Chrístõ’s TARDIS materialised in the corner of the King-Emperor’s private office. Penne Dúre, absolute ruler of Adano-Ambrado was at his desk signing documents from the day’s despatch box. He looked up in surprise and alarm at the displaced air and groaning noise of materialisation. His hand was on the button that would summon one of the palace guards from the outer chamber. When Chrístõ stepped out he drew his hand back.

“You weren’t sure it was me?” he queried.

“Other Time Lords have TARDISes, don’t they?” Penne answered. “And not all of them are my friends.”

“I am,” Chrístõ assured him as his blood brother stood up from his desk and came to embrace him fondly. “I will always be your friend, even when affairs of state come between us.”

“How have affairs of state come between us?” Penne asked, still hugging him. “You’re not a member of any government. The games the likes of Drago and I play in the name of statehood are nothing to do with you.”

“They are when my government sends me as a diplomat to broker a peace deal and I find out that Adano-Ambrado has been secretly arming and funding a rebel militia.”

Penne drew back, though still holding Chrístõ around the shoulders. Their mirror image faces were both serious, lips pressed together tightly. Their identical brown eyes held each other questioningly.

“Oh!” Penne sighed as he understood Chrístõ’s mood at last. “Oh, you mean Dearg Doom, don’t you?”

“I was right, wasn’t I? I saw the weapons in his arsenal. And the stealth technology he uses to hide his desert compound. The same as we used in the counter-offensive against the Mallus. You had a hand in it, didn’t you?”

“Not me,” Penne answered. “Drago.”

“Funded by you, then,” Chrístõ amended. “Drago can’t afford to sponsor a revolution.”

Penne said nothing for the moment. Then he turned and reached for his intercom system.

“Major Beccan, I am in secure conference. Nobody is to disturb me.”

“How can you be in secure conference?” the Major responded. “You are on your own in there.”

“That’s my order, Major,” he answered. “Do it.”

Of course, his personal guard had no option but to obey. There was a faint whirr and Chrístõ knew that the outer door had locked and a double-level of anti-espionage electronic devices would have kicked in at the same time. Their conversation was completely private. Penne went to the drinks cabinet first and poured two glasses of liquor, then he invited Chrístõ to sit down on a wide leather couch with him. Chrístõ looked at the drink doubtfully.

“It’s distilled on Adano Menor,” Penne told him. “Your father says it’s almost as good as an Islay single malt, and apparently that’s a compliment.”

“From my father, it is,” Chrístõ answered. “I’ve never understood the need for alcohol.”

He sipped the drink, anyway and though he was no connoisseur of the distillations that Earth humans called whiskey, he thought there was a certain hint of the peat-laden waters of southern Adano Menor in the taste. But he didn’t come here to drink with Penne, and he reminded him of that.

“Drago and I agreed that the Yataon civil war was of mutual concern, and decided to take a pro-active interest in the outcome.”

“By arming what the Yataon government calls a band of terrorists?”

“I notice that you don’t call them that,” Penne replied.

“I’ve met Doom,” Chrístõ answered. Penne laughed. Chrístõ noticed the glint in his doppelganger’s eye and another piece of the puzzle slipped into place.

“Oh, Rassilon’s Eye!” he swore. “You got Adano-Ambrado into what amounts to intergalactic gun-running because the rebel leader is a good looking man?”

Penne laughed again.

“Drago thought so, too.”

“I thought both of you preferred women,” Chrístõ responded. “Apart from anything else.”

“I do, not sure about Drago,” Penne answered. “But Doom…. If you’ve actually met him in person, you must know what I mean. Even you must have noticed. He’s magnificent.”

“Yes, he is,” Chrístõ admitted. “Or he was. The last time I saw him magnificent wasn’t exactly the word. But… seriously, Penne, you and Drago… you can’t seriously tell me that you did all that because you ‘fancied’ Doom. You’re supposed to be leaders of two of the most powerful planetary systems in the galaxy.”

“Of course there were other factors,” Penne assured him. “Like the fact that Doom is right. His rebellion is a just cause. Catoa is a tyrant. Even Drago didn’t want to do business with him. And he’s a bit of a tyrant himself. Doom and his people are right to demand an end to his despotism. We… tipped the balance in favour of the Red Destroyer.”

“No, you didn’t,” Chrístõ answered in a voice that choked oddly. Penne was astonished to see the liquor in his glass slop over as his hand shook.

“Didn’t what?” Penne asked as he reached out and steadied his friend’s hands.

“You didn’t tip the balance. Doom…. He’s lost. His army is either dead or in hiding. The people who supported him… the people of the Red Quarter, they’re being hammered by Coercion Acts, martial law, curfews. Catoan soldiers are shooting Doom’s supporters down in the streets of the Red Quarter towns. In the rural parts, they’re burning crops, killing cattle, putting people off their farms. Killing those that offer even a token protest. Catoa is even talking about internment camps, rounding up the women and children as well as the men. They’re all going to suffer – millions of innocent people… and you and Drago… you made it happen. Catoa wouldn’t have repressed them that way if you hadn’t given Doom the means to be more than an inconvenient dissident.”

