Julia was staying the night with Chrístõ again. She was already asleep in the bed beside him. He reached out and brushed her cheek with his fingers and smiled. She wasn’t his wife, yet. There were still another four years to go, but this was a foretaste of the contentment he could look forward to when they were married and he had a right to sleep beside her every night.

“I love you, Julia,” he whispered before he closed his eyes and prepared to sleep. That was something he did much more easily when she was with him. When he slept alone, he so often didn’t sleep at all. He would lie awake for a long time, and then choose to spend the night hours in mind and body renewing meditation instead. Two or three hours in a state of trance were as good, if not better, than seven hours ordinary sleep, and there was the additional advantage of no dreams when he did that.

It would puzzle most people to know that a man as fearless as he was in all else was afraid of his own dreams. It was a weakness, a failing, something his enemies could put down to his weak part-Human blood, to a feebleness of the mind that was unforgivable in a Time Lord.

But for as long as he could remember he had hated to dream. When he was a very little boy he had frequently cried out in the night, bringing nursemaids or sometimes his mother or father to his room to comfort him. After his mother’s death and their return to Gallifrey, he remembered his father often carrying him to the master bedroom and allowing him to sleep in his bed beside him. But there had come a time when the little boy had to grow up and cope with the fears of the night without comfort, without disturbing anyone else. There certainly wouldn’t have been any good in crying out in the dormitory at the Prydonian Academy where the only response would have been cruel jibes and censure.

Now he was a man, and he still hated the dreams that came to him in sleep, so more often than not he cleared his mind and let himself drop into a third level trance where his brain didn’t function at all and couldn’t conjure up any demons for him.

But when he lay beside the woman he loved, he didn’t need to do that. He could sleep peacefully. He kissed her gently on the lips and smiled as he closed his eyes, listening to her soft breathing and her single heartbeat next to his syncopated pair and knew he had nothing to fear this night.

He had actually fallen asleep, but not for very long. Certainly not long enough to start dreaming. He woke suddenly and sat up in the darkened room. He thought he had screamed, but Julia was still asleep beside him.

Then he felt again what had woken him so abruptly. His hand gripped the back of his neck as he felt a searing pain there. He groaned loudly, disturbing Humphrey from under the bed. He loomed in the darkness trilling his concern.

“It’s all right, old pal,” Chrístõ whispered to him. “I’m fine. Just a twinge of lumbago or something.”

That was nonsense, of course. Very elderly Time Lords or those approaching regeneration did sometimes suffer from afflictions of that sort, but he certainly didn’t.

It was his scar hurting him, the rough tissue that covered the place where the letters TS – Theta Sigma – had been seared into his flesh by the group of pure-blood bullies who had victimised him.

“Don’t be stupid,” he told himself. “I’m not bloody Harry Potter.”

No, it wasn’t the scar. It was under that. He could actually feel the birthmark beneath the tissue, the mark he once didn’t even know he had. Now he could trace it with his fingers. The lines that had formed a perfect Seal of Rassilon before that attack were hot to the touch. The birthmark was burning on his skin.

“I’m not a flaming Death Eater, either,” he added to himself, echoing the same literary allusion. “What’s going on?”

“Son of Rassilon,” a voice said directly in his head. “Don’t resist me. Come, join me here.”

“Join who?” he demanded. “What’s going on?”

That was the second time he had asked the question aloud.

This time he had an answer, of sorts.

The dark room was suddenly flooded with painfully bright light. He screwed his eyes shut against actinic white and throbbing green that stabbed at the back of his retinas and gave him a headache to go with the pain in the neck.

Then the light was gone, and so was he.

“I’m still not Harry Potter,” he said to himself. “And that wasn’t a Portkey.”

“Who is Harry Potter?” a voice asked. “That is not a Gallifreyan name.”

“He’s not important,” Chrístõ replied. The voice was not inside his head this time. He turned to see a young man perhaps a little older than himself, dressed in a gold and black robe with the Seal of Rassilon emblazoned over it and a high collar as worn by Time Lords for ceremonial occasions.

He felt a little under-dressed in black satin pyjamas.

“If you wish to dress the same as I you only need to think of yourself clothed so,” the stranger told him.

“I don’t wish to dress the same as you,” Chrístõ answered. “Outfits like that are one reason I don’t go home for formal occasions.”

