Chrístõ roused himself in the morning and showered and dressed, expecting to be the first one to wake. He was quite surprised as he pushed open the door to the console room to hear Romana and Julia talking quietly. They were sitting on the floor beside the Zero Cabinet. He could tell they had been working on the aura. He could almost see it as a difference in the air around the Cabinet. But now they were resting. Both had one hand on the Cabinet, as if protecting it. Chrístõ was touched by their care for his father. Julia, of course, had come to think of him in a fatherly way. Romana, he supposed, considered it an act of contemplation, an extension of the devotions practiced within the Sisterhood. She wanted to see him healed as much as any of them did.

They were not talking about his father, now, though. He listened, quietly, to their conversation. Julia had asked Romana why she chose the Sisterhood, and whether she would stay there all her life.

“I chose it because I wanted to give myself to contemplation, to peace,” she answered. “Whether I shall be cloistered all my life, I do not know. Perhaps not. Our lives are long, remember. My mother was a Sister of Pazithi for her first five hundred years, then after regeneration she came out into the world and married my father. She was very happy in both lives. I may do the same. It depends, of course, if there is a man I want to marry.”

“You could marry Chrístõ,” Julia said. Chrístõ was surprised by that. So was Romana. “I mean… you know… You all live long lives. I’m Human… by the time you decide you don’t want to be a… a Sister… and live away from the world… Chrístõ will be alone again. And… I know you like him…”

“That is…” Romana was lost for words. “Would you… I mean…”

“If I thought somebody as nice as you could look after him, after me, then I wouldn’t be sad,” Julia continued.

“Then…” Romana smiled. “Well, it depends what Chrístõ wants, of course. We can’t decide his life for him.”

“No, but promise you will think about it at least. Think of him.”

“I will, I promise,” Romana answered solemnly. Then the two of them looked around as Chrístõ opened the door rather more noisily than he had the first time. They had no reason to think he had been there all the time and heard that conversation.

“I promised breakfast in the orbital restaurant,” he said. “Is Hext up yet?”

“We haven’t seen him,” Julia answered.

“Well, I’ll give him five minutes,” Chrístõ decided as he went to the console and checked several panels, though since they were parked in the hangar bay Julia wondered what exactly he was checking. “We’ll try to get through two or three more temporal locations before we have to rest again,” he said. “They seem to be arranged in chronological order. That makes sense, I suppose. It’s… strange… all the same, meeting my father every time like this. I’m glad he doesn’t know that I’m his son. It would be too much.”

“It would be very bad for him,” Romana pointed out. “Emotionally. We should take care not to let him realise. It is something of an irony that this is a duty only a son ought to perform, and yet somebody so close to the subject is…”

“Unsuitable for the job,” Chrístõ finished. “Yes, I know. But I really wouldn’t trust this to anyone else. Not even Hext.”

“What have I done now?” Hext asked as he stepped into the console room. The others turned to look at him and were shocked. He didn’t look refreshed from his sleep. He looked positively drained.

“You look like you’re hungover,” Chrístõ told him.

“Like what?”

“Hungover. It’s how humans look when they’ve drunk too much alcohol and then slept.”

“Well… obviously I’m not that,” Hext responded, with just an edge of irritability about him. “I do have a headache. But I expect it will clear up. Weren’t we supposed to have breakfast?”

“Get plenty of orange juice and some Tirranian Tea,” Chrístõ suggested. “They’re good for hangovers.”

“I’m NOT hungover,” Hext replied, distinctly tetchily.

And he wasn’t, of course. Time Lords could not get drunk. They certainly couldn’t be hungover. Even so, orange juice and Tirranian tea, a delicately flavoured green tea from a planet that resembled the Indian subcontinent of Earth, seemed to revive him a little. So did a cereal called Amacanian Muesli which he managed to eat while the others had a more substantial cooked breakfast. He at least managed to regain his humour when they were finished and headed back to the TARDIS. But he complained that the headache was still with him and Chrístõ told him to lie down on the sofa while he piloted them to the next destination solo.

