When they landed twenty minutes later they were all dressed suitably for an orbital restaurant. They stepped out and noted that the TARDIS was disguised as a personal shuttle craft. Chrístõ noted that it was not the only disguised TARDIS in the hanger bay.

“That one belongs to my father,” he noted, looking at one which had a different set of Greek letters to his own across the side. – Koppa Lamda. “That one, is also a TARDIS. Look at that marking, Hext.” He pointed to a very discreet symbol on the side panel of the small shuttle. The double-arrowhead of Kasterborus inside a triangle.

“The diplomatic corps? Your father is tailing somebody from the diplomatic corps? That’s his hit?”

“Hit?” Julia was puzzled.

“My father is here on a mission, for the Celestial Intervention Agency,” Chrístõ explained. “The owner of this TARDIS is the one he seeks.”

“Perhaps somebody who has betrayed Gallifrey and is marked for assassination,” Hext added. “A fast, clean kill with no questions asked later.”

“Will this be dangerous, then?” Romana asked.

“No,” Chrístõ answered. “We’re going to sit and have dinner. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m hungry.”

“Yes, I am, too,” Julia said. “But is it actually dinner time? We have time all messed up. It was just after breakfast when I was in the TARDIS. And then I was on Gallifrey. Then off again.”

“We were up all night, come to think of it,” Romana added. “Chrístõ, dinner is a great idea. If we have time. And I suggest we all get some sleep afterwards and start a new day. Nobody said we had to do everything at once.”

Chrístõ looked at the Zero Cabinet.

“I know. You’re worried about your father. But really, he won’t come to any harm as long as he is in the Cabinet. You are allowed to rest.”

“You’re right,” he conceded. “Come on, let’s see what specials are on the menu tonight.” He smiled and put his arm around Julia’s shoulders as if they were going on a date. Hext looked at Romana and thought twice about attempting to do the same. She did allow him to take her arm in a formal way as her escort to dinner.

The Omicron Psi orbital restaurant was a famous place, and always busy. They would not even have got in if Chrístõ had not placed a reservation retrospectively. As it was, the robot maitre’d, silver faced with features in mutable metal that looked almost alive, greeted them politely and escorted them to their table in the humanoid non-vegetarian, cooked meat eating section of a restaurant that catered for all tastes and all species. There was a strictly vegetarian section, a live food section that was behind sound proofed screens for the comfort of the squeamish, the piscinarium - a fish section – which meant that it catered for species descended from fish, not eating them – and a whole range of non-humanoid sections.

Julia was thrilled with their table by the huge exo-glass window looking out on a planet that was shades of red, green and white. The red parts were the oceans which were coloured by a kind of plankton. The green were the two big continents. The white were the two poles and a wide, high mountain range that would dwarf the Himalayas.

“Fascinating,” Romana agreed. “I had forgotten about such diversity. I have not travelled for so long away from Gallifrey.”

“We haven’t travelled for ages, either,” Julia said. “It’s nice to be able to, even if we are here on ‘business’.” She drank her iced lime soda while the others drank white wine and ate a spiced soup made from that red plankton - a speciality of the restaurant. Chrístõ noticed another guest placing the same order – a man sitting at a table for one. He recognised his telepathic signature. It was his father in his second incarnation, still young looking, with the same brown eyes he always had, no matter how many regenerations. He had lighter hair this time, and freckles, and a quiet demeanour that could so easily be overlooked. That was, Chrístõ considered, exactly what a man doing his job needed.

“I think that one there is his target,” Hext added, nodding imperceptibly at another table for four a few yards away from them. The diners at that table were far from quiet. The man, dressed in a dinner suit, was with three women in evening dresses who seemed entranced by him. They laughed at everything he said. One was actually sitting so close she was practically on the same chair. She was feeding him from a huge platter of food, lifting the fork to his lips. He was enjoying the attention.