He thought of his comfortable familiar, black leather jacket ensemble that he preferred to wear on any given day. To his utter surprise he looked down and found that he was wearing it.

“I just have to think about clothes and I’m wearing them?” he queried. “That’s a talent wasted on me. I’m not really much of a follower of fashion. My stepmother would probably give actual organs of her body for the chance. Who ARE you and what am I doing here? Where IS here and how did you bring me here?”

“I am Degea Braxietel,” the stranger answered. “This is my planet. I brought you here by power of thought.”

“YOUR planet?” Chrístõ had not paid much attention to his surroundings yet. He was still trying to make up his mind if he was dreaming. If he was, then his own imagination was working overtime on the view. He was standing on a flat plateau near the top of a mountain. He could see a vast landscape below with a silver river winding through a wide valley between high mountain ranges. The whole vista had a red-ochre colour that reminded him of the cold northern tundra beyond the Red Desert of Gallifrey.

He looked up at a burnt orange sky very like that of Gallifrey and confirmed that it wasn’t his home planet. The sky of Gallifrey had constellations of stars in it. This sky had no stars at all even though it was a clear night with dawn just breaking on the western horizon. A bi-coloured moon, silver and copper colours swirling around each other, brightened one portion of the heavens, but the rest was burnt orange.

“MY Planet,” Braxietel repeated. “Do you like it? I modelled it on a familiar pattern.”

“You mean….?” Chrístõ decided not to chase that train of thought for the moment. “Braxietel…. It’s an oldblood name. You must be from Gallifrey. But I still don’t know you. I know the Braxietel family. But they don’t have a son. So who are you?”

“I am like you…one of the children of Rassilon, marked out by him… literally.” Braxietel pulled up the sleeve of the robe to reveal a birthmark on his upper arm. Chrístõ felt the birthmark on his own neck burning like a brand. The one on Braxietel’s arm glowed faintly. It had to be painful to him, too, but he showed no signs of it. He tried not to show his own discomfort. He had a feeling some kind of rebuke about his weak half-Human blood would follow if he did.

“You’re out of your timeline, then,” he said. “There hasn’t been anyone with that mark born on Gallifrey for millennia. At least four generations. I’ve had people telling me that for years… how the birthmark made me special, how I was destined for greatness because of it, how unique I am among my generation.”

“Doesn’t it just make you sick?” Braxietel asked.


“They told me all of that, too. Then they did everything they could do stop me achieving that greatness. That’s why I left Gallifrey. Free from all those rules, all those restrictions on what I can do… I achieved so very much. I am not just a child of Rassilon. I am GREATER than Rassilon.”

“But that makes you a Renegade,” Chrístõ pointed out. “A traitor.”

“To Gallifrey, perhaps,” Braxietel retorted. “But I have been true to myself. Come and see my world in all of its glory.”

Chrístõ didn’t have time to respond to that. Braxietel reached out and touched him over the still burning place on the back of his neck and the ground fell away beneath his feet. Moments later he found himself looking down on Braxietel’s planet from orbit. He was standing on nothing in the vacuum of space.

“Why am I not asphyxiating?” he asked. “Why am I even able to speak?”

“Because you are like me. The rules don’t apply to us. Not even the rules of physics.”

“They always used to. I may have bent a few out of shape but gravity wasn’t one of them.”

“Come,” Braxietel said again. “Fly with me.”

“I don’t fly,” Chrístõ protested. But then he wondered who he was trying to tell, his companion or himself.

Because he WAS flying, through the outer layer of the atmosphere surrounding the planet. He must have been going at a cracking speed, too, because within a few minutes the arid zone they had stood in had given way to a polar ice cap, then they flew over an ocean, first dotted with icebergs and frozen islets, then a temperate zone with a small continent covered in forests, then equatorial waters with coral islands complete with turquiose lagoons. It occurred to Chrístõ that his eyes were doing something unusual, too. They were far too high to see details on those little islands no more than a mile across, but when he focussed he saw it all close up.

There was another continent south of the equator, if such directions meant anything. This one had a huge desert that gave way eventually to temperate forest. Then it got colder again as they approached the opposite pole. This one began with a high, sheer cliff of ice with a deep valley at the top between mountains that rose even higher. Chrístõ was vaguely reminded of the Mountains of Solace and Solitude in deep winter, except it was clearly always winter here.

