New Canberra High School was temporarily relocated in a new and as yet unopened city hall annex until repairs to the quake hit campus were completed. But for Chrístõ that was not the only new experience in the autumn term.

A month into his tenure as Senior English master he was also learning that teaching was a very demanding job - far more than it had ever been when he only had his Chrysalids to teach. They were always ready and willing to learn. They met him halfway with every challenge he presented to them. And they were always more than just students and he just their teacher. He was their friend and confidante, and, to some extent, they were his. But now he only had them in the afternoon. Their morning classes were supervised by Cal, who was now officially a teaching assistant since he had no need to attend the school as a student.

Of course, there was no need, any longer, for him to keep his alien nature secret. Everyone knew about that, now. So many of the students owed their life to the fact that Professor de Leon was something more than an ordinary Human citizen of the Beta Delta system that it was impossible to pretend even if he wanted to.

But that just added a different complication to his work, because his new students had been speculating all summer about him and had a whole set of issues to work through before he began teaching English literature. He answered as many of their questions as possible, about Gallifrey, about his people, about the ways in which he was different to them. After the first week they stopped asking him for demonstrations of his levitation skills. After the second, most of them had stopped watching to see if he blinked as often as they did.

And most of them were beginning to realise that they were expected to work hard in his class. He literally did have eyes in the back of his head. He could hear the rustle of a crisp packet under a desk at the back of the class or a whispered conversation. He could tell if somebody was lying, and just the look he gave to anyone who tried to bluff their way out of unfinished homework would freeze the marrow in their spines.

Slowly most of his classes fell into line and teaching them got a little easier.

All except 3c.

“They’re not ordinary children,” he declared as he drove to work and contemplated spending the first part of the morning with that class. “They’re demons, a special level of hell reserved for teachers.”

Cal Lupos laughed.

“You’re a Time Lord. You don’t believe in hell.”

“I do now,” he answered. “I thought the other teachers liked me. But they seem to be enjoying my pain!”

“They’re just waiting to see how you manage them,” Julia told him. “If you can’t, nobody can.”

“There are bets on,” her cousin Michal said. “Whether you crack first or they do.”

“As a Lord of Time, I am expressly forbidden to take part in wagers,” Chrístõ responded. “But just out of interest, what are my odds?”

“Not good,” Michal responded. “You’re going to crash and burn.”

His brother Cordell sniggered conspiratorially. Julia elbowed both of them in the ribs for their lack of faith in him.

“Betting isn’t ladylike,” she said. “But I would put my money on YOU.”

“So would I,” Cal assured him.

“I had Billy Sandler in my class in the first years,” Michal murmured darkly. “You’re going down, Chrístõ.”

And Michal was almost right. Billy Sandler was a particular demon he had to exorcise somehow. He was just about the smallest thirteen year old boy he had ever seen, stick thin, pale of face, his school uniform hanging off his frame as if he was just a moving coat hanger.

But what he lacked in bulk he made up for in meanness. He was known to have left heavier built boys crying in the playground. Girls gave him a wide berth. In the classroom, while the other members of 3c were happy to have a partner in crime to mess around with under the desk he always sat at the back by himself and plotted his menace in his own head.

Today began with the usual chaos. Fifteen students looked more like fifty as they ran amok in the room that was listed on the blueprints as a small conference room.

If he was asked his opinion he would have classed it as a slightly large cupboard. It was barely adequate for teaching even without the added annoyance of the pipes feeding the water features in the main reception running across the roof.

It was deemed good enough for 3c.

Either they didn’t know he was standing at the door, or they didn’t care. Four of the boys played dodgeball with their bags. The girls were all in a huddle reading a pop magazine. Three more boys were in a separate huddle with another kind of magazine, which they were ten years too young to be able to purchase.

Only two of the students were sitting down. Mia Robinson was in her seat near the front of the class, staring blankly at the window. He didn’t know what to do with her at all. His first instinct would be a CAT scan to see if her brain was actually functioning at the higher level. She looked comatose most days.

Billy Sandler was in his seat, doing something under the desk. For the moment, Chrístõ didn’t actually want to know WHAT.

He walked to the front of the class and put two fingers in his mouth. The whistle he produced could have shattered ordinary glass, so it was a good thing the city hall annex was fitted with specially treated double glazing. It certainly got the attention of 3c, although it still took them several minutes to get into their seats. He glanced across their faces briefly and called that registration. Then he reached into his pocket for his sonic screwdriver.

“What’s that?” one of the boys, Niall O’Leary, asked nervously. “Are you allowed weapons in school?”

He aimed it at the magazine that Niall’s desk fellow was trying to conceal. It rose up into the air, the pages flapping open, demonstrating that it certainly wasn’t on the school curriculum. At least it did for a few seconds before the pages spontaneously disintegrated.

“Do I need to do that to ‘Pop Idols Now’ as well?” he asked the girls. “Or will we keep the latest Ice Garden posters for lunch break?”

There was a brief rustle and a bag softly hit the floor beneath the desk.

“By the way, you DO know that I am personally acquainted with their manager,” he added. “So behaving in class might be a good way to achieve your ambition of meeting Brian Drennan in person.”

All the girls suddenly looked far more attentive than they ever had been before. That gave him a chance to think about what Billy Sandler was doing. He was still fiddling with something under his desk. He aimed the sonic screwdriver carefully and something fizzed and popped and let off a smell of burning plastic and electronic circuitry. But Billy looked satisfied all the same and the other boys were smirking as if they had one over on him. Chrístõ turned and looked at the electronic whiteboard on which he had set up the lesson for this first period very carefully. It was displaying nothing but ‘snow’ having been disrupted by the gadget Billy had under his desk.

