Julia came into the console room after her morning workout in the TARDIS gym. She was freshly showered and dressed in a skirt and t-shirt. There was a glint of gold that caught the light. Chrístõ smiled as he looked up at her. She was wearing one of her Olympic medals around her neck.

“Some people might think that was showing off,” he said.

“Oh, I won’t wear it outside the TARDIS,” she answered. “I just wanted to… feel the weight of it again. Winning the gold… is just so fantastic. It means I’m the best rhythmic gymnast in the whole Earth Federation.”

“I always thought so even without a medal,” Chrístõ responded. The two silvers and a bronze that she also won for her individual and team efforts were proudly displayed on the console where he could see them. She took the gold medal off and added it to the collection before standing back to admire them.

“You really don’t mind not going back to Beta Delta with the rest of the team?” Chrístõ asked.

“Not if you’re not going to be with me,” she answered. “Besides, this diplomatic mission Penne asked you to do for him sounds interesting.”

“Yes, it does. But don’t get out your ballgowns, yet. I want to see Eridani B as an ordinary person before I officially announce myself as the Crown Prince of Adano-Ambrado.”

“Henry before Agincourt,” Julia suggested.

“Exactly. All my life I have been shown the official tour of planets - as the son of the Ambassador - as a diplomatic envoy in my own right, and certainly as Penne’s Heir. All I get is the smell of freshly painted walls and the well-scrubbed faces of people who’ve been trained to smile nicely at me. If I’m really going to give him a report about whether he ought to have trade links with that planet, then I want to know what it’s really like.”

“I agree,” Julia said. “What sort of planet IS it, anyway?”

Chrístõ was about to answer when he noticed an incoming communication from Gallifrey. He hoped it was his father, and was a little disappointed to discover that it was the Lord High President.

“Your Excellency,” he said, bowing his head respectfully.

“Ambassador de Lœngbærrow,” the President answered. Chrístõ was always surprised to be addressed that way. It was, for most of his childhood, how his father was greeted. But he was still formally seconded to the Gallifreyan diplomatic corps and was entitled to be called Ambassador, even though he had spent the last six months working as a very lowly and unimportant chaperone to the Beta Deltan Olympic team.

“It is in that capacity that I have a mission for you, my young friend,” President Hext continued in a less formal way. “I need to send a representative of Gallifrey to Eridani B. It is a former Earth colony in the Eridanus sector, now under a new government. Do you know of it?”

“Yes, I do,” Chrístõ answered. “But is there no better qualified diplomat available? My credentials are not as strong as they might be.”

“I sent Addicus de Máscentaen, but there is a problem. His TARDIS never arrived on the planet.”

“He is missing?” Chrístõ was concerned. Addicus was his uncle, married to his father’s elder sister, Lady Thedera. He hadn’t seen him very often in recent years, but he had always known him as an honourable Time Lord with the best interests of Gallifrey at heart.

“You don’t need to concern yourself with that,” Lord Hext assured him. “My son has his best men on the case. But I do need somebody to replace him at the trade discussions. I understand that Adano-Ambrado is also looking to make links with the new Eridanian Regime.”

“I… don’t think that would be a problem. Adano-Ambrado’s interests are not inimical to ours.”

He wondered if he ought to mention that Penne had already appointed him to represent the Ambradan crown. He decided not to, for now.

“I am sure you will do your best for Gallifrey,” Lord Hext continued. “Good journey to you, Ambassador.”

“Rassilon’s peace upon you, Excellency,” Chrístõ responded before the communication closed.

“Well!” Julia commented with a grin.

“Well….” Chrístõ began to reply before another communication opened. It was from Paracell Hext junior, son of the President, Director of the Celestial Intervention Agency.

“I was monitoring my father’s communication to you,” he said.

“Well, of course you were,” Chrístõ answered dryly.

“You’re on your way to Epsilon Eridani?”

“I will be when I’m done talking to you.”

“Good. My father told you I’ve got my best men looking for Lord Máscentaen. The thing is, YOU are my best man, and if you’re going there anyway….”

Chrístõ rolled his eyes.

“You want me to investigate his disappearance. Your father said his TARDIS didn’t arrive on the planet. Where do I start?”

“I think my father was wrong about that,” Hext answered. “I had a man with Lord Máscentaen’s entourage, and he called me from Eridani to report that they had arrived safely. That was the last report I had from him, and since then somebody has altered the logs to make it appear that the diplomatic TARDIS didn’t arrive.”

