Chrístõ watched Diol and Axyl Malcannan at the TARDIS controls. They were very good, piloting it instinctively, much as he did. He hoped they would have an opportunity when they finished school to operate a time capsule of their own. It would be a shame to waste the natural talents they both had.

This trip to the Eye of Orion had been satisfactory in so many ways. His two students were learning a lot. He was happy with their progress, and he enjoyed their company on these offworld trips.

“We’re not your first choice for company in the TARDIS, are we?” Diol noted. Chrístõ was surprised that his thoughts had been so easy to read, but it was true. The Eye of Orion was a very nice planet, but it would have been even better with Julia at his side.

“She’s enjoying college,” he answered. “I don’t begrudge her the chance to do what she loves. Besides, she should hear soon about the Olympiad - whether she’ll be on the Beta Delta team.”

“You don’t want her to be.”

“Yes, I do,” he protested, again feeling that he was giving away too much of his emotional state. “I don’t want her to spend six months of next year on a hyperspace cruiser going to the Gamma system. If she’s chosen, that will happen. I won’t be able to see her at all for that long.”

“Six months is an eyeblink for a Time Lord,” Axyl pointed out.

“Not for a Time Lord who is madly in love with a girl,” Chrístõ answered him. “I DO want her to succeed, but I don’t like the travel arrangements. I wish I could take her by TARDIS.”

He shook his head as if to banish his disquiet and forced himself to concentrate on supervising his trainee pilots.

Then a communications signal distracted his attention. It was from Gallifrey and it was urgent. He was only mildly surprised that it was Paracell Hext calling.

“Chrístõ, I’ve got a missing persons case I think you might want to take on,” he said. “You’ve got the experience of the space quadrant, anyway, and I don’t think you’ll want me to put anyone else on it.”

“Why? Who’s missing?” he asked.

“Your cousin.”

“My cousin?” For a moment his senses reeled. “Epsilon?”

“Certainly not. I know exactly which ice cube he’s in the centre of,” Hext answered. “Your first cousin, Remy.”

“Remy? He’s a secretary to the Ambassador to Mineas Luimnea,” Chrístõ answered. “How could he go missing?”

“He’s… not,” Hext answered. “I mean, not a secretary. He’s been working for me since I reformed the Celestial Intervention Agency.”

“Remy is an agent?” Chrístõ was more surprised about that than anything. His uncle Remonte’s only son had been offworld longer than he had. He joined the diplomatic corps as soon as he left the Prydonian Academy and was posted to Ventura first, then several other exotic spots before Mineas Luimnea where he had been stranded along with all the other diplomatic staff when the Mallus invaded Gallifrey. Afterwards, the Embassy was re-established, but it was news to him that Remy was doing anything other than clerical work.

Remy didn’t even seem the type. The Diplomatic Staff was the right place for him. Remy was quiet, studious. He owned a collection of antique fountain pens, all of which he wrote with as easily as an electronic stylus.

“Remy is an intelligence agent,” Paracell told him. “He has a keen eye and a quick wit and an ability to look around a planet he has never set foot on before and know what is out of place in it. He has done the groundwork that has allowed my assassins to take out at least three threats to Gallifreyan peace in the past year.”

“And now he is missing?”

“I don’t even know how long. The time difference between Gallifrey and the outer sections of the galaxy… it might be months since his last report. Look, I’m sending you an information burst. It will tell you everything you need to know.”

“I didn’t actually say I would do it,” Chrístõ pointed out. “You just assumed I would be worried about Remy. We were never particularly big friends, you know. I always had more in common with Epsilon than him, even though he’s closer to me in blood. Besides, I’ve got my students with me. Am I supposed to take them on a field mission?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Hext admitted. “But I’m pretty confident that you’ll take the case. I know you, Chrístõ.”

“Yes, you do, but don’t take me for granted. I’m not your puppet, Hext.”

“Will you do it?”

“Yes, I’ll do it. Send the information burst. And… tell Uncle Remonte and Aunt Rika not to worry. I’ll get their boy back.”

“Get me my agent back. He’s in possession of some vital information.”

“I’ll do both.”

Chrístõ closed the call and looked to Axyl who had already opened the burst transmission file.

“He’s on Earth,” his student told him. “In Germany in the year 1943.”

