Chrístõ stayed with his family on Gallifrey for another week after his recovery from the assassination attempt. He needed to spend the time with his father, and with his half brother. But he made it clear to them all that he intended to leave Gallifrey and return to Beta Delta IV. Julia needed to be back at school, and so did he.

“But it’s not as if you need the job,” Valena said to him on the morning before he planned to leave as he lingered over breakfast and talked to Garrick about steam trains. “If being heir to this family isn’t enough for you, you could do any work you want now you’re fully graduated. You have already distinguished yourself in the Diplomatic Corps. Then there is the Civil Service, or the Space Fleet. You would look magnificent in the uniform of a Gallifreyan Fleet Captain.”

Julia thought so, too, judging by her smile.

“I’m not about to choose a career just because both of you think I would look good in the uniform,” he pointed out.

“And you could always take up Hext’s offer to work with him in the Celestial Intervention Agency.”

“My father would not want me to do that job,” he answered. “Anyway, there is no question about it. I’m going back to Beta Delta IV. I have a job there that I like - teaching. And I like living there. With Julia.”

“Julia could live here with you. It would be perfectly appropriate. She can have tutors.”

“I’m going back,” Chrístõ repeated. “And that’s that. I will miss Garrick. And father. And I know he misses me when I’m away. But I’m a man, not a boy. He has to accept that. I won’t be pinned down by anyone or anything. Gallifrey doesn’t own me. I won’t be its prisoner.”

“Is that really how you feel?” Valena asked, shocked by his choice of words. “You hate your own homeworld?”

“No, I don’t hate it,” he answered. “I just… love it more when I’m away from it. There’s a universe out there. I want to be a part of it. I want to be free to choose what I do, where I go. I won’t be tied down. Not yet, at least. Seven years. That’s how long it will be, until Julia is Twenty-three. Then… we’ll both come home… for our Alliance. Then I’ll… I’ll work for the Civil Service. I’ll be Lord de Lœngbærrow, master of this House. I’ll take my place here. But until then… just let me have those seven years. It’s barely time to scratch the surface of all the wonder out there. But give me that long.”

“I won’t stop you,” Valena assured him. “As if I could. Even if I were your real mother, I don’t suppose I could hold you here if you feel so strongly about it. But Chrístõ, your father….”

“Father doesn’t want to hold me back from what I really want,” he said.

“Garrick... he’s only just got to know you again, properly. And now you’re leaving him.”

“He’ll have our father’s undivided attention when I’m not around. It’s no use, Valena. Nothing will change my mind. But… I will spend today with Garrick. I’ll take him out for a spin in the TARDIS. A couple of orbits of the planet and maybe take in some of the major landmarks.” Garrick smiled widely at the prospect of a day with his half brother. “You and Julia can spend the day talking about… I don’t know, balls and gowns and shoes or whatever it is you ladies do when there are no men around.”

Julia was happy with that prospect. She liked Valena and she would have Chrístõ’s company tomorrow on the way home. Chrístõ helped Garrick into his outdoor coat, hat and gloves – it was winter on the southern continent, after all. The boy held his hand as they went to the garage where he had left his TARDIS during his stay. It was disguised as one of the family’s fleet of cars – a sleek limousine. Inside, of course, it was very different.

“You sit there, Garrick,” he said, lifting the boy up onto the command seat he never used since he found it easier to pilot the TARDIS standing up. “Oh, and here’s Humphrey,” he added as his strange friend emerged from under the console and gave both of them one of his all-enveloping hugs. Garrick laughed joyfully and Humphrey stayed near him as he watched Chrístõ manoeuvre the TARDIS in a steady, low orbit, well under the level where he would need permission from the Transduction Barrier controllers. Then he put the outer forcefield on and opened the door. He took Garrick’s hand and brought him to the door. Garrick’s eyes widened in surprise as he stood and looked out at empty space only inches from his feet.

“No, you can’t fall,” Chrístõ assured him. “I won’t let you. Nor will the TARDIS. He sat beside the open door and Garrick sat in his lap. He held him closely as the TARDIS slowly spun around to give different views of their home planet below.

