Chrístõ had been watching Julia perform her gymnastics disciplines for more than four years, but he still insisted on calling them fancy cartwheels. Julia laughed. She knew he could probably name every single one of the moves in her floor programme if he wanted to. It was just his way of teasing her. She knew he was her biggest fan and would be watching avidly when she stepped out onto the performance floor of the Nova Castria University Arena representing New Canberra High School in the Beta Delta Inter-Planetary Championships.

“He’s always there for me,” she said to her team mates as she waited to be called. “He never lets me down.” She looked around the arena. Every seat was filled. The inter-planetary championships were important. She couldn’t actually see Chrístõ. But she knew he was there in the audience. Her aunt and uncle and her two cousins were watching at home on television. This was important enough to get full coverage throughout the Beta Delta system. But Chrístõ was there in the audience at the Arena to watch her win.

“He’s there,” she told herself as she heard her cue and stepped forward. She was wearing the team colours of maroon and white today, not her favourite leotard with the Seal of Rassilon emblazoned in gold across it. She did those colours proud as she began her routine, and when she was done, she knew she could not have done better. If it wasn’t enough for a medal place, then those she was competing against would have to be far superior to her.


Chrístõ freely admitted he was no expert on girls’ gymnastics, even after watching Julia practice nearly every day and having seen her in competition time and again. But to him she always looked the best. No other competitor existed in his eyes. His hearts swelled with love for her as he watched her floor exercises. When she was done, he applauded loudly and was pleased with her high scores for presentation and technical merit. He was slightly disappointed when she only got the silver medal. But she looked pleased with the result and after a short break he was gratified to see her perform again, this time in the rhythmic gymnastics discipline. He held his breath as she danced across the floor and twisted her body into fantastic positions while keeping a length of swirling ribbon constantly in motion around her.

“That’s got to be worth the gold medal,” he whispered to himself. “It’s beautiful.”

He was, he had to concede, just a little bit biased. But he could see no better performance, and he was gratified when the judges agreed. He watched her win her first gold medal of the afternoon.

A little later, he watched what was his absolute favourite routine of all. When she practiced the asymmetric bar in the corner of his dojo he almost always had to give up his own practice. It was just too distracting. Despite his own prowess in five different martial arts that depended on a lithe and well toned body, it never ceased to amaze him how a fragile Human body was able to twist and turn in mid air before folding itself around the flexible bars and then spin around in the opposite direction. He loved watching her do that, even though it terrified him. There was nothing to break her fall if she made a mistake except a very thin piece of mat below the bars. Surely, he thought, somebody could organise an anti-gravity cushion. Why had that never been thought of?

But she didn’t make a mistake. Instead she did one final flip and twist above the top bar and somersaulted in the air before landing perfectly. She bowed and stepped away from the apparatus and stood by the edge of the arena to see her scores appear on the electronic board.

Another gold, surely. Chrístõ remembered to breathe and blink as the other competitors took their turns. But he didn’t really see any of them. He was waiting for the last one to finish and the last marks to be awarded to see if the judges thought any of them were better than Julia’s.

They weren’t. She received her third medal of the night, and her second gold with a wide, triumphant smile. And a little later, she got a second silver medal when she joined the New Canberra team on the podium for the team award.

By that time, Chrístõ was almost beside himself with impatience. He had been separated from her by the width of a crowded arena and he wanted to be near her. He wasn’t allowed near the changing rooms, of course, but he waited by the door and was finally rewarded when Julia came out to him. She was wearing a maroon tracksuit with the school badge on and her hair was damp from the shower and her face clean and pink. Chrístõ picked her up in his arms while he kissed her lingeringly.

“You were fantastic,” he told her. “You deserve those medals.”

“My floor routine wasn't quite up to it,” she admitted and talked for a minute or two about where she had gone wrong technically and lost out on the top medal. Then Chrístõ silenced her again with another kiss.

