Chrístõ woke with a scream. Once again, despite the medication, his dreams had turned to nightmares. He flailed around, trying to sit up. He forgot the weakness in his limbs and almost fell out of the bed instead. He forgot everything in the first minutes of waking. He forgot that he was an invalid with the muscles in his legs destroyed. He forgot that he was so far from home. He almost forgot where he was and why. As he lay back in the bed, breathing hard, he felt the faint vibration that told him he was in the same cabin on the same space ship that had been his ‘home’ for the past year.

“I wish you would let me do something about those dreams,” said the gentle voice that, more than anything, had kept him from total despair in all that time. The bedside lamp was turned on and he looked at her face. She smiled warmly as she prepared the herbal remedy that eased his pain and might let him sleep a little more this night.

“You know I don’t want anyone probing my head,” he answered her. “Even you, my dear Savang.”

She smiled warmly as her arm went around his shoulders and she lifted him up enough to drink the potion without too much indignity. When he was finished she let him down on the pillow again and tucked the blankets around him. She looked after him with all the tender care of a mother, and all the devotion of a lover. He really would be lost without her.

He would be dead without her.

“My saviour in so many ways,” he whispered to her. “The Mallus had left me for dead. If you hadn’t been there…”

“Is that what you dreamt of again? You really must try to put it behind you. It has been more than twelve lunar cycles.”

“I’ve spent at least nine of them in this room, with no window,” he answered. “The days all seem to meld into one. It could have been yesterday. It still hurts as if it was. As much as I love you, I still…”

He breathed deeply. It hurt. Even a year later, his lungs still bore scars that could not be repaired while his body was as weak as it was. Breathing the burning hot air had scorched them inside. He was lucky to have both working at all. His left lung had shut down altogether at first.

“It was a good dream at first. I dreamt of Julia… of being with her. I was happy. Even though I was an exile, cut off from my home by the invasion… I was happy, because I was with Julia. Then the Mallus came. They weren’t content with killing all of my family on Gallifrey… my father, my uncle, my stepmother… even my half-brother, too young to know what was happening. They butchered them… then came after me…”

“They tracked you down because of the Mark of Rassilon,” Savang said. “They knew you were the one the legends spoke of. You could have defeated them. They couldn’t let that happen. They sent their agents. I came to stop them. I was delayed. I regret that. If I had been there even a half hour sooner… it was too late for the family. The Mallus agents murdered them. Your little sweetheart’s aunt and uncle, and their two boys… it was dreadful, cruel… the poor children. But I might have saved her for you. As much as I love you… I would have saved her for you if I could. I know she means more than I do…”

“Not true at all, dearest Savang,” Chrístõ answered, reaching out his arm to caress her face. She was beautiful in all the ways he had always appreciated beauty. A slender body in a silk nightdress that left little to the imagination, cut low at the top to entice that same imagination, her hair tied back in a pony tail, fine features in a flawless face. Savang Hadandrox, the name of his saviour and his lover – in thought at least, if not deed. She leaned forward to claim a kiss and he thrilled to feel her lips against his. He could do nothing else about it in his wounded condition, but in his hearts and in his head he was still a man, and she knew it.

“I love you, Savang. I love you with my two hearts. And I always will. You were my childhood sweetheart. I loved you since we were eight years old and we went to face the Schism together. I loved you long before I knew what the love of a man and woman meant.”

“But you left me to go travelling.”

“You left me to become a Sister of Contemplation. You broke my hearts when you said goodbye to me in that veil – only your lovely eyes showing. I thought I would never love anyone ever again.”

“But you did,” she told him in a teasing tone. “You had so very many lovers. Let me see… what was that Egyptian princess who wanted you for her consort? Cleopatra… Then there was Elizabeth, Cassie, Bo… that fairy princess I caught you dreaming about once.”

“Pelia!” He smiled despite himself. “Ah, yes. But Cassie was not my lover. She was just a friend. And Bo was never meant to be mine. Julia…” His smile when he thought of other past friends vanished as he came back to the bitterest memory of all. “She was the one I thought… It was prophesised that she and I would be… I never thought to lose her except by old age after a long and fruitful marriage. The Mallus destroyed everything. They…”

“Don’t think of it, macishlughm,” Savang told him. But it was too late. His mind was replaying the awful memory. The Mallus killed her in front of him, in cold blood, while he was a helpless prisoner, his body pumped full of neural inhibiting drugs. He had expected them to slit his throat, too. But that was too quick. They wanted him to suffer in his dying. They left him lying there, unable even to scream, and set fire to the house. He had breathed the scorching air, unable to recycle his breathing. He had felt the flames licking at his body, burning his clothes, searing his flesh. He had been prepared to die. He had resigned himself to it. Death was better than living on now that they had taken everything that mattered to him.

