The Doctor sat in the rocking chair on the veranda of the house on the edge of the WholeWheal property, looking out over the Groot Karoo at sunset. He sighed blissfully and daydreamed of Gallifrey, of sunsets over the wide expanses of his home. It was a long time since he had looked upon a Gallifreyan sunset and felt blissful and unconcerned. He was a younger man then, much younger. The last time he saw a sunset on his home world was a few days before it was destroyed, and the beauty and majesty of it was marred by the knowledge of the Dalek fleet closing in to destroy it.

He shook his head and pushed away that memory. He shouldn’t dwell on it. Better to remember further back, to those innocent days, before he had travelled very far from home, before the troubles of the universe became his troubles, before the politics of Gallifrey weighed on him so heavily as they came to do.

He lost himself in the dream, his memory reaching back centuries to those more innocent times.

He took a while, literally coming back to Earth and looked around to see who had spoken to him.

“Coffee, Doctor,” Stella said to him, offering him the cup. He began to reach with his damaged hand, only to remember that he couldn’t yet use the fingers that were slowly growing out from the reforming hand. He took it in his other hand. Stella sat beside him and held his new hand in hers. She looked at it in the lamplight. It WAS recognisably a hand, now, not just a stump. There were fingers, but the thumb was only a nub with no joints in it and the fingers were limp. There were no muscles or sinews to move them.

“Will you have a different set of fingerprints when it’s fully grown?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” he answered. “My fingerprints have always been the same every time I regenerated. It’s the one thing that stays the same. My body does have a sort of basic template in that way.”

“Pity. It would be a good way to do crimes and cover it up,” she said.

“Bit drastic, cutting my hands off. Would have to be a really huge crime. The Crown Jewels of Ebono Gax at least. They have a treasure room a mile long.”

“Do they have any unmarried princes?”

“Yes, but they’re descended from snakes. You probably wouldn’t fancy marrying them.”

Stella laughed with The Doctor at the idea of him as a treasure thief and her marrying a snake prince. He slipped his arm around her shoulder, the half grown hand resting on her arm as she leaned against him.

“When your hand is better, you’ll move on again, won’t you? Off into time and space.”

“Yes,” he answered. “I’ve enjoyed being here these past few weeks. But I belong out there.”

“I’ll miss you,” she sighed.

“Why? Where are you going?”

“Nowhere. But I was only meant to be with you for a year. And that year is up in a few weeks anyway. And I don’t think I’ll be able to travel with you on my own. And I don’t think Wyn is going to come.”

“Wyn hasn’t decided on that, yet,” The Doctor said. “I think it depends very much on what Jamie wants.”

“I don’t think it does, now, Stella answered him. “I think Wyn might make her own mind up. She really does like working here with dad, and they’re making headway with the giant mushrooms together. And I think, I really do think she’ll choose to stay even if Jamie wants to go. Anyway, It’s not as if she would want to live with Jamie in the 51st century. It was ok to visit there, but family mean more to Wyn than she would admit. And besides, Jamie…”

“Yes, I know,” The Doctor said. “But…”

There was something he was going to say. Something that would reassure Stella that she wasn’t forgotten. But the thought was swept from his mind as two things happened at once.

The first was a shooting star that didn’t look like any shooting star he had ever seen. They weren’t supposed to look guided.

The second was a sound he didn’t hear very often from the outside. Because he was the one on the inside of the TARDIS, doing the driving. But it was a sound he knew. There was a TARDIS materialising.

“Stella – keep your eyes fixed on the direction where that thing went down,” he said as he turned in the direction the displacement of air was coming from. He reached for his sonic screwdriver as he approached the tree that wasn’t there before.

A tree in the middle of a semi-arid plain where nothing grows more than a foot high?

“Either you are stupid or your chameleon switch is in as bad a state as mine, chummy,” The Doctor thought as he waited for a door to open. He wondered who it could be. Not The Master, please! He was supposed to be dead. He had died more times even than a Time Lord should.

“Please, not him!” The Doctor hoped fervently. “Not The Master here, where my friends are living in peace. Not him.”

The door opened in the tree. A man stepped out. He had a sonic blaster in his hand. He pointed it at The Doctor. He raised his sonic screwdriver like a weapon.

“That’s in tissue repair mode,” said the stranger.

“I’m a pacifist.”

“That’s….” The stranger looked hard at him then tentatively lowered his gun. “I’m… You’re a Time Lord. I can sense you… but not who you are… May I…”

He extended his hand. The Doctor knew what he wanted. To touch his hand and read his unique identity, to know who he was.

The Doctor wanted to know who he was, too. But if it WAS The Master, then touching him was the last thing he wanted to do.

The stranger grabbed his free hand faster than he expected even from one of his own kind. He was puzzled to feel the half-formed shape but gripped him tightly. The Doctor put up a strong mental block against everything but his unique identity code that told the other Time Lord who he was.

Even that was masked. The stranger was puzzled.

“Your… your full identity is hidden. But you feel familiar. As if I knew you once.”

“You did,” The Doctor answered him as he read the stranger’s identity. “We were… in our first incarnations… we were friends. We were enemies once, too. But mostly we were friends. Oh… Chaos…. It’s been so long, I’d almost forgotten. Hext… Paracell Hext…. You’re…” The Doctor reached out and hugged the young Time Lord who he had known so long ago. “You always had a habit of turning up unexpectedly.”

“I… still don’t know who you are,” Hext answered. “Why can’t I see? You have so many mental walls…”

“You’re still in the C.I.A., Hext? Then you know not to interfere with walls that are put up for good reasons. I’m… I’m called The Doctor. And I’m on your side. That’s all you need to know.”