“That’s the Red Desert,” he said to the boy. “When you’re a bit older, I’ll take you on a hover trike across it. We’ll bring a tent and provisions and explore. I think you’ll like that. I went with father when I was a boy. A couple of years ago I crashed the TARDIS in the Dark Territory in the middle, too. That wasn’t much fun. But we’ll be all right on trikes. And… look, there’s the Capitol, now. Look how the dome shines. They’ve repaired it beautifully. You would never know it had been destroyed. The new Citadel Tower touches the very zenith of the dome. The tallest and grandest place in all Gallifrey. Now… we’re coming to the Straits. We’re passing from the northern continent to the southern. Our home, Garrick, where it’s so much greener and watered. See the mountains of Solace and Solitude…. They’re always snow-covered, of course. But now, the whole continent looks white. It’s… beautiful.”

Chrístõ enthusiastically pointed out all of the landmarks of his world. From orbit it looked so tranquil. He loved it like that. It was strange, in a way, that he felt so compelled to leave it. But one planet just didn’t seem big enough for him. Ever since….

…. Ever since he could remember, of course. When he was a child on Ventura and he dreamt of Gallifrey and Earth. Unlike Garrick, there were always three planets he was aware of from the earliest age. But the real yearning began when he was eight years old, when he faced the Untempered Schism and saw all the universe in one burst of glorious information. He wanted to stretch out his hand and touch them all. And he felt as if he could.

That feeling faded, of course, along with the full majesty of what he saw and experienced. It was meant to. No child could hold so much inside them. But the desire to touch the stars, to walk on new worlds, under different skies, stayed with him. Yes, in his time, he would be happy to take his place as a Gallifreyan, as Patriarch of the House of Lœngbærrow. And, of course, he wanted Julia to be mistress of Mount Lœng House beside him. But not until he had fully exhausted that yearning.

He held Garrick near to him and felt the connection of their blood, their shared DNA. He wondered what it would be like to hold a child with that same blood, but born of the union between himself and Julia, his own son and heir? For that, yes, that, and nothing else, he would give up his wonderlust.

“I wonder what you’ll be like when you’re older,” he said to Garrick. “Will you be like me? A restless spirit, longing to see other worlds? Or will Gallifrey be enough for you?”

Garrick leaned back against him contentedly and Chrístõ felt his reply telepathically. He wanted to be like his half brother. He wanted to be a Time Lord.

“You’ll be that, little brother,” Chrístõ promised him. “Yes, you will. Maybe you’ll be a politician, like Uncle Remonte. He made it as far as Chancellor, even though he is a second son. And anyway, you are heir to the House of Arpexia. You’re almost a first born son in that sense. You can be who you want to be, Garrick.”

Again, he felt his thoughts. Garrick wanted to be like him. And he wanted to be a Lœngbærrow, not an Arpexian.

“There’s no shame in it,” Chrístõ assured him. “Your mother was an Arpexian. It’s a good House. One of the Ancient Twelve, sired by Lord Rassilon himself, just like the House of Lœngbærrow. You can be proud of your mother’s line.”

That was perfectly true. Like all high born Gallifreyans, Chrístõ had an innate pride and jealousy of his own House and Arpexia was aligned with the Ceruleans, not the Prydonians. There were so many layers of rivalry and division between them all. But the overriding factor for them all was duty and love of Gallifrey, the beautiful planet below.

“Let’s go and see a bit of it close up,” he said, closing the door and setting the co-ordinate before going to the kitchen and packing a picnic basket. He made sure Garrick was dressed warmly as they landed on the snow-covered southern plain.

It was bracing as they walked across the snow, Garrick making much smaller footprints than he did. But they were heading for a place where it was warm. A place where physics turned a blind eye. It was called Omega’s Well. It was some three hundred miles south of Mount Lœng House. There, a rocky outcrop broke the monotony of the plain and within the rocks was a natural hot spring where water was forced up from a superheated caldera beneath the planet’s crust. Around it, even in the month of Janus, there was grass growing and it was warm enough for Chrístõ to take off his leather jacket and Garrick to go without his coat and gloves as they sat and ate their picnic lunch.

“This… is nice,” Chrístõ admitted as he watched his half brother eating a piece of cheese. “I never thought about how much fun it could be… just me and you… It’s nice having a brother… even a half brother. We can do stuff together…when I’m home. That’s a good reason to visit, at least. But… I do have to live my own life. And I can’t do it here.”

Garrick looked at him as if he understood. He probably did at some level at least.

“You could come and visit me,” he added. “When you’re a little bit older. You could come and stay for a while on Beta Delta IV. I’ve got room. Maybe after you’ve been to the Schism.”

Garrick seemed pleased with the plan. Chrístõ described Beta Delta IV to him. A planet with a blue sky, like Ventura, where they stayed at Christmas. Blue skies were strange and unusual to Garrick. Chrístõ had been away so long he found Gallifrey’s sky surprising.