“Always winter and never Christmas,” Chrístõ thought, finally getting one literary reference out of his head in favour of another. They had descended from the upper atmosphere now and were flying along the valley. Looming in the distance was an enviro-dome enclosing what could only be described as an ice palace. It was dazzling white with slender pinnacled towers of various heights that probably served no purpose other than decoration. A central dome of opaque silvery-white rose up behind the pinnacles. It was a spectacular building.

“My home,” Braxietel said as they landed on a wide balcony with elaborately carved balustrades. Braxietel waved his hand and a huge crystal glass door opened. They stepped onto a mezzanine floor with a grand staircase of twisted silver-grey metal leading down to the floor of the ‘throne room’. The domed roof was overhead. From the inside it was transparent and the copper-silver moon shone down directly. Torches that gave off a bright white flame gave further illumination.

Braxietel descended the stairs and sat himself down on an ornate chair made of the same twisted metal as the staircase. The Seal of Rassilon formed part of the decoration upon it. The Seal was also etched into the black marble table before him.

Braxietel waved and chairs appeared at his left and right side. He indicated with a careless gesture that Chrístõ should sit on his right. He did so because otherwise he would have been standing uselessly.

Braxietel clapped his hands and a wide double door opposite the stairs opened. Liveried servants brought food and drink on silver plates. Chrístõ wasn’t hungry but he drank a little of the wine to clear his dry throat.

A stunningly lovely young woman dressed in floating and almost transparent layers of silk came to sit on Braxietel’s left side. He kissed her cheek and offered her wine. She accepted without speaking.

“This is my favourite wife, Aeolia,” he said. “She doesn’t talk, which is a very commendable virtue in a woman, don’t you think?”

“Not really. What do you mean by favourite? How many do you have?”

“As many as I please,” Braxietel answered. “I haven’t counted them lately. I sense disapproval from you. Rassilon himself was reputed to have had many wives.”

“He had many sons,” Chrístõ said. “I don’t know if that was with one very fertile wife or more than one. And history is silent about whether the wives were serial or simultaneous. But polygamy is not a part of modern Gallifreyan life, and yes, I do find the idea disturbing.”

“I thought you would be more like me,” Braxietel complained. “More adventurous.”

“I’m very adventurous,” Chrístõ responded. “But I don’t see any adventure going on around here. What is this place, really? And why are you here? Why am I here?”

“Did you pick up this habit of asking multiple questions from the species I found you among?” Braxietel asked.

“Yes, I think I did. Are you going to answer any of these questions?”

“Of course I am. That is WHY I brought you here - to share my world with one of my own, with a Child of Rassilon worthy of my legacy.”

“WHAT legacy?”

“All of this,” Braxietel insisted. “All of the power, the unlimited power of Creation.”

“Nobody has that Power, not even the Time Lords. Not even Rassilon. Even though he is called the Creator of our race he didn’t actually fashion us from the dust. The Gallifreyan race existed already. He simply changed our DNA to make us more powerful. Not ALL powerful, but more powerful, capable of so very much, but not omnipotent. He never intended us to be GODS.”

“Exactly my point,” Braxietel said. “He limited us. Even the thirteen lives he gave us was a limitation. He stopped us from being immortal.”

“That’s a good thing. We would be a very over-populated world if we could all live forever.”

“It wasn’t good enough for me,” Braxietel answered impatiently. “It wasn’t enough to live within the stifling confines of Time Lord society. I wanted more. I left Gallifrey, I searched the universe for a place where I could be truly powerful. And I found it, here.”

“Where IS here?” Chrístõ asked, curiosity getting the better of him. “Yes, I know it’s YOUR planet, but where is it exactly?”

“The exact space co-ordinate is my secret,” Braxietel answered. “I don’t want Time Lords coming here uninvited. I found a nebula on the very edge of N-Space. The particles of dust were held together by naturally occurring artron energy, the same energy that is within all Time Lords, but in such small quantities that our powers and abilities are limited. Here, there are no limits. I created a sun with a planet orbiting it, a moon to orbit the planet. I terra-formed it to my liking and built a palace. I peopled it with servants who would do my bidding.”

