Marion looked out of the window onto the chief city of Voesi I. When they arrived a week ago she had thought its pale mauve-pink and purple sky reflected in the lake upon which the city was built quite beautiful. The three small suns diffused by the thin clouds and the ice mountains behind the rounded spires of the towering living complexes that were home to half a million people were lovely, too. The shell pink architecture with almost no corners or angles looked as if it was grown not built and as such fitted perfectly with the natural landscape.

It still was beautiful, but the sentinel ships in the sky, enforcing the curfew, made it sinister and dangerous. She had seen the slender beams of light striking down suddenly. It meant a curfew breaker had been spotted and eliminated. It was, Marion was assured, an instantaneous death, but that didn’t make her feel any better about it.

She had liked the Voesian people. When you got past their natural reserve they were very pleasant, especially the women.

But she had only just worked out their complicated system of government by a Council of Elders elected by private ballot by each canton of citizens and presided over by the Prime Elder when the military coup swept across the planet. The Council were put under house arrest and the Prime Elder taken prisoner. All citizens were confined to their homes and had not yet been allowed to come back onto the streets.

The visiting Lord High President of Gallifrey was on a visit to the Air Force headquarters when the coup occurred. His family were in the city spending the afternoon with the Prime Elder’s wife. When the soldiers came to put her under house arrest they escorted the First Lady of Gallifrey and her companions back to their hotel. They were told they had to remain there until further instructions were received.

Marion spent a long afternoon and evening trying to find out where Kristoph was and what would happen to them all. She slept only intermittently, disturbed not only by her own worries but by the constant whine of the sentinel ships patrolling over the city and their sporadic firing at those who defied them.

Now it was morning. She was still waiting. Rodan was sitting on the sofa playing with a set of toy horses that Marion had bought on one of her trips to Liverpool. She was practicing dressage with them and making neighing sounds as the horses were put through their paces.

She looked all right for now, but she, too, was worried. She wanted her papa back and she wanted to leave this place that had become so much less pleasant to visit.

They couldn’t leave until Kristoph returned, along with those of his aides who went with him on that trip yesterday. The others shared the confinement within the Presidential suite and those with nothing to do sat in the drawing room with her, waiting for news.

“Madam, you probably shouldn’t stand close to the window,” said Kristoph’s personal secretary. “We don’t know what they might do.”

“They wouldn’t dare attack us,” Marion answered, though she came away from the window as he suggested. “There would be outrage. We are VIP visitors to this world – from the Dominion homeworld. They KNOW they have to treat us well.”

“I’m not sure about that, madam,” said one of her personal protection officers quietly. “I have been monitoring tele-vid transmissions from the military junta. They are citing intergalactic interference in the development of Voesian space technology as one reason for the coup. By intergalactic, they almost certainly mean Gallifrey. The leader, General Achiae, is probably going to announce secession from the Dominion, next.”

“Good,” Marion responded. “That will save my husband the trouble of throwing them out.”

Speaking of Kristoph only reminded her that he was still missing. Her stomach turned with dread once more. Why wasn’t he back with them? Why had there been no contact?

If he was dead….

“You must not give up hope, madam,” the same protection officer said. Marion had forgotten that the people around her could easily read her mind. “They have no reason to treat us well, but they have every reason to ensure we stay alive. They cannot afford to risk an intergalactic backlash.”

“By which you mean from Gallifrey?” Marion replied. “But we have no military might to fight with. The Dominion is based on trade and cultural associations. Most of our allies outside the Dominion are peaceful.”

“But they are powerful trade allies,” the secretary reminded her. “The new Voesian government cannot afford to isolate itself completely. And any hint of intimidation of foreign hostages would be fatal for them.”

“Is that what we are now?” Marion said. “Foreign hostages.”

“For the time being, I think so,” she was told. “We must wait and see what happens.”

And that was all they could do for a very long time. Marion didn’t even want to see the tele-vid broadcasts. General Achiae was a loud, bombastic man with too much to say for himself, and the reports of counter-insurgents crushed were just horrible. That meant that people were being killed for opposing the coup.

The Gallifreyans spent the morning in their own kind of house arrest within the suite. At lunchtime they had food provided. They ate out of necessity. Marion particularly found it tasteless in her dry mouth. She was still so desperately worried about all their fates.

