Aineytta de Lœngbærrow waited anxiously in front of the vid-phone screen that was currently displaying the Seal of Rassilon intersected with the Presidential Seal.

There were Millennia old layers of symbolism in the intersection of those two Seals, but at this time all they represented to the mother of the Lord High President was an anxious delay while her son was urgently summoned from the Panopticon.

At last the image cleared. Kristoph had not, Aineytta noted, gone all the way to his Presidential Chamber to take the call. Instead it had been transferred to a public terminal just outside the grand entrance to the Panopticon. She could hear Gold Usher calling for 'Order ' before Kristoph pressed the button that created a null space around him – a private piece of air where his conversation could not be heard by anyone casually passing by.

"Mama, what is it?" he asked, seeing the expression on her face and needing no precognition to know that the matter was serious. "Is it father? Is he ill?"

"I'm sorry, my dear, but it is Marion. She collapsed in the White Drawing Room as we were taking tea together. I tried to help her, but it is far more serious than the 'women's ailments' that my herbs can cure. I have summoned the Chief Surgeon. He came at once by transmat ring, but I fear even he is at a loss."

To her surprise Kristoph was scathing about the highest qualified medical man on Gallifrey who was always at the immediate command of the Lord High President and his family.

"The man is an antiquated fool. His title is only a shade off being fraudulent. He can examine Marion with your supervision, but do not allow him to give her any medication or perform ANY surgical procedure. I am coming home immediately. "

He broke the transmission without any valediction. Aineytta turned from the screen in her son's private study and went back upstairs.

She reached the master bedroom in time to stop the Chief Surgeon from performing a dangerously irrelevant procedure.

"It is merely an electronic trepanning device," he said of the fiendish contraption he was about to fasten around Marion's head. "It will neutralise the source of the neural attack and...."

"Ridiculous," Aineytta responded. "That machine is no more able to do that than an old fashioned drill through the skull. Don't you dare touch her with that monstrous thing - or I will use it on you as you stand before me."

"Madam, it is not fitting for a woman to question the judgement of a surgeon, let alone make aspersions about the competence of one of such profession – or threaten attacks on his person."

"You mean it is not fitting for a herbalist woman," Aineytta replied. "Our dabbling in natural remedies and potions cannot be compared to the book-learnt science of men. That is what you mean. Why don't you mention that I am of Caretaker stock with no formal education at all while we're on the subject?"

"Madam, I meant no such thing," the Chief Surgeon protested.

"Yes, you did," Kristoph said as he strode into the room. "Your services are not required. Kindly step away from my wife’s bedside, gather your ridiculous contraptions, and leave my house.”

The Chief Surgeon had no choice but to obey, especially with Caolin and Sheogham waiting at the door to escort him out, willingly or unwillingly.

"You were right about his incompetence," Aineytta admitted. "But who else can help Marion?"

"A doctor who knows about human physiology," Kristoph answered. He leaned over Marion and touched her forehead gently. He saw with dismay just how very dangerously ill she was. He pressed a little more firmly and placed her into an induced coma to protect her from further harm, then he wrapped the blankets around her and lifted her into his arms, holding her close as if that alone would save her.

If only it were that easy.

"Come with me, mama," he said. "To my TARDIS. The Castellan brought me here in his, but my own capsule will take us where we need to go."

"Where do we need to go?" Aineytta asked as she followed Kristoph to his study where his TARDIS was disguised as a very fine cabinet. He stepped inside and immediately laid Marion on the sofa in the familiar, comfortable corner of the console room where she had so often sat and drunk tea while watching the vortex swirl around on the window sized video screen. Aineytta sat with her while he went to set their course.

He dealt sharply with the Transduction Barrier controller who did not dare offer any excuse for delaying him. When the flight was fixed he came to Marion's side, holding her hand in his. She was still deeply unconscious as he hoped she would remain for now. When he reached into her mind there was nothing, not even a dream. But she was alive and there was still hope.

"Of course there is, my precious boy," Aineytta whispered. "I have known about hope ever since you were lost and everyone gave you up for dead except your father and I. We always had hope."

"Mama...." he began in reply to that statement. "I...."

But he didn't need to say anything. She knew by the look in his eyes everything that was in his hearts right now. She put her hand over his in assurance that a mother's love and comfort was there even for a Lord High President.

He didn’t feel like a Lord High President right now, the most powerful man on Gallifrey – the most powerful planet in the galaxy. He felt helpless and vulnerable. Nothing within his great power could help his wife, only a doctor of her own race who understood her physiology.

“Trepanning!” he murmured scornfully. “Even the electronic version used these days is just nonsense. Besides, I doubt if a neural attack is responsible for her condition.”

