help me is stick with Lady de Lœngbærrow and make sure she is safe. Please do this for me.”

Amy looked at The Doctor. There was something in his expression that surprised her. It was almost pleading. She wondered what it was about Marion that made him so desperate to protect her.

Then a possible explanation occurred to her. She opened her mouth to say something but stopped. If that was what it was all about, then no wonder he was worried.

“I... I think The Doctor is right,” Amy said. “We should go to the TARDIS. But, Doctor, you don’t need to take us. We’ll manage by ourselves. You go and do what you have to do to save your... save the President.”

The Doctor looked as if he was about to argue, then changed his mind.

“You can get most of the way through these service passages. Here...” He passed Amy his psychic paper wallet. Marion looked over her shoulder and noted that the small piece of paper within the wallet was displaying an interactive map of the Gan Hydro spa hotel. Three stick figures were bunched up together in the centre of the map, representing them. A small blue rectangle represented The Doctor’s TARDIS.

“Marauders Map!” Amy laughed. “I never knew you were a Potter fan!”

“She stole the idea from me. Along with portkeys and things that are bigger on the inside. One day her lawyers and mine are going to have words. But right now... go on, both of you.”

He hugged Amy briefly, then turned and did the same to Marion. She was a little surprised by such intimacy from a complete stranger, but there was something about his hug that felt strangely right.

“You be careful,” she told him. “Kristoph wouldn’t want to be rescued at the expense of your life.”

“I will,” he assured her before he turned and ran back down the service corridor. Amy watched his progress on the psychic paper before taking Marion’s arm and heading in the opposite direction.

Kristoph looked steadily at his captor. He was kneeling, and there was a gun pressed against the back of his head. But he kept his nerve, or at least the outward appearance of doing so. He met the gaze of the man in the hood with a steely expression.

“This is no coup,” he said. “You’ve arranged for a few traitors to accompany me on this trip away from Gallifrey, that is all. The Presidential Guard are loyal to me, with these exceptions. His eyes glanced briefly at the guard standing beside the hooded leader. “You should be ashamed of yourself, letting yourself be bought so easily. And if you’re not, your family will be when your treason is known and you are a prisoner of the Celestial Intervention Agency answering for your folly.”

The guard’s eyes flickered uncertainly for a few seconds before he stiffened his resolve. But Kristoph was satisfied that he had planted a seed of doubt in the young man’s head. Presidential Guards were invariably younger sons of Newblood Houses, those who stood to inherit nothing of the family fortune. But family pride counted among them just as highly as it did in the patriarchs of Oldblood Houses.

Most of them, at least. He intensified his steely gaze at the man who had caused this distress. And it was he who broke first, turning his head on the pretext of giving an order to one of the guards.

“You are right. Gallifrey is at peace, yet. It may remain so if you do as I say.”

“I answer to no man and do no man’s bidding,” Kristoph replied. “But out of curiosity, what are your demands of me?”

“I demand that you sign a confession... admitting your part in crimes of corruption, embezzlement, murder. You will resign your Presidency, naming me as your successor....”

“I will do no such thing. I have committed no such crimes. This is absurd.”

“... You will then take your sword and kill yourself...”

“You are mad if you think I would....”

“If you do not, your wife will be subjected to a long, painful death. You will listen to her scream and beg for mercy. The other woman, too. Her Human companion... an innocent... I know of your weakness, De Lœngbærrow. I know your ‘compassion’. This woman you know nothing of, chosen simply because she was in the lunar with your wife, will be tortured and killed in front of you. I know you will give your own life rather than see that happen.”

“What will happen to my wife if I comply?” Kristoph demanded.

“The foreign woman will be sent back to the planet she comes from. Gallifrey will be rid of the taint of weak blood.”

Kristoph nodded as if he accepted the merciful alternative to his holding out. The hooded man smiled coldly. But then one of his guards entered the lounge. He made his report quietly, but Kristoph knew what he was saying. Marion and her friend were free. His son had got them to safety as he hoped.

“Without my wife, you have no bargaining chip,” he said.

“She will be found. Doubtless she plans to return to your TARDIS. But that is under surveillance. She will be taken, one way or another. Even if she is not, there are others whose lives you value. Your mother and father, your brother and his wife, your sisters. Comply, or the House of Contemplation where your younger sister resides will be overrun. The women will be violated. Your father and brother will be implicated in the same corruption you are accused of. Your older sister will be named as an adulteress. Your House will be broken. I have the power to set all of that in motion.”

“How did our society nurture such a vile mind as yours?” Kristoph demanded. “One who would relish the idea of violating innocent women? One who would consider slandering a good man? If I did not know better, I would swear you are not one of our kind – a Time Lord could not dishonour himself with such thoughts.”

“Enough of your words. Sign the confession, or die knowing that all I have said will be set in motion anyway.”

“No,” Kristoph replied. “I will not.”

Hidden by the perception filter, The Doctor listened to the incredible plot unfolding in the executive lounge for as long as he dared before he slipped back into the service corridor and ran as fast as his double hearts would let him. He knew that his father was buying time for himself, but he could only do so for a few minutes more at best. He had to work fast.

