Cinnamal Hext ran into the console room of his brother’s TARDIS. Paracell turned and looked at him with an inscrutable expression.

“Surely all that dancing you do must involve breathing exercises. There’s no excuse for being so out of puff from a bit of running.”

“I… forgot to breathe,” he admitted between gasps of air. “I was in the Cloister Room with Jenny….” He ignored the unmistakeable eyebrow lift at that point. “I felt the TARDIS change direction. We’re going back in time through the Vortex. We’re not heading home to Gallifrey. What’s going on?”

“You left your girlfriend in the Cloister Room?” Paracell responded. He turned to the communication console and made an internal patch-through. “It’s all right, Jenny, you’re quite safe. Just follow the light signals I’m setting up and you’ll reach the console room in a short walk. No need to panic. Leave that to my kid brother.”

Jennica’s relieved voice echoed over the two-way audio communication. Paracell left it switched on so that Cinnmal could hear her footsteps on her way.

“Recognising that we’re going back in time from deep in the Cloister Room showed good instincts, kiddo,” the older Hext pointed out. “Living among humans and wearing clothes about eight thousand years out of date hasn’t made you any less worthy of your birthright.”

“Don’t call me ‘kiddo’,” Cinnamal responded. “And there’s nothing wrong with my clothes.”

Paracell smiled knowingly. Cinnamal had actually adopted a style of everyday wear that suited him down to the ground. All the exercise he did made his calves look right in the skin-hugging black leggings that the young men of the Youth Ballet preferred to tights. Over that he wore a loose thigh length jerkin that fastened at his trim waist with a leather belt sporting a silver buckle wrought with his family crest. He looked good. He looked boyishly handsome.

He looked like somebody who learnt about colour schemes from Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow. Paracell wondered if he ought to be a little jealous about the way six months of his influence had more effect than a lifetime of brotherly interest.

“Never mind my clothes, anyway, WHY are we changing course. If this is some trick to stop me going back to Beta Delta…. I thought father was ok with my decision to stay there. He said he thought I was a good dancer.”

Jennica reached the console room in the middle of that part of the filial discourse. She, too, was alarmed at the course change.

“We agreed to come with you because Cinn’s father wanted to talk to him, back on Gallifrey. You said it would be a quick trip and we would only be gone for the weekend.”

“You will be. I’ll get you back in time for your Sunday night cocoa,” Paracell answered. “And there will still be time for father to discuss your inheritance with you, kiddo.” He ignored Cinnamal’s disgust at being called ‘kiddo’ in front of Jennica. “I’ve had to divert because of this,” he added. He held up a small crystal glass cube with swirling white smoke inside. Cinnamal understood at once. An emergency hypercube had been sent out by a Time Lord in trouble. They were on their way to find out what sort of trouble.

“Where are we going?” Jennica asked. “What planet?”

“Earth,” Paracell responded.

“You should have contacted Chrístõ,” Cinnamal pointed out. “That’s his second home. I spent more time there than anywhere else when he was teaching me.”

“I can’t contact him,” Paracell answered. He passed the hypercube to his brother, who looked at it closely. Etched into the crystal was a design that identified the individual Time Lord who had sent it. This design was a simple one. Two letters of the extended High Gallifreyan alphabet.

TS - Theta Sigma.

“Chrístõ is the Time Lord in trouble?” Jennica asked. She, too, recognised that symbol as the unique signature of the man who had been her teacher for most of her high school years.


“Chrístõ never uses hypercubes,” Cinnamal pointed out. “He thinks they’re a stupid method of communication between Time Lords. He said he would rather risk a migraine with a hyperspace telepathic connection to anyone he wanted to contact. And if he needed to get in touch with you all he had to do was think about something treasonable and you’d be there in a heartsbeat.”

“I know,” Paracell responded. “That’s why I’m worried. If Chrístõ is desperate enough to use a hypercube, then he’s really out of his depth. That’s why I’m going to help him.”

“I thought Chrístõ was on his way to the Gamma quadrant with Julia,” Jennica pointed out a little timorously, wondering if it was all right for a mere Human to interrupt two Gallifreyans. “Why would he be in trouble on Earth?”

“We’re Time Lords,” Cinnamal reminded her. “We don’t work in linear time. Chrístõ could be in trouble some time after his trip to the Olympiad, but Parry got the hypercube now. He has to respond to it. It’s like an SOS to a Human ship’s captain. Not responding just because we’re out of time-synch would be unthinkable.”