“Who is that?” asked a commanding voice. Julia stepped back from him guiltily. Then the tone of the voice changed. “Oh, it’s you, Professor De Leon. Julia… er…”

It was a slightly awkward moment. Outside of school hours, Chrístõ was Julia’s boyfriend. That was accepted by all. Inside school hours, and certainly inside the school grounds, he was Professor De Leon, teacher of the Special Advanced Studies Group, and he always made sure he conducted himself correctly with Julia, who was still a student even though she was sixteen and starting her senior year in September.

They weren’t in school and it wasn’t school hours, but she was wearing a school tracksuit and the girls of the gymnastics team were chaperoned by Miss Waverly, the gym teacher.

“She’ll be with you in a minute,” Chrístõ assured his fellow teacher. “You have remembered, of course, that Julia is joining me for supper tonight? It was arranged…”

Nothing of the sort had been arranged. Julia was meant to eat and spend the rest of the evening with the others girls in the hostel where they were all staying. But he looked Miss Waverly in the eye and applied Power of Suggestion with all his might. He really wanted a chance to spend a little time with her.

“Yes, of course, Mr De Leon,” Miss Waverly said. “We agreed that she could stay out a little past the curfew, didn’t we? Ten o’clock at the latest.”

“Ten-thirty, I believe,” Chrístõ answered, and Miss Waverly corrected herself. He decided he had probably pushed his luck far enough, now, though.

“You’re scary when you do that,” Julia told him when her teacher had gone. “Even if it is handy. It would have been ok having supper with the girls, but being with you is even better.”

“Then pick your nicest dress and I’ll see you in the hostel lobby in an hour.” He kissed her again before she went back to the changing room.


An hour was long enough for her to change from the tracksuit to a pretty blue cocktail dress and stockings with high heel shoes to help her petite frame come shoulder height with her six foot tall boyfriend. She was wearing a little make up and her hair was pinned up prettily.

Supper was a happy affair. Julia talked at length about gymnastics. There was no stopping her, even if Chrístõ had wanted to stop her. He smiled and let her talk. Occasionally he ventured an opinion. She laughed when he put forward his idea about anti-gravity cushions.

“But the point is, these disciplines are the same now, here in the Beta Delta system, as they were two hundred years or more back on Earth, like when I entered that competition in Cardiff in the 21st century. Anti-gravity cushions would be cheating. Besides, I never fall. Well, not often, anyway.”

“You look as if you could defy gravity, anyway,” Chrístõ commented. “How DO ordinary humans do that?”

Julia laughed.

“Ordinary humans don’t,” she answered. “It takes practice. It feels good when I do that, though. I feel so free, as if I could do anything.”

“You look beautiful when you do it. I’m so proud of you.” He grasped her hand in his and held it tightly. “I’m glad you have the chance to do these things, and win all the medals you want to win. I’m sorry that you’ll have to give it up when we’re married. There wouldn’t be much opportunity for a Lady of Gallifrey to do things like that.”

“I’ll be ready to quit by then, anyway,” she reminded him. “Most gymnasts stop by the time they turn twenty, anyway. Even the really famous ones. I just need these few years before I’m twenty-three. Then I’ll be ready to be your wife, and to be a Lady of Gallifrey and everything that involves.”

She meant it, too. But Chrístõ did wonder, sometimes, if the future he offered her really was a cage of a sort. She was far too clever to spend her life giving luncheons and dinner parties and talking about clothes with the kind of women Valena wanted her to associate with.

“I will be happy,” she assured him. “Because I’ll have you. And… we’ll be parents one day. That’s more than enough happiness.”

“Yes, we will,” Chrístõ said. “But I can wait. Enjoy these years of freedom.”

“I will,” she promised. Then she smiled widely as Chrístõ toasted her day’s achievements with his glass of wine. She was drinking cordial, of course. But she smiled prettily and accepted the compliments he was happy to give her.