Chrístõ adopted a thoroughly nonplussed expression as he turned and aimed the sonic screwdriver at the whiteboard. Almost instantly the lesson plan appeared on it again.

“Playtime is over,” he said. “That’s your assignment for this period. Get on with it.”

He sounded stern and authoritative. Their expressions suggested that they had got the message. They were reaching for their electronic slates, ready to copy down the questions about the study text and begin answering them.

Then the water pipes in the ceiling made a sound so obscene that 3c at their worst couldn’t possibly have reproduced it. It was completely arbitrary. The water pipes had no reason to undermine his authority. But to the imaginative, and 3c had plenty of that, it sounded as if it was. Peals of teenage laughter echoed around the room.

Chrístõ kept his composure and aimed his sonic screwdriver at the pipes. 3c stopped laughing and as one body looked up to see the pipes frost over. There was another sound, a sort of clunking, and then silence.

“They can have their water features back on when I’ve finished teaching,” Chrístõ said. 3c watched as he tossed the sonic screwdriver idly up into the air, where it turned twice and came straight back down into his hand. By the time he looked up from putting it back in his inside pocket every face was looking at his or her individual electronic slate and the only sound was a faint scratching of stencils.

Of course, there were still a couple of hard nuts to crack. He glanced at Billy Sandler and then folded time. He was by his desk at the back of the class in an eyeblink. Billy’s slate was in his hand in another eyeblink. So was the fused gadget that he had been concealing under his desk. Chrístõ looked at it and then stuck it into his back pocket while he gave attention to the slate.

The screen contained a partial list of the questions from the board, with attempted answers. The interesting thing was that the answer to question four was writing itself even as he watched.

Chrístõ looked around the classroom.

“Scott Miller,” he said. The boy stopped writing and turned to face him nervously. He seemed relieved when he saw that the sonic screwdriver wasn’t in sight. “Am I right in thinking that your parents came to Beta Delta from North America?”

“Yes, sir,” the boy replied. “Montgomery, Alabama.”

“Then you really ought to know that Alabama, only has one ‘l’ in it,” Chrístõ remarked in a matter of fact tone. “But I won’t mark you down for forgetting to spell ‘colour’ and ‘honour’ with a ‘u’. Everyone else has no excuse for non-standard Earth Federation spelling, and I will be deducting marks for lapses. And Billy, you’re in detention for remote copying somebody else’s work. Meanwhile you can go and get a pen and a paper block and do the lesson the old fashioned way.”

Billy scowled. The rest of the class held their collective breath. What Billy did right now could define how 3c responded to his authority as a teacher for the rest of their school days. If he defied him, he would continue to defy him forever, and the others would follow his lead.

Slowly Billy got up and walked to the front of the room where a selection of traditional educational essentials like pens and paper were kept on a shelf along with real, paper books. Chrístõ insisted on them. He came from a society with advanced technology that made such things redundant, but he valued solid, tangible things like a printed page of text that could not be electronically altered. He, personally, liked to feel an ink pen between his fingers and see his own ideas spilling out onto a piece of paper. As he went back to his own desk at the front of the class he thought nostalgically about the three years he spent in late Victorian London. All his essays for his medical degree at the Society of Apothecaries had to be written with a dip pen and a pot of ink at his side. Of course, he wrote them out first on a word processor, but the exercise of copying the words by hand was strangely satisfying.

Something like normality reigned just about long enough for him to examine the gadget he had confiscated from Billy. He couldn’t help being impressed by the work. It was, essentially, a remote control for operating a televideo screen. Somebody, presumably Billy, had opened it up and with a couple of judicious bits of soldering rewired it to act as a remote control for the electronic whiteboard.

A thoroughly pointless prank, Chrístõ thought. It achieved nothing except a few moments of mirth when the lesson plan was wiped out. Why expend so much effort to do something so unimaginative? Was a war of attrition against his teachers really the only thing Billy could think of to do with his time?

A small gasp from the front of the classroom distracted his attention from the question. He looked at Mia. She had made the sound, but almost immediately clammed right up again. He glanced at the two girls behind her, but they didn’t appear to be doing anything now.

He pretended to be looking down at his own electronic slate but watched the class through his long, dark eyelashes. The movement was subtle, but he spotted it. Moments later he was out of his seat. He grasped the simple sling shot from which one of the two girls had been firing elastic bands at the back of Mia’s head.

“Judy Knox, Dana Peyton, you two can join Billy in detention,” he said.

“But I didn’t do anything,” protested Dana. “She did it.”

It was a lie. He knew it was. He had seen them both loading the slingshot. But he decided not to argue the point.

“You didn’t stop her,” he responded. “Sin of omission. Detention is in this room straight after last lessons this afternoon. Don’t be late or you’ll be coming back tomorrow afternoon.”

He turned from the two girls and stopped at Mia’s desk. The girl looked at him but didn’t say anything.

“Are you all right?” he asked. “Did they hurt you? Do you want to go to see the nurse?”

She shook her head and bent her dark haired head as she continued her work. He glanced at the slate and saw her continue to write down the questions and answers in small, neat writing. They were, as far as he could see, correct answers, too. But her lack of apparent interest in any lesson was the reason she had been consigned to 3c – the Human waste bin of New Canberra High.

The lesson continued without further incident, but he wasn’t especially happy about it, as he explained to Cal when he met him in the room that passed for a canteen in the temporary building. They both sat with the rest of the faculty at a long table. He glanced around and waved to Julia, sitting, as usual, with her gym enthusiast clique. He saw the Chrysalids in their own huddle. The boys and girls of 3c formed two distinct groups – divided by gender - at separate tables. All but two, of course. He noticed that Billy Sandler and Mia Robinson both did what he used to do when he was a tyro at the Prydonian Academy. They both, in their turn, took food from the counter that could be stuffed in their pockets – bread rolls and cheese, pork pies, fruit, and left the canteen to eat it somewhere privately. Two misfits in their different ways. And if he had any right to call himself a teacher he would have to find a way of helping them to fit in.

