Chrístõ watched on the viewscreen as Julia stepped out of the TARDIS. She walked across the busy city square to the man who sat quietly on a stone bench beside a fountain representing the victory of the Vallisarian Western Alliance over the Eastern Alliance in a battle some hundred years before this particular date in the planet’s history. She spoke to him quickly and he looked around just once before nodding and standing up. He walked with her back to where the TARDIS was disguised as a closed tourist information kiosk. She opened the door and stepped in, followed by his father in his sixth incarnation. Chrístõ took a deep breath, steadying his heartbeats and controlling his thoughts carefully.

“Thank you for coming,” he said. “You know what to do?”

“I do by now,” Chrístõ Mian answered. He went to the Zero Cabinet and knelt down. His part in their mission was done in a few minutes. He stood up and turned back to Chrístõ.

“It’s four hundred years since we were on Xiang Xien. For me, at least. For you…”

“Twenty-six hours,” Chrístõ answered. “We all needed a bit of rest after that episode.”

“Your friend?”

“He’s still resting. In the Zero Room. He seems to be holding his own.”

“Good,” Chrístõ Mian answered. “Take care of him. All of you take care. If you’re going to be seeking me out in the future, you’re going to end up stumbling on dangerous situations. You were lucky this time. Lee and I are gathering information about our target. We’re not ready to strike, yet.”

“You’re still an assassin for the Celestial Intervention Agency?”

“I’m an agent,” he answered. “I do what I have to do for Gallifrey. Sometimes that means an assassination. I can see in your eyes you don’t like that idea. But sometimes… sometimes a cancer needs to be cut out of our society, out of the universe. I’m the surgeon who does that work. For the good of all of us.”

“I know that,” Chrístõ told him. “And yet…” He shook his head. “You’re probably going to tell me I’m too young to understand. If I could tell you what we’ve all been through lately… There is little I don’t understand. But I regret that bloodshed is necessary. Especially in the name of Gallifrey.”

“So do I,” Chrístõ Mian told him. “I am good at my job. But I don’t relish it. I don’t glory in it. I do what I must. As do you, I think. A loyal son of Gallifrey, giving devoted service to me in my future incarnation. I thank you for that.”

“I thank you. For your small part in my mission.” He reached and shook hands with the younger incarnation of his father. Then they stepped outside the TARDIS. There, he reset the memory trigger that he had taught Julia to undo and turned away. He went to the console and watched as his father walked back across the square and sat down. He noticed another man approach him. He glanced at the lifesigns monitor for confirmation. It was another Time Lord. Lee Oakdaene, he guessed. He wondered when in their personal history the bitter episode occurred when Lee became a Renegade and his father left the Celestial Intervention Agency in disgust at himself and the work they had done there.

Perhaps, when this was over, his father might tell him more about his past.

That is, if he really wanted to know.

He turned to the navigation control and set the next destination. It would take a little over an hour to travel forward about four hundred years in his father’s life.

“I’m going to take a look at Hext. Julia… would you…”

“I’ll go make coffee,” she said, anticipating his thoughts. “Is Hext going to come with us in the next place?”

“No,” Chrístõ answered. “I don’t think so. I think he needs to rest a lot more.”

Hext was worrying him. His father worried him. As he made his way through the TARDIS corridors to the Zero Room somewhere near the notional centre of the relatively dimensional ship, he was a worried man. He felt Humphrey slip alongside him, purring softly.

“I’ve neglected you, old friend,” he said as he put out his hand through the darkness creature. “I’ve got such a lot on my mind. My father…” He sighed. “You don’t really understand. Your kind don’t exactly have family connections like we do.”

Humphrey trilled sympathetically, and Chrístõ reflected that he didn’t really know very much about Humphrey and his kind. Maybe they DID have families. Or some other form of emotional attachment that was their equivalent. Humphrey had never shown any inclination to leave him and return to any place where he might be with his own species, so it was difficult to find out.

Humphrey wouldn’t go into the Zero Room. Chrístõ didn’t think it could hurt him, but the soft light that cast no shadow disturbed a creature made of shadow. He waited outside as Chrístõ stepped into the room.

Romana was kneeling, straight backed, with her hands making slow, gentle movements above Hext. He was levitating about a foot from the floor. His eyes were closed, but as Chrístõ moved quietly across the floor he opened them and looked up at him.