They sat together by the warm pool and Chrístõ talked to his half brother of other offworld wonders for a while before he decided they should probably head home. They could, at least, go the scenic route – another full orbit of the planet before landing back in the garage. He packed away the remains of the picnic and he and Garrick went back to the TARDIS. Garrick sat on the command chair and watched him again as he inputted their journey into the drive console.

“We’ll be home soon,” he promised his brother. “You can tell your mama all about the things you’ve seen.”

Then he felt the TARDIS shudder. He reached to stop Garrick sliding off the seat and slipped backwards onto the floor himself, the child landing safely on top of him. He was laughing gleefully as Chrístõ lifted him back onto the chair and turned to find out what had happened.

“What!” he exclaimed, though if Garrick had not been present he might have chosen a more colourful expletive. His TARDIS was being recalled under remote control towards a destination some several hundreds miles away from his home.

But there was nothing at that location except….

He glanced at the viewscreen as the TARDIS materialised in the temporal engineering depot where he had first taken charge of it. Why had he been brought there?

“Garrick, stay put,” he said as he went to the door and opened it cautiously. There were two men with clipboards waiting outside.

“What’s going on?” he demanded. “Why did you recall my TARDIS?”

“According to our records this is not YOUR TARDIS,” one of the men replied. “The registration of the Type 40 travel capsule has expired. You are required to surrender all keys and key codes….”

“What?” He looked at the two men and for a moment he was speechless. But only for a moment. “No way. I registered this TARDIS for a twenty year term. There are still four years to go.”

“The registration was terminated on your graduation from the Prydonian Academy,” he was told. “You were registered for the use of the Type 40 capsule under a student visa. You are no longer a student. You must, I repeat, surrender all physical keys and key codes. Arrangements will be made for collection of any personal belongings within the capsule. Please step aside…”

The two men looked as if they were going to push him aside and force their way into the TARDIS. Chrístõ pushed them back and slammed the door shut. He ran to the console and tried to dematerialise. There was a lock on the drive control. He should have expected that. But it was only a technical problem. As the two men hammered on the door and shouted to him to come out and stop being foolish, he typed rapidly at the console, searching for the code that would release his TARDIS.

“Got it!” he said with a note of triumph despite the seriousness of the situation. He dematerialised the TARDIS and set a co-ordinate where he could think about what to do next.

The dark side of Pazithi Gallifreya, the moon of Gallifrey, was a rarely visited place. Scientists had long ago dismissed it as of no interest. Nobody went there.

Chrístõ went there. He materialised the TARDIS in one of the smaller craters and then initialised every cloak and shield it had. He intended to be invisible for as long as he needed to be. He rigged a code wall around the drive control to prevent it being recalled again.

Then he turned and looked at Garrick. The boy seemed unconcerned for the moment. He was still with the brother he looked up to and trusted. He might not feel that way if he didn’t get him back to his mother, but for now he was all right.

Maybe it wouldn’t take that long. This was a clerical error, surely. He moved to the computer database and pulled up the registration record for his TARDIS. It was, technically, true that his lease of the machine was for the duration of his extended student field trip, while still technically an undergraduate waiting to pick up his diploma. The redundant Type 40s were assigned for use by students as training machines. But it was still supposed to be a twenty year period. Bringing the graduation ceremony forward shouldn’t have changed that. He was still on field study as far as he was concerned.

When he had first been given this machine, he had fully intended to trade it in at the end of the period for a sleek, modern TARDIS of his own. But he had not realised then just how attached he would become to the old, discontinued model. It wasn’t just a used car. It was always far more than that, from the very first time he put his hands on the console and felt the imprimatur bind the semi-sentient machine to him. And over the years it had felt like a friend, a refuge, a place of safety. His friends had travelled with him. Humphrey had made it his home. He was there, now, beside Garrick. And there was Natalie. Her spirit was here in the TARDIS, where she had died. She was joined with the TARDIS. He couldn’t leave her.

So he had decided some time ago, that when his twenty year registration period was coming to a close he would renew it, permanently. He meant to keep his Type 40 for life. It would truly be HIS TARDIS and nobody would be able to interfere with it or with him.

But somebody had jumped the gun and used his graduation to terminate his contract.

Why? Was it deliberate? Did somebody seek to prevent him leaving Gallifrey? Or was it just a clerical error after all? Maybe a computer with a programme that nobody had bothered to reconfigure with variables like a graduation programme being brought forward.