“I don’t believe a ‘neural attack’ is responsible for anyone’s illness,” Aineytta agreed. “It is a word used by men like him for certain problems suffered by women.”

“They called it hysteria in the history of Marion’s world,” Kristoph noted. “It is a lazy diagnosis with questionable methods of treatment.”

“I thought it best to summon professional help. But the term ‘professional’ bears examination sometimes.”

“It does when that man is concerned,” Kristoph grumbled.

“Kristoph, my boy… you should know… when I thought she was in extremis… I performed a version of the Rite of Mori….”

“I… didn’t know you could,” Kristoph answered in deep surprise. “I mean... mama… that is a ritual performed only by highly qualified Time Lords. How could you even know how… and… Marion… she is Human. Is it even possible?”

“The rites that Time Lords perform are ninety per cent mumbo jumbo – lots of ceremonial chanting. Strip them down and anyone with a measure of advanced telepathy can do them.”

Kristoph laughed, despite his deep concern for Marion. His mother had a unique view of the Ancient and Revered learning of the greatest men of his race.

“I’m proud of you, my boy, for all that you have achieved as a Time Lord. And my own dear husband, one of the greatest thinkers of our time. But all those solemn rituals really are codswallop.”

“Mama, where did you hear a word like that?” Kristoph asked. “Surely not from Marion.”

“From Lily. She learnt it from Lí, who doubtless is more familiar with Human idioms than any of us. But the point still stands.”

“You may be right, mama, but my point still stands. How was it possible for you to perform even a ‘stripped down’ version of the Rite of Mori with a Human subject.”

“Trust me… it is possible.”

Even if it were so, what good would it do? The thought haunted his mind. The Rite of Mori was performed in cases where a Time Lord had reached the end of his thirteenth life offworld where his memories could not be joined with the Matrix or, on certain occasions, when a Time Lord of such wisdom or special skills chose to pass that knowledge directly to an apprentice.

What use was it if Marion should die? How could her memories be of any use to anyone? He needed her, not her memories. A memory couldn’t lie beside him in the night, warming his body and his hearts. A memory would not smile at him in the last light of the day.

A memory could not be the mother of the child he needed as much as he needed a wife at his side.

“Mama, how can she die, now? I have been told countless times, by more than one seer, including you, yourself, that she will bear me a son. Are you all wrong? Is the future skewed in some way?”

“You are a Time Lord, my son,” Aineytta reminded him. “Past, present and future are as fluid as an ocean to you. It is possible that something has changed. Don’t ask me to look, now, my dear. Too much is uncertain at this moment. The future is dependent on so many factors, so many events, small and large, that might occur in the next hours. There will be a dozen future possibilities, many of them too unbearable for either of us to contemplate.”

“I understand, mama,” Kristoph said in a resigned tone. “I would not ask you to do anything so distressing.”

He fell silent. He looked at the temporal clock. The journey was almost over. In a few minutes the future that was so uncertain would be out of his hands

I just wish….”

He stopped. The thought that had come into his head failed to express itself in words. He dismissed it.

Besides, the proximity alarm brought him back to the console. On the main viewscreen a massive space station was slowly revolving before an unfamiliar starfield. Aineytta looked at her son curiously.

“It’s a hospital,” he explained. “One of the very best that twenty-eighth century Human medical expertise has to offer. The Space Hospital Roberta Bondar.”

He set the TARDIS to materialise in the reception area then lifted Marion in his arms again.

Aineytta followed her son out of the TARDIS and was impressed by how quickly and efficiently the medical staff took charge of the emergency, rushing Marion straight to the examination suite where she could receive a full body scan to determine the cause of her illness.

Kristoph was left waiting again, but this time he was hopeful. He sat in the relatives room looking out at the stars and waiting for news with a lighter and more hopeful heart.

“Humans named all of their space hospitals after great female doctors,” he said as an hour passed since Marion was taken into the care of the Human medical staff. “Roberta Bondar was an outstanding neurologist of Marion’s generation. She was also the first woman of her nation to go into space.”

“They have great women in medicine?” Aineytta replied. “I think I understand why you admire Humans so much.”

“It is one of their many accomplishments. These magnificent hospitals in space are another great achievement of the Human race. They have the most advanced medical techniques to treat all of the most complex ailments. That’s why I feel sure Marion is safe here.”

Even as he said that, though, a doctor came into the room. He looked grim. Kristoph’s confident smile faded and a cold precognitive fear gripped his two hearts. Aineytta reached out to hold his arm as the same terrible premonition overwhelmed her.