“My little brother has learnt surprisingly well,” Paracell said to Jennica. “There’s only one thing he has wrong, and that’s his use of the plural pronoun ‘we’. I’M going to find out what trouble. I’m the director of the Celestial Intervention Agency. I’m the only ACTUAL Time Lord here. Cinn, you may be an adult by Human standards, but you’re a child by ours. And Jennica, you’re a civilian. It would be absolutely irresponsible of me to get you involved in this. Cinnamal, you will stay in the TARDIS and look after Jennica until I get back.”

Cinnamal was so busy protesting about Paracell’s orders that he didn’t even notice that the TARDIS had landed.

“Chrístõ brought me and the Malcannan brothers to all sorts of places,” he protested. “Including assignments YOU sent him on.”

“Chrístõ is old enough and experienced enough to make his own decisions,” Paracell answered. “And so am I. You stay right here. No more arguments or your insubordination will be reported to father. He COULD order you to return to Gallifrey permanently, after all, if he thinks you’re not behaving yourself.”

Cinnamal was outraged at such a threat, but Paracell took no notice of him as he armed himself with a sonic pistol concealed in a shoulder holster beneath a jacket suitable for Earth in the early twenty-first century and a handful of temporal grenades and other useful devices. Then he opened the door and swept outside. The door closed cutting off the brief sound of the busy city street the two youngsters could see on the viewscreen. They watched as Paracell easily melded into the Human population.

“You know, it’s only a few years ago that he was regarded as the worst agent the Celestial Intervention Agency ever had,” Cinnamal pointed out. “He would probably have got the gravity exchange wrong and fallen on his face at the threshold of his TARDIS. It was only in the war that he had to start thinking on his feet and suddenly he was the hero of the hour, leading the liberation force, setting up the new Agency afterwards.”

“I thought Chrístõ was the one who lead the liberation,” Jennica said. “Julia told me about it, once.”

“They both did it. But Parry learnt most of what he knows from Chrístõ. He’d be lost without him. And he thinks he’s so smart. He tells me what to do….”

“This really IS Earth.” Jennica said as Cinnamal grumbled on about his brother.


“Earth is special to colonists, the home world. But I was born on Beta Delta. I never expected to see it.”

“And if Parry has his way, you never will.”

“Well… on Earth… I’m nearly nineteen, and you’re….”

“Over EIGHTY.”

“We’re both of legal age. We don’t need to do what your brother, or anyone, says. We could just go and buy coffee and look around the shops while he’s gone.”

Cinnamal stopped complaining and grinned widely.

“Yeah, we could,” he said. “Come on.”

He grabbed her hand and reached for the door release. He half expected it to be deadlock sealed, but Paracell had trusted him to obey his orders. Cinnamal felt only a twinge of guilt about betraying that trust.

“What has the TARDIS disguised itself as?” Cinnamal asked, turning and looking at the wide round metal and glass structure on the busy city pavement.

“It’s… a sort of mini police station,” Jennica answered. “With touch screen information panels and a phone for calling for the emergency services. This one is the early twenty-first century style. But they used to have them right back to the Victorian age. I’ve seen pictures in history books. This is….”

A blue banner around the top indicated that the police box belonged to the Lancashire constabulary. Beneath that, bright blue-white illuminated lettering scrolled around giving a phone number to contact the local police in a non-emergency. On four sides there were touch-screen panels for other useful information. Jennica touched one of them and found a street map of their immediate area. The TARDIS was playing its disguise to the full.

It also showed the time and date.

“It’s one o’clock in the afternoon on March 31st, 2012,” she reported. “Saturday afternoon. And we are in the City of….”

“Preston,” Cinnamal cut in. “I recognise it. Chrístõ brought me and the Malcannan boys a couple of times. Once he took us to see a football match. His favourite team are Preston North End. Another time he showed us something called The Preston Guild. It was much earlier than this though. That closed up building over there used to be a cinema, and that fancy nightclub wasn’t there. And that bar used to be a bank.”

“I really don’t care where or when it is,” Jennica told him. “It’s Earth. I’m excited. Let’s get that coffee.”