Afterwards, with time enough to spare before the curfew, they walked in the warm evening. Nova Castria was a very pretty city. It was like a modern version of Cambridge, Julia always said. The university that sprawled across much of it added to that feel.

And it had a nice quiet garden by the river where they stopped for a while and kissed fondly with nobody to tell them not to. When they walked on back to the hostel they were in a cheerful mood. The next morning was a free period. They arranged to meet and visit the Nova Castrian museum of modern art and have lunch together before Julia had to rejoin her school party to travel back to Beta Delta IV while Chrístõ went home by TARDIS.

He kissed her one more time in the hostel lobby. Since he wasn't a guest he wasn’t allowed beyond that point. He watched her go up the stairs and then turned and stepped outside. His TARDIS was parked close by, but he thought he might take a little walk before he slept. It was quiet in this part of Nova Castria, far from the ‘clubbing’ heartland where the students would be on a night like this. He felt content to hear his own footsteps on the pavement and the occasional hover car passing by.

He was near the river, admiring the way the ornamental lights on the path reflected off the water when the sonic crash of a spaceship coming through the planet’s atmosphere disturbed the silence of the night. He looked up to see the ship hanging over the town and identified it as a Creelan merchant cruiser. Beta Delta had no commerce with Creelans. Their practice of slavery was abhorrent to the human colonists of this planetary system who were aware of their earth history and sought to avoid making the same mistakes intergalactically. This ship had no right to be here.

Then his hearts froze. He felt the screams of dozens of girls experiencing the same terror at once. He turned and began to run back towards the hostel where he had left Julia. None of those who had screamed were telepathic, but all of them screaming at once was enough to send a clear message straight to his brain.

As he ran through the lobby and up the stairs the night doorman shouted to him, but he ignored the man and kept on running. On the second landing he nearly collided with Miss Waverly, who was nearly hysterical herself. When he managed to calm her enough to make a coherent sentence she told him that all the girls were gone.

He ran again, pushing open to doors to the hostel rooms. They slept four girls to a room and each bed was empty. The bedclothes were tossed about and there were things – toiletries from the bedside table, a radio, a book, knocked to the ground as if something sudden and violent had happened.

He saw something glint on the floor of the second room. He bent and picked it up. It was Julia’s brooch with the huge diamond that acted as a psychic focus and allowed her to communicate telepathically. She had not worn it today because she was in her leotard or tracksuit much of the time. But she had kept it with her.

He jammed it into his pocket and turned, running past Miss Waverly and the night doorman who exclaimed angrily as Chrístõ again ignored him. Outside in the street, he was aware of screams of distress all around him. He knew that Julia and her friends were not the only kidnap victims tonight. He looked up at the ship hanging in the sky and his hearts thudded with dismay. The Creelans had raided Beta Delta for slaves. It was strictly against galactic law. But the Creelans did not care about that.

He wasted not another moment. He ran to his TARDIS which was currently disguised as a hover taxi parked by the roadside. He found the co-ordinates of the Creelan ship and punched them in.

He emerged into the cargo deck of the Creelan ship and looked back to see a transport crate with the discreet TS identification mark. He felt a strange sense of déjà vu. Five years ago, he had met Julia for the first time when he had accidentally arrived on the spaceship where she was hiding from blood-sucking space vampires that had killed her family. Now, he had to find her on board another space ship.

But there was something else to do first. He heard the change in the resonance of the engines which told him that they were about to leave the atmosphere again. That was how the slavers worked. They would come in fast, take what they wanted and leave.

“Over my dead body,” Chrístõ vowed as he located the anti-matter chamber that was the power source of this ship. It wasn’t guarded. It didn’t need to be. Nobody entered an anti-matter chamber. The radiation would poison a human in a matter of minutes.

But Chrístõ was not human.