“You’re supposed to be sleeping,” he told him.

“I’m supposed to be resting,” Hext answered. “I’m doing that. I feel rested. My mind is clear and calm. I think I’m going to be ok.”

“Stay here a little while longer,” Chrístõ replied. “Just to be on the safe side. Apart from anything else, my father will be annoyed if we pick him up in another couple of centuries and you’re pushing yourself again.”

“He’s a good man. I wish I could talk to him. I could learn a lot from him.”

“About being an assassin? I learnt from him how to be a diplomat and a peacemaker. You want to learn to be a killer.”

“We’re two sides of the same coin, Chrístõ,” Hext answered. “Your father has turned that coin over. But he knows what is on the other side.”

“If that’s the sort of terrible metaphor you dream up in here, then get well quickly and come out into the world beyond these walls,” Chrístõ answered. But he reached and touched his friend’s face gently. “Sleep, Hext. Rest yourself. Get well. We may need you, yet.”

He felt him relax into sleep. It was easy to do here in the Zero Room where all distractions of the outside universe were cut off. He quietly left the room again. Humphrey followed him to the console room and hunkered under the console itself. Chrístõ took the coffee that Julia had made and went to sit on the sofa in comfort with a laptop computer on his knee to study the location in time and space where he would meet up with his father’s seventh incarnation.

“I don’t like the look of this place,” he said to Julia as she sat close to him. “In the period we’re heading for there’s a war on. A very bad war. It’s already cost a lot of lives and according to the notes in the TARDIS database it will go on for a generation, yet.”

“A whole generation at war? Will they even remember what it was all about?”

“Probably not. That’s the tragedy of it. Every time one side bombs a city or takes some territory from the other, it will become a new reason for fighting. New martyrs, new causes. And the original reason will be forgotten.”

“Why is your father there, do you think?”

“For some good reason,” Chrístõ answered with absolute certainty. “My father is not a warmonger. He’s no mercenary for hire. He would not be there to advance one side or another. I am fully certain of that.”

“You are sure of that, aren’t you?” Julia asked him. “After all, you don’t know what he did in the past, so many years before you were born.”

“I know him. I know he would not be involved in anything dishonourable. And to involve himself in a war like this would be utterly dishonourable.”

“What would you do,” Julia asked after a long pause. “If you did find out that he did something way back that was wrong? Would it change how you feel about your father?”

“Yes,” he answered. “And that’s what scares me most about all of this. I don’t want to find out that he did something cruel or unnecessary because of his work for the CIA… Yes, I think it would.”

“He would still be your father.”

“Yes, he would. I’ve loved him all my life. Even when we have found things difficult between us, I never stopped loving him. But I loved him, because I knew he was a good, honest man. If I found out differently…”

“I don’t think you will,” Julia assured him. “Your father IS a very good man.”

“Thanks,” he told her. “For your faith. In him and in me.” He pushed the laptop away and reached his arm around her. It felt good to sit there and put everything out of his mind except the sound of her breath as she leaned her head against his shoulder and her single heart beating in time with his own syncopated pair.

The respite seemed all too brief before it was time to bring them in to land on the war-torn planet of Aru XII. He checked the precise location the TARDIS was bringing them into, and was disturbed to see that it was in the middle of an airborne bombardment.

“Julia,” he said. “Sit there. Hold on tight. Don’t move. When we land… I’m going out. Just me. I won’t be long.”

Julia watched as he went to the console and opened up a cupboard beneath it. She saw him take something out of it and then move towards the door. As soon as he opened it, she heard gunfire and explosions. Something terrible was happening outside. And Chrístõ had stepped out into it.

The lifesigns monitor had told him there was a Time Lord out there. He was running, along with two humanoids, and many more were converging on them. It looked as if they were running for their lives.

They were. He saw them round a corner into the narrow alleyway between two tall buildings. When they saw the alley blocked by what appeared to be a small concrete building, they almost halted and turned.

“No,” Chrístõ shouted. “Come on, in here. You’ll be safe. All of you.”