“@#&*$%!” Penne swore as Chrístõ’s half Human eyes filled with tears. “But… what about Doom? Is he dead?”

“Not yet,” Chrístõ answered. “At least, not when I left him. But he’s dying by inches. Catoa had him stripped and scourged and then tied to a rock in the middle of the castle yard. He’s bleeding from a dozen different wounds, exposed to the heat of the day, no food or water… You called him magnificent… And he is… because anyone else would be dead already. But when I left… he just looked… pitiful.”

Again, Chrístõ choked on his words. ‘Pitiful’ was barely audible, but Penne understood. He had seen the image clearly in his blood brother’s mind. He was shocked. Yes, when Dearg Doom had first come to his attention he had felt an interest in him that had nothing to do with politics, and which would have got him into serious trouble with his wife. Drago, who wasn’t married, and unlikely ever to be, was even more forthright in his thoughts on that matter. But what both of them really admired beyond the physical attraction was Doom’s courage, his tenacity, and his refusal to bow down even under the worst suppressive measures of the regime he was fighting. They had both read the official dispatches about the Yataon civil war. They had consulted their military advisors. They in their turn had consulted spies who reported from both camps on the situation.

And they had concluded that Dearg Doom’s faction was the one they should be supporting. Their political advisors had advised against open alliance with the rebels. Their military advisors had shown how covert support could give Doom the edge he needed to make an offensive move that was certain to bring Catoa to his knees.

“What went wrong?” he asked. Chrístõ looked at him and for a long time he couldn’t speak.

“You did, Penne,” he answered at last, through tears of grief and sorrow. “You went wrong. If you’d just left well alone…”

“Tell me, please,” Penne answered. “Tell me what happened. The last I heard, everything was fine. The revolution was successful. Catoa had offered terms…”

And that was why Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow was involved. He was there in his capacity as an Ambassador of the Gallifreyan Diplomatic Corps. The High Council, in their wisdom, had offered to broker the peace between the Yataon government led by Admiral Catoa and the Red Destroyers led by their enigmatic commander, Dearg Doom.

“He certainly worked a doom on the capital of Yatao,” Cal remarked as he looked out from the shuttle he and Chrístõ were travelling in. From the air, it looked even more devastating than they thought, having arrived by TARDIS directly within the Presidential palace. They looked at the sections of the city that had been flattened in the unexpected and apparently unprovoked bombardment. The loss of lives was still being calculated. Rescue efforts were ongoing.

“Actually, the civilian deaths are not as huge as first thought,” Chrístõ noted, looking at the information on the screen in front of him. “The targets were a military base, munitions factory, several other engineering projects, the airport, and the bridge that served as the main arterial road out of the city. Of course, people died. But not as many as there would have been if homes were bombed indiscriminately.”

“It’s… still an unprovoked attack. Terrorism,” Cal replied.

“It’s war,” Chrístõ contradicted him. “This was an act of war. The targets were calculated to prevent a counter attack. That’s why Catoa has been forced to capitulate. They made an effort to avoid widespread civilian deaths. That’s….”

“Chrístõ!” Cal was appalled. “You’re a pacifist. You can’t really believe this carnage was justified?”

“I’m a pacifist who has fought and killed… when it was necessary. For the freedom of my people. Doom thought this was necessary for the freedom of his. And I think he… Well, you know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter…”


“It’s something Earth people used to say. It means… well, it’s obvious what it means. And… look…”

He had a long piece of text in front of him. It listed the history of the Yataon government’s dealings with the minority race of people who lived in the Red Quarter – known as the Rua. There were Coercion Acts going back centuries which restricted these people’s rights to land ownership, to education, health care, even to certain jobs. There were even laws banning intermarriage. The Rua were a people who had a great many grievances against the ruling Yataon, and no way of seeking redress through ordinary means. The government was a military junta. But even if it came close to any model of democracy, the Rua were not permitted to vote.

“Ok, they’ve got a lot of reason to complain,” Cal conceded. “But… what they did to the city… And all the random acts of violence that went on for years before that… Surely there are better ways of getting rights for these people…”

“If there is, I don’t know,” Chrístõ answered him. “Rebellion, force of arms, is what people have done in so many places over the millennia when there was no other choice. On Earth, the USA was founded on just that sort of basis. It’s written into their Declaration of Independence. And the French, the Irish, too. Then there were….”

Cal was surprised by Chrístõ’s ability to remember the wars of independence on at least a dozen other planets that had occurred in the past thousand years or so. But he still wasn’t completely convinced.

“Doom isn’t just a terrorist, I’m sure of it,” Chrístõ insisted. “He has a genuine grievance. If he didn’t, I don’t think our people would expect me to meet with him. The President suffered as much as anyone did at the hands of the Mallus. I think he sees it as I do. He wants me to make a peace deal that gives Doom’s people the freedom they are crying out for. And I intend to do that, if it’s in my power.”

Cal still wasn’t completely convinced. The sight of the destroyed part of the city had shaken him, and he couldn’t understand how Chrístõ could allow any quarter to the man who had given orders for that mass death and destruction.