“You did all of that?” There must have been a lot of artron energy in the nebula to actually create a fission burning star. That was an incredible thing on its own. The rest was easy by comparison.

“I did.”

“Well, colour me impressed,” Chrístõ told him. “What I’ve seen so far is very good. But what’s the point? You’re king of your own world… but what else do you do? Apart from organise rotas for your wives, anyway.”

“What else is there to do? I have everything I want.”

“Have you?” Chrístõ queried.

“Of course.”

Chrístõ glanced at the pretty ‘wife’ by Braxietel’s side - a silent creature who looked at him with an expression of pure adoration.

An expression of utter emptiness.

He thought of Julia, a bright, beautiful girl with many talents, including the ability to think and speak for herself.

Compared to her, Braxietel’s favourite wife was just a very lifelike doll.

“You think so?” Braxietel responded coolly. Chrístõ was surprised, then surprised at himself for not expecting so powerful a Time Lord to be able to read his mind at will.

“Yes, I do think so,” Chrístõ responded. “But if that’s what makes you happy don’t let me get in your way.”

“Nothing gets in my way. That’s my whole point. I am all powerful. I am the master of this whole world.”

“I hope you have an army to defend it. There are a lot of envious races out there and you don’t have the protection of the Transduction Barrier.”

“I have better than that,” Braxietel answered. “The nebula is a hundred thousand light years across even after I pulled so much matter from it. Most space craft avoid it. Those who don’t….”

Chrístõ felt his touch inside his mind. Images flashed across the inside of his eyes. He saw a Sontaran fleet, a mothership and thousands of fighter craft enter the nebula. They immediately began to glow as artron charged dust coated their hulls. Power arced and spat, and then the ships disintegrated.

The same happened to a Sycorax powered-asteroid as big as a small moon and several other craft that Chrístõ didn’t recognise.

“No!” he exclaimed. “No, that isn’t how Time Lords defend themselves. The Transduction Barrier is impenetrable, but it doesn’t do that. How many ships have you destroyed that way?”

“I haven’t counted,” Braxietel answered. “It doesn’t matter. If they hadn’t tried to penetrate the nebula they would have been safe. They only have themselves to blame.”

“But it’s murder,” Chrístõ protested. “What if some of them weren’t hostile? Did you even give them a chance?”

“I don’t kill all of them,” Braxietel said. “If they’re humanoid, and pretty enough, I bring them to the planet. There is plenty of land for them. Some of them serve me here in the palace in various ways. Aeolia is the fifth generation of her tribe born here after her ancestors blundered into the nebula. My first wife was the daughter of the captain of a Vaenusian ship that went the same way. Do you know the Vaenusians? All of the adults are at least six food tall, ebony skinned – I’d never seen a woman like her before. I took all three of her sisters as wives eventually.”

“And the ones that aren’t so ‘pretty’?” Chrístõ queried.

“I have an extensive zoo on that large continent we passed over before we reached the polar zone.”

“A zoo?”

“Where else would you keep something as ugly as a Zygon or a Judoon?” Braxietel asked. “I keep a few here in the palace, too. Would you like to see some sport?”

“What?” Chrístõ was still reeling over the idea that there was a ‘zoo’ where non-humanoid alien beings were kept. He couldn’t yet take in this notion of ‘sport’. He wasn’t quite sure what to expect when Braxietel waved his hand and a deep, wide well opened up in the floor of the throne room. He looked down to see barred gates below and a pungent smell of captive animals.

A gate opened with a clang and a huge creature with horns on its head and fearsome claws on all six legs charged, snorting and growling angrily. From another gate a being that stood on two legs but had a head resembling an Earth rhinoceros stepped forward. He was wearing a sort of leather armour and was holding a pair of long knives, but it seemed precious little protection against the thing with the horns and claws.

“Judoon,” Braxietel said with a cold laugh. “All brawn and no brain. They usually put up a good fight against the Erkkan Beast.”

“This is your idea of sport?”

“Would you prefer a genteel game of lacrosse?” Braxietel replied.