“I don’t want to have to brandish my sonic screwdriver to get them to behave,” he said. “It got their attention, but I might as well be back in the 1920s with a cane in my hand. It’s not what teaching is supposed to be about.”

“Oh, I don’t know! A cane might just be the thing for 3c,” Mr Garvey, the senior Science Master commented. “Old fashioned discipline.”

“It’s not how I want to teach,” Chrístõ insisted. “But I don’t know how else to keep them in line. I don’t WANT to ‘keep them in line’ even. I want them to enjoy learning just like the other kids do. School shouldn’t be one continual punishment for them. It’s not fair.”

“You’ve only been teaching them for a month,” Mrs Elton from the history department reminded him. “You’ll stop feeling sorry for them in a little while.”

“I hope not,” Chrístõ responded. “Even if they are little demons, they still deserve the best I can give them in the way of preparation for their adult life. That’s what we’re here for, after all, not just to be prison guards keeping them in their place until they’re seventeen and somebody else’s problem.”

His fellow teachers smiled at his youthful idealism. Chrístõ stuck to his position, determined that he would find a way to tame 3c.

His afternoon was more rewarding, anyway. He took the Chrysalids for a Gung Fu lesson in the main conference hall which had been hastily converted into a gym. He enjoyed himself with his old students and the four new ones who joined the Advanced Needs group this term. It was the sort of teaching he enjoyed doing. It renewed his spirit before he faced the detention period with the three worst miscreants from 3c.

They were at their seats when he arrived. That was a good start. He glanced at all three of them then went to the shelf and picked up three writing blocks and pens as well as three paper copies of the text they were reading in class. He distributed them and told the three to copy the first chapter out by hand by the end of the detention hour.

They all scowled at him. He made sure his own expression was carefully inscrutable. He took no pleasure in imposing discipline on them in that way. But they had all overstepped the mark and needed to be punished for doing it.

In any case, he reflected, an hour sitting in a classroom copying texts was much kinder than the punishments he remembered from his own schooldays. When he was eighty years old he was roughly at the same stage of his education as the third years at a high school, and he was coping with his lessons much better than he used to in his tyro years. The extra tuition he got from Maestro paid off. But some tutors were near impossible to please, especially those with prejudices against his half Human blood. He had been singled out for chastisements often enough. And the term ‘chastisements’ was a gentle euphemism. If some of the punishments he had received as a mere school boy were applied to Human adults in prison there would be an outcry about cruel and unusual tortures. Of course, by then, his regenerative abilities were developed and the bruises soon mended. But the hurt and humiliation remained in his hearts.

That was the reason why he had so hated using his sonic screwdriver as a means of controlling the class. Even though he would never use it on a student, it still seemed too much like bullying them in the way some of his masters had bullied him, and he never wanted to be that kind of teacher.

He brought himself back from those dark retrospectives and then he stood and quietly walked around the classroom. He stopped beside Billy Sandler’s desk and casually glanced at the sheet of paper in front of the boy. Then he looked at it more carefully. Billy stopped writing, his pen hovering nervously over the page.

“It’s all right,” Chrístõ whispered in what he hoped would be taken as a sympathetic tone. “I think I understand now.”

He said nothing else for now. Billy looked at him and then returned to his task. He turned from him and looked at Judy Knox’s effort. She seemed to be getting on with her punishment at least. He pointed out a couple of spelling errors that had crept in even though she was merely copying the text and moved on.

Dana Peyton was not doing what she had been told to do. Her page was full of protests against her detention and extremely rude comments about Mia, the victim of the bullying that earned her the punishment.

“THAT word is not to be used in this classroom,” Chrístõ said coldly, jabbing at the page. He ripped the sheet from the writing block and threw it into the bin. “Count yourself lucky I don’t just show that to the headmaster and have you suspended.”

“That word is in the book we’re supposed to read,” she replied, flipping the paperback copy open and pointing to the offending word repeated three times on the randomly chosen page.

“That’s because To Kill A Mockingbird describes people and events from a time when words like that were commonly used to insult and degrade other people because of the colour of their skin. It is on your literature curriculum so that you learn that racism and prejudice against different races or species is not acceptable behaviour in the twenty-fourth century Human colonies.”

“Why?” she demanded.

“Because I’m from one of those different species,” he replied. “And I’m not going to put up with it.”

“You’re not a….”

The offensive word died on her lips as her body began to shake uncontrollably and then go into painful spasms. Chrístõ immediately pulled her from her seat and laid her on the floor in a recovery position. He pulled his jacket off and folded it under her head to prevent her hurting it as the seizure continued. He looked around at the other two students. Judy Knox was standing over her friend, crying helplessly. Billy had stood up from his desk and was stepping towards them.

“Go and get help,” Chrístõ said to him. “The school nurse if she’s still here, or… anyone you can find. Please, Billy.”

Billy hesitated for a moment, then turned and ran out of the classroom. Chrístõ hoped he was doing as he asked and not just running out of terror. He turned back to look at Dana. She was vomiting now. He adjusted her head so that the stuff ran from her mouth without danger of choking, but there was little else he could do except wait for the seizures to run their course.

“Is she epileptic?” he asked her friend. “There are no medical notes in the register. I should have been informed of the possibility.”

“She’s not… not…” Judy stammered. “She’s… it was…”

The girl stopped talking. Chrístõ looked around at her. She seemed as if she was about to say something but had changed her mind. He would have prompted her, but he was more concerned with Dana’s condition. He knew well that tonic-clonic seizures that continued for more than four minutes were dangerous, and Dana had been going through them for nearly seven minutes now. He was desperately worried for her.