“That is not a good year to visit Europe,” Chrístõ noted as he programmed their destination, recalling that he had only recently visited Germany in much better times. “Remy might be in a lot of trouble.”

Neither of the brothers was especially familiar with Earth history and when Chrístõ gave them a quick digest of the events of the 1940s they were still puzzled. They understood about war. They had lived through the Mallus invasion. They had studied the conflicts Gallifrey had been embroiled in generations ago. They knew that some races, like the Sontarans and Rutans, had been at war with each other for so long it was the only way of life they knew.

What they couldn’t understand was how a race went to war against itself. Germans, French, English, American, were all the same species. They lived on the one planet. Why were they not one peaceful world?

“I wish I knew,” Chrístõ answered them. “All I can think is that Earth is so much more densely populated than any other planet I know, apart from Sontaran hatcheries, anyway. It makes them so very territorial. They cling to the parts of the planet they consider theirs and covet the parts others have. They’re not a bad race, even so. When they get it right, they do wonderful things. But at that time in their history they were getting it terribly, terribly wrong.”

“How are you going to find your cousin in such a huge population?” Diol asked. “Even this part called Germany contains millions of people.”

“I’m not,” he answered. “The TARDIS is. Remy IS my cousin. He’s the son of my father’s brother. His DNA has to be pretty close to mine. I’ve asked the TARDIS to home in on him the way it would home in on me if I preset it to do so.”

Diol and Axyl smiled at each other knowingly.


“You ASKED the TARDIS….”

“All right, I PROGRAMMED it, if you students prefer. When you have a TARDIS of your own and you’re tied to it by the imprimatur, you’ll understand the difference. And you’ll understand how I’m able to do this.”

“We’re Caretakers,” Diol reminded him. “The chances of us having a TARDIS of our own are small.”

“Not if I can help it,” Chrístõ assured them. Then he turned his attention to the navigation console. His TARDIS could find Earth easily enough. He went there so regularly. But finding it in 1943 and then locating his DNA there was harder.

Even so, it didn’t seem long before an insistent beep from the navigation drive told him there was a trace. He looked at the signal and was puzzled.

“It’s matching DNA, but weaker than I expected, and not in Germany. It’s….”

He froze in mid-sentence as he read the location his TARDIS was homing in on. A cold shiver ran through him.

How did anyone he was related to end up in a place like that?

How did anyone from his world end up there?

“Diol, Axyl,” he said. “You both stay in the TARDIS. This isn’t something you should be involved in. You’re… children. I forget that too often, living as we are among humans. But this time I have to remember it. You shouldn’t see this.”

The TARDIS materialised. Chrístõ looked briefly at the environmental monitor then headed for the door.

He stepped out into a low-roofed, dark room full of bodies. There was still a faint smell of the gas that had been pumped into it, but not enough to do him any harm.

There was one living being among the carnage. He looked around, noting that the victims were all women, pathetically thin, under-nourished women who wouldn’t be hungry any more. There was that much to be said for this horror. The suffering was over.

But that was all there was to be said for it.

He could sense the living being. He found her in the corner of the room, lying in a foetal position, naked as all the other bodies were, clinging to her swollen stomach. She was heavily pregnant, reason enough to mark her out for this slaughter. She wouldn’t be able to work and nobody was interested in another mouth to feed.

He wasn’t sure exactly why the TARDIS had found her when it was supposed to be looking for Remy. For a moment he wondered if he should rescue her. If she was meant to die in a Nazi concentration camp, then it was a paradox if she didn’t.

He worried about that for no more than a moment before he lifted her into his arms and carried her back to the open door that was free-standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by those who were beyond his help. As he crossed the threshold he heard a noise behind him. He laid the woman on the floor gently and told Axyl to find blankets then he turned around. It was madness, of course. He should have just closed the door and dematerialised the TARDIS. But he was angry, horrified and thoroughly disgusted by what he had seen and he wanted somebody to know it.

There were two soldiers. They were just privates, not officers with any responsibility for what happened here. They had been sent to make sure the job was done. They both had pistols with which to finish off any poor soul that might have had a pocket of air to breathe and hadn’t succumbed to the gas.

