The High Council probably didn’t know, yet, Kristoph reflected as he closed the videophone connection to his mother. But it was only a matter of time. This was a serious matter and it was getting worse every moment.

He was, at this stage, holding the Earth President and his entourage captive in his house. Sooner or later he would have to arrange for their return to the Capitol - or perhaps it would be better if they all went home as soon as possible. Clearly all hope of negotiation with the Federation had been destroyed.

He had handled the situation very badly, but what could he have done?

Behaved more diplomatically, of course. Martine was a visiting dignitary, a powerful man, representing a powerful political block. He was, on the face of it, more important than an animal. He was a man who had the power to cause huge problems for Gallifrey. He could block access to Federation space sectors for Gallifreyan ships. He could pressurise Earth’s allies to do the same. Ambassadors could be recalled. It could even lead to war.

War between the most widespread species in the twelve galaxies and Gallifrey. It hardly bore thinking about. Gallifrey couldn’t fight a war against such an enemy.

Gallifrey couldn’t go to war over an injured roan.

He knew that. He knew he had to do everything he could to make amends and avert a crisis that could end in disaster for everyone.

But all he could think about was that fool trying to shoot that beautiful buck when he had been specifically told not to do so. He was still angry about that, and about the hurt caused to the doe, and until he could bring his anger in check there was no way he could go into the White Drawing Room and formally apologise to Martine. He would rather go in there and punch the fool of a man in the nose.

The study door opened quietly. Kristoph was surprised. Nobody would come into this room without knocking. Even Marion would do so.

But nobody had ever told Rodan she had to knock on any door in the house. The little girl walked across the stretch of carpet between the door and the desk. Kristoph held out his arms and let her climb into his lap. She was still wearing her riding clothes but her shoes had been carefully wiped on her way in.

“Papa, is the doe all right?” she asked.

“How did you know about her?” Kristoph replied.

“I heard Gallis Limmon and Berrin Darcin talking about it in the garage while I was putting Alex’s saddle away. They said that the Earth man shot her.”

“Yes, he did. But she’s going to be all right. Your grandmamma is looking after her. Tomorrow… we’ll go to the Dower House and you can see for yourself.”

At least he could promise that much. The rest of the immediate future was very unclear.

“Will the Earth man be punished for hurting her?”

“I’m afraid he probably won’t.” Kristoph decided that the truth was the only answer he could give to that question. “The Earth man is very important. He doesn’t have to obey rules like other people, and he won’t be punished.”

“That’s not fair,” Rodan pointed out. “Everybody should obey rules.”

She said that with perfectly simple childlike morality. but then she quoted from the lessons she was learning at school. It was a section of the constitution of Gallifrey that concerned the rights and privileges of the Lord High President.

It essentially said that even the Lord High President was not above the law and could be impeached if he committed any act of treason or a crime of common edict. Crimes of common edict included murder, fraud and any number of things that a child of Rodan’s age had no need to understand.

They even included shooting animals that were under the protection of a private landowner.

Kristoph, and countless Lord High Presidents before him, had lived happily under those statutes, knowing that their own obedience to the common edicts guided the morality of the people of Gallifrey.

“Yes, my dear, you are perfectly right. But the Earth President isn’t subject to our laws. There is a thing called Diplomatic Immunity. It is a very important law that is obeyed by people all over the galaxies. It means that our Ambassadors when they are on other worlds cannot be arrested or detained and our Embassies cannot be entered by soldiers or police from any other world. When the Ambassadors from those worlds come here, we cannot arrest or detain them, or send our Chancellery Guard into their embassies on Gallifrey. That law can never be broken because it is important that Gallifreyans on other worlds have a safe place to go if things go wrong on that world.”

Kristoph explained further the concept of Diplometic Immunity. Rodan nodded as if she understood. She almost certainly did, even when he forgot he was talking to a little girl and got more technical about it than he needed.

“So a bad man doesn’t get punished,” she said at the end. “Even for shooting the doe.”

“Shooting a doe is a terrible thing,” Kristoph told his foster child. “But it is not more terrible than letting innocent people suffer at the hands of tyrants. That’s why he cannot be punished. To save so many other people.”

“He should say sorry,” Rodan pointed out. “That would make it better.”

“Yes, he should,” Kristoph admitted. “But he won’t. And I may have to say sorry to him for being angry and making him stay in the White Drawing Room without tea.”

And if any real amends were going to be made, there was something else he would have to do. The thought twisted his stomach, but it was the only honourable way out of this.

“My dear, would you go and ask your mamma to join me in here. And then go on to the kitchen and tell Mistress Callitha that I said you could have hot chocolate with marshmallows. A little girl who looks after her horse and its tack after a hard morning’s riding should be allowed a treat.”

Rodan slid off his knee and ran to do as he asked. Presently Marion came to the study. The door was open because Rodan had forgotten to shut it, but she closed it behind her and came to her husband’s side.

“Sit here,” he said, drawing her down on his knee. “I need to feel you near me.”

