Cinnamal Hext was anxious and excited as he ran down the back stairs from the boys’ residence on the top floor of the elegant building that housed the Beta Deltan Youth Ballet. He slowed his pace as he reached the second floor where the girls’ residence was. Jennica Corr stepped through the fire door almost as if she had deliberately timed her entrance just for him. She took his breath away as usual, even dressed in a leotard and practice skirt and with her long blonde hair fastened in a hairnetted bun at the back of her head. He knew he looked pretty good in his all black ensemble of men’s ballet tights, with a Cossack style cotton jerkin over them fastened at the waist with a tie belt. It was an outfit he found less troublesome than the other male dancers. He regarded it as an improvement on the uniform of gold leggings and red jerkin he wore at the Prydonian Academy.

Jennica smiled warmly at him.

“The lists are up,” he said. “Do you think we’ll have got parts?”

“We’re new to the Corps,” Jennica reminded him. “We can’t expect much more than minor roles.”

“I know. But our FIRST professional roles. We get to dance in front of a real audience who pay to see us.”

“Didn’t you used to think that was beneath your dignity as an Oldblood of Gallifrey?” Jennica answered him with a teasing note to her voice. “Only the lower classes dance for money!”

He used to think being teased, especially by a Human, and a female Human at that, was beneath his dignity. But Cinnamal Hext had grown up a lot since he decided that he wanted to be with Jennica more than he wanted to be a Time Lord of Gallifrey. His ambition right now was to be chosen as the male lead opposite Jenny in whatever the next production by the Youth Ballet was going to be.

“It’s for Christmas,” she pointed out as they descended the rest of the stairs together. “It’ll be the Nutcracker. That’s traditional. I’ll end up as one of the chorus of dolls and you’ll be a tin soldier.”

Cinnamal grimaced. That didn’t sound a very promising role.

“You’ll make a fantastic tin soldier,” Jenny promised him. He smiled at the compliment from her. She had been very encouraging to him since he showed his interest in dance. She had helped him polish his audition performances and to study everything he didn’t know about the history of the art. Since they both came to the Youth Ballet in New Brisbane, away from all their other friends, they had naturally gravitated towards each other even within the crowd of new people they were getting to know.

But they were JUST friends, yet. Cinnamal tried not to be frustrated about that.

They reached the bottom of the steps and pushed open the fire door that led into the maze-like backstage area behind the beautiful theatre modelled on a nineteenth century Italian opera house. Even if they didn’t know where to go next they could have followed the buzz of chatter from excited young dancers gathered around the notice board where the assigned roles were posted. Jenny actually did grasp his hand as they pushed their way through the press of people coming away from the board with either elation or disappointment on their faces.

“I don’t think we’re on the list,” Jennica noted with extreme disappointment as they looked down the list of characters in the new ballet. “We don’t even seem to be in the chorus… either of us.”

Cinnamal wasn’t looking at the list of assigned roles. His eyes were fixed on the names of the characters. “Lord Azanguel,” he murmured. “General Russali… Lady Andressa… Oh! Sweet Mother of Chaos… It’s the Pazzione Gallifreya.”

“Never heard of it,” said one of their friends who pushed past them to look at the board. “And I’ve never heard of those two in the lead parts, either. You two are their understudies, did you notice.”

“No, I didn’t.” Jennica looked at the top two lines of the list again. On the left were the names of the two lead characters. Lord Russali and Lady Andressa. In the middle of the page were two names that she didn’t recognise, but she didn’t think anything of that since she had only been there three months and didn’t know everyone’s names yet. Lord Russali, whoever that was, was to be performed by Andrew Robartes. Lady Andressa would be danced by Amelia Robartes.

At the right side of the page in red ink instead of black the understudies for those two roles were listed as Cinnamal Hext and Jennica Corr.

That was an achievement for them both, she realised. Understudying the lead roles after only three months as members of the Youth Ballet meant that their talents had been recognised. Jennica’s heart swelled with pride in herself and her favourite dancing partner.

She turned to tell Cinnamal how she felt and heard him explaining to a small gaggle of people exactly what the Pazzione Gallifreya was.

“The ballet version is much shorter than the opera,” he was saying. “That’s twelve hours long. The Ballet is only four hours. But it’s the same story, about one of the great heroes of Gallifreyan history…”

“And where’s that when it’s at home?” somebody asked sarcastically. Cinnamal bristled at the slur against his world and was ready to respond, but a piercing whistle silenced him. Everyone immediately looked around at the awesome presence of The Great Bassinikov, director of the Youth Ballet. His real first name was Gregor, but the definitive article and the ‘Great’ prefix came to be associated with him long before he retired from professional dancing and devoted his life to the nurturing of young talent on Beta Delta V.

Bassinikov didn’t need to say anything. He simply raised an elegant arm and pointed first to lecture room three and then to the main chorus practice room. It was clearly understood. Everyone who was on the list, whether in named roles or just the choruses was to go to the lecture room to find out more about the new project. Everyone else was to go and practice something.

Jennica and Cinnamal filed into the lecture room with the chosen ones. They sat next to each other on the front row. Cinnamal was acutely aware of the level of excitement in the room, even though everyone was quiet in the presence of Bassinikov. He did something he hadn’t needed to do since he came to New Brisbane. He reached out and touched the minds of the people around him. He was aware of two things that were puzzling them all. First, they wanted to know about the Pazzione Gallifreya. Apart from the slightly garbled explanation he had started to give, none of them knew anything about it. He looked forward to hearing the director explain about it. He also looked forward to claiming a bit of centre stage attention when his friends found out that he was FROM Gallifrey and that he had known the Pazzione since he was an infant with a simplified version of the epic poem as his first reading book.

The other thing that was puzzling everyone was the identity of the two lead performers, Andrew and Amelia Robartes. They were NOT members of the Youth Ballet. Nobody had ever heard of them.

Nobody had ever seen them before. The two young people, who had to be twins, they were so alike, sat in chairs facing everyone else, beside The Great Bassinikov’s own chair. The Director waved his hands to command their attention, as if he didn’t have it already.