He could put it right, anyway. He accessed the online registration pages and very carefully filled in the endless pages of information required. He submitted the completed form. A few hours and everything would be all right. The TARDIS would be his.

He made coffee for himself and warm milk for Garrick and he found a book in his private library. He brought it to the comfortable sofa in the corner of the console room.

“Your mama reads you stories, doesn’t she?” he said to his brother. “But I bet she never read you this one.” He sipped his coffee and Garrick drank his milk and he read aloud the story of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe. He could have read it much more quickly telepathically, if all he wanted to do was disseminate information. But he wanted Garrick to love the story and enjoy the imagery it conjured in the mind. So he read it slowly, out loud.

They were up to chapter eleven when he heard a noise from the console. He knew it would be a response from the TARDIS depot. He put down the book and went to attend to it.

He was astonished to see his application rejected and a demand that he return the TARDIS to the depot immediately. He checked the form for errors or omissions and re-submitted it. Then he went back to the sofa and read three more chapters of the Wardrobe to Garrick. The boy was getting sleepy, and by the time he was finished chapter fourteen he was drifting away. Chrístõ laid him down on the sofa and covered him with his leather jacket. Then he went to the console.

The application was refused again. This time there was a really ominous threat. If he didn’t return the TARDIS immediately, it would be considered an act of Grand Theft.

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” he replied and submitted the application for a third time.

Five minutes later he got a memo stating that this TARDIS had been reported as stolen and therefore charges of Grand Theft and Piracy would be laid against him unless he surrendered the capsule now, in which case a summary fine would be imposed instead.

At that point, perhaps, anyone else would have given in and surrendered the TARDIS. He could have paid the fine and sorted out the paperwork again at the depot.

But Chrístõ was not anyone else. And this was his TARDIS, not a car with an expired tax disc.

His reply was in Low Gallifreyan and the politest Earth translation was ‘go to hell’. It wasn’t very clever, it certainly wasn’t diplomatic. But it reflected Chrístõ’s mood at that moment.

A few minutes later a warrant was issued for his arrest for Grant Theft and Piracy. The sight of the document, with his name as the malfeasant, gave him a shock. He was a criminal, a fugitive from the law. He felt a little sick.

He thought about his father, and wondered what he would think when he found out. And he felt VERY sick. He felt as if he had let him down in the worst possible way. A Lœngbærrow named on a warrant for theft? It was unthinkable.

Even so, he didn’t even consider the possibility of surrendering. Not now. It was too late for that.

When the second warrant arrived, this time from the Castellan’s office, charging him with child abduction on top of the theft and piracy, he knew it was far too late.

He went to the sofa and sat down. Garrick didn’t even stir as he lifted him up into his arms and cuddled him. Child abduction? How could anyone imagine, for one second, that he could do that? Garrick was his brother. Half brother. Well, anyway, he loved him dearly. How could anyone think that he would do anything to harm him?

He cried softly as he pressed his face against Garrick’s soft hair, scented with shampoo from his last bath. He felt Garrick’s dreams, coloured by the story he had fallen asleep listening to. No child was ever in a safer place, held by somebody who loved him and dreaming of a world where absolute good prevailed over absolute evil.

That wasn’t Gallifrey, for certain, he thought bitterly.

Well, he conceded, absolute evil didn’t exactly prevail. At least not now the Mallus were gone. But he wasn’t certain absolute good did, either. It was significant that the Civil Service was the one infrastructure that was most easily restored after the war, and it didn’t seem to have lost one memo’s worth of red tape, paperwork, officialdom. That’s what prevailed on Gallifrey and it was what had got him into trouble, now. A stupid error that could have been fixed in five minutes if there was somebody in the department who could take a decision without referring it to his superiors and letting it sit in the pending folder for a week.

There was another message. He laid Garrick down on the sofa again and went to attend to it. It was a bulletin from the Castellan’s office warning all TARDIS owners to be alert for his DRD signal. He was officially a fugitive from the law who was to be detained or apprehended by any citizen who knew of his whereabouts.

“I’m a fugitive,” he groaned. “As well as a kidnapper.” He thumped the console in frustration. “Why not put a price on my head, why don’t you?” he shouted, though there was nobody to hear.

He thought of his father again. He would know about this by now. He would be upset. He would be angry. He would be disappointed.

That was the worst thing about being branded a criminal – knowing that he had disappointed his father.