But he hadn’t died. Savang had reached him just in time. The last CIA agent to get away from Gallifrey before the Mallus closed off every possible escape route, she had been given one simple mission – guard the Son of Rassilon with her life.

She had done that. She was still doing it now.

He had woken in a hospital bed. The worst of his wounds were mending, the burns healing, but he was far from well. The neural inhibitors had destroyed his ability to fully repair himself. His damaged lungs stayed damaged. He had been dependent on a respirator for more than a week. And worse, the drugs had damaged his muscles. He regained the use of his arms after long effort, but his body was weakened. His legs were useless. He had left the hospital in a wheelchair, barely able to sit upright. If the Mallus had not thought him dead already, he would have been an easy target for a second attempt on his life.

He had almost given up caring. What was there to live for? He had contemplated suicide more than once in those weeks in the hospital. It was only because he had no strength to wield a knife that kept him from ending it all.

Savang was taking no chances. She knew that he couldn’t stay on Beta Delta IV. And she couldn’t use her TARDIS or his to get away. She booked them a passage on an Earth bound passenger liner under an assumed name. She made sure they had a berth with adapted facilities to allow for his disability. She made sure it was a beautiful and spacious suite, since he was likely to spend much of the four year journey in it.

It was coincidence, a sad, terrible coincidence, that the ship that was due to leave the Beta Delta colonies and return to Earth was the SS Alduous Huxley.

She had booked them onto the ship as a married couple – Mr and Mrs Karn – their name taken from Gallifrey’s sister planet, but sounding as if it could be from anywhere in the universe. It had been a pretence at first. She was an agent, he was her protectee. She was his nurse, he was her patient. She slept on the sofa in the drawing room of their suite. He had lain for long hours hurting physically and emotionally. She had tended to him carefully, objectively. He had felt grateful for her cool professionalism that made the more humiliating aspects of her all round care more bearable.

But one night, rather like this one, when he had woken from a nightmare, screaming in horror, that professionalism had melted away and she soothed him with a kiss on the cheek. He had been so surprised by that simple, warm gesture that he had turned his face towards hers and kissed her on the lips. His nightmares had faded as he lost himself in the touch of her hands, the softness of her mouth, the pressure of her body against his. She had been careful not to hurt him. His body was so very weak, he could hardly take the weight of her slight form on top of him, but he didn’t care about his aching muscles or his burning lungs. He had just wanted her in his arms.

She had lain with him all night. In the morning she had made two cups of lacto-caffeine – the re-hydrated, long haul space equivalent of coffee – and they had drunk them together in the bed, then lain quietly for the rest of the morning, kissing, holding each other tightly. He had remembered that they had been childhood sweethearts before fate took them in other directions, and he had asked her if she remembered, too.

“I will never forget,” she had answered. “I wanted to be your wife, Chrístõ. My father didn’t want me to marry a half blood. I joined the Sisterhood because I would not have any other man but you.”

He had cried. She had kept herself in hope of being his one day. And now he was only half a man who could not give her what she longed for. But she had kissed away his tears and promised to love him for eternity, no matter what happened.

“And I will,” she promised again as they shared the memory of the night they became lovers – in spirit at least. “Besides, you won’t always be ill, my darling. When we reach Earth, there are hospitals there where your muscles can be repaired, where you can get new lungs in a transplant. For a primitive people they have made wondrous medical advancements. I suppose because their lives are so short, they strive to prolong themselves in every way.”

“And then… when I am able to be your husband in every way, we shall be married,” he said. “My Savang… my wife and lover.”

“Yes, oh, yes.” She smiled and kissed him again. He was getting a little sleepy now. The herbal medication was working. She slid into the bed beside him and held him in her arms. He whispered her name again.

Savang smiled. Her plan was going well. Very well, indeed. By the time they reached Earth, the false memories would be so firmly implanted in him that he would never know the truth.

She kissed his cheek as he slept and put her hands on his brow. When he was asleep his mind was almost too easy to penetrate. Manipulating it was childsplay. She gave him another nightmare about the murder of his young fiancée. She saw his face twitch, his expression twist in anguish for nearly twenty minutes before she let the dream change. She took him back to their childhood, to the lessons they had attended when they were being prepared for the Schism. There had been fifteen of them altogether, young sons and daughters of Gallifrey: Chrístõ, the Lœngbærrow heir, his cousin, the Oakdaene son, Rani de Lessage, his other cousin, the daughters of Bórusson, Ussian and Lundar, the sons of Patrexean, Arcalian, Stillhaeven and Borrusilan, and three Caretakers whose names she didn’t remember, who had been deemed fit to try themselves against the Schism.

