This was not the sort of place Kristoph would have visited with his wife. In his younger days, as an assassin of the Celestial Intervention Agency he very often found his quarry in exactly this sort of establishment, and the Executioner knew how to make himself look as if he belonged here, blending in with the crowd. The Ambassador never had any reason to visit a space dock. The only one the Lord High President had officially visited was in orbit around Polafrey when he formally launched a new deep space freighter, and that had been a very different occasion to this one.

This was a complete accident. The Presidential ship had developed a fault while in vortex on the way to Ventura IV. The captain had taken the decision to stop at the nearest port in order to make repairs. This would take up to five hours. The Presidential Guard had advised against disembarking.

Marion had been perfectly happy in the recreation room with Rodan, watching her favourite Narnia films on holovid, but Kristoph felt restless. He always did travelling by the Presidential Ship with a crew in charge rather than piloting his own TARDIS - that was in the freight hold with their luggage. He had slipped out through the service hatch, evading his CPO’s. In a place like this it was safer not to look like the sort of person who had armed protection officers around him. An ordinary man, moving quietly and unobtrusively, would attract less unwanted attention.

The bar was noisy and filled with a dozen or more different species that alcohol had the expected effect on and three or four more that it didn’t. For the small yellow humanoids in the corner the innocuous looking multi-coloured cocktails would have a very dramatic result in a few hours time when they transformed into large green humanoids with a penchant for fighting. It was one of the universe’s little jokes that their species was called J’ec’kel.

It was the kind of place where people – mostly humanoid, mostly male, though not always either - came for one of three purposes: to meet a disreputable female of a more or less compatible species, of which there were a number displaying themselves provocatively; to pick a fight with somebody they stood a fair chance of beating; or to get so drunk they didn’t know or care where they were or who they were with.

Kristoph ordered the nearest equivalent from the optics to a decent single malt and wondered if there was any possibility of sitting down. Most of the lounge seats were occupied by the females and men of the first category of the bar’s clients. Kristoph half smiled as he noted a Gallasian freight pilot getting cosy with a six-armed Lesarian Siren. He doubted the pilot had the stamina for a night with one of those women!

Then he noticed somebody who was sitting alone, watching the crowds with the sort of careless attention he used to adopt when marking a target. He had no doubt that the apparently innocuous man would be taking in every detail of every drinker in the bar, but he knew he had nothing to do with the Celestial Intervention Agency.

Their eyes met, and the recognition on both sides was instantaneous. Kristoph moved closer. There was a barely imperceptible nod. He sat, putting his liquor glass on the table in front of him.

“You don’t look well,” he said. “Can I help you at all?”

“No, there’s nothing anyone can do, not even you… father.”

Kristoph smiled softly. There were supposed to be rules about meeting fellow Time Lords outside of the established time line, but it wasn’t the first occasion when he had come across his own son who was yet to be born.

It was the first time he had seen him this close to regeneration.

“You shouldn’t be here – a place like this – when you’re vulnerable,” Kristoph told him. “Is your TARDIS close?”

“Yes, it is,” answered the Time Lord who had long ago let go of his family name and was called The Doctor to everyone who knew him at all. “But I have to do something here, first. I have loose ends to tie up… people I know I’m never going to meet again. I have to make sure they’re all right.”

“Never going to meet again?” Kristoph’s hearts thudded. “Son… is this… have you come to the end of your thirteenth life?”

“No,” he answered. “This is the tenth. But… it feels like the end. Whatever… whoever… I become when it’s over… I feel as if I’m not going to be me. I knew the end was close nearly five hundred years ago. I had a warning – a portent....”

“One of those!” Kristoph laughed softly. “We’ve all had them. Your mother and I have already heard prophecies about what our son and heir is destined to be, and you haven’t even been conceived, yet.”