He wished he could talk to him right now. But the videophone was too easy to monitor. His call would be traced. Even parked in a crater on an airless moon, he would be found in two minutes if he tried to make contact.



Julia was largely unnoticed in the noise and fuss that was going on. Lord de Lœngbærrow was arguing with the Castellan, the Chief of the Gallifreyan police, who had taken charge of this case personally. There were four of his Chancellery Guards here in the drawing room right now, and more outside, guarding the house. When they first stomped in behind their chief, they had guns pointed at the butler who had opened the door to them. Lord de Lœngbærrow shouted angrily at the Castellan and he made them put them away. Even so, they were armed men who refused to leave the house until Chrístõ was arrested.

Lord de Lœngbærrow was shouting, still. He wanted to know why his son had been named as a fugitive, why he had been charged with theft, and for Rassilon’s sake, who said there had been any abduction? How had that charge even been laid? They had not reported Garrick as missing. He wasn’t missing. He was with his brother and he was perfectly safe.

Valena was upset. She looked as if she didn’t think Garrick was safe. But she said nothing.

Julia wasn’t asked how she felt. She wondered if the Castellan thought she was invisible or something. He took so little notice of her. But if anyone had asked, she would have probably had trouble telling them without the tears she was holding back flooding out.

Then her mobile phone buzzed in her pocket. She knew who was calling. There was only one person it could possibly be. She turned and moved towards the door. One of the Chancellery Guards stepped in front of her, blocking her exit.

“I want to go to the toilet,” she said. “Get out of my way and don’t even think of following me there or I will scream like you never heard anyone scream before.”

“Let her go,” Lord de Lœngbærrow demanded. “How dare you stop anyone from moving about in my own home.”

The Castellan nodded and the guards moved away. Julia went out of the drawing room. She crossed the hall towards the nearest bathroom on the ground floor of Mount Lœng House. It was in the set of rooms called ‘The White Suite’ which used to be Chrístõ’s mother’s own rooms in the house. Now they were Garrick’s day rooms where he played and had his afternoon naps and those meals he didn’t eat with the adults of the family.

She didn’t really need the toilet, of course. She stoped in the playroom and answered the phone call.

“Chrístõ,” she said. “Where are you? Do you know what they are saying about you? Your father is so angry….. No, not at you. At least not yet. More at the people who came to the house. The Castellan and…. Yes, they’re here. Right now. Are you sure it’s safe to talk…. Chrístõ…” She listened as he explained that mobile phones, being Earth technology, were not subject to the surveillance that the Gallifreyan authorities would think of doing in their search for him. At least not yet.

“Chrístõ, I don’t want them to hurt you,” she added. “They’ve got guns and…”

She was talking quietly. She didn’t want anyone to hear her. When the door opened she froze, even so. She was partially relieved to see that it was Valena who had followed her.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” she asked in a low voice. “Julia… please let me…”

She held out her hand. Julia passed her the phone.

“Chrístõ,” Valena said, keeping her voice quiet and steady. “Chrístõ, just promise me that Garrick is safe.”

“Of course he’s safe,” Chrístõ answered. “Valena, I am sorry he is involved. But believe me, I never meant… I wouldn’t harm him in a million years. He’s having his afternoon nap right now. I read to him, and he went to sleep. He’s fine. Just fine, Valena.”

“I believe you,” she answered him. “Chrístõ… I… oh…. Chrístõ, stay away from here. Don’t come home. It’s not safe.”

Behind her there was a sound of a crashing door and male voices shouting that Chrístõ heard over the phone. He heard Valena speaking angrily at the guards, but she had probably already given away that she was in contact with him.

“Valena,” he said, hoping she was still listening. “Step closer to Julia. Hold her hand. Keep the phone line open.”

Nothing on Gallifrey could trace a mobile phone signal. But he could. He homed in on it, setting the materialisation to take in the two people standing close to each other and hoping it wouldn’t pick up anyone else.

It did. One of the soldiers was trying to take the phone out of Valena’s hand as the three of them solidified within the console room. Chrístõ moved quickly, taking his legs out with a Judo sweep and knocking him out with a Gung Fu punch in the side of the head. He took his side arm and slid it into his own belt for the moment, then he turned to hug Julia.

“Mama!” Garrick exclaimed, woken from his sleep by the fuss inside and the sound of banging on the door outside. Valena ran to lift him into her arms.