“I wonder what my father was doing here,” Chrístõ said as he looked at the data about the planet. “Zixos XXII. Indigenous population humanoid, technologically advanced. They have trade with other planets, but only under a strict, tariff controlled system. All visitors must pass through a medical screening before admittance to the planet.”

“That’s not very nice,” Julia pointed out.

“In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on Earth, Ellis Island off New York fulfilled the same function,” Chrístõ told her. Immigrants from Europe were confined there and examined for any infectious diseases before being allowed to go on to the mainland.”

“What about Hext?” Julia asked. “He doesn’t even LOOK well. He’ll never pass any kind of medical examination.”

“She’s right,” Romana added. “He really doesn’t look well.”

Chrístõ walked across to where Hext was lying. He looked, frankly, terrible. He had a cold sweat and he was shielding his eyes from the TARDIS lights. Chrístõ turned down the lights nearest to him as a partial relief.

“Are you sure it’s just a headache?” he asked. “You really don’t look great.”

“What else would it be?” he answered. “I’m a Time Lord. We don’t get sick.”

“I really don’t think you’re fit to come out on this mission,” Chrístõ told him. “I think you should stay put. Romana can stay with you.”

“No,” Hext answered him. “Julia should stay. You need somebody of our own kind with you. To strengthen your mental walls. Your father cannot know who you are. It would be dangerous for him.”

“Well, I suppose…” He looked around. Julia had heard what Hext had said.

“I don’t mind looking after him,” she told Chrístõ. “I did when he was hurt by Savine on that horrible planet of blind people.”

“Yes, you did,” Chrístõ remembered. “All right, Hext, promise you’ll act in a manner fitting a Time Lord of Gallifrey if I leave you alone with my future fiancée?”

“As if I would do anything else?” he replied in a tone that verged on irritable. Chrístõ wondered if it was the headache that made his mood so mercurial. But he thought he could be sure that Hext would behave properly, even if he wasn’t quite himself.

“I don’t know how long it might take,” he told Julia. “It could take hours just to be processed. Then I have to find out where my father is.”

“I’ll be all right. I really don’t like the sound of this planet, anyway. I’ll be all right here looking after Hext and your father.”

Chrístõ hugged her, then he put his jacket on and Romana slipped on a coat and came to the door with him. The TARDIS was disguised as another personal shuttle in a hangar bay. This one was beside a seashore and Chrístõ could see a city beyond a wide strait that was joined to the small island where they were by a rather magnificent bridge made of a single slender arch from which the roadway was suspended. It had to be at least three miles long and some kind of forcefield was surely used to keep it from collapsing, but it was magnificent.

All the same, the Ellis Island analogy was apt. There was no way of reaching the bridge other than a very hazardous swim against huge breakers or to go through the toll booths that led to the processing centre. Chrístõ and Romana turned and walked that way.

They were required to state their planet of origin and species. They were given a long form to fill out and sent forward through the toll booth. That led to a glass enclosed tunnel. At the other end of the tunnel was a room that looked a lot like an airport lounge, but rather less friendlier. Armed guards in a dark green uniform watched the arrivals. The medical examination rooms were also guarded. They were the way out from the arrivals lounge. Nobody came back this way, at least not while they were waiting. Chrístõ wondered what they did with people who were rejected, and decided he didn’t much want to find out.

He was called to go into one of the medical examination rooms. Romana was, too. They were pointed towards separate rooms.

“I don’t like this,” Romana said telepathically. “Being separated…”

“It must be a very thorough medical exam,” Chrístõ answered. “If we have to undress, then gender separation is normal…”

“I can’t…” Romana began to protest, but the guards were impatient and insisted on her stepping through the door.

“Romana, stay with me,” Chrístõ urged her. “Don’t lose the mental link.”

He heard her reply. It was slightly dulled, as if lead was used in the construction of the otherwise thin wall between the two rooms, but she maintained a connection. She wasn’t happy. Apart from anything else, the medical examiner was male, and so was the guard inside the room, and she was being asked to remove almost all her clothes. It went against her vows as a Sister of Contemplation. Chrístõ could feel her embarrassment and distress keenly.