All of them didn’t make it. One man fell in a hail of bullets as they sprinted towards the open door of the TARDIS. The other two looked at him, but there was obviously no hope. They kept on running. Chrístõ stepped forward and pulled the pin on the smoke grenade that had been left behind in his TARDIS long ago when Sammie kept supplies for his M16 in there. He hurled it over the heads of the two men, one of whom had to be his father, though of course he didn’t recognise him by sight. It landed in front of the uniformed men who were pouring into the alley.

The smokescreen obscured their view. But it didn’t stop them shooting. They poured hundreds of bullets through the smoke.

He turned and began to run. Ahead of him, on the threshold of the TARDIS, one of the men was cut down. His blood was red, Chrístõ noted. It wasn’t his father.

Then he screamed as he, too, was hit. He felt a bullet lodge in his neck and another in his shoulder. He stumbled as he was hit in the leg, too. Then he felt strong arms lifting him and carrying him into the TARDIS, bending to grab the other man and pull him clear of the doorway. He heard his rescuer yelling for help. Julia, despite his order to stay where she was, ran to the console to shut the door. Bullets strafed the door as it closed. A stray one crashed into the console. Julia yelped in shock and Chrístõ screamed in terror, thinking she was hit.

“The girl is all right,” said his father. “You’re hurt, but I don’t know how badly yet.” He laid him down on the floor and turned to the other man. It took only a few moments to see that he was dead.

“Chrístõ!” Julia ran to his side. His father looked at her strangely as she reached out to him.

“His name is…”

“Yes, it is,” Julia answered. “I know, the same as yours. That doesn’t matter. How bad is he?”

“Wait,” Chrístõ Mian told her. He took out his sonic screwdriver and used it in medical analysis mode. Then he bent close and spoke to Chrístõ quietly. “Don’t move a muscle, boy. The bullet in your neck is within a hair’s breadth of the Medulla Oblongata.”

“What’s that?” Julia asked fearfully.

“It is the part of the brainstem that regulates breathing and heart rate. If that is damaged, then he is dead, with no possibility of regeneration.”

“No!” Julia gulped air and tried to hold back her tears. “No. Help him.”

“Romana,” Chrístõ whispered. “Get Romana.”

“Hush,” his father told him. “Don’t speak.”

Chrístõ didn’t speak. He tried to keep his eyes open, focussed on his father. He looked different again, still tall, but slender, with lighter hair. He had a light moustache and a trim, small beard. He still looked about forty five years or so in Earth terms, and he still had the same brown eyes. Chrístõ focussed on his eyes. He remembered those same eyes looking at him when he was a baby in his crib, his mouth smiling with love for him. As he fought to stay conscious and to stay immobile he clung to that memory. His father watching over him as he fell asleep.

“Don’t sleep,” Chrístõ Mian told him. “I know you’re hurting, boy. But stay awake. Stay with me. Chrístõ… that’s your name? I wondered. Every time before, you hid your mind from me. You didn’t want me to know.”

“How did you know?” Chrístõ asked telepathically. “The memory trigger….”

“I’m an experienced operative of the Celestial Intervention Agency,” he replied. “We do exercises to prevent our minds being influenced by dangerous elements. The trigger broke during one of them a decade ago. I remembered everything. I wondered when we might bump into each other again. This was the last place I expected our reunion. You were very brave. Quick thinking. What you did should have worked. There were just too many of them. Too many soldiers, too many bullets. But you saved my life. And I don’t intend it to be at cost of your own. So just hang in there, son.”

“Son?” Chrístõ whispered the word despite his injunction not to speak out loud. Was it just a word he was using as an alternative to ‘boy’? Or did he know?

Julia ran back into the console room. Romana followed. She went straight to Chrístõ’s side. His father stood and put his hand on Julia’s shoulder.

“Come away, child. Let the healer do her work.”

“Romana can help him?” Julia let herself grasp an atom of hope. “He’ll be all right?”

“She is of the Sisterhood. They have the gift of healing. That’s why he asked for her. If he is not beyond hope, then she can help him. But she needs to be undisturbed in her work. You come over here and sit quietly.”

He brought Julia to the sofa again and sat with her. She was barely holding back her tears, but knowing that Romana could help Chrístõ was a comfort to her. From the sofa she watched her kneeling by his side, one hand hovering close to the dangerous wound in his neck, the other making circular movements above it.

“She’s… taking the bullets out? With her mind?”