“So I’ve been told many times,” his son responded. “My great destiny was hard to grow into. But these latest portents – I resisted them. I have spent most of my life caring about other people, saving whole planets from tyranny, rescuing damsels in distress…. But I spent these five hundred years on what I wanted to do, instead. I suppose most people would call it hedonism. I had some careless romances, enjoyed some purely sensory pleasures… saw some of the wonders of the universe that were promised to me when I first stepped aboard my own TARDIS. I was… selfish....”

“If you harmed nobody by your selfishness, then you need not reproach yourself. We may be a stoical race, but we’re not bound by any vows of asceticism. We are ALLOWED ‘sensory pleasure’.”

“Yes, but I knew that I was needed elsewhere – that there was one last job to do. I was needed… to save a planet. Earth, of course. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve had to save that world and its people. Or how many times doing so nearly killed me. This time… was no exception. I saved Earth… saved the universe as we know it… but at cost of this life….”

Kristoph hadn’t been trying to read his mind. What he chose to say out loud of his recent experience was enough. But there were disturbing images of worlds colliding, desperate and suicidal measure, terrible choices to be made and sacrifices for the sake of others, extreme pain and despair. He reached out and touched his son’s face gently, reaching into his mind and soothing it, taking away some of the anguish and the sense of guilt about some of the hard choices he made.

“You’re my son. I don’t believe you could have done anything mean or cowardly, anything dishonourable.”

“No, I didn’t. But sometimes… sometimes it isn’t possible to walk in the light. You have to step into the grey in order to fight the dark.”

“You’re the son of the Celestial Intervention Agency’s most notorious assassins,” Kristoph pointed out. “You should know that we mostly walk in the grey. As long as we know where the demarcation lines are, we’re all right.”

“We?” The Doctor looked at his father. “I never… really felt that we were a ‘we’ when it came to things like that. It might be my fault. I kept my distance from you and from Gallifrey. I wanted to be my own man. I wanted to do it my own way. Maybe there ought to have been times like this, when you and me sat down and had a drink and talked.”

“It’s not too late,” Kristoph told him.

“Yes, it is,” his son answered, and his eyes were filled with an immeasurable pain and sorrow. Kristoph tried to reach inside and see what caused him such distress, but he blocked him. He withdrew.

“I can’t let you see that… it’s in the future… your future… and it would do no good to know about it.”

“Then… let’s not worry about it. I have time right now. We can talk.”

“I… can’t think of anything to say right now,” The Doctor admitted. “But… I would like your company... for a little while.”

“Of course,” Kristoph assured him. “Are you sure there’s nothing I can do to help you? Regeneration is never an easy thing - especially when you go through it alone.”

“This time… I need to be alone. In the past… other times… I’ve had people with me… and I was grateful to them for their compassion and understanding. But this time, I really don’t want to die. I’m scared….”


“Not scared of the pain, or the possibility of the regeneration failing… but of… what I might be when it’s over.”

“You’ll be the same man you’ll always be… my son, a courageous, generous, selfless man who will always stand against evil, wherever you find it.”

“I hope I will,” The Doctor answered. But… once… several regenerations back… I met a different kind of evil, a man who said he was me in a later incarnation, but embodying selfish, terrible motives. He claimed he was my dark side given flesh. That’s why I’m afraid of what might happen to me. It’s why I can’t have anyone I care about around me when the time comes. It’s why I’m here, now, settling my affairs, making sure my friends are going to be all right without me.”

Kristoph considered what his son had told him very carefully, and chose his words of advice equally carefully.

“I’ve never heard of a dark side manifesting itself through regeneration except in legend. You’ve heard of Kalika Gorrum, I suppose? It wouldn’t be a bedtime story I’d have told you, more like one for after lights out in the dorm when you were at the academy.”

The Doctor laughed softly as he remembered the sort of lurid tales told by boys with the lights off and strange shadows on the ceiling.

“So you don’t think it’s likely?”

“I don’t.”

“What about all those dark prophecies about me before I was born?”