“We need money, first,” Cinnamal answered. He took her by the hand and they walked along the busy pavement before crossing the road carefully. He found a small plastic card in his pocket and put it into a machine set into the wall outside the Co-operative Bank. Presently, money came from a slot. He took his card back.

“I didn’t know automated cash went back this far,” Jennica admitted. “This is quite primitive compared to the way we do it in our time with fingerprint identification. But how come you have money in this bank?”

“Universal credit card,” Cinnamal answered. “It will come out of my allowance when time catches up - with really hefty interest on it!” He grimaced at the thought. “I really hope father will increase my annual limit when I see him. But I can afford a couple of drinks in the meantime.”

He looked hopefully at a Yates Wine Lodge right next to the bank, but Jennica shook her head.

“I really don’t like pubs. There’s a café back across the road. Manyanas. I think that’s Spanish for something. It sounds nice. And if we sit outside we can see the TARDIS from there, in case Parry comes back.”

Cinnamal could have pointed out that it was a LICENCED café, but Jennica had made her mind up. He crossed with her and she sat at a table in the shade of a horse chestnut tree while he went inside and ordered coffee as well as specialty baguette sandwiches.

Jennica looked around. This was nearly four centuries before she was born, and even the most mundane things about this scene interested her. There were far more people than in her time, but most of them were doing the same things she was used to doing on a Saturday afternoon - shopping, having coffee, meeting friends, talking.

The traffic was noisy and there was too much of it for her liking, but it was historical traffic, after all. She noted the advertisements on the sides of the buses for films that were coming to the cinema. She looked at the brand names like Comet and DFS on the sides of vans and lorries; she watched the car drivers on the busy road, and the people walking along the pavements.

She noticed the sounds: ground traffic that made far more noise than the hover cars of her time, people talking – there were far more profanities in their speech than she heard on Beta Delta. That was something that surprised her. Swearing was not prohibited in her society, but nobody felt the need to do it. She usually only heard words like that in holovids and then only from the acknowledged villains of the films. It seemed odd to see perfectly normal people, some near her own age, many of them women, using such language.

She noticed music coming from all directions. Perhaps it was because music played a large part of her life and she was accustomed to hearing it, but she was able to filter those sounds from all others. There was a light jazz coming from inside the café. A car went by with a very loud music playing with an insistent backbeat. People wearing small headsets passed and she heard the tinny but recognisable sounds of their personal music choices. Mobile phones rang with their polyphonic sounds.

There was a lot of very different music in this era. Some of it would be interesting to look up in history files, some of it she didn’t think much of and would gladly leave well alone.

“It’s… exciting,” she told Cinnamal. “Though if I’d had a choice I think I’d have liked a quieter place for my first visit to Earth - a bit of countryside, or a seaside place. Somewhere it could just be the two of us.”

“When I’m out with you, it IS just the two of us,” Cinnamal answered, knowing it was a corny thing to say to a girl, but also knowing that he meant it and that Jennica knew he did.

She smiled warmly at him. Cinnamal liked that smile. He was concentrating on that instead of the cityscape, so he didn’t notice what she noticed.

“Something just happened,” she told him suddenly.

“What sort of something?” he asked.

“Something… a bit like when we saw the temporal anomaly from the roof of the ballet school, only not as extreme as that. You didn’t notice anything?”

“No, I….”

Cinnamal wasn’t a Time Lord, but he was one in potentia, and his body reacted as one. Yes, in the very fibre of his being, he felt that something had occurred. He had been so wrapped up in the joy of an uninterrupted coffee with Jennica that he hadn’t noticed that it HAD been interrupted.

He wondered what Chrístõ or Paracell, or any of his much stricter masters at the Prydonian Academy would have said about him letting emotions overrule his natural instincts.

Then he looked around the street and gave a startled cry. He knocked his chair back with a crash when he jumped up and started to run. Jennica hesitated with the unpaid bill for the coffee in her hands then she ran after him.

“It’s gone!” he exclaimed in a voice shrill with panic. “The TARDIS - it’s gone.”

“No!” Jennica responded. “No, it can’t be.”

But it was. They were standing on the very same corner of the same street. There was the ladies lingerie shop on the corner of the street called Cheapside. There was the camping and outdoor shop right beside them, the enticing looking bookshop opposite.

There was no police information box.

“Paracell must have come back,” she suggested. “And left without realising we weren’t aboard.”

