The TARDIS was in parking orbit beside the space platform called Nexus II. It was an impressive sight with its fifty levels of executive accommodation, conference rooms, ballrooms, restaurants and observation decks. It looked from the outside like a huge cog and spindle. The cog revolved creating the artificial gravity that made any kind of normal life aboard the platform possible.

Louise looked at it on the viewscreen critically. It was not her first experience of artificial structures in space. The Doctor had taken her to the famous Omicron Psi orbital restaurant for a meal to celebrate what he said was their three month anniversary, but she suspected was just an excuse for him to see her wearing a pretty dress from the Wardrobe. Not that she minded. It had been a very nice time.

This was so much bigger, and it was much more important. The Doctor had explained that he was here as a ‘diplomat’ to represent some very important interests at a conference. The conference would take several days and inbetween there would be social functions that he hoped she would enjoy.

Louise wasn’t entirely sure she would enjoy them. She had looked up ‘diplomacy’ and other words that he used so freely and found out the duties of a diplomats wife at such functions. As a result, she was very nervous about facing a room full of people who she had nothing in common with. She didn’t even know how to dance properly.

But if she was worried, so was The Doctor. She glanced at him as he talked to somebody on the videophone who he, for some reason, also called ‘Doctor’. That seemed to be a joke between the two of them, but neither were laughing as they discussed the impact of what they referred to as The Diet of Proxima.

“It’s a done deal, of course,” the other Doctor was saying as Louise moved around the console and slid her arm around HER Doctor’s waist. His arm automatically slipped around her shoulders, but he didn’t acknowledge her any more than that. Nor did the man speaking on the videophone. “The Diet of Proxima was signed and sealed. It paved the way for an Empire that spread across a whole galaxy – and for the most part it was a good Empire. It served the needs of its people well, even those who became subjects through conquest. That’s why one of us signed it.”

“I signed it,” The Doctor said. “I’ve seen facsimiles of the document. It’s MY handwriting. So I am meant to be there as an adjudicator. I hate pre-destination, don’t you?”

“Drives me up the wall,” the other Doctor agreed. “But I don’t think there’s anything to worry about with this one. It’s a formality. Enjoy the experience. It looks like you’ve got company to enjoy it with.”

The Doctor smiled widely

“This is Louise,” he said. “She is my wife.”

“Really?” The other Doctor smiled equally widely. “Well, that was a little sudden. But, congratulations, anyway. I’m pleased for you. For you both. Come and see us, soon. Rose will be delighted. So will Susan, after we bring her round from the shock.”

“I’ll do that, I promise,” The Doctor replied. “I’ll… call you when the Treaty is over, let you know how it goes.”

The other Doctor said something in a language Louise didn’t recognise. She was surprised when her own Doctor replied the same way before closing the videophone call.

“What did that mean?” she asked as he moved around the console to complete the materialisation on board the platform.

“A blessing on the day in the ancient language of Gallifrey that the TARDIS feels no need to translate. Basically, ‘good luck’.”

“He’s one of your own kind?”


“You seemed… to know him well.”

“I know him better than anyone else in the universe,” The Doctor told her.

“He’s… your brother?” Louise guessed.

“No, not that. I will explain when I have a little more time. It’s complicated and we’ll need a comfy sofa and a hot milky drink to accompany a story like that. Meanwhile… are you ready to be a diplomat’s wife?”

“No,” she admitted. The Doctor looked at her sympathetically.

“You’ll be fine. You will be the most beautiful woman at the official function. And one of the youngest. That will be half the battle won. It’s not very politically correct, but a pretty face is an asset in diplomatic circles. The rest doesn’t matter. Be yourself.”

That was reassuring, but even so, she was nervous as she watched The Doctor land the TARDIS in the hangar bay.

“Look at them,” he said to her as the screen resolved into the outside view of the TARDIS. It was parked on a wide square of grey floor between two sleek shuttle craft with the livery of the diplomatic corps of two planetary systems. There were stewards in charge of the parking arrangements – short humanoids with bright orange-yellow faces. A gaggle of them crowded in front of the TARDIS. Their expressions were comical as they tried to decide exactly what to do about a blue police box that had appeared in one of the shuttle parking spaces. The Doctor smiled widely and grasped Louise’s hand as he bounded towards the door. The parking stewards all stepped back in unison as they emerged from the police box. But when he identified himself they became very excited.

“I expected them to want my autograph!” he admitted as he and Louise were brought to the luxury suite where they rested before the first session of the Conference began. “Apparently I did something rather important on their planet. I’m something of a national hero.”

“What did you do?” Louise asked him.

“I have no idea. I don’t think I’ve actually done it yet. It gets like that sometimes. I travel in time. It’s inevitable I’m going to visit places where I’ve been in their past but my own future. Whatever it is, though, I made quite an impression!”

“I don’t think I will ever get used to it,” Louise sighed. “Different times and different places. What century are we in now, anyway?”

“2297 - the late twenty-third by Human standards,” The Doctor answered. “4567 RE - Rassilon Era by my people’s calendar… -6578 by the Li-Mukon descending scale. They count their years down, not up. Everyone wonders what will happen when they get to zero…”

He stopped talking. Louise was looking at him blankly. Of all the people he had ever travelled with, her reaction to him going off on one of his slightly meaningless tangents was the most disappointing. She really didn’t understand why he did it.

