After another long day of trade negotiations, the delegates at the Trans-Federation Galactic Trade Conference were enjoying another reception. The formal banquet was over and a complicated play without words, something that was popular in Poslodi culture, was being performed. Soft music played on stringed instruments accompanied the dramatics.

Most of the delegates and their spouses were only paying slight attention to the performance. They were talking among themselves in small groups. Most were discussing trade and diplomacy. Some, especially the group around Marion and Talitha, were deploring the conditions of the Polodi underclass, the Poslugi.

It had not escaped anyone’s attention that the performers were all Poslugi, paid barely subsistence wages and subject to harsh conditions of labour.

“I do not understand it,” said the elegant spouse of the Derillian Voivode with her silver skin and gossamer wings that her gown was woven around. “On Derrilia people with artistic talents are lauded and honoured and are paid king’s ransoms for their arts.”

“It is the same on Earth,” Marion confirmed. “In fact some people with very little talent often manage the fame and fortune.”

“On Gallifrey ‘arts’ of this sort ARE the preserve of the Caretaker class,” Talitha confirmed. “But the very best enjoy almost the status of Newbloods. They are welcome in our homes as equals. It is a way for Caretakers to rise above their birth status.”

The Alpha Centauran spouse confirmed that Music and Drama were held in high regard on Alpha Centauri. Everyone secretly wondered what Centauran music would be like and politely decided it would be an acquired taste. But the consensus was that the Poslugi players were much maligned.

“The Poslugi are cruelly treated at all levels,” Talitha reminded everyone, revealing the true nature of Malika’s mission to Posludi IV. “I find it quite wrong that we are here at all, making Treaties and partying at night while they toil for our benefit.”

“I don’t know a hotel or conference centre that doesn’t have cleaners,” remarked the wife of the Alludrian Ambassador, shaking both of her heads at once. “The SS Capri is one of the most luxurious facilities of all and manned entirely by those creatures with the long tails who do all of the menial tasks.”

“The Vulpesi,” Marion said remembering more than one visit to that fantastic space borne hotel and conference centre with a unique style of comfort. “But they are paid handsomely, even the lowliest chambermaid. They are the elite of the service industries and highly respected.”

Again it was agreed that something must be done for the Poslugi, but none of them knew what.

“What’s going on?” Marion asked, suddenly. There was a noise that drowned out the music from the entertainment. The ballroom doors crashed open and dozens of armed police marched in. They surrounded the stage, first, demanding that the players and musicians surrender. Meanwhile, the catering staff and waiters were all rounded up.

It was the Ambassador from the planetary state of Fahot, all seven-foot tall and five-foot wide who rose from his reinforced chair, cement flesh rippling, and demanded to know what was going on.

“There has been a rebellion in the domiciliary camps of Poslodi IV,” was the reply. “It will be crushed in a very short time, but meanwhile all Poslugi are to be detained in order to ensure the safety of the Poslodavac.”

“But… who will arrange my hair?” asked the second wife of the Arradnian representative whose hair sculpted on top of her head added two feet to her height.

It was the most insensitive of all the comments that erupted. Many delegates and their spouses were concerned, it is true, with their domestic arrangements without Poslugi to cook and clean, but many others were outraged at the detention of so many innocent men and women who were not a part of the rebellion and demanded to know where they would be taken. The answer was not hopeful. A detention camp was being prepared outside the capital.

“Outrageous!” The cry was taken up by all of the delegates and their spouses, even those more concerned with their hair. The cry was even louder when the Minister for Intergalactic Affairs came to the ballroom with the aim of satisfying the delegate concerns.

“I protest most strongly to the Poslodi government about their treatment of innocent Poslugi,” said the Derillian Voivode in his most imperious tone. “I also wish to remonstrate about the stated intention to ‘crush’ the rebellion. If that is what I think it means, I have to say that mass slaughter of an underclass, even one that has taken arms against their condition is not the mark of a civilised, let alone democratic, government.”

“Poslodi is not a democracy,” the Minister replied. “Your comments have been noted, but I must remind you that foreign delegates have no voice in our internal affairs.”

“And I would remind you, sir,” said Kristoph, rising and going to stand in front of the stage where the players and musicians were being made to kneel with their hands on their heads. “This hotel is under diplomatic jurisdiction. It is, in essence, a joint embassy for every government represented here. The incursion by your armed militia represents a violation of intergalactic law. These people are guests of our embassies and any attempt to remove them to a place of detention is a further violation. I hereby place every single Poslugi within this building under the protection of the Gallifreyan government.”

“You cannot....”

“He can, and so can I,” said the Venturan ambassador. “They are under the protection of MY planet, too.”

“And mine….” Everyone was a little surprised by the consensus from the Mogarian delegate. Since oxygen was poison to them they wore armour and full face masks and used a translator to communicate. They couldn’t even offer asylum in their diplomatic suite since it was airlock sealed and filled with their own kind of atmosphere.