“Yes, actually,” Chrístõ responded. He watched in horror as the beast charged and the Judoon dodged as nimbly as such a squarely built being could manage and stuck one of his knives into the creature’s neck. It howled with rage and twisted its head, piercing the Judoon in the chest. He staggered back, his own blood mixing with the darker red-black gore that spilled from the creature. He held his other knife defensively and managed to stab the creature in one eye, but again he took a desperate wound to the chest. He was staggering when he lunged again, blinding the creature completely. He had the upper hand now, and stabbed again and again with the knife, piercing the creature’s thick hide. But even blinded the beast fought back with horns and claws. The Judoon was taking terrible wounds and when he fell and the creature reared over him it was all over for him.

“That was sick!” Chrístõ protested. “It was barbaric. Rassilon himself put a stop to this kind of thing on Gallifrey millennia before even your time. How could you?”

The wounded creature was forced back inside the gate by two Judoon with electronic shields. Their dead comrade was carried out of the arena. No sooner were they gone, than two more gates opened.

“Watch this!” Braxietel said with glee in his voice.

A tall, ebony-skinned man dressed in leather and armed with a whip and a sword stood looking around, wondering what he was meant to be fighting. Then he reeled back, winded and dazed while a bloody wound appeared in his shoulder. Something had hit him with great force and slashed at him with a blade at the same time, but there appeared to be nothing in the arena with him.

“What is it?” Chrístõ demanded.

“I have no idea what it’s called,” Braxietel answered. “But it’s a killer. I’ve never seen anyone walk out of the arena when set against it.”

“That’s enough. I’m not going to stand by and watch murder for sport,” Chrístõ said. He looked down from the very edge of the pit. It was a long drop. But after all, this planet was created using artron energy. It was suffused with it. He could feel it in his molecules.

He could fly. Braxietel had shown him how. He could control a descent into a cockpit of death. He landed softly and stood in front of the wounded Vaenusian. He raised his arms and thought about an energy shield. The air in front of him shimmered and then wobbled as the invisible creature charged at it and was repelled.

“Show yourself,” Chrístõ commanded. He was surprised when what appeared in front of him looked just like a Pazithi wolf of Gallifrey. They were fierce, wild creatures, but neither the bite nor the claws matched the wound on the Vaenusian’s shoulder and chest.

“Show your true self,” he commanded with all of the authority of his Oldblood heritage. The creature shimmered and turned into something that made the Vaenusian yelp in terror and then settled into a four foot high mound of thick fur with a pair of large eyes near the top and two big toes sticking out at the bottom. It mewed unhappily.

“That’s a Medusan bear,” Chrístõ commented, letting the shield fall. “It isn’t fierce at all in its passive form. You forced it into its defensive stance, shape-shifting and cloaking itself to fight its enemies.”

“Yes, of course,” Braxietel answered from above. “There’s no sport in it otherwise.”

Chrístõ turned and looked at the gates leading into underground passages below the fantasy palace. There were men of the Vaenusian race, some others with lighter skin, and a number of the Judoon there.

“Open the gates,” Chrístõ commanded. “Let these slaves free.” There were serial clunks and rattles and a rising murmur from within the dungeons. Chrístõ turned and looked at the wounded man. He put his hand over the terrible gashes in his flesh and willed them to mend. “Go now, along with the others. Find what transport there is to return to your tribes.”

The man looked at Chrístõ and murmured a thanks for his life and then ran. The Medusan bear looked at him and then went to the corner of the pit and curled up in a furry ball. It went to sleep.

Chrístõ flew back out of the pit and grabbed Degea Braxietel by the throat, pushing him to the floor. He was so surprised he didn’t even try to fight back at first. Chrístõ got four good punches in before he responded.

When he did, he made a fight of it. He had been lazy and self- indulgent for who knew how long, but he had once been trained to be a Time Lord. He knew the martial art of Sun Ko Du practiced by the candidates in their last fifty years at the academy. It was a fight between equals.

The throne room filled with onlookers, servants of Degea Braxietel, but none of them tried to interfere. Some of the women gathered around the table with Aeolia. They must have been his other wives, but they looked with mute and only vague interest, as if they didn’t care who won the fight.

“You’ve bred a people with no ideas in their heads,” Chrístõ told his opponent. “Not even loyalty. They don’t love you. They don’t even fear you. You’re nothing. This world of yours is nothing.”

“You’re wrong,” Braxietel argued even as they fought each other. “I have built a paradise. That’s why I brought you here… to share it with me. You… and I… we are the same… chosen by Rassilon, yet abandoned by him at the same time, denied the true power that could be ours. I offer it to you… to my brother….”