Then Billy ran back into the classroom followed by the school nurse and the headmaster, who told him an ambulance had been called. His relief at that news was short-lived, though. Judy began to scream and point to him in an accusing way.

“He did it!” she cried out. “He did something to her. She was being rude to him and he… he did something alien to her.”

Chrístõ looked up at her in shocked disbelief. All he had done was try to help a sick girl. How could anyone believe it possible that he could do anything to hurt her?

“He did it,” she insisted. “He did it to her. Because of what she said… He…”

“No,” Chrístõ managed to say. “Oh, no. I didn’t… I couldn’t….”

He looked from the girl to the nurse and to the headmaster. He was dismayed by their expressions as they met his gaze.

“I think….” The headmaster said slowly. “I think, Professor, you should step away and let Mrs McKenzie look after Dana until the ambulance arrives.”

There were any number of things he could have said, but his mouth felt suddenly dry and his throat constricted. He stood up slowly and stepped away as the nurse bent to attend to the girl instead. He waited, slightly apart from the headmaster, from Judy, who was quiet now, but shaking slightly with emotion, and Billy, who was, curiously, the only one of them who seemed able to look him in the eye.

Billy was the only one who believed he wasn’t responsible for Dana’s illness.

The paramedics came into the room with a stretcher and took over from the nurse. A few minutes later they were gone. The nurse went with them in case Dana regained consciousness in the ambulance.

“Judy, Billy,” the headmaster said. “Go and sit in the secretary’s office. I’ll call your parents and have them pick you up. I’ll explain that you’ve had a bad shock but you’re not hurt in any way…” He looked at Chrístõ. “Professor de Leon… you’d better come with me. There is… we really must… I’m sorry… but…”

The headmaster still couldn’t look him in the eye. And Chrístõ knew why. Without any need for the precognition he had always avoided using because it gave him a headache he knew with dreadful certainty what was going to happen next.

Half an hour later he walked out of the building and looked for his car before he remembered he had given the keys to Cal to take Julia and her cousins home. He had intended to get a taxi when he had finished the detention hour.

He walked, instead. When he reached his home he found his way to his bedroom and laid himself down on his bed. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind and reach some level of meditation where he would find peace.

It didn’t work. His mind was too cluttered with negative emotions – anger, sorrow, self-pity, stunned disbelief. He couldn’t clear a path through them all and find any kind of relief for himself.

Humphrey emerged into the dusky room and tried to hug him but even the positive emotions from his strange friend couldn’t shift the fog of misery just now. He told him to go away. Humphrey trilled sadly and slid back into his usual place under the bed.

Chrístõ lay there feeling miserable and hurt for at least an hour before he heard the sound of the front door opening and closing and footsteps on the stairs. The bedroom door opened and Julia ran to him, followed by Cal, who quietly placed his car keys on the dressing table and stood by the door.

“What happened?” Julia asked. “At the school… everyone’s been ringing me. They said… that there was an accident and it’s your fault and…. And…”

“It wasn’t my fault,” Chrístõ assured her. “But… but the headmaster thinks…”

Julia clung to him as he burst into tears. For a long while he couldn’t say anything coherent.

“I’m… not suspended,” he said. “There was nothing… nothing to prove I did anything wrong. But… but… Mr Gallighan thinks… I should… take some sick leave… He means…”

“He thinks that you…”

“He thinks it better if…” Christo swallowed hard. “He thinks I should stay away from the school…from any of the students… until… Well… I don’t know… until forever. Judy Knox says that I did something to Dana to make her ill. And I can’t prove I didn’t. Everyone knows I can do… unusual things. They’ve seen me…. Not just when I rescued everyone from the science building… but… other times, too… the Christmas when I broke all the windows in the gym… and… Well… it’s easy enough to believe that I could make a girl have a fit because she was being rude to me.”

“No, it isn’t,” Julia told him. “Not… not for anyone who knows you. I hate Mr Gallighan. That was a horrible thing for him to do to you. He must have known you were just trying to help her.”

“He has to protect the school, the other students. He’s… he’s doing the right thing. But… I feel so… so sick… the thought… of… being accused… I just feel…”

Julia held him again as he cried. There was precious little else she could do but offer that physical comfort to him. But wasn’t that her job, as his girlfriend, to be there when he was hurt and upset, to be the one who believed in him even if nobody else did?

Cal watched her stretch beside him on the bed, enfolding him in her arms, then he turned away and went downstairs. He made coffee and sandwiches and brought them back to the room. He made them both eat. Chrístõ ate and drank without tasting anything and laid back down again. Julia stayed with him. Cal left her there at first. But as late afternoon turned to evening, and the evening turned to night, he intervened.

“Julia,” he said. “Go on to your room, now. You can’t stay with him overnight.”

Julia pressed her hand against Chrístõ’s pale cheek. He had fallen asleep out of sheer exhaustion.

“I want to be with him,” she argued. “He needs me.”

“No,” Cal insisted. “He’s got enough trouble as it is. What would it look like to people if it got about that he… a teacher… spent the night in bed with a student from the same school? You can’t stay with him.”

“How would anyone know?” Julia pointed out. But reluctantly she did as Cal said.

“I’ll stay by his side,” he promised her. “I’ll take care of him for you.”

That was a small consolation for her. She kissed her sleeping sweetheart and then left the half dark room. Humphrey followed her as far as the door and trilled reassuringly at her before returning to his place under Chrístõ’s bed. Cal thought it was sweet the way the darkness creature refused to leave him even though he had tried to push him away earlier.

Cal went to the bedside and looked at Chrístõ. He was asleep, in the ordinary way, not in a meditation which would have done him more good. He was obviously dreaming, and they were far from good dreams.

