Julia and Glenda looked at each other and smiled widely. They were both young women who loved nice clothes, and the silk gowns they were wearing looked and felt sensational. But at the same time it wasn’t so long since they were little girls who liked dressing up. And these costumes fulfilled that desire, too.

They turned and looked at Chrístõ as he stepped into the TARDIS console room. He had a way of looking good in anything, even his old, familiar leather jacket and jeans. But today he was wearing what could only be described as a toga. And it was worth a second look, if only because the ‘skirt’ of the outfit came to his knees and the two girls had an unprecedented view of a pair of shapely calves and ankles wrapped in the leather criss-crossing straps of his contemporary shoes.

“Crispinus Leontivs at your command,” he said with a smile and a bow to the two young ladies. “Nobleman of the Roman Empire.”

“Crispiness?” Julia and Glenda both burst out laughing.

“I can’t be called Chrístõ in the fourth century AD,” he said. “Even though they’ve stopped persecuting Christians since Constantine became Emperor, that would not be the name of a Roman aristocrat. Crispinus simply means curly-haired.”

“What are our names for this educational excursion then?” Julia asked.

“You are Julia Leontivs, my wife,” Chrístõ replied. “Julia is a Roman name. It means descended from Jupiter. And you, Glenda, are the Princess Nodjmet of Nubia, who I am escorting on a tour of the Empire.”

“I’m a princess?” Glenda smiled widely. Then she gave him a quizzical look. “Oh, this is because I’m coloured, isn’t it? You tell them I’m an exotic princess from far off... Nubia... or they’ll assume I’m a slave?”

“I thought you might prefer that scenario,” Chrístõ told her. “Princess Nodjmet means the sweet one. I gave the name to one of my friends some years ago when we visited Egypt.”

“I have a second hand name?” Glenda pretended to be offended before laughing. “A princess under your noble protection. I can live with that. They’ll love to hear about this back on Beta Delta IV.”

Thinking of Beta Delta IV cast a shadow over her thoughts. She remembered that she was going back there without Cal, who was beginning his year of meditation and study with his grandfather and the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng. She was missing her sweetheart already, which was why Chrístõ’s father had suggested some kind of diversion on the way back to take her mind off it.

Which was another good reason why she wasn’t going to be anyone’s slave girl. She would be treated royally if Chrístõ had any say in the matter.

“Chances are, these Romans will never have seen a coloured woman before,” he pointed out as they stepped out of the TARDIS door and found themselves on the deck of a single masted boat with an elaborately carved prow. It was at anchor on a river bank. There were rolling green hills in the distance on either side of the river, and nearest to them the outer fortified wall of a large military installation. “Nubia is in the far southern reaches of Roman influence. We’re in the north with pale skinned Britons. The fort of Bremetenacvm has been here since the year 70AD, so most of the garrison is probably part Roman, part Briton by now, anyway.”

“Bremetenacvm?” Julia repeated the word out loud and in her head so that she could pronounce it properly if she needed to.

Chrístõ took her hand and helped her to step off the boat onto the path beside the river. He did the same for Glenda. “In another seven hundred years the Norman Domesday Book will record this place as Ribelcastre, the Roman fort on the river Ribble. Our TARDIS is bobbing gently on the Ribble, now. It flows from what will one day be known as the North Yorkshire Moors, through Lancashire and into the Irish sea at Blackpool, having curved around Preston, home of my favourite football team. But none of those places exist yet. Bremetanecvm is the most important settlement for miles around. It is in the presets in my TARDIS databank and I couldn’t see anything dangerous about it. We’ll present ourselves to the Commander of the fort and enjoy his hospitality for a day or two. And there is an escort coming to bring us to him, now.”

A cohort of men in leather uniforms and shining breastplates and helmets were approaching. Chrístõ knew they must have been a little puzzled about the arrival of the boat. If their commander was a smart man he might ask why its approach had not been marked. But now they came to see who had arrived in such a fashion. When they marked the silver buckle on Chrístõ’s cloak and the rich clothing of the women they bowed politely with swords safely in scabbards. Chrístõ gave his name and presented a piece of parchment which identified him as a citizen of Rome with the Emperor’s leave to travel about the Empire at his leisure and to seek shelter in any fort or settlement of the Empire.

