In the morning, while he was still at breakfast, the issue of the Nyeravan Defector raised itself again. Kristoph was called away from the table to an urgent videophone call. He returned a few minutes later and sat down again to drink his coffee as if there was nothing amiss. But he had that same annoyed expression on his face again and he sighed and admitted to Marion that the Minister for Culture was missing.


“I presume that he has decided to defect without my permission,” Kristoph said. “But I am the only one who knows that. The chief of the Nyeravan Guard is saying that the Minister must have been kidnapped. Castellan Braxietel is examining the scene of the crime right now.”

“Well, he won’t find anything if there wasn’t a crime.”

“And that will make the Nyeravan’s even more suspicious that we are covering something up. There is a serious diplomatic incident in the making.”

“Can’t you just tell them to pack up and go home?” Marion asked.

“Unfortunately, not. I don’t wish to have Nyera as a friend of Gallifrey, but I don’t much want it to be an enemy. It is a powerful hegemony with several allies, none of whom we need fear by themselves, but we don’t want them in coalition against us. We don’t want a war all because of one foolish man who decided to use our hospitality as an excuse for precipitous action.”

“Is that why you refused him asylum yesterday evening?” Marion asked. “Because you feared war with his planet?”

“Partly,” Kristoph answered her. “And partly because it is none of our business. Nyera is neither a trade or political ally to Gallifrey. We have no reason to interfere in its internal politics. Besides, we DO have a general policy of non-interference in the affairs of other people. Yes, I know, I’ve done my share of interfering. I’m not very good at overlooking injustice and oppression. But as Lord High President I am sworn to uphold the Laws of Time.”

“What will you do then? He IS missing.”

“The Castellan has the Chancellery Guard looking for him. He has insisted – on my orders - that the Nyeravan Guards stay in the hotel with the performers. They want to do a house to house search, and I won’t have our citizens disturbed by foreigners with guns. This is the Capitol of Gallifrey, not Czechoslovakia under Soviet rule.”

“And if the Chancellery Guard find him?”

“He will be their prisoner until the State Opera leaves our airspace. After that, he is not our problem.”

“They’ll put him in prison. Or kill him.”

“Perhaps they will,” Kristoph noted. “That, I am afraid, is his own fault. I told him last night I would not support his asylum case. He has acted very foolishly. Now, I have to go to the Castellan’s office for a briefing on this affair. After that, I have to contact the President-General of Nyeravan and try to assure him that there has been no collusion by any Gallifreyan subject. But I don’t want you to worry about any of this. You go and spend the morning with your friends. What is it you plan to do?”

“We’re going to the bathhouse. Mia is coming along. We think the warm water will be good for her, and the attendants can help her in and out of the baths.”

“Excellent idea,” Kristoph agreed. “Meet me at the Citadel for lunch. I think after a morning of Nyeravan shenanigans I’ll be ready for a quiet hour with you.”

He smiled reassuringly at Marion as he left the table. He really didn’t want her to worry about this utterly ludicrous affair that had become the responsibility of the Gallifreyan government utterly by chance. If the State Opera had gone to Ventura or the Human colonies before they came to Gallifrey the man might have tried to defect to one of those planets instead. And possibly the Venturan or Earth Federation might have been more sympathetic. He was taking a hard line. His reasons were more complicated than he had explained to Marion. He really didn’t want her thinking about it too much.

The Castellan was not in his office. With the missing man still at large and no clue to his whereabouts he had gone to question the members of the State Opera. Kristoph joined him at the hotel where the visitors were staying. It was the only hotel in the city. Most Gallifreyans who came to the Capitol either owned a town house or had friends they could stay with. But it was a good hotel with fine suites of rooms and good food and was available to visitors from beyond the Transduction Barrier.

He found a worried, anxious group of people in the hotel lounge, surrounded by guards who weren’t going to let them out of their sight.

“That wasn’t the reason I sent the guards back here,” Kristoph said to Pól Braxietel. “I wanted them out of the way of our investigation, not bullying innocent people.”

“I agree,” the Castellan said, and he ordered the guards to leave the room while he questioned the performers. They looked mutinous, and rattled their weapons, at which point the Castellan reminded them that foreigners were not permitted to carry weapons in the Capitol and the dispensation afforded to them could be withdrawn at any time.

When that was done, they set about questioning the members of the State Opera. They were not at all surprised to find that they feared reprisals when they returned home. If one member of the group defected, they said, all of them would be punished. They would be sent to a prison camp in the cold northern tundra area - and their families would be penalised, too.

Kristoph looked at the two star performers, the brother and sister who had assured Marion that they were happy and satisfied to represent Nyera, whose government had allowed them the great privilege of being in the State Opera.

“You don’t seem so sure about those privileges, now,” Kristoph pointed out. “I think it’s time for some truth, here, don’t you think? You’re all afraid of going back?”

“We will all be punished for the Minister’s actions,” they repeated. “That is the condition upon which we are allowed to travel offworld.”

“So the answer is yes? You’re scared of your government.”

They nodded miserably. To actually say words that sounded like criticism of the regime they lived under was alien to them, still.

Kristoph shook his head. What was he supposed to do with them? It was one thing to refuse the asylum request made in secret. But now that the Minister had made his escape, it was too late. They all faced cruel punishments on their return. And that was his dilemma. How could he do that to them? But even if he granted them all asylum, what about their families who would be punished in their absence?

“None of them have requested asylum,” Pól Braxietel said to him telepathically, still watching the worried faces of the performers. “I don’t think the idea even came into their heads. They all expect to go home to a cold, hard punishment.”

“And as things stand, that’s the only thing I can do with them,” Kristoph replied unhappily. “The Laws of Time dictate that I can do nothing else.”