They were surprised to see Chrístõ standing there. Then he wasn’t there. He folded time and crossed the floor in an eyeblink. The first soldier fell to a fist of iron across his jaw. Chrístõ grabbed his pistol before he landed among the bodies already piled up on the floor. He turned the pistol on the other man, shooting him in the wrist so that he dropped his gun. Chrístõ grabbed that one, too. He shot the still conscious soldier in both legs and the shoulder before firing the rest of the bullets from both guns into the wall.

“I know all this isn’t your fault,” he said to the wounded soldier in what would be, to him, perfectly enunciated German. “You were just following orders. I shot you… so that you’ll remember to get better orders in future.”

Then he threw both guns down and turned back to the TARDIS. Diol was standing at the door. He had seen everything. He didn’t say anything about Chrístõ’s actions, though. He just wanted to tell him about the young woman he had brought to them.

“I think she needs you,” he said. Chrístõ closed the door and put the TARDIS into temporal orbit before coming to look at her.

“Yes, she does,” he noted. Was it irony, or some bitter-sweet fate that having stepped out of that place of cruel death he was now in the midst of imminent life.

“She’s one of us,” Diol added as Chrístõ called for more blankets. There was no time to get her to the medical room. Her baby was going to be born right here, right now. A blanket under her, a cushion for her head, was all the comfort he could provide.

“What do you mean she’s one of us?” he answered. He looked at the woman. Her eyes were open. She was aware that she was in a safe place, now, but she was wracked with pain and still very frightened.

“She’s Gallifreyan. That’s why she’s alive. She was recycling her breathing.”

Chrístõ had realised that even as Diol explained. He felt her double hearts beating quickly, and those of her unborn child beating even more quickly. He put his hands on her and gently calmed both for their own safety.

“What’s your name?” he asked her.

“Rodan Mielles,” she answered then groaned again. Her waters had already broken. The baby was moving down the birth canal. It was only going to be a matter of minutes. An unbidden thought came into his mind. What would those two soldiers have done if they had found one of their victims not only alive, but about to give birth? He pushed the thought away and concentrated on what WAS happening.

It happened quickly and as easily as might be expected for a first time mother in such circumstances. Before very long he was placing the newborn into her arms. She smiled through her tears at the healthy baby boy.

“Have you got a name for him?” Chrístõ asked as he did what was necessary in the aftermath of the birth.

“Remy,” she answered. “After his father. Short for Remonte… his family name.”

Chrístõ caught his breath. Now he understood why the TARDIS had brought him here. It had not only recognised the DNA of his cousin, but it had recognised the immediate need.

“Where is Remy?” he asked. “Not… in that camp, too?”

“I don’t know where he is,” she answered. “Still free, I hope. I was captured eight months ago. I was… useful… until now. I could work. But… well….”

“Don’t think about it,” Chrístõ told her. “It’s over. I’m going to bring you to a nice comfortable sofa in a minute, and you can rest and look after my nephew. Then we’ll work out how to find Remy.”

She had too many other things to think about. It was several minutes later, when she was sitting on the sofa wrapped in a blanket and feeding her baby for the first time, when the penny dropped.


“Technically, second cousin, but nephew has a nice ring to it. His father is Remy de Lœngbærrow. I’m Chrístõ, the Lœngbærrow Heir.”


She clearly wasn’t expecting that, and she seemed a little embarrassed to be in his presence now he had identified himself. She turned her eyes down towards the floor. Chrístõ thought he knew why.

“I’m not passing judgement in any way,” he assured her. “And bearing in mind I’ve spent a lot of time away from Gallifrey. I don’t follow the social calendar very closely. But I think I would have heard if my cousin was getting married. And when I asked you told me your surname was Mielles. That’s a southern Gallifreyan Caretaker name, I know that much. Again, I’m not passing judgement. But there’s obviously a story here.”

“We’re both in the Celestial Intervention Agency,” she explained. “We travel as a couple, because it looks less suspicious in a lot of societies. But… we fell in love… for real. I know it was wrong… but we have both been away from Gallifrey for a very long time and the celibacy custom seemed meaningless. We were both in Bremen… on this assignment… when I found out I was pregnant. There is an elderly priest of the Earth Christian religion among the resistance group we were with. He married us according to his tradition. But we were separated not long after that. I haven’t seen Remy for almost as long as his child was growing inside me. I… never got used to using his surname.”

