Kristoph was relaxing in the back of the very comfortable Presidential limousine on the way home after a long but productive day in the Panopticon. The Athenican Devolution Bill was finally going to Committee to have some of its wrinkles ironed out. The most annoying wrinkle of all, Lord Ravenswode, had run out of wrecking amendments to be voted down by the rest of the Councillors.

As the limousine windows darkened and they speeded up to cross the Straits between the Northern and Southern Continents, he was quietly reading through a draft proposal put forward by Lord Dúccesci. He had made a very thorough exploration of the facts and was now suggesting that a brand new city might be built in the Temperate Zone between the Red Desert and the northern pole.

The idea had its merits. There were demographics to show that the population of Gallifrey was growing for the first time in a millennia. A new city where Gallifreyans of all classes might live in well-planned homes had a lot to commend itself. The Capitol was quite a crowded place, Athenica the opposite, being a city of culture and learning rather than a place of business. Something in the middle ground, a beautified city, with places for the arts and for debate and discussion, as well as workshops for the artisans of the Caretaker class who would inevitably outnumber the aristocrats, was a fine idea.

And there was no doubt that it could be financed, even with the upheaval of handing fiscal powers to Athenica. Gallifrey was a rich world. It could afford a dozen new cities. One was no trouble.

Dúccesci had even gone so far as to choose a name for the new city. Arcadia. In Gallifreyan, it simply meant place of the north. Kristoph assumed that his fellow Councillor was unfamiliar with the use of the word in the Human colonies. There it meant an unspoiled paradise.

Which seemed appropriate enough.

Yes, he would have no problem with allowing that Bill to go to the Council in the next Session. He could imagine Lord Ravenswode and Lord Oakdae?e having plenty to say about it. Ravenswode would almost certainly complain that it was the thin end of the wedge and ask if Gallifrey was to have a series of city states, each independent of the other.

He thought of ancient Greece on planet Earth, where such city states existed, and where it had worked more or less, notwithstanding a couple of rather nasty wars. Rome, too, existed that way for centuries, and Venice. It was a perfectly viable idea for Gallifrey, but a quite unnecessary one that would easily be dismissed.

His contented thoughts were dispelled by the sound of the privacy screen closing between him and the driver. He had not operated the screen. He never did unless another High Councillor was in the car with him and they were discussing matters that should be kept between them. When he was alone in the car, he liked to talk to the driver from time to time.

But WAS he alone in the car? Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a movement. He turned and stared at the seat behind the driver. There WAS somebody there.

“I could kill you with a flick of my wrist,” he said in a steady voice.

“You could try,” answered a voice from the past that he was beginning to know all over again. “But I am just as highly skilled as you, De Lœngbærrow. I could make a fight of it.”

“I could stop the car and you would have to fight my Presidential Guards as well.”

Le Marrant made a dismissive sound. Kristoph tried not to smile. He, himself, had been scathing about the level of protection they offered many times. This was yet another one. How did they miss somebody using a perception cloak to slip past them and into the President’s own limousine?

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” he asked.

“Caching up on old times,” Le Marrant answered. “After all, we were comrades, once.”

“Barely,” Kristoph answered. His memories were of disruptions and delays to training caused by a persistent nuisance who had almost brought the Celestial Intervention Agency into disrepute.

“Even so, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to congratulate you on your rise to power. You were the agent most likely to succeed, but Lord High President is quite a coup.”

“That was because of my work as a diplomat, not political assassination,” Kristoph reminded him. “Your implications….”

“I meant no insult, my friend. I know that you are an honest man – or at least as honest as an assassin or a politician can be.”

Kristoph did laugh at that. Le Marrant had a valid point.

“I do have one serious matter to clear up,” the rogue continued. “Some weeks ago the weather control within the Athenican enviro-dome was sabotaged….”

“You?” Kristoph queried, recalling the day very well.

“Certainly not. When have I ever put the lives of innocent people at risk? That was a foolish and dangerous thing, done for reasons of pure greed. THIS is a data-fragment from the time of the incident. It may help our former comrades track down the one responsible. Feel free to make up an honest lie about where it came from.”

Kristoph took the small phial containing an impossibly small solid state data recording and looked at it carefully.

“It won’t explode, I promise,” Le Marrant told him.

“I’m not sure your promises are worth much,” Kristoph answered. “But if this is real, I suppose I owe you one favour. I won’t ask how you came by the information, or why you wish to share it with me.”

“The first I could not say, as it would give away one of my best secrets. The second, is that I really don’t want anyone thinking I might do something that could hurt anyone.”

“The only person who suffered was Lord Ravenswode and it was all his own fault,” Kristoph answered him with a smile he could not help. Le Marrant obviously felt the same about the man by the flash in his eyes. “But, indeed, there might have been deaths. I concede, absolutely, that nobody has ever died or even been seriously injured as a result of your mischief. But it has to stop, all the same. Gold Usher is still a shade of pink over the rain in the Panopticon.”

“Surely the High Council’s ardour for long-winded debate was not DAMPENED by my little gift to you all?”

“Only temporarily inconvenienced,” Kristoph replied. “The Chancellor was a little concerned about the Sash and Coronet getting wet, but as both are pure gold and do not tarnish, he had nothing to worry about.”

“Did you like my rainbow?”

“It would have looked better outdoors,” Kristoph replied. He had, in fact, liked it a lot. The Panopticon had shimmered in its light the way no gilded ornaments had ever made it shimmer. But he wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction.

“And my entertainment in the Conservatory?”