Cal put his hand on Chrístõ’s forehead and gently reached into his mind. As he did so he remembered something his mentor had told him about their mental abilities. They had the power to plant beautiful dreams or terrible nightmares that would drive a man mad.

Chrístõ was already having nightmares, but Cal didn’t feel he had any right to give him beautiful dreams. The best he could do was make sure he had no dreams at all. He calmed his mind and soothed away the anxieties about the events that replayed again and again in his mind. Then he stopped them from running through his memory like an old fashioned newsreel on continuous loop and left him sleeping peacefully and quietly.

“Sleep easy, my friend,” Cal whispered. He sat in an easy chair by the window and looked out of it at the quiet city. He had come to call it home just as Chrístõ did. But tonight it felt a little less comfortable. He had been raised by a Human mother, among Humans. He always knew he wasn’t like others. And he came to know why that was. But he had never, until this night, felt an alien among his mother’s race. Now he did, and he felt afraid of what accusing eyes and pointing fingers could do, not only to Chrístõ, but to himself.

“We’ll see this through, together, Chrístõ,” he said aloud as he sat in vigil and waited for a morning when the after effects of the previous day’s events would catch him up like a tide. He hoped he had the strength to swim against it and come out fighting. He hoped Chrístõ, after a peaceful night’s sleep, might have the same strength.

But in the morning, Chrístõ was still on ‘sick leave’ and after a breakfast that he hardly tasted, he said goodbye to Julia. Cal was borrowing his car. He was driving Julia to school and reporting for his own teaching duties. Chrístõ watched them go and then walked back into his quiet house. He wandered around the rooms for a long time, hardly knowing what to do. He was so rarely on his own here, even though he was registered as the only resident for city tax purposes. Cal spent most of his evenings with him, going home to the room he rented from Mrs Richards at the end of the mentoring sessions in which Chrístõ taught him the things he needed to know about Gallifrey; its science, technology, arts and history, or practicing martial arts in his dojo or meditation in his peaceful meditation room. Most of the weekend, from Friday evening onwards, Julia was there, and sometimes her cousins and any number of the Chrysalids came to spend time in his company.

It was too quiet, and he had too much time for brooding.

Or it would if he had been left alone for too long. It was only an hour later when he was disturbed by a knock at the front door. He was surprised and puzzled to find that Glenda Ross had been the one knocking, on behalf of all the Chrysalids who waited behind her.

“You’re supposed to be giving us Tai Chi class this morning,” she said as they slipped past him into the house, taking off their coats and hanging them up on the coat rack in the hall.

“I can’t,” he answered. “I’m supposed to be…”

“Cal said you’re not suspended,” Vern Koetting told him. “Even if you were, you’re still OUR teacher.”

That seemed to be the sum total of the argument. He went to close the door and saw Cal parking his car.

“I don’t appear to have a class to teach,” he said as if that was explanation enough. Chrístõ stepped aside to let him in. He looked at his friends gathered in the hall and then nodded and sent them to his dojo in the basement.

Tai Chi with the Chrysalids was a good way to focus his mind. He felt better for it when they stopped at lunchtime and he made sandwiches and coffee for everyone.

“It’s not right, Chrístõ,” Geoffrey Walker insisted. “Everyone knows you didn’t do anything to that girl.”

“Do they?” he questioned.

“Yes,” Gretta Lovell assured him. “Because… you won’t believe it - Billy Sandler has been going around telling everybody that Judy Knox is a liar and that you helped save Dana’s life. He kicked anyone who tried to take her side.”

“Billy?” Chrístõ couldn’t help smiling. “He stood up for me? Why? He shouldn’t be kicking people, mind you. Got to stop that. But…”

He wondered if having Billy on his side made his predicament better or worse.

“What are you going to do, Chrístõ?” Geoffrey asked him as he lapsed into silence, hugging a coffee mug without any interest in the contents. “You’re going to fight this, aren’t you? You can’t let them push you out… after everything you’ve done for us all… for that school…”

“Fight what?” he asked. “I haven’t been suspended, yet. I’m on sick leave. If I make a fuss, if I make this official… Everyone KNOWS that I’m not Human. Everyone from the Governor of Beta Delta down to Billy Sandler knows it. But they know it in a sort of unofficial way. They smile and wink and nod as if they’re all part of one great amusing secret. But that’s because my alienness has been good for them. The gym, sorting out Madam Waterson, the earthquake… everyone has reason to be glad that I’m different. But if this gets looked into any more deeply, if they start to really think about it… then they might start to think I could be dangerous… they might start to believe I could… really could harm a child…”

“Even a really nasty one?”

“Even so. Yes, Dana was being obnoxious… absolutely horrible. But she’s still just a child. Her opinions aren’t even hers. She’s learnt the racism from somebody else, from adults. I wouldn’t hold it against her… and I never would harm her.”

“We know that, Chrístõ.” They all said it. But they understood what he was saying. It was all about what people believed. And opinions could change overnight. A rumour once started, even with Billy Sandler squashing it at every turn, was hard to dislodge. The seed of doubt would germinate.

“It’s not fair.”

And it didn’t get any better. Chrístõ was contemplating spending the afternoon teaching them basic meditation skills when there was another knock at the door. Cal answered it. When he returned to the living room his expression was grim. Behind him was Mr Gallighan and his expression was even more dire. He glanced around at the group of truants assembled there and then fixed on Chrístõ. He stood and went with him out to the hall. The Chrysalids looked at each other and decided that, even if they could listen in telepathically, they wouldn’t.