Chrístõ was looking up Dearg Doom himself, now. He found only a few pictures of him, but his biography seemed to be well known on Yatao. He was born the son of a Rua servant in the house of a Yataon magistrate. The servant had died when he was young and the magistrate’s wife had taken pity on the child and raised him, allowing him to receive a full Yataon education. Indeed, it was only when he was twenty years old and had applied to enter the military academy that his true parentage was revealed. Doom had then renounced his foster family and gone off into the desert to join a tribe of Rua people. They had been suspicious of him at first, believing him to be neither one thing nor the other. But he gained acceptance and then, eventually, a position of power and leadership among the Rua. He became a force uniting the scattered Rua villages and galvanising them. He taught them to have pride in themselves, and not to be a beaten, downtrodden second class race. He taught them to demand equal rights, and when they didn’t get them, to begin a war of attrition against their taskmasters. That had been going on for nearly ten years before the offensive against the capital that brought matters to a head.

“Moses,” Cal said as he read the same information. “Born of the slave race, but raised as a prince… only to discover his true heritage. It’s… in the Earth religious texts.”

“Yes, I know,” Chrístõ said. “Another example of a people who had to fight for their freedom. He is certainly charismatic. One man pulling a disparate people together like that, giving them one aim and showing them how to achieve it. I am impressed.”

He smiled wryly as he pressed an icon on the screen that opened into a media player. A song played. It had a heavy percussion and base line and it was clearly a kind of rebel song about Dearg Doom. It spoke of him as a hard, determined man who stood tall and strong in the face of his enemies.

“Good song,” Chrístõ commented. “Could be an intergalactic hit. I should give it to Ice Garden next time I see their manager.”

The remark was just a little too flippant for the pilot of the craft. He turned to him with an angry exclamation.

“Sir! That song is offensive to my ears. I had friends working at the airport the night it was attacked. And a cousin who was a munitions worker.”

Chrístõ switched off the music and apologised.

“Besides, it’s all nonsense,” the pilot continued. “Doom is a murderer. That’s all. Building him up into some sort of folk hero, with songs and poems, pictures stuck on walls all over the city… he’s just a murderer. And a Ruan murderer at that. They’re savages. They don’t deserve to be treated as equals. They were never meant to be. They’re a slave race…. Good for cleaning the streets, tending crops, some of them might make half-decent house servants. But equality, never.”

Chrístõ began to wish he hadn’t apologised. He was tempted to put the music back on. He recognised bigotry when he saw it.

His communicator buzzed. He noticed the text message on it, giving the precise co-ordinates the shuttle was to go to. The instructions were clear enough. He slid into the empty co-pilot seat and set the course. The pilot took his hands off the controls as the autopilot programme took over. Neither of them needed to do anything else.

“Doom’s compound!” the pilot commented. “Our military minds have puzzled over that for half a decade. And now we have been given directions. What the air force could do with that co-ordinate.”

“Absolutely nothing,” Chrístõ replied. “There is a ceasefire on both sides while these negotiations are ongoing. And I don’t intend to give up until there is peace here and nobody needs to live in a secure, hidden compound.”

The pilot said nothing in reply. His feelings about the Rua in general and Dearg Doom’s army in particular had already been made known. As the shuttle headed deeper into the desert, towards the secret destination, it occurred to Chrístõ that, even if a peace treaty was hammered out in the next few weeks, it would not be the end of the matter. Integrating the two races who had fought for so long would be difficult. Teaching Yataons to treat their Ruan neighbours as equal, teaching the Ruan to trust the Yataon, setting aside the resentments on both sides that come from years of bloodshed, would not be easy.

It also occurred to him that, should the treaty break down, Doom would need a new secure compound.

He would need more than that.

It was clear that his fearsome reputation was largely built on folk myths. Once he came out into the open, met with his enemies at a negotiating table, that myth would be busted. He would be seen by both sides as merely a man. His enemies would know his weaknesses, and so would his friends. Going back to war would be difficult in more ways than one.

The peace had to be made. A Treaty had to be forged between Doom and Catoa. He couldn’t fail them.

He felt the change in the engines and a difference in cabin pressure as the shuttle began to descend. He looked out of the window and at first saw nothing but a desert very much like the great Red Desert of Gallifrey. Then, in an eyeblink, the compound appeared beneath them. He knew what had happened. They had penetrated a cloaking shield. Nearly a square mile of training grounds, arms dumps and single storey shelters for the rebel army was revealed. There was even a small airfield. The shuttle pilot made a disgusted sound in his throat.

“That’s how they launched the airborne strike on the capital,” he said. “We still don’t know how Doom got planes, though. Let alone how he trained his wretched people to fly them.”

Chrístõ was wondering about that, too. The Rua were a poor, downtrodden race, scratching a living in the desert. And yet even from the air he could see missiles and launchers, bomber planes on the runway, made ready in case they were needed again. When they landed and stepped out onto the tarmac they were flanked by soldiers in modern battle armour and carrying what Chrístõ, who was by no means an expert, nevertheless recognised as very expensive and very new semi-automatic assault rifles.