Yes, she remembered. Chrístõ, however, hadn’t remembered her. He had not even noticed her, at least until now. The fiction that they had been childhood friends was easy to plant, though. After all, he had been her imaginary friend in those years.

She thought bitterly of those long, empty years after her parents brought her back from the institute and installed her in the private rooms. There she had been given every amusement, every stimulation of her mind except the companionship of other children. She had thought about Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow a lot. In her mind they had been friends. He had played with her when she was little. When he was older he had been her companion, reading books together, walking in the gardens, driving in the countryside together. He had been her sweetheart, in her mind as she lived her solitary life, kept apart from Gallifreyan society because that society said she was mad, too dangerous to go to school with the other children, too unstable to be presented as a young lady of Gallifrey.

Even so, she had hoped. So had her mother. She remembered a time, just before her hundred and eightieth birthday, when she had overheard her parents talking. She had been thrilled when Chrístõ’s name was mentioned. He had exceeded expectations. He was top of his graduation class. He was a handsome and accomplished young man, soon to be a transcended Time Lord, and certain to achieve great things.

He would need a wife. An Oldblood wife, for preference. Might it be possible, her mother asked, to approach his father about an arrangement. Savang had almost cried with joy. Her dreams could come true, after all.

No, her father had replied. Lord de Lœngbærrow was against arranged marriages. He would certainly not hear of an arrangement with a girl his son had not seen since he was a child. Besides, Savang was too erratic. No Oldblood House would possibly consider her as the mother of their future heir. If she was to marry anyone, it would have to be a lesser man who would overlook her instability for the sake of the family name.

He mother had cried. Her father had been philosophical.

Savang had burned with anger and disappointment. She was damaged goods, not suitable for an Oldblood, fit only for a man who would take her for her family connections. She would be offered to a ‘lesser man’.

Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow had forgotten she existed. He never even knew such a suit for him was even contemplated. But she burned with resentment at the slight against her by his family. She came to hate him, too, believing that he had, in fact, refused to marry her. The refusal seared her soul. She fixed on him as the cause of all her problems. And she plotted, not only a way to punish his father for refusing to allow the engagement, but to punish Chrístõ, for not loving her as she always wanted him to.

The Sisterhood of Karn had given her the power denied to her by the Time Lord Academies that had refused her entry. She had learnt to push the boundaries of her abilities far beyond any Prydonian or Arcalian, bound as they were by the Laws of Time, by strict morals and restrictions. She had learnt to channel her natural abilities in ways those fools learning in the strait-jacket atmosphere of the Academy could not even dream of. Their imaginations were stunted by their education while she was allowed to grow. She was more powerful than a mere ‘Time Lord’. She became more powerful than most of the Sisters, even the very oldest ones. She stretched herself still further. They had not stood in her way or resented her achievements. They had seen the possibilities of one of them having such unlimited power.

Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow had been her downfall twice. She had escaped from the first prison cell, only to be recaptured and returned to Gallifrey in chains, not just of tempered steel, but mental ones, too. She had suffered the humiliation of psychic dampeners on her mind, preventing her from using her powers. They had planned to send her to Shada, to be frozen for millennia. All because of Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow who had betrayed her once again.

But even in her cell, awaiting her trial, she had plotted to escape, to wreak her vengeance on Chrístõ and his family.

And the Mallus, when they invaded Gallifrey, had been her unwitting allies. The Lœngbærrow family were brought low by them, as were so many of the Oldbloods. If they weren’t already dead, they were ruined.

They had emptied the jail where she had languished, making room for their prisoners of war. She had escaped the planet and gone in search of the ‘Son of Rassilon” as the legends called him. She knew enough about him to know he would be on one of three planets. Earth was one of them. Adano-Ambrado was another. The third was Beta Delta IV. She chose the right one – the planet where his little fiancée lived.

She had thought of killing the girl and her family. But she didn’t need to for this plan to work. Besides, killing them was easy. This way they suffered, too, wondering where he was. They would go mad worrying whether he was alive or dead. Meanwhile, she had Chrístõ just where she wanted him. The drugs she pumped into his body every day kept him weak, almost paralysed, bed-ridden and dependent on him.