He came to another service panel in the floor and opened it. He looked down and saw his familiar old TARDIS below, the blue police box hidden in the forest of borg-trees that were the lifeline of the Gan Hydro complex. The organic part of them produced the oxygen that sustained the air breathing residents and staff within the enviro-dome on a planet with a poisonous and hostile atmosphere outside. The network of light absorbing solar fibres inside created the power that made everything else work.

And that constant stream of electrical energy all around was the perfect camouflage for a TARDIS that didn’t do a very good job of hiding itself otherwise. The police box would have stood out like a sore thumb in the shuttle bay where his father’s TARDIS was being monitored by the followers of the Presidential Pretender. It would have been recognised by them as a second TARDIS and neither he nor Amy and his mother would have been able to reach it safely. That hadn’t been his intention when he parked it there, of course. He just wanted to avoid all the hassle of showing his parking permits to the shuttle bay attendants. But he still gave himself a mental pat on the back for his foresight.

He dropped down and landed a little awkwardly, but on his feet. He opened the TARDIS door and was relieved to see Amy and his mother there already. He had been very slightly worried about them getting lost on the way, even with his ‘Maurader’s Map’ to follow.

“Doctor,” Amy said to him. “Why are you here? We saw you on the map... you were there with the President. You could have rescued him.”

“No, I couldn’t,” he answered. “There were too many of them. Even if I used deadly force, I could only have taken one of them before they killed him. And I... Even for him... I can’t... I won’t kill... That’s not... He wouldn’t want me to...”

He was at the console, turning dials and pulling levers frenetically as he spoke. Amy obeyed his instruction to ‘grab that one’. Marion stepped closer to the strange looking TARDIS controls hesitantly.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“A judgement call,” The Doctor answered. “M.... Ma... Madam... I need something from you... the base code of your husband’s TARDIS.”

“I don’t even know what a base code is... let alone what the one for our TARDIS might be.”

“You’ve travelled in the TARDIS extensively,” he answered. “It’s in your head even if you don’t know it. Please...” He stepped closer to her. Marion flinched as he put his hands either side of her face, then she gasped as she felt his mind touch hers.

“You... feel... like I should know you,” she said. “As if you’re somebody very close and dear to me, who I could trust with my life.”

“Hold that thought,” The Doctor replied as he withdrew gently and took his hands away from her face. “Please, do. Because you can. Oh, yes, you can trust me.”

“Did you get what you needed?” Amy asked. But the fact that he was hurriedly punching keys on the console suggested that he had. The next moment there was a wheezing noise and a rectangular grey box materialised in the middle of the floor. It immediately shimmered and turned into a 1950s style police box.

“Your TARDIS is picking up resonances from mine,” The Doctor noted. “It’s adopted the same disguise. M... Lady de Lœngbærrow... you have your key? Go inside your TARDIS and contact...” He paused in thought. “Is... Is Uncle Remonte still ambassador to Ventura at this time?”

“Uncle...” Marion looked at him curiously. “Well... yes, he is. But...”

“Contact him. Tell him what’s happened here. Tell him he and his wife could be in danger. And his parents and sisters. He can arrange for their immediate protection, and send a force of loyal guards here to arrest those responsible. Do that while I go and get the President.”

Marion did as he asked. The Doctor turned to the console again.

“I thought so,” Amy said. “The President... he’s your father, isn’t he?”

“He will be, in the future,” The Doctor replied. “If he doesn’t get murdered right here and now.”

“If that happens... then you...”

“I haven’t been born yet in this time. I never will be. Time will unravel in disastrous ways.”

“Earth will get destroyed by the Atraxi in 2008. Because you won’t be there to stop them.”

“Earth would be destroyed long before then if I’m not there to stop it. You would never have had a chance to be born.”

“Then what are you waiting for?” Amy asked. “Go and get him.”

“I can’t, yet,” he replied. “There are anti-transmat protocols all over this place. I was able to override them to bring the other TARDIS here because I had the basecode. But moving THIS TARDIS to the Executive Lounge is a bit harder.”

“Why did we need the other TARDIS, anyway?” Amy asked. “Why couldn’t you contact your uncle from here?”

“Because the TARDIS... it’s a time and space machine... but inside, in its heart... it follows linear time. It knows that a thousand years have gone by since these events happening right here, right now.” He glanced at the closed door of the other TARDIS. “It knows that they’re dead and gone. My mother... my father... my uncle... everyone is gone except me. My TARDIS can’t contact anyone on Gallifrey. But theirs belongs in this timeline. Inside there, inside that TARDIFS, my world still exists and everyone I know and love is alive.”

“Oh, Doctor!” Amy looked at him sympathetically. His eyes burned with untold grief for a few seconds. Then his mood changed again. He gave a cry of triumph. Amy saw the glass rod of the time rotor move up and down three times and the sound of a dematerialisation followed by a rapid materialisation filled the air. At the same time, two people solidified within the TARDIS. One was President de Lœngbærrow, still kneeling. The other was the hooded Time Lord holding a sword to his throat and thrusting the pages of the false confession towards him.