He slowed his breathing and prepared to fold time around himself, then he stepped through the door of the chamber. He was aware of the dangerous radiation in the air. He could almost taste it. His Time Lord body could stay within this chamber for maybe 15 minutes. In his slow time envelope he had been there fifteen seconds so far. He needed only another ten to remove the tiny but crucial component that meant that the anti-matter converter stopped dead and the ship was rendered immobile.

Outside the chamber he pocketed the component and unfolded himself from the slow time. Immediately, he closed his eyes and worked another Time Lord trick, slowing his hearts and lungs and forcing the poisons of the chamber from his body. If anyone had looked closely, they might have noticed a silver sheen to his skin before it evaporated into the air.

They were going nowhere. Now to find Julia. He knew where she would be, of course. The slave bays - cargo decks adapted for live cargo. They would be on the floor above the level he was on now.

He was right. He opened a bulkhead door and slipped through silently to find himself in a huge cavern of a room with ‘cells’ both sides of a central walkway. His senses reeled as he felt the despair of hundreds of souls at once. And he was aware that all of them were young girls like Julia. The Creelans must have been going through human colonies looking for a particular type of girl.

“Why?” he wondered. But he knew the question could wait. He edged forward, unsure if there were guards around. He looked into one of the cages. At least 20 girls were sitting or lying on the floor. All looked tearful and scared. One near the front of the cage saw him and he saw her shrink back.

“No,” he whispered. “I’m here to try to help. If I can. Do you know how many people are prisoners here?”

“Hundreds,” she whispered. “Can you really help me? I’m so scared. We all are.”

“I will try,” he said. “Do you know… where did the newest captives get put?”

“The other end,” the girl said, pointing, and Chrístõ looked down the long, long length of the bay. He resisted the urge to shout out her name. He took out his sonic screwdriver and adjusted it. It melted the lock on the cell.

“Stay where you are for now,” he told the girls. “But be ready when I get back. I’m going to get you all out. I promise.”

He did the same at each bay and told them the same.

“How old are you all?” he asked at the fifth bay along the line. ‘Sixteen,’ most of them replied. One was just turned 18, two were seventeen, another just two weeks short of sixteen. All were of the same height roughly, and all slim, athletic looking girls.

In short, they all looked a little like Julia – though none of them were EXACTLY her.

The question “WHY” raised itself again but he had no time to ponder it. He moved along the line, melting the locks, telling the girls to sit tight and wait for him. The fact that he was there, the fact that he had promised to rescue them made a difference. They were all still scared, but they were no longer despairing. He had given them hope.

He had hoped, expected, that by the end of the bay he WOULD have found Julia, but she was not there. His hearts sank and he didn’t know what to do.

“When…. When we were brought on board,” one of the girls in the last bay told him. “We weren’t brought here first. They put us in another room and they did a sort of scan on us. As if they were looking for somebody in particular. I think they brought us ALL here because… well… we’re profit after all. They’re going to sell us as…. As concubines. But… but that’s not the main reason. They’re looking for one particular girl.”

“One who has time travelled,” another girl said, suddenly.

“What?” Chrístõ looked at the girl carefully. Another of the same pattern as Julia, close enough to her to twist a knife of fear and foreboding in his stomach, but not her.

“Please… tell me what you know.”

“I don’t know much,” she said. “I heard one of the guards say they were looking for the one who has time travelled. The one promised to the Time Lord.”

“Julia.” Chrístõ said. “They’re talking about Julia. I have to find her. Where is this room?”

“I can show you,” the girl said. Chrístõ nodded and opened the gate enough for her to slip out. “I’m sorry,” he told the others. “But this is dangerous. You’re better off here until this is over.”

“What’s your name.” he asked the girl as they slipped through the bulkhead door.

“Yolanda Murray,” she said. “I’m from Beta Epsilon. I’ve been here about two days. But some of the other girls have been longer. Can you… can you get us home?”

“Yes,” he said. “At least… I’m going to try. I have to. I have to find Julia.”