“Doctor!” Stella called out. “Can I stop looking now?”

The Doctor turned and ran to Stella. Hext ran after him.

“Yes, you can stop looking, sweetheart. I’m sorry I forgot about you. Which way was it?”

Even with the stars to map the sky with it would have been hard to remember if she hadn’t kept her eye on it. The Doctor pointed the direction out to Hext.

“Something came down. Were you tracking it?”

“Yes,” he answered. “It was jumping time tracks, trying to shake me off. But I was right on top of it until it came out of the vortex and my TARDIS was pulled off course by the presence of an earlier model. That would be you, of course.” Hext consulted what looked like a PDA, but was obviously far more sophisticated. “I’ve lost the signal. It must be cloaked. And I’m afraid ‘that way’ isn’t really much use. Not in the dark, anyway.”

“Then come on back to the house,” The Doctor said. “Talk to my friends. Their local knowledge might be of use to you. And we can get on the case in the morning.”

Hext looked at him, then at Stella, who slipped her arm around The Doctor’s waist proprietarily, then at the house whose lights were a beacon in the darkness of the Karoo at night.

“I can’t bring civilians into this case. Especially... This is still a level five planet in this century. No official First Contact made. Why are YOU even here in a social capacity?”

“I’m recuperating,” he answered, waving his damaged hand. “Look, come on… have some of Cliff’s coffee. It tastes nearly as good at the cúl nut latte they used to serve at the Conservatory.”

“Put that gun out of sight, first,” Stella added. “My dad won’t be doing with that sort of thing.”

The Doctor smiled to see one of his own, an arrogant, self-assured Time Lord, rebuked by an eighteen year old Human. Sometimes it was what his people needed. Maybe it they got reminded more often that they weren’t as clever as they thought they were….

He broke off those thoughts. He didn’t want Hext catching hold of them. The events that haunted his mind had not happened in Hext’s life, yet. He couldn’t know about all of that. For his own safety, and his own sanity.

“Coffee,” he said again and turned towards the house with Stella. Hext looked at his retreating back then followed, as The Doctor expected he would. He followed him into the house, to the drawing room where the family were at their own peaceful pursuits in the evening. Jo was at a weaving loom with a bag of yarn, producing a piece of very colourful cloth. Cliff and Wyn were working on a design for something to do with the mushroom sheds. Stella was right. Wyn looked very happy working with her father. Jamie was on the floor playing chess with K9.

“You know, he cheats,” The Doctor said to Jamie.

“Correction,” K9 replied. “I do not cheat, Master Doctor. You frequently employ distraction to prevent me from completing games in which you would lose.”

“That’s not of Gallifreyan design, surely?” Hext asked, looking at K9 with undisguised curiosity.

“No, he was made by brilliant, Human imagination,” The Doctor answered. Then he introduced Hext to his friends. They all looked at him with equally undisguised interest and curiosity.

“He’s a Time Lord?” Jo asked. “Like you? From… from Gallifrey?”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. And he knew the question that would inevitably come next and headed it off. “Hext is – as he doesn’t seem to have realised yet - accidentally out of his own time line. Chasing an unknown alien entity with time travel capability has thrown him out. When he and I were friends he was a hundred and sixty years older than me. He left the Academy when I was just starting out. He was an agent of the Gallifreyan secret service when I graduated. And if I’m right… he’s not much older now than when I saw him last. But I don’t recognise his face. He must have regenerated.”

“I’m six hundred and seventy-nine and on my third regeneration,” he replied. “But you… When I reached out to you… I felt the pain of many regenerations… Yet you’re not VERY much older than me, at least by our standards.

“1,003 last birthday. And I’m on my tenth regeneration.”

“You must have lived a life as dangerous as mine,” Hext said. “You’re in the CIA, too?”

“The CIA?” Cliff queried.

“That’s the Celestial Intervention Agency to us,” The Doctor explained. “But much the same job as the organisation you’re thinking of. And no, I was never formally an agent. Though I did do the same work… the same risks…” He smiled. “You should have figured it out by now, Hext. You’ve had enough clues. But never mind. I promised you coffee. And we’ll talk about your case.”

Jo brought coffee, and sandwiches. Hext was still wary, though. The idea that he should talk about his case in front of so many non-Gallifreyans bothered him.

“You’re among friends, Hext,” The Doctor told him. “Jamie there is a Time Agent. She’s in the same line of work as you, but for the Earth Federation. She can give you practical help in many ways. Wyn and Stella are seasoned TARDIS travellers. Jo, never really liked being in the TARDIS, much. She’s a home-loving girl who liked to keep her feet on Planet Earth, but she knows a thing or two… just not about science. And Cliff, DOES know about science. He is one of this planet’s greatest minds. And don’t you dare make any comments about lesser species. The Human race beats us hands down for resourcefulness. They keep on thinking where we stand still.”

“But this is still a level five planet…”

“And forget that, too. The idea of First Contact with this planet is utter rubbish. Non-terrestrials have been coming here for centuries. I’ve seen off the Sontarans from the 12th and 20th centuries, Daleks from the 19th, 20th and 22nd century, Cybermen, Zygons…”

“Nestene and Autons,” Jo added. “Axons. AND The Master. One of YOUR lot who tried to conquer the planet.”

“One of OURS?” Hext was puzzled. “That is utterly against the Laws of Time. For a Time Lord to use his powers to subvert another planet…”

“Yeah, I’ve told him that, several times. But I take it you’re not pursuing a rogue Time Lord right now?”

“I’m not sure what I’m pursuing. It’s a shape-shifter with hyperdrive and time travel capability, and it assassinated the Gallifreyan Ambassador to the Lacretix Conglomerate.”