“He didn’t even know anything was wrong… at least not until now." Chrístõ sighed wearily as a gunshot ricocheted off the door. “How stupid are your comrades?” he asked the Guard who was groaning and trying to stand up from the floor. “Nobody can shoot their way into a TARDIS. Who trained them for heaven sake? A few months back I was fighting alongside men with twice the brains of you lot. Stay down. I don’t want to hurt you. Not in front of my fiancée, stepmother and kid brother. Don’t give me a reason to.”

His harsh tone startled Valena and Julia. He softened as he reached out to Valena. “Please…tell them that I didn’t kidnap Garrick. Tell my father I’m sorry.” He went to open the door, but as he did, a fresh volley of bullets came through, barely missing their own man and lodging in the base of the console. He slammed the door shut again.

“That was bloody irresponsible,” he said to nobody in particular. He hit the two way communicator that allowed him to hear and speak to anyone outside the TARDIS. He heard his father ordering them to cease fire and also calling them irresponsible for risking the lives of his wife and child. The Castellan backed up his order to stop shooting. Chrístõ waited for it to become quiet before he spoke.

“Hold your fire. The women and the child are coming out. So is your guard. He’s unharmed. So don’t get uptight. I’m even giving him his gun back. So you can’t go declaring me armed and dangerous.

He took the ammunition clip off it first before he gave the sidearm back to the guard. Then he turned to Julia.

“I wish you could stay,” he said. “But they might say I kidnapped you, instead. Or, worse, they could say you’re my accessory. I don’t want you involved.” He kissed her fondly before reaching for the door release.

“Go on, now, please,” he begged her. “I’ll… I’ll see you when I can. Please… just go.”

“Chrístõ…” Julia began to cry. She hadn’t until now. “I want to be with you. We can… we can go away together… somewhere….”

“We’re not Bonnie and Clyde,” he told her. “No, please go with Valena. She needs you.”

Valena was near the door, but she wouldn’t step out until Julia was beside her. She clung to Garrick, her own child, but she looked back anxiously at her stepson who she had learned to love as if he was her own flesh. It hurt to see him like this.

“You, get out of here,” he said to the guard as Valena and Julia stepped out. He obeyed. As soon as he was clear Chrístõ closed the door again and hit the fast return switch that would immediately return the TARDIS to its last location.

It was just possible that, even with his Dimensional Recognition Device cloaked, somebody might have been able to trace his journey. He knew he couldn’t stay there for long.

But where could he go? It was possible that he could break through the Transduction Barrier and get away into space, go to some other world, go to Earth, even. He could hide somewhere, maybe the Shaolin Temple or London, Liverpool…

If he did that, though, he would be a Renegade. He could never go home again. He could never be with Julia again. If he returned to Beta Delta IV they would be waiting for him.

But to just surrender, to admit the charges laid against him, as if he was a common criminal, was unthinkable. The pride of the oldbloods burned in his veins as he thought of it.

“What am I going to do?” he asked himself. There was nobody else he could ask.

There was just one last desperate way to end this. Well, there were two, maybe. One was the Gallifreyan equivalent of Jesse James’ last battle, going out in a blaze of glory, all guns fighting.

But that was hardly the way a pacifist was supposed to die. And not for something as stupid and petty as a clerical error in the TARDIS registration department.

The other option involved surrender, but in a more dignified way than giving himself up to the Chancellery Guard.

It wouldn’t be easy getting in, of course. ‘The Tower’ as it was known to those who even knew it existed at all, had anti-transmat shields and invisibility cloaks even before it became the headquarters of the Celestial Intervention Agency. He shouldn’t have been able to do what he did. The fact that he could was a lesson to those who thought their secret fortress was impregnable. Even he only managed a tiny window in the defences. Just enough to get his TARDIS through.

Yes. He allowed himself a moment of triumph as he stepped out into the warm, comfortable bedroom on the top floor, exactly where he hoped to be. This was the one part of the complex that would be unguarded. He moved cautiously all the same as he went down the winding, narrow stairs to the room below. He opened the door silently, blessing the training of the Shaolin monks, the soul of the Celestial Intervention Agency’s most notorious agent within him, and maybe a little of the DNA of the one they still whispered reverently about as The Executioner.

He stepped inside and watched as Paracell Hext sat at the communications console in his private study and living room and contacted the office of the Lord High President.

“Father,” he said. “Could you please tell me why the Agency has been ordered to apprehend Chrístõ Cuimhne de Lœngbærrow and on what charge, because the one I see on this warrant has to be a joke. Stealing a TARDIS… surely there’s something more. Some serious treasonable act… though I frankly wouldn’t believe it….”