“Moi malen'kie babochki,” he said. Everyone, male or female, who arrived at the Youth Ballet quickly got used to being one of Bassinikov’s little butterflies. It was one of his quirks. “This is a most exciting project. Our winter ballet will be, as usual, performed in conjunction with the Beta Deltan Youth Opera and the Youth Orchestra, who will provide music and chorus. But the eyes of the great and good will be upon the brightest of my butterflies. And this year, the great and good will truly be both. At the gala opening night, the governor of Beta Delta will be joined by four illustrious VIPS from among the Earth Federation’s greatest allies, the King-Emperor of Adano-Ambrado and his queen, the Dragon Loge Marton of the Loggian Empire and the Lord High President of Gallifrey. It is in honour of the last that we are performing a ballet from Gallifrey, a truly magnificent work.”

He paused theatrically then waved a hand towards the two people at his side.

“While I have no doubt that you, moi babochki, will rise to the great occasion, it IS such a momentous occasion that the main roles will be performed by two guest dancers. I know you will welcome the truly talented Andrew and Amelia Robartes and make them feel at home among you.”

The Robartes twins stood and bowed politely to the assembled members of the youth ballet and then sat down again. There was a long pause, then Selina Aitkins, one of the chorus dancers who was rumoured to have a place in the senior Beta Deltan Ballet Company next season, stood and welcomed them on behalf of everyone else. It was the polite thing to do. It was the correct thing to do.

Even so, when they left the theatre with a sheaf of notes each about the production, there were murmurings of discontent. The lead roles were NEVER given to ‘guest performers’. That was the privilege of the best dancers within the corps. It was unheard of, and it was unfair.

Jennica walked with Cinnamal and when she had a chance she drew him into a quiet room. There was something she needed to say to him and it had nothing to do with principal dancers.

“The Lord High President of Gallifrey,” she said. “The one who’s coming to see us. That’s your dad, isn’t it?”

The word ‘dad’ made him wince. In Gallifreyan there was no familiar form for ‘father’ that a youth could use. When he was very young, he called his father ‘papa’ but he grew out of that. Most of the time he called him ‘sir’ like any well brought up boy of his class would.

“Yes,” he admitted. “It is.”

“It might be a good idea not to tell anyone that,” she said. “There’s enough anger about the principals. If they think we’ve been given their understudy roles because of nepotism it’ll make matters worse. You know that we have to rehearse alongside the Robartes every day, and learn the roles just as fully as they do. We’ll hardly spend any time with the other dancers. It’ll be hard work as it is. We don’t need to lose friends over it.”

“They’ll find out eventually. After the gala performance, when the Director introduces the performers to the Lord High President and he calls me ‘son’. I wonder what will happen when we meet the King-Emperor of Adano –Ambrado. I once took a bath with him, you know.”

“A bath?” Jennica was puzzled by that comment, but she let it pass.

“I’m not going to hide that I’m Gallifreyan,” he added. “But I’ll keep quiet about my family connections for now. As for working on the performance… I can’t wait. The Pazzione… I wish we WERE the principals, though. It really SHOULD be me. I AM an aristocrat of Gallifrey, after all.”

“Oh, Cinn!” Jennica laughed softly at him. “That’s exactly what I mean. Don’t let anyone else hear you say that. Right here and now, we’re both new to the youth ballet. It doesn’t matter where you come from or who your father is. It doesn’t matter that my mother was a famous dancer. We have to EARN the principal roles. Who we are doesn’t count one little bit.”

It was hard for an Oldblood Gallifreyan to hear such a thing. But two things sugared the pill for Cinnamal - Jennica’s hands closed over his as she talked to him.

“We’ve got our first practice in ten minutes,” he told her reluctantly. The sweet moment was broken. They both grabbed up their shoe bags and hurried to the practice room where they, as understudies, were put through their paces alongside the two principal dancers. Jennica did her best to be friendly, especially with Amelia. When they rested, she asked her about her background, how long she had been dancing, who her favourite dancers were, all the things she talked to other dancers about whenever she was in their company, and which she was always asked, but the girl hardly responded. Cinnamal had even less success with Andrew.

After the practice was over, the Robartes twins didn’t head for the refectory with everyone else. Nobody was sure WHERE they went exactly. Nobody really cared. It meant that they could vent their displeasure at the situation without causing them direct offence.

The strength of feeling about them hadn’t abated. That was clear to Cinnamal as soon as he walked into the refectory. Everyone by now was harbouring a seething resentment against the two ‘ringers’ who had taken the two best parts away from members of the Youth Ballet.

“It ought to have been you two,” he heard somebody say out loud. He looked at the girl sitting opposite him and Jennica. He thought her name was Marcia or something. “I’ve seen you dance together. You look like you’ve been doing it for years. You’re good. TGB put you down as understudies. That means he thinks you’re capable. If they hadn’t come in, you might have got the parts yourselves.”

“They’re good, too,” Jennica said, in an attempt to calm the feelings of those around her. “We worked with them all morning and they dance really well. I think they HAVE been together for years. When we’re further on and we all do the set pieces together, you’ll see what I mean.”

She was just trying to be fair to everyone and not take sides. Some of her friends understood that. A few thought she was siding with the ringers. Some harsh words were spoken on all sides. By the time the afternoon session started, Jennica professed herself glad to be working on the understudy role again. Anything but the main practice room.

Tea was an easier meal because a lot of people took their food and ate while studying theory in the common rooms or even outdoors if it was good enough weather. Afterwards, for the first time all day Cinnamal found himself separated from Jennica. She was taking an extra elective class in ballet history and he had a choreography study group. He didn’t see her again until supper time.

Again, feelings ran high. Again, the principal dancers were not present to hear themselves being slandered in many colourful ways. Jennica stood by her first impression that the Robartes twins were very good dancers, and would perform the lead roles well. Again some people thought she was siding with what had come to be regarded as ‘the enemy’.

“For heaven sake!” she responded finally. “I’m NOT siding with them. I just said they dance well. I don’t know why Bassinikov chose them other than that. I wish he hadn’t. They’ve spoiled everything. Until today I was happy here. I hadn’t missed home once. But right now… I’d be glad to chuck it all in.”