He didn’t look anything like a Roman citizen, of course. His pale complexion was more like one of those Britons he had mentioned than an olive skinned native of what would one day be called Italy. But Power of Suggestion was a handy trick and nobody questioned his credentials. They were escorted through the castellated south entrance to the fort and into a cool, flagged courtyard with two wells either side of a statue of Jupiter, the god whom Julia was allegedly descended from. Beyond the courtyard was a colonnaded entrance to an inner courtyard which had a fountain in the middle and flowers growing in terra cotta pots all around. It looked surprisingly domestic for a place in the middle of a military garrison.

The reason for the domesticity was almost certainly the elegantly dressed woman who sat by the fountain working at a piece of tapestry on a frame. She stood up as the visitors came into the courtyard but didn’t move from her place until a tall, broad-shouldered man in the uniform of a Roman garrison Commander stepped out of the building beyond the courtyard. Chrístõ introduced himself and the ladies and again presented his credentials.

“You are well come to these parts, Leonitius,” said the Commander. “I am Oppius Niger, in command of this fort and the surrounding lands. This is my wife, Venita. Your ladies may enjoy the quiet of the inner courtyard with her. I shall have refreshments sent out to them. But will you come within?”

Julia was reluctant to be parted from Chrístõ in such unfamiliar surroundings, but Venita looked a nice woman, smiling prettily and inviting them to sit with her by the fountain. Chrístõ followed Oppius Niger into the Commander’s elegant private quarters. The principal room was wide and airy, and furnished with long couches. Chrístõ was invited to sit upon one of them while servants brought wine, cheese, fruit and sweetmeats. He enjoyed some of the food. Their journey was not as arduous as Oppius Niger might have thought, but they had travelled two hundred and fifty light years by TARDIS since he last ate.

“Is this a peaceful region?” he asked Oppius Niger. “It seemed so from the river, but appearances can often be deceptive.”

“It is perfectly peaceful,” Oppius answered. “As you might expect. This fort has been here many generations. It is known as Bremetenacum Veteranorum because so much of the surrounding land is settled by veterans of the Imperial legions who have married local women and become farmers or horse breeders. Indeed, my own wife is the daughter of a former officer and a local woman. He breeds some of the best horses around. And this being a cavalry fort, there is nothing more important than well bred horses. That’s our main concern, breeding horses and training competent horsemen to send where the Empire needs them. But it’s peaceful enough here.”

“And you’re satisfied with that?” Chrístõ asked. “You don’t miss the ‘action’? You are a veteran of campaigns yourself, I take it?”

Oppius didn’t look much older than forty. He must have earned his Command in battle.

“I served on the northern frontier,” he replied. “Fighting the Scots. I was glad to come south and be done with their savagery. Yes, I am satisfied with my command here. My wife is happy. And our son grows stronger by the day.”

“You’ve got a child?” Chrístõ smiled. “My wife will be pleased to look at him. She is fond of children. We have yet to settle in that happy domesticity. You are to be congratulated. A strong son is a blessing upon your home.”

“It is, indeed,” Oppius agreed before turning the conversation back to the garrison he commanded. Chrístõ exerted just enough Power of Suggestion on him to make him talk freely about troop numbers and their battle readiness, details that he probably shouldn’t have divulged to a civilian visitor. He learnt that there were some five hundred men within the fort, and as many horses stabled there. They had granaries safe within the walls. There were cattle kept close by which could be driven inside the fort should it be necessary to close the gates and withstand a siege. But there had not been a need for it during Oppius Niger’s command of the fort. Such a thing was hardly likely when the lands for miles around were occupied by veterans who remained loyal to the Empire. But Bremetenacvm was, even so, a military installation and a well run one, at that. Oppius promised that his guest should see the men training in both horsemanship and fighting skills before he went upon his way. Chrístõ said he would be interested to see all of that and more.