And that was suffering enough for him. He ate his hearts out every day because his body had let him down – he who used to be so active, a master of Sun Ko Du, a lacrosse champion, a runner and jumper, a mountain climber, a swordsman. Now he needed to be lifted up from the bed just to feed himself. And it hurt him. But the false memory of how he had been injured hurt him even more and she could remind him of it any time she wanted. Every nightmare, every time he woke up screaming, was one more step towards her goal.

But being cruel to him – as satisfying as that could be - was only one part of it. At the same time she was punishing him with another, more insidious weapon.


Making her love him was almost as good as making him cry and scream with pain. It had a satisfaction all of its own. She enjoyed hearing him tell her he loved her. She delighted in his kisses and caresses. No man had ever kissed her before. She was Savang, the mad woman, locked in her house. No man would kiss her even for a dare, for a laugh. But Chrístõ had told her he loved her and kissed her willingly. Chrístõ had cried because he couldn’t make love to her fully in his weakened condition.

He wanted her. And it had been so easy to make him want her. Those planted memories of their childhood friendship that never was, the blossoming romance that only existed in her head, were her tools. Then she planted the memory of her as his constant bedside companion in hospital, of her ministrations to him as they escaped in the ship. The rest had happened naturally.

It took hardly any time at all before he actually kissed her of his own volition.

She had thought of reducing some of the drugs and letting him regain some of his strength so that they could share a more physical kind of lovemaking. But if she let him regain the use of his body, he would be harder to control. He had to believe he was confined to their suite for most of the time by his own body’s failure.

Still, when he was ready, when his mind was completely turned and there was no danger of him discovering the deception, of finding out that their love affair was a lie, it would be all the sweeter.

Yes, she thought. They could even get married, just as she had once dreamt they would do. They could have a honeymoon night to remember. He would be her lover in every sense of the word. Oh, yes.

Yes, she would let him impregnate her. Maybe, rather than killing him on their wedding night, like a tarangula spider of the Red Desert that killed her mate as soon as he had given her his all, she could let him live long enough to see the child born. A daughter, of course. Men were only good for one thing, and he would have fulfilled that role by then, of course.

Then, she would kill him. She hadn’t decided how she would do it, yet, but it would be long drawn out and excruciatingly painful. He would suffer, not just physically, but mentally, too, once she explained why she was doing it. She wanted him to know how much she hated him. She wanted to look into his face as he died in shame and humiliation.

Yes, ultimately she was going to kill him. There was no doubt about that. But until then, he was hers. He was the lover she had ached for. He kissed her and told her he loved her. And she told him she loved him.

And the funny thing was, she meant it when she said it. She really did love him. The things she did for him, feeding him, helping him to bathe, dressing him, massaging his legs, she did for him willingly, because she loved him. She was happier than she had ever been in her whole, tragic, bitter life.

She gave him sweet dreams for a few minutes more. Then she gave him a nightmare again. Because when he was unhappy, he needed her more. She smiled as she slipped her arms around him, holding him against her, kissing his tear streaked face as she lulled him into an ordinary, dream-free sleep while she enjoyed the nearness of his body and let herself dream a sweet dream of that honeymoon night she so anticipated.


Chrístõ woke again and saw the clock by the bedside. It was ‘morning’ in so far as there was any night or day on board a ship in deep space. Savang wasn’t there, though he knew she had been a little while ago. When the nightmare had subsided, he had dreamed much more pleasant dreams and knowing that her body was pressed against his fuelled those dreams.

In the dreams, he had been able-bodied again, but on waking, his weakness taunted him. The limbs he had dreamt of using remained useless, his wasted muscles aching. He wondered, as he so often did, at her patience, her faith that, when they reached Earth he would be a whole man again and be able to return her love fully. It would have been so easy for her to abandon him. But she stayed by his side, doing everything for him he could not do for himself.

She came into the room now, with a tray of lacto-caffeine. She put it down on the table while she reached and lifted him up. He groaned softly, pressing his face into her shoulder so she couldn’t see how he really felt about needing her help just to sit up properly.

“I don’t care,” she assured him. “I still love you.” She fixed the pillows behind his back and asked him if he was in any pain.

“I’m… I’m fine,” he said. He took the lacto-caffeine from her. It was nearly the same as milky coffee to look at, but not quite there in taste and lacking that distinct aroma. It was nice, though, to share these few minutes together in the morning. It was one of the good parts of his day.

After the caffeine was the part he hated. She helped him from the bed, into the wheelchair and brought him to the bathroom. At least his Gallifreyan constitution meant that he needed to do some things only once a day, first thing in the morning. He still had that much control over his body. But needing her to help him was still humiliating.