He was told to strip off, too. He did so. He didn’t carry anything that constituted a weapon, but in his underwear he felt vulnerable. He realised there was a psychological point to that. He was unlikely to be troublesome while he felt so diminished.

He didn’t see much point in being troublesome. His objective was to get through this examination and be admitted to the planet as soon as possible. He had to find his father somewhere in the permitted visitor zones and bring him back to the TARDIS. Co-operating with this bizarre entry requirement was necessary.

So he submitted to being screened by something like a cross between an x-ray machine and an ultrasound scanner. He submitted to the blood test being taken, and the throat swab, even the skin sample that was taken from his arm, though he failed to understand what that was about.

Then he was allowed to dress and was told to go through another door. There was a guard on the other side and he was not entirely surprised to find it was another waiting area. It seemed to be at the start of a long tunnel that went down, as if it was going to go under the water that lay between the island and the mainland – not to the bridge, which he began to think was just for show.

There were at least fifty people there, male and female. Romana was one of them. She looked distressed. Chrístõ went to her at once.

“It’s over now,” he told her quietly. “We’re probably just waiting for the final authorisation.”

“I feel… unclean,” she replied. “That man… and the other just watching… I’m glad you didn’t bring Julia. She shouldn’t have had to go through that.”

“Yes,” he agreed. Then he was distracted by another voice that gently penetrated his head.

“You’re telepathic?” the voice asked. “Both of you? I heard you before.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ replied. “Who are you? Where are you?”

“Sitting by the water dispenser.”

Chrístõ looked around slowly. He saw the man. He was deliberately not looking at them. But Chrístõ knew him at once. At least that part of his mission was complete. He had made contact with his father.

“Can you get some water for this lady?” he called out, giving an excuse for him to come towards them. “You’re Gallifreyan?” he asked telepathically as he gave the cup of water to Romana.

“Yes,” Chrístõ Mian answered. “So are you. Why are you here? You’re not from the agency?”

“We’re looking for you,” Chrístõ told him, reaching out and touching his shoulder and whispering a trigger word that would make him remember the last time they had met. “It’s that time again.”

“Sweet Mother of Chaos!” he swore. “I had forgotten. Of course… I had to. But we have a problem. Getting this far was a lot easier than getting back to the hangar bay will be.”

“It better hadn’t be,” Chrístõ answered. “My girl, and Hext, and… and… you… are there.”

“I don’t suppose your TARDIS has remote control?” Chrístõ Mian asked. “The later ones do…”

“It used to, but it broke down and I couldn’t get the parts. They decommissioned the Type 40s before I even got mine.”

“Pity,” Chrístõ Mian said. “We could really use a fast way out of here. I’ve got a very bad feeling.”

“What was your mission here?” Romana asked. “Why did the Agency send you?”

“To find another agent who had not reported back,” he answered. “He was sent here to investigate the possibility that Zixos XXII was developing time travel and assess their fitness.”

“Ah.” Chrístõ’s response was one syllable, but it carried a great deal of meaning. Chrístõ Mian looked at him curiously.

“You are one of those rebellious types who question Gallifrey’s supremacy over time travel?”

“No,” he answered. “Not our supremacy. We are the only race with the wisdom and the discipline to prevent critical damage to the space time continuum. I question the superior and bombastic way in which we enforce that supremacy. It will be our downfall if we are not careful.”

He tried not to think about the Mallus and the downfall that Gallifrey still had to raise itself up from in his timeline. That was a long way in his father’s future. He was still barely a thousand years old in this third incarnation.

Chrístõ Mian looked at him curiously and seemed about to say something, but a door opened and a man in a white coat denoting a medical officer appeared, flanked by two guards. The medical officer looked at a checklist and then nodded towards each of the waiting visitors and passed a round disc to the guards, red or green. The guards stepped forward and pressed the discs onto the back of the hands of each person. They had a strong adhesive backing that clung to the skin in an unpleasant way. Chrístõ noted that he and his father had red ones, Romana had a green one, and he strongly suspected that wasn’t good.