“Get used to it,” Chrístõ told her. “It’s a proud name. You’ve got every right to use it. As for this child... his father isn’t here, so it falls to me to name him formally according to our tradition.”

Rodan nodded. She gave the baby to Chrístõ. He went to the door and stood on the threshold as the European continent on the planet below turned towards dawn.

“A new life, a new day. May the sun’s light always shine on him. May he walk in the good, pure light all his life. May he be brave and courageous and merciful, and true to his heritage. May he know love and give love.” He held the baby in the crook of one arm and with his forefinger traced the intricate curves of the Seal of Rassilon on his forehead. “You are RemontedesideropazienzagohAille-Courage de Lœngbærrow. I name you in the light of this blessed dawn. I acknowledge your soul. I acknowledge your life.”

From the sofa Rodan could hear and see everything. Diol and Axyl watched quietly. They bowed their heads as Chrístõ pronounced the blessing on the child. The fact that he had given him his father’s forenames and surname was significant. There would be those who would say the child was illegitimate, and not worthy to be given either of those names. But Chrístõ, as the Lœngbærrow heir, standing for his father, the patriarch, had legitimised him with that simple ceremony.

He returned him quickly to his mother, before slipping out of the console room. He returned a few minutes later carrying an old fashioned cradle made of ancient wood. There were Gallifreyan symbols and letters around the sides. Some of them spelt out a name.

“This is your cradle?” Axyl asked as he set it beside the sofa. “It has your name on it, Chrístõ.”

“Yes, it’s mine,” he answered. He took the baby and laid it in the soft blankets within the cradle before giving Rodan a bundle of clothing and a large towel. “A hot bath will do you good, now. And then you can get dressed. The bathroom is third door to the right through that way.”

She went gratefully. Chrístõ sat rocking the cradle gently and looking at the baby. Putting him in there was another gesture that legitimised his birth. The cradle was a family heirloom. Five generations of Lœngbærrow heirs had slept in it when they were newborn. Remy junior wasn’t an heir, but he was a Lœngbærrow.

As if proof was needed, the letters on the side of the cradle reformed. Now they proclaimed Remy’s newly acknowledged name.

Rodan came back from the bathroom dressed in a simple pale blue dress and a pair of soft indoor shoes. Chrístõ made her sit down again while Axyl brought her food and drink. She was thin, and her eyes bore signs of a long trauma, but she was beginning to recover, now.

All she needed was to be reunited with her husband. That was the next thing he had to do. But he needed some more information, first.

“Why were you with Earth resistance fighters?” he asked. “The war going on there… it is nothing to do with us. I’ve never thought much about our non-interference policy, but in this case, it is right. We shouldn’t be involved.”

“Tell that to the soldier you shot,” Diol commented.

“The soldier will live. I did nothing to change a major, extended fixed point in time.”

“Nor did we intend to do so,” Rodan said. “We were sent to trace a man called Gorr Marchieda. He is living on Earth as Commandant Heinrich Kolt, commander of the troops guarding the port of Bremen on the northern coast of Germany.”

“I know where Bremen is,” Chrístõ said. “And I know who Marchieda is. Another one of those who took advantage of the Mallus invasion to escape justice. Paracell has been cleaning up that mess ever since. So he chose to disguise himself as a Nazi. That says a lot about the kind of man he is. But if you’d identified him, weren’t you supposed to report back to Hext and get out of there?”

“The resistance are already planning to assassinate him,” Rodan explained. “He is an evil man who has caused so much suffering in this place, to those not considered pure Germans, or whose politics went against the Nazi ideal. Remy thought it would be more useful to let them kill him. We stayed with the resistance and helped them gather information about him.”

“Chrístõ,” Diol said quietly. “Can you come to the navigation con. There’s something you need to see.”

Chrístõ left Rodan’s side and went, not to the navigation panel which was the other side of the console, but to the information database. Diol pointed out the biographical notes about the historical figure Commandant Heinrich Kolt.