She left the table in tears. Cinnamal tried to follow her, but she ran into the girls’ residence and slammed the door behind her. It locked automatically from the other side. If he attempted to open it by any mental trickery he risked expulsion.

Jennica had a miserable evening. She had half made up her mind that when everyone else was asleep she was going to slip away with an overnight bag. She was feeling that low about it all.

She did slip away, a little after midnight, but she didn’t bring a bag. She wasn’t running away. She just wanted a breath of clean air.

She climbed the back stairs, past the boys’ residence and the empty floor above that used to be used for junk rooms before a fire regulation required it to be cleared. The stairs ended underneath the flat part of the roof with access through a skylight. It was out of bounds, of course, but she pushed it open and climbed up.

She knew she wouldn’t be alone up there. A figure was already standing in the shadows by the parapet. She approached him slowly, not wanting to startle him.

“Hello, Jenny,” Cinnamal said without looking around. “You’re upset. I know. This is a good place to clear your head.” He reached out his hand. She took it and stepped towards the parapet. It was a dizzying drop to the sculptured garden at the back of the building. She looked once then looked at him instead.

“You come up here a lot, don’t you,” she said.

“Yes,” he answered. “I find it easier to relax up here. In a dorm full of sleeping humans… their dreams leak out, you know… I can read them. And that’s not always a good thing. Up here… I’m still aware of them. I’m aware of thousands of humans across the city. I can feel their lives. But I can distance myself from them.”

“Can you read my dreams?” Jenny asked.

“You’re not asleep. Reading people’s minds… people who aren’t telepathic themselves… is a violation. I’m not supposed to do it… unless you ask me to.”

“Maybe another time,” she decided. “Maybe it would be interesting. Right now.…”

“I’m not reading your mind,” Cinnamal assured her. “But I can feel it. I can feel your agitation. It’s… not far different from mine. We’re both upset about the same things.”

“I don’t want to think about it. Tell me… you know the story… the one the ballet is about… tell me it. I tried reading the notes, but I couldn’t get the feel of it… the heart of the story. If you tell it, I think I will.”

“Come and sit over here,” he said. “By the heating vent. It’s warm.”

They sat together with their backs to the vent. Cinnamal was glowing anyway. To be this close to Jennica, and totally alone, with no danger of interruption, was a perfect moment that he wanted to last as long as he could.

“The Pazzione Gallifreya,” he said. “Is an epic poem from the ancient history of my world, when we had an army that fought battles throughout the galaxy against those who would conquer and oppress free people. One of our greatest generals was Russali. He was the heir to one of our great Oldblood Houses, but he joined the army as an ordinary foot soldier, using an assumed name. He rose through the ranks showing courage and intelligence until he was a commander who led battalions to triumph again and again. He was a hero to all of our people.”

Jennica listened without interrupting. He paused to gather his thoughts.

“Russali was at the height of his career when he fell in love. At first, Lady Andressa rejected him because she thought he was of humble stock. But he persevered and in time she returned his love. Only then did he reveal that he was an aristocrat equal to her. They married and he retired from the army. They had a good life together. Then a new war came. He knew he had to leave her and answer the call to arms. She promised to wait for him. He went to war, and he was victorious again. But when he returned, he found that Lady Andressa was dying. He decided that her life was more valuable than his own, and used an ancient ritual to transfer his lifeforce to her. She came back from the brink of death, and he died in her arms.”

“This is a legend, isn’t it?” Jennica asked. “I mean… your people cannot do that, can they?”

“Not now, we can’t,” Cinnamal answered. “If we did before, the secret is lost to time.”

“Good. I think… I would hate to be in her position… to know I lived because the man I loved sacrificed himself for me. But what happened after that? There’s more to the story, isn’t there?”

“Lady Andressa vowed that since her husband’s lifeforce was within her, she would use that life the way he had. She commanded the army in his stead, and led them in many more battles. She was the only female general ever to command a Gallifreyan army. When she died at the end of a long, long life even by our standards she had a great military funeral.”

Jennica nodded. Yes, the story made sense, now. The huge number of people in the chorus who would be playing soldiers made sense. One thing still puzzled her, though.

“If Russali dies halfway through the story, why are there dances involving him all the way to the end?”

“Because after he dies, and Lady Andressa receives his lifeforce, his spirit remains at her side. When she goes into battle, he’s there, with her, guiding her sword hand, protecting her even from beyond the grave. When she dies, their ghosts are reunited in the dance of eternal love. It’s the grand finale of the ballet.”

“I like that idea. Eternal love. It’s nice.”

“Yes, it is. I’m not sure if many people believe in it any more on my world. Especially Oldbloods. We marry for political advantage or business interests, or to ensure that there is a viable heir for our Houses. Russali and Andressa never had children, you notice. The House of Russali is no longer listed among the great families of Gallifrey.”

“Did your parents marry for love?”

“Probably not,” he answered. “Though my father speaks fondly of my mother when he mentions her at all. I think they were friends at least. My brother certainly did. He went offworld to arrest a Renegade and came back with her as his wife. That’s a long story. I think it would make an Epic poem to rival the Pazzione if we still wrote things like that on Gallifrey.”

“What about you?” Jennica asked.

“I’m not old enough to get married by Gallifreyan law,” he answered, avoiding the direct question. It was a good thing that Jennica couldn’t read his mind. He was trying very hard to keep some thoughts from showing on his face.

“I’d like to marry for love,” she added, perhaps just to fill the silence that he created with his non-answer. “But not yet. I want to dance. Relationships can wait for now. I want to pour all my passions into my feet when I dance. I want to be the Swan Queen and Rusalka, Coppellia, the Firebird… I’d LOVE to be Lady Andressa. That’s probably the one I won’t get a chance to do, though, except as understudy. It’s not likely to be done again before I’m finished with dancing. Very few female dancers continue over the age of thirty, you know. Most quit much younger than that – mostly to get married and have children. The males can go on a bit longer.”

“I’m already eighty-five,” Cinnamal pointed out. Jennica laughed as he intended her to do. It gave him time to consider what she had said. It wasn’t a rejection of his tentative efforts at romance, more a deferment of the question.