“I was born in 345 A.A,” she said.

“AA meaning après arrivée,” The Doctor noted. “The Forêtean calendar dates from the time your ancestors crashed on the planet, knowing they had lost all contact with Earth and its history, and decided to make a fresh start from there on. 2297 is about two hundred and fifty years before their ship set out from the spaceport at Marseilles. By then Humans were colonising planets and systems as much as four years deep space travel away from Earth. But here and now, it is the beginning of all of that. Human endeavour has only taken them as far as Proxima Centauri.”

“Where is that?”

“It’s right over there.” The Doctor pointed at the exo-glass window of their suite. Louise looked out and saw a small red star and a planet whose orbit the space station was matching.

“Strange colour.”

“It’s a red dwarf star. Nothing wrong with that, of course. The Mandayans – the little guys who carried our bags – live on a planet very similar to Proxima Centauri IV. They think nothing of it. But Humans have been finding life with a red sun and tidal lock causing perpetual night and perpetual day on the planetary surface a bit problematic. There are huge environmental problems to overcome, and studies have shown that disturbing psychological issues among the colonists.”

Louise didn’t say anything at all to that, but her expression was questioning.

“In short, Humans tend to go a bit nutty without a nice bright yellow sun in a blue sky during the day and a big silver moon in a starry sky at night. Which is why we are here at this conference. Humans want to expand their colonisation programme and find planets further away that look and feel more like Earth.”

“And why can’t they?” Louise asked.

“Because there are other species that got there first. And they want to set some rules.”

“And that’s your job? Setting those rules?”

“Along with the rest of the committee.”

“Then I am sure you will make wise rules for the good of all,” Louise said. “You would not do anything less, mon docteur.”

“Yes,” he thought. “She would believe that of him. He had always appeared to be a fountain of wisdom in her eyes. But that was mostly as an honorary elder of Forêt, where problems were never as complicated as they could get out here in the wider galaxy. He hoped he could give a good show of himself when the Diet began. Not only did the future of the galaxy hang in the balance, but he risked disappointing his wife if he got it wrong.

“We’ve got an hour before I have to get ready to attend the conference,” he said, sitting on an easy chair and reaching out to her. She came and sat on his knee. She felt warm and soft, pressed close to him and he let himself enjoy the quiet time before two of the stewards came, one to take him to the main conference floor and the other to show Louise to the gallery where she was allowed to watch the proceedings.

The conference room was a huge rotunda, with the gallery all around it. Louise sat at the very front, right by the security shield. She was a little surprised at first when she put out her hand in the air and it rippled like water. It was an energy shield that protected the delegates below from any possible assassination attempt from the public gallery. It was completely invisible as long as she didn’t touch it, and she could see all of the delegates arriving.

She was surprised just how few of them were Human, or humanoid. Of the line of people sitting on the adjudication panel, there was only The Doctor and one other, a woman in a long black dress and a matching turban around her head. The other four adjudicators were completely alien beings. One looked like a lizard with leather armour on it. Another looked like a deep purple head with tentacles coming from it. This being was encased in a tank with water around it and when it spoke, it did so through a speaker grille. The voice that came out had an artificial quality as if it was being translated.

The other was roughly the same shape as a Human woman but seemed to be made of chalk. She was at least eight feet tall and half that wide and was dressed in a pure white gown that fell in voluminous folds down to her ankles.

And the last of all was the most peculiar creature of all. The head was a large, round, shiny green with one huge eye in the middle of the face and a small mouth beneath. There were long, thin feelers that passed for arms sticking out from a gown that began at the neck and ended at the floor. Whether the creature had legs and feet underneath, and how many, Louise didn’t know. Whether it was male or female was also uncertain. Or perhaps that didn’t matter.

The Doctor had prepared her, of course. He had shown her images of different species that were to be found in the universe. She knew of one of them, of course. Daleks, known as Robos in her people’s history, were creatures that made her shiver with horror when she saw them on the TARDIS videoscreen. She had never seen them herself. The Doctor had defeated them long before she was born. But the stories were a part of her heritage.

And The Doctor had also explained that this was the reason non-humanoid species would worry her. She was already pre-disposed to fear what didn’t look familiar to her. But he urged her to try not to do that, to see that her concept of what is right and good and trustworthy might not be wide enough, to see that beings that might strike her as ugly and fearful could have a noble and beautiful way of life that she should admire.

And above all, not to think of anyone or anything as an alien. That was the very worst words any species could use about another species.

On top of not knowing how to dance, how to talk to diplomats and their wives, she had the additional problems of knowing which WAS the wife, and if any wanted to dance with her, where she put her feet would be less of a worry than where she was supposed to put her hands, and were they might put what THEY had instead of hands.

But her heart swelled with pride a moment later. A very tall, wide humanoid who looked as if he was made of granite rock dressed in spun gold stood and addressed the conference. He announced the names of the adjudicators. The lady with the black turban was the Ambassador for Haollstrom IV. The reptilian one was the Crown Prince of a place called Teamia-Cru. The creature in the tank was called The Gethic, which made Louise wonder if there was only one of his kind. The chalk lady was called Miras of Letole, and the one with the huge eye was the Ambassador from Alpha Centauri.