Rodan fell asleep after her lunch, bored with the talk of grown ups. Marion would have done the same if she wasn’t so very upset about everything.

“Madam….” The secretary brought her a handwritten note that had been passed to him by the man who was monitoring the tele-vid and other sources of information. She read it and her heart sank even further.

“Is this true?” she asked.

“They are announcing it as so,” she was told. “The General seems pleased about the development.”

“The General is lying,” Marion said. “The Council of Elders are ALL elderly men and women. I don’t believe for one minute that they fought their guards. If they’re dead… then it is murder… and it is horrible.”

She thought about the people she had met in the time they had spent on Voesi I. They were not tyrants. They were people who loved their world and its people and wanted the best for both.

General Achiae just wanted power. His coup was not a righteous one. He had overthrown the good, fair, freely elected government for his own ends.

And if this note told the truth, he had then had them all executed.

She felt a little sick at the thought.

“On my world, about a hundred years ago, there was a revolution in a place called Russia,” she said. “The tsar… that’s a sort of king… and all his family were rounded up and taken away, and eventually all of them, including the children… were shot dead.”

“I don’t know what happened to their families,” the Secretary told her. “I will try to find out for you.”

“Please do,” Marion told him. “If only to know just how dreadful this situation is.”

She felt quite certain that something terrible had happened to almost everyone she had met on this planet. Even if it was only the members of the Council, and not their families, it was bad enough. All for nothing more than a greedy man’s ambitions for power.

Another long hour past. The Secretary couldn’t find out anything more. All the news was being controlled by the military junta. The people were still prevented from moving freely. Nobody knew what was true and what was not.

The historical example of the Romanovs kept coming back to her again and again. Marion looked around the room at the people who had travelled with them for so many weeks now. They were staff who always called her ‘madam’ politely, but they were friends in their way, too. The maid who tended to her clothes and Rodan’s night nurse were both sitting here in the big drawing room along with the other Gallifreyan staff. This was their first trip offworld and it had been pleasant for them until now.

Would they all be murdered by the soldiers obeying a General who had decided that foreign visitors were a danger to his regime?

Dark thoughts like that were still possessing her mind when the outer door of the suite crashed open noisily. Armed guards poured in accompanied by a man in military uniform. Marion recognised him as the former head of security for the Council of Elders. Obviously he was on the General’s side.

Was this it, she wondered. Were they here to execute their ‘foreign hostages’? She reached out and held Rodan in her arms. The child was still asleep, unaware of developments around her.

She was scared – more scared than she could ever remember being. She had been in dangerous situations before, but none quite so cold and calculating as this. These men could be about to shoot her and Rodan and everyone else in the room in cold blood.

“Put those guns away!” said the Secretary in a firm voice. “These rooms are Gallifreyan diplomatic territory for as long as we are confined here. It is a serious offence to bring weapons into such a place. Even your General should know that.”

Marion was surprised by how much like Kristoph he sounded when he said that. Of course, he had worked at his side for many years. And though he was merely a member of the civil service, he was, at the same time a Gallifreyan. He had the ringing authority of a race who had ruled time and space for thousands of millennia at his command.

She noticed something else, too. The young men in suits who were the CPO’s, and two men in casual wear who were Celestial Intervention Agency operatives all stiffened at the sound of his voice, their hands going towards the places where they kept their own weapons. They were ready to defend the people in this room to their own deaths.

Perhaps the former chief of security knew that. He signalled to his guards to lower their weapons – a small but significant compromise – before saying what he came to say.

“You have been deemed to be undesirable aliens. You are to be deported. You have half an hour to pack what you wish to take with you, then you will be taken to your ship. It will be escorted to the edge of the Voesian solar system by the air force of the Voesian Military Government.”

“I’m going nowhere until I know where my husband is,” Marion answered him, summoning the same strength that the Secretary had displayed. “You can tell your General THAT.”

“Half an hour,” the representative of the Voesian Military Government repeated, without answering Marion or even looking directly at her. He turned and walked out of the suite, followed by his guards.

“Madam,” the Secretary said quietly as soon as he was gone. “Take courage in this. His Excellency is NOT a prisoner of these people. They do not know where he is. That is why he had no answer for you.”