Two of the soldiers fell into step with them as they were taken towards the centre of the compound. The rest followed. And by the time they reached the end of the airfield Chrístõ was aware that by ‘the rest’ he meant the bulk of Doom’s army. Men in battle armour were on every side. The sound of their marching feet formed an insistent rhythm, and they began chanting as they marched, matching the rhythm.

“Doom, Doom, Dearg Doom!”

“Dearg Doom, Dearg Doom!”

“That’s creepy,” Cal said telepathically. Chrístõ glanced around. Their pilot, walking beside them, obviously would have agreed. He looked petrified by the presence of so many enemy soldiers.

“Yes. But… magnificent, as well. I’m… looking forward to meeting the man who generates that sort of fervour.”

The song he had heard in the shuttle came into his head. The lyrics were fanciful, but at that moment, with the name of the rebel leader echoing around him, Chrístõ thought they must be literally true.

His blood is colder than black marble by the sea.

His heart is older than the great oak tree.

He is the flash of steel swords in the sun.

When you see him coming you had better

run . . . run . . . run .

From Dearg Doom.

From Dearg Doom.

They reached the central compound in front of a low but solid looking building that was clearly the rebel headquarters. The soldiers formed up in ranks on either side. The chant continued.

Then it stopped, and the silence was all the more powerful in contrast. Every single man stood stock still, waiting.

The door opened. Two men in officer’s uniforms stepped out, followed by an elderly woman dressed in a long silver gown. The soldiers all bowed their heads respectfully to her and Chrístõ felt he knew who she was. None of the Rua were telepathic, but when all of them were thinking the same thought, it was impossible not to pick it up.

This was Doom’s mother – his adopted mother, the Yataon who had raised him as her own. He must have brought her here at some point. The army paid respect to her.

Then he stepped out, and Chrístõ found himself drawing breath. He had been half prepared to meet a god with feet of clay. The chanting, the songs, the poetry, it had to be all hype. Doom was surely an ordinary man with a dramatic sounding name and a gift for oratory?

But he wasn’t. He truly was a magnificent being. He was at least six-foot five, broad of shoulder even without the leather jerkin and the burnished copper armour that he wore. He was handsome in a dark, rugged way. There was a long scar down one cheek that suggested he had used the sword at his side in close combat. The scar did not detract from his physical appearance, though. If anything, it made him look more distinctive. He was a warrior, born and bred, a leader who went into battle with the men who followed him, and who had been marked by that battle.

Chrístõ looked at his eyes. They were a deep brown that was almost black. And it might have been fanciful to think it – Doom himself would probably dismiss the idea – but those eyes seemed at one and the same time to be that cold marble spoken of in the song, and burning supernovas of rage.

As Doom walked towards them, there was a metallic sound. Chrístõ glanced around and realised it was the sound of hundreds of men all kneeling at once, their rifle butts clashing on the ground in the gestalt movement.

Chrístõ didn’t kneel. He was an Ambassador and a Crown Prince. He was heir to one of the Twelve Ancient Oldblood Houses of Gallifrey. In so many ways he outranked Doom.

But he was also a war veteran and that part of his soul recognised a kindred spirit. And as their eyes met, he thought Dearg Doom recognised the same in him. If either he or Doom had ever been in a regular army that set store by such things, they would probably have saluted each other.

Instead, Chrístõ bowed his head long enough to know that the gesture was acknowledged. Doom did the same in return.

“I am Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow, Ambassador from Gallifrey in the Kasterborous system,” he said formally.

“I am Dearg Doom.”

Around him the men who followed Doom repeated his name. The sound of it echoed around the compound for at least half a minute.

“You know why I am here,” Chrístõ added. “I have a message from Admiral Catoa. May I deliver it to you?”

“You may,” Doom answered. “Inside.” He nodded towards the building behind him and then turned. His lieutenants flanked his mother as they went first. Then Doom himself, followed by Chrístõ and Cal and the pilot, who had no reason to be present at this conference, but was so clearly petrified to be left in the compound among so many of his enemies that he had to come inside for his own sanity.

“He really was as magnificent as his legend suggests?” Penne asked, breaking into Chrístõ’s thoughts. “When you met him face to face?”

“He was. Don’t ask me to explain how or why. But… you and Drago like to think you’re important. You dress in your fancy uniform and call yourself Admiral of your space fleet. You wear robes of office and call yourself Emperor. You wear a crown and people bow to you. But without your crown, your robes, you’re just a good looking man with a nice smile and good teeth. Without his armour, Doom would still be… magnificent. I would still bow to him. I would recognise him as a greater man than me… greater than my father. And I never thought I would ever say that. No wonder so many men were prepared to follow him, to fight and die at his command. I would have gladly put on armour for him. And… And I was an instrument in his downfall. It makes me sick to think of it…”

“But what happened? You went there with peace terms… sent by Catoa… he was prepared to talk.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered. “That’s what I thought. That’s what I assured Doom. I gave him my word, as a Time Lord of Gallifrey, that Catoa was ready to talk. I offered him safe passage to the capital to sit at the negotiating table with his former enemy… to make peace.”

