Kristoph was looking forward to a quiet evening at home with his wife. It had been a tedious day in the Panopticon, the sort that reminded him why he had become a soldier not a politician in his youth. He knew Marion had been on Earth today, shopping and having tea with Li. He looked forward to hearing all her news. When the car alighted gently on the gravel turning circle outside Mount Lœng House he noted the lights on in the white drawing room and smiled softly. Marion always preferred her own room to the more formal main drawing room of the house, especially when she was on her own.

The front door was opened before he reached it, of course. He never even carried a key. His father never did, either. A butler would always be there to open the door to the Master of the House. It was they way it was always done, and it was one of the familiar things about his home that he liked.

“Good evening, sir, I hope you had a satisfactory day,” Caolin said as he took his cloak from him.

“Satisfactory?” Kristoph smiled wryly. “I’m satisfied that it’s over. My wife is in her room?”

“She is,” Caolin replied. “Although...”

He hesitated. Kristoph looked at him cautiously.

“Is there something wrong?” he asked. “With Marion?”

“Lady Marion is... not exactly herself...” Caolin replied hesitantly. “She... was rather cold towards my own lady wife on her return from Earth, and she was... snappish... towards the maid who brought in her afternoon tea.”

“That is very definitely not like Marion,” Kristoph said. “Perhaps she’s coming down with something. Will you have tea sent into the white drawing room shortly? I think I will take a cup with her.”

“Very good, My Lord,” Caolin replied and went to do his duty. Kristoph headed towards the white drawing room a little less satisfied and more than a little worried about his wife. He was even more worried when he found that she wasn’t in the white drawing room. Nor was she in the library or the day bedroom where she often took a nap if she was tired or any of the rooms in the white suite.

He turned and went to the main drawing room, but that was quiet, with only one lamp lit by the fireplace. He wondered if she might have gone up to the master bedroom. Perhaps she really was feeling ill. His concern deepened.

Then he saw the door to his private study open. Marion stepped out of the room into the hall.

“What were you doing in there?” he asked in surprise.

“Does it matter?” she asked. “Aren’t I mistress of this house? Can’t I go where I like? Do you keep secrets from me?”

“In there, yes,” he answered. “As you well know, there are files that are for my eyes only. The light was off. What were you doing wandering around my study in the dark?”

“Don’t ask so many questions,” Marion replied. “I will go where I wish, with or without a light on.”

“I don’t...” Kristoph began. “I certainly didn’t... Marion, my dear, there was turbulence over the straights. The shuttle journey was nauseating. I didn’t go through that in order to have an argument with the one person I thought to have a welcoming smile for me. Let’s go to the drawing room and enjoy a little quiet time together before dinner.”

“Very well,” she said. Kristoph looked at her curiously. She seemed upset, even angry What was at the bottom of such a mood? Could she be ill? If so, then he wouldn’t waste a moment getting medical help for her. But this didn’t seem like illness. It just seemed to be a very cross mood, and one that was utterly out of character for her.

He poured the tea when Caolin brought it. Marion took a cup, but she did no more than sip it. Kristoph watched her carefully for a few minutes before he opened the conversation.

“Did you have a nice day on Earth?” he asked.

“Earth?” she replied, testing the word as if it was the first time she had ever spoken the word. “Yes, Earth, of course. It was... a useful excursion.”

“A useful excursion?” Kristoph echoed. “Marion, since when did you speak like that? Did you have tea with Li? How is the old man?”

“Li is satisfactory,” she answered.

“That doesn’t sound like you, either, Marion,” Kristoph pointed out. “What has come over you? Are you sick?”

He reached out and took her hand. It felt cool. When he put his hand on her forehead, it was cool, too. She wasn’t feverish. But something certainly wasn’t right.

“Maybe you’re overdoing it,” he suggested. “This is your third offworld trip this week. We had the Venturan royal gala at the weekend, then yesterday you visited Hillary, and today you went off to Earth. Maybe you should ration your use of the portal a little.”

“You seek to curtail my movements?” Marion demanded in an icy tone. “Is that the sort of husband you are?”

“No it most certainly isn’t,” he answered. “I’m simply concerned for your health. I don’t want you to be ill again.”

“I’m not ill.” She responded.

“You’re certainly not yourself, either. Marion, what is it? What has made you so agitated? Is it Li? Is there something wrong in Liverpool? Is he in danger?”

“There is nothing wrong with the Renegade, and there is nothing wrong with me,” Marion replied in such a tone that Kristoph knew that the opposite was true. He grasped her by the shoulders and drew her into an embrace. She didn’t respond in any way. Her arms hung loose by her side and her body was pressed against his only because he was holding her. She didn’t try to resist his hold. It was almost as if she was indifferent to him.

He held her even more closely and cupped his hand behind her head to draw her into a kiss. Strangely, even her lips felt cool.

Which made no sense at all. She was Human. He was a Time Lord. If anything, his flesh should feel cooler to her. His body temperature was thirty degrees lower than hers. It was impossible for her to feel so much cooler to the touch.