“Not a prisoner… then where….”

“His Excellency is a resourceful man,” the Secretary reminded her, hinting, perhaps, at his former career with the Celestial Intervention Agency. “Until we hear from him, as I am sure we will, I suggest we make our arrangements to leave. That is one point on which I for one am fully in agreement with the Voesian Military Government.”

“So am I,” Marion agreed. She gently woke Rodan from her sleep. “Come on, sweetheart, we have to pack your toys in their box. We’re going back on our ship.” She turned to the nursemaid and told her to attend to her own luggage. The same to her maid. “If you would please put my antique silk gown into a bag, I will take that. The rest of my dresses have no sentimental value. The General can enjoy wearing them if he pleases.”

That made everyone laugh. It relieved the tension as they set about packing their belongings ready to be forcibly removed from the planet in what would be humiliating circumstances if they were not so very glad to be going. Marion was worried about Kristoph, still. She didn’t want to leave without knowing for certain where he was and what had happened to him.

The packing was done in a very short time. Everyone was gathered in the drawing room again with their possessions around them, waiting to be told what to do.

“Do they expect us to carry our own bags?” asked one of the senior aides.

“We will ALL carry our own bags,” Marion answered. “We will not ask these people for any assistance. We shall keep our own dignity.”

“There is precious little dignity in being a baggage handler,” the aide replied. But he accepted the word of the First Lady in lieu of the President himself.

“Not you, madam,” said the Secretary. “You represent his Excellency in his absence. We will ensure that you and the little one are unencumbered.”

“I’ll carry my horse,” Rodan insisted, waving My Little Pony defiantly. That put smiles on everyone’s faces as they waited for the soldiers to return.

But before they did, something else happened. Rodan was the first to realise. She looked at the big plate glass window with that glorious view they had all ignored for so long. It darkened momentarily and then brightened not with the pink sunlight of Voesi I, but the artificial light of a TARDIS interior. Marion’s heart leapt with joy as Kristoph stood in the doorway.

“Come on, everybody,” he said. “It’s time to go.”

Rodan with her horse was the first to reach him. He lifted her in his arms and hugged her tightly. Marion, carrying her own luggage – that one gown made from the antique silk that she treasured – and Rodan’s bag of toys – was next. Everyone else brought their bags and cases and loaded them into the TARDIS. When everyone was aboard, Kristoph closed the doors and the TARDIS dematerialised leaving the window intact and a puzzle for the Voesian Military Government when their representatives came back to the Gallifreyan President’s quarters.

“The Presidential ship is on the edge of the Voesian solar system, after receiving instructions from me,” Kristoph announced to his entourage. “We will be joining it shortly. There will be no further interference from the illegal military occupation.”

“How did you get away from them?” Marion asked when she had a moment. Her husband just smiled and reminded her that he WAS a former member of the Celestial Intervention Agency and that the two men who accompanied him yesterday were current operatives from that organisation. He said no more about how he made it back to the spaceport where his TARDIS and the Presidential ship both were.

“I’m sorry I took so long to reach you,” he added. “But the Council of Elders and their families were in more immediate danger so I picked them up first.”

“They’re alive?” This was news to everyone in his hearing. “The General claims they were killed while attempting to escape.”

“I knew that was a lie,” Marion admitted. “What will happen to them now?”

“They’re going to Saintal Pluca along with us – our next destination. They have been offered asylum there, and assistance in forming a government in exile prior to an organised counter-insurgency. Gallifrey, of course, is neutral in the matter except as far as suspending Voesi I from the Dominion until the legitimate government is restored.”

“Assisting the government to escape is not the act of a neutral government, Excellency,” his aide pointed out.

“I was a fugitive from the Voesian Military Junta when I did that, not the Lord High President of Gallifrey,” Kristoph replied with a wide smile. Then he hugged his wife and child again and praised all of his staff who had borne themselves with the dignity of their race during these trying times. Marion made up her mind to tell him exactly how brave and dignified his secretary had been and ensure the man was properly rewarded for his efforts.

Rodan asked if there were horses on Saintal Pluca. If so, that planet would be so much preferable to the one they had just left.