“Would you wait?” she asked him.

“Wait for what?” he answered uncertainly.

“For me to be ready… for me to dance all the great roles I’ve always dreamt of and be ready to give it all up for a relationship with a man. Would you wait to be that man?”

“Yes,” he answered without hesitation. “Absolutely, yes.”

“Ok, then,” she said.

“Er…” Cinnamal caught his breath and wondered how to phrase his next question. He thought he knew what she had just said to him, but he needed her to say it. “What… exactly… did we just agree to?”

“Waiting until I’m finished with my dance career for us to have that sort of a relationship,” she answered. “It IS what you want, isn’t it?”

“More than anything in the universe,” Cinnamal answered. “But… what sort of a relationship do we have in the meantime?”

“An utterly fantastic dance partnership, I hope,” Jennica replied. “In which we dance all the great love scenes from all the greatest ballets ever written, pouring all of our feelings for each other into the characters we’re performing.”

“All right,” Cinnamal agreed. ‘Ok’ was a Human slang word that he wasn’t in the habit of using.

“You don’t mind?”

“Long courtships are common enough in my society. My grandparents were under a Contract of Betrothal for a century before their Alliance.”

“It won’t be that long, I promise.”

“In the meantime… am I allowed….” He reached his arm around her shoulders and drew her a little closer to him. He turned his head and dared to kiss her on the cheek. “Is that all right?” he asked.

“That’s fine,” she answered. She laid her head against his shoulder. He could smell the shampoo she used in the shower after a hard afternoon of dancing. It was like rich perfume to him. He sat very still and quiet and treasured being close to her in such a way.

He thought nothing could disturb such a moment. But what did was something that utterly startled them both. It wasn’t a housemaster discovering them on the roof, or a sudden change in the weather.

It was a temporal anomaly of unknown origin. The Gallifreyan in Cinnamal identified it as such. It looked, from their vantage point, like a dull silver wave spreading out around them. It was like ripples on a pond when something disturbs the surface, except it was the fabric of reality that was disturbed.

It took less than thirty seconds then it was gone. The city around them looked unchanged.

“Cinn… what happened?” Jennica asked. She wasn’t cold, but her teeth chattered as she spoke. She was scared.

Cinnamal didn’t answer. He stood up and turned in the direction of the organic wheezing sound that echoed in the quiet air. Coming after the disturbance below he was ready for just about anything.

Anything except his older brother materialising in front of him. Jennica, coming to his side and taking hold of his hand, found it trembling as he took one more step forward and bowed his head in deference.

“It wasn’t me, sir,” he said. “My word as a son of Gallifrey… on the soul of our mother herself… in the face of Rassilon… I did nothing to cause… what just happened.”

“I’m here officially,” Paracell Hext told him in a cool voice. “So your deference is appropriate, but unnecessary. You’re still my baby brother. You’re permitted to call me by my name.”

“Parry… it wasn’t me,” Cinn repeated. “You have to believe me.”

“Of course I believe you,” Paracell answered him. “A boy your age couldn’t possibly have created the sort of anomaly that just registered in the Matrix. But you’re involved, somehow. It began here… right here… in this building.”

“This is the Beta Delta Youth Ballet,” Jennica said in a voice she kept steady only with the sort of nerve calming effort she usually made when about to step out in front of an audience. “It has nothing to do with… anomalies.”

“I know,” Paracell answered. “And you’re right. It shouldn’t. Cinn is the only Gallifreyan on this planet. I checked. So what happened here was the work of unauthorised persons. That’s why I’m here.” He looked at Jennica and smiled reassuringly. “I don’t bite. I’m getting quite proficient with methods of extracting truth from stubborn traitors, but you have nothing to be frightened of. You’re Human aren’t you? But you must have travelled by TARDIS?”

“Chrístõ gave us both a lift here on our first day of term… after dropping Julia at the Sports Academy,” Jennica answered. “How could you tell?”

“Because my brother and I were talking to each other in Gallifreyan and you didn’t notice,” Cinnamal told her. “Contact with a TARDIS’s low-level psychic energy allows most sentient species to automatically translate languages in their heads. Haven’t you noticed when Bassinikov swears in Russian during bad rehearsals you know what he’s saying?”

“No, I didn’t,” she admitted. “But… I think your brother has more important things to worry about.”

“I do,” Paracell said. “It would have been better to leave an untrained Human out of it. If I had the choice, I’d leave my kid brother out of it, too. But as far as I can tell, you two are the only people on this planet who weren’t affected by the anomaly. Cinn would be immune to it anyway, and you must have been very close to him when it happened.”

Cinnamal blushed. In the dark, it probably wasn’t obvious, but he did.

“We were just…” he began.

“As long as it was nothing unbecoming a son of our noble House, it doesn’t matter,” Paracell told him. “What does matter is you two can help me. You will know what’s changed. Everyone else’s minds will have been instantly altered by the anomaly. It might be subtle… or it might be huge. Either way it is dangerous and it has to be dealt with. You two are my eyes and ears. When you find out something, anything… I’ll be right here.” He nodded towards what seemed to be thin air. Cinnamal looked and knew that there was a TARDIS parked there in cloaked mode. “If this is really serious I can have agents on the ground in minutes,” he added. “You don’t need to be afraid, either of you.”

“You’ll be here… on the roof?” Cinnamal queried.

“Yes. Don’t worry, kiddo, I’m not going to get in the way of what you’ve chosen to do here. But I’m here to protect you. I’m here to protect this planet… maybe even the whole galaxy… from whatever mischief is brewing. But you’re on my priority list, too, Cinn.”

“Thanks,” he responded.

“You two had better go downstairs, now. I don’t know what the rules are here, but at the Prydonian Academy meeting girls after hours on the roof would be a disciplinary matter.”

“Yeah, it probably is here, too,” Cinn admitted.

“We’re ok going down there, aren’t we?” Jennica asked. “No more… anomalies… are going to happen?”

“Not now that I’m here,” Paracell assured her. “Go on, now. Take care, both of you.”