“If the Laws of Time did not govern this affair, what would you do?”

“I still wouldn’t have any choice. Giving them asylum here would incur the wrath of the Nyera System. It might even lead to war. We have only a small military force. We are not ready for a war, and I cannot lead this world into one.”

“Then there is no dilemma. They must go back to their own world and take their chances.”

“The dilemma is in my own conscience. Laws of Time aside, I have never given in to bullies, and I have never let innocent people suffer without trying to do something.”

“But the safety of Gallifrey and her people must come first.”

“I know.” Kristoph sighed. “Yes, I know that.”

Then the Captain of the Chancellery Guard brought a message that changed everything.

“Show us,” Kristoph said quietly after he read the note passed to him by the Castellan. The Captain brought them to the back of the hotel. Like all such places the universe over, it was a much plainer edifice than the front, but some of the rooms looked out over it. They looked at the broken air conditioning conduit, bent and buckled as it pulled away from the wall. Then they looked at the broken body lying near the wall, partially obscured by the low-roofed annex where the hotel’s heating system was contained.

“We assumed… everyone did… that he was already far away from the hotel when his escape was discovered,” Pól Braxietel noted. “Nobody thought to look here until one of the hotel staff went to check the hot water boiler.”

“Well,” Kristoph said. “That explains one mystery.”

“He was still escaping,” Pól added. “I doubt it will change things for that lot in there? They’ll still face punishment.”

“Yes.” Kristoph said. “Unless…. Have the body attended to. I’m going back to the Citadel to speak to the Nyeravan Foreign Minister by videophone. There is an hour delay in connecting calls to Nyera. In the meantime, have the Chief Surgeon come to my chamber.”

“Shouldn’t he examine the body first?” Pól asked.

“If he does, I am sure he will come to the same conclusions we have,” Kristoph said. “There is little question about that.”

A little over an hour later when the videophone connected to the Foreign Ministry on Nyeravan, Kristoph reported the sad demise of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

“It seems the poor fellow was trying to open the window in his room, not realising that we have full air conditioning in all buildings in the Capitol. He fell, breaking his neck when he hit the ground. Of course, when my people have completed their investigation you will have a full report, but I doubt there will be anything new to add to the initial conclusions.”

“I was told he was attempting to defect.”

“Why should a Minister from your own government want to do that?” Kristoph asked with a disarming smile? “His body was not found for several hours. By that time rumours had begun to circulate among your people of sinister motives, but it was, after all, just a tragic accident. The Opera performers are all very shocked and dismayed and feel the best thing they can do is return to Nyera at once, along with the body, which we shall ensure is properly prepared according to your customs.”

“We shall await their return, of course,” the Foreign Minister said.

“A Gallifreyan escort will accompany their ship as far as Galactic Central,” Kristoph added. “As a mark of respect. It is our custom.”

The Foreign Minister was a little disconcerted by that comment, but he could hardly refuse.

Kristoph closed the call and then made another, straight away. This time the call only went as far as another building in the Capitol, but it was scrambled and encoded. This was a confidential call to the Director of an organisation where his name was held in awe long before he was inaugurated as president.

At the thirteenth hour of the morning, his aide showed Marion into his private chamber. He had already arranged for a finely made lunch to be sent over from Valentins. It was set out on the table along with a chilled half bottle of wine. They sat and ate together in perfect peace within the lead-lined walls with anti-telepathy screens and several other layers of security. A guard was outside the door ensuring their absolute privacy.

“You seem remarkably cheerful,” Marion said to him. “The Nyeravans… what has happened to them?”

“You understand that this is top secret,” Kristoph answered her. “We will not speak of this again outside this room. Otherwise I cannot tell you at all.”

“Of course,” she replied, feeling honoured that she would share a confidence of that sort with her.

“They set off home to Nyera along with the body of the tragically dead Minister for Culture three hours ago,” he continued. “Their ship, along with the Gallifreyan corvette class as escort entered sub-light space after clearing our solar system. Twenty-five minutes after that, the Nyeravan captain reported a systems failure and before our people could begin to transmat passengers and crew to safety the ship imploded.”

Marion put down her fork and stared at Kristoph in horror. Why was he still smiling.

“That at least is the story the Nyeravan government have been told. The flight recorders from our corvette have confirmed everything. Their ship was lost with all hands. A second tragic accident in one day.”


“But what actually happened was the crew and passengers were taken into a Celestial Intervention Agency TARDIS that was aboard the ship from the start. They have been taken to Ligattya, the beautiful, peaceful, Gallifreyan Dominion planet in the Arina system. They have all been granted asylum there. Interestingly, even the soldiers seemed happy to accept once they knew that their families back home on Nyera would be in no danger of repercussions. Even the Nyeravan government wouldn’t penalise the families of citizens who died in a terrible accident on their way home from a triumphant offworld engagement!”

“Kristoph!” Marion smiled widely. “You interfered… what about the Laws of Time?”

“The Director of the Celestial Intervention Agency agrees with me that they were more ‘guidelines’ than Laws. That is how the Agency has always been run. We could not have carried out our duties otherwise.”

“They’ll never see their families again.”

“But they wouldn’t have seen them if they had been sent to a work camp – unless they were prisoners there, too. This way they get a new start. Ligyattans are people of culture. They love all forms of creative arts. The performers will easily fit in there. The Opera House in the capital city will blow their minds. I’m not sure what the soldiers and the ship’s crew will do. But I’m sure they’ll find some useful occupation on their new home planet.”

“You are very clever,” Marion told him. “And very devious.”

“Yes, I am,” he admitted with a very satisfied smile.