When two anti-grav buses backed up through the tunnel, one marked with a large red circle, the other green, he was even more sure they were in trouble. The guards herded all of those marked with a red disc onto the first bus, about ten out of the fifty, all men, and the door was sealed after they had boarded. For the first time, there were no guards with them, though there were plenty outside to prevent them leaving the bus. It was driverless, obviously controlled remotely.

“Romana,” Chrístõ called out telepathically, but to no avail. There was something in the metal the two buses were constructed of that prevented any such contact. He wasn’t sure if it was deliberate or just an unexpected side effect of the metal. Either way he was worried. He looked and saw Romana in the other bus. She was beside a young woman who was scrabbling at the window, calling out soundlessly.

“Periss!” cried a young man who was doing the same to the window of this bus. “No! Periss… No. What’s happening? This is meant to be our honeymoon…”

“It’s all right,” somebody else assured him. “There’s obviously been a mistake. It will all be sorted out soon.”

“There’s no mistake,” said another voice. “We’ve all been rejected. We’re being taken back to the spaceport for deportation.”

“I wish!” Chrístõ Mian said telepathically to his companions. “There’s something else going on here.”

“I think you’re right,” Chrístõ answered. “This isn’t Ellis Island. It’s Auschwitz.”

“It’s what?”

“Analogies from Earth history.”

“Earth?” Chrístõ Mian was puzzled. “Oh… Sol Three, you mean. The Human homeworld. Why would a Gallifreyan know of its history?”

Chrístõ struggled for an answer. His father would know as much about Earth as he did in centuries to come. He would love it as deeply as he loved Gallifrey and even consider making his home there with his mother. But at this stage in his life he hadn’t even been there.

“I studied it in Comparative Cultures,” he lied. “Anyway, my point is, we’re being taken somewhere against our will, in a locked vehicle, after being segregated on some obscure grounds.”

He seemed to be right. A recorded voice told them to sit down and fasten their seatbelts. They did so, the honeymoon man reluctantly. He pressed his hands against the unyielding glass and tried to see his wife on the other bus. His grief-stricken sobs punctuated the terrified speculation from everyone else as the bus began to move.

Both buses moved, side by side at first as they entered the tunnel. Then, about fifty yards in, there was a split. The green bus went into a separate, smaller tunnel, that seemed to level out, while the red one went into a steeper, darker tunnel. They were clearly going to different places now, and the honeymoon man’s horrified scream was matched by several other reluctant passengers.

“I don’t think we want to get where they’re taking us,” Chrístõ Mian said. “I think you’re right about this Aus…”

“Auschwitz,” Chrístõ repeated.

“I still don’t know what that means, but there’s a resonance to the word when you say it… as if it actually contains a million other words, and none of them good. And I think whatever is ahead of us is as bad, if not worse.”

“What do we do? Have you got a weapon?”

“No, I didn’t dare try to bring anything like that through the security check. You?”

“Sonic screwdriver,” Chrístõ replied. “I could try to stop the bus. But where would we go if I did? What do we do?”

“Stop the bus,” Chrístõ Mian said. “It’s a start. We can decide what to do after that.”

Chrístõ unfastened his seatbelt and moved down the bus. At the front was an unbreakable permoglass door, and then an alcove in which the computerised drive control was housed.

“Nothing is unbreakable,” he murmured as he pressed the sonic screwdriver against the permoglass and it shattered noisily. His feet crunched on the broken glass as he stepped forward and aimed the same tool at the drive control. The bus ground to a halt in the dark tunnel.

“All right,” Chrístõ Mian said standing and addressing the passengers. “I am guessing somebody will come looking for us. When they do, we’re going to be ready. Does anyone else, other than my friend and I, have any unarmed combat experience? I mean real experience. Is anyone ex-military? Because I’m thinking on the lines of getting hold of some guns from the guards…”

The other passengers looked at the two Time Lords blankly.