“And then came to hide itself HERE? Then it does involve these people, these Humans. Their community is affected. So let’s have no more nonsense. We’re all working together on this. What sort of shape-shifter are we talking about?”

The Doctor’s question tacked suddenly on the end surprised Hext. He wasn’t ready for it. He stammered as he admitted he had no idea.

“Ok, don’t worry about it,” The Doctor answered, letting him off the hook. “Tomorrow we should try to find the craft. Cloaked or not, it will leave some kind of trace. There are only so many kinds of cloaks and they all have their flaws. Chameleon switches are the worst. Your TARDIS decided to be a tree in a desert. Not so clever.”

“I’ve been having trouble with that. Still, it’s better than a Type 40. They always get stuck.”

“Don’t knock the Type 40s,” The Doctor responded. “I’ve flown one most of my adult life. But anyway, we still can’t do much until first light. That’s a good eight hours away. I wonder… are you still any good at multidimensional chess? It’s been so long since I had anyone I could play it with.”

“You haven’t been home recently?” Hext asked.

“No. I’ve… lived here on Earth as much as I have on Gallifrey. It can get… tedious there. Don’t you find it so… When you’ve been a field agent, and seen so much out there in the universe… Gallifrey can feel so… boring.”

The Doctor knew that Hext did think so. The two of them were alike enough in that respect. Hext never formed the same attachment to Earth he did. But the stultifying boredom of Gallifreyan politics had as little appeal to him. Even so, he loved his home world. He had answered the call just like all the other offworld Time Lords when Gallifrey faced its darkest hour. Hext had died, bravely, he recalled, in the final attempt to prevent the Dalek fleet entering Gallifrey’s solar system.

Again, he pulled his thoughts back. He was in danger of giving too much away. Hext had taken note of his request not to probe behind his mental walls. But his face was giving away too much. He looked at Wyn. He knew what she was thinking without even trying. She had realised at once what Hext’s presence meant. Somebody from Gallifrey, out of his time, somebody for whom Gallifrey still existed, whose TARDIS was in contact with the homeworld. It was a dangerous situation. There was a risk of giving Hext dangerous foreknowledge, even accidentally, through his own careless and emotional thoughts.

And there was a risk that it would drive him mad with homesickness.

That was why he suggested multidimensional chess. It was a game played, not on a physical board, but on the image of one created by the power of a strong, disciplined, Time Lord mind. The pieces were also created and moved by the mind, and a game could last for days if the players were strong enough. He would settle for being able to concentrate on it for two or three hours, long enough to stop either of them thinking about anything else.

And it worked. Their Human companions watched, fascinated, as The Doctor and his fellow Time Lord sat opposite each other at the table and conjured a very solid looking hologram between them, with pieces that moved fast and furiously. Stella sat close to The Doctor and watched his face. His eyes were open and his pupils dilating rapidly as he concentrated on the game. Hext was the same. She wondered if either had a natural advantage over the other. The Doctor was older, more experienced. But Hext had youth on his side, maybe? Which was better in a battle of wills?

They seemed to be evenly matched. K9 apparently knew the rules of multidimensional chess and commentated upon the match for the benefit of the Human spectators. The Doctor won the first game, then Hext, then The Doctor won two of them, then Hext won three and the next was a stalemate. The Doctor won another game and then two more long, drawn out stalemates followed. Jo made cocoa and sandwiches for everyone, but she was reluctant to disturb the two players.

“Wouldn’t it be rather dangerous, do you think?” Jo asked. “Like waking sleepwalkers or people in a trance… I remember when The Master hypnotised me. The first day I met The Doctor. He had to be very careful about getting me back out of it. And look at them. They’re concentrating so hard. We could give them brain damage or something.”

“Can they hear us?” Stella asked. “It’s weird…”

“I suppose they both know what they’re doing,” Wyn said. “Though I wish they would finish it. The Doctor was supposed to be recuperating here, after a bad experience. Not driving himself like this. And who is this guy? He has never mentioned him before.”

“Apart from The Master, I never heard him mention any other Time Lord before,” Jo pointed out. “He doesn’t really talk about his past.”

“Well, he seems to trust him,” Stella said. “He hugged him like he was an old friend when he recognised him. I think he’s happy to be with one of his own sort for a change.”

“Just in case they CAN hear, I think we should stop talking about them,” Jamie warned her. “How long have they been doing this for now?”

“Three hours, fourteen minutes and fifty-five seconds,” K9 told them. “The game will end in approximately two minutes. The Doctor will win this game in 102 moves.”

“Take your word for it,” said Cliff, the acknowledged genius of the family, who had lost track of the game an hour ago but had found himself unable to take his eyes away from it.

In fact, it was two minutes and thirty seconds, but K9 had predicted the result accurately. The Doctor’s eyes suddenly flickered as he made the winning move. Hext’s eyes moved, too. The board vanished as their concentration broke. Hext stood to congratulate The Doctor on a well fought game and then swooned dizzily. The Doctor stood up, apparently unaffected and caught him before he fell. He sat him back down on the chair and asked Jo to put lots of sugar into a mug of milky cocoa.

“Sugar burst, replace the lost energy. Well played, Hext. You almost had me cornered a couple of times.”

“We’ve played before, I know we have,” Hext said as he drank the cocoa. “I knew your technique. That’s why I was able to match you so well. And you knew my style. Actually… our styles were quite similar. Did we learn to play from the same teacher?”