“I’m sorry that the Celestial Intervention Agency has been involved in this,” the Lord High President replied. “He released his hostage, but then evaded the Chancellery Guard – a blatantly criminal act as far as the Castellan’s Office is concerned. The whole thing has escalated quite out of proportion now. But it seems young Lœngbærrow did, indeed, choose to become a fugitive instead of surrendering to the Guards and accepting the minor offence of operating an unlicenced TARDIS.”

“Father!” Hext responded.

“Son, I am in my office. You really should call me Your Excellency.”

“And you should call me Director,” Hext answered. “Father, really, this is Chrístõ we’re talking about. He’s… he’s the reason we’re both alive, for a start. He’s a war hero… TWICE. He’s… I mean… stealing a TARDIS! Surely you can use your influence.”

“No,” the President replied. “I can’t. The law is the law. It applies to war heroes, even to Chrístõ Cuimhne, as much as it applies to anyone else. I can’t make an exception just because I am grateful to him. What kind of president would that make me?”

Chrístõ thought that was a good point. Hext did, too. But he tried another tack.

“What about… I mean… nobody would begrudge… a Presidential Pardon… in his case.”

“No,” Chrístõ said, stepping forward. Hext spun around in his chair, genuinely shocked to see him. Until that moment, Chrístõ was half sure that Hext knew he was there and was just playing along. He was half expecting a gun pressed into his back as Hext’s men crept up behind him having been silently warned by their boss.

“No,” he said again, stepping even closer. “I don’t want a presidential pardon. I would have to admit I committed a crime in that case. And I didn’t. I have done nothing wrong. I stole nothing. It is my TARDIS, but for some paperwork that needs straightening out. And I won’t give it up. The rest… piracy, kidnapping, they’re just the over active imagination of somebody in the Castellan’s office. And evading arrest… I didn’t start this….”

“Son…” Paracell Hext, Senior, Lord High President of Gallifrey blinked as he was addressed so candidly by a citizen of that planet and then turned to the Director of the Celestial Intervention Agency. “You… didn’t say that you already had the fugitive in your custody.”

“I… don’t…” Paracell Hext, Junior, replied. “Chrístõ is my friend and guest… at least until further notice. It wasn’t my idea to bring the Celestial Intervention Agency into this. We don’t deal with theft, petty or grand. So there’s nothing for me to arrest him for. And I could point out, by the way, that the Agency is above the Castellan’s Office, and the President’s Office, too, if need be. So… I’ll get back to you in a while. But until then, I expect no further action to be taken in this matter.”

He dropped the communication and stood, stepping towards his friend. Chrístõ stood where he was, his arms held out by his side, palms extended to prove he was unarmed.

“I’m… in your hands,” he said. “Do what you will. I… surrender to you.”

“Sweet Mother of Chaos!” Hext exclaimed as he reached to embrace him. “What the hell SHOUD I do with you? I don’t know whether to kick you or kiss you. I think I’d like to do both. Kick you for the trouble you’ve caused and… kiss you because I'm so glad you’re safe. When I saw that warrant I thought…”

“I… don’t really want you to do either,” Chrístõ answered. “But it’s up to you.”

Hext closed his arms even more tightly around him and kissed him on the cheek. Chrístõ was trembling with emotions that had nothing to do with his gesture of friendship. Hext pulled him towards a leather sofa in the middle of the room and sat him down before he fell down. He let him compose himself a little more manfully before he questioned him further.

“What is this all about?” he asked, finally.

“Justice and Honour… what they taught us at the Academy. What they told us that Gallifrey stands for,” Chrístõ answered. “I just want that to mean something. I want it to be the truth about our world, not a big, stinking lie.” Hext looked puzzled still. Chrístõ slowly told him what had happened in the past few hours.

“Well…” Hext was partially relieved. He was almost sure there was something more sinister going on. “I mean… why couldn’t you… just let them have it? You could buy a brand new state of the art model. Your family have enough money to buy the depot.”

“No,” Chrístõ insisted. “I want MY TARDIS. You don’t understand… it’s more than just a machine. It’s… a friend.”

“You have some funny friends, Chrístõ,” Hext pointed out.

“I’m serious,” he answered him and explained about Humphrey’s nest, and in rather more detail about Natalie and what happened in the last few minutes of her life.

“You believe her spirit is still a part of your TARDIS?”

“Yes, I do,” he answered.