“The Sisterhood are all powerful telekinesists,” Chrístõ Mian told her. “I am skilled at it, myself. But a wound like that, the bullet so grievously close to killing him, I would trust one such as her any time. Especially one who cares about him so deeply as she does.”

“But Romana isn’t….” Julia protested. “I am…”

“This isn’t the time for jealousy, either,” Chrístõ Mian said. “A purer love even than that between sweethearts is what he needs just now.”

Julia nodded. She thought she understood. Then she yelped in fear as the TARDIS door was strafed by gunfire again. She looked up at the viewscreen and saw soldiers surrounding them.

“They brought in reinforcements. They want me, dead or alive, no doubt. But they won’t get in here.”

“The noise is horrible,” Julia said. “Can’t we go into temporal orbit? I know how to do that. Chrístõ showed me.”

“Not with a bombardment from space going on. We can’t risk a missile colliding with the TARDIS. It wouldn’t penetrate it in a thousand years. But it would be the death of him if there is the slightest jolt.”

Julia shuddered. Tears pricked her eyes again.

“You are able to take the TARDIS into temporal orbit? It lets you? It must accept you as an extension of his imprimatur. Are you formally bonded with him, yet? You seem young… even for an Earth Child.”

“I’m fifteen. And he made a Bond of Intent. We’ll be betrothed when I am seventeen.”

“He’s young himself for such an earnest commitment. And for a mission such as this. But I understand now. Such devotion could only come from one of my own flesh. He is, isn’t he? He’s my future son?”

“You weren’t supposed to know.”

“I didn’t. I was guessing. But you confirmed it.” Chrístõ Mian glanced at Romana’s careful operation and then turned his face away. “He risked his life for me… sacrificed himself.”

“Why were you running?” Julia asked, at least in part to distract him from such thoughts. “What was happening? And who… is that man? The dead one.”

“I almost forgot him.” Chrístõ Mian stood up and went to the bullet ridden body still lying near the door. He straightened the limbs and closed the eyes and then put his own coat over him reverently. He stood to attention for a moment, as if paying honour to a comrade, then he turned and came back to Julia’s side.

“His name was Gero Thannis. He did a similar job to mine for the Aru IX government. We were on the same mission and combined our efforts.”

“And that mission was…”

“Destroying the Aru XII Munitions factory. Which we succeeded in doing, but none of us reckoned on the number of soldiers protecting the place, or the speed with which they could call for back up. We had to run for it. Four of us started a few hours ago. Only I survived. But the factory is a smoking hole in the ground. There will be no more weapons made there.”

“Was it empty?” Julia asked.


“The factory. When you blew it up. Had the workers gone home? Was it empty?”

“That factory was operating twenty-eight hours a day, double shifts, producing chemical weapons that would have poisoned the other planets of the Aru system for a millennia.”

“So it wasn’t empty?”


“Chrístõ told me,” Julia said in a strained voice, as if the words came with difficulty. “Only a little while ago… we were sitting here and he told me that he was afraid he might find out something about you that would change how he felt about you. I think… I think if he asks, you’d better not tell him that. Don’t tell him something that will stop him loving you.”

“I wasn’t wrong,” Chrístõ Mian insisted. “I killed 1,000 people this day… to save 1,000 billion. More even. The formula for that dreadful chemical was destroyed, along with the scientist who developed it. Nor were they planning to use it to end the war now. A crude but workable method of time travel was also destroyed – it was going to be used to destroy their enemies retrospectively. That action alone, the premature deaths of so many, would have rocked the time continuum. That’s why I was there. The Time Lords could not allow such a thing to happen.”

“Even so, Chrístõ won’t like it. Don’t tell him.”

“I didn’t like doing it. There was no possibility of a warning. We couldn’t give them time to evacuate the ordinary workers. Those deaths will sit on my soul for eternity. I set the detonators knowing that they would. I felt their souls scream out as their bodies were vapourised. I accept the guilt of so many innocents as the price I pay for the greater good that I serve. But my own son won’t understand that?”

“No,” Julia said. “I don’t think he will. He believes in peace. He hates killing.”

“And yet he has killed. I’ve sensed it every time I’ve been in his presence. He and the other young man. Both of them have the shadow of war on their souls. He must know that peace sometimes comes at a dreadful price.”

“But not that price. Don’t tell him about this. Please.”