When each of the adjudicators was introduced, there were murmurs around the delegates that filled the seats all around the circular room. When The Doctor was introduced, there was a stunned silence, and then excited whispers. The same whispers were repeated in the public gallery, and Louise was thrilled when she realised that she was surrounded by people from all of those different species, who all knew about The Doctor and thought he was a very clever, wise and important delegate whose presence would ensure the success of the Diet.

She wondered if she ought to mention that he was her husband. She didn’t, mainly because she felt too shy to talk to anyone, especially not the creature with one big eye in a green head that was sitting next to her.

She said nothing. She looked at The Doctor as he took his place on the adjudication panel. She understood what he was doing in principle. It was something like when the Elders of the village met. This was a meeting to decide something very much more important and for very many more people, but it was the same.

Some of it was very complicated, and she couldn’t follow it completely. Most of the morning and afternoon of that first session was about economics, trade, exports and imports. Some of it was concerned with population. Planet Earth was overcrowded and they needed new places to farm and grow food, to build homes, to spread themselves.

To that end, the Human delegation was asking for the right to colonise planetary systems where there was no sentient life, and had a list of such systems where they believed they should be allowed to do that. In fact, they were indignant that they were being required to ask permission to do so. It was a shock to them to discover that there were other races out there who had the power to stop them.

Louise wondered why the other races would want to stop humans from living on planets where nobody else was living already. What possible reason was there to say they could not do that?

The question was still with her when the conference adjourned for the day and she found The Doctor in their rooms reading through the notes he had made as he listened to the arguments. He didn’t talk about the conference with her, though. He put away the notes and invited her to sit on his knee again, which she happily did.

“It’s dull, long-winded stuff,” he admitted. “But it’s what I was born to do, really. My father was a diplomat, representing our world at great conferences like this. A wise, great man. I had no greater ambition when was a young man than to emulate him. And this is such an important Treaty. I know he would be proud of me.”

“You never spoke of your father before,” Louise said to him.

“He’s dead now. Everyone is. That life is over. My family now is on Forêt. Dominic and my Angeletta and their children.”

“But you have not forgotten him?”

“He sleeps in my mind,” The Doctor answered. “They all do. When I need them… when I need his strength or my mother’s gentle nature, or the wisdom of my grandfather, I can recall them and know they are smiling on all that I do. But it hurts to remember them too much. Better if I let them sleep easy and look to the future.”

“Our future?” Louise asked.

“Yes,” The Doctor replied. “Yes, my dear. And in the immediate future, there is a light tea being delivered. Then I want you to take a little nap before you get ready to be a jewel in the eyes of all at the reception tonight.”

Louise sighed softly. How could she tell him that she didn’t want to be a jewel in the eyes of all those strange, strange beings who puzzled and even frightened her. She didn’t want to talk to any of them.

“I have to be there,” he said, as if he understood what she was thinking. “For a little time at least. So do you. It’s expected.”

“On Forêt, I was never ‘expected’ to do anything,” she told him. “I didn’t know it would be like this. I thought… it would be the two of us. I don’t mind sitting in the gallery watching you. I know nothing of this kind of work, but I am learning. And I am proud to watch you. I am proud that you are my husband. But… I’m not ready for the rest of it. Let me stay here, cherí, in our room, and wait for you.”

The Doctor looked at her carefully, then he kissed her hands gently.

“My Louise,” he said. “I have been selfish and blind. I thought only of how proud I would be with a beautiful woman at my side, one who others would admire. I thought of how they would admire me because I have such a beautiful wife. Selfish, stupid. Forgive me.”

“I forgive you, cherí. But… the reception… I cannot.”

“You don’t have to,” he promised her. “You look very lovely in the dress you are wearing. I will send my apologies to the reception and we will take a quiet walk on the observation deck and then a light supper and bed.”

He had been very stupid, he reflected as they took the turbo lift. He had expected too much of her. He had been trying to make her somebody she was not. He had fallen in love with a hamadryad who lived a simple life among the trees of Forêt. And now he wanted her to be a sophisticated women, mingling with ambassadors and crown princes. Of course it overwhelmed her. If it didn’t, she wouldn’t be the woman he had fallen in love with.

He took her hand as they stepped out onto the observation deck. It was directly above the conference hall and was a circular gallery. There was a smoked glass floor in the middle that actually looked down into the hall, but around the edge was a walkway with a three hundred and sixty degree view through the exo-glass windows.

“It looks even more beautiful from here,” Louise said as she looked out at the red star and its planet. “Yet… very alien.”

She realised her mistake as soon as she said the word. And yet, she couldn’t think of any other way to describe it. Proxima Centauri was alien looking.

Even The Doctor thought so, and he had been born and raised under a yellow sky that turned burnt orange and chocolate brown at night. Red dwarf stars were sinister looking, somehow.

“You can understand why we feel the need to expand our horizons beyond such a place,” said a man who stepped closer to them. Louise drew towards The Doctor instinctively. But there was nothing to be frightened of about this man. He was Human, anyway. She recalled that he was one of the Earth delegation. He bowed to her politely and then put out his hand to The Doctor, who reached and shook manfully.

