Marion was finding the first few weeks of her pregnancy peculiarly restricting. Kristoph had insisted that she should not travel too far away from home. The only houses she had visited were Lily’s Maison D’Alba and the Dower House to see Aineytta, who also insisted that she should rest as often as possible and have her friends visit her rather than going to their homes for lunches and afternoon teas.

Aineytta had also prescribed a whole cocktail of medicines that she took every day. They were all very pleasant tasting, and the one she drank in bed first thing drove away all the symptoms of morning sickness, but she was starting to feel that everyone in the family was treating her like an invalid. She wondered if they meant to keep her in the house for the duration of her pregnancy.

At least she could still teach. The estate school had been fully rebuilt since the mine explosion that damaged it, but even so Gallis Limmon drove the infants to Mount Lœng House once a week for their lessons with Marion. They enjoyed the excursion and she enjoyed teaching them in the classroom she made in the white library. Kristoph, though he occasionally commented about the noise, actually loved hearing the youngsters playing in the gardens after their formal lessons were done.

It was such a morning, when Marion was teaching the youngsters about the flora and fauna of Karn and wondering if she might arrange a trip to that wonderful planet for the children when things started to happen very quickly that made such ideas impossible. She heard the crunch of gravel on the driveway and saw Kristoph’s official car and the escort car that always accompanied it. That was strange in itself. He had been on his way to an important debate in the Panopticon. She had not expected him home until very late.

Then Gallis Limmon came into the classroom. The children all knew him as the nice man who drove them to their lessons, but they were surprised to see him so soon. He bowed to Marion and addressed her as ‘your ladyship’ as he always did.

“Madam, the children must go home at once. The President has ordered it. The situation is….”

Gallis was clearly worried, but he must have been told not to say much in front of the children. Marion looked at him and then turned and told the children to put away their books and get ready to go home. They did so without protesting, and without talking out loud. But, of course, they didn’t need to. Marion looked at their faces and knew they were communicating between each other.

“They’re guessing,” Gallis Limmon said to her. “They don’t really know what’s wrong. And it is better they don’t for now.”

Marion saw the children off with Gallis before going to find Kristoph in his study. She was surprised to see him talking by video phone to Remonte. The tone of his voice was very serious.

“Take care of yourselves,” Kristoph said finally. “Rassilon keep you.”

“And you, my brother,” Remonte answered. “Take care of Marion until this is over.”

“I will,” Kristoph answered. He closed the call and booked another one, this time to Mineas Luimea, where Bolar Lundar was the Gallifreyan Ambassador. It took a few minutes to connect the call. Marion came to his side while he was waiting.

“Marion, did Lily go to Liverpool this week?” he asked her quickly.

“No,” she answered. “She hasn’t been for a fortnight. Early autumn is a busy time for Gallifreyan ladies, you know - the start of the social calendar. Everyone except me has been out and about at parties and soirees, lunches, teas, breakfasts, even!”

“I’m glad that we took such precautions with you,” Kristoph said. “It was not for this reason, but all the same your health….”

The call connected. Kristoph spoke to Bolar Lundar. Marion listened in horror as he told the Ambassador that all travel to and from Gallifrey had been suspended indefinitely because of an outbreak of Broen’s Plague. Bolar was immediately concerned. He asked about several of his relatives, and some of his wife’s family, too, but Kristoph could tell him nothing about them.

“The Capitol is already under quarantine,” he said. “We have no choice. The first cases to be identified were seamstresses at one of the Fashion Houses. They could have infected dozens of their clients before the first symptoms presented. Even closing travel to the city won’t be enough. We have to isolate every community, every estate on the planet to prevent the spread of the disease.”

“I hope it isn’t too late,” Bolar said. “Kristoph, my friend, my thoughts will be with you.”

“My thanks,” he responded. He closed the call and turned to Marion again. He reached out and drew her down on his knee. He held her tightly for a long time without saying anything.

“This is bad,” he said eventually. “Broen’s Plague… or Broen’s Virus to use the modern term for it… is a terrible illness. It is one of the few illnesses that affect our kind, and when it does, we have little resistance to it. There are few treatments, and nobody is sure if they are effective or not.”

“People die from it?” Marion asked.

“Yes,” Kristoph confirmed. “Especially those who are weak. The children and the elderly are vulnerable. And…” He pressed his hand against her still flat stomach. “The unborn are very much at risk. Marion, I only hope that….”

He didn’t finish his sentence. He didn’t have to.

“You said that the Capitol is quarantined. Nobody can enter or leave.”

“There have been deaths there already,” Kristoph confirmed. “We have no choice. But it may already be too late. So many people have travelled to and from the Capitol without knowing there was any danger. I’ve been there twice this week. I don’t know if I’m infected myself. We can only hope for the best.”

“Ria Reidluum and Talitha Dúccesci both live in the Capitol, and they’re both pregnant,” Marion pointed out.