He was still standing there, watching them carefully, as they climbed down through the skylight. Cinnamal had mixed feelings. Whatever he said, his brother being there did cramp his style a bit. He was the ‘baby brother’ again, ‘kiddo’ wherever that expression came from. Paracell, like older brothers the universe over, never let him forget that he knew him when he wore nappies. And no young man needed that when he was around a young woman.

On the other hand, something was happening here that was above and beyond his experience, and he was more than a little scared. Paracell was not only his older brother, but the director of the Celestial Intervention Agency. He could trust him to sort out whatever had happened and make them safe again.

He walked down to the girls’ landing with Jennica. If Paracell was looking after the planet, it was his responsibility to look after her. At the door to the residence he caught her hand and pulled her gently into an embrace. He again kissed her cheek fondly. She didn’t mind him doing that.

“See you at breakfast,” she told him then she broke away from his arms and unlocked the door with the key on a chain around her neck. Cinnamal glanced once at the closed door then ran up the stairs to the boys’ residence. He let himself in and slipped into his bed, fully confident that his absence hadn’t been noticed. He lay between the cool sheets and closed his eyes, cleared his mind with the mental exercises he had learnt since his first day at the Prydonian Academy and fell asleep.

He went down to breakfast the next day with two causes for concern. The first was the anomaly and the possibly catastrophic changes that might have come over the world he thought he knew.

The other was whether Jennica would regret any of the things the two of them had said to each other before all of that happened.

After all, galaxy wide anomalies were nothing compared to the hearts of a Gallifreyan when they were set upon a woman. That was the sub-theme of the ballet they were working on again all day today, and which was the main topic of conversation at the breakfast table.

It was immediately obvious to anyone who had been present in the refectory yesterday that there was a change in attitude among the Youth Ballet Corps. Cinnamal found himself listening to Martin Bennet, who was cast as Russali’s commanding officer, Lord Azugen, in the early scenes of the ballet – a man whose life was saved by young Russali, earning him his first commission. Martin had been one of the hottest protesters yesterday about two ringers getting the plum roles in the Pazzione.

“I’m really excited about this morning,” he said. “Donal and I are working with you in number one rehearsal room. He’s my understudy as Lord Azugen. Bassinikov wants us all to run through the sword dance for the first time… the one where I nearly cop it and Russali loses an arm defending me. It’ll be my first chance to dance alongside Drew Robartes! You and Jenny are so lucky. You spent all day yesterday with them. Aren’t they amazing? The best young dancers in the quadrant! The Federal Ballet Company were about to snap them up, even though neither of them are twenty-one yet, then TGB swooped in and offered them this chance in a million, to be in one of the few great ballets not written on Earth.”

“There are a lot of great ballets not written on Earth,” Cinnamal answered him. “The Human home world does not hold the copyright on creative genius.”

Cinnamal had never pretended to be Human. There was no hiding his double hearts from the compulsory medical when he came to the Youth Ballet. He told the small core of friends he worked with daily that he was Gallifreyan, though he didn’t tell them that meant he was eighty-five years old and still a student, or that his people had powers most Humans considered fantastical. The months he spent as Chrístõ’s apprentice taught him that lesson. A few of his friends had slowly made the connection between the Pazzione Gallifreya and his home world by now. But he took Jenny’s advice about not telling anyone that his father was the Lord High President they were performing it for.

A little bit of his superior Gallifreyan attitude came out in that reply to Martin, all the same. He couldn’t help it. His mind was turning over other matters and he wasn’t really thinking about cross-species etiquette.

“Hey, no need to get spiky, alien boy,” Martin told him. “What is it? Are you jealous of Drew? I know you come from that same planet where the Pazzione comes from, but you didn’t really think you’d get the lead role just because of that, did you?”

“Nobody knew we were doing the Pazzione until after the roles were assigned,” Cinnamal pointed out logically. “I’m not jealous. I slept badly last night, that’s all. Didn’t anyone else hear the electrical storm a bit after midnight? It took me ages to get back to sleep, and I’m feeling a bit cranky right now. Just let me eat my breakfast in peace.”

It wasn’t much of an excuse, and he would have to do some face saving with Martin later, but it gave him the quiet he needed to cast his mind around the room. It was the same with everyone else. A girl who had been ready to launch a protest strike against the Director’s casting choices yesterday was this morning positively gushing in her praise of ‘Emmy’ Robartes. Jennica was saying as little as possible, but the girl was so busy talking nobody noticed.

“If I hear one more word about ‘Emmy’ this morning,” Jennica confided in Cinnamal when they headed towards the practice room together. “Emmy is so talented, so pretty, you’re so lucky to understudy her… Aggh!”

“She’s not THAT pretty,” Cinnamal commented, and it was obviously the right thing to say to Jennica. She positively beamed at him.

“I suppose it’s the same with the boys. They all adore her?”

“All except Craig Jones,” Cinn answered. “He asked me if there was any possibility ‘Drew’ might be.…” He rolled his eyes theatrically. “I don’t know about Andrew Robartes, but that tells me something I didn’t know about Craig Jones, and I’ve slept in the same dorm as him since September!”

Jennica laughed. But they both knew there was a serious issue here, too.

“We can’t do anything, yet,” Jennica said outside the practice room. “We’ve hardly a moment to spare all day with this schedule. But I think your brother should know. This might have something to do with the anomaly. It… seems a bit trivial… everyone suddenly joining the Drew and Emmy Fan Club… but it might be some help in getting to the bottom of the mystery.”

They really didn’t have time to think of anything else all morning. Bassinikov was a fair man, but strict, and dedicated to his art. No dancer receiving his personal attention had time to think of anything other than where to put their feet for hour after hour of intense rehearsal. When they were done with the morning session there wasn’t time for anything other than a shower, fresh corn plasters on aching feet and lunch. Skipping either breakfast or lunch was against the rules. Dancers needed to eat in order to have the energy to work to Bassinikov’s standards.

Straight after lunch, both Cinnamal and Jennica were sent to see the costume designer. He was making the costumes for the ballet, brand new designs that had never been seen before. The costumes that the Robartes twins would be wearing had to be duplicated in their sizes for the understudies.