Romana frowned and turned away from the wantonness and gluttony and urged Julia to pay no attention. Chrístõ regarded the man critically. If he was a member of the Gallifreyan Diplomatic Corps, then there was an urgent need for personnel change. This man was no asset to their reputation as sober, stoic, trustworthy people. This was more like the hedonistic behaviour of the decline of the Roman Empire on Earth, or the Jassilla, a people who put sensory pleasure before all else.

“He’s obviously a renegade,” Hext said. “Your father must have him marked for assassination.”

“Here?” Julia looked astonished. “In the restaurant?”

“Probably not,” Chrístõ assured her. “Public assassinations are not Celestial Intervention Agency style. He’s watching him now. Later, he’ll get him in a quiet place.”

“Good,” Julia said. “Because I am hungry and I would like to finish this meal before anything starts to happen.”

“I rather agree,” Chrístõ added. “Besides, really, his mission is no concern of ours. We’re here to ask him to step into the TARDIS for a few minutes.”

Whatever Chrístõ Mian planned for his target didn’t happen during any of the three courses of food that were brought to the table. They ate well and lingered over coffee. Chrístõ Mian lingered over his coffee, too. He watched his target carefully. Not that the man was likely to notice he was being watched. He was too engrossed in the three women.

Chrístõ Mian didn’t notice that he, himself, was being watched by Chrístõ. He was thinking about his father as he watched him. This second incarnation was the result of a forced regeneration to save his life after he was returned to Gallifrey as a wounded former prisoner of war. Chrístõ knew that as a matter of historical fact. He knew, also, that his father, once recovered, joined the Celestial Intervention Agency and became a field agent.

He felt a little remote from this part of his father’s life. Hext, also a Celestial Intervention Agency man, seemed to have more in common with him just now. Chrístõ knew very little about any of this. He had known his father as The Peacemaker, The Ambassador. The Executioner was a shock to him. He had never talked to him about this part of his life. He wanted his son to follow him into the Diplomatic Corps, as a man of peace, not an assassin.

And generally, Chrístõ was a man of peace. He hated guns. He hated war. He still hated both after being a soldier for Gallifrey’s liberation for a while. He thanked his father for raising him as a pacifist, albeit one who knew when it was necessary to fight and was trained and fit to do so.

This mission, though, meant that he was going to find out about that life his father had shielded him from. And he wondered what that might do to his relationship with him, later.

It won’t do anything to your relationship,” Romana told him. “He’s still your father, and you love him. But perhaps you’ll know him better after all of this.

“Maybe,” he answered doubtfully. But there was no time to dwell upon the issue. The target was moving from his table now, accompanied by the three women, two of which were literally draped around him. The group passed the table where Chrístõ and his friends were, heading not to the exit, but to the scenic stairs to the observation deck. That meant that Chrístõ Mian, when he followed a few discreet seconds later, also passed their table. He paused and looked at Hext. Chrístõ felt the telepathic message he sent to him.

“C.I.A.?” Hext nodded. “Come with me, the two of you.” He walked on.

Chrístõ and Hext both rose.

“Pay the bill.” Chrístõ said, giving his universal credit card to Julia. “Then both of you go back to the TARDIS. We’ll be with you as soon as we can.”

“Be careful,” Romana told them both. They turned and followed a trained assassin on a possibly deadly mission. They stepped through the door to a stairwell that was exo-glass on three sides, lit by small green lights on the treads of the steps. It would have daunted anyone with a fear of heights, because all that could be seen were the green lights going down at least another twenty floors, and empty space all the way to the planet below. There was no sign of the target and his women. They had moved fast. Chrístõ Mian put his fingers to his lips all the same and when he spoke telepathically he did so guardedly, behind a careful mental wall.

“I know what you’re here for,” he said. “You can help me first. I expected one, not three. Do you have weapons?”

“I have,” Hext said, touching his shoulder holster under his dinner jacket. “He’s a pacifist.”

“A pacifist in the C.I.A.?” Chrístõ Mian looked quizzically at Chrístõ.