The ion shower wasn’t so bad. On good days he could hold onto the rails inside the cubicle while his body was automatically cleansed of sweat and dirt. Shaving wasn’t so bad with the low-level sink and mirror of the adapted bathroom. And he had to admit, being dressed by her had its moments. She always found an excuse to kiss and caress him as she fastened buttons he couldn’t manage and bent to tie his shoelaces.

Even so, he was glad when he was cleaned and dressed and back in the wheelchair. Then she brought him for what she called their morning walk, his half an hour a day when he got to see other parts of the ship. They always chose this time because most of the other passengers were either in the mess hall at the communal breakfasts or in their own suites. He didn’t like their pitying looks at the invalid in the wheelchair. He hated it when they talked to Savang, and not him, even when they were asking about him. He hated them wondering why a beautiful woman bothered with a cripple who could give her nothing in return for her efforts.

It was not the most interesting of walks around the miles of identical corridor. They avoided the observation deck because it was another reminder of how much he had lost. Once he had the freedom to roam about those stars and planets the ship was slowly passing through. Then the Mallus made him an exile. And now he was even less than that. Now he was a fugitive. He didn’t even have his TARDIS. He doubted he would ever get it back. When they reached planet Earth, they would never leave it again.

On the whole, he was usually glad when they went back to the suite. With the door closed and the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign lit, he was alone with her again.

The stewards always brought breakfast while they were gone for their walk. Again, it was easier that way, avoiding those pitying looks.

He enjoyed eating breakfast with Savang. At the table, when she sat beside him, he didn’t feel quite as useless. He could forget that she could leave the table easily and he couldn’t.

They would make the breakfast last as long as possible, lingering over the food and the pot of lacto-caffeine. Then, after she had taken the empty plates and left them outside the room, she would help him from the wheelchair and down onto the plush carpet of the drawing room. She had worked out a programme of exercise and massage that stopped his muscles wasting further and hopefully might help them improve a little.

“If we keep this up for the three years more it will take to reach Earth, perhaps you won’t need to spend so long in hospital. Perhaps you will even be able to walk off the ship with me.”

“That would be good,” he said. “In the meantime… it’s nice to be with you like this. Especially….” He smiled and reached out to her, but she refused his advances with a smile.

“I’ll kiss you soon. First I have to massage your calf muscles.”

“Fair enough,” he answered and lay still, closing his eyes relaxing. He could hear the vibration of the ship’s engines through the floor. It was a soothing sound. It lulled him as Savang massaged his legs before straddling him and doing the same to his chest. It was helping his lungs by expelling old air and letting him take in new. But it felt nice when she put her hands on his body that way. She commented about how his hearts quickened.

“Your touch does that to me,” he said. “Kiss me, please. Before I die of anticipation.”

She smiled and leaned forward until she was lying over him. He ignored the protests of his aching bones and enjoyed the pressure of her body on his. He savoured her kiss on his lips, letting it lengthen indefinitely. As long as he had breath in his broken body he could kiss her at least.

“I love you, Chrístõ,” she whispered.

“I love you, too, Savang,” he answered.

He sighed as the pressure of her kisses increased and her hands caressed his body through his clothes. He returned the gesture, enjoying the contours of her lovely form through the bodysuit. He wished he could do something about the urges that were rising in them both.

“The spirit is willing,” he told her.

“Then that is enough for now,” she replied. “Don’t fret, my love. The rest will come in time.”

He was so intent on the caresses and kisses, and the promise of better things to come, that he almost didn’t notice anything had changed at first. Slowly, though, he realised what it was that was missing.

“Savang,” he whispered. “There’s something wrong. The ship. It’s stopped.”

“What?” She listened and realised he was right. He gave a sharp cry as she moved off him quickly, almost roughly, forgetting how much quick movements hurt him. Helpless on the floor without her, he could only turn his head slowly and watch as she ran into the bedroom and returned presently with a gun in her hand.

“What are you doing?” he asked. “Savang, what’s happened? Why do you need that?”

“The Mallus,” she answered as she went to the door and looked up and down the corridor. “They must have caught up with us. They’ve halted the ship.”

“After all this time? Oh, no. Savang, it can’t be them. It can’t be. There must be some other reason.”

But there was no innocent reason he could think of. Ships like this didn’t stop to refuel or pick up more passengers. They carried fuel, food and water for a four year journey and they didn’t stop from the moment they launched to the moment they docked at their destination. The only reason for the dead stop in space was a hijack. If it wasn’t the Mallus, then space pirates robbing the passengers, or…

His hearts froze as he remembered the disaster that had befallen this very ship a few years ago. The authorised record didn’t admit the truth, of course. Space vampires had not been officially blamed for the deaths of the whole crew and passengers. But he knew. And the very thought of being attacked by one of them while he lay here, helpless, unable to defend himself, was terrifying.