“Robert Michael Kennedy,” he said in introduction. “Ambassador from Earth to this Conference. And you, I understand, are The Doctor.”

“I am. May I present my wife, Louise.”

She looked at Ambassador Kennedy and decided he was a good man. His face was open and honest. He had brown eyes like The Doctor, and he smiled with them as well as his mouth when he again bowed to her. When she replied to a question he asked her he was surprised by her accent.

“You are French?”

Louise hesitated. The Doctor had already explained to her that this was a very long time before her ancestors became Forêteans. The planet was still unknown to the Human race from which she was descended.

“Yes, I am,” she managed to say. “Yes.”

“So…” Ambassador Kennedy looked at The Doctor. Of course, the fact that he was a Gallifreyan, a Time Lord, something legendary among the species that were gathered on the Nexus platform. “You married a Human? Your interest is not completely impartial?”

“My vote will be,” The Doctor assured him. A look passed between the two men. It was a look that could only be understood by those who have worked in diplomatic circles, where words would be dangerous and body language, the twitch of a face muscle, could mean war or peace.

Ambassador Kennedy understood. He turned the conversation to small talk, asking The Doctor how long he and Louise had been married and other easy topics. As they chatted, Louise became aware of somebody watching them. She half turned and saw another figure on the observation deck. He was a lot further away, right across the other side of the glass floor, but even the brief glance before she turned back made her shiver.

“Who is that?” The Doctor asked quietly, noting her expression.

“I’m not sure,” Ambassador Kennedy answered. “One of the humanoid races, at least. I know it isn’t a good thing for a diplomat to say, but I do have trouble with the ones that don’t look like us. It… was a bit of a shock to us to discover just how many different species there were out here among the stars.”

“My people have had space travel for quiet a lot longer than yours,” The Doctor replied. “We’re more accustomed to the diversity of the universe.”

“But a lot of people DO look like us,” Louise pointed out. “The lady from Haollstrom. And even Miras of Letole, even though her skin is so different. And that man before… his head was an odd shape, and he had no hair, but he was still… more or less.”

“Earth religious mythology – at least in my part of Earth – has it that God made the Earth and the Heavens and all that is in it. And that Man was master of all. When we looked to the stars we assumed that those other races would be like us, from the same heavenly origin.”

“On my world, the mythology is that we WERE the gods who seeded the universe and that’s why the humanoid form is so common,” The Doctor replied. “But that doesn’t explain The Gethic. The universe has many wonders and your race is just beginning to appreciate them fully. You should rejoice that you have the opportunity. You are the first generation of your people to be able to meet the galaxy on such equal terms.”

“I shall endeavour to live up to that promise,” Ambassador Kennedy said. “I should be getting back to the reception. But it is good to have met you, Doctor, and you, Madam Louise.” He bent and kissed her hand before shaking hands with The Doctor. Then he took his leave of them. The other man was gone, too. They enjoyed a quiet hour on the peaceful observation deck before heading back to their quarters for the quiet, intimate time The Doctor had promised his wife.

The next morning, in so far as day and night could be determined on a space platform, the conference resumed. Louise again took her place in the gallery and watched as the session was formally opened by the gold-clothed usher.

Then a man stepped forward in front of the adjudicators. Louise breathed in sharply as she recognised the one who had been watching them on the observation deck last night He was, as she noted then, a tall, thin humanoid with a bald pointed head that was, under the conference hall lights, a pale mottled blue-yellow colour. He identified himself as Gyer of the Felspar system.

“Learned counsel,” he said with a polite bow to the adjudicators. “I have evidence that will shock, dismay, and even sicken you. When you are finished, you will surely agree that far from expanding their exploration and colonisation of space, the Human race from the planet known as Earth in the Sol system of the Mutter Spiral should be restricted from leaving the said system and if possible, prevented from any space travel beyond their own natural satellite.”

“Show this evidence,” The Gethic answered in a voice redolent of the deep ocean.

Gyer of Felspar turned to a large video screen mounted above the adjudication panel. Duplicate screens were set up all around the conference room and in the public gallery. All of them switched on at once. They showed still photographs of humans with shining breastplates and shields of metal landing from sailing ships in a place inhabited by slender, dark skinned men who wore clothes made of coloured cloth decorated with feathers. The pictures went on to show the native men greeting the strangers cordially, only to be cut down and murdered brutally.

“This was what happened many centuries ago on planet Earth when one race of Humans, Spainards, they were called, came to a new landmass and encountered the indigenous people, the Tecs. They massacred the men and despoiled the women, destroyed their temples, their villages.”

As more images of bloody massacres appeared on the screen, Louise saw The Doctor make some notes on a block of paper in front of him. The Haollstromnian lady leaned over and read what he had written and then challenged Gyer.

“I understand the names of those two races should be Spaniards and Aztecs?”

“It may be so, madam,” Gyer responded. “These alien words are difficult to pronounce. However, the destruction of the native people is a matter of historical record. And it was not the last such incident.”

Again still images flashed on the screens, showing US cavalry massacring native American tribesmen and – again – despoiling their women. Images of Australian and New Zealand aborigines forced from their lands, after their women had been despoiled, also appeared. Indians armed with spears cut down by British soldiers with repeating rifles were shown.