“My mother thinks Madam Charr unclothed is an affront to womanhood,” Kristoph answered. “Aside from that, as a herbalist who has given medicine to the sick in many states of undress she was less embarrassed than the more delicate ladies. It was rather unfair on married men, too.”

“But surely all married men on Gallifrey are faithful to their wives, in mind and in spirit,” Le Marrant countered with a wicked edge to his laugh.

“Some of us have more willpower than others,” Kristoph responded. “Are we to expect more of your games, by the way? I can’t help wondering if I should alert the Capitol.”

“I haven’t decided, yet. If I can get aboard a freighter I might well leave Gallifrey again. I’ve heard interesting things about a planet called Earth. They like magic tricks, there. A place called Ireland has some good stories about Leprechauns. And there is a tale about a pied piper….”

“A stealer of children. If I find out that’s you, I will hand you over to the Agency and have you tortured until you ask for a mercy death.”

“Perhaps not,” Le Marrant decided, to his credit. “Children are another matter entirely. All the same, Earth seems a good place for me to explore.”

Kristoph hoped he was joking, using the common knowledge of his own connections to Earth to get a reaction from him. He used every bit of his Time Lord stoicism to resist an emotional response.

“Leaving Gallifrey is an excellent idea,” Kristoph told him. “You have well outstayed your welcome on this occasion. But if you make trouble elsewhere and it gets back to me I won’t think twice about sending agents after you.”

“Does that mean that you will let me leave?” Le Marrant asked. “Surely it is your duty to report me to the Celestial Intervention Agency.”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t,” Kristoph answered. “Of course, you have blocked all means of communication from this car, but the only place it is going is my house, and once there I shall raise the alarm. If you give the guards that infest my estate the slip then I shall have to review my security arrangements. I think we understand each other well, Allexi.”

Le Marrant raised his eyebrows in surprise. It must have been a millennia since he was addressed by his given name. Although he was never formally declared Renegade his family name would be spoken by nobody, not even in his own presence. It went without saying that he had been shunned by them ever since he left Gallifrey under a cloud of ignominy the first time.

“Why do you do these things?” Kristoph asked. He had wanted to put the question to him for a long time. This was the closest he had come to a quiet conversation with Le Marrant since they were both Celestial Intervention Agency trainees. “You could have been a great agent. Your talents for deception and evasion could have been put to the good.”

“The GOOD?” Le Marrant shook his head and was more serious than he had been since boyhood. “Kristoph de Lœngbærrow, how many men did you kill in the course of your career as an agent? Do you even know?”

“I know exactly how many,” Kristoph answered. “But that number is not something I will share with anyone, least of all you.”

“Do you know how many I have killed or maimed in that time?”

“I would not presume to guess.”

“None,” Le Marrant said. “I have killed nobody. I have hurt nobody except in their pride – and in most cases that needed a prick or too. Which of us has the right to talk of good?”

“I did what I did for the good of our people,” Kristoph said. “When it was necessary. I have no remorse.”

“Nor have I. That makes us equal.”

“Perhaps it does,” Kristoph conceded. “But we certainly have different ideas about what is ‘good’.”

“We might agree to disagree on that point, perhaps.”

“I think we should.” Kristoph looked at the intruder in his limousine and wondered if things could have been different. Could they have been colleagues, friends, in the Celestial Intervention Agency. Might they be friends now, travelling home to Mount Lœng House for a social evening and dinner rather than….

Enemies? Oddly that word sat strangely with him. Le Marrant had set himself against the law of Gallifrey. He had mocked its most sacred institutions and poured scorn upon its traditions.

But some of those institutions and traditions needed a knock or two, and it was true that he had never done serious harm to anyone – at least not on Gallifrey. His affairs on other planets nobody knew of.

No, he wasn’t an enemy of Gallifrey, or of its Lord High President. That was why he was slowly coming to a decision as they neared the Lœngbærrow estate and his single malt and the comfort of his own home drew closer.

“You’re from the Northern Continent, aren’t you?” He asked, apparently casually. “Do you know the southern plains at all?”

“I am not unfamiliar with the territory.”

“It is much wilder the further south you go, of course,” Kristoph added. “There are vast swathes of land that no Oldblood can even be bothered laying claim to. It’s not exactly unexplored, but certainly untamed. The northern part on the other hand is well divided into demesnes. De Lœngbærrow land is right next to the D’Alba and Arpexian estates. Athenica and its hinterlands are fully settled, and the spaceport hard by is always busy with people coming and going. That’s what makes life in the ‘sticks’ so interesting. A man can choose crowds or solitude. Whatever suits his needs at any time.”

Le Marrant nodded in understanding. His one-time comrade had given him a clue. He could go south to the wilderness and lose himself where the Capitol-bred Presidential Guard would never find him, or head to the anonymity of the crowds at the space port and get away from the planet.

He wasn’t, of course, directly telling him about those options. That would be aiding and abetting a fugitive and quite inappropriate for the Lord High President.

And Le Marrant didn’t say anything about which direction he might think to go if he were free to do so. He just smiled slightly and sat back, slowly fading away into the perception cloak so that, if he hadn’t known he was there, Kristoph would not have seen him at all.

The car came to rest on the driveway before the steps leading up to the front door. Even as Kristoph climbed out of the car Caolin was standing ready to open that door to him. In his whole life he had never used a key to his own door. A servant was always there before he reached the top step.

“Good evening, sir,” the faithful head butler greeted him.

“Good evening,” Kristoph answered. He paused on the threshold and looked back at his car. The driver was moving around to close the opposite side door which, for some incomprehensible reason, had come open by itself.

He nodded and smiled and wondered when he might see or hear of Le Marrant again.

Not in this lifetime, he hoped.