Ten minutes later, the front door opened and closed and Chrístõ came back into the living room. As one the Chrysalids looked at him. His face was paler than they had ever seen it and his eyes looked haunted. This time they DID try to read his thoughts, and were surprised not to find a wall of steel set against their intrusion. His thoughts were open to them all, but they were disjointed like a picture on a piece of shattered glass.

“Judy Knox has been rushed to hospital,” he said. “She… she was in class… sitting there… and her hair set on fire…. Apparently spontaneously. She’s… very badly burnt.”

They all reacted with horror and profound sympathy for the injured girl. Of course, they did. But then their thoughts turned on the obvious question. Why had the headmaster come here to tell Chrístõ about the accident?

“It… proves that you’re innocent, doesn’t it?” Noreen Massey asked. “You were here, and so were we. We’re your alibi… proof that you couldn’t have hurt Judy. I mean… it’s horrible that she’s hurt. But for you… it’s good… sort of…”

Chrístõ shook his head.

“There is no natural explanation for what happened. Nothing HUMANLY possible could have made her hair set on fire in a room with no naked flames or accelerants. And if it’s not humanly possible… then the suspicion falls on me… because I’m not Human… and because I have reason. The idea that I might have attacked her remotely… to stop her from speaking out… from accusing me…”

“No!” The crowd needed no telepathy to make their protest one gestalt voice.

“He also said anyone who doesn’t turn up for afternoon registration will be on a week’s detention,” he added. “I… am grateful for your support. But… you can’t risk your own futures for me. Go on…”

They all shook their heads.

“We’ll take the detention,” Glenda said for all of them. “We’re not going to leave you.”

“Cal,” he said. “YOU should go. The worst that can happen to them is a detention. But you could be fired. And I don’t want that to happen to you because of me.”

“I’ll be sitting in an empty classroom,” he pointed out. But he did as Chrístõ asked. He was his apprentice, and obedience to his mentor was an important part of the arrangement.

Chrístõ watched him go and then led his faithful followers up to his meditation room. He had taught them simple methods of relaxing and clearing the mind as part of the Tai Chi and Gung Fu lessons, but this was the first time he had tried to teach them to reach any kind of deep level of meditative trance. He was sure they could do it, even though they were Human and it was a Time Lord discipline. Their minds were advanced enough to master the principle.

Helping them to clear their minds was the distraction he needed to help clear his. For the whole of the afternoon he was able to escape from the concerns of his daily life and renew his body and mind in the way he had learnt long ago with the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng.

When he returned to the waking world, the Chrysalids were all sitting quietly on the Meditation Room floor, watching him carefully.

“That’s really kind of scary,” Vern told him. “Your body just slowed down. Your hearts were hardly beating, you were only just breathing. How do you do it?”

“I’m not Human,” he answered.

“We know that. But how…”

“My physical body is fully under the control of my mind. I can suspend or slow its ordinary functions like respiration and cardio-vascular circulation at will. The Human body is only partially controllable by your will. Your hearts and lungs, kidneys, livers, stomachs, all continue to work automatically even when you are asleep or in a trance. You can’t control them. At least not without far more practice than you’ve had. I know old Shaolins in China who can reach a third level trance and remain in it for as much as a week without harming themselves.”

His friends all wanted to know about his time with the Shaolins of Henang Province, of course. He sat with his legs folded under him and talked to him of his experiences in that far off and long gone culture.

He was surprised to realise how much of the afternoon passed by that way. When he and the Chrysalids emerged from the soundproof Meditation Room it was in time to see Cal coming into the house along with Julia and – to his surprise – Billy Sandler.

“It’s all right,” Cal told him. “I rang Billy’s father and said he was doing after school activities. He has something to tell you. So does Julia. You might want to sit down. It’s a bit surprising.”

He sat. Julia sat by his side and he was glad of her hand in his. He had missed her all day.

Billy sat nervously in a chair opposite him.

“I was there,” Julia said. “When Judy was hurt. Because… because they were short of a teacher, and because the pipes burst in their class, 3c were put in the same room as us. They were really noisy, as usual. We were getting no work done at all because of them. I saw Judy being mean to Mia – you know, that quiet little coloured girl who never really seems to belong with the rest of them. And then… then her hair caught fire. It just happened…. It was horrible. Mrs Elton rolled her on the floor to put the flames out, but she was hurt and screaming. After that, it was really quiet in the class. Everyone just felt sick about what they saw.”

Chrístõ nodded. Apart from the detail that Julia and her classmates had been witnesses to the accident there wasn’t much he hadn’t heard already about this.

Then Billy spoke.

“This afternoon. Niall… on the way home from school. He was pestering all the girls. He grabbed Mia’s hair and then ran away. Only… there was a car… it swerved off of the road… and…”

Billy faltered. Chrístõ was surprised at first. He had never really seen him disconcerted. Then he understood why.

“Niall was pinned by the car. Against the wall. He was… really bad. I thought he was…”

“He’s not dead,” Cal confirmed. “I called the hospital. He’s got very serious internal injuries, but they’ve stabilised him. He’s going to live.”

“Chrístõ… Another of the students from 3c is in hospital,” Julia said. “But they can’t blame you this time, surely? They really can’t.”

“No,” Cal said very quietly. “Because… Chrístõ, have you realised…. There IS a common denominator here. Don’t you see it?”

“Yes, I do,” Chrístõ replied. “Yes. It makes sense. At least… I think it does. Billy, come on. We’ll take you home, first. Julia, if you’re staying here again tonight, ring your aunt and let her know.”

He took his car keys from Cal who followed him, leading Billy. The boy sat quietly in the car as Chrístõ headed towards the suburb where he and most of the general intake of the school lived.

“I don’t know what will happen,” he said. “Whether I’ll ever teach on this planet again… but, Billy, I’m going to try to make sure your future is a bit brighter than it seemed. I’ll see that you get you the help you need.”