“None of them were about that,” Kristoph assured his son. “They didn’t foretell a quiet life in the Gallifreyan civil service, either, which was what worried me. I didn’t want you following so closely in my footsteps. But some destinies can’t be avoided. You are what you are, and I’m proud of you. Never forget that. I will… always be proud of you. I cannot imagine any circumstances that would make me feel otherwise.”

The Doctor shook his head sadly.

“There HAVE been times,” he said. “But… yes, you were the one person who never doubted me, even in my darkest of times.”

“That’s a foretelling I can believe in,” Kristoph promised. “I WILL always believe in you, my boy.”

“Thank you, father,” The Doctor answered him. Kristoph noticed the tears in his eyes and brushed his cheek gently.

“Human tears… your mother’s gift to you.”


“She would be proud of you, too.”

“I’m not sure… I think she would have preferred me to take a quiet job in the civil service.”

“Yes, but she would have known you were destined for much more and she would have been proud all the same.”

The Doctor started to say something, but two men in uniform had come into the bar. Kristoph rose to meet them.

“Excellency, we were concerned for your safety,” he was told.

“There was no reason to be concerned until you turned up,” he responded. “Go back to the ship. I will rejoin you when I am ready.”

The Presidential Guards were reluctant but they had no choice but to obey his command. They marched out of the bar again. Kristoph watched them go then turned back to his son. He was standing, too. He went to the counter and gave a message to the barman. He passed it to a man on the opposite side of the bar who, despite the crowds, looked quite alone. He read the note and then looked around, seeing people around him for the first time. There was a brief moment of recognition and mutual acknowledgement then The Doctor turned away and headed for the door. Kristoph followed him.

Outside in the corridor it was cooler and quieter. The Doctor stopped and breathed in deeply. Kristoph caught his arm and held him upright.

“I’ll be all right in a minute,” he assured his father. “It comes and goes.”

He might have been lying about that, but after a short rest he at least looked stronger. They carried on to the turbo lift that went down to the short term hangar bay.

“Jack Harkness!” Kristoph said about the older, more care worn, but unmistakeable figure who had shared that moment of wordless intimacy across a crowded bar with his son. “Who else could you know who would be in such a disreputable place as this?”

“A man called Sabalom Glitz springs to mind,” The Doctor answered. “But he’s old history, now. Jack was unfinished business. Is there any point in asking how YOU know him?”

“Our paths have crossed. He’s a good man… despite all appearances - a good friend.”


“He seemed sad, today.”

“He’s had a rough time,” The Doctor said in explanation. “But I think he’ll be all right, now.”

“Your work here is done?”

“Yes. A couple more people I have to see right, then I’ll be ready.”

“I wish you would let me help.”

“You have, already, being here. I’m glad we had a chance to talk.”

“I’m sorry there weren’t more chances.”

“It was all my fault that there weren’t.”

They reached the hangar. There was a flurry of activity around the Presidential ship, none at all around an incongruous blue box parked in the shadows.

“Excellency,” The Doctor said with a proud smile. “You gave me plenty to live up to – the Executioner, The Peacemaker, the Lord High President. A hard act to follow.”

“I have absolute faith in you, my son.”

They shook hands, man to man, then all pretence of formality broke down and they hugged, father and son, before parting. Kristoph watched the blue box dematerialise.

“Good journey, my boy,” he whispered. Then he headed back to the Presidential ship. The repairs were almost complete. They would be leaving in a few minutes. He found Marion and Rodan in the recreation room and sat with them.

“You’ve been to the bar,” Marion said. “I can smell all sorts of exotic tobaccos on your clothes. And your kiss tastes of liquor.”

“A thoroughly disreputable place,” he said. “Not the sort of bar I would take you into, my dear. All the wrong sort of people go there.”

Marion believed him. It was, after all, generally true.

“Good journey, my son,” he whispered again as the engines fired up and his own journey got under way again. “And you, Captain Harkness. Rassilon’s blessing on your journey, wherever it takes you.”