The easy conversation continued for a good half hour before Oppius suggested that Chrístõ might like to see the stables and the paddocks. He put down his wine glass and followed Oppius out through the courtyard where Venita was sitting now with a baby on her lap. Julia and Glenda were both making the sort of agreeable sounds women generally made around babies. The nursemaid was close by ready to take the child when his mother was done with him. Oppius smiled warmly at his wife before they passed through to the outer courtyard and from there, past the tall, strongly built granaries to the stables.

Chrístõ didn’t really become closely familiar with horses until late in his youth. Gallifrey did not have any indigenous species like them, and although Ventura IV, where he spent his early years, did, he was too young to have very much to do with them. It was only when he travelled on his own that he got a chance to learn to ride and to drive carriages of various sorts. He got very good at it, and always enjoyed being around them.

But he had never seen five hundred of them in one place before. The stables were long, low buildings of strong wood, dry inside, but with the unmistakeable smell of straw and dung and hot-blooded animal life. Walking down the central aisle between two rows where horses were being cleaned out, fed and groomed, was quite an experience. They were all fine strong warhorses, built for strength and endurance, though capable of speed when necessary. Chrístõ stopped and touched the head of one black gelding with a white star on its forelock. He heard Oppius tell him that this horse was a veteran of two campaigns in the northern parts. But he didn’t need to be told. He could feel it. The horse’s view of battle, speed, noise, blood, was overwhelming. He took his hand away quickly lest Oppius Niger think he was possessed by a demon of some kind.

Beyond the stables, still within the outer walls of the fort was a paddock where horses and riders were hard at work. Both were in full armour, because of course they both had to learn the arts of horse-back warfare and the weight of armour was something they had to become accustomed to. The sight of men and horses making at full gallop towards straw targets that were slashed to pieces with flashing swords was breathtaking. Chrístõ reminded himself that he was a pacifist and abhorred violence. But that was only partially true. He knew that there was a difference between mindless violence and a well trained army prepared to defend its territories. He knew full well that if Gallifrey had a military force kept in readiness, instead of putting its faith in the Transduction Barrier the Mallus would not have conquered it so easily. He knew the Roman Empire was far from a perfect place, that injustices were done, especially against natives of the conquered lands. But from Oppius Niger’s point of view he was making sure the Empire was prepared to repel any act of invasion or rebellion. And that was commendable. He saw in Niger an honest military leader who was strict but fair with the men under his command and generous to the natives as long as they respected the Empire’s rule over them. And he could see nothing wrong with that.

A rider came from the stables as they watched. Oppius turned to him and waved familiarly. The man took off his helmet and Chrístõ saw that he had to be the Commander’s brother – younger by as much as five years, perhaps. He had the same features in a less care worn face.

“Valerius, you ride out this afternoon?” Oppius asked him. “Alone?”

“I thought to visit Cicero Antonium,” he answered. “I hear that he has two fine new stallion foals.”

“He has a daughter who is come of age,” Oppius replied with a knowing look.

“The fair Lucia,” Valerius said with a wide grin.

“Don’t just use her for your lust as you do the slave women,” his older brother told him. “Make a wife of her. She will be a good companion to Venita. And since Antonium has no sons, there’s a parcel of land and some of the best horseflesh that could be yours by and by.”

Valerius’s grin widened further. It seemed as if his brother had read the situation well. He fastened his helmet and rode away.

“We were both born in Rome,” Oppius said as he watched his brother go out through the northern gate. “But I don’t believe either of us will return there. We belong to this northern part of the Empire, now. When I am ready to retire my Command, there are lands I shall settle upon, too. We shall both become Britons in all but blood.”

“That’s a fair ambition to hold,” Chrístõ assured him. “For myself, I would return to my father’s demesne when I am ready to quit my travels.”

That was a true enough statement. Mount Lœng House on the plains of the southern continent of Gallifrey would suit him well enough when he was ready to take Julia there as his bride. When Oppius pressed him about the location of his father’s lands, though, he mentioned a region in what was known as Lombardy in modern Italy. Oppius remarked that it was good country for making wine, and Chrístõ agreed. It was true, after all.