“No. My father taught me. Yours taught you, I suppose. But maybe they had a common teacher. Seriously, Hext, you ought to have worked me out by now. But never mind. It’s nearly midnight. And don’t forget there are only twenty four hours in an Earth day. “We’ll make a start on your fugitive at sunrise. That’s about five o’clock. So up half an hour before…”

Hext looked as if he might be about to tell The Doctor it was his fugitive and he was in charge, but thought against it. Jo told him that he could sleep on the sofa here in the drawing room and made him another cup of cocoa before everyone went to their beds.

Paracell Hext laid himself down on the very comfortable sofa and waited until it went quiet, then he got up and quietly slipped out of the house. He went to his disguised TARDIS and opened the door. At the communications console he made contact with his superior at the Celestial Intervention Agency. He told him that he had tracked the assassin to the planet Earth, sometimes known as Sol Three, and was confident of apprehending him within a few hours.

“I trust that confidence is not misplaced,” his commanding officer answered him. “Carry on with your assignment.”

“Yes, sir,” Hext answered. “But there is something else. I have made contact with another Time Lord. I think he is a Renegade. Do you have any information about The Doctor?”

“The Doctor?” the commanding officer’s eyes widened. “You have found the one who calls himself The Doctor? On Earth?”

“Yes,” he said. “Is he… dangerous? I had the feeling he wasn’t. But… Who is he?”

His commanding officer transmitted a sealed information pod. Hext opened it and the data streamed down the screen far too fast for anyone but a Time Lord to take it in. Finally, he split the screen, leaving a photograph of the renegade Time Lord known as The Doctor in one corner as he addressed his Commanding Officer.

“He doesn’t look like that, now. He’s regenerated. He’s really… How did one such as he become a Renegade? What made him abandon our world, our law?”

“His motives do not signify. The Doctor is no assassin. He is not dangerous in that way. But he is a radical, a dissenter. His ideas are dangerous. Still, he could be useful to you. Say nothing to him for now. Let him help you in your task. His mind, his talents, may yet serve Gallifrey one more time.”

“He WAS a friend, once. To deceive him… let alone to be the one to apprehend him… That is a hard thing you ask, sir. But…” Hext drew himself up tall. “I’ll do my duty, sir. For Gallifrey.”

He completed his report and signed off before returning to the house. The sofa was comfortable enough for an agent who had slept in worse places. He thought for a while about The Doctor. Yes, he knew him now. And he knew that arresting him as a Renegade would be a hard thing to do. He owed The Doctor his life more than once. But a Renegade was a Renegade and he was a CIA agent. He would be neglecting his duty if he did anything else.

These Human people he had befriended might be a problem. He would have to handle it carefully.

He sighed and cleared his mind and put himself into a light trance that would refresh him mentally and physically for the primary task tomorrow morning.

Hext had meant to be the first awake at the hour before dawn, but he found himself being gently shook by The Doctor. He cursed himself for forgetting that Earth time was different from Gallifreyan time and stood up, wide awake and ready. He noted the Time Agent and the woman called Wyn with him, as well as the young girl, though she wasn’t fully dressed and obviously didn’t plan to go with them.

“He says it’s too dangerous,” Stella complained.

“It is,” The Doctor answered. “A shape shifting assassin that has already murdered a high ranking Gallifreyan is not something I want you exposed to, Stella. I wouldn’t have wanted your mum involved in a thing like that when she was my assistant. But you CAN help. Go along to my TARDIS and run the environmental scanner. We’re looking for anomalous readings. Either an obvious non-terrestrial lifesign or an energy signal from the cloaked ship. Transmit anything you find to Jamie’s gismo. K9 can keep you company.”

“That’s a highly responsible job to give to a mere child,” Hext pointed out.

“She’s a child of a genius who has learnt a lot from me,” The Doctor answered. “Anyway, let’s get going. The sun will be up in fifteen minutes.”

The sun rose over the Groot Karoo in fine style as they set out on foot. Both the Time Lords were struck by how much it reminded them of sunrise over their own world. The Doctor tried not to appear too emotional about it in front of Hext, but didn’t quite hide it enough.

“It really has been a long time since you were home, isn’t it?” Hext remarked. “Strange, that. Even for an agent.”

“I’m not an agent,” The Doctor answered. “And my circumstances are different.”

“Yeesss…” Hext seemed to stretch out that one word in a significant way. But even The Doctor couldn’t fathom why it was significant.

“Doctor,” Jamie said. “Stella says there is a signal about a mile north-north-east of here. Very faint, but the TARDIS is picking it up.”

“That makes it just outside the village,” Wyn said. “Most of the workers at WholeWheal live there. We know people. They’ll be able to tell us if there are strangers around.”

“Shapeshifters very often kill people to assimilate their bodies,” Jamie warned. “We may be facing an enemy disguised as somebody we know.”

“You’re a shapeshifter yourself, aren’t you?” Hext said to her. “Haollstromnian. Haven’t met one of your kind for centuries. Interesting. You should know that Time Lords are immune to your pheromone games.”

“That’s ok,” Jamie replied. “My pheromones are only for Wyn.” She grinned at her lover and caught her hand. Hext looked a little disconcerted about their open show of the sort of relationship that never happened on Gallifrey, but said nothing more on that subject.

“We should have brought my TARDIS,” he complained, instead. “This walking is tedious.”

“I already explained, the elders of the village are not happy about my ‘magic box’. Some of the very old ones have superstitions that go back before the missionaries converted them, and they won’t have it around the village. And yours will creep them out even more if it keeps turning into trees that have no business being here. We do this the old fashioned way. Besides, it’s a lovely morning. Blue sky, sunshine, a warm breeze blowing over the Karoo. You never used to have a problem with healthy exercise, Hext.”

“Has he still not worked out who you are?” Wyn asked.

“He doesn’t need to know who I am. It would do him no good to know. I wish it weren’t so. There is so much I would like to talk to him about. But it’s better this way. For him.”