“I don’t need help.” Billy responded.

“Everyone needs help sometimes,” he said. “Especially when they’re dyslexic.”

“No, I’m not,” Billy protested. “Never heard of the place. My mum’s from Earth. So is my dad.”

Chrístõ and Cal glanced at each other and resisted the urge to smile.

“It means that you struggle with reading and writing. It always feels much more hard work for you than it does for everyone else. I bet it always has, hasn’t it, Billy? That’s why you don’t try. Every day, every week of your school life, you’ve fallen further behind everyone else and you don’t care any more. You copy other people’s work and pretend you’re doing all right. But you’re not all right. You’re struggling.”

“I’m not thick,” the boy told him vehemently.

“No, I know you’re not. The fact that you could build a device to wipe out the whiteboard and hack into Scott’s electronic slate proves that. You’re a smart kid and you think fast. But one thing lets you down. And, like I said, you can get help with that. Even if I can’t be your teacher again, I’ll make sure somebody else knows and they’ll sort it out for you. I promise you, Billy. It will get easier and you won’t have to feel as if everyone and everything is against you. Or that anyone is going to think you’re ‘thick’. You don’t have to fight the whole universe. I’m here to do that.”

“So… you don’t think I’m stupid?” Billy fixed on the one thing he understood about what he had just been told.

“No, you’re not. In fact, I think you’ve probably got a natural talent for all things electronic. You should be taking a science stream next year. And yes, I know. You have to have at least a sixty per cent pass mark on the standard tests to do that. If you let a teacher help you, if you’re prepared to work a bit harder instead of not working at all, and to listen to people who have your best interests at heart, then you’ll do it. I hope you will, anyway. I just wish…”

“I want you to be my teacher,” Billy said. “All the others hate me and think I’m thick.”

“I don’t know if I can be anyone’s teacher,” Chrístõ replied. “That’s out of my hands right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But promise me, Billy, that you will try, no matter who your teacher turns out to be.”

Billy reluctantly agreed. Chrístõ left him at his home and then turned the car towards another address on the same estate, where another member of 3c also needed help, but not with reading and writing.

“You’d better wait here,” he said to Cal. “Best not crowd her out.”

He was slightly surprised when a man opened the door to him. He had expected a woman. Twenty-fourth century Beta Delta had some mid-twentieth century views of family life and more often than not the mothers stayed at home while the fathers worked.

“Mr Robinson?” he asked. “I’m here to talk to you about Mia.”

“What trouble is she in?” Mr Robinson answered him immediately.

“What makes you think she might be in trouble?” Chrístõ responded.

Mr Robinson looked at him and hesitated before making a decision.

“You’d better come in,” he said, opening the door wider. Chrístõ stepped into the hall and then into a comfortable living room. Mia was sitting by the window with a book. It was a paper copy of the text they had been studying in class. She put it down as she saw her teacher come into the room. She looked scared. Chrístõ thought he knew why.

“It’s all right, Mia,” he said gently as he sat beside her. “I’m not going to hurt you. I understand why you did it. Bullies can do that to you. That burning, seething knot of hatred inside you. I know. I’ve felt it, too. I’ve cried secretly. I’ve hurt so much. I’ve wished that the people who hurt me would suffer terrible punishments.”

Mia looked at him. So did her father. She said nothing.

“I always knew I could make those punishments happen. I could have hurt them. But I didn’t… because I knew it would be wrong… I knew it would make me no better than them. I hurt inside. I was angry. But I didn’t use my powers to hurt them.”

Mia said nothing, still. She turned her face away from him.

“You have the same anger. The same hurt. And you also have the ability to hurt those who hurt you. Only you didn’t hold back like I did. That’s why Dana and Judy, and Niall, are all in hospital. They hurt you, and you hurt them back.”

Mia still said nothing. But Chrístõ saw the tears rolling down her cheeks. So did her father.

“Mia… what have you done?” he asked. “What has happened? Hospital? There are children hurt because… Oh… Mia…. Oh no!”

Mia looked up at her father, and at Chrístõ, then she began to scream. It was a strange kind of scream, almost a keening wail. Chrístõ reeled back from her, his hands over his ears as the sound penetrated his brain. He staggered as his vision blurred and he fought to stay conscious.

“Mia!” Her father cried out as Chrístõ slid to the floor, spasming painfully as he went into a tonic-clonic seizure. “Mia… stop… please stop. You’ll kill him.”

There was a hammering at the front door and then it burst open. Cal ran in. Mia turned her attention on him, but her father stepped towards her. He grasped her in his arms and held her while Cal bent to attend to Chrístõ. The keening turned to grief-stricken tears as Mr Robinson comforted his daughter. Chrístõ continued to shake and spasm painfully, though. Cal put his hand gently on his forehead and reached inside his brain, calming it slowly and carefully. He sighed with relief as his friend and mentor slipped into a postictal coma. Mia whimpered softly as she looked at him.

“I didn’t mean to,” she said. “He was nice. He tried to…. I didn’t want to hurt him…”

“Is he…” her father tried to ask as he looked at Chrístõ’s still body on the drawing room floor.

“No, he’s not dead.” Cal looked around at the father and daughter. “He’ll be all right in a little while. But we really do have to talk. This must stop.”

Chrístõ emerged from the seizure induced sleep with a bad headache and a sense of movement. He slowly realised that he was strapped into the passenger seat of his own car. The window was open supplying fresh air to his aching head. Cal noticed him stirring and brought the car to a stop at the side of the road.

“Why are we on the road to Butterfield Lake?” he asked as he became more aware of his surroundings.

“Just driving around until you woke up,” Cal answered. “If I took you home like that Julia would go up the wall. Are you all right, now?”