They watched the training for a little longer, then Oppius Niger brought his guest to the bath houses. Of course, well appointed baths were a must for any Roman citizen. Chrístõ was well versed enough in the customs not to be too alarmed when he was invited to join the Commander in the communal, but male only, hot, tepid and cold pools and then to enjoy a massage from a well trained servant afterwards. He spared a fond thought for Penne Dúre, who also enjoyed shared bathing. In all honesty he preferred to bathe with Penne. He was much cleaner before he got into the bath than these sweaty Romans who spent much of their time around horses. Chrístõ was aware of water borne infections and diseases that could occur in these circumstances. But he didn’t let it spoil his experience too much.

Afterwards, when they were oiled and perfumed and dressed once more, Chrístõ as a gentleman of the Roman Empire, and Oppius as one of its military men, they returned to the Commander’s living quarters. Venita had moved with her baby and guests indoors now and they were being entertained by a slave who was skilled with the lute. Chrístõ and Oppius were comfortably seated and given wine and sweetmeats as they rested. Chrístõ felt as if he didn’t really need to rest. He hadn’t actually done very much. But that was what was expected of him as a Roman gentleman.

He wasn’t even especially needed to join in any conversation for the time being. Oppius was busy with a long parchment which appeared to be a statement of accounts for the daily running of the fort. Venita was chatting happily with Julia and Glenda – aka Princess Nodjmet. He sipped a glass of wine that he recognised as coming from somewhere near Lombardy, where he claimed to come from and let his mind drift. He listened to the thoughts of the slaves who were there to pour wine and play music for the Commander and his guests. They seemed contented enough. So did those who were preparing the Commander’s evening meal not so far away. They accepted slavery as their lot in life, and since they had clean quarters, clothes and sufficient food, it probably wasn’t the worst kind of life. As a rule, Chrístõ didn’t approve of slavery, but Human history had a long way to go before it caught up with his way of thinking, and it was against the Laws of Time for him to interfere with such things.

In the barracks beyond the Commander’s residence, there were five hundred men who had not much more personal space than the horses in the long stables, but they, too, were reasonably content. They, too, had food and drink and shelter in return for the sweat of their brow. They also had their way with the slaves when they chose and the certainty that this part of the Empire wasn’t too troublesome and that there were good lands to be had by retired soldiers and plenty of local women who would make good wives. Meantime there was ale and games of chance and warm beds for the night.

There were those on duty, too. Even a peacetime fort had to have a watch as the sun went down. But those men didn’t seem to have much to worry about apart from whether there would be any ale left when they went off duty.

Within the walls of the fort everything was well. He was going to reach further, but he heard Oppius speaking. The evening meal was being brought to a big, low table. They sat to eat. Venita noted that Valerius had not yet returned. A place was left empty for him.

“Valerius has other things to think of than food,” Oppius pointed out with a knowing smile and bid them all to eat their fill.

He still hadn’t returned by the time the Commander and his wife retired to bed, having shown their guests to their quarters. But nobody seemed worried.

Chrístõ’s main concern was his own sleeping arrangements. He had told Oppius that Julia was his wife because it seemed the only sensible reason why he would be travelling with two women. One was his wife, the other her companion under his protection. But that meant that Glenda was given a room to herself with a comfortable bed in it and he and Julia were conducted to a room where they were expected to sleep together. Julia looked at him and waited for him to make a decision.

“No,” he said firmly. “Not if I have any hope of you being allowed to visit me at the weekends when we get home to Beta Delta. You sleep in the bed. I will make do with the throw and a pillow on the floor.”

“We are engaged, after all,” she pointed out. But he was insistent. She made herself ready for bed and he lay down on the floor. He didn’t sleep, in any case. A low level meditative trance would be more appropriate.

He had been in the trance for three hours when he felt Glenda and Julia both trying to wake him. They had lit a lamp, but it was still very dark in the room.

“What’s happening” he asked.

“Valerius is back, but he’s wounded in some way,” Glenda replied. “I felt the disturbance in my sleep. I can feel them now, worried. Oppius and his wife...”

Chrístõ was wide awake at once and he reached out to feel the minds around him. Yes, there was turmoil and worry that hadn’t been there earlier. He pulled on his clothes quickly and told the two girls to lie down in the big bed together quietly. He put the small dagger that came with his Roman nobleman’s attire under the pillow.