Yes, The Doctor thought. Of all the Time Lords he might have met, Hext was one he had real history with. He remembered fondly the days of his youth when they were friends, when they worked together, when they watched each other’s backs in dangerous situations many a time. When they saved each other’s lives more times than they could count. But if he let one wall down, it would be too easy for the others to crumble. And Hext couldn’t know about the Time War. That was essential.

Hext tried to see what The Doctor was thinking behind his walls. But he was too strong. Of course, he knew the reason for the deception now. He couldn’t let anyone from Gallifrey know he was a wanted Renegade.

Or was that all? Hext wasn’t sure. There seemed to be something else. The emotions he was picking up weren’t guilt or fear of exposure. There was something else. More like sorrow, grief.

It was fleeting, then The Doctor controlled himself again, as they had both learnt to do in a class called Emotional Detachment. Even so, that feeling of grief seemed overwhelming for a second or two.

They walked on in silence, broken only by directions given by Stella, through Jamie. After a mile they were clearly closing in on the energy source, though she reported that it was still faint.

“It should be somewhere around here,” Jamie reported. They were stood on an empty piece of red, dry soil, broken by scrubby grass and a spiky variety of Karoo succulents. “It’s only a very faint signal, like something that started strong but has been decaying gradually.”

“I get that, too,” Hext said, looking at his own hand held device. “A cloaked ship should give off a constant ion signal.”

“We should have bumped into it by now if it’s cloaked,” Wyn pointed out.

“Yes, we should,” The Doctor said looking at Jamie’s wrist gismo and Hext’s handheld together. We’re right on top of it.”

He looked down at his feet.

“Right on top of it…”

He kicked at the soil beneath his feet. It was hard packed with the roots of grass and succulents binding it. Even so, he wondered if he was right. He adjusted his sonic screwdriver and used it to blast away the topsoil.

He tried not to look TOO smug as he stood on the exposed top of the alien space capsule.

“But that can’t be right,” Wyn said. “You and Stella saw the capsule land last night. But the ground hasn’t been disturbed. Not for years.”

“Well, I dare say I could put the soil back pretty neatly afterwards with the sonic screwdriver,” The Doctor answered. “But even so…”

Hext pulled his sonic blaster and began to aim it at what was obviously a service hatch. The Doctor tutted and nodded to Wyn who used her sonic pen to open it in a less destructive way. Hext was the first to drop down into the ship, though.

“Don’t anyone else bother,” he shouted up. This capsule is distinctly smaller on the inside! Give me a couple of minutes.”

It was only a few minutes before he pulled himself back up athletically. He kicked the hatch shut.

“I know what sort of shapeshifter it is, now,” he said. “It’s a Yamelien.”

“One of those!” The Doctor nodded. “Dealt with them a couple of times. Bloody vicious. Mercenaries for hire to the scum of the universe. We’re going to have to capture it alive, you know. You’ll have to question it about who paid it. Yamelien don’t assassinate Gallifreyan ambassadors for free.”

“That was always going to be the plan,” Hext said. “But we have another problem. When it came down last night, I told you I lost its signal. It initialised a time shift, went back forty years. This creature has been hiding for forty years in the village. Perfect camouflage. We counted on asking about a stranger. But we’re looking for one of the village elders.”

“Yamelien?” Jamie queried. “I could smell one of those at twenty paces. If he’s in the village, I’ll know.”

“She’s right,” The Doctor said. “They have a distinctive smell. Rusting iron. They’re ferrous-based lifeforms. We can smell them, too. But not until much closer than you, Jamie. You’re our bloodhound.”

Jamie laughed at the idea of being a bloodhound. Wyn looked a little less enchanted by the analogy, but she understood that Jamie could play an important role in capturing the assassin.

“We have to do this carefully,” she said. “We can’t just barge into the village and start grabbing people who’ve lived there for forty years. Apart from anything else, we’re all WHITE and the village is black. There are really deep issues involved. And if the villagers get upset, they could stop working for dad, and cause him real problems.”

“You are right,” Hext told her. “What do you suggest? Given your local knowledge.”

Wyn looked at her watch. “It’s half past six on Sunday morning. I suggest we go to church.”

The church was a focal point of the village, its white wood cladding shining in the morning sunshine, its stubby spire the tallest thing in a community of low bungalows. Beside the spire was a modern windmill that drove a turbine providing renewable electrical power for the lights inside. Solar panels were considered unsuitable for the roof of a place of worship.

The seven o’clock Mass, greeting the Sabbath morning, was well attended by almost all the people of the village. The two Time Lords, one gendermorph and a Human all sat at the back, quietly and as unobtrusively as they could. Wyn was the only one of them who was raised as a Christian, but it was the wrong denomination for her, so she felt as out of place as her extra-terrestrial friends. Even so, they all stood reverently as the service began. The two Time Lords and the Time Agent had all been taught to respect local customs and religions.

As the priest, deacon and alter servers processed down the central aisle, though, Jamie became extremely agitated. She turned in her place, watching them, straining to see over the crowd of worshippers.

“You’ve spotted something?” Wyn whispered under the sound of hymn singing.

“Yes,” she answered. “But we’ll have to wait.”

Stella had been waiting much longer. She expected it to take time, but she was getting a little bit bored now. She moved around to the communications console, planning to find the local music radio station to listen to. She was surprised to find the TARDIS intercepting a communication. She knew it was nothing to do with her. It was nothing to do with The Doctor, either. It seemed to be meant for Hext, in his own TARDIS. But she was curious. She tuned into the transmission. It was from Gallifrey. She had known The Doctor long enough to be impressed by that. A message from the past, from his dead world.