“He was assassinated on September 15th, 1943 at 7.35 in the morning, by a man who calmly walked up to his car when it was halted by traffic congestion and dropped a grenade into it. The explosion killed Kolt outright. The assassin was mortally wounded and was taken under guard to a military hospital where he died four days later, without giving up the names of any of his co-conspirators. It is not known what happened to his body. In all likelihood it was cremated secretly by the German authorities. The name of the assassin was never known.”

Chrístõ looked at the temporal clock. It was an hour after dawn on September 15th, 1943, nearly seven o’clock.

“It’s a fixed point in time,” he said. “We can’t interfere.”

“Yes,” Diol said. “I understand that. You’ve taught us everything there is to know about fixed points. But, Chrístõ, what if the unknown assassin is your cousin?”

“It couldn’t be,” Chrístõ answered. “Remy is a bookworm, a number cruncher. He’s not… He was never meant to be… a field agent of that sort. Hext told me his job was to observe and report.”

“I hope so,” Diol added. “Because that poor woman needs him.”

“Yes, she does,” Chrístõ agreed. “I think it’s time we found him, and Gorr Marchieda aka Heinrich Kolt. One way or another his time is up.”

He did the same thing as before, programming the TARDIS to find a Gallifreyan with DNA that very closely matched his own. He and Remy had the same grandparents, and their fathers were brothers. The only difference was that Chrístõ’s mother was Human. But since the TARDIS was Time Lord technology it tended to overlook that foreign part of his being. Finding Remy was a simple task. The only thing it would take was time, because after all Earth had a population of billions. Even narrowing it down to that part of it where they thought Remy ought to be didn’t shave much off the processing time. Chrístõ looked anxiously at that temporal clock. If Diol was right, they had to get to Remy within the next half an hour it would be too late. He couldn’t use the TARDIS to buy more time. They were already part of this timeline.

He still couldn’t quite believe that his quiet cousin with ‘administration’ written through his soul like the lettering in a stick of Blackpool Rock was involved in such a desperate venture.

And yet, paradoxically, it seemed to fit all too well. Only Remy knew that Heinrich Kolt was more than just a Nazi officer. In his soul he had a ghastly feeling that was exactly what Remy was going to do.

And he wasn’t sure he could stop him. It was a matter of historical record that Kolt was murdered by a suicide bomber. Whether it was Remy or not, he couldn’t interfere.

The console beeped to say that it had located the Lœngbærrow DNA. But it was almost seven-thirty. It was going to be close.

The TARDIS landed in a wide street that was already busy on a working day. The road traffic was congested because a dead horse with a spilled load of some kind of root vegetable on the cart it was pulling blocked an important junction. Chrístõ wondered if that was deliberate, or just fate dealing a hand to the resistance, because he could see the military car stuck in the jam. There were soldiers harrying the cart owner but to very little effect.

Then Chrístõ saw his cousin. He hadn’t even met him for years, but he knew him all the same. He was walking against the traffic, towards the car carrying Heinrich Kolt. It was open topped. The Commandant was either foolish or very arrogant about his travel arrangements. Chrístõ suspected the latter, especially since he was a Gallifreyan criminal in reality. That was surely the definition of arrogance.

Remy looked innocent enough, strolling along, dressed like any ordinary working man in the street. But if the history books were correct, he had a bomb in his pocket.

“Remy, stop,” Chrístõ said telepathically. “Don’t do it. Please don’t.”

“Chrístõ?” Remy was surprised to hear his cousin’s voice in his head, but he didn’t stop or give any indication that he had been distracted from his mission. “What are you doing here?”

“Stopping you from killing yourself. You were meant to report to Paracell Hext, not carry out the assassination yourself.”

“I have nothing to live for,” Remy answered. “They took my wife… and our child. She’s dead. I had word last week. They gassed her in one of their filthy camps. This way, at least, I take a criminal out with me. It makes my death worthwhile.”

“Remy, no!” Chrístõ yelled telepathically. He still didn’t dare call out loud. There were too many soldiers. Anything that attracted their attention would be fatal - to Remy, certainly, if he was searched and the bomb found, and himself, too, if he was captured with him. “Remy, stop. She’s not dead. Your child is fine. They’re here. Stop.”