“If you feel threatened in any way...” he said. “That is... I don’t want you to stab anyone, but.... at least make them think you would until I can get to you.”

There were five hundred good men here whose job it was to protect the fort and all within, he told himself. But even so he wanted the girls to have a last line of defence. He actually felt that much of a change in the atmosphere in the place.

He left them and went to Valerius’s chamber. He knew which one it was by the murmuring slaves gathered outside. They were murmuring about plague, which didn’t sound encouraging. They stood aside as Chrístõ approached and didn’t stop him entering the room.

Oppius was there, of course. So was his wife. Valerius was lying on the bed. Chrístõ approached.

“I am skilled with medicine,” he said. “I may be able to help.”

“If you have medicine against this, then you are a great physician,” Venita said. “I have seen nothing like it...”

Chrístõ moved closer. Valerius was half undressed. His upper torso and part of his face was covered in deep blue lines as if he was tattooed. But Chrístõ knew what they were straight away. They were his own veins and blood vessels swelled by the poison coursing through them. He touched the stricken man’s forehead and noted that he had a fearsome temperature. it must have been well over a hundred, dangerous for a Human.

“I know what it is,” he said. “I’ve never seen it in the flesh before, but I’ve read of it. I’m sorry. It’s very dangerous. Highly infectious... How many people has Valerius been in physical contact with since he got here? They must be isolated or the whole fort will die.”

“The gate guards... that is all,” Oppius said. “And... the two of us.”

“My child!” Venita cried. “Will he...”

“I hope not,” Chrístõ answered. “But you must not touch him until this is over. A body his size could not begin to fight this. He has a wet nurse?”

Of course a woman of Venita’s status would employ somebody in that capacity. The baby was in a separate room, already isolated. There was hope for him. But Venita was pale with fright. The thought of dying of this strange disease without ever seeing her son again grieved her. Chrístõ sympathised, but it would be hard enough to save the adults who would succumb to this very soon without a child to care for, too.

He leaned closer to Valerius, putting his hands either side of his head. He gently reached in and drew off some of the fever. Valerius stirred in his delirium and tried to say something, but his tongue was swollen. The veins underneath it were blue and engorged. But Chrístõ could see his thoughts. His lover and her father were ill with the same mysterious symptoms.

“Give him cold liquid,” Chrístõ said to Venita. “Wine, straight from a flagon, fruit juice, anything you have. And bathe his body in cold water continuously to keep his temperature down. Oppius, isolate the gate guards and any slaves he might have been near to. Give them food and cold liquids and keep them watched closely for any sign of this disease. Then you must seal the fort. Nobody must enter or leave... except for me. I am going to fetch something from my... from the boat. Herbs that might save him. But lock the gates after I leave. I will find my own way back inside.”

Oppius looked at Chrístõ thoughtfully. He had no reason to believe he could do what he said. But he was the only hope for his family.

“Go,” he said. It shall be done as you order.”

Chrístõ went first to the room where Julia and Glenda were. Or to the door, at least. He couldn’t risk going any further. He had touched Valerius, and this was a disease Time Lords were not immune to. He had infected himself. He did so deliberately, because he knew that being infected and allowing his body to fight the disease while he carried on was the only way to give himself immunity to it. But it meant he couldn’t be closer to the girls than he was now with a solid door between them.

“After I’ve gone, both of you come out of here and go to the nursery,” he said to Glenda telepathically. “Stay with the wet nurse and the baby. You’ll all be safe together and you can comfort each other.”

“We’ll do that,” Glenda replied. Then he felt Julia’s thoughts, too. She had found her psychic brooch and activated it. She told him she loved him. He knew that, of course, but it felt good to know.

“Is it something we brought?” Glenda asked. “You know... like... War of the Worlds... the aliens died of a common cold... do you think we’ve given the people some disease they’re not immune to?”

“No,” Chrístõ answered. “It began outside, possibly at Cicero Antonium’s horse farm or one of his neighbours. I need to find the source. But it isn’t here in the fort. It’s out there. I have to go now. Both of you take care.”