The contents of the recorded message from Hext’s superior was in Gallifreyan, but of course it translated for her. And the message chilled her to the bone.

“Oh, no. Doctor!” she murmured. “No.”

They waited. Jamie was agitated and anxious through the hour long service. The Doctor and Hext felt much the same. Once Jamie had pointed it out, they, too, recognised the unmistakeable signs of the alien presence. Wyn worried because everyone else was worried. They were all glad when the Mass was over and they followed the worshippers out into the sunshine.

“Wait,” Hext said. “Till there are less witnesses.”

“You were right, weren’t you?” Wyn said to him. “The alien went back in time. He assimilated himself into the village. He’s been here all along. Even before mum and dad moved here.”

“He’s been lying low. But he must know that I’d be here for him eventually. He must have been waiting for me… so he could kill me and make his escape fully.”


“Not as clever as us,” The Doctor replied. “Follow him into the presbytery. We’ll tackle him in private.”

They waited until the priest had finished talking to his parishioners and set off to the substantial white bungalow near the church. If he noticed four people following him, he didn’t show any sign of concern. But as he tried to close the door Hext held it and pushed him quite forcefully into the hallway.

“None of you have any business with me,” he protested as Wyn closed the door and bolted it behind her. “I’ve heard the talk in the village. Two women who live as man and wife. And a man who… the rumour is that you come from another planet. Though I have tried to dispel that fantasy. As for you… stranger…”

“No more strange than you,” Hext answered. “You know who I am, and why I am here.”

“I know who you are, Time Lord. A coward, who could not face me alone.”

“Surrender, now, and I will make this easy on you,” Hext said. “You will be charged only as an accomplice. The one who bought your services is the one I want.”

His blast gun was in his hand, pointed at the faux priest. Wyn was surprised when the priest opened his mouth and snarled with a mouth full of sharp teeth. His skin took on a greyish, inhuman colour and texture as he went into a defensive position, grabbing what looked like an ornamental native spear from the wall. Jamie screamed in pain as the Yamelien aimed it at her and it fired a painful electric bolt. At the same moment he grabbed her and pulled her in front of him as a shield.

“Back off, all of you, or next time I turn it up to kill. You, drop your blaster. And you… that sonic device. I know it is not a weapon, but it has plenty of dangerous functions, all the same.”

Hext dropped his blaster. The Doctor dropped his sonic screwdriver. He glanced at Wyn. She had raised her hands to indicate that she wasn’t carrying a weapon. She wasn’t. She was carrying a pen.

Or what looked like a pen.

“Hext,” he said telepathically. “Do you still remember how to time fold?”

“Do it all the time. On three?”

Folding time was something individual Time Lords could do easily. With two of them in the same space it was harder. The presence of another being who time obeyed cancelled it out. But if they worked together they could hold it for much longer without risk of ripping their own bodies apart at molecular level.

On three, they looked time in the face and forced it to do their bidding. Around the two of them and Wyn, everything seemed normal. Outside of the bubble, where the Yamelien still held Jamie hostage, everything was in slow, slow motion. A second stretched out interminably.

“Wyn, setting Sigma Psi Theta One,” The Doctor called to her. “Stun mode. Now.”

Wyn didn’t hesitate. She turned the cap on her pen until the tiny LED matched the setting The Doctor had called then aimed. She knew it would stun Jamie, too. She hoped it wasn’t too painful to her. She fired. Both fell in a heap, the electronic spear falling out of reach. The Doctor and Hext let the time fold collapse. Wyn reached and pulled Jamie out of the line of fire as Hext grabbed his blaster and turned it to one of its non-lethal modes.

“Stasis,” he said as the Yamelien was enfolded in a shimmering energy field. “Won’t last long, though. Better bring my TARDIS on auto-pilot.”

“I used to have one of those. It broke,” The Doctor said as Hext reached for his TARDIS key, the old sort that looked like a fashion accessory. He pressed it and it glowed.

Stella ran out of the police box as the ‘tree’ emitted the sound of a dematerialising TARDIS. She ran towards it, hugging the trunk as it vanished.

“Oh, my god!” Wyn cried out as the TARDIS materialised in the middle of the hallway, still disguised as a tree. Stella collapsed in a heap. The Doctor ran to her.

“She’s fainted,” he confirmed. “Silly girl. What possessed her? If the TARDIS had been in the time vortex and not just moving spatially she would have died.”

Stella began to come around at the same time Jamie recovered from being stunned. Both were disorientated at first. Jamie groaned rather louder than Stella who opened her eyes slowly and looked up at The Doctor. She gave a shocked gasp and clung to him.

“Doctor, he’s going to arrest you. He’s had orders from Gallifrey. He has to take you. They say you’re a criminal… a Renegade…”

“What? No. Stella, you must have made a mistake,” Wyn told her as she helped Jamie to stand up. “He’s not… that was….”

The Doctor hugged Stella and set her on her slightly unsteady feet. He turned to look at Hext, and was immediately aware of the sonic blaster pointed at him. Stella grabbed hold of him again, shielding him with her own body.

“I won’t let him take you,” she said. “Doctor, I’ll protect you.”

“Thank you, my dear,” he answered, kissing her cheek. “Your loyalty is appreciated. But it’s all right. It really is. Go and stand with your sister. It will be all right.”

“No!” she cried. “No, Doctor…”

“Drop your weapon,” Wyn cried as she pointed both her own and The Doctor’s sonic devices at Hext. “They’re both in laser mode, in case you’re wondering. I’ll cut your head off before I let you hurt him.”

Jamie was pointing the Yamelien’s device at Hext. He was outgunned.