“I’ve got a sonic screwdriver,” Chrístõ replied, brandishing it as if it was a revolver. “What are we up against?” Then he ran back what his father had said. “Oh… you mean… HE’S not the target. It’s the women.”

“If it were up to me I’d let them eat his liver,” Chrístõ Mian said with an expression of disgust as they climbed the steps. “He’s a fool and a disgrace to our homeworld. But I have orders to protect him as long as he carries diplomatic credentials.

“I thought you did assassinations,” Chrístõ told him.

“I do what I must do to serve Gallifrey. Don’t you?”

“Yes,” Chrístõ and Hext both replied emphatically.

“What’s the plan?” Hext added.

“Grab the ambassador, kill the women,” Chrístõ Mian answered. “Don’t be squeamish. They’re not real woman. They’re Scillya.”

“Ugh!” Chrístõ responded. Hext looked blank.

“You should check the species database more often, Hext,” he explained. “Cannibalistic shape-shifters. Their true form is the colour of the soup we ate earlier and the smell and texture of a rancid syllabub.”

“Ugh,” Hext agreed as his imagination coloured the description.

“In humanoid form they can be killed in any usual way,” Chrístõ Mian added. “Do it fast and you won’t have to work out how to kill them in default mode.”

They reached the top of the steps and Chrístõ Mian took the lead as they stepped onto the observation deck. Like the stairwell it was lit only by low-level spots at intervals in the smoked glass floor. It was a huge dome of exo-glass which gave a panoramic view of the Omicron Psi planetary system. Chrístõ thought it would be a fine place to spend some quality time with Julia. But not right now. He switched his sonic screwdriver to laser mode and his companions took the safety catches off their weapons as they saw the target on the far side of the deck. When he screamed, they started to run, grateful that the glass floor actually had an anti-slip field.

The ambassador screamed again as they approached, and no wonder. The Scillya still looked Human except that long protuberances with suckers on the end came from their mouths. They fixed on the ambassador’s jugular and other parts of his flesh and sucked his blood. Chrístõ jumped forward and caught one of the women from behind. His laser knife sliced through the protuberance easily before he brought it around the slender neck of the creature. There was only slightly more resistance as he decapitated it. Sour smelling yellow liquid which had to be its blood spurted all over him as he jumped back away from the falling body and looked to see Hext and his father put their guns to the heads of the other two and fire several times, pulping the humanoid brains before the creatures could morph into something else. They grabbed the ambassador between them and dragged him out of the way before the three bodies began to break down into the rancid syllabub Chrístõ had described.

As two cleaning robots appeared and began to mop and disinfect the floor, Chrístõ bent and examined the ambassador. He confirmed that he had fainted from shock and loss of blood.

“He’ll be all right with a couple of hours rest,” he added.

“He can do that in my TARDIS, in a stasis chair to stop him wandering off,” Chrístõ Mian replied. “I’m taking him home to Gallifrey. This is one embarrassing exploit too many. His diplomatic credentials will be cancelled. Damn fool.”

“I agree,” Hext said. “Though there is that one thing we need you to do, first.”

“Yes, of course there is,” Chrístõ Mian responded. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a device that looked like a wide wristlet of metal with swirling Galifreyan designs on it. “Time Ring. Using it to transport us to the hangar bay is a bit of a frivolous use of it, but the alternative is carrying this idiot down all those stairs.”

“Time Ring will do,” Hext and Chrístõ agreed. They hauled the unconscious ex-ambassador up between them and put one of his hands on the ring along with their own. Chrístõ Mian activated the ring and they all felt the unpleasant cramp in their stomachs as they dematerialised.

They all swayed dizzily as they rematerialised instantly beside the three TARDISes. Chrístõ Mian propped the ex-ambassador against the door of his own machine as he put away the Time Ring and reached for his key.

“I’ll make him ‘un-comfortable’ in here and then join you in a few minutes,” he promised.