Doom accepted. And by the time he emerged from the headquarters into the compound the news that he had done so had spread. The cheers and the chanting of his name this time were jubilant. He stopped and faced the men and raised his hands in victory to them. Then he turned and embraced his mother. He kissed her on the cheek and Chrístõ heard him promise that she, too, would see the capital again very soon. Then he walked beside Chrístõ. Four of his lieutenants walked behind him, his bodyguard and escort. Cal dropped behind a pace and kept in step with the still nervous pilot as the assembled rebel army cheered on their triumphant leader and his retinue.

In the shuttle, flying back to the capital, Doom was quiet at first. Then he turned to Chrístõ and spoke as if imparting a confidence to him.

“There IS no going back. Once Catoa and I face each other in the same room, it is over. Either I win my people’s freedom or our fight is lost.”

“You will win,” Chrístõ assured him. “You have the just cause.”

“You are young,” Doom told him. “And idealistic. ‘Just’ has nothing to do with it. If it did, my stepbrother would never have been allowed to oppress my people the way he has.”

“Stepbrother? Catoa…”

“He was born when I was five years old. When he came of age, I had already left to find my true heritage. He cast out our mother, because she still spoke of me as her son. He disowned her. She has lived by my side ever since, in the nomad camps, travelling through the desert. She has starved with me when food was scarce, shivered in the cold of night, baked in the heat of the midday sun. She has feared for my life and rejoiced when I returned from battle. My one personal hope in all of this… is to see her sleeping in a fine bed in a good house in the capital once again…”

“It will happen,” Chrístõ assured him.

And he had been sure it would.

Doom’s arrival in the capital city was less triumphant than his departure from his own camp. The Yatoan people, behind a cordon of military guards, stared with cold eyes at the man who had ordered the attack on their city. At one place, quite close to the palace, there was a small group of supporters who chanted Doom’s name. They looked like servants and street workers. They were Ruan, of course. But apart from their much poorer clothing there was little physical sign that they were a different race to the ‘superior’ Yatoans.

“Fools!” Chrístõ heard one of the Yatoan soldiers say of the Ruan supporters. “Now we know their faces.”

Chrístõ had a chilling thought but set it aside. Later, he wondered if he ought to have been forewarned then. He ought to have expected trouble.

He didn’t. And neither did Dearg Doom.

They walked into the presidential palace, past what looked like an honour guard of Yatoan soldiers. Doom kept his eyes forward, not looking at any of them, so he didn’t notice the hate in their eyes. Nor was he telepathic, so he couldn’t have known the thoughts in their heads. He didn’t smile. This was a moment of triumph, but it was bought with too much bloodshed. He kept his expression stoic.

When they entered the presidential chamber there was utter silence. The party stopped midway across the great marble floor. Catoa stood from his seat and walked, flanked by his officers, as if to meet him at that halfway point.

Except he didn’t. He walked right past Dearg Doom and his lieutenants and stopped by Cal and the pilot, who looked much more relaxed now he was among his own people. Catoa reached and pinned a medal ribbon on the pilot’s breast.

“You have done a great deed for Yatoa today,” he said to the pilot.

“What…” Cal managed that one word of question as he looked at the now smugly smiling pilot. Then he was distracted by the sudden noise as a large videoscreen across one wall of the palace switched on. It displayed a scene of carnage. Chrístõ felt Cal’s telepathic yelp as they both recognised Doom’s compound where they had been an hour ago, now under attack by Yatoan paratroopers who descended on it out of nowhere while firebombs rained down from the sky.

“What is this?” Dearg Doom demanded.

“I’m sorry,” Chrístõ said to him. “We’ve… I’ve been used. Our pilot reported the co-ordinates of your compound. While we were flying here to make peace… Catoa has resumed the war.”

“Chrístõ!” Cal yelled out loud and telepathically at the same time. He was so loud and sudden he almost stunned him rather than warned him of the immediate danger. But Chrístõ had already guessed what was going to happen next. He pushed Doom to the ground and covered him as the Catoan guards opened fire on the Red Destroyer and his lieutenants. He felt the bullets meant for Doom slam into his own body before his brain shut down to preserve itself.

When he woke, he knew it was many hours later. The fact that he wasn’t in any pain at all was an indicator. His body had repaired itself already. The sunlight coming through the window had a look of early morning about it. It had been late afternoon when they entered the presidential palace.

He was in the bedroom of the Palace suite given over to him as Peace Ambassador. Those words had a hollow ring, now, though, as he struggled to sit up and focussed on Cal sitting by the window.

“What’s been happening?” he asked. “Doom… is he alive… did I… save him?”

“Only for a far more painful death,” Cal answered. He pointed to the window. Chrístõ climbed out of the bed and came to his side. What he saw in the courtyard below horrified him.

Dearg Doom was chained to a rock formation in the centre of the courtyard. Even from a distance Chrístõ could see he was badly beaten and bloody. There were bloodstains around the courtyard, too.

“They… scourged him,” Cal said. “I saw it all. They used whips with barbs that pulled pieces of his flesh away. Then they left him there… to die… If you’d let them pump bullets into him it would have been kinder.”