“No, he wouldn’t be so dumb as that,” Cinnamal answered. “He would GUESS that we’d disobeyed him and look for us before taking off. Something has happened to him, or his TARDIS.”

“Come back to the café,” Jennica told him. “We haven’t paid, for one thing. And, anyway, we might be able to think about this better sitting down. We can get another coffee and….”

Cinnamal agreed, but mostly because he was in a worried daze and her suggestion was the only practical one he had.

“Our coffee cups are gone,” Jennica noted when they returned to their seats. “The waiter must have come out. Give me the money. I’ll go in and apologise for us going off without paying. They might not be as cross with a girl….”

Cinnamal handed over a banknote without a word and sat down in the same spot he had been sitting before. He looked around at the street. He hadn’t really paid much attention before. He had been looking at Jennica. Again it occurred to him that he would have picked up some demerits for that. He should have taken complete stock of his surroundings. It would have made it easier to see what was different about it, now.

Something had to be, because Jennica was right. Something like the temporal anomaly HAD occurred. But he couldn’t see anything wrong here except the missing TARDIS.

Jennica came outside followed by a waiter who brought two coffees on a tray. The bill for the drinks and two sandwiches that would be brought out when they were ready was clipped to a small card with the café’s email and website details printed on it.

“I think I know what happened,” Jennica said when the waiter had gone. She picked up the bill. She reached in her pocket for the one from earlier. She showed them to Cinnamal. “The waiters weren’t mad at us for not paying, because they had never seen us before. Look at these bills.”

Cinnamal looked. The price of two coffees and sandwiches was the same on both slips of paper. She had been served by a different waiter this time, Anton, not Frank. But everything else was the same except.…

“The DATE!” He looked again to be sure. The old bill, slightly crumpled from being in Jennica’s hand when they ran from the table, showed that they were served at 1.15 on Saturday, March 31st, 2012.

On the new bill the coffee was served at 1.25 on Friday, March 30th, 2012.

“We’ve jumped back in time a whole day,” Cinnamal noted. “That’s why the TARDIS isn’t here. We haven’t GOT here yet.”

“Then… we just have to wait for it to get here,” Jennica said with a note of relief. “That’s not so bad, is it? But how did it happen?”

“Fracking,” a voice said. Cinnamal and Jennica both looked up at the stranger who stood by their table. He reached and took the two bills. He smiled faintly and nodded. “Yes, just as I thought.”

“Who are you?” Jennica asked. “And… what is….” The word he had said sounded like one of the profanities so casually used by people in this time, but she was sure he wasn’t just swearing at them.

“Chrístõ!” Cinnamal exclaimed. “I mean….” He stood up quickly and bowed his head respectfully. “I mean… Sir…. I….”

“Your manners do you credit, Cinnamal Hext,” he said. “My dear young lady, would you be so kind as to nip inside and order another coffee, then I can sit with you without looking out of place.”

Jennica looked at the man who took the spare seat at their table. He was about fifty or sixty years old by Human standards, with iron grey hair but a wiry vigour about him, still. His eyes were a deep brown and belied any attempt to put an age to him. Of course, if he really was who Cinnamal thought he was then he could be hundreds of years old.

She went to get the coffee.

“It is you, isn’t it?” Cinnamal asked when she returned with a third mug of cappuccino. “Chrístõ….” Again he paused. “I know it isn’t good manners to call you by your given name, but even when you were my teacher you let me….”

“Me, too,” Jennica added. “When you taught the ‘Chrysalids’ at New Canberra High School. You do remember me?”

“Yes, I remember you, Jennica,” Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow answered with a warm smile. “It’s all right, Cinn. You don’t need to defer to me as an elder. We’re not on Gallifrey. Our rules of etiquette need not apply.”

“Parry said we might be out of synch with your timeline,” Cinnamal managed to say.

“Parry?” the older Chrístõ’s eyes darkened and his mouth twisted into a frown. “You’re here with your brother? And he was looking for me?”


“I assumed your presence here was just an astronomical coincidence. Why is the Director of the Celestial Intervention Agency looking for me? I left his organisation a century ago. He has no reason to be interfering in my work.”

Jennica and Cinnamal looked at each other. Both had thought the same thing at the same time. Paracell Hext and Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow were no longer friends in this later timeline.