Then there were pictures of the two European wars of the first half of the twentieth century - scenes of trench warfare that ended in ragged and bloody bodies strewn across muddy fields. There were also graphic images, still and cinematic, of Hitler’s Final Solution – all those deemed unworthy to live in the Third Reich murdered en masse in concentration camps.

And while that horror was still burning in the hearts of those who watched, they saw images of the first atomic bombs dropped in warfare upon unsuspecting civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the pitiful scenes in those cities in the aftermath of the bombs. Louise, shocked by what she saw, turned her face away from the screens and looked at The Doctor. He was sitting back in his seat, pale of face, his lips pressed together, his eyes pools of empathy and sorrow. Occasionally he reached and made a note on the page, but as the wars and atrocities of the Human race in the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century were played out on the screen he more and more just shook his head sadly and sat quietly.

“Stop,” the Haollstromnian Ambassador demanded. “No more of these sickening visions. Please make your point.”

“My point is simple,” Gyer responded. “This is what humans did to each other for centuries under the mistaken belief that they were alone in the universe. These atrocities were committed against those of their species that they believed to be inferior and not fit to live. How, therefore, can we be sure that these humans are not interested only in peaceful colonisation of empty worlds. How can we be certain they are not poised to commit genocide across the galaxy, destroying races that stand in their way of obtaining rich, fertile lands? How can we know which of us will be deemed inferior by these barbaric people and exterminated by them? Which will become the slaves of the Human race?”

Gyer stopped speaking at that point. His point was well and truly made. Around the conference room there was silence for perhaps a minute, then a susurration of voices that turned into a rumble and then a roar. Louise looked around at the various beings who sat with her on the balcony. They were all expressing, in various ways, their shock and horror at these revelations about the violent nature of the Human race. How, they were asking, could they possibly be expected to share the galaxy with such fiends?

Only the Alpha Centuaran by her side was not condemning humanity out of hand. He or she – Louise still wasn’t sure which it was – just kept saying over and over, in a high-pitched, squeaky voice, ‘It cannot be so. It cannot be so.”

She looked at The Doctor. He was still sitting there very quietly, very still, shaking his head sadly. She longed to be with him. She wanted him to hold her in his arms and gently explain that it was all a mistake, that Gyer had falsified the evidence, and that, in a very short time, the truth would be known.

Miras of Letole stood and called for order. When she didn’t get it right away she nodded to the huge man in the spun gold robes who took up a staff and crashed it against a giant gong. The sound reverberated around the room and by the time it died away silence prevailed once more.

“Where are the delegates from the Earth Federation?” she asked. Ambassador Kennedy and his colleagues, four men and a woman, stood. The Ambassador himself stepped forward. He looked worried, but he drew himself up proudly as he faced the adjudicators.

“Do you have any evidence to rebut the charges laid against the Human race?” Miras of Letole asked him.

“Not at this juncture,” Ambassador Kennedy replied. “We would ask for time to consider our statement to the Diet in the light of these serious objections to Human exploration and colonisation.”

The adjudicators turned to each other and discussed the request. Louise could see that The Doctor was supporting the Ambassador’s request. So was the Alpha Centurian. But The Gethic was in favour of demanding an immediate response from the Human contingent.

Finally, Miras of Letole nodded and announced that the conference would be in recess for three hours.

That didn’t seem long enough to Louise. The Doctor didn’t think so, either. She had to run to keep up as he strode down the corridor towards their quarters. He was agitated and a little angry and was talking under his breath so fast she couldn’t understand a word he was saying.

“Mon Docteur,” she said. “Please... wait. I can’t….”

She gave a soft cry as her vision blurred and her legs suddenly felt as if they didn’t belong to her. He turned and reached out, catching her as she fainted.

She came around a few minutes later lying on the long leather sofa. The Doctor was beside her. There was somebody else there. She recognised the Haollstromnian ambassador from the adjudicator’s panel.

“It’s all right, sweetheart,” The Doctor told her. “You’re going to be just fine. I need to do something, just now, though. I can’t stay with you. This is Madam Alexis Van Starr. She has kindly offered to sit with you for a while. If we have to go back to the conference she will see that somebody else looks after you.”

“Are you going to help?” she asked. “Those terrible lies that we saw… all those dreadful things…. You will make them see it wasn’t true, won’t you?”

The Doctor sighed as he sat by her side and took her hand in his.

“My dear,” he said. “None of what you saw there was a lie. All of those dreadful atrocities were committed by Human beings against fellow Human beings in the history of your species.”

“No!” She opened her eyes in shock. “Oh, no. It cannot be so.”

“It is, and there is nothing to be done to change that. It came as a shock to most of the delegates in the room. And the damage has been done. Many who would have favoured the Human claim a few hours ago would, if a vote was taken right now, vote against them and even demand that sanctions were put in place to prevent Human exploration of space for a millennia. And if that were all I knew about your species I would be ready to vote with them.”

“Oh!” That admission shocked her even more. He touched her forehead gently and shook his head.

“Fortunately I DO know much more. I know what the Human race is capable of when it isn’t turning on itself. And I am going to do what I can. Meanwhile, you rest, my dear.”