Chrístõ swore in Low Gallifreyan, using words his father would have been shocked to discover he knew, let alone used. Then he turned and grabbed his clothes and began to dress.

“What are you doing?” Cal asked.

“I’m… going down there,” he replied. He glanced at the door. “I can, can’t I? We’re not prisoners, are we?”

“Not unless Catoa wants to declare war on Gallifrey. He has informed the Diplomatic Corps that you were slightly injured in the crossfire between loyal Yatoan forces and the deceitful rebels who infiltrated the palace. I sent a coded message with something like the truth. But the High Council haven’t responded yet, and your father is offworld and hasn’t yet been informed.”

“Good,” Chrístõ said. “I don’t want him to worry about me. I’ll… be back soon.”

“Chrístõ…” Cal added. “If he’s still conscious… there’s something else… it’s cruel, but it might be less cruel coming from you than one of them…”

Chrístõ listened to the new piece of bad news and nodded silently. He didn’t trust himself to reply without bursting into tears.

As it was, stepping out into that courtyard, under the watchful eye of a dozen Yatoan guards, and walking across the paved area to where Dearg Doom was dying by inches, his all too Human emotions betrayed him. He was fighting back the tears as he looked up at the face of a man who, to his surprise, still bore traces of the fierce pride that earned him such legendary status.

Chrístõ tried to remember what he had wanted to say to him. The words died on his lips.

“I don’t blame you,” Dearg Doom said to him while he tried again. His voice was cracked, but far from weak. He still had reserves of strength despite his desperate situation. “Catoa used you. I know that.”

“I blame myself. I should have seen his deceit. I am sorry that I let him do this to you. Forgive me.”

“I forgive you,” Doom replied. “But there is something more, isn’t there? Something you have to tell me?”

Chrístõ gulped back a sob. He stepped closer. Doom’s eyes met his. The raging fire still burned in them. He was still defiant even in the jaws of death.

“I’m sorry,” Chrístõ said to him. “The attack on your compound. Your mother… she is among the dead.”

Doom sighed deeply and shook his head as far as he was able to do so.

“Why do you cry for my mother?” he asked as Chrístõ’s tears fell unchecked.

“Because… because you’re Dearg Doom, and you won’t cry, not for her, nor for yourself,” he answered. “I have to go. I am… I am… please… save your strength. Hold on… please hold on for a little while.”

He turned and ran from the courtyard. He couldn’t bear to be there any longer. He ignored the taunts of the Yatoan guards who thought his tears unmanly. He kept running until he reached his quarters.

“Stay here,” he said as he opened his TARDIS door, disguised as a walk in cupboard. “If anyone wants to see me… I am indisposed. Refuse them entry to my chamber.”

“I will,” Cal answered. “But… where are you going?”

“Somewhere I can get help for Dearg Doom,” he replied before the door closed. A moment later the TARDIS dematerialised noisily. The sound was unlikely to be heard outside the chamber, though. The pretence that the Gallifreyan Ambassador was in his room could be maintained for a short while.

“So you came to me,” Penne said. “How long did it take you to get here by TARDIS?”

“About thirty minutes.”

“So there’s a chance he’s still alive, yet?”

“I think so. But it’s morning. The sun is rising. He’s exposed…”

“We have to move fast. Chrístõ… dry your tears. Major Beccan has been known to reduce raw recruits to jelly on the parade ground, but she might be shocked to see the Crown Prince crying.” He moved to his desk and pressed a buzzer. A moment later his chief military advisor stepped into the room. She was surprised to see Chrístõ there with her King-Emperor but made no comment.

“Why ARE you still a Major?” Penne asked, completely out of the blue. “Remind me to promote you later. But right now… I’ve just been informed that Yatoa has committed an unprovoked act of terrorism against Adano-Ambrado.”

“It has?” Chrístõ looked surprised.

“You were shot, weren’t you? My Crown Prince, my blood brother?” He turned back to the Major. “That gives me the right to launch a proportional response, does it not?”

“Right?” she queried. “It would be your duty, sir. What do you have in mind?”

“I was thinking of a show of strength by my battle fleet. It would take what… twenty-four hours to get them in position in the Yatoan system?”

“At the very earliest, sire.”

“Doom doesn’t have twenty-four hours,” Chrístõ pointed out.

“No,” Penne agreed. “What’s the most battle ready ship in my fleet?”

“The Ruby of Adano, of course, sire,” Major Beccan informed him. “It is always at battle readiness. But it is still at least eighteen hours away from Yatoa.”

“Chrístõ?” Penne turned to his doppelganger. “The TARDIS. Can it…”

“Yes, it can,” Chrístõ answered. “Major… tell the Ruby of Adano we’re on our way and have a squad of the Operaciones Especiales under your own command ready in….” He looked at Penne for confirmation.

“Ten minutes,” Penne said with a hint of pride. “They’ll be ready in the parade yard in ten minutes.”

“Time enough to work out our battle plan,” Chrístõ agreed as he turned towards his TARDIS.