“Savang,” he cried out. “Please, come back to me. Don’t leave me.”

“Oh, Chrístõ,” she answered. “I won’t leave you, my sweetheart.” She knelt beside him and kissed him once. “I’ll defend you to my last breath. I promise you. If we’re going to die, we’ll die together. You have my word on that.”

“I’d rather not die,” he told her. “I want to live, to marry you.”

There were sounds outside the room – shouting and running feet. Chrístõ felt her arm around his shoulders, pulling him up into a sitting position. As the enemy hammered at the door, though, he couldn’t help thinking that she was not defending him with her last breath. If anything, she was using him as a shield to protect herself. He was in the direct line of fire from the door.

“Savang,” he protested. “What are you doing?”

“Shush, my love,” she whispered, kissing his cheek as the lock was shot off the door by a bastic rifle. He looked with fear, and then astonishment, at the soldiers who burst into the room.

“They’re not…” he stammered. “Savang, it’s all right. They’re not Mallus. They’re… they’re…”

But Savang gripped him more tightly as she aimed her gun at the intruders.

“Drop your weapons and back off,” she shouted. “I’m faster than all of you, and I will kill you.”

“Put the gun down and surrender,” replied the woman in the pale blue uniform of a Captain of the Adano-Ambradan space fleet. “You are under arrest for the kidnapping of the Crown Prince of Adano-Ambrado.”

“What?” Chrístõ exclaimed. “No, stop. Savang, stop. It’s ok. They’re not…” He looked at the soldiers. “Please, lower your weapons. I’m not a hostage. I haven’t been kidnapped. This is a mistake.”

“Drop your weapon,” the Captain repeated, pointing her gun directly at Savang.

“Get back,” she said. “All of you get back, or I will kill him.”

Chrístõ gasped as he felt the coldness of the gun against the back of his neck. If she fired he would be dead in an instant.

She was bluffing to make them back off. She wouldn’t kill him, he reasoned. She said she would die with him.

“No,” he told the soldiers. “No, this isn’t what it looks like. Savang is an agent of the Gallifreyan government. She’s protecting me from the Mallus.”

“She is a criminal who kidnapped you, your Highness,” replied the Captain. “Move away from her, sire. Come towards me, slowly.”

“I can’t, he answered. “I’m… I can’t move. But... please, stop this. I don’t know why you’re here, but…”

“They’re here to kill me, Chrístõ,” Savang told him in an oddly cold voice. “But you’ll die first, macishlughm.” He felt her kiss on his cheek, and at the same time the gun pressed further into the nape of his neck, over the Medula Oblongata, the one place a bullet could penetrate his Time Lord body and kill him outright with no hope of repair or regeneration.

“Savang, what are you doing? Please stop this. They’re not the enemy.”

“I love you, Chrístõ,” she told him. “Whatever else might not have been true, that is. I love you. I hate every atom of your being, too. And I will kill you in a heartsbeat. But I love you.”

“I don’t understand…” he began. Then he saw the Captain nod to one of her soldiers. The soldier reached into her belt and threw something towards them. He screamed along with Savang as an electrical current surged through them both from the energy grenade. He fell to the floor as Savang lost her grip on him. He saw a bastic bullet plough into her shoulder and she dropped the gun.

“Don’t kill her,” he managed to say as the soldiers reached her and the Captain bent over him, shouting for a medic.

“You’re going to be all right, your Highness,” he heard her say before it all went black.


He wasn’t sure how long he was unconscious. It might have been minutes. It might have been hours.

“A week,” a voice said close by him. He opened his eyes and looked into his own face – or at least the face of his doppelganger, Penne Dúre, king-emperor of Adano-Ambrado. He was dressed in the uniform of an admiral of his fleet – honorary, of course – with the gold circlet denoting his royal status nestled in his dark, curling hair. “You’ve been unconscious for a week. Time enough for my ship to get you back to Beta Delta IV. We’ll be in orbit in half an hour.”

“Why would you take me back there? There’s nothing but ashes there for me. And… what do you mean a week? We were a year from there on the Aldous Huxley.”