Kristoph sighed deeply. Marion touched his cheek gently, but even that could not soothe his troubled mind.

“I heard about what happened,” she told him. “I think it was absolutely horrible of him. I’m glad you told him off.”

“It’s not me telling him off that has caused a diplomatic crisis. It’s my men throwing him to the ground and manhandling him.”

“Serves him right.”

“Yes, it does. But even so… this is very serious. My dear, I am going to have to resign the Presidency.”

“What? No. You can’t do that,” Marion protested. “Kristoph, there is still so very much you have to do. All the reforms you want to make. You can’t, you mustn’t.”

“Yes, I must. I will nominate the Chancellor as my replacement. He will conduct the negotiations with the Earth President. It is the best way. He cannot blame the people of Gallifrey for my mistakes. The Treaty must be made at all costs.”

“Damn that Treaty,” Marion answered. “You are the best President this planet has ever known. You care about the people – all of them. You can’t let them down.”

“I’d be letting them down if I didn’t resign,” Kristoph told her. “If I drag them into an intergalactic crisis, I’d be doing them a huge disservice. This is the only way.”

“It can’t be,” Marion insisted. “Kristoph… why don’t I talk to him – the Earth Federation President, I mean. After all… I’m Human… I might be able to… I don’t know… do something… to… calm things down.”

“No, my dear, I can’t ask you to do that. You are charm personified, and you have a good, brave heart, but I can’t ask you to fight my battles for me. That would not be right. Besides, Martine is a really unpleasant man. I don’t want you near him.”

“You don’t trust me?”

“I don’t trust him. He makes Lord Ravenswode look like a liberal thinker. Stay away from him, my dear.”

“All right,” Marion conceded. “But please try to find another way to resolve this. Don’t give up all that you have worked so hard for because of this.”

“I never thought you’d mind if I gave up the presidency. It DOES cause problems for both of us. It keeps me away from home a lot of the time and interferes with our personal life in all sorts of ways.”

“Yes, but I don’t want it to end like this in a miserable, shoddy little scandal. I hoped that it would be later, when you had achieved all you wanted to achieve and we’re both ready for it. Not now… not just like this.”

Kristoph began to answer her, but the videophone signalled an incoming message again. He knew this had to be it. The High Council knew what had happened.

“Sweetheart, it would be better if you sat on the chair now,” he said as he prepared to take the consequences for his actions. Marion slid off his knee and went around the desk to the chair where his aide would sit if he needed notes transcribing.

Kristoph sat up straight before accepting the incoming call. He was thoroughly disturbed when he saw the Earth Federation logo on the screen. Surely THEY hadn’t heard what had happened, yet.

“Good day, sir,” said the man in a black suit who appeared on the screen. “You are the Lord President of Gallifrey?”

“I am,” Kristoph answered. That much was true for now, at least.

“I am Ross Fairmount, the de facto President of the Earth Federation. I need to ask you if Alonzo Martine is still on your planet.”

“He is in my wife’s drawing room at present,” Kristoph answered. “What do you mean by ‘de facto President’?”

“Martine was deposed in his absence. Evidence has come to light of serious and widespread fraudulent activities in the election. In light of these revelations, his diplomatic credentials have been revoked, and I would beg you not to offer him any form of refuge on your world. Extradition papers are being prepared as we speak. He must return to face trial.”

“I have no intention of offering that man refuge on Gallifrey. I can assure you he will be sent back to Earth as soon as possible – today, if I have anything to do with it.”

“Your co-operation in this matter will be greatly appreciated. As soon as my position is confirmed, I will be glad to resume the Treaty negotiations with Gallifrey as a friendly government.”

“That will be perfectly acceptable,” Kristoph answered. “I look forward to talking to you in better circumstances.”

He closed the communication and turned to look at Marion. She was trying to keep her face inscrutable, but not quite managing it.

“So a President has resigned, but it isn’t you.”


“That’s good.”

“It’s extraordinarily lucky. I hardly deserve to be let off so easily.”

“But you have been. Nobody in the High Council needs to know anything about what else happened today.”

“They’ll find out,” Kristoph said with a wry smile. “The Premier Cardinal will have palpitations in both hearts. The Chancellor will be disappointed in me. But I can live with that. I dare say I’ll get over being disappointed in myself, especially if the new Earth Federation President is an easier man to deal with.”

He reached out to his wife again. She sat on his knee and allowed him to kiss her. She could feel his relief even without any telepathic abilities of her own. After a while, he gently lifted her down and stood up.

“Where are you going?” Marion asked.

“I am going to tell that arrogant Spaniard what has happened to his presidency. I think I am going to enjoy being the one who does it. I can just imagine the expression on his face.”

“Schadenfreude is an ugly thing,” Marion pointed out.

“It is, indeed, but I find it very good for the soul now and again,” Kristoph countered. “Go and tell the kitchen staff that dinner is still on and then call Lily and any of your friends who might be available to come and eat it with us. I think I should enjoy some convivial company tonight.”