Cal was starting to get worried when he finally heard the sound of the TARDIS materialising in the ambassador’s bed chamber. He ran in from the outer room as Chrístõ and Penne stepped out together to greet him. He frowned as he looked at them both. They were dressed almost identically in black and silver robes. One had a gold circlet nestling in his curling hair. That was the only difference.

“Chrístõ, you need to come with me down to the President’s chamber. They’ve sent people asking for you twice. They’re going to get suspicious.”

Penne Dúre took off his crown and handed it to Chrístõ.

“Excellent. You could do with an alibi right now. I’m you for the time being. You go and do what you have to do.”

Cal was surprised, but Chrístõ slipped the crown on his own head and seemed as comfortable with it as the King Emperor was. He stepped back into the TARDIS and it dematerialised as Penne strode out of the chamber with Cal.

“Don’t worry,” he told Cal telepathically. “Chrístõ and I have been doing this for years. Even my wife is never entirely sure. This lot will never know the difference.”

Chrístõ and Penne both had a way of striding into rooms as if they were in charge of the proceedings. Cal bit his lip to stop himself smiling as Penne came to a halt in front of the wide table where President Catoa was sitting.

“Ah,” Catoa said. “I see the Gallifreyan ambassador has recovered from the unfortunate incident yesterday. I understand that your government has accepted my apologies for your accidental injuries.”

“The Gallifreyan government has done so,” Penne replied. “But you forget, Admiral Catoa, that like you, I wear more than one hat. I am also the crown prince of Adano-Ambrado, and I am afraid my brother, the King-Emperor, regards the attack on my person as an act of war. You should know that the flagship of the Adano-Ambradan space fleet, the Ruby of Adano, is in geo-stationary orbit over your city. My brother, the king-emperor orders you to resign your presidency in favour of Dearg Doom within the next ten minutes or key targets not already flattened by the Red Destroyer will be taken out.”

Catoa looked worried for about ten seconds before he rallied.

“Doom is dead,” he said. “Or not far off.”

Then a guard ran into the chamber with the announcement that Dearg Doom was gone.

The TARDIS had already done its share of clever tricks when Chrístõ extended its gravitational field and pulled the Ruby of Adano through the time vortex, bringing it into orbit over the Yatoan capital in less than an hour instead of the eighteen it should have taken. A wide materialisation in the courtyard where Dearg Doom was being roasted to death in the mid-morning sun was a piece of cake in comparison. Of course, most of the Yatoan guards materialised in the TARDIS console room, too. The Operaciones Especiales under Major Beccan’s command took care of them. Chrístõ put the TARDIS into temporal orbit before he used his sonic screwdriver to cut through the chains that held Doom to the remnant of rock. He was still conscious and even tried to stand upright, but Chrístõ wouldn’t let him.

“You’re a brave man,” he told him. “The bravest I’ve ever met. But you’ve suffered more than anyone can be expected to suffer. Let me help you, now.”

Doom sighed wearily and fainted. Chrístõ called one of the Especiales to help carry him to his medical room. There he examined his wounds. They were none of them life-threatening in themselves. But the scourging had turned his back and his chest, arms and legs to bloody rags. His back was worst because he was then slammed against the rock and chained to it. Even the smallest movement of his body must have been agony. A hand held tool for widespread tissue repair made his flesh whole again. The same tool on a different setting soothed the sunburnt skin on his face and restored those good looks that had so attracted Penne and Drago. At the same time a saline drip replaced the fluids lost through extreme dehydration.

It was nearly an hour later when Doom opened his eyes and looked around at his surroundings.

“If I had properly qualified as a doctor I’d recommend at least a day’s bed rest,” Chrístõ said to him. “But I didn’t, and anyway, I bet you’ve never been in bed for a whole day in your life. You LOOK as if you’ve been rested, anyway. So would you like to get dressed and come and finish what we started.”

Doom sat up and looked at the leather and burnished copper armour that was laid on a chair beside him. Chrístõ answered the question before he asked it.

“My TARDIS responds to the clothing needs of its passengers. That was waiting for you in the Wardrobe.”

He, himself, had made a small wardrobe change in that he was now wearing the circlet that the King-Emperor of Adano-Ambrado wore for non-state occasions. Penne was playing him for now, so he would have to play Penne.

Dearg Doom pulled on the undershirt that protected his skin from the chafing effect of wearing leather and copper all day. He didn’t object to Chrístõ helping him on with the more complicated parts of the outfit. When he stood, he looked the same magnificent man he ever was, except that a deep sadness clouded those anger-fuelled eyes of his.

“Avenge them,” Chrístõ told him. Dearg Doom nodded. They strode together back to the console room where Ruana Beccan and her Operaciones Especiales formed a bodyguard for them both. Chrístõ programmed his TARDIS to return to the Presidential palace just a few moments after Dearg Doom’s escape from the execution courtyard was discovered.