“So YOU have a man missing, too?” Chrístõ asked.

“Lord Máscentaen had a staff of sixteen who are all missing,” Hext pointed out. “As well as a type 65, top of the range, diplomatic TARDIS that we don’t want enemy agents getting hold of. But his Lordship and my own man are certainly my main priority. And since both of them are related to you, I think they’ll be your priority as well.”

“Related?” Chrístõ gave Hext a quizzical look, then a horrified one. “Oh no, you didn’t let my cousin Remy go on another field mission? I thought you were going to keep him on desk duties.”

“He’s trained as a diplomatic secretary,” Hext pointed out. “As well as an intelligence gatherer for me. Besides, he WANTED to go on this mission. He requested it. I had no reason to refuse other than the fact that you want him kept home to appease your aunt.”

Chrístõ began to say something then changed his mind. What was the use?

“Obviously I’m going to do all I can to help. You know I can hardly refuse. But I’m doing it reluctantly. The worst mistake of my life was letting myself get blackmailed by you into joining the Celestial Intervention Agency. ”

Paracell Hext grinned mischievously. Chrístõ gave him his best scowl in return.

“If you have any further information that would HELP in this situation, send it by a transmission burst.”

“I’ll do that,” Hext answered. “Good journey, Chrístõ.”

Chrístõ was on the point of saying something less gracious in reply. He was annoyed with Hext on several different levels. But he managed to give the same closing wish to Paracell that he had given to his father earlier.

“This sounds more complicated by the minute,” Julia commented.

“Very complicated, and very worrying,” Chrístõ answered. Then he yelped and put his hand to his forehead. “Damn it, when I told him to send a burst transmission I meant to my TARDIS, not my own brain. That HURT!”

It didn’t improve his mood as he turned back to the drive console. Julia hesitated before repeating her question from before.

“It’s a beautiful planet,” Chrístõ answered. “In a surprisingly beautiful solar system, with some highly complex politics. I’ll show you in a few minutes when we come out of the vortex. I could do with some thinking time, anyway in the light of the information Hext just sent me.”

Julia watched the viewscreen as the TARDIS emerged into ordinary space on the edge of a system whose red-orange star was still a pinprick in the far distance. In the immediate view was a dust ring that was a million miles wide and deep and a thousand million light years in circumference.

“It’s a debris ring,” Chrístõ explained. “Found on the very edge of relatively new solar systems. This is the farthest reach that the materials were flung out when the star itself was forming - and now the very limit of its gravitational influence. In a billion years this dust may have coalesced into a cold dwarf planet, but for now it is something much more aesthetically pleasing than an icy rock.”

The dust ring was very beautiful. Even in the cold light of space it shimmered iridescently with every colour of the usual light spectrum and some outside of it. When the TARDIS passed through it something like an aurora formed around it as the highly magnetised dust created a static build up on the surface of the capsule in its default mode.

When they emerged from the ring the second planet in the Epsilon Eridani system was a small grey-blue disc in the far distance. It grew closer far more rapidly than it would if they were travelling in any ordinary craft. Soon they were passing Eridani C. It was rather uninspiring to look at. Except for a huge city under an Envirodome big enough to be seen from space and smaller domes dotted around the planet covering mining camps, the planet was bare rock. Chrístõ explained that the workers mined valuable minerals deep in the planetary core. Those minerals made it a very rich planet considering its limitations. Some of the profits had been used in making a viable lifestyle for the people. There was underground ice that they took advantage of for a water supply and they actually produced food crops to support the population of nearly two million souls all under the central dome.

“Eridani C is the home world of the Gentian-Re,” Chrístõ said. “The race that now rules Eridani B. They, themselves, were political exiles from the Avula Zenu bloc. When they came to the Epsilon Eridani system they had no way of getting through the asteroid belt so they stopped at Eridani C. They did well, considering the limitations of the planet. But I don’t really envy them. It’s an even bleaker life than in our mining habitats on Polarfrey. Eridani C was lifeless before colonisation. At least Eridani B had topsoil.”

“What happened to Eridani A?” Julia asked, puzzled by the designations. There was an asteroid belt between the two planets and another one between Eridani B and the star named Epsilon Eridani by the Earth Humans who identified it in the twentieth century of their world.

“I have no idea,” Chrístõ admitted. “I think they thought that the inner asteroid belt was a planet that had been torn apart by the strong magnetic forces of the star. But in that case, I don’t know why they thought the other asteroid belt wasn’t a former planet, too. The other possible explanation is that they didn’t know their alphabet. But that’s unlikely, really, seeing as they were clever enough to discover planets orbiting other stars long before their species had left their own solar system.”