“All right,” Chrístõ said. “All of you get down on the floor of the bus and keep quiet and still.”

As the non-combatants obeyed their orders Chrístõ almost wished he was one of them. His pacifist principles were going to be blown away again here. But what choice did he have? They had all been plunged into a difficult, frightening situation which they had to fight their way out of.

“You’ve killed before,” he heard his father say to him telepathically. “I saw you… last time. And I don’t think that was your first time.”

“I didn’t want to,” he replied. “I never wanted to have to kill. Just lately I’ve had to, more times than you can imagine… At least… maybe you can. But it’s different for you. You chose to be a soldier. You chose to become an assassin for the Celestial Intervention Agency. I didn’t. My…” He chose his words carefully and shielded his emotions. “My father is a diplomat. He raised me to follow him in that life – as a peacemaker, not a soldier.”

“Your father was right to do that. But his peace has sometimes to be paid for with blood. And right now, we have no choice. Get ready.”

Chrístõ used his sonic screwdriver to open the doors on both sides of the bus, thankful that neither was deadlock sealed. He and Chrístõ Mian crouched low on the bottom step and waited, watching the dark tunnel ahead, where they expected guards to come from, searching for the missing prisoners.

They were right. It was only a few minutes before they saw lights in the tunnel up ahead. As the vehicle came closer they saw it was something similar to the bus, but more like an armoured personnel carrier with a shielded front window. It came to a stop and eight men poured out of it through two sliding doors at the sides. Six of them took up defensive positions while two headed towards the bus.

“Time fold, now,” Chrístõ Mian ordered, and Chrístõ obeyed. The world slowed down around him as he launched himself from the bus and took out his man with a gung fu kick that laid him unconscious on the ground. He grasped up the weapon – it was a semi-automatic bastic rifle – and fired at the other guards. Simultaneous fire from the other side of the bus told him that his father had done exactly the same. The six men in the defensive positions didn’t have time to react. They were each shot twice in the head with precision that Chrístõ Mian learnt on a rifle range in the Red Desert where the Celestial Intervention Agency trained their assassins, and his son had learnt a few momentous days ago from Paracell Hext, before the two of them had set out on their mission to liberate Gallifrey.

The time fold was the advantage they needed, but they could only hold it for a few minutes. As they let it collapse, though, they were both at the doors to the armoured vehicle, disarming the driver who remained within it.

“You’re our prisoner, now,” Chrístõ Mian said. “If you want to remain breathing, I suggest that you co-operate with us.”

“You’ll never reach the spaceport alive,” the driver responded. “The guards will cut you down.”

“I’m not planning on going to the space port, yet. I want to know what this is all about… and put a stop to it.” He turned and looked at Chrístõ. “Get the others. We’ll have to bring them. They’re not safe here. This is reinforced, bullet proof. They’ll be all right inside.”

Chrístõ turned to do that. As he did so, he saw one of the guards they had merely knocked unconscious crawling towards the discarded weapon of one of his dead comrades.

He acted on an impulse he didn’t know he had, firing at the head of the guard as his fingers reached for the weapon. Chrístõ saw him slump back, dead. At the same moment, he saw his father shoot at the other unconscious guard and finish him off.

“That…” Chrístõ murmured. “Neither were armed… I killed…”

“Yes, I know,” his father replied. “You did what you had to do. And we still have work to do, yet. Go and get the others. Quickly. I don’t know how long it might be before they realise something is wrong and send reinforcements.”

Chrístõ obeyed. He had no choice. But he felt sick. He understood about killing in the heat of battle, when it was kill or be killed. But he felt that what he had just done, and what his father had done, crossed a line he had never crossed before.

“When this is over and we’re still alive, we’ll talk about it,” he heard his father say. “Right now, do your duty.”

Chrístõ did it. He brought the terrified bus passengers to the armoured carrier. They were still terrified and walking past the dead of the brief firefight didn’t help. Chrístõ Mian told them to sit quietly and they tried, but sobs and whimpers of fear were a background sound.