“If he lives…” Chrístõ Mian was a Time Lord. He couldn’t cry. But he blinked hard and looked once again at his son, lying so still as Romana worked to save him. “If he lives, the last thing I want to talk to him about is that. It’s foolishly sentimental of me. I should know better. But I can’t help thinking… his life… would be a bitter price for those lives I have taken this day. I can’t bear to lose him before I have even known him. Before he has been able to acknowledge me… Before he has even been… mine.”

Julia looked at the man beside her and, though she was young, and relatively inexperienced, she understood his particular dilemma. Was he going to witness his own son’s death before he was even born? What a cruel twist it would be for him to go through his life, knowing he was going to have a child that he loved, yet knowing that he would die before his full potential was realised. Chrístõ Mian’s grief right now was even greater than hers for that terrible reason.

“He’s not going to die. We’re going to be married. We’ve both been told that. He’s seen it in the future… in my timeline.”

“I hope that’s so,” Chrístõ Mian answered, glad of a straw to clutch on. “But he is a time traveller. His future alters with every journey he makes in the vortex. His life could end now…”

“To punish you for…”

He shook his head. “That’s a foolishness on my part – born out of the emotions of the moment. As a Time Lord, as a Celestial Intervention Agency man, I ought to know better. I AM a Time Lord. We have no gods. We bow to no-one. We do not bargain with fate. Just for a moment there… my hearts wavered. But don’t think of it.” He turned his face away from Romana’s urgent work and looked at Julia. “Tell me about my son. I know already that he is a man of courage and resourcefulness. But what else?”

“He’s kind,” Julia said. “Very kind. To everyone and everything he meets. I think… your mission… I think if it was him, he really would have found another way. I don’t mean to say that you were wrong, sir. I really don’t. I think you really had no other way. But Chrístõ would have found one. Because he would have been kind to the workers. He cares deeply for everything in the universe. It hurts him to see anyone else suffer. He would rather bear the suffering himself.” She paused and thought about what Chrístõ was to her. “It’s not always like that, though. When we don’t have difficult things to do, he likes to have fun. We have lots of good times together. And his laugh… his laugh makes me feel so alive. And… he’s a teacher, you know. That’s the job he does. He is a wonderful teacher.”

“Teacher? That’s an honourable profession. I wonder… is that because of my influence on him… or despite it? Have I been a good father to him?”

“Yes,” Julia told him without hesitation. “Yes, you have. He loves you. He looks up to you. And, you’re so proud of him, too. And… Oh, I hope… I hope when all this is over, you can go back to being proud of each other. So many things have changed, for all of us. I hope we can all go back to how it was. I liked the way things were. I want it to go back to that… And I want to hear Chrístõ laugh again. He hasn’t for so very long.”

“He will, child,” Chrístõ Mian promised. Then he looked around. Romana stood up. Chrístõ was still lying on the floor, but even from where they stood they could see her work was done. Julia ran to his side. His clothes still bore testimony to the wounds he had received. Dried blood made the collar of his shirt stiff and rough. But his neck was clean and white and there was no sign of a scar. His other injuries were mended, too. He was whole again.

He was half awake, half asleep, his brown eyes hidden behind his long eyelashes. He managed to focus on Julia, though, and his arm reached around to rest on her shoulder, even if he wasn’t quite capable of holding her in an embrace. Julia bent to kiss his cheek and he managed to whisper her name before his eyes closed agaun.

“I’ve put him into a half trance,” Romana explained. “His mind is so full of troubles it almost hampered my work of healing his body.”

Neither Julia nor Romana noticed Chrístõ Mian move to the console. They hardly realised that the TARDIS had dematerialised, except that the annoying sounds of gunfire against the door had stopped. Julia looked up at the viewscreen and saw the cool blue of the vortex as they slipped back through time.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“Anchoriss,” Chrístõ Mian answered. “It is a planet of healing. The people are dedicated to the health and peace of their visitors. A troubled soul like his, and your other friend, will find rest there. You will hear Chrístõ laugh again, child, after a few quiet days there.”

He set the co-ordinates and then moved to the Zero Cabinet, almost forgotten in the traumatic time they had all been through. He did his simple but important duty there and then returned to the console.

“You can pilot it… because you and him have nearly the same DNA?” Julia asked.