“I know, and I’m sorry. In a little while I am going to have to order a restriction of the videophone service. Direct transmissions will have to be reserved for essential and emergency services. So if you want to call them, or any of your other friends, do it now.”

Marion spoke to Ria and Talitha straight away. They had both already been confined to their homes by their husbands. They were scared of the rumours going about of deaths in the city. Everyone was, and there was nothing anyone could say to reassure them. All they could do was hope that the illness didn’t come to their households.

When she had spoken to her friends in the city she called Hillary to tell her that the Portal was out of bounds for now and Li for the same reason. Of course, his first thought was for Lily, but she was confined in her home as much as anyone was. She could not go to him on Earth for fear of taking the infection to a planet where the people would be utterly defenceless.

When she was done, Kristoph came back to his study. He had changed his clothes. He was wearing one of the gowns he usually wore only for the Panopticon. His valet brought the Sash of Rassilon while two of the Presidential Guards brought in what looked like a rather complicated video camera and began setting it up.

“I have to talk to the people,” Kristoph said. “I am Lord High President. It is my duty.”

“Do you want me to stay?” she asked. “Or should I wait in the drawing room?”

“Stay,” he said. “I’m glad to have you near. I… feel nervous. This is probably the most important moment in my presidency. I have to reassure our whole people at once. I have to lead them not from the Panopticon but from right here, isolated in my own home as they are in theirs.”

“You’ll be fine,” Marion told him. He smiled at her warmly and thanked her for her faith in him. Then she sat quietly by the window as he took his place at his desk in front of the camera. There were a few moments while he composed himself, then a red light blinked on top of the camera. Kristoph began to speak. Marion watched and listened as he first outlined the emergency that everyone on the planet faced. He told them the facts. Three people had died of the virus. Ten more were dangerously ill and likely to die. The immediate families and work colleagues of those people were all under medical observation, but it was almost certainly too late to have prevented the virus from spreading. People were going to get sick. Many were going to die. Medical assistance would be provided, but there was little else to do but maintain quarantine regulations. That meant that all transportation between the two continents was stopped immediately. The Capitol and Athenica were both closed. Nobody was to enter or leave either city. Every settlement of the southern plain was to report immediately any sign of sickness and quarantine rules would apply to that settlement. Any infraction of the emergency regulations would be punishable by imprisonment.

“As things transpired, I was on the Southern Continent when the quarantine was imposed upon the Capitol,” he said. “The Chancellor and Premier Cardinal were also both outside the affected area. For the duration of this emergency I am therefore placing the government of the Capitol in the hands of Malika Dúccesci, who will be acting Governor of the city with full executive powers. I wish him well in this difficult time when the burden of power falls upon him so heavily. The rest of Gallifrey will be governed by a de facto High Council headed by me who will make any and all necessary decisions for the good of the people.”

When he had finished explaining everything he spoke calmly, gently, to the people of Gallifrey, about remaining calm in the face of a fearful peril which they all, Oldblood, Newblood and Caretaker, shared equally. He sounded brave and very, very much a leader.

When it was over he sat back in his chair for a few moments and sighed deeply. Then he turned again to the videophone. He spoke to the Castellan about measures to secure the city and prevent any attempts to leave it. He contacted men who had been drafted in as wardens of each of the regions of Gallifrey to distribute emergency food and medicine where it was needed. He spoke to the heads of all of the Academies where the young people of Gallifrey were taught. Of course, they were all within the quarantined Capitol, but they had their own rules confining all the students to their campuses and monitored for any signs of sickness.

He also called the camp in the Red Desert. The students there had heard the news like everyone else. For them being isolated was nothing new, but this time the regulation preventing them from going home to their families was to protect them, not punish them. Kristoph wished them all well and told them to be brave until this was over. He was sure they would be.

“If the virus struck them out there in the desert, they would be helpless,” he said as he closed the calls for the moment and sat back in his seat. He took off the Sash of Rassilon now and had his valet store it safely. Marion came to his side and he embraced her fondly.

“I am glad I was able to turn back and be with you,” he said. “If I’d reached the Capitol before we knew, I would be trapped there without hope of seeing you until this is over.”

Marion was relieved by that, too. She was worried about all her friends in the Capitol, and her friends in other parts of Gallifrey, too, and she realised how hard it was going to be for Kristoph to run a government in isolation like this. But she was so very glad that he was home with her.

They were alone in the study. The valet and guards had all left. They didn’t expect anyone else to come in without knocking. When the door opened they looked around in surprise.

“Mama!” Kristoph exclaimed as he crossed the floor to his mother. “What are you doing here? I’ve just finishing an emergency broadcasting telling everyone on the planet to stay in their homes. I told them that anyone who breaks the rules would be arrested. Am I supposed to have you arrested as an example?”

“I saw your broadcast in the car,” she answered. “It was very good, very reassuring. You’re a marvellous politician, my dear. But you’re not a healer. You need me, and so does Marion. I’m here to look after you both until this is over.”

“Mama,” he said again, hugging her tightly and kissing her brow. “I’m so very glad you’re here.”