“You were six weeks out. My people were monitoring the situation. We knew that was where you were. But the Earth Federation said there wasn’t enough evidence. They wouldn’t let the ship be intercepted in their territory. I had to wait until neutral space to intervene. Even then, I had to claim you as a bone-fide member of the Adano-Ambrado royal family taken under duress in order to avoid a rather embarrassing charge of space piracy.”

“But, Penne… I’m… You don’t understand. I wasn’t kidnapped. Savang… the Mallus. We had to… she got me away from them. And… Six weeks? No. I was more than that long in hospital. And then the ship… It’s nearly a year and a half altogether.”

Penne sighed.

“She really worked her way on you. The physical damage was bad enough. That’s why you were unconscious for so long. Once we cleared your body of the inhibiting drugs it mended, though you would have been in agony. It was better to let you sleep. But there was nothing we could do about the implanted memories. You’ve had a half a dozen CAT scans already. I’ve had one of Adano-Ambrado’s finest neurologists brought here by hyperjump, but he said there was nothing he could do about it.”

“What implanted memories? Penne… don’t. It’s not fair. Where is Savang? What did your people do to her? I’ve got to see her.”

“She’s in the brig, where she belongs. We’ve got her under psychic lockdown so there are no more of her tricks.”

“Penne… I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t have any false memories. And Savang… I love her. I…”

“Chrístõ…” Penne reached out his hand and touched his head gently. “It really is deep. This is going to be hard for you to get over. But you DON’T love Savang. She is a criminal. You love Julia, and in a very short time you need to remember that, because otherwise she’s going to be even more upset than she has been in these weeks that you were missing.”

“Julia is dead. The Mallus killed her and her family. I saw her die…”

“Oh, sweet mother of Chaos!” Penne swore. “She made you think that? The cruel, sadistic @#%$£…” Chrístõ flinched at the word Penne used to describe Savang. It was one he would hesitate to use about any woman, least of all her.

“Chrístõ, listen to me. Whatever you remember is not true. Savang stalled your car on the highway on the way home from school. She stunned Julia and her two cousins and left them unconscious while she stuck you with a neural inhibitor and possibly some sort of hallucinogen so that you didn’t know which way was up. The Beta Deltan authorities took their time figuring this out. By then the Aldous Huxley was in flight. And as I said before, they were unhelpful. They’ve had to do a hell of a lot of back-pedalling and apologising to me now that I’ve proved that the kidnapped Crown Prince was aboard their ship. They’re doing all they can to avoid a diplomatic scandal. Julia and her family are getting full on VIP treatment at the space port. I think the Governor is turning out to meet my royal shuttle, too.”

Chrístõ didn’t care about the Governor or the royal shuttle. He fixed on one thing.

“Julia is alive?” He felt as if he was going to explode, just trying to work out what was real. “Penne... tell me… tell me, please. I need you to say the words…”

“Julia is alive. Yes, she is. Get THAT much into your head and maybe the rest will follow. She is alive, and so are you. Now, come on. We need to get you looking something like the man she loves. Your new muscles are going to ache for a day or two, since you haven’t used them yet. But I’m hoping you can at least walk off the shuttle without a crutch. It’ll look better.”

“Walk?” He had been so used to being crippled it hadn’t even occurred to him. He could feel his legs. His muscles protested as he flexed them, but they worked. He wriggled his toes. He took a deep breath and felt his lungs free from pain.

“None of it was real?”


He still felt confused. The memories that felt most real to him were of a year and more travelling with Savang. Her sweet loving care for him felt real. But Penne insisted she kidnapped him and drugged him, and it had only been six weeks since she took him from his loved ones. He trusted Penne with his life. If he said that was what happened, he had to believe him. But the memory of Savang’s kiss on his lips was much easier to conjure than the truth.

“Come on, brother,” Penne told him as he helped him get out of the bed in the sick bay of the Ruby of Adano, the flagship of his fleet. Orderlies hovered anxiously, but Penne waved them all away. He, the king, would attend to his friend, his blood brother, his nominated heir, himself.

Chrístõ stood on his own two feet. He felt shaky, though, and he needed Penne’s help to reach the bathroom. When he got there, though, he was able to do the things a man needed to do for himself. By the time he had completed his ablutions and was dressed in a cleanly pressed shirt and trousers and tied his shoes for himself, he could feel the change in the engines as the ship came into orbit.

He leaned on Penne as they walked to the hangar bay where the royal shuttle waited. When it landed in the space port, though, he did his best to walk unaided down the steps to where the Governor waited to greet him and an Earth Federation Space Corps honour guard saluted him and Penne. The attempt at a formal greeting, though, collapsed as Julia broke through the line and ran to Chrístõ’s embrace.