“I only have one brother,” Chrístõ responded. “He’s seven years old, but even he would recognise this for a castle built upon sand.”

Braxietel screamed in anger and pushed Chrístõ so hard that they were both lifted off the floor. Chrístõ repelled him so violently that he flew up towards the crystal domed ceiling and smashed straight through it. Chrístõ created a shield to protect the people below from the falling shards and then flew after him. He caught up with his opponent beneath the enviro-dome, but that, too, was no limit to either of them with so much artron energy suffusing them. Their two bodies melted through it as if it was a soap bubble, and still grappling with each other they rose higher and higher.

“Even if I hadn’t seen the horror beneath your throne room, I would have refused your offer,” Chrístõ said as they left the planet’s atmosphere altogether. “I don’t need anything you have. I already have more. I have a woman who truly loves me, a family, a home I am welcome in any time. I have the loyalty of real friends. I pity you, Degea Braxietel, because you have none of those things.”

“Pity?” Braxietel was astonished. “You pity me? I could crush you like a fly… and you pity me?”

“You can’t crush me,” Christo answered. “I am just as powerful as you. The artron energy sustains me just as it sustains you. You can’t defeat me.”

“I will kill you, if you defy me,” Braxietel told him. “You will die, screaming and begging for mercy.”

With that he pushed hard despite the fact that they were in the vacuum of space and there was nothing to push against. The momentum carried them both further away from the planet, past its beautiful moon, past the sun that warmed it.

Chrístõ knew when they had entered the dense nebula of artron charged dust particles. He felt it in every molecule of his body. It was painful, very painful. He felt as if his skin was being abraded by every speck of dust that was attracted to it. His lungs were full of it. His blood was boiling as his body was over-whelmed by the energy that gave long life and the power of regeneration to Time Lords, but in this volume would surely take away both.

Then he felt himself floating in ordinary space. He was still alive, and he wasn’t yet suffocating, though he knew that might not last long. They had emerged on the outside of the nebula.

It occurred to Chrístõ that the nebula was thousands of light years wide and it should have taken an eternity to make such a journey. But he was alive, he wasn’t asphyxiating. One more impossible thing didn’t really signify.

He was better off than Degea Braxietel. Chrístõ floated weightlessly and watched a terrible transformation come upon him. In seconds his body got old. Then a bright orange glow surrounded him and he regenerated, but only for a few seconds again before he aged and regenerated again.

“How long have you ruled your world, Braxietel?” Chrístõ asked him. “The artron energy kept you young, gave you immortality, but only as long as you remained within the nebula. Now it’s all catching up on you.”

Braxietel couldn’t answer. He was too busy screaming. Chrístõ had lost count of his regenerations, but he must have been running out of them. He grabbed him and dived back into the nebula. Again it was an agonising experience, the more so for Braxietel, who seemed all the more susceptible to the ravaging of the artron energy.

Then they were back in the internal space where there were no stars. Chrístõ kept hold of Braxietel and headed towards the southern pole of the planet, to the enviro-dome over the ice palace. He aimed for the hole in the crystal dome and landed smoothly on the very same spot where they had fought before.

The people were still there, looking at the debris of the broken dome, looking at each other in wonder. When Chrístõ stood before them they bowed and called him Lord.

“I’m not your Lord,” he answered them. “HE is.” Braxietel groaned and struggled to his feet. Aeolia, his favourite wife, broke from the group and came to him. She reached out and touched his face. It was lined with age but something of his previous vigour returned to him as he stood up straight and allowed her to kiss him on the cheek.

“It looks like you were near the end of your last life when I brought you back,” Chrístõ told him. “It was a close thing. A few more seconds and you’d be dead. I wouldn’t have lost any sleep over you. But these people need some guidance. Without you they don’t know what to do, which is entirely your fault.”

“I….” Braxietel looked around. The people, with the exception of the woman he clung to, all bowed.

“They still recognise you as their Lord. That’s good. Now, have some sense. Rule them well. Teach them to look after themselves, to govern themselves so that, if you ever tire of eternity and take yourself back outside the nebula and make an end of it, they will be all right without you.”

“I don’t have to” Braxietel replied. “You can’t leave. I brought you here. I won’t send you back.”