Julia laughed at his light-hearted assessment of the humans who discovered Epsilon Eridani. Chrístõ smiled. Whatever else he had done in his life, making her laugh had been one of his best achievements, ever since he rescued her as a scared little girl on a ship full of monsters.

The asteroid belt needed his special attention for a little while. Julia went to change into a warm dress of maroon wool and a pair of tights and boots. It was autumn on Eridani B.

“Very fetching,” Chrístõ said. “Very appropriate, as always.” With the asteroid belt negotiated and his landing at the central space port on Eridani B, Chrístõ went to change his shirt. That was his only alteration to the style he had adopted long before Julia first met him. If formal dress was not required he still preferred his familiar leather jacket and narrow legged black corduroy trousers with an open necked cotton shirt. Julia remembered him looking like that the very first time she set eyes on him. The one good memory of that terrible time was the handsome young man in a leather jacket who came to rescue her. And now, all these years later, she was engaged to marry him and he looked just the same.

The TARDIS disguised itself very simply as a solar shuttle parked in the short term bay at the space port. Chrístõ paid for a two day permit and then approached the immigration control with a certain amount of reservation. The information Hext had given him made him reluctant to identify himself as being from either Adano-Ambrado or Gallifrey, and he wasn’t about to tell the cold-faced immigration officer that Julia was from Earth.

“Human?” the man demanded in a sharp tone and a disparaging look at them both.

“Certainly not,” Chrístõ replied truthfully before handing him two biometric passports that identified them as citizens of Rexel V. Chrístõ only vaguely knew that Rexel was a humanoid planetary system and not a twentieth century manufacturer of stationery products but the passports were convincing. Being a Celestial Intervention Agency man could be useful at times.

The immigration officer was Gentian, of course. All positions of authority, from traffic police through the civil service, to the government of the planet were held by Gentians, now.

The waiters in the café where they ordered coffee after being granted a visitor’s visa and travelled by land shuttle into the tourist centre of the city were Earth colonists. Chrístõ wondered if they had always been waiters or if these were jobs they had taken out of necessity after the change of government.

“A lot of people were annoyed about the Federation conceding the planet to Gentian-Re,” he explained when Julia asked him about it all. “Your Uncle Herrick was VERY upset about it. I popped around for supper once and listened to him talk non-stop for nearly twenty minutes.”

“Why? I bet he couldn’t even find it on a star chart. I bet most humans couldn’t.”

“I expect you’re right,” Chrístõ conceded. “Two hundred years ago when the uninhabited planet was colonised there was no outstanding claim to it. Then five years ago large Lutanium seams were discovered, and not long after the Gentian-Re government came up with evidence that the system belonged to them. But your uncle and I are not the only people who think that was all a little convenient. It looked as if there might actually be a war over this relatively unimportant rock too far away to be profitable to the Earth Federation, then practically overnight they caved in and gave it, lock stock and barrel, to Gentian-Re. Unfortunately, the Earth Federation being the stubborn lot they are didn’t ask for any independent oversight of the negotiations. Penne offered his government’s services. Our diplomatic corps were ready to broker the Treaty, but they turned us down.”

“At least it was done without bloodshed,” Julia pointed out. “That’s good, isn’t it?”

“It would have been difficult for the Earth Federation to send a war fleet to fight for a colony of a mere hundred thousand people. The sheer distance from their military bases made it logistically impossible, and the lack of popular support for a fight over a place most humans had never heard of would have been politically difficult for the government – especially if there were large casualties.”

“So they were right not to fight?”

“No, they weren’t,” Chrístõ answered. “The Gentian-Re claim was pure fiction and the people living here were exclusively Human descendents of the original settlers from Earth. They wanted to remain in the Federation. They were betrayed by their own government for political expediency. The Federation should have told Gentian-Re to get stuffed - in diplomatic terms - and been ready to back up diplomacy with action.”

“Hmm,” Julia remarked, feeling very glad she was taking a degree in sports and fitness, not galactic politics.

“The Earth Federation still can’t win,” Chrístõ added. “So many people like your Uncle Herrick have now FOUND OUT where Epsilon Eridani is thanks to the publicity about it, and have had their patriotic hackles raised by it all, that the Senate is likely to collapse and there will be a Federation-wide election by the time you get your first voting card next year.”