He shifted his hold and put his hand on her forehead. He wasn’t feeling her temperature this time. He was gently pressing into her mind. Or at least he was trying to. It felt as if here was no mind to connect with. At least not an organic one. What he felt was more like a simple computerised replica of a mind, with basic patterns imprinted onto it, memories, personality, enough to make a copy seem convincing.

“What are you?” he demanded. “What have you done to Marion?”

“Don’t be silly, Kristoph,” she replied. “I am Marion. I am your wife.”

“No, you’re not,” he insisted. “You’re some kind of facsimile... a fake. You’re...”

He grasped her firmly by the shoulders and held her at arms length. Yes, the signs were subtle – the body temperature, a slightly artificial sheen to the skin, blinking too slowly for a Human. If it wasn’t for the erratic and uncharacteristic behaviour, he might have missed the other indicators. He might have been deceived.

“Where is Marion?” he demanded. “What have you done to my wife?”

“I... don’t... know what you’re talking about,” she replied. “I AM your wife.”

“You’re not. My wife is a warm, caring woman who would never speak rudely to the servants and who always has a kind word for everyone. She knows that I have nothing but her best interests in my hearts and would never accuse me of being a bad husband to her. She is a Human being. You... are some kind of... I don’t quite know. Something fake... something else. And... wherever she is, if she’s in any way hurt or distressed, I will make those responsible pay tenfold every moment she has suffered.”

He was firmly sure that she was still alive, wherever she was. He didn’t distress himself with any other thought.

“Sir!” He hardly heard the voice calling to him at first. “Sir, what are you doing?”

It was one of his Presidential Guards. He was so used to them being around by now he had forgotten there were three of them in the hall at all times. He glanced around now and saw the Guard inside the door and Caolin, loyal as ever, close behind him.

“This is not my wife,” he said, pushing the facsimile away roughly. “It is a fake, sent to infiltrate my household and steal classified information.”

“Don’t listen to him!” the facsimile cried out in a plaintive voice that might have fooled anyone else, but to Kristoph’s ear, having realised that it wasn’t really Marion, was distinctly out of tune with her real voice. “He’s gone mad. He tried to strangle me. Stop him!”

The Guard didn’t waver for a moment. His job was to protect the President, even if he had gone mad and tried to kill his wife. He moved forward with his gun drawn and pointed at her. Caolin, though, was torn between his Lordship and the Lady he served every day.

“Madam,” he said, stepping towards her. “Please...”

Kristoph moved quickly, putting himself in front of his butler. The Guard moved fast, trying to put himself in front of his President as the facsimile’s hand split at the wrist to reveal a gun concealed within it. Three shots were fired. But Kristoph and the guard were both holding onto the arm and they slammed into an antique sideboard and shattered the Tiffany lamp on top of it. Caolin stared in horror as the facsimile was wrestled to the ground.

“It’s... not her?” he asked. He looked at the face of the facsimile, twisted in hate. “Then what...”

The Guard held her down while Kristoph found his sonic screwdriver. He adjusted the setting and aimed it at her forehead, sending a powerful electrical pulse into the artificial brain. The facsimile uttered a low growl and then was still.

“Is it dead?” Caolin asked.

“It was never alive,” Kristoph answered him. “It’s an artificial lifeform... plastic... some kind of mutable plastic. But certainly not alive as we know it.”

Now that it was deactivated, it was obvious to them all. The ‘flesh’ was hard, unyielding, like a doll. The features were indistinct, the eyes like glass. It was clearly not a living being.

It certainly wasn’t Marion.

“Then what... is happening?” Caolin asked. “Where is Lady Marion?”

“I don’t know,” Kristoph answered. “But I intend to find out.” He turned to the Guard who had assisted him. “I need six of you, fully armed. Bring that to my TARDIS. It may yield some answers.”

He left the Guard to do that while he went to his study. He glanced around quickly and was satisfied that nothing that was protected by the Presidential Seal had been interfered with. The facsimile had done no damage to the security of Gallifrey. But if he had not come home when he did, that might not have been the story.

He opened a videophone channel to Castellan Braxietel. He quickly told him what had happened.

“What do you intend?” Pól Braxietel asked him.

“I intend to find my wife. Until I do, consider me reinstated as an operative of the Celestial Intervention Agency. I intend to deal a cold death to those who sought to use her for espionage against Gallifrey.”

“You are still Lord High President of Gallifrey,” Braxietel pointed out.

“Yes, I am,” he answered. “The Lord High President of Gallifrey is also a counter-espionage agent and an assassin. Though we are known as a peaceful race, that peace comes at a price, and those who would threaten us will pay it.”

“Rassilon guide your hand, my friend,” Braxietel told him.

Kristoph nodded in acknowledgement of that blessing on his mission and cut the connection. He turned and made his way to his TARDIS in the hall. He had wanted a quiet night. But since that was denied him, he would have a vengeful night.

And he most certainly would get his wife back from whoever had taken her.