“He’s not interfering,” Cinnamal assured him. “He intercepted an emergency hypercube from you and diverted straight away. We were on our way to Gallifrey on my father’s orders, but you were more important to him.”

“Your father….” Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow smiled softly. “Yes, in his time Gallifrey was a warmer, kinder place. Now… with Rassilon Gant as president…. Your pretty Human girl wouldn’t be welcome now. It’s all very different.”

“You… shouldn’t be telling us these things,” Cinnamal told him. “Rassilon Gant… he was in the same graduation class as Parry. A stuck up Newblood who took his first name too seriously. How did HE get to be president? Never mind, you really SHOULDN’T have told us that. The point is….”

“I never use hypercubes,” Chrístõ added, getting to the point. “They’re an incredibly stupid method of communication.”

“Cinnamal told his brother that,” Jennica pointed out. “But you’re here, after all. So it must be right. Why else….”

“I was here for a perfectly ordinary reason,” Chrístõ answered. “Nothing dangerous at all. I was just recalibrating a temporal node.”

Jennica was puzzled. That sentence meant nothing to her. Even Cinnamal didn’t look entirely sure he understood. Their older companion smiled at them again.

“Temporal nodes are scattered across the whole universe. No, they’re nothing to do with us. The Ancients established them when Gallifrey was still a cooling piece of molten rock thrown out from the new star it orbited. But we do accept a certain responsibility for caretaking them. They’re always put in event stable locations. Boring places in other words. This is one of them.”

“This city?” Jennica asked.

“Yes, this city,” Chrístõ confirmed. “It stands on an event stable platform. Nothing of any significance happens here. The only thing it’s famous for is the expression ‘as unlikely as an earthquake in Preston.’ It’s a perfect place for a temporal node.”

“And these nodes do what?” Cinnamal asked.

“They make time appear to go in a straight time,” Chrístõ answered. “They’re the reason tomorrow follows today.”

“Not around here, it doesn’t.” Jennica waved the two bills for coffee meaningfully.

“If a local node gets knocked out of synch it can cause those sort of problems,” Chrístõ added. “Humans and other non-advanced sentients would never really notice, except in vague ways – moments of Déjà vu or a feeling that the week is really dragging. But you two noticed because you’re time travellers. Fortunately it should be the last one. I’ve stabilised the node.”

“Is that where fracking comes into it?” Cinnamal asked.

“It’s not just a rude word, then?” Jennica added.

“It’s to do with mineral explorations,” Cinnamal told her with the knowledge of one who, though he chose a different career, came from a family who got rich from the more precious of the minerals that made up the fabric of the universe. “It involves boring into rocks and forcing liquid or free-flowing granulated particles into them at high pressure to break open the strata and expose the valuable mineral layers or in civilisations that still exploit fossil fuels, oil or gas seams.”

Chrístõ nodded. It was the text book explanation.

“They’ve been doing a lot of fracking in West Lancashire in the past couple of years. It caused shock waves, not quite strong enough for an earthquake in Preston, but enough to knock the temporal node out of synch. As I said, I fixed it. It should be all right now. In a couple of years fracking will be abandoned on this planet as a stupidly dangerous and stupidly pointless way of finding oil and tomorrow will carry on following today.”

“All’s well that ends well, then,” Cinnamal concluded. “We just have to find a way to pass the time until tomorrow, wait for the TARDIS to turn up, wait for us to leave it, then sneak back in.”

“No,” Jennica told him. “There’s more to it than that. “Don’t you see? Chrístõ is here for a perfectly ordinary reason… well, ordinary for a Time Lord, anyway. But we DID get a hypercube that said he was in trouble. And your brother has gone to find out what sort of trouble he’s in. I think it might be a trap, because if Chrístõ didn’t send a hypercube, and we all know he wouldn’t because he thinks they’re stupid….”

“Then who did?”

“Let’s find out,” Chrístõ said, taking the bill for coffee and sandwiches from Jennica’s unresisting hand and going to settle it at the counter. When he came outside again he told the two youngsters to follow him.

“My TARDIS is close by,” he said. “You two will be safe there until I find Paracell Hext and get to the bottom of this.”

“You want us to wait in the TARDIS?” Cinnamal complained. “You’re as bad as Parry. Won’t either of you realise we’re not just kids?”

“No,” Chrístõ replied. “You ARE a kid, and Jennica is a Human mixed up in things she shouldn’t be mixed up in. Do as you’re told.”