“So it might mean war, anyway?” Julia asked. “If the opposition get in and bow to public opinion?”

“If they do, then it gets complicated again. Because now that the system HAS been ceded to Gentian-Re that would make the Earth Federation an invading army of aggression not one rightfully protecting its own territory from an occupying force. That’s why Gentian-Re is looking to make diplomatic ties with powerful worlds like Gallifrey and Adano-Ambrado, in hope that they will support them against Earth. Complicated doesn’t begin to describe it.”

“So the Federation should have fought in the first place?”

“I’m a pacifist,” Chrístõ stated in the face of the evidence of his life. “But, yes, I believe they should have fought.”

He was surprised when a fresh round of coffee was placed on the table even though they hadn’t ordered any. The waiter bent close to him and spoke quietly.

“Your understanding of our situation is excellent, sir, and your political view one which will have many sympathetic ears. But it might also have unsympathetic ones. We take care not to talk about such things in public places where spies might be listening.”

“I… understand,” Chrístõ said. “Thank you.”

They both drank the second coffee quietly and relatively slowly. They didn’t want to seem disturbed by what the waiter had told him. Nor did they want to appear to be rushing off. Chrístõ kept a practiced eye on the other customers in case any of them seemed to be taking too close an interest in them. Most of them were studiously looking in any other direction but towards their table.

There was a feeling of unease among the café customers, and he suspected it was his fault. He had talked too openly about matters that they had learnt to keep to themselves.

There was also a feeling of support for his view, but it was muted by the fear of being seen to speak out against their new rulers.

“Let’s go and see the sights,” Chrístõ suggested when they had drained their cups. “Apparently there is some very nice sculpture in the public square.”

The sculpture was, to be honest, nothing special. They looked at it anyway. Chrístõ noted that the ordinary people of the city really didn’t take much interest, and wasn’t at all surprised when he discovered that the sculptures were meant to represent the glorious revolution that restored Gentian-Re rule to the planet.

“Restored!” Chrístõ shook his head. The Gentian propaganda machine was well oiled. ‘Glorious Revolution’ took some swallowing, too.

“Chrístõ,” Julia whispered. “There’s a man over there, watching us. He was at the café. I think he might be a spy.”

“You might be right,” Chrístõ acknowledged. The man was a Gentian. He could tell by the yellow colour of the ‘whites’ of his eyes. “Come on, let’s get away from here.”

They walked casually, making a pretence of being interested in the sculptures. The Gentian spy continued to follow them. Chrístõ wondered where they could go to get away from him. He didn’t know this city. He had no idea which of the side streets might lead them to safety and which were dead ends where they would be cornered. He took one such side street, anyway. It got them away from the ordinary crowds. He could possibly confront the man and put a stop to him. He was confident of his own skills in unarmed combat even if they gave the lie to his claim to be a pacifist.

“Chrístõ, he’s gone,” Julia suddenly told him. “He’s not following us, now.”

He risked a look behind him. The street was empty except for a rubbish wagon and two men collecting the bins from the backs of the shops and offices on the main street. Julia giggled as an absurd notion occurred to her. The spy was in the rubbish wagon.

Chrístõ noted that it was a compactor type that crushed the rubbish. If the spy was in there, it was no laughing matter.

“Come this way, if you are a true friend of Eridani,” said a low voice. He turned and saw a door partly opened and a man standing in the shadows beyond. He thought quickly about the possible dangers of accepting such an invitation. It could be a trick by Gentian spies, to root out dissenters. It could simply be a way to lure them into a dark place to rob them.

He ought to take Julia back to the wide, busy main street and visit the Museum of Gentian culture, as dull as that promised to be.

But instead he stepped towards that shadowy doorway. As soon as he and Julia had crossed the threshold the door was closed and a dim light switched on to illuminate a flight of stairs down to a basement room.

The room was crowded, not just with people, but with a very old printing press, stacks of paper and bundles of printed leaflets ready to be distributed. They were clearly anti-Gentian materials meant to foment disaffection amongst the Human population of Eridani. That much Chrístõ saw in the very briefest glance at one of the leaflets before it was hurriedly hidden from his gaze.

“It’s all right,” a voice in the shadows said. “I can vouch for him.”

“Remy!” Chrístõ stared at the figure who stepped forward. His cousin still looked like somebody who ought to be in charge of the complex index system of a large library, not a field agent for the Celestial Intervention Agency. He was wearing a pair of horn-rimmed glasses and a tweedy suit which added to the image of a harmless academic.