“Collect a couple more guns and all the ammunition you can find. And get two of the jackets off the dead men,” he said to Chrístõ. “We’ve got another battle to fight yet and we might need the element of surprise….”

Taking the clothes from men he had killed was the last thing Chrístõ wanted to do. Wearing them repulsed him. But he saw the sense in the command and he did it. As he took the least blood-covered garments, though, he saw something that surprised him, and which partially eased his troubled mind.

“Here,” he said, climbing into the armoured carrier and passing one of the jackets to his father. “There’s something you should know about these men. They’re cyborgs. I looked… they’re made of metal… apart from the head.”

“Is that right?” Chrístõ Mian pushed his gun against the ribcage of the driver. A dull thud of metal against metal covered in some kind of polymer confirmed that Chrístõ was right. “What the &£$@#&! Never mind. I’ll figure that out later. You… get this turned around and take us down that tunnel to wherever you came from.”

The driver obeyed. Chrístõ Mian kept his gun against the back of the driver’s head, since that was the only organic part of him. Chrístõ looked at the computerised drive controls and found a schematic that told him where they were going.

“There’s some kind of underground facility, about half a mile away. It must be underneath the straits, between the island and the mainland.”

“What sort of facility?” Chrístõ Mian asked. It was a rhetorical question, but the driver answered anyway.

“It is where citizens are made,” he said.

“Where…” Both men looked at the red circles attached to their hands. They thought about everything that had happened so far. They made an educated guess about what happened in the facility ahead.

“Surely not?” They tried to tell each other they were letting their imaginations run riot.

But neither of them had imaginations that went to such horrific extremes usually.

“Get ready,” Chrístõ Mian told him. “We’re nearly there.”

Chrístõ was as ready as he could be for another gunfight. He looked through the reinforced window at the lights ahead. They illuminated a wide metal gate across the entrance to what looked like a much bigger room beyond. There were guards there, of course. Would they fire on them? Or could they bluff their way through?

They tried to bluff. Chrístõ Mian told the guard that approached that they were bringing in the passengers from the broken down bus, but the driver shouted out a warning. Chrístõ Mian fired his gun, killing the guard, but a half a dozen more came running, guns literally blazing. The non-combatants yelled in fear as bullets bounced off the sides of the armoured carrier. Chrístõ and Chrístõ Mian both dived low, pushing the driver down with them as they fired back, but they were trapped in the vehicle and all they could do was keep firing at every guard that came into their line of sight. And they couldn’t keep that up indefinitely.

They didn’t have to. Chrístõ gave a cry of surprise as the guard in front of him collapsed before he had even pulled the trigger. All the guards began collapsing. He held his fire and watched in astonishment.

“He’s dead,” he heard his father say, referring to the driver. He looked and saw him closing the staring eyes. Chrístõ stood up and carefully dropped down from the armoured carrier. He kept his gun ready as he stepped towards the gate, but no more guards emerged. They were all dead. He stepped through the gate and looked around. Dead guards littered the floor. But there was worse horror than that.

He walked down what reminded him vaguely of an aisle in a toy shop. The bodies fastened into the boxes either side of him looked like toy action figures held in their packaging by wire twisted around the limbs and neck. The bodies of these lifesize figures were obviously artificial, cyborg. But there were real, flesh and blood heads on them.

All of them were dead. Something had caused a failure of the cyborg bodies, and that had shocked the brains so much that they died. Possibly the living brains were controlled by a central processing system in the body.

He walked to the end of the aisle, aware of heat somewhere up ahead and a smell that again put him in mind of Auschwitz and the Final Solution.

At the end of the aisle was what might be described as an operating theatre, except that Chrístõ always thought that was a place where people were made well, not murdered. He saw the table where a decapitated body lay. He saw the freshly made cyborg with a living, organic head grafted onto the mechanical body. He saw the furnace where the waste of a previous operation was being incinerated. He resisted the urge to be sick.

He resisted the urge to open fire on the two men and a woman in white medical coats who stood by the operating table. Instead he levelled his gun at them and told them to put up their hands.