“We don’t have to obey you,” Cinnamal added. “You’re not my teacher now, and we’re not on Gallifrey. We could just do our own thing.”

“Cinn,” Jennica whispered. “It’s Chrístõ. We have ALWAYS trusted him. We should do what he thinks is best.”

Cinnamal reluctantly conceded the point. They followed him around the corner then past a short block of shops and around another corner that brought them to the entrance to a tall, elegant building that Jennica would have called Victorian classicism but Cinnamal and Chrístõ called mid-Rassilonian. Ionic columns and relief carvings of heroic figures on pediments were the defining features of the building.

Inside was a foyer where postcards and guide books were on sale and two staircases that wound towards the upper floors. Chrístõ mounted the stairs, nodding reverently towards the huge bronze plaque listing the local dead from two world wars before carrying on past an assortment of framed paintings by artists of different styles and periods of art history. Jennica thought it might be nice to look at the paintings, but there wasn’t time. They walked up two flights of stairs, quickly passing more interesting art and history on each floor before coming to a quiet landing with displays of old glassware in cases. There was another staircase going up but a green rope closed it off from the public. Chrístõ stepped over the rope and carried on up until the stairs turned sharply right. There was a door in the wall marked ‘staff only’. Jennica and Cinnamal followed him in.

Like its owner, the TARDIS looked older than Cinnamal remembered, but it WAS the same machine he knew.

“What about Humphrey?” Jennica asked. “Is he still with you?”

“He’s hibernating in the library,” Chrístõ answered. “Been there for a century already. He’ll wake up when he’s ready.”

“What about my brother?” Cinnamal asked, bringing him to the serious matter.

“Patience, boy. There is a lot of temporal confusion around here, and I don’t think the node is responsible for all of it. I believe there has been some kind of unshielded vortex manipulation device used in this vicinity recently.”

Jennica didn’t even pretend to understand what he meant. Cinnamal made a guess.

“Something other than a TARDIS – two TARDISes even – has been used around here. But what else is there?”

“We are not the only race with time travel capabilities,” Chrístõ responded. “Much as the High Council would wish it, we cannot prevent the development of crude devices that bend the vortex to the will of others. Nor can we police the way such devices are employed… not without coming out from behind the Transduction Barrier and making a concerted effort, anyway.”

Cinnamal wondered just how many things had changed on Gallifrey in his future. He wasn’t sure he liked the effect it had on his friend.

“Hah!” he cried out suddenly and his face and body became animated in a way that was reminiscent of the Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow Cinnamal and Jennica knew. “Hold on tight. We’re going nowhere fast.”

They didn’t understand the second part of that comment, but ‘hold on tight’ made sense to both of the youngsters. They grabbed solid parts of the console room as the TARDIS bucked and twisted violently.

“Why did it do that?” Cinnamal asked when it was still again.

“Because I was following the unshielded vortex manipulation,” Chrístõ answered. “It caused turbulence. I think, on the whole, you’d better come with me. You’ll only try to follow anyway and you’ll get into more trouble.”

He opened the door. They stepped out onto the same landing in the museum and walked down the same stairs but with subtle differences. The paintings on the walls had changed. The war memorial at the bottom was the same, but the foyer was duller. There were no postcards for sale at the reception desk and a room that had offered free internet access was now the music library in which they glimpsed row after row of sheet music and paper sleeves containing long playing discs.

“Going nowhere fast,” Cinnamal recalled as they stepped out of the museum and followed Chrístõ, who seemed to know where he was going. “We stayed where we were but went back in time?”

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered. “1971, forty-one years before you and your brother arrived. It was a good year for Preston North End. They got promoted to the second division. But they’re really behind on building the new Guild Hall.”

He crossed the road at a wide angle and headed towards what looked like a wasteland of rubble closed off by wooden and metal fencing. There was no work going on at the site. The excavators and bulldozers all stood like frozen dinosaurs around the newly constructed foundations. There were three men there, though. Two of them were fighting. The other watched in horror.

“Parry!” Cinnamal recognised his brother as the by-stander and ran to him, stumbling twice on the rough ground. “Parry, what’s going on? Why are you here?”

“Why are YOU here?” he responded. “You’re supposed to be in the TARDIS.”