He couldn’t stay longer. Time was of the essence. He ran through the inner and outer courtyard and past the gate guard’s room where lights burned and there was a sound of men who had taken the order to drink wine seriously. There were new guards on the gate. Chrístõ told them to stand well clear of him. He had been in the sick room and was contaminated. He heard the gate closing behind him and heavy bolts coming down to secure them. nobody else would leave that way, and he was not coming back in by any of the four gates at the cardinal points of the compass.

He stopped for a moment to get his bearings, then turned towards the river. His TARDIS was there, bobbing gently. He climbed aboard and slipped inside. The familiar console room was a welcome place to be for more than one reason. First, because of the enthusiastic ‘hug’ he received from Humphrey who emerged from under the console to greet him, but more importantly because the TARDIS had an automatic decontamination programme. A bright beam of light enfolded him as Humphrey retreated back into the shadows. He felt it cleansing his skin, his mouth, his nostrils, of the disease carrying spores. They were microscopic. Nobody in this time, or for a thousand years to come would know that such things existed. But he did. They had transferred to his hands when he touched the infected Valerius. He would have contracted the disease through the pores of his skin within seconds. But now that he was cleansed thoroughly he carried none to pass on to other victims, and the TARDIS was clear of them.

He felt ill, though. The disease was in him. It was giving him what humans used to call ‘fever and ague’ – a high temperature with cold shivers at the same time. He looked at his arms and saw the veins starting to swell. They were contaminated. His head ached and his muscles screamed with pain when he moved. He slid down onto the console room floor and didn’t move.

He let himself suffer for another five minutes, long enough for all of his blood to be infected. Then he began to fight back. He began by reducing his body temperature, cooling his infected blood. That gave his white corpuscles chance to attack the disease and break it down, creating antibodies.

It took another half hour to complete the process. When it was done, he still ached from the trauma his body had gone through, but he was alive and his veins were normal.

He moved as quickly as possible to the medical room. There he carefully extracted two pints of his blood with the antibodies in it. He swayed dizzily for a few moments after doing so, because his body had been through a battle already and it couldn’t afford to lose more blood. Then he set to work extracting the antibodies from the blood and placing them into the replicator. It would make more antibodies, enough to treat the whole garrison, if necessary.

He was making preventative vaccinations more than a thousand years before the concept was understood on this planet. He was aware of that. And if this had been an ordinary disease, a flea borne plague, whooping cough, influenza, smallpox, any of the diseases that humans had learnt to deal with, then he wouldn’t have done it. He would have let nature take its course. But this disease didn’t come from planet Earth and he couldn’t let it take hold. The fort at Bremetenacvm wasn’t abandoned until the Roman armies as a whole left the land known as Briton. And when they did, the descendants of men like Oppius and Valerius had become Britons themselves, indistinguishable from the natives. Bremetenacum Veteranorum, the Hilltop Settlement of the Veterans, didn’t succumb to an unstoppable alien disease in the year 328 AD.

And the reason was because he was there to stop it. He knew what had to be done. He had only one obvious problem. But he thought he knew how to deal with that.

He brought the first batch of the synthesised antibodies back to the console room and carefully programmed a short hop to the nursery within the Commander’s residence. As luck would have it, the wet nurse was sleeping between feeds. Julia and Glenda ran to hug him. It was safe for them to do that, now. Then he injected them both with the vaccination he had made. Directly into their bloodstream was the safest and quickest way of protecting them. He did the baby, next, and the wet nurse. She woke, wondering why she had felt a pain in her arm, but Chrístõ gently hushed her and told her everything was going to be all right.

He went to Valerius’s room, next, bringing his medicine with him. The problem, of course, was that hypodermic needles were a very long way from being invented and nobody in this time had any idea that it was possible to cure disease that way. He was banking on Oppius and Venita being too worried about Valerius to care what he did as long as he did something.

They were desperate by the time Chrístõ ran into the room. They stood aside from the bed where Valerius was too delirious to know anything and let him work while they offered up prayers to their god. Chrístõ was very slightly surprised to notice WHICH god they were praying to. But he let it pass for now. He was too busy injecting the antibodies into Valerius’s bloodstream.