“Julia is your girl?”

“She’s my fiancée.” He said. “And I think… I think all of you were taken because somebody was looking for her.”

“Why?” Yolanda asked. “Is she somebody special.”

“She is to ME.” He said. “And I think that’s WHY she was taken.”

“Are YOU somebody special?” Yolanda asked.

“I’m a Time Lord,” he said. “Apparently we’re gods on some planets.”

“You?” she stared at him. “You’re a….”


“I never met one before.”

“I never knew so many people WANTED to meet one. And I never realised my being one put Julia and all of you in danger. I’m…. I’m sorry for that. I just hope… I hope I can tell Julia that, too.”

“It’s this way,” Yolanda said, and she led them along a narrow corridor to a locked door. He dealt with the lock easily and it swung open. There was a group of girls locked in there, and he recognised some of them as Julia’s friends from the gym team, but she was not there.

“They took her,” one of the girls told him tearfully. “They took her away somewhere else. I don’t know where. I don’t know why. Except…”

“It’s because of me,” he said. “I know.” He looked at the group of girls he now had the care of, and thought of the even bigger group who were prisoners below, and he thought of Julia. “Yolanda, I think I need to go on from here alone. Take these girls back to the bay and wait with the others. You’re all going to be ok. I will get you off this ship. But I have to find Julia first.”

“Chrístõ…” It was Tina, Julia’s classmate and best friend, who called him by name as she put her hand on his shoulder. “You HAVE to find Julia. I think they mean to do something really bad to her. And SOON.” Chrístõ turned and put his hand over hers. Maybe it was because he was so worried about Julia, but without thinking he read the girl’s timeline. Usually, he deliberately guarded against doing that. It was an intrusion on her. But this time, he blessed the fact that he had.

“Tina,” he said. “You and Julia have been friends since she first came to Beta Delta, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” she answered. “She sat next to me in home room on her first day and we started talking about gym and nearly got detention because we were still talking through register and we only escaped detention because it was her first day and…” Tina stopped. “Sorry. That’s all really useless stuff….”

“No, it’s fine,” Chrístõ told her gently. “I’m glad you’ve stayed friends. And you know what, you always will be friends. Tina, seven years from now, you’re going to be Julia’s bridesmaid at our wedding. EVERYTHING is going to be okay. For all of us. Now… you do as I say, please, and let me do what I have to do.”

The girls nodded and went back the way they had came. Chrístõ turned and went the other way. He knew he was near the main bridge and crew quarters now. A Creelan ship never had a very big crew - because they shared all profits and the less people to share it meant a bigger slice for them all. That was why the prisoners had been left mostly to their own devices with no guards. They put their faith in locks and the fact that their prisoners were frightened girls.

He turned a corner and for the first time heard the voices of two Creelan slavers. He dodged back to where the bulkhead shielded him from view and listened.

“Sir, the ship is dead in space. The Galactic police will be on their way. We have no chance of escape.”

“I have my shuttle launch,” growled the other voice that was clearly the ship’s captain. “I will escape. You will buy me time. Fetch the girl who was promised to the Time Lord. I will take her. There will still be profit. The one who contracted for her sale will pay highly.”

Chrístõ dared a look around in time to see the subordinate man salute his captain before they went their separate ways, the subordinate heading towards him. He was ready as the man passed him. He reached out and applied a Venusian power grip to the scrawny grey neck of the Creelan slaver. He was immediately paralysed. Chrístõ released his grip slightly after making it quite clear that he was capable of rendering his prisoner a quivering wreck on the floor.

“Where is the girl?” he demanded. “Take me to her, NOW.”

“I would die first,” the Creelan replied.