“I have the mother of all headaches,” he answered. “But I’ll live… Close thing, though. That girl… she has…”

“She’s the great-great-great-great granddaughter of the most powerful voodoo witch on the small Caribbean island where her parents came from,” Cal explained. “Her mother had the ‘gift’, too. She used it to make bread rise and the dishes wash themselves. Her mother died six months ago. Did you know that?”

Chrístõ shook his head.

“The central server was damaged in the earthquake. Some of the student records are incomplete. No wonder she was withdrawn. On the edge of puberty, too. Raging hormones and grief, combined with an inherited collection of untrained psychic abilities. She was a Human volcano about to go off.”


“She must be very good to have caused Dana to have that fit when she wasn’t even in the same room.”

“She is, very powerful. Also very scared. So was her father. He knew she was unhappy. He was dreading something like this happening. I assured him I wouldn’t be telling the police. Well, they’re not likely to believe that a thirteen year old girl has been attacking people with the power of her mind. And even if they did, that wouldn’t help her.”

“She needs a powerful psychic to work with her to train and temper her abilities.”

“Yes. That’s why I told her father I would help her in every way.”

“You?” Chrístõ was surprised.

“Do you know anyone else with our telepathic skills who had that many emotional issues to come to terms with. There was a time… not so long ago… when I could have been setting fire to people with my mind. I had that much anger pent up inside of me. If it hadn’t all been directed at you I’d have been much more dangerous. I know what she’s going through. I know how to help her. I promised I would.”

“Ok.” Chrístõ agreed. It sounded like it had all been arranged anyway. He felt a momentary wave of something like jealousy. He was the one who usually came up with those sort of solutions. He was the one people expected to help them in times of trouble. Cal had come in there while he was unconscious and stolen his thunder.

He laughed at himself and realised how arrogant he sounded. Cal was emulating him in every way and he wanted to stop him because HE wanted to the hero every time.


“This isn’t over, you know,” he said as Cal turned the car back towards the city.

“What isn’t?”

“For me, it isn’t. I’m still on ‘sick leave’ while the accusation that I harmed two of my students using my alien powers hangs over my head. I’m certainly not going to point the finger at Mia. That’s the last thing she needs. So… So… you work it out. I’m finished as a teacher.”

“But…” Cal began. He glanced at Chrístõ, but he had turned his face away, looking out of the window at the city he had chosen as his home because he loved these Human colonists so very much. There really wasn’t anything else to say. Mia was going to be all right. With medical help, her three victims would be. Billy would get the educational help he needed. But the fallout from these events was still hanging over Chrístõ.

Julia knew as soon as he stepped into the house that Chrístõ was ill. She wrapped her arms around him protectively and demanded to know what had happened to him.

“Nothing that a good long rest won’t cure,” Cal assured her. “Are the others still here?”

“Yes,” she answered. “But…”

“Go on and wait. I’m going to take care of Chrístõ, then I’ll be back down. Make coffee. We all need to talk.”

Julia looked at Cal and wondered why he was giving the orders, why Chrístõ was so quiet. But she did as he asked. Cal helped his mentor up to his room, helped him get undressed and into bed. He sat with him and guided his descent into a level three meditative trance that would allow him to recover from the after effects of Mia’s attack on his mind.

“Sleep well, my friend,” he whispered as he turned and left him in the care of Humphrey who hovered over the bed in the half dark of the evening.

The next morning, Chrístõ woke late. It was already long past the time he would normally have got up to go to work. He had a feeling Julia had stayed the night, but she would have gone to school by now. He was alone in the house.

Alone with his own melancholy thoughts. Yes, a problem had been resolved. Or it was on the way to being resolved, anyway. But not for him. He wondered what he ought to do. Tender his resignation from the school for a start. The thought dismayed him. Of course, he didn’t need the money. But he liked teaching. Even teaching 3c. He didn’t want to leave any of them. But right now he couldn’t see any other option.

He had just finished showering and dressing and was wondering if he wanted to eat anything for breakfast when there was a knock at the front door. He went to open it expecting more trouble. He was surprised to see Keith Vernon standing on the doorstep. Next to him was Mr Gallighan. But it was Keith who had knocked.

“Hello,” he said to the boy. “You look well. Are you…”

“It’s my first day back at school today,” he answered. “After getting out of hospital. But… I don’t want to go unless you’re going to be my teacher. And…” He held up a small wrapped package. It looked as if it might contain a box of chocolates. “I was supposed to give you this. From my mum… to… say thank you. For…”

The boy stopped talking. He seemed to have forgotten his prepared speech. Chrístõ took the package and looked from him to Mr Gallighan.

“You should know, first of all,” the headmaster said. “That Judy Knox has retracted the accusations she made against you. Panic, hysteria… heat of the moment. She admits that she was being silly. And… I hope you will accept my apologies for… what seemed necessary at the time…”

“Yes… of course,” Chrístõ answered him. “I…”

“You might also like to know that the entire student body is currently sitting in the reception hall, on the floor, refusing to move. So are at least half the faculty. The rest are waiting in empty classrooms… They say they intend to do so until I inform you that you have a job at New Canberra High School for as long as you want one. I’ve also taken phone calls from several parents speaking in your favour.”

“The… whole school?” Chrístõ was stunned. Keith Vernon grinned and forgot his nervousness as he described in fine detail the peaceful sit in organised by the combined forces of the Advanced Needs class, what was left of 3c and the girls’ gymnastics team.

“Professor…” Mr Gallighan was still anxious. He was obviously worried that Chrístõ wasn’t going to say yes.

“You’ll have to give me a lift,” he said as he reached for his leather jacket on the hook behind the door. “Cal took my car this morning. Anyway, that gives me chance to have a word with you about Billy Sandler’s special needs programme.”