“Chrístõ, it is delightful to see you. And… is this your fiancée? I have heard so much about her from my father, but I have never been introduced.”

“Julia,” Chrístõ said. “This is my cousin, Remontedesideropazienza-gohAille de Lœngbærrow. The suffix to his name means beautiful in High Gallifreyan. I suspect that was his mother’s choice of name, though his face is comely enough. Remy, this is my fiancée, Julia Sommers of Beta Delta and Earth.”

“Charmed to meet you, Julia,” Remy said, reaching to shake hands with her.

“And you,” Julia responded. “Especially since Chrístõ was sent here partly to find you, and he’s done that so very easily.”

“We need to talk,” Chrístõ said.

“We all do,” Remy answered. “Would you like coffee?”

“We’ve already had enough of that,” Julia said before Chrístõ could answer. “Let’s just talk.”

One threadbare armchair was offered in the ring of conspirators. Chrístõ sat in it and Julia perched beside him with his arm around her waist.

“First of all, I’d like to know what happened to the man who was following us,” Chrístõ said.

“His body is on the way to the furnace,” replied the dark haired man who had admitted them to this lair. “All the refuse of the city is taken there, to feed the generators that provide electricity.”

“That’s not a very good way to make electricity,” Julia commented. “The smoke will destroy your ozone layer eventually. Solar and wind power are better.”

“Indeed, they are,” the Eridanian rebel leader answered. “But not so good for disposing of Gentian scum.”

“My cousin, Chrístõ is a pacifist,” Remy said. “He doesn’t like unnecessary bloodshed.”

“We’re all pacifists where we come from,” Chrístõ responded. “But some of us accept the need for NECESSARY bloodshed. The man really WAS a spy, of course? There is no doubt?”

“He followed you all the way from the café,” said a man Chrístõ recognised as the waiter who had brought the complementary coffees. “All because of a few careless words spoken out loud about the Gentian-Re regime.”

“They were not careless words,” Chrístõ answered. “They were well thought out words about the reality of galactic politics.”

“Carelessly spoken on a planet where any hint of sedition is punishable,” the waiter countered. “And by sheer chance – at least I assume it was chance – you wandered down the very street where our resistance movement is based. Of course, you might have been a spy, too – lulling us into a false sense of security. But our friend has vouched for you, so we will trust you.”

“Good,” Chrístõ said. “Now tell me what is going on.”

“They are ready to rise up against the Gentian-Re occupation of Eridani B,” Remy told him.

“They?” Chrístõ counted a dozen men in the room. “I hope this is just the High Council.”

“We are the Provisional Government of the Free Eridani,” replied the leader. “I am Gresham Shelbourne, President of the said government, until such time as free elections can be held and the vote of the populous can be counted.”

“Very commendable,” Chrístõ said. “But you’re also talking about rebellion. Do you have the men and the arms?”

“We will,” Shelbourne answered him. “When our allies reach us.”

“Allies?” Chrístõ looked at Remy. “You don’t mean us, do you? Gallifrey. We don’t get involved in local affairs like this. We have no political or economic interests in this planet, or in Gentian-Re.”

“This planet is the biggest source of Lutan-X in the galaxy,” Remy answered. “You know what that is?”

“It is a non-radioactive, inert substance capable of being used as the catalyst for the most extreme nuclear fission imaginable. It can be used to make stars or to destroy whole solar systems.”

“That’s why Gentian-Re wanted Eridani B. Not for the Lutanium, and certainly not because of any historic wrong done to them when Human colonists took it from them. That’s a fairy tale told to gain them sympathy from neutral governments.”

“So WHY are you here, Remy?” Chrístõ asked again. “Please don’t tell me Gallifrey wants to corner the Lutan-X market. We’re not going to create stars – or destroy solar systems.”

“We want to make sure nobody else can,” Remy answered. “The way to do that is to help put a friendly government in place that will agree to cover up the presence of Lutan-X for the good of all Creation. That’s why Paracell Hext sent me - to broker a deal.”

“We are NOT supplying men and arms for a war of independence that has nothing to with the safety of Gallifrey and its citizens,” Chrístõ insisted. “That would be a complete volte face from our long held policy of non-interference.”