Louise nodded. She didn’t feel capable of anything else. Her head was still fuzzy and she really just wanted to sleep. She felt The Doctor’s kiss on her cheek as she closed her eyes again.


The Doctor strode quickly down the corridor, even more agitated than he was before. Now he had Louise to worry about as well as the future of the Human race.

In fact, the two problems were connected. Louise was ill because the future of the Human race was in jeopardy.

Louise was from the future, from after the Diet of Proxima was signed and sealed and humans had their colonisation programmes well advanced.

But right now, the evidence that Gyer had presented was swaying the conference against allowing humans to expand their empire into deep space. The future was in flux.

He didn’t want to think about what would happen if the future was changed, if the vote went against the Human race.

He didn’t want to, but he couldn’t help it.

If humans were not allowed to colonise then there would be huge consequences for the galaxy, cataclysmic consequences.

But the huge and cataclysmic consequences weren’t what were on his mind right now. Rather it was the personal consequences to himself. It was unusual for him. Usually he was the one person who could always see the bigger picture. He was the one who so often sacrificed his personal needs to the greater good.

But right now, the bigger picture was secondary to the very many ways in which the failure of the Diet of Proxima would impact on his own life. It wasn’t entirely a selfish outlook. He was aware that his personal relationship with those Human colonies of the future had dictated his response to situations with even more huge and far reaching consequences. He had shaped the galaxy as he knew it in so very many ways. And it could all be undone in the next few hours unless he could shape it again.

Whether for his own personal reasons, or for the big picture, he had to get this right.

He had to.

He reached the quarters given over to the Earth Federation ambassadors. As he did so, he noticed Gyer of Felspar at the end of the corridor. For a moment, their eyes met. Gyer’s expression, even from a distance, was chilling. He seemed driven by hate. The Doctor wondered why. And why specifically was that hate directed at the Human race?

The moment ended. Gyer turned the corner and was gone. The Doctor turned to the Human security guard at the entrance to the temporary Earth consulate and presented his credentials. Very shortly he was brought to the committee room where the Earth delegates were discussing their options.

“Doctor….” Ambassador Kennedy rose to greet him warmly. “I… am pleased to see you. But… is this appropriate? You are one of the adjudicators. And we…”

“As you observed last night, I am not entirely impartial in this matter. As I said at the time, my vote will be. That has not changed. But I am here to advise you, as one who has known the Human race for a very long time, and has observed you as an interested outsider who believes, despite all that Gyer presented as evidence of your darkness, that there is a light within your souls, too.”

He wasn’t invited to do so, but he pulled up a chair and sat with the Earth delegates. He began to talk. They listened. When he was finished, he felt that the future had a fighting chance, at least.

He walked back to his own quarters with lighter hearts and a little less sense of urgency. He hoped that Louise was feeling better now. If he had done this right, she should be. It was all connected after all.

He stepped into the room where he had left his wife and felt Madam Van Starr’s distress as very nearly a palpable entity. She was lying on the floor, bound and gagged. He quickly released her and listened as she told him of dark clad, masked men who teleported into the room. They had tied her up and grabbed Louise before teleporting out again.

“Teleportation is supposed to be blocked within the platform,” The Doctor said, even though he knew that was a pointless thing to say. Somebody had found a way around the security shields.

“They left…” Madam Van Starr pointed to a paper note left on the table. The Doctor read it.

“We have your wife. Vote against the Treaty or she will die.” The Doctor’s hearts thudded. “Tell nobody, or she will die. Stop the proceedings and she will die. Continue as if everything is normal.”

“What will you do?” Madam Van Starr asked him.

“I will continue as normal and vote according to my conscience,” he answered. “So must you.”

“But they will kill your wife if you…”

“If I vote against, she is dead anyway,” The Doctor replied in a voice that was close to breaking. “For reasons I can’t begin to explain to you, I must vote for the Treaty. I must. If Louise… If she is the price I must pay… Then…”

He couldn’t go on. He couldn’t say it.

“Madam,” he said. “Go back to your own people. Say nothing of this, please. Prepare for the session as you ordinarily would. Please don’t worry about me.”

“Doctor…” she began. “Very well. I will do my duty. But… worry… you cannot ask me not to do that in these circumstances. You and your wife will be in the forefront of my thoughts. I hope…”

Even the poised and accomplished Haollstromnian Ambassador was lost for words. The Doctor appreciated her kind thoughts and told her so. He kept his own poise until she was gone from the room, then he sagged in on himself. With no-one to see, he let his tears of grief and sorrow fall unchecked.

“Hold onto yourself,” said a voice that seemed to come from nowhere. He looked around and saw the air move before a man in a battered leather jacket pulled what The Doctor recognised as a hand made perception filter from around his neck and stepped forward

“How did you get here?” he asked. “How LONG have you been here? Did you… when they took Louise….”

“As if I would have stood here like a lemon and let them. I’m sorry about that. I just got here. I had to. Do you have any idea how desperate things are right now? The future is hanging on a knife edge. The Diet of Proxima is about to collapse and the Treaty fail. The Human race will be prevented from colonising the galaxy.”

“Do you think I don’t know that?”

“You don’t know that my son and granddaughter are both unconscious. Causality has been damaged and they were affected by it. So was your Louise. You know why, don’t you?”

“Louise is from the future. She is a child of the colonies.”