“Explains a lot,” Hext said cryptically. “But… even so… I don’t think that is something you want to use as a defence against these charges. And even if you did… I don’t think it would… what’s the Earth expression… melt any ice…”

“Cut any ice,” Chrístõ told him. “And you’re probably right about that. But… what do I do… How do I….”

“Avoid ten years in a labour camp and your name and your House disgraced?”


“You still won’t accept a Presidential Pardon?”

“I wouldn’t ask your father to do that even if I was guilty, which I'm not. He would be open to accusations of favouritism. It would taint his presidency. I won’t let him do that. I would… I would rather go to jail. If it came to that… at least I could fight. I could expose the lies, the stupidity. I’m a high profile person. All that I did for this planet. People know that. If they think that I can be tried like a common criminal for a stupid little crime… I’ll fight it. I’ll bring down the justice system, the government if I have to.”

“That’s a declaration of treasonable intent,” Hext pointed out. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear it for now. As for fighting… I’m not sure… If dignity and family honour are important to you, then there is neither in being labelled a TARDIS thief. If it actually was High Treason…. But this is just too stupid and sordid. I can’t let you do that. It would be too sickening to watch you go through that. And, besides… what if they convict you? Ten years forced labour. What about your family? What about Julia? Do you want her to have to come visit you, holding your hand through a security window once a month?”

“So what do I do?”

Hext didn’t reply straight away. He stood and went to his communications console and typed something quickly. Chrístõ watched him nervously. He still half expected a bunch of Celestial Intervention Agency men to come in and arrest him. He knew that Hext had converted several floors into cell and interrogation rooms for future use. But he didn’t want to be their first prisoner. He didn’t particularly want the kicking that was the alternative to the kiss he had already experienced from Hext.

“There is one way,” Hext said at last. “You won’t like it. Your father will hit the roof. With me. But there is a way I can get all the charges wiped out.”


Hext told him.

Chrístõ didn’t like it.

“Did you do this to me?” he demanded. “Did you rig the whole thing to pull me in? The Celestial Intervention Agency could do that… you said it to your father… you’re above everyone. You could have set me up….”

“You really think I’m that devious?”

“You’re the Director of the Celestial Intervention Agency,” Chrístõ answered. “If you’re not, then you shouldn’t be in the job.”

“Then do you really think I would do that to you?”

“I didn’t think you would. I thought we were better friends that that. That’s why I came to you. But now… I wonder…”

“Well, stop wondering. Even if I could trick anyone else like that, I wouldn’t do that to you. Chrístõ, please believe me. I would never set you up. Never. If you trust nobody else in the universe, you can trust me. We’ve seen too much, done too much, to deceive each other. On my soul, Chrístõ, I would never. I swear to you.”

Chrístõ studied him carefully. He felt as if Hext was being straight with him. He could feel no deceit. Of course, he was trained not to give himself away. His mind was a maze of walls hiding secrets too big to ever be revealed. But he thought he could trust him.

“Please believe me, or we can’t do this.”

“I believe you. But you explain this to my father.”


Lord de Lœngbærrow didn’t like the idea. He was angry at them both when Hext explained.

“You know how I feel about the Agency,” he told them both. “Chrístõ, you know I never wanted you to be involved with it. And now…”

“I’m not asking him to be an assassin,” Hext said. “I need a man with experience in the field. Somebody who has stepped off this planet more than once and understands how other worlds work. Chrístõ has that experience. Living on Beta Delta IV, away from Gallifrey, he is perfectly placed to be my first line of contact. And as long as he works for the Agency, he is immune from any kind of prosecution under our law. He can’t even be issued a parking ticket for his unauthorised landing on the moon. The ridiculous charges against him have already melted away. And I have the registration papers. Chrístõ… it’s your TARDIS, forever. Nobody can take it away from you.”

“Just so you know,” Chrístõ said as he accepted the documents from him. “I’m going to Beta Delta IV tomorrow. I’ve got a brand new term. And in a couple of weeks I have to do something fabulous for Julia’s birthday. Don’t even think about calling me until at least half term or the deal is off.”

“I still don’t like it,” his father said. “Paracell Hext, you may be the new blood in the Celestial Intervention Agency. But if you risk my son’s life in any way I consider underhand or unnecessary, you’ll feel the wrath of The Executioner.”

Chrístõ and Hext both looked at him and saw a darkness in his eyes that made them both shiver. Then they softened. He reached out and touched both young men on the shoulders.

“Both of you be careful. Gallifrey needs you. It’s lost too many of its sons already.”