“Doom is DEAD,” Catoa repeated. Then he gasped in astonishment. The gasp was taken up by almost everyone else in the room as the doors were flung back so hard they almost came off their hinges. One squad of the Operaciones Especiales marched in with their guns ready, trained on the guards around the room. The others formed an honour guard around Dearg Doom as he marched in step with the King-Emperor of Adano-Ambrado. At the very same moment, there were shimmers of light all around the room and the Yatoan guards found themselves matched man for man by the Adano-Ambrado marine corps who teleported in from the Ruby of Adano. As they began disarming the Yatoan guards, the same thing was happening all over the palace where more troops teleported in.

Penne Dúre repeated his demand that Catoa should resign his presidency. He refused. Moments later the room shook as a laser blast from the Ruby of Adano accurately destroyed the unoccupied gymnasium in the east wing of the palace.

“That was a warning,” Penne told him. “You should know that the Ruby of Adano has men and armaments enough to destroy this whole city and with your spaceport and airport already destroyed by Doom’s bombardments there is little you can do to retaliate. In a matter of hours the rest of my spacefleet will be here and the entire planet will be under siege. Resign now, and throw yourself on the mercy of Adano-Ambrado or you will be forcibly removed from office. Either way, you stand indicted on several intergalactic war crimes.”

Catoa growled like an animal as he stood up from the table. Then he moved more quickly than anyone expected. A dagger flashed in his hand. Penne was standing closest to him and became the focus of his rage. But the dagger missed the King-Emperor. It plunged into the chest of his chief military advisor who threw herself in front of him. Penne caught her in his arms and dropped low as one of the Especiales fired two shots. Catoa fell back, two bullet holes through his forehead. The attack on the King-Emperor was justification for firing on him.

Chrístõ stepped forward. He pulled the crown from his head and placed it on Penne’s royal head instead. Then he dropped to his knees beside him and gently opened the stricken soldier’s tunic to examine the wound.

“It’s ok,” he said as he selected first medical analysis mode and then tissue repair on the sonic screwdriver. “No major organs damaged. She’ll be all right. Hold her steady for me. This is delicate work.”

“Colonel Beccan,” Penne said as he stroked her face gently and drew out the pain she was suffering into his own body. “How many times have I told you not to use your precious body as a shield to protect me.”

“It’s… my duty, sir,” she answered. “Did… you… say… Colonel?”

“Not good enough?” he asked. “Do you think you ought to be a Brigadier, a General… Hell, if you get through this, I’ll make you up to Field Marshall. Just stop risking your life for me.”

“I’m not sure promoting this soldier will stop her doing that, Penne,” Chrístõ told him. “I think you should bust her down to private and send her on the Loggian exchange programme.”

“Colonel… will… do fine,” Ruana Beccan managed to say. “Thank you, sire.”

She fainted from delayed shock. Penne was worried at first, but Chrístõ assured him she was going to be all right.

Meanwhile, Dearg Doom was taking command of the situation. He ordered two of the disarmed Yataon guards to make their former leader’s body decent. With Penne’s nod of approval he contacted the Ruby of Adano and arranged for more troops to teleport down to the planet’s surface in order to complete the stand down of the soldiers loyal to Catoa. Then he made arrangements to address the people of Yatao, informing them that he was their new leader.

While that was in hand, the videoscreen jumped into life. Everyone except Chrístõ, who was still closing the wound in Colonel Beccan’s stomach, looked up. Penne stood and accepted the salute from a Colonel of his regular army who was standing in the ruins of Doom’s desert compound.

“Sire,” she said. “We came with reinforcements and medical supplies as you ordered. But by the time we got here there was no fight. The Red Destroyers were not as badly hit as Catoa’s propaganda implied. They were hurt, but they fought back. They took back the compound from the Yataon troops. And those who aren’t wounded are ready to march on the capital now and fight their way to the palace.”

Penne looked at Dearg Doom and nodded. He addressed the Colonel.

“Make arrangements for them to come to the capital. They can work with the Adano-Ambradan troops to complete the Yataon surrender. But… tell me… my mother…”

“She’s here, sir,” the Colonel said. “It looks like a half dozen men died protecting her. But she’s here. She’s ok.”

For the first time since this began, Doom looked disconcerted. Chrístõ finished his operation and stood up. He went to his side.

“Of course,” he said. “Catoa lied… knowing it would hurt you.”

“I need to talk to her,” Doom said to the Colonel. “I need to tell her that her son is dead. Her… other son.”

“Tell her that face to face,” Cal told him. “I’ll get her.” He had been standing there, feeling useless, wondering what he could do. Now he turned and ran to the ante-room where Chrístõ had left the TARDIS. Everyone heard it dematerialise. It was only a few minutes later when it returned. Dearg Doom’s mother stepped out first, followed by Cal and the advance guard of the Red Destroyers ready to secure the city for their own president.

On the videoscreen, those of the army not yet on their way formed ranks and took up the familiar chant.

Doom, Doom, Dearg Doom.

Dearg Doom, Dearg Doom.

Chrístõ looked at the man. He stood proud, holding his mother’s shoulders as he comforted her in her grief, but every inch the man of whom songs had been written.

His blood is colder than black marble by the sea.
His heart is older than the great oak tree.
He is the flash of steel swords in the sun.
When you see him coming you had better
run . . . run . . . run .

From Dearg Doom.

From Dearg Doom.