“And so was Christopher’s mother. You know what’s happening, don’t you?”

“Yes. The future they were born into is in flux. It might be erased altogether if the vote goes against the Human delegates. And if that happens…”

“They’re going to die. Your wife… My son…”

“He’s my son, too. He is a part of my past. So is Susan.”

“And her children, too…. The ripple effect… all of them are in danger right now.”

“I know that,” The Doctor said. “I have been thinking of nothing else since that man… Gyer… since he threw the whole thing into jeopardy – I’ve known just what it means to me… to us… personally. That’s why… You know what I have to do.”

“The Treaty... It’s a matter of historical record – it only passed by one vote anyway.”

“My vote. I have to vote for it… My signature on that Treaty is her death warrant. But I have to… because… because at least I can save everyone else that way. I have to…”

“That’s why I’m here,” the other Doctor told him. “You have to go to the conference hall now. You have to listen to the Human delegation defend their position. And you have to vote according to your conscience. I’m here to… offer you a shred of hope. I’m going to try to find her for you.”

The Doctor looked at that other version of himself whose life had taken so many different turns to his own.


“She must be on this station somewhere. The only kind of craft that could get on or off without being seen is a TARDIS and we can account for all of those. I’ll find her. Trust me. Now go… and do what you have to do.”

The Doctor nodded. It was only a shred of hope, as his counterpart had said. But it was something to cling to. He needed that right now.

The Conference Hall was full. The public gallery was bursting with spectators. The Doctor tried not to look at it, knowing that Louise was not there this time. He tried not to look at Madam Van Starr, either, though she did catch his eye once and he felt a wave of empathy from her that was gratefully received. But it was better not to look at her. It was better not to think about anything but the argument that Ambassador Kennedy stood up to deliver in rebuttal of Gyer’s accusations.

He did as The Doctor had advised him. He didn’t even attempt to deny what could not be denied. The Human race did have a history of terrible violence against itself.

But, he added, speaking eloquently and convincingly. The Human race had learnt its lessons. It had learnt, through bitter experience, having been attacked by one of the deadliest proponents of genocide in the universe. The Dalek invasion of Earth in the mid-twenty second century was the greatest threat to the Human race ever. It had been the turning point for humanity. The people of Earth had come to realise that they must work together to protect themselves from those who envied their workforce, their ingenuity and their inventiveness. There had not been a single internal war between Humans since the Daleks were defeated. Instead they had been united as one race, one planet, and they had achieved so much. They had virtually eradicated famine, and had found ways of turning infertile places into garden spots. They had learnt to cure diseases that were once thought incurable. They had developed sustainable energies and reversed the damage that earlier generations had caused to their planet with fossil fuel pollutions. And they had reached for the stars, proving that they had limitless reserves of endeavour.

“The Human race has achieved so much, and it is generous, too. We are willing to share what we know about growing crops in formerly arid deserts, our knowledge of medicine, our technology. Even, if need be, our military might should the galaxy be threatened by conquerors and invaders like the Daleks, the Dominators, the Sontarans and others who come to make war. Though I hope and pray that none of us ever has to face such an ordeal again. Believe me when I say that we come not only to take from the galaxy, but to give. And we do so in a spirit of peace and goodwill. We ask, only, that you forgive the mistakes made when we were foolish children and believe that the Human race has matured and is ready to be counted among the peace-loving people of the universe.”

The Doctor gave a half smile as the Ambassador finished. He was a man with a gift for oratory equal to his own. And he pleaded honestly on behalf of his own race, for his own future. The Doctor could have stood up there and said the same thing. But if he had, he would have recused himself from the adjudication panel, and that one vote that was going to prove so crucial would have been lost.

He could have recused himself, anyway. Nobody would have blamed him. His wife was a hostage against the final vote which would be taken in a few minutes. Nobody could expect him to make an impartial decision.

Except, of course, he wasn’t making any decision. There was none to make. He knew what he had to do.

“Louise, forgive me,” he whispered as Miras of Letole stood and called for the vote to be taken. The delegates all had one vote, of course. Each and every one of them. They registered it by secret ballot using an electronic button beside their seats. When that was done, and before any result from that ballot was known, the adjudicators then publically stated which way they would vote.

And only then would the result be made known.

The Gethic was the first to make his vote public. In his underwater voice he seemed cold and sinister as he voted against the Human race.

The Alpha Centauran Ambassador emphatically voted yes and invited the Human delegates to discuss trade terms at a later time.

The Crown Prince of Teamia-Cru voted against. Miras of Letole voted for the Humans.

Madam Van Starr of Haollstrom stood and spoke in a clear voice.

“I vote in favour of the Earth Federation’s further exploration and colonisation of the galaxy and welcome them to the community of races.”

The Doctor stood. He looked around the crowded hall. He looked at Gyer of Felspar and suppressed a shiver. He still didn’t understand that man’s hatred of him and of the Human race.

He looked at Ambassador Kennedy and his colleagues who waited anxiously for him to speak.

He swallowed hard and blinked back tears. If the ones who had taken Louise were still on the platform, then they would be able to see what was happening in the hall through video pictures. They would know as soon as he spoke. And they would kill her.