“I’ll take myself back. You know I can. Anything you can do, I can do… better.” He grinned as the song lyric he had accidentally quote played in his head. “Give me your word, as a Time Lord of Gallifrey, in the name of Rassilon, that you WILL change this place for the better. Close that pit below us, care for the creatures you have kept in your ‘zoo’, make life better for your sentient subjects. Vow it, Braxietel, or I will destroy you. You know that I CAN.”

“I vow,” he said. “In the name of Rassilon, my Creator and my Lord, as a Time Lord of Gallifrey. I will… I will do as you ask.”

“Good. Aeolia, it seems like you love him despite everything. You look after him. Maybe he can become a better man.”

The silent girl nodded. The people around bowed to Chrístõ, recognising that he was an even greater man than the one who ruled them.

“Right, then I’m leaving. For now. I’ll be checking up from time to time. I am quite sure the mental connection between us will remain, Braxietel. We ARE both chosen by Rassilon. There is that to bind us, even if we are in no other way alike. I can return here if I choose, and I will. But for now….”

He stood apart from them all and smiled as yet another Earth cultural reference floated into his mind. He clicked the heels of his shoes and whispered to himself.

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home….”

He woke to feel a cool hand upon his brow and a familiar voice calling his name. He opened his eyes and saw the moulded plaster ceiling of his bedroom in the house where he was born, on the southern plain of Gallifrey.

“I’m home,” he said.

“Yes, you are,” his father told him. “I’m not sure how. You frightened your stepmother out of her wits by materialising in the middle of the white drawing room and then promptly fainting.”

“The white drawing room.” Chrístõ smiled. “My mother’s favourite room in the house. There really is no place like home.”

“Ah, you were snatched away by a tornado and taken to Oz,” his father said. He recognised the literary allusion to.

“Nowhere that interesting,” Chrístõ answered. “If I’d woken aboard the ship I’d have thought it was a dream but since I’m here it must have really happened.”

He explained it all to his father, who listened carefully and nodded in understanding.

“Degea Braxietel went missing, presumed dead about the time that Chrístõ dracœfire, your great grandfather, was slaying dragons. History has always been vague about what happened to him. I think it might as well stay that way. There’s no sense in opening up old wounds of that sort, and we definitely don’t need some ambitious Time Lords thinking there is a way they can become immortal.”

“I don’t think it would them do any good,” Chrístõ said. “I think the power only works within the nebula. I feel… quite ordinary now. I certainly can’t fly.”

“Good,” his father said. “Rassilon imposed limitations on our power for sound reasons. Let’s keep it that way.” He smiled warmly at his son. “You weren’t tempted by what he had to offer?”

“Tempted by what? He was a lonely man who found no real satisfaction in his omnipotence. The only thing he had that I don’t…. when all is said and done… was immortality. And that that didn’t tempt me at all. What use would it be? I have thirteen long lives ahead of me. I’ll already outlive everyone I love. What would I do with immortality?”

“Good answer, my son,” Chrístõ Mian de Lœngbærrow told his heir. “A very good answer. Now come and have something to eat, spend a little precious time with me and Valena and your little brother who was ecstatic to learn that you had come home unexpectedly. And then we’ll get you back to that ship before anyone knows you’re gone. That’s a power we can certainly take advantage of.”

That brief respite in the bosom of his Gallifreyan family was enough to drive away any lingering doubts about what had taken place between him and Degea Braxietel. When he was ready he hugged his half-brother and promised to see him again soon, then he boarded his father’s TARDIS. A half an hour later he emerged from a ‘linen room’ directly opposite his cabin aboard the SS Harlan Ellison. He said farewell to his father and quickly stepped inside the room where Julia was still sleeping. The clock by the bedside indicated that a mere ten minutes had passed since he went into the console room and this strange episode had begun.

“Hey, where have you been?” Julia asked as he undressed as quietly as he could and slipped into the bed. “I woke and you were gone.”

“Even Time Lords sometimes have to get up in the night to visit the bathroom,” he answered. He turned and embraced her warm body and kissed her gently. “Let’s get back to sleep. The alarm will be going off before you know it.”

Julia sighed softly and snuggled close to him. Chrístõ sighed, too, and gave a charitable thought to that other Child of Rassilon who had so much less to look forward to than he had.