“We were only obeying orders,” said one of the men, who looked as if he was the senior ‘surgeon’ – for want of a better word. “Don’t kill us. We were only doing what our government ordered us to do.”

“Why?” he asked. “Not why I shouldn’t kill you. That’s for me to decide. For my conscience. Why have you… You took people… was there any real process involved – the medical tests? Or were we just chosen at random? What was it for?”

“We needed to replenish our slaveborg numbers… the workers, soldiers, servants. We had always taken them from the lower castes of our own people. Every family was required to give up one male every generation for conversion. The converted borgs were servile, and they needed no food or rest. Those of the higher castes have lived for millennia, served by our borg population. But there was a sickness. So many died it was no longer possible. The government passed a resolution. We would take a tithe of all those who came to this planet as visitors. They would be selected randomly. Anyone who asked would be told that they had been deported. Papers would be issued showing that they travelled to the nearest space station. After that it was no jurisdiction of ours. And it is a large universe….”

“You are…” Chrístõ was having trouble believing what he was hearing. He had never heard anything so horrific. To do such a thing to their own people was bad enough. But to take unsuspecting visitors and kill them…

“Is there anyone else here. Any more living beings taken for your foul work?”

“This was the last of the recent batch,” the surgeon replied. “We were expecting new arrivals.”

“That’s all I needed to know.” Chrístõ turned and walked away. He kept on walking all the way back to the armoured carrier. He got in, noting that his father had pushed the body of the driver out. He sat in the driver’s seat and after looking at the controls for a few minutes, he started it up and drove it in fast reverse.

“The agent you were looking for is dead,” Chrístõ told his father. “Anyone who came through those gates is dead. But there will be no more innocent lives taken here. This ends, now.”

“I suppose it’s too late to point out that we’re not supposed to interfere in other cultures,” Chrístõ Mian said to him.

“Far too late. Anyway, I have never bothered about that. If I see something wrong, I interfere. And things are very wrong with this planet.”

“We still need to find Romana, and the people from the other bus.”

That proved far less of a problem than either were expecting. When they reached the inner waiting room back on the island they found the green bus parked up. There were more dead guards there, and the doors through the medical rooms to the arrivals lounge were all open. Chrístõ and his father still held onto their guns, just in case as they led the non-combatants to what they hoped was safety and freedom. As they reached the main room, there was a joyful cry and the honeymoon bride ran past them to reach her husband. Chrístõ glanced at their joyful reunion and then looked around as Romana stepped towards them.

“I stopped the bus,” she said. “With the power of my mind. We all walked back. The guards tried to stop us. I… I am sorry. I didn’t mean to kill them, only disable them. I used my mind again… I found the power source within one of them. I realised they were cyborgs. I created an EMP pulse…. And it reverberated through them all. The guards all collapsed. All of them. I killed them all.”

“They were dead already,” Chrístõ assured her. “It was an act of mercy. But what about the medical officers? They weren’t cyborgs.”

“They’re here. We have them… tied up. The other passengers… they overpowered them. Made them tell us what was going on. Is it true? They take people and…”

“Don’t think about it,” Chrístõ told her. He threw aside his gun and stepped towards the group of medical officers. Even without his weapon they looked at him fearfully.

“Tell your government, there will be no more visitors to Zixos XXII. This planet will be quarantined. Your trade will be embargoed until you can prove that no more cyborgs are being produced from within your own population or from kidnapped strangers.”

“You don’t have the power to do that,” one of them replied. But Chrístõ wasn’t wasting time with arguments. He turned away and addressed the people still waiting, wondering what was happening. “Return to your space vehicles. Leave this planet quickly. Don’t come back.”

Nobody needed to be told twice. Chrístõ and his father, with Romana, were the last. They walked back to the hangar bay where two shuttles remained, their disguised TARDISes.

“I’ll come with you,” Chrístõ Mian said. “We’ll slave my TARDIS to yours and get safely into temporal orbit. Then I can do the job you asked me to do before we go our separate ways.”