But the offer was made, anyway. It was backed up by several others.

“I repeat, this is diplomatic territory,” Kristoph said. “Remove your armed militia from this building at once.”

The Minister was startled, but he knew that he had been outflanked by more experienced politicians than he would ever be.

He removed the militia. He removed himself. For a little while there was silence in the ballroom. Then Kristoph looked at the buffet table, still groaning under the weight of food when the delegates were sated.

“Go and eat your fill,” he said to the Poslugi. “Get a drink, whatever you want. Yes, I know there have been worrying developments, but we all need time to think about our next step.”

“We all have families,” said one of the actors.

“None of us know what’s happening outside this room. I promise we, the delegates, will try to help all of you. But until we find out what is happening beyond these walls we must all make the best of the situation.”

His calm voice reassured worried people and they did as he said, freely eating the luxury food they never saw except in stolen leftover portions. Some of them drank champagne and port. Most tasted these delights carefully and kept a clear head.

Two of the men who had been waiting on them approached the table where Kristoph and his party were sitting. Marion and Talitha both recognised Dario, who had been attending them in their personal spa. He introduced his friend, Maloi. They both looked nervous, even more so when invited to sit with their ‘betters’, but they did so.

“Sir,” Dario began. “Am I to understand that you and your colleagues have guaranteed our safety as long as we are within this building?”

“That is so,” Kristoph assured him.

“If some of us chose to leave….”

“Oh, don’t,” Talitha begged. “They’ll shoot you.”

“Madam, my thanks for your concern, but if I choose to take the risk….”

“This isn’t just concern about your family, is it?” Kristoph had met freedom fighters and revolutionaries of every sort. He recognised the look in the eyes of a man who had burnt his boats already. “You have a plan? You have safe houses, arms caches? No, I don’t have to know about any of it. You know where you have to go?”

“I do,” Dario answered.

“When you leave here, you are on your own and there is nothing I can do to help you. Diplomatic privilege is barely holding here. The Minister thought he could run roughshod over it already. I can’t help you with weapons or ammunition. That would betray the very idea of diplomatic neutrality. But there may be one small way I can help. Come with me, before you go on your way.”

The two men were puzzled, but Dario already knew that the Gallifreyan delegates were fair-minded men who might be trusted. They followed Kristoph to the ante-room outside the conference room. They watched as he opened a cupboard and extracted a wooden

box with the seal of Rassilon embossed on the lid. It contained dozens of medallions on simple ribbons.

“Put one of these on,” Kristoph told Dario, handing him one of the medallions. The young man, still puzzled, did so. His companion gasped.

“You’re invisible! At least… I can see you if I try… if I concentrate.”

“Perception filters,” Kristoph explained. “Not invisibility, just a way of not being noticed. Time Lord technology, leant out to delegates who might want to slip in and out without disrupting the proceedings.”

Dario was catching on, but Kristoph expanded his explanation.

“They will get you out of the building and past any patrols in the streets. They may give you an edge if any of your plans involve a surprise attack. They’ll get you closer than you could hope without them.”


“As I said, guns or ammunition would breach diplomatic protocol. Even medical aid is difficult. But these are just bits of metal and fabric, and unlikely to be missed until the delegates re-convene.”

“Sir, you may have helped us succeed in overturning the Poslodavac government.”

“No, don’t tell me things like that,” Kristoph told the two would-be revolutionaries. “Just go, now. Don’t let me hear anything, one way or another, until it is over.”

The two men nodded. Before they turned away they saluted, clumsily. Kristoph returned the gesture more precisely. But saluting didn’t matter for a rebel army. Tactics and bravery mattered. He knew they had the latter, at least.

He went back to the ballroom where everyone except the Mogarian delegates, for obvious reasons, were deciding how many of the Poslugi refugees might be accommodated in their respective diplomatic suites. There was little else for anyone to do except get some sleep and see what the morning would bring.

The Gallifreyan delegates took their fair share of them. Marion and Talitha found clothes for the players to change out of their costumes and arranged makeshift beds.

But when things were quiet, later, Marion and Talitha looked out of the window in their drawing room. There were signs that something terrifying was happening in the city. Beyond the sound-proofed windows they could see police hover cars with flashing lights and soldiers patrolling the streets. In the distance there were fires. They didn’t know what was on fire, or why, but it all made for a ghastly scene.

“I only hope Malika is safe,” Talitha whispered, almost to herself.

“He has to be,” Marion assured her. “We would know if anything had happened to him.”

She hoped that was true, but since the rebellion had begun on Poslodi IV, the very place Malika had gone with Polin, then there was no way to know for certain.

The morning might bring news for all of them, Poslugi, Poslodavac and diplomatic visitors alike.

But what sort of news?