“No,” The Doctor said, very quietly. “No. Nobody has to defend me. Nobody has to get hurt. Wyn, Jamie, lower your devices. Stella, go to Wyn, please. Hext… you don’t have to threaten me, either. If that’s what you have to do, then I’ll come quietly. I won’t try to escape.”

“No!” Wyn and Stella both cried in unison. “No, you can’t do that. Don’t give yourself up. Not without a fight.”

“I'm not going to fight a man who saved my life. Hext, you don’t remember, but I do… and for that and many reasons, I won’t go against you, if that’s what you’ve got to do.”

“I do remember you,” Hext told him. “I got a full report last night. I know who you are. And I am sorry. I’m sorry you, of all people, became a Renegade. But duty, honour, always came first for us both…”

“And it always will, which is why I won’t make any trouble. Neither will my friends.”

“If that’s what you want, Doctor,” Wyn said. “But… look… Hext… will you do one thing. Before you take your prisoners back to Gallifrey… come back home and talk to my mum. There’s something she can tell you that might change things. Something he could tell you, but he isn’t able to. But listen to my mum, please. It won’t take more than half an hour. Then you can go and do your duty. Please… for the sake of…of what you two used to mean to each other… for friendship and… and… whatever else matters to Time Lords… give us that half hour.”

Hext looked at Wyn, then back to The Doctor. His face was impassive. He said nothing to sway him. And that, more than anything was what DID sway him in the end. The fact that he hadn’t tried to call upon him for mercy, but his friends had.

“All right. Everyone get into my TARDIS. Doctor… you and her…” he pointed to Wyn. “Get THAT inside.”

The Doctor and Wyn carried the Yamelien, trapped in stasis, into the TARDIS. Jamie and Stella steadied each other as they followed. Hext came behind them and locked the door before he went to the console and pressed the Fast Return Switch to bring them back to their location outside WholeWheal.

“It’s changed its disguise, now,” Stella noted with a shudder. It had turned itself into a prison van with barred windows. “That’s not fair. I don’t like the sense of humour your TARDIS has, Hext.”

“Neither do I at the moment,” he answered. “I am sorry about all this. I really am.”

Jo was running from the house as they all walked towards it. She was horrified by the story they had to tell her. The identity of the Yamelien distressed her. The priest was an important man in the village. He would be missed, and she was not reassured by Hext’s promise to sort that out. When she heard the rest, she didn’t want Hext sorting anything out.

“You knew last night, and you used him… used us… our hospitality. And all the time you intended to arrest The Doctor when you didn’t need his help any more. You can… you can get out of my house for a start. And get away from this planet. You don’t belong here. HE does. We’ll all defend him, even if you send a hundred Time Lords to take him.”

“No, mum,” Wyn said. “It shouldn’t be necessary. He’s promised to listen to us. And mum, you have the answer to it all. Just… let’s go inside. Sit down.”

Hext was reluctantly admitted to the Grant-Jones home. He was allowed to sit at the table where he had played multidimensional chess with The Doctor last night. Then Wyn told her mum to sit opposite her. The rest pulled up extra chairs and sat.

“The Doctor said it yesterday,” Wyn said. “Hext is out of his own timeline. He’s too far into his own future. The Doctor is much older now than he should be in the right timeline. You said you were a hundred and sixty years younger than him. So in his time you should be…” she did the calculation quickly. “Five hundred and nine? So you should still be on your first regeneration?”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “I was a Renegade. I had left Gallifrey without permission. My granddaughter had left me by then. I was travelling with… oh, it would be Ben and Polly. They were with me when I regenerated the first time. That was hard work. Most Time Lords, their first time, they do it at home, among others of their kind. I had two scared Humans who didn’t know what was happening.

“And when mum met you, you were in your third life. And that’s the bit I think she should tell him. Because if you do, he doesn’t have to believe it. But mum is a corroborating witness.”

“All right,” Hext conceded. “Madame Jones…” He reached out his hand to her. She pulled hers away. “Please, trust me. Physical contact… allows me to be sure of the veracity of your testimony. I promise I will not harm you.”

“It’s all right, Jo,” The Doctor assured her. “Just tell him about when you first met me. Why I was here on Earth.”

“The Time Lords sent him here,” she said. “As a punishment for breaking those laws of yours. They took one of his lives – changed his face – and sent him here, unable to operate his TARDIS to escape. He helped the Human race defend itself against alien invasions. And he was happy to do that, even though it hurt him so much to be banished from his home. Then… I was with him when they changed their minds. They gave him limited use of his TARDIS in order to do work for them. Things they wouldn’t dirty their hands with. They made him do it, because if he failed they could deny any involvement. He was just a Renegade. They USED him horribly. Like he was expendable. But he did their bidding honourably. They had a right to be proud of him. And… eventually… they forgave him. They told him he was free to travel again, in his TARDIS. He was exonerated.”

“But I was told…” Hext began. “Oh… This is because it’s in your past… and my future. We’re out of synch with each other.”


“So, you can’t arrest somebody who has served his sentence and been pardoned,” Wyn said. “The Doctor is a free man. He’s not wanted by anyone.”

Hext clung tightly to Jo’s hand. He carefully probed her mind, going over what she had said. He saw no attempt to hide anything from him. He did see the High Council doing just as Jo had said. Using The Doctor on assignments they wouldn’t have dared send him or any official agent to do. And he saw their grudging pardon.

“You’re right,” he admitted. “He is a free man. In his own time.” He looked at The Doctor. “Why did you give yourself up? Why didn’t you tell me this?”

“Because for one thing, you wouldn’t have taken my word for it. And for another... even as a prisoner… I would have gladly gone with you. Just to see Gallifrey again. To step on her soil.” The Doctor blinked back tears as he said that. “Don’t…don’t ask me why. Please don’t try to find out. But in my time… I can’t ever go back.”