The hooded Time Lord had his back to the other TARDIS. He didn’t see Marion step out of it holding a knitting needle. She pressed the sharp end of it against the back of the traitor’s neck, through the hood.

“I don’t know much about anatomy,” she said. “But I know there’s a thing... the med... medala...”

“Medula Oblongata,” The Doctor told her. “It is at the base of the cerebral cortex of all vertebrates and regulates certain important functions like breathing. It’s one of the few ways to kill a Time Lord with no possibility of regeneration.”

“And don’t think I wouldn’t do it,” Marion added. “To save my husband’s life, I would do anything... even that.”

There was a slight tremble in her voice as she spoke. Enough to suggest that she didn’t mean what she said, that she couldn’t cold-bloodedly kill a man by stabbing him from behind. But there was just enough uncertainty, enough of a chance that she might do it after all. The Time Lord wavered just enough. Kristoph seized the moment to move, rolling sideways and kicking the legs out from under his opponent. He fell awkwardly and lost his grip on his sword. Kristoph grabbed it and was on his feet in the same movement. The tables were turned as he pricked his opponent’s neck with his own sword.

“Stay where you are,” Kristoph said. “You are under arrest for High Treason. Move one muscle in a way I dislike and I shall save our people the trouble of a lengthy and notorious trial. Doctor, take the ladies into the other TARDIS in case anything so unsavoury becomes necessary. I would spare them the necessity of witnessing it.”

The Doctor took Marion and Amy by the arm, ready to do as he asked. But the traitor took advantage of the barest moment of distraction and sprang up from the ground. He pushed past Kristoph and launched himself at the door control. He was half across the threshold when a shot rang out and he lurched and fell back into the TARDIS.

“Hold your fire,” Kristoph called out. He ran to the traitor and confirmed that he was mortally wounded.

“How old are you?” he asked the dying man. “Can you regenerate?”

“I choose to die,” he responded. “I will not let you have the satisfaction.”

“Fine, carry on dying,” Kristoph responded coldly. He looked at the man who had fired the shot. “Were you intending to hit him? Or did you think it was me coming out of the TARDIS?” he asked. The man was trembling with shock. One of his colleagues took his gun from him and laid it on the ground with his own. “Very sensible. The best thing you can all do is lay down your weapons and place yourself under my authority until the CIA arrive. If you co-operate in their investigation, it is possible your sentences could be lighter than they might be. As it is, you’re all in very serious trouble. I pity the families that spawned you for the shame you have brought on them.”

Without the man who commanded them, the guards did just as Kristoph ordered. When the agents of the Celestial Intervention Agency arrived they were easy to arrest. The attempted coup was over.

“Who was he?” The Doctor asked Kristoph as they watched the CIA take charge of the traitor’s body. “What House was he from?”

“It doesn’t matter. His name will never be spoken of again. He was the Keeper of The Keys. He was implicated already in another attempt on my presidency and escaped justice. I didn’t know he had gathered allies around him. They were few enough. There was no real threat to my family on Gallifrey. That was all to pressurise me into signing his faux confession. As if I would do that. A pathetic, desperate attempt. And such a waste, too. His life... and those who followed him. Their lives are ruined, too. Gallifrey can scarce afford to lose its manhood this way.”

“It can even less afford to lose you,” The Doctor replied.

“I have you to thank for that. You are far more than a temporal plumber.”

“You bet I am!” The Doctor smiled. His father did, too. Then both turned and Marion and Amy came out of the TARDIS. They had stayed there until the unpleasant business with the body was over. Marion went to The Doctor and took his hand warmly.

“When you talked about ‘Uncle Remonte’.... for a little while, I imagined you must be... you’re from the future of course. I thought... But of course, Kristoph has a married sister. You must be Oriana’s child?”

The Doctor hesitated. Then Kristoph stepped forward and pressed his own hand over theirs.

“He’s ours, Marion,” he said. “He can’t stay here much longer. Crossing timelines in this way is strictly forbidden by our law. But before he goes, I want us both to acknowledge him, and be proud of his courage and strength of purpose.”

The Doctor looked a little embarrassed by the praise heaped upon him. But he smiled as Marion hugged him tightly and kissed him on the cheek.

“It’s good to see you,” she said. “I wish it didn’t have to be like this. And I wish it could be for longer. But...”

She didn’t say anything else. She just held him as long as she could. Finally, she had to let him go. She turned and hugged Amy quickly.

“It was lovely spending time with you. Even if he isn’t your boyfriend, take care of him, won’t you?”

“I will, Marion,” Amy promised. Then she and The Doctor headed into their own TARDIS. It dematerialised noisily. Marion sighed.

“He looked so young. But he wasn’t, was he? His eyes were older than his face. He’s certainly not our little boy any more.”

“He’s a very fine man. And a great Time Lord,” Kristoph agreed. “The sitting of the trade conference is postponed due to my little problems here. We’ve got the afternoon to ourselves. Would you like to come for a quiet walk in the borg-tree forest. It’s quite refreshing. And I don’t think anyone would dare disturb us with the Celestial Intervention Agency in charge of security.”