Paracell Hext looked past his brother at Jennica and the older Chrístõ as they picked their way a little more carefully across the rubble. He looked from them to the two men who were fighting. So did Cinnamal.


One of the men got the upper hand at last. He hit the other in such a way that his head was snapped back. The sound of his neck breaking was a sharp crack in the sudden silence. Then, almost in slow motion, his body fell backwards, over the edge of the deep foundation trench. Cinnamal stepped close in time to see it sinking into the drying cement.

“What is that?” he asked, noting the dark green leathery scales on the body before it disappeared from view. “A shapeshifter? When you were fighting, it looked like….”

“Keep back, kiddo, you don’t want to join him. They’re sticking up a huge building here. Your skeleton won’t see daylight for another century along with his.”

“Kiddo?” Cinnamal looked at the man who had been the victor in the fight. He recognised something of his older brother’s mannerisms. Of course, if one Time Lord was out of his timeline, another one could be.

He looked back at his brother as he knew him, in his early 200s.

“Yes, he’s me, too. We BOTH intercepted a hypercube, supposedly from Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow. You’ll have worked out, by now, that it wasn’t him. That was a shape-shifting assassin with me as his target. But having seen all of this from HIS point of view two hundred years ago I had the upper hand. I allowed him to drag us both back to this date with his primitive temporal manipulator because otherwise it would have been a damned paradox.”

“Before you killed him….” Cinnamal glanced at the older Chrístõ who was standing with Jennica, mere witnesses to what had unfolded. “He looked like….”

“Me.” Cinnamal spun around at the sound of a familiar voice. The younger man he knew as Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow was standing near the younger version of Paracell Hext. “Well, him, actually. The older me. I was just here for a football match, but I saw the echo of an unshielded vortex machine and came to investigate. So who wants to explain what this was all about?”

“I will,” the older Paracell answered. “It was a murder plot. Only I wasn’t the one who was meant to be murdered – just wounded enough to think that Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow intended to kill me – so that I would pursue him and take him back to Gallifrey to be tried for treason. He’d be executed, his name disgraced….”

“Why would that….” Jennica began to ask, feeling it was about time she had something to say.

“Because in our time, Gallifreyan politics has two main factions,” the older Chrístõ explained. “The one in power, in which Paracell Hext is a main player, and the other, led by me. If it was believed that I had tried to kill my political enemy, if I was executed for it…. Well, draw your own conclusions.”

“Was it Gant who paid the imposter.” Cinnamal asked. “Is this his plot?”

“I don’t know,” the older Paracell answered. “But it’s possible that I have been misplaced in my political alliances.” He looked at the older version of Chrístõ. “We may both have made mistakes, old friend.”

“Yes, it’s possible,” Chrístõ replied. There was still a coolness in his voice, but it looked as if they understood each other better, now.

“We should get out of here, now,” the older Paracell pointed out. “I used a temporal grenade to slow time within the building site, but when it wears off we’ll all be arrested for trespassing. Some of us are going to need a lift back to the twenty-first century where we left our TARDISes. It might be better if I go with you, and the younger ones stick together.”

“My TARDIS is over there, disguised as a portacabin,” the younger Chrístõ said. “Come on, you three.”

A little while later Chrístõ’s TARDIS was disguised as a pillar supporting the porch over the entrance to the Ann Sommers shop on the corner of Cheapside and Fishergate. On the viewscreen they all watched Paracell leave the police information kiosk TARDIS and get his bearings before heading towards the temporal trap set for his older self. A few minutes later Cinnamal and Jennica left. They waited until the temporal hiccup from the node had pulled the two of them back a day before they risked leaving Chrístõ’s TARDIS.

“Before we go,” Cinnamal Hext said, looking at his brother and Chrístõ. “I’ve been thinking about what I’ve seen and heard about the future… our world split by political discord… and the two of you as enemies because of it. I want you to promise me that you won’t let it happen. On your honour as Time Lords of Gallifrey, don’t let anything come between the two of you, and for Chaos sake, try to stop a jumped up nothing like Gant from getting into power.”

“We’d be risking a huge paradox,” Chrístõ pointed out.

“I don’t care. I don’t want our world to turn out that way. Try, at least.”

“We’ll try,” his brother told him. “Now, get back in my TARDIS, and next time I tell you to stay put, remember I have a fully equipped brig I can lock you in, AND a full set of implements of torture.”