After that, they were back in the rehearsal room again. Martin and Donal weren’t with them this time. They would approach the sword dance again tomorrow, when real swords would be introduced for the first time.

This afternoon they were rehearsing the scene after Russali dies and Lady Andressa dons his armour and takes his place at the head of the army. It was a complicated dance because the now ghostly Russali had to copy exactly every move the lady made as his spirit stayed by her side through every adventure. For Drew and for Cinnamal, learning to match their partner was the key to success. For Amelia and for Jennica, learning to make their dancing from this point on less feminine, and more like a woman who was trying to do a man’s work, was their challenge.

By mid-afternoon they were managing to do just that. Then Bassinikov had something else for them to do.

“Swap partners, babochki,” he ordered. “Jennica, you dance with Drew, Cinnamal, you with Amelia. We must consider the possibility of one of the principals taking ill. The understudy must be comfortable with the star dancer, not just with the other understudy. The star must be comfortable with the understudy.”

That was perfectly understandable, and utterly logical. After all, what kind of bad luck would a production have if both its principal dancers were ill? More likely it would be one or the other. Jennica knew most of the other girls in the building would be swooning right now as she took up the first position with Drew’s hands placed on her waist. She just felt the way she always felt when somebody she hadn’t danced with before got ready to lift her over his head – slightly anxious. Cinnamal was the only one she really trusted to do that.

Cinnamal didn’t feel anything at all about Amelia. She was just like any other girl who wasn’t Jennica. He listened for his music cue and got ready to perform the dance Bassinikov wanted him to perform, but it wasn’t the same.

It wasn’t ANYTHING like dancing with Jennica. When he was with her, it was always a struggle not to touch her mind as well as her body. He could always feel her passion for the music and the joy of dancing to it. He knew if he could join his mind with hers when they danced, they would be the most perfect duet anyone, even Bassinokov, had ever seen.

When he danced with other girls, as he was required to do in daily practice sessions, he was aware of their passion for dancing. They wouldn’t be there without it, but it didn’t tempt him quite so much.

When he danced with Amelia, he didn’t feel anything like that at all. There was no passion for the dance, no feeling about anything. It was as if Amelia wasn’t thinking about anything at all.

It WAS wrong to read the mind of a non-telepath without their permission. But he tried anyway. He felt he should. He felt very strongly that there was something about Amelia that he needed to know.

“No!” She screamed and pushed him away. He stumbled against Drew who let go of Jennica. She landed awkwardly and complained but her voice of protest was drowned by Amelia’s histrionics. “No! I will not have it. I will not dance with this upstart boy. I shall dance only with my brother. If he is ill on the night of the gala, then I will not dance either. These two shall have the place in the limelight.”

If any other dancer had behaved in such a way, Bassinokov would have unleashed every Russian swear word he knew upon them, including some it was possible a TARDIS would not translate. At the Youth Ballet, Prima Donna was a word used to describe a leading dancer, not their manners. Jennica stood close to Cinnamal as they waited to see what he would say.

Bassinikov bowed politely to Amelia and said that she should have her way. He then told them all to take their places for the wedding waltz, despite the fact that they had rehearsed that part fully yesterday afternoon. The great man looked strangely distracted all through the rest of the session. He didn’t let the pace slacken in any way, but he looked as if there was something else on his mind.

They weren’t sure if THAT was something Paracell ought to know about, but Cinnamal was certain about one thing.

“Amelia isn’t Human,” he said when they were finished and heading to the showers. “I’m not exactly sure WHAT she is. But she isn’t Human. Her mind is completely different.”

“Different how? And what about her brother?”

“Him, too,” Cinnamal insisted. “They both must be something else.”

“Is that bad?” Jennica asked. “You’re not Human, either.”

“But I know who I am… I don’t know who they are. I think Parry needs to know about this. Hurry up and get changed. We’ll go up to the roof. This can’t wait any longer.”

Cinnamal showered quickly and put on casual clothes and training shoes as most of the dancers did before tea time after spending their day in leotards, tights and ballet pumps. He stuffed his discarded clothes into his bag for washing later, then went outside to wait for Jennica to emerge from the girls’ changing room.

She didn’t come out.

Amelia Robartes, did. She approached him with a cold expression.

“If you want to see your precious little Human girlfriend again, you will come with us, now.”

“Come with you where?” he demanded. Then he felt Andrew Robartes’ hand on his shoulder. Something sharp pricked against his neck, a knife pressed against the base of the brain stem, above the medulla oblongata. Severing that was one of the few certain ways to kill one of his race without possibility of regeneration. Since he was not a Time Lord yet, and didn’t have the power to regenerate he was in even more certain peril.

“Just shut up,” Andrew told him. He pushed him along the corridor. Cinnamal wondered why it was so quiet. Any other time, when he had hoped to get a chance to be alone with Jennica, the corridor would be crowded.

Maybe that was for the best. These two seemed to have some malevolent agenda, and he didn’t want anyone else to get hurt.

“In here!” Amelia opened a door that was marked ‘out of bounds’. It led to the basement of the building. It housed the heating system and water pipes, the junction boxes for the electricity. Nobody went down there except maintenance staff. These two who hadn’t even set foot in the place until yesterday shouldn’t even know it existed.

He was taken to a bare room with grey walls and a door made of rusting metal. It contained old, disused boiler equipment. The building had been refurbished with a modern solar powered system.

Jennica was there. She was alive and well, but she was chained up. Her hands were manacled and her legs, too. A chain ran from the leg chain to the wall, holding her in place. She managed to kneel up as Cinnamal was pushed down beside her. She reached out to grasp his hands while Andrew chained him up, too.

“Why are you doing this?” Jennica asked.

“Because you know,” Andrew answered. “I don’t know how… but you know that we’re not who we seem to be. Your minds weren’t altered by the anomaly device we set off last night. That makes you dangerous to our plans. Or you would be, if there was any chance of you getting out of here. We can’t risk another anomaly, but we shouldn’t need one. We’ll just make it look like both of you have left. You couldn’t cope with the pressure, so you ran away. Nobody will look for you here.”