“No you wouldn’t,” Chrístõ said. “You’re a merchant. You’re in this for profit. You don’t want to die and not make money. So you WILL take me to the girl. Because I have no intention of killing you. I’m a pacifist. I don’t believe in killing. But I am a pacifist who knows five different forms of unarmed combat and I can make you hurt so much you would WISH to be dead. Now take me to the girl.” He squeezed the officer’s neck once again, his fingers spreading to find the optimum pain points the way a guitarist finds the chords to a song, without thinking about it.

The Creelan made a quick decision. Chrístõ took his pistol. If he had to, if they came across any other guards, he WOULD have to shoot. He was a pacifist who knew that sometimes, pacifism didn’t work.

“In there…” the officer said finally as they reached yet another locked door. The Creelan rummaged in his grubby uniform for a key.

“You open it,” Chrístõ said, pushing him forward. The officer unlocked the door and opened it wide. Chrístõ breathed a sigh of relief. Julia was there, sitting on the floor, scared but apparently unhurt. She looked up in alarm and drew back from her captor. But the next moment the man, rendered unconscious by just the right amount of pressure with three of his fingers, fell inside the door and Chrístõ stood in the gap. Julia leapt to her feet and hugged him tightly.

“Are you all right?” He asked her as he kissed her and responded to her kisses.

“I am now,” she said, clinging to him. “I knew you would come.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “But I have you now.”

“I don’t mind dying if it’s with you,” she told him.

“We’re not going to die.” He closed the door on the Creelan slaver and he walked with her, hand in hand, along the corridor. “We’ve been through plenty of scrapes together. It’s not the first time we’ve had to fight our way off a ship. We did that the first time we met. And this lot are nowhere near as much trouble as the vampyres.”

“But you can’t kill these with your blood.”

“I don’t intend to kill them. I intend to make them pay. That one said the Galactic police are on their way. They’ll stand trial for abduction. But I’m going to make sure the captain doesn’t get away. I want to know from him who his special client was – the one who was prepared to pay so much extra for you.”

“Somebody who hates you,” Julia said. “The ones who scanned us… they knew they were looking for somebody who had travelled in a TARDIS. They were looking for the imprint it leaves on the brain. That’s how they found me.”

“Nobody would know that except another Time Lord.” Chrístõ said. “But why?”

“Freeze,” a voice called and Chrístõ looked around in dismay to see four Creelan guards advancing upon them and three more blocking their escape from behind. Another half dozen arrived quickly behind them. More than he could fight at once, but he sprang into the defensive posture of Malvorian Sun Ko Du, a martial art practised only by the most agile and sure-footed since it was taught balancing on narrow plank bridges spanning deep mountain valleys. Certain death came to those who did not concentrate on its precise disciplines. Julia gave up trying to keep her eye on her lover. He moved so fast it made her eyes hurt. Around her the unconscious guards multiplied, and he would have beaten them all if one had not managed to draw his stun pistol and with what MUST have been a lucky shot, caught Chrístõ square in the chest with a blast. He lurched sickeningly and fell at her feet. She tried to get to him, but she was seized roughly by the arms and pulled away.


Chrístõ came around slowly, aching in every bone and muscle he had, but more than that, in his hearts, and this time it was not a metaphor. The thing that had hit him was more than a stunner, it was a weapon designed to bring down a Time Lord – by interrupting the rhythm of his hearts. More than a single jolt, he suspected, would kill him.

“Chrístõ…” He heard Julia’s voice, frightened and hurt, and very near to him. He struggled to open his eyes. He was painfully aware of strong chains binding his hands behind his back and securing him upright to some kind of post. Julia was similarly fastened back to back with him. She leaned her head on his shoulder and he turned his head enough to glimpse her tear-filled eyes.

“Julia, sweetheart,” he said. “I’m sorry I failed you.”

“You didn’t fail me,” she said weakly. “But I think… after all… We ARE going to die together. The ship is in self-destruct mode. Can you hear it?”

He could. Quietly, insistently in the background was a countdown. It had less than ten minutes to go.

“Why is somebody doing this to us?” Julia asked. “It IS because of us, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” he said. “It is. But I still don’t know why.”