“Yes,” he said. It was not as eloquent as the Haollstromnian vote. It was all he could manage. His hearts thudded as he spoke that one word that sealed his wife’s fate even though it almost certainly saved so many others.

At least he hoped it did. He caught his breath as he waited for the final result to be passed on to Miras of Letole, as President of the Adjudication Panel. She stood and took a deep breath and announced the vote.

The Doctor rejoiced and grieved at the same time as he heard that one single vote had tipped the balance in favour of the completion of the Treaty of Proxima.

There was uproar, of course. Many of the delegates cheered. Some jeered. In the gallery there was the beginnings of what could become a punch up. The short stewards moved in to try to contain it, though with very little hope of doing so.

Then the main door opened. The Ninth Doctor stepped into the hall. The Doctor’s hearts leapt as he saw Louise at his side, pale and frightened, but unhurt. Behind him were armed security officers. As they poured into the hall, the crowd quietened, wondering what this new development presaged. The Doctor stood as Louise broke from the man who had rescued her and ran to him. He held her tightly and was almost too engrossed in her kisses to notice what his counterpart was saying.

“That man is under arrest,” Nine said, pointing at Gyer of Felspar. “For attempted murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and the use of future knowledge to influence the current proceedings.”

Gyer of Felspar gave an angry cry and reached for a concealed gun under his robe. He fired wildly first, hitting The Gethic’s tank. The crack of the bullet being fired was followed by a higher pitched crack as the glass broke and water poured from it. Then he aimed more carefully at Ambassador Kennedy. Nine crossed the floor in an instant and dragged the representative of the Earth Federation to the floor. He missed. The security officers didn’t. The gun fell to the floor as Gyer was shot between the eyes. His body fell in slow motion. The Doctor again wondered at the look of utter hatred on his face even in death.

“I can explain what it was about,” Nine said. “But it should be in Camera. This is not to be made known to the conference generally. When The Gethic’s tank has been repaired, could the Adjudicators and the Earth delegates meet in the chambers given over to the Gallifreyan delegate.

Even though Nine was dressed like a navvy in his plain jumper and trousers and distressed leather jacket, he seemed to speak with authority to everyone within his hearing. The meeting was arranged.


“Gyer of Felspar comes from the planetary system of Felspar in the 28th century,” Nine said. “Yes, nearly five hundred years in the future. In that future time, the middle three of Felspar’s eight planets will happily support two races of people. Gyer’s race, which originates in the Cassiopeia system, and Human colonists originating on Earth. I say happily, because for three centuries they were. Until the system was attacked by a race known as cybermen. They devastated both populations. Those few survivors not used in the most horrific way, became slaves to the cybermen until they died. Felspar became a desert system were life had been eradicated.

The Human delegates murmured unhappily. The adjudicators looked in horror at Nine as he took a deep breath and continued.

“Gyer and a few others succeeded in escaping in a cyberman ship. One with a limited form of time travel. They used it to come back to this time and attempt to prevent the Treaty of Proxima from being signed in the mistaken belief that cybermen were the product of Human technology. They are not. They are descended from another race of people entirely, who evolved entirely separately from the Humans of Earth on a planet called Mondas. That is an incredibly long story, and there is little point in going into it right now. Except to say that cybermen are another hostile race that you need to guard against.”

“Why are you telling us this?” Ambassador Kennedy asked. “Do you wish us to prevent these events in the future?”

“No,” Nine answered. “You can’t. I don’t mean I am forbidding you to try. I mean that nothing you might attempt would change anything. Felspar is a fixed point in time and nothing will stop those events unfolding. I am telling you this, knowing that it will not be spoken of again outside this room, for one reason only. Gyer is dead. That, too, could not be prevented. But I would ask it of all of you to forgive him. He did the wrong thing for all the right reasons. The men who conspired with him, who kidnapped the Gallifreyan delegate’s wife as part of their desperate plan, also did the wrong thing for the right reasons. I ask for leniency in dealing with their crimes.”

“I agree,” Ambassador Kennedy said as Nine finished speaking. “It would do no good to do otherwise.”

All but The Gethic agreed. He abstained from the matter on the grounds that he was an injured party.

“You are an injured party, too, Doctor,” Madam Van Starr said. “Do you wish to abstain, also?”

“No,” he answered, squeezing his wife’s hand gently. “I agree that leniency should be shown. Let it be done.”

Louise nodded her agreement. She was still a little unsure what had happened. She had gone to sleep in her room and woke up a little later in a different room with the man The Doctor called ‘Doctor’ leaning over her and asking if she felt all right. He told her that she had been kidnapped but she was safe now and he was taking her back to The Doctor. That was the only thing that mattered to her.

“You two really should come to visit some time,” Nine said when they were alone in the Gallifreyan delegate’s quarters once more.

“Well, not yet,” The Doctor observed. “We may have got the vote through by the skin of our teeth, but we’ve still got several days more ironing out the fine details of the Treaty before anyone puts their names to the final draft. After that, maybe we’ll drop by. Until then, give my love to everyone. Especially Susan. Tell her I miss her very much. Always have.”

“I’ll do that,” Nine promised. “I’ll best be getting back. Rose will be saying rude things about me. Good luck, Doctor.”

“Good journey, Doctor,” The Doctor answered.