“I can pilot it, because the TARDIS knows I mean the best for him,” Chrístõ Mian explained. “I’ve slaved my own TARDIS. They will land together. When I’ve seen the four of you settled at the House of Wellness, I can go on my way to my next mission.”

The House of Wellness on the planet of Anchoriss was, indeed, everything they needed. In the Room of Quiet Thoughts, Hext and Chrístõ both gently levitated above the rest mats and their bodies and minds were gradually restored. Romana was pleased to find a Grove of Silence where she could spend her days in the contemplation that she had devoted herself to.

Julia found her own soul refreshed in the spa pools infused with invigorating minerals where she swam and played or just relaxed for hours at a time, safe in the knowledge that Chrístõ was going to be well enough to join her soon. She ate satisfying yet simple detoxifying food and drank cool, mineral infused water and felt more at ease with herself than she had been for a very long time.

Chrístõ recovered in a few days and, indeed, he did join her in the invigorating spa, and he ate the good food with her and savoured the mineral waters. He walked with her by the great Lake of Wellness in the good air of that planet where, it was said, it was impossible to be anxious or worried.

And he laughed. Julia’s heart leapt with joy when she heard him do so, and she clung to his arm and sighed with happiness. They both felt, for a brief time, just as they had felt before the Mallus caused them all so much harm.

On the last evening of their respite from the mission that was still only half done, the four friends shared a meal together in a private room and were able to smile and laugh together. They were surprised as they relaxed after the food to hear the sound of a TARDIS materialising and a door appearing in the wall where there wasn’t one before. A man stepped out. He was a stranger in his appearance, except for his eyes. Chrístõ stood and slowly approached the man with the same eyes as his.

“You… came back…” he said. “It’s a week since you brought us here. How long… for you?”

“A mere three hundred years,” he answered. “I had a run in with the Geffex of Kafiz. He tried to see what would happen if I had both hearts removed from my body simultaneously.”

Chrístõ wasn’t sure if that was true, or if his father was making light of another traumatic regeneration.

“It is true. The Agency gave me a short sabbatical to recover from the ordeal, so I thought I would save you all a journey. I came here to do my duty for the eighth time.

“My TARDIS is parked near the lake,” Chrístõ told him. “I will take you.”

“Let’s walk by the lake first. You and I… my son.”

Chrístõ was stunned. He wasn’t sure last time if his father had guessed. Now he knew. He told his friends to wait then he stepped out of the Hall of Wellness and walked in the dying light of a balmy day under a sky turning from turquoise to velvet. His father reached, hesitantly at first, then confidently, to hold him around the shoulders.

“You’ve known all along?” he asked.

“No, only since the last time. When you were hurt, and I held you in my arms, you looked at me, and I felt it. Even though you blocked your memories from me, I felt your love… a son’s love. Chrístõ… I can’t remember any of this. When we’re done here, you or your friend must put a new trigger in place. I must not know of your existence before I have even met the woman who will be your mother. At least… I don’t think I have. It isn’t Lily. And there is no other woman on Gallifrey who I could imagine…”

“You haven’t met my mother yet,” Chrístõ told him. “And you are quite right. You need to forget me… or forget what I am to you. But…”

“But for a little while, here, now, in this place, let me cherish the thought that I have raised a fine young man… Chrístõ, my son…”

“Father,” Chrístõ whispered and reached out to embrace the stranger with familiar eyes who he was glad to call by that name.

They drew out their time for as long as they could, then they walked on to the TARDIS. Chrístõ Mian did his duty at the Zero Cabined then they walked, slowly, back to the House of Wellness.

“Friends of my son,” he said to Hext and Romana. “I thank you both for your devotion. Let me shake you by the hand.” He did so. Then he turned to Julia and hugged her. “You will make him a good wife, one day, I think. Meantime, your faith and love is unwavering.”

He turned to Chrístõ. He embraced him fondly once more. Then he stepped back and nodded silently. Chrístõ stepped into his TARDIS with him. A few minutes later he came out, tears glistening in his eyes but a smile on his lips. He took Julia’s hand as they all watched the TARDIS dematerialise and the wall restore itself.

“Our Mission is two thirds done,” he said. “Eight of the twelve lives of Chrístõ Mian have been found. Four more and we can go home.”