“Because there must be no more mongrels born into the great houses of the Time Lords,” a harsh voice said and he turned his head to the viewscreen that flashed on suddenly. For a long moment he struggled to recall the name of the man who stared at him with eyes filled with hate.

“Lord Amycus!” he exclaimed as he recognised the patriarch of a small, but affluent Oldblood House of Southern Gallifrey. He had attended formal dinner parties there with his father and Valena, but he always felt they went out of duty, rather than any especial friendship with that family.“What….”

“Lœngbærrow was meant to be joined with Amycus,” the Time Lord said. “My daughter should have been joined with you.”

“I have no contract of marriage with your daughter,” he said. “I have only even met her two or three times.”

He was having trouble remembering what she even looked like. The girl had been a bit vague. He heard once that she had dropped out of the Cerulian Academy because her grades were so bad she had no hope of graduating. She had been privately educated with a view to marriage to a suitable Oldblood.

But as far as he knew he had never been that Oldblood.

“A contract should have been made,” Amycus insisted. “But you were consorting with humans and making arrangements that will bring the ruin of our race. Bad enough you are a half-blood. Your family name is great enough to overlook that. But another generation born of inferior human flesh would be the end of the Lœngbærrow House and it would bring the downfall of all the Houses.”

“And you thought by killing the woman I love you would persuade me to marry your daughter – for whom I have no feeling of any kind?”

“Not kill… she would be allowed to live, as a servant in my household, perhaps, provided you performed your duty. She would be an incentive to you, to do my bidding, lest I take out your disobedience on her flesh.”

“She would die by my own hand first,” Chrístõ said, and he heard Julia gasp at the idea. “And she would thank me for so loving a deed,” he continued. “But how can you accomplish that now? This ship is set to explode in a few more minutes.”

“Oh, I abandoned that plan when I found out that the contract had been made for your human wretch. Our unbreakable contracts! So you can both die. The House of Lœngbærrow without an heir at all is preferable to one married to a human and watering the blood with mongrels.” And the screen went silent and dark again.

“He’s mad,” Chrístõ exclaimed, struggling ineffectually against the chains that held him. Julia, he realised, was having better luck. She twisted her body in one of the near impossible positions of the asymmetric bars and slowly, painfully, she squeezed one hand, then the other, out of the restraints.

“Is my sonic screwdriver here?” he asked as she freed herself from the chains.

“No,” she said. “One of the guards took it. That… that man on the screen told them what it does.”

“Hell,” he said. “Quickly, the self-destruct…” She ran to it only to give an anguished cry.

“There are two keys,” she said. “It needs two people.” She came back to him and tried to loosen his bonds but they were impossible. “At least we CAN die together,” she said, putting her arms around him and kissing him on the lips. He felt her salt tears mingling with his own as he wondered how he had messed things up. How could his reading of Tina’s timeline have been so wrong? She, and Yolanda, and the other girls would all die too in a few minutes. And he had failed in his promise to them as well.

“Chrístõ!” There was a crash and the very two girls he had been thinking of ran onto the ship’s bridge. Yolanda had his sonic screwdriver, while Tina and another girl between them held one of the guards. He told her how to set it quickly and held up his arms as high as they would raise while she melted the chains with it.

“The self-destruct,” he yelled as soon as he was free and clutched Julia’s hand. They both ran to the command console and turned the keys that turned off the insistent voice - now down to seconds of time. Only then did Chrístõ look at the crowd that had gathered. All of the girls whose cells he had unlocked were there and many of them had captives themselves – the crew, including the captain, of the Creelan ship. “We got fed up waiting for you to rescue us,” Tina said.

“Well done,” he said to them. “And thanks.” He turned as the viewscreen flashed on again, half expecting Amycus again. It wasn’t. It was an officer of the galactic police ordering the captain to surrender the vessel.