He didn’t hear him. Chrístõ groaned in despair as Remy leapt at the car, pulling the grenade from his pocket. It was too late. Chrístõ threw himself to the ground as the car burst into flames, engulfing the Commandant. His driver dived out of the front seat of the car. His jacket was on fire. He dragged it off and rolled. He was injured, but would probably survive. Remarkably, considering how busy the street was, nobody else was hurt. There were screams from civilians and shouts from the soldiers. Chrístõ stood up slowly and looked around.

Remy was lying on the floor beside the burning car. He was horribly still. The historical report was that the assassin lingered in hospital for several days, so he must have been alive, still. But he really didn’t look it.

Then Chrístõ gasped in surprise. Remy disappeared as a German Panzer division tank materialised where he was lying. Chrístõ folded time and ran to the door that opened in the side where a door shouldn’t have been. He slammed it shut behind him. Diol looked at him and then hit the dematerialisation switch. Moments later they were in a stable temporal orbit.

“I didn’t even teach you how to do that sort of materialisation, yet,” Chrístõ told him. “If it had gone wrong, he could have been stuck halfway through the floor, or with his head and kidneys left outside on the street.”

Diol looked worried.

“Relax, you did fine. Well done. Lord Azmael will be very pleased with you when I report to him.” Then he knelt and examined Remy. Rodan was at his side already, clinging to her baby in one arm and grasping his hand with the other. She bit her lip in anguish as she looked at his pale face.

“He’s dying,” she said.

“Not if I can help it,” Chrístõ answered her. But he wasn’t sure there was much he could do to help. Remy was in a bad way. He was badly burnt all down the left side of his body and his stomach was ripped open where he had taken the full force of the blast. His internal organs were mashed. A Human would already be dead. His Gallifreyan body was trying to repair itself, but it couldn’t do it alone.

“Diol, Axyl, it’s up to you now. Prove to me that your piloting skills really are up to it. Get us to the first hospital ship in the quadrant. And get Paracell Hext on the videophone right now.”

Remy’s eyes flickered open. He murmured his wife’s name.

“Look,” she said. “This is your son. Remy de Lœngbærrow. He has been formally named according to tradition. He is your heir and nobody can take that away from us.”

Remy reached out a hand that was partially burnt and covered in blood and touched the child’s face. The baby’s bright eyes looked back at him. When his hand fell back there was a bloody fingerprint on the baby’s cheek like a sinister kind of baptism from his dying father.

“That’s your reason to fight, Remy,” Chrístõ told him. “Don’t give in to the pain. Hold on until we get to the hospital.”

“I’ll… try…” he whispered. “Chrístõ… I… always… wanted to be like you.”

“I’m not into suicide missions,” Chrístõ answered. “Just hang on in there.”

Axyl called to him. He left Remy’s side long enough to note that they were heading to the 24th century hospital ship the SS Elizabeth Garrett, and that Paracell Hext was on the line.

“What the hell were your orders to Remy?” Chrístõ demanded of him. “You told me he was just meant to be observing.”

“He’s an agent. He is authorised to take any action he sees fit. Why? What has happened?”

“He tried to kill himself to fulfil your orders. He might still succeed. Use whatever powers you have, every authority at your disposal, and get his parents to our co-ordinates as soon as possible. If nothing else, they might get a chance to… say goodbye.”

Hext looked worried. He promised to do what he was asked. He was trying to say something else, too, but Chrístõ closed the call abruptly and went back to Remy’s side. He was unconscious again, which was a blessing, because he had to be in so much pain. Chrístõ did what he could with the worst of his wounds. Remy’s body was trying to mend. But he needed professional medical help.

The SS Elizabeth Garrett had professional help. When the TARDIS materialised they were ready to rush Remy to an emergency theatre. Chrístõ took Rodan and the baby to a quiet place where they could wait.

“He’s going to die, isn’t he?” she said. “He’s so badly wounded, and he isn’t old enough to regenerate. I’m going to lose him.”

“I don’t know,” Chrístõ admitted. “He’s in a very bad shape, but he has something to live for now, and the surgeons are good. Try to hope.”

He held her in his arms, offering what comfort he could. She clung to her baby as if he was the most precious thing in the universe. And he was. He was Remy’s reason to live, and if they lost him despite every effort, he was the future. He was Remy’s child, his heir, the continuation of his line.

That was small comfort to Rodan just now, and Chrístõ was uneasy.