“Chrístõ!” Julia cried as he and Hext came into their own TARDIS. She ran to hug him, then changed her mind as she smelt Scillya blood and saw the stains on his clothes.

“Don’t ask,” he said. “Hext and I are going for a quick, thorough, ion shower and a change of clothes and then you can hug me all you want.

When they returned, faces red from an ion shower that stripped the dead skin from the surface of their bodies, and dressed in their choice of clean clothes, Julia was watching carefully as Chrístõ Mian did his duty to his older self. Again she gasped hopefully as there was a slight blink of the eyes. Romana put her arm around her shoulders comfortingly and assured her that it was one more step towards his recovery.

“Last time,” Chrístõ Mian said as he stood up and turned towards Chrístõ. “I made a very stupid assumption… about you… being… my son. I really thought it was going to be that easy. I thought I would come home from the war, marry Lily… have a son… like you… a clever, smart thinking young man who cared enough for me to do this. I was wrong about that. And about a lot of things. I’m sorry if I embarrassed you with the idea that you were…”

“It’s all right,” Chrístõ answered. “I only wish we could have told you… The war was bad, wasn’t it…”

Chrístõ Mian nodded. His eyes dimmed with the memory of horrors endured.

“I think I would have given up and died if I hadn’t had that dream to cling to. That future… you… were my reason to survive the tortures. Even when I was at the point of death, I kept thinking of my future son…”

“Then I’m glad I was a comfort to you,” Chrístõ said. “Thank you… for what you did now. He… the future you… is a good man. We all have so much respect for him. And… I am glad to have met you twice now, in the past.”

“I’m glad to have met you both. But… I’m a bit worried about the possibility of paradoxes. How good are either of you at memory blocking?”

“You want us to…”

“A partial block. So that I remember something of what happened. I don’t want blanks in my mind that I can’t account for. Not in my line of work. But let me forget your faces, and the reason for you being here. At least until I see you again in five or six centuries’ time, when you come looking for my next incarnation.”

“I can do that,” Hext told him. “We are trained at it in the C.I.A. as standard, now. For witnesses who don’t want to remember talking to us.” He walked with Chrístõ Mian out of the TARDIS. Chrístõ watched on the viewscreen as Hext used his sonic screwdriver in oscillating light emitting mode to send him into a light trance. Then he put his hands on his forehead. Hext found his memories of meeting them twice and blurred them. Chrístõ Mian forgot their faces and the purpose of his meetings with them.

“He was right,” Hext said when he came back into the TARDIS. “It is better that way.”

“It’s a pity,” Chrístõ sighed. “I wish I could talk to him more.”

“I’ve set a memory trigger,” Hext told him. “When we’ve made his mind whole again, he will remember all of it in clear detail. You can talk to him then. You need to do that, anyway. Especially if you still intend to leave Gallifrey straight afterwards. You should spend time with your family, first.”

Julia looked expectantly at Chrístõ, but he said nothing either way. He put his arm around her and hugged her close, though, and she thought that was a sort of answer to the question. One she was happy with.

“Bed,” he said as she tried to stifle a yawn. “That was the agreement. Dinner, business, then bed. At least seven hours sleep for you. For all of us. The TARDIS can stay here in the hangar bay. We might even get an Omicron Psi breakfast before we move on.”

Romana went with Julia. She could sleep in the adjoining room next to Julia’s, Natalie’s room so long ago now it seemed a distant memory. Chrístõ knew that the TARDIS would allocate a room for Hext. He thought about sleeping on a mat in the console room, next to the Zero Cabinet, but Romana caught that idea and told him emphatically that he was to sleep in a bed for seven hours, too. He turned down the lights and followed his friends until he reached his own rarely used bedroom, the one that was identical to his childhood bedroom at Mount Lœng House in the pleasant countryside of the Southern Continent. The bed was cool and soft and he let his weary mind and body relax for a while before his quest began again.