He should start to get well now,” Chrístõ said. “But I want you to give him a few drops of this in a little honey and ale every hour. And you must take the cure yourself. Here is your first dose, now.”

Taken orally the antibodies would take longer to be effective, but Venita and Oppius were not yet presenting symptoms. They would be fine. He gave both of them the medicine soaked into a piece of candied fruit and showed them how to prepare more for themselves and for the gate guards and house servants who had come into contact with Valerius when he came back to the fort. It was fortunate that he did so at night. The physical contact had been minimal. If he had arrived during the day or early evening, it would have been a bigger job. As it was, he was confident only a few of the garrison were affected and they could be treated.

They were drunk. They had taken the injunction to drink cold wine too literally. But Chrístõ treated them anyway before he returned to the TARDIS. The fort was safe, but there were others beyond its walls in danger, still.

His brief mental connection with Valerius had told him where Cicero Antonium’s farm was. He had a vivid memory of the river running alongside it and the hills in the background. It was a mile upstream from Bremetenacum. He put the TARDIS in hover mode and followed the river Ribble. It was still dark and he had no need to worry about being seen. Besides, he doubted anyone at the Antonium property would be in any state to notice.

He left the TARDIS by the river bank and approached the silent buildings in a grey pre-dawn light. Not quite silent. There was the sound of horses. Most of them were out in the pasture where there was plenty of good grass. But there was another horse making more noise than it should. He recalled what Valerius had said about two good foals and found a stable.

“All right,” he said to the mare gently, putting his hand on the side of her neck and radiating calming thoughts. The horse slowly quietened and he was able to see into the back of the stable to the thing that was distressing her. It was exactly what he expected to see. He brought the mare out to an empty paddock along with her twin foals that she had been trying to protect, then he returned to the stable.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said to the pitiful creature that hunched in the corner of the stable. “You shouldn’t be on this planet, and you shouldn’t be in this place, where you have caused untold harm to the indigenous species.”

It was roughly humanoid, but less than three foot tall with a bulbous head and spindly limbs and trunk that hardly seemed strong enough to hold it up. Right now they weren’t. It was infected with the same disease that Valerius had nearly died from. Its veins were engorged so much it was almost impossible to see its real features.

There was no need for subterfuge here. He injected the antibodies directly into the creature’s bloodstream. If it had strength left to fight it should recover. If it was too late, it would die there in the stable and he could deal with the body later.

He left the creature and went into the dwelling house. It was small but well furnished with silk and tapestries adorning the walls. He found a dead manservant in the main room. In one of the two bedrooms, Chrístõ found another dead servant and a late middle aged man in the bed. He had died perhaps an hour ago. He was probably beyond hope an hour or two before that.

In the other room there was a female servant slumped on the floor and a woman in the bed who was still clinging to life. Valerius’s sweetheart, a pretty thing if she was not dying of a terribly disfiguring disease. He again wasted no time worrying about anachronisms. He injected the antibodies directly into her bloodstream. She would need another dose in a little while. But there were signs that she was beginning to fight back very quickly. Chrístõ drew off the fever before he carefully reached into her mind. He needed to know what other visitors they had today. The disease caught fast and killed fast. It had that to be said for it. He saw that Valerius had been their only visitor this day, and he had arrived after her father had become sick. Cicero Antonium had murmured in his delirium about a demon in the stable, but both of them had put it down to the ramblings of a sick man. Neither had gone near the stable. When she succumbed to the sickness she had begged Valerius to get away before it was too late for him, too. Reluctantly he had gone, promising to bring help, though he could not have known there would have been any, and by returning to the fort he had, of course, put others at risk.

But it was contained. Cicero and Lucia and their servants had not had any other visitors but Valerius. There was no way the disease spread by touch could have spread to other households.

He wrapped Lucia in a silk sheet and carried her out to the TARDIS. She was in a deep enough coma not to notice that she was lying on a couch in a room beyond her imagining. Humphrey hovered close to her, but Chrístõ told him not to bother her.