“I’ve missed you,” she said. “Even this past week when I knew you were safe, when Penne told me he was bringing you home, I missed you.”

“I…” Chrístõ’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh, sweetheart. I’ve missed you, more than you can begin to imagine. I’m so… Oh, I love you, Julia. Nothing else matters right now.”

And right then it didn’t matter. Later, he had to tell her the whole story, and it was distressing for them both. When he told her of his implanted memory of her death it was shocking. When he told her how he had been made to believe he loved Savang, it made her cry. But she had to know. There couldn’t be any secrets. She was at least assured of two things. First, that he had done nothing in the weeks he was with Savang that compromised his Bond of Intent to marry her, and second, that his feelings for Savang were lies put into his head by her, and that he did, in truth, love her, Julia, his only real sweetheart.


But, even so, there was something he felt he had to do. Penne was shocked when he told him, and advised him against it, but he insisted. He came back to the Ruby of Adano and, escorted by armed officers, he went down to the brig where Savang was being held prisoner. Since she could not be returned to Gallifrey, and her crime was against the Crown Prince of Adano-Ambrado, she was to be subject to Adano-Ambradan justice. She would be imprisoned. But she would also have help, of the best kind, to try to get to the core of her madness and rehabilitate her. Chrístõ was happy with that plan. It was, he thought, far better than the slow madness of Shada’s cryogenic prison.

She was under close guard at all times, and had her psychic powers dampened by a neutralising field. She was sitting quietly in her cell that was both physical and electronic, the steel bars augmented by a forcefield. Her long hair had been cut, though she was not close shaven as male prisoners were. She was wearing a shapeless dress of dark blue linen fabric. She looked defeated and sad. She kept her eyes cast down and seemed unaware of who had come to visit her.

“Let me near her,” Chrístõ said. “Don’t worry, I’ll be all right. She’s no danger now.”

The guards looked to Penne for confirmation of the order. He didn’t like it, but he nodded his agreement. Chrístõ was allowed to enter the cell, as long as four officers, armed with live rounds in their guns accompanied him.

“Savang,” he said.

She looked up at him, but her beaten expression did not change.

“‘I love you, Chrístõ,’” he said. “That’s what you told me. ‘Whatever else might not be true, that is. I love you.’”

Her eyes flickered but she said nothing.

“I just wanted to know if… possibly… that might be the one thing you did or said that wasn’t a lie?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Then… I think… the one thing I can say of all this… is that… my love for you wasn’t a lie, either. I did feel real love. It was our relationship that was a lie, not the love. I DID love you.”


“Yes,” he answered. “It’s over. And I expect never to see your face again. But I will try to remember the things about our relationship that were good.”

“If things had been different… if we had known each other as children… do you think we could have had a chance?”

“I don’t know,” he answered. “Maybe. But it didn’t happen that way. All I can do is… is this.”

He heard bastic rifles being cocked behind him and he knew that the guards were aiming their weapons at her, and he could feel Penne’s anxiety in his head. But he stepped closer and embraced her. She couldn’t return the gesture. Her hands were chained. He put one hand under her chin and raised her pale face as he kissed her. One long, lingering, tender kiss for the sake of what might have been, not what shouldn’t have been.

“That kiss was given willingly,” he said. “You are welcome to it. Let that mean more to you than all the stolen kisses you took from me. Let that… be a token of love to keep in your hearts in the long years to come. And now…” He stepped away from her. “Savang Hadandrox… goodbye. Rassilon keep you.”

He stepped out of the cell. The bars and the forcefield slammed into place. Chrístõ walked away. Penne followed him.

“Are you going to tell Julia about that?” Penne asked as he walked with him to the shuttle bay.

“It was her idea. We talked about it. She asked me if I thought any part of it might have been real. That’s why I came to see her, to find out. And now, Julia and I are going to have a long weekend at Delta Park, with sunshine, swimming, ice cream sundaes and long drinks with umbrellas and put all this behind us. What about you? You’re leaving soon?”

“As soon as my shuttle pilot returns from taking you back to the planet.”

“Look after her, won’t you. She’s… she is a criminal, but her problems were… they were not of her making, wholly. We all, we Gallifreyans, I think we all share the responsibility for her. So… look after her.”

“She will be cared for,” Penne promised. “As for you… my brother… I don’t know when I shall see you again. Political matters bigger than either of us conspire to keep us apart. But we shall meet again in better times, Rassilon willing.”

Penne hugged him and they shared a brotherly kiss before Chrístõ stepped into the shuttle and returned to the life he had made for himself on Beta Delta IV.