“The captain has already surrendered the vessel,” Chrístõ said. “All the hostiles are under restraint and none of the kidnapped girls has been harmed in any way. But the ship is disabled. If you have a tractor beam capability you might land us down on the planet below and we can hand over the prisoners and arrange to get the girls returned to their homes.”

The police officer agreed to that and they soon felt the tractor beam fixed on it. The ship moved slowly towards the ground. Chrístõ himself went to the communications channel and put the next call through. He was a little surprised when Savang appeared on screen to tell him that Hext was busy and would be with him shortly. Oddly enough, she had crossed his mind when he listened to Lord Amycus’s madness. His daughter was dull but harmless while he went out of his mind scheming to force an Alliance with the House of Lœngbærrow. Savang, poor thing, had gone out of her mind for the same reason. But she was all right now. She smiled prettily at him and talked amiably until Hext was ready to take the call from his private office.

“I don’t think you sent a sublight emergency call to chat to my wife,” he said good-naturedly. “What can I do for you?”

“You can arrange for the arrest of Jonaih Amycus,” he said. “For kidnapping and attempted murder.” He gave a brief account of events there. Hext was shocked but had already begun to call up one of his field agents on another screen. He knew it would be done straight away. He felt sorry for Amycus’ family, especially his daughter. This would be devastating to her. But what he had done could not go unpunished.

Chrístõ thanked Hext for his help and turned from his communication to see the girls thrust one of the Creelans forward in front of him. He didn’t need any explanations. He didn’t even need to focus his telepathy on any of them. He knew this was the man who had taken many of them, Julia included, from their beds. And he understood that there and then, before the police reached him, they wanted to see justice done.

Chrístõ nodded and moved a step closer to the man. He fixed his eyes on him and reached into the ugly, cruel mind. Suddenly the man clawed at his mouth and throat gasping for air. A look of sheer panic and fear crossed his face.

“No, you are not suffocating,” Chrístõ said. You are not dying. You are just feeling what these innocent girls all felt when you came to their rooms, pressing your filthy hands over their mouths to stop them screaming. NO. I’m not going to kill you, though you deserve it. I’m not going to beat you to a pulp, though you deserve that, too. And these girls really want me to do that. But they need to see that would be no real justice. I’m just going to show you what fear really is. And then I am going to leave you with the knowledge that I could come back to you, ANY TIME, even in the jail cell you are going to from here, and make you feel this way again.”

He turned from the man, indicating to two of the girls to take him in hand again. Holding Julia by the arm he walked ahead, the escorted prisoners and the rest of the liberated girls forming up behind them, to the embarkation bay. When the ship soft landed on Beta Delta and the doors were opened he and Julia stepped out first to be greeted by the police chief. Behind him was a cordon of police trying to hold back a group of anxious parents and an equally anxious Miss Waverly. He left Julia and her friends in the care of their teacher while he gave a statement of events to the galactic police and saw all the Creelans safely put into custody and then recovered his TARDIS before the ship was towed back out into space and destroyed.


The next morning, Chrístõ met Julia straight after breakfast. She looked surprisingly well considering the trying night she had and ready to spend the morning looking at modern art with him. They didn’t talk about the events of the night before at first. When Julia tentatively asked about Lord Amycus, he told her the truth.

“Hext has him in custody. His family will be ruined by his foolish actions. And that’s a terrible shame. He let ambition get the better of him. I think that’s probably a fault that’s common to us all… to Time Lords, I mean. We all get ambitious. Most of us don’t let it rule us quite so desperately. But if you start to think getting involved with somebody from such an obsessive race is too much for you….”

“Chrístõ! Julia put her arms around his neck and pulled him to her, eliciting some scandalised looks from the modern art patrons. “As if I could think of such a thing. We’re meant for each other, Chrístõ. Nobody can separate us.”

Chrístõ smiled and dared the modern art patrons to say anything as he kissed her.