Chrístõ agreed. He wanted to get away from this planet.

He was relieved when he stepped into his own TARDIS to find Hext by the console. He was reading something on the environmental monitor. He looked up as they entered.

“What in the name of Rassilon happened out there? The population total for the planet was just reduced by three quarters. Did you…”

“I did it,” Romana said mournfully. “I… I didn’t think it would be so extensive. I killed… thousands.”

“I told you,” Chrístõ said to her. “It was an act of mercy. All of them were once living people, but they had been turned into cyborg slaves with no minds of their own, controlled by their masters. I am surprised that it went so far. They must all have been linked through a central control of some sort. When you caused an EMP burst in one it spread through them all. I’m glad. It’s over.”

“But…” She sighed. “This is why I went into the Sisterhood. I knew my mental powers were greater than even most Gallifreyans. I knew it was possible that I could… and I didn’t want to. I…”

“He’s right,” Chrístõ Mian said. “You didn’t kill them. They were already dead. You gave them peace. Your soul is clean, as is your conscience. Don’t think of it again. When you return to your cloisters, don’t let this disturb your contemplations.” He touched her face gently and Romana sighed.

“You… took the guilt upon yourself,” she said. “You… made me clean.”

“You already were,” he answered. “But if anyone’s soul should carry this burden, let it be mine.” He turned and looked around at the Zero Cabinet where Julia stood, watching this exchange between Time Lords. “When I’ve done what I have to do here, I’ll contact our Ambassador for this quadrant,” Chrístõ Mian promised. “He’ll ensure that this planet is isolated. Unless they start making cyborgs of their high caste people they’ll have to radically rethink their culture.”

Chrístõ had intended to do that himself. Then he remembered that he wasn’t actually born yet in this time. He had no diplomatic credentials to call upon. None of the people he knew and who knew him were yet working in the diplomatic corps of their worlds.

He watched as his father completed the task they asked him to do. Julia knelt by the Cabinet as he did so and noted the flicker of the eyelids, a twitch of facial muscles. The older incarnation of Chrístõ Mian had recognised his younger self subconsciously at least and received the part of his mind kept by him.

“You need to reset the memory block,” Chrístõ Mian said. “It’s definitely better I don’t remember too much of these encounters. But… first…” He turned to Chrístõ and reached out to touch him on the shoulder. Chrístõ managed to control his emotions as he felt the physical contact. “You’re troubled, too. You don’t like killing. You feel it makes you a different man – one you don’t want to be.”

“Yes,” he answered. “When I shot that guard… when he didn’t even have a gun… That was the worst thing I had ever done.”

“But you had to do it. Would it make you feel better if I told you I hate it, too? I have never gloried in the death of others, least of all deaths I have caused. I do what I have to do. But I would be glad enough to give it up one day. If only for the peace of the grave when I run out of lives. When you have the chance to give it up, grasp it. Don’t look back. If you can live peacefully, without resort to bloodshed, then do so. And I won’t think any less of you.”

“Is that… if you had a son, would you tell him that?” Chrístõ asked.

“I’m a C.I.A. agent. We don’t tend to have sons. We don’t have relationships. My chance of that was lost when I went to war for Gallifrey’s sake. You must know that about me. But… yes… I think I would. I would hope if I had a child, then the blood I spill would buy him peace.”

“Thank you,” Chrístõ answered. He stood back with Romana and Julia as Hext walked with Chrístõ Mian to the door. It opened and his own TARDIS was beyond. Both stepped across the threshold. A few minutes later, Hext returned. He looked a little weary, still, but he confirmed that he had reset the trigger in Chrístõ Mian’s memory. He would recall that two Gallifreyans were with him when they put a stop to the slaughter of innocents on Zixos XXII, but not who or why he met them.

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Chrístõ asked him. “You still look a bit fragile.”

“Fragile?” Hext managed to laugh at the choice of words. “Me? I’m fine. It’s just this damn headache. Let’s get going. We’ve only completed three parts of the task, yet. Still a long way to go.”