“It will only take a day or two without food and water for you to die,” Amelia said to Jennica. She glanced at Cinnamal. “You’re a Gallifreyan… it will take you longer. She’ll be dead, first. I think that will hurt you. Your affection for her will be a torture in your last hours.”

She said that gleefully, as if the idea of him suffering before death pleased her. Then she and Andrew walked away. They closed the door behind them. It didn’t lock. It didn’t have to. They were prisoners anyway. Even if they screamed, nobody would hear them.

“Cinn…” Jennica clung to his hands and sobbed unhappily. “I’m sorry. She got me in the changing room. I tried to fight, but she’s strong. They both are. They really AREN’T Human.”

“We’re not going to die,” Cinnamal told her. “I promise you that. We’ll get out of here. Or you will, at least.”

“Me? Why not both of us?”

“Because I’m only eighty-five. My telekinetic powers aren’t strong enough to do what I think I can do twice. Freeing you will probably knock me senseless for hours. When we were learning to do this at the Academy, I spent the night in sick bay after my first try.”

“First try of what?” Jennica asked. Cinnamal didn’t explain. He was staring hard at the chain that fastened her to the wall. His eyes, usually a soft hazel colour, looked red. As his concentration increased, the irises glowed. So did part of the chain. It was heating up.

“You… can do that? You can melt metal?”

“I… just… have to… remind it of when it was… forged…” he said through gritted teeth. “When… you’re free… get upstairs. Get to Parry. Tell him….”

He couldn’t talk any more. He needed all his energy for the effort. The chain went from red hot to orange. She could feel the heat on her legs. She spread them as wide as she could to keep from being burnt. The metal turned white hot and when she pulled away it stretched like toffee and broke. She was free. At least, she wasn’t chained to the wall. Her hands were still manacled. So were her feet. She couldn’t run. Climbing the stairs would be a struggle. But she could get away.

“Cinn… I can’t leave you…” She looked at him. He was mentally and physically exhausted, struggling to keep his eyes open. She held him in her arms as he slipped into unconsciousness, then she laid him gently on the floor. She leant over and kissed him on the lips, knowing that it was an unfair thing to do when he couldn’t even feel her doing it. Then she shuffled to the door as fast as her shackled legs allowed and pulled it open. She hobbled to the stairs and dragged her feet up.

When she reached the corridor on the ground floor she wondered if she ought to find somebody closer than Cinnamal’s brother on the roof. It was so far away. Bassinikov’s office was closer.

But Bassinikov had been fooled into believing that the Robartes twins were famous dancers. Or he was in on the plan. She didn’t know if she could trust him. Would anyone believe her? Their minds had all been altered so much.

The roof was her only chance. She took the back stairs because there was less chance of running into anyone who might try to stop her. It was hard going. She stumbled because her bound hands didn’t allow her to hold onto the railing. Her shackled legs were barely able to lift onto each step, and the weight of the chain and leg cuffs was tiring. But she was a ballerina. She worked hard every day. She had strength and stamina, as well as determination that two strange people were not going to carry out whatever evil plan they intended.

She was past the boys’ residence, only one more flight away from the skylight when she heard a sound below. She looked down and saw Andrew Robartes running after her. They must have discovered that she had escaped. Her heart filled with dread. Cinnamal was unconscious, helpless. They might have killed him in anger.

She stumbled up the rest of the stairs and struggled with the catch on the skylight. It was tricky with her hands chained as they were. She could hear Andrew coming closer. He would certainly kill her if he caught her.

The skylight opened. She pulled herself up onto the roof. She looked around desperately. There was no sign of a TARDIS, or of Paracell.

Help me!” she cried out desperately. “Please, help me. Where are you?”

“I’m here,” Paracell Hext said. He stepped out of thin air. He was dressed in black and carrying a long whip. He caught hold of her in one arm and with the other he flexed the whip. It made a terrifying crack in the air and let off an arc of static electricity. She dared to look around as he flexed it again and it snaked out and hit Andrew Robartes across the chest. He staggered but recovered enough to move closer. Paracell cracked the whip again. This time it was more than a glancing blow. Electrical energy surged through Andrew’s body.

“What!” Jennica gave a yelp of shock. Andrew Robartes shimmered and changed into something that was humanoid, but far from Human. The skin was a leathery red and his eyes black with no white parts at all. He hissed like a snake and a forked tongue emerged from his mouth. Paracell again flexed his arm and the whip caught the alien creature again. Electricity surged once more. It gave another hissing cry and stumbled backwards towards the parapet. Jennica turned her face away as it fell backwards, but she heard the Doppler sound of its death cry as it plunged down to the garden below.

Paracell dropped the electronic whip and reached in his pocket for his sonic screwdriver. He used it to free Jennica of the chains that bound her, still. She told him what had happened.

“Cinnamal… Amelia… She could still kill him… if she hasn’t already.”

“He’s alive,” Paracell assured her. “He’s my brother. I’d know if he was dead. I’ll get him. But you’re exhausted. Come into my TARDIS.”

She was half fainting with shock and exhaustion. She made no protest as he brought her through a completely invisible door into a room like the one Chrístõ kept disguised as a stationery cupboard in his classroom at New Canberra high school. She sank down gratefully onto a sofa and accepted the soothing drink Paracell got from a dispenser. Once he had attended to her needs he wasted no more time. He armed himself with a pistol as well as his so very impressive whip and got ready to leave her.

“I daren’t take my TARDIS down there because of the anomaly they created. A dimensionally relative time capsule in that mix would be disastrous. But don’t worry. I’m good.”

“Cinn told me you used to be a really rubbish agent when you were younger,” Jennica told him.

“I was,” he admitted. “Then an evil race conquered my world and killed every agent who was better than me. I had to get good. Now, I’m the best. And I’m going to make this right.”

“He doesn’t even know I love him,” she said. “Cinn… I didn’t tell him. I didn’t want him to think I would put him before my career. And I won’t. But I do love him. I wish he knew.”

“He’s a Gallifreyan,” Paracell answered. “He knows.”