He went back to the stable and found the alien creature beginning to recover. He brandished his sonic screwdriver like a weapon and questioned it carefully. Then he put the sonic away and told the creature to stand up. He brought him to the TARDIS, too, and put him through the decontamination programme before locking him in the changing room beside the dojo.

Then he went back to the house. He wrapped the bodies of Cicero Antonium and his servants and carried them one by one into the TARDIS. He laid them on the floor inside the door and dematerialised the TARDIFS. It immediately re-materialised in geo-stationary orbit over the land known as Briton to the Roman Empire. He opened the door and slid the bodies out, quietly saying a Gallifreyan funeral rite as he did so. Cremation was the usual form of disposal of a body in these times. These bodies would burn up in Earth’s atmosphere just as cleanly.

When that was done, he checked on Lucia. She was still delirious enough not to notice her surroundings, but she was able to eat a piece of candied fruit with drops of medicine on it before she fell back into a deep sleep. Chrístõ meanwhile went to the communications console and put out a subspace message. It was answered surprisingly quickly by a short humanoid with a bulbous head and spindly body who wore the uniform of an intergalactic freight captain. Chrístõ had already guessed his species, but a badge on his cap conformed that he was of the Zo-Koq merchant fleet.

“It is illegal under more treaties and conventions than I can be bothered naming right now to leave a live victim of Boccia Syndrome on an inhabited planet. You thought you could dump him and run before you were discovered? Well, think again. Am I right in assuming that getting rid of the x-case did no good? Your ship hasn’t even left the Sol system. Your crew is infected?”

The captain of the Zo-Koq ship didn’t even try to deny what he had done. Perhaps he was succumbing to the disease himself and was too tired to argue.

“I will be with you in twenty standard minutes,” Chrístõ said. “I am bringing your crewman and sufficient inoculations to treat you and your crew. I have also contacted the galactic police. They will escort your ship to a suitable quarantine area until you are certified clear of the disease. You may all count yourselves lucky. I am not going to press charges for the incursion onto the planet below.”

Again, the captain was in no position to argue. Chrístõ released his crewman from the changing room and gave him a satchel containing a batch of synthesised antibodies. He materialised on the ship long enough to push him out onto the bridge where the captain waited and then dematerialised again.

He returned to his room in the Oppius Niger’s residence within Bremetenacum fort. He carried Lucia Antonium to Valerius’s room. Nobody questioned the wisdom of bringing her there, least of all Valerius who was awake enough to climb out of the bed and sit on a couch beside it while his sweetheart was made comfortable in his place.

“Later today, you need to go to Antonium’s house,” Chrístõ told Oppius. “You need to take all of the bedding, all the wall hangings and soft furnishings and burn them. Then close the dwelling and leave it. Make arrangements to bring the horses to the stables here. They’re Lucia’s dowry, after all. At some time in the future, when she has properly mourned her father and the memories don’t cut so deep, perhaps she’ll be ready to move back to the house with her new husband and make a fresh start.”

“God grant that it is so,” Valerius said and Chrístõ didn’t fail to notice that the young Roman held a small Christian cross in his hands as he kept vigil beside his sweetheart.

“They’re converts to Christianity,” Chrístõ noted when he talked with Glenda and Julia later that morning. “Oppius and his brother, and Venita, and Lucia and her father. The first of them in these parts. Keeping it low key, of course. Even though Emperor Constantine has given tacit approval to them the bad old days of persecutions are not that long ago.”

“They’re not that low key, Crispiness,” Julia pointed out. “Venita and Oppius’s baby – he’s called Christianus. But are they all ok, now? Is the danger past?”

“It is. I’m going to synthesise more of the antibodies and make sure everyone in the fort is immunised before we leave. But I’m positive there’s no more danger of Boccia Syndrome in Bremetenacum Veteranorum. So you ladies can enjoy some carriage rides with Venita and Lucia and I can ride out and view the countryside with Oppius and Valerius, and maybe have a couple of baths with them. Just don’t get too used to the high life. Next stop after this is Beta Delta and your first term as college students. And I have the honour of being form tutor to 4c this year.”