Hext didn’t try to find out. One look at The Doctor’s face was enough to tell him he didn’t want to know.

“If I had arrested you, out of time, it would have caused a paradox. I can’t take you back even if you were still wanted. I’ll… tell them you got away from me. They won’t ask too many questions about how. They’ll be too busy interrogating the Yamelien anyway. I… I had better go. I’ve taken up too much time here.”

“Stay for breakfast at least,” Jo told him. Now he wasn’t trying to arrest The Doctor she was friendly to him again. “The… whatever… isn’t going anywhere. It’s imprisoned.”

“It’s in stasis. It’ll keep.” Hext accepted the offer. People making him breakfast with a smile didn’t happen very often in his life. And now that all was open between them he and The Doctor did have a lot to talk about. His friends listened to some incredible tales of young Time Lord adventurers tackling the universe together.

“Good times,” Hext admitted as they lingered over Cliff’s ersatz coffee. “Times gone. Things had changed for us all. Even Time Lords can’t hold back time.”

“Even Time Lords can make the most of every day, though,” The Doctor answered him. “At least you and I always managed to do that. Too many of them let the centuries slip by and did nothing. Like a lot of people on Earth. That’s the lesson I’ve tried to teach all my fledglings here. Live every day to the full.”

“Yes, Doctor,” Jo told him. “And I have.”

“I have to go, soon,” Hext said. “But… Doctor… for the sake of old times. Let me… let me give you something.” He reached and took his hand – the half formed one. He held it tightly and closed his eyes. A glow surrounded their clasped hands. The Doctor gasped in astonishment. And when the glow faded and Hext released him from his grasp he flexed the muscles in a fully restored hand. Wyn grabbed it, feeling the bones in the fingers and the muscles in the joints. She smiled as widely as he did.

“That’s one hell of a gift.”

“About six months of his life, poured into the regeneration of my hand,” The Doctor said. “A very precious gift.”

“The least I could give you,” he said. “Thank you, Doctor.”

Out loud, in front of his friends, he called him Doctor. Telepathically, he called him by his real name that he heard only rarely. Hearing it pronounced in Gallifreyan was even rarer. He again had to fight to control his emotions. He stood up and walked with Hext, out of the house. The others followed. They all shook hands with him. The Doctor used his new, repaired hand. Then he abandoned all pretence of formality and hugged him tightly.

“I wish I was coming with you. Hext, when you get home, don’t spend your whole time breathing the same air as that fiend in there. Go and walk under our sky. Watch the sun go down. Look at our moon, our stars. Wait for our sun to rise again. Do that for me, Hext.”

“I will,” he promised. “Goodbye, Doctor. I wish I could say we’ll see each other again. But I have a feeling we won’t. Not in your lifetime, anyway.”

“Goodbye, my friend.” He answered. He watched as Hext got into his sinister looking TARDIS and a few minutes later it disappeared. The Doctor stood there for several minutes before Wyn and Stella came to his side.

“You’ve still got us,” they told him.

“Yes, I have,” he answered them. He hugged them both as he turned to Jo and Cliff. He hugged them, too. “I’m still technically recuperating. If you’ll have me for a little while longer.”

He stayed two more weeks. Not so much because he needed the time. It was Wyn who needed it. She had to make the decision and he gave her all the time he needed.

The whole family were sitting on the veranda on a sweet, balmy Karoo evening when she finally told him of her decision.

“I’m staying, Doctor,” she said. “You can take Jamie back to the 51st century. She can’t stay. She has to go back to her work. But I’m staying to work with dad. It’s where I should be. You don’t mind, do you?”

“I don’t mind at all. Have you and Jamie made up your mind?”

“We’ve talked about it. We’re going to stay in touch. I’ve got my souped up phone. We can talk… and text… even over fifty centuries. And she can visit sometimes. She has her vortex manipulator. You’re not the only person with a time machine.”

“The vortex manipulator is more like a space hopper than a time machine,” The Doctor told her. “But if that works for you…” He looked at Stella. She was on the point of tears. “What about you, sweetheart? Are you coming with me?”

“I can’t, can I? I came with you because Wyn was coming as well. But I can’t on my own?”

“Why not? You’re eighteen, now. You can do what you want.” He glanced at Jo and Cliff. He had already talked to them, anyway. They had already agreed to go along with her decision. Stella looked at her father and then went to hug him.

“I love you, dad. You know that. I always have. But The Doctor… he’s… If I could have two dads… then he’s… I love him the same way as I love you. And I’d like to spend a little while longer with him. It’s only a few weeks, anyway. This was my gap year. Soon I’ve got to go and do my a’levels and get into university and decide on my future. But before then, let me have a few more fantastic adventures and see places nobody else ever saw.”

Cliff hugged her tightly and kissed her cheek. He said something nobody else heard and she turned and went to The Doctor. She sat beside him on the seat and he slipped his arm around her shoulder.

“You will HAVE me, won’t you?” she asked. “For a little longer?”

“Of course I will,” he assured her. He couldn’t have refused her now, after her heartfelt words. He remembered her unusual birth on board his TARDIS. He remembered that he had been the first to hold her in his arms, the first to feed and clothe her, before she became Jo and Cliff’s adopted child. He remembered that he had briefly considered keeping her as his own, before deciding a more normal life would be better for her. Yes, for a little while longer, he would like to be her surrogate father, her second dad. As if he could have said no.

“Look up there,” he said, pointing to the big sky of the Karoo. “Pick a star. That’s where we’ll go just as soon as we’ve dropped Jamie home. Just me and you.”