Then he left. Jennica sighed and laid her head back on the soft sofa. She was tired and scared, but Cinnamal’s brother had assured her he could make it right. She believed in him

Paracell believed in himself, too. But he was taking no chances as he moved quickly down the stairs. He hadn’t asked her the way to the basement. He didn’t have to. She was the last person to come up the stairs. In her heightened emotional state she had left a pheromone trail that he could read like a navigation aid. When he reached the basement door he took his gun from the holster and moved carefully. Even when he was a rather inept Celestial Intervention Agency operative, he had been able to move soundlessly when he had to. That was no trouble to him, now.

Even so, he was slightly taken by surprise when Amelia Robartes leapt on him from a concealed place he had failed to notice. He felt a blade at his neck. But he had been taught how to deal with that kind of thing. His hands moved quickly. He threw the woman off him and fired at her as she lay on the ground. He aimed for her legs, to disable her, not to kill. He needed to know what this was all about first. She cried out in pain.

“I’m a woman,” she complained. “How could you…”

“You’re not a woman,” he answered. “You’re a Sytaphuian Metamorph. They’re genderless. But even if you were, you lost the right to any chivalry from me when you hurt my brother.” He leaned over her and pressed his hand on her forehead. Her mind was difficult to read. Her species were mildly telepathic and she resisted him. But he was stronger.

He saw what her plan was. He saw everything.

Then he straightened himself up. He took careful aim and shot her twice in the head.

He stepped over the body and opened the iron door. He saw Cinnamal lying motionless on the bare floor. He carefully checked his vital signs then lifted him onto his shoulders. His brother was slim, but well-muscled, his body honed by all this dancing he had taken up. Paracell didn’t care about the weight as he climbed the stairs from the basement and found the much longer stairwell to the roof.

“Who are you?” demanded a tall, slender man with an unfamiliar accent. “What has happened to that boy? What are you doing with him?”

“He’s my brother, and I’m looking after him,” Paracell Hext replied, meeting the eyes of The Great Bassinikov with the steady gaze of an Oldblood Time Lord and a huge dose of Power of Suggestion. “You have nothing to worry about. All the things that were wrong here will be put right in a little while.”

It was working until somebody ran up to them in a panic and told Bassinikov that there was a dead alien in the sculptured garden. Bassinikov turned to swear in Russian and when he looked around again Paracell was gone.

When he reached the roof, Jennica was waiting there. She had found it impossible to rest in the TARDIS while Cinnamal was in peril. Below in the garden a crowd was gathering around the remains of what used to be Andrew Robartes. The shouts of alarm were loud even up there. She forgot all about that, though, when she saw Paracell laying his brother down on the flat roof.

“Please tell me he isn’t dead. It’s too much like… like the Pazzione. He wore himself out to free me… gave himself for me… like Lord Russali. Please… please don’t let him be dead.”

“He’s not dead,” Paracell assured her. “He’s coming around now. Sit with him. There’s something I have to do.”

He literally disappeared into his cloaked TARDIS. Jennica sat by Cinnamal’s side and clutched his hand as he slowly regained consciousness. She helped him sit up and they hugged like two people who had forgotten they were going to wait for several years before having THAT sort of relationship.

They both saw another temporal anomaly spread out from the building beneath them. In the evening light it was even more beautiful than it was at night, but frightening, all the same. They wondered what it meant.

When it cleared, they were aware that it was much quieter below in the sculptured garden. They peered over the parapet but they couldn’t see anything.

They especially didn’t see the broken body of Andrew Robartes.

“They never came here,” Paracell said as he stepped back out of his TARDIS and joined them on the roof. “I set up an anomaly that wiped out the first one. Mine changed everything for a few days before, so that the two assassins never interfered with Bassinikov’s mind and made him think he had to bring them into his ballet.”

“Assassins?” Cinnamal questioned.

“Why would an assassin want to infiltrate a ballet?” Jennica asked.

“Because that ballet was going to be attended by the Lord High President of Gallifrey,” Paracell replied.

“Your dad?” Paracell and Cinnamal both winced at Jennica’s use of the Human diminutive.

“The Lord High President is, among other things, keeper of the Matrix… the ultimate power over time and space… over the existence of the galaxies as we know them. The people who paid those two to put their insane plan into action wanted that power. My next assignment will be tracking them down based on the information I extracted from the female’s head before I executed her.”

“You executed Amelia?” Jennica was stunned. “I mean… I know she wasn’t really a girl… I saw what Andrew really was. But… you just….”

“I did what I had to do,” Paracell told her. “Billions of lives were saved by it. Go on, now, both of you. You’re really not meant to be up here. You don’t want to be disciplined when your finest hour is at hand.”

“Our what?”

“I suppose you’re leaving?” Cinnamal asked his brother.

“Yes. But I’ll be back in a few weeks. When the Lord High President comes on a state visit, the director of the Celestial Intervention Agency will have to be there to make sure nobody tries anything funny.”

“The King-Emperor of Adano-Ambrado is going to be here, too,” Cinnamal pointed out. “With his bath.”

“Not the sort of ‘anything funny’ I was thinking of,” Paracell answered. “And he has his own security, anyway. I’ll be seeing you then, though, kiddo.”

“Stop calling me kiddo,” Cinnamal protested. “I’m not a kid here. I’m a grown up. I’ve… got a girlfriend.”

“So you have. Good luck, Cinn. And you, Jennica. Look after him, won’t you? We’re rather fond of him, for all his faults.”

Paracell hugged his brother and then turned and got into his TARDIS. There was a noise and a displacement of air and they knew he was gone. Cinnamal and Jennica walked back down the stairs slowly, holding hands, feeling as if the world had turned more than once since they got up this morning. It probably had.

When they reached the ground floor, Bassinikov was waiting for them. He smiled warmly.

“Moi malen'kie babochki,” he said. “We are only two days into our great work of the Pazzione, but the first of your costumes are ready and there is a photographer here to take your pictures for the gala night brochure. Are my two rising stars ready for their first taste of the spotlight?”

Cinnamal and Jennica looked at each other and both realised something obvious at once. If the Robartes twins were never there, then the understudies were now the principal dancers.

“I am Lady Andressa!” Jennica whispered.

“I am Lord Russali,” Cinnamal replied.

“Only on stage,” Jennica assured him. “You never need to die for me.”