He was thinking about what Remy had said to him, about wanting to be like him. Was that why he had turned from being the bookworm to action hero? He understood that the grief of believing Rodan was dead had driven him to take a suicide mission, but was it the legend of Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow, the war hero, the adventurer, that made his cousin yearn for something more exciting? Was that what brought him into the Celestial Intervention Agency in the first place?

The thought that he was at least partially responsible for Remy’s fate tempered the anger that had been seething in him, and when Paracell Hext arrived he said nothing to him except to thank him for coming. Besides, he was more concerned with his uncle and aunt who were beside themselves with grief.

“We won’t know anything for another hour at the earliest,” he said to them. “Please, come and sit. Aunt Rika… sit beside this young woman. She is Remy’s wife. And the child is your grandson.”

His aunt went straight to Rodan’s side. She took the baby in her arms and held it lovingly. Remonte watched them silently.

“How does my son have a wife and a child and I don’t even know about either?” he asked.

“That’s a long story,” Chrístõ answered. “Remy can tell you it when he’s better.”

“If he gets better.” Remonte de Lœngbærrow looked with bitter eyes at Paracell Hext, who had the good grace to turn away. Chrístõ thought there had been words said between them already. He wondered if Remy’s love life was the only thing his father didn’t know about.

“If he doesn’t, then the long story doesn’t matter. What does matter is that young woman and your grandson… your heir. Be kind to them both.”

“Kind?” Remonte looked as if the word was unfamiliar to him for a moment, then he nodded. “Of course I will. If she is… if my son… I mean…. Of course we will take care of her.”

Remonte went to sit with his wife and Rodan. He, too, held the child, and his expression when he did so was reassuring. Chrístõ turned and looked at Paracell Hext. He nodded and stepped out of the waiting room. Chrístõ followed him. He looked around and then pushed him through a door marked ‘staff only’. The linen room beyond was big enough for the purpose.

“You haven’t been straight with any of us,” Chrístõ said. “You lied to me about Remy’s role in the Agency. You lied to him….”

“How did I lie to him?” Hext responded. “Yes, I admit, I didn’t tell you what he was up to. Why would I? Do I discuss any of my agents with you?”

“You made him think this was an exciting life, better than book-keeping and pushing papers around at the Embassy.”

“I didn’t,” Hext replied. “I told him straight from the start that it was dangerous, even intelligence gathering. He wanted to do it. Yes, partly because of you, Chrístõ. Your reputation goes before you. But mostly because he sat out the invasion at the Mineas Luimnea Embassy, safe and sound, while his father was being tortured half to death and people he knew were being murdered. Remember all those empty seats at your graduation ceremony, all the people you and I remember. He remembers them too. And he wanted to do something to make up for the easy ride he had back then. But if you think I wanted him to…. Yes, Marchieda was marked for assassination. But I didn’t intend Remy to carry it out. And not that way. When has the Agency EVER used suicide as a method of execution? Do you think I would ask any man to do that? Remy went far beyond his remit. And… if he survives….”

“IF he survives, you put him in charge of record-keeping in the Tower. Don’t let him out on field work again.”

“That’s not for you to decide, Chrístõ,” Hext pointed out. “I’m the director of the Agency and Remy is an adult who made his own choices, just like you always have.”

All that was true, but Chrístõ wasn’t satisfied.

“You used him, Hext. You knew he wasn’t really cut out for the work, but you used him anyway.”

“Let it go,” Hext told him. “We’re both to blame in part for what happened to Remy. And we both have to look his father in the eye after this. Don’t let us fall out over it.”

Chrístõ nodded. He couldn’t trust himself to speak. Hext was right, of course. But it still stuck in his throat.

Then he heard his uncle Remonte shout. He ran out into the corridor. Hext followed.

“They’re bringing him out of surgery,” his uncle said. “He’s still critical. The next hours will be dangerous. But they think he has a good chance. We can’t see him yet, but they said….”

Chrístõ hardly heard the rest of Remonte’s words. He was sobbing with relief. It was Paracell Hext who put a reassuring arm around his shoulders.

“I’ll tell him he’s grounded for exceeding his orders,” Hext whispered. “Besides, I do need somebody to keep the records up to date.”