“No, we’re not,” Remy assured his cousin. “Adano-Ambrado and the Loggian Empire are doing that. The King-Emperor Dúre of Ambrado met with Paracell Hext. They… had a long discussion in the bath. Hext told the Emperor that Gallifrey would not block their plans and decided to put a man in on the ground to keep an eye on developments. That’s why I travelled with Lord Máscentaen’s diplomatic mission. I transmatted down while they were still in temporal orbit in order to meet with the Provisional Government. His Lordship continued on with his official visit.”

“Lord Máscentaen is missing, as well as you,” Chrístõ pointed out.

“Your Ambassador is alive and well and under house arrest in the Presidential Palace,” Shelbourne told him. “The President had him and his entourage taken under armed guard as soon as they presented themselves. She is holding him to ransom in order to ensure favourable terms from Gallifrey.”

“Is she mad?” Chrístõ asked. “You don’t get political allies by kidnapping plenipotentiaries.”

“Is she mad?” The provisional government of Free Eridani B all laughed hollowly. “What would you call a woman who believes she is the reincarnation of an ancient queen of her world, who gives special tax free pensions to anyone with red hair because she believes they are descendents of the same royal line and last week declared a public holiday for her own ten thousandth birthday – based on the birth date of the long dead Queen Arriana the Red.”

“I’d call her somebody who should never be let have control of Lutan X,” Chrístõ said. “She might decide to destroy half the galaxy to make a nice firework display.”

“Exactly,” Shelbourne said. “The arms shipment is already here, aboard a mining supplies vessel in the bonded section of the space dock. The rebellion is due to begin tonight while the President is having dinner with the Crown Prince of Adano-Ambrado. Apparently he’s due to arrive later. The Emperor suggested his visit would make a good distraction.”

“Did he really?” Julia commented. She looked at Chrístõ’s deliberately blank expression.

“How do you intend to get the weapons out of the bonded section of the space port?” he asked, making a note to ask Penne just when he decided to make his diplomatic mission a distraction for a revolution he had helped to foment.

“We have control of a tunnel system that runs beneath this whole city – from the space port to the Presidential Palace. We only have to blow a hole into the wine cellar and make our way up to the Presidential Chamber. We will depose that damn woman. When the people see what we have done, they will support us. The Gentian spies and police will be brought down. Our world will be ours.”

“History is full of failed revolutions that depended on the people rising up to support them,” Chrístõ pointed out. “But I wish you luck. I, myself, cannot play any pro-active role in the rebellion. It would be quite against my government’s principle of non-interference. Nor can Remy, now that he has brought you all the information you could hope for. I think we would be best employed rescuing the Gallifreyan ambassador from house arrest. I would certainly appreciate it if you would show me the underground way back to the space port, though. I am really rather bored with your city under Gentian rule.”

The tunnel system proved interesting to Chrístõ. He had expected some kind of sewer network and was prepared for an unpleasant time of it. What the rebels were actually using was a very old series of mine workings.

Far older than the two hundred years that the Human colonists had been on the planet, and mostly dug with primitive cutting tools.

“These were only discovered when the foundations for the Governor’s mansion – now known as the Presidential Palace - were being dug,” he was told. “About fifty years ago. Archaeologists explored the caves and found evidence of a cave dwelling race that died out thousands of years before.”

“That’s interesting,” Chrístõ said. “Do you realise it is information that ought to have been used to debunk the Gentian claim on the planet. If there was any evidence at all that the ancient race was not related to them, then it would have clinched the deal.”

“It would not have helped,” Shelbourne said. “President Martex had the plenipotentiaries bribed, blackmailed or intimidated into ceding the planet. It was a complete farce.”

“You know this for certain because….”

“The former governor was my father. She blackmailed him. He committed suicide the day after the Treaty was signed. He knew he had betrayed us all to a tyrant and couldn’t live with himself.”

“This gets nastier by the minute,” Chrístõ commented. “So it’s personal to you?”

“Very personal.”

“I can relate to that,” Chrístõ added. “I’ve taken up arms against a tyrant for the sake of my own world. I really do wish you luck. But, as I said, I represent Gallifrey and non-interference in purely local affairs is forbidden.”

“I understand,” Shelbourne told him. “Good luck to you, also, friend of Eridani.”

They had reached the space port. A long forgotten set of stairs brought them up to the bonded section where the arms cache was waiting to be collected. Chrístõ and Julia, with Remy, headed for the short-term parking bay where Chrístõ handed back his permit and took possession of his TARDIS once more.

“That was a short and not so sweet visit,” he said. “Now, let’s find the Ambassador and his people.”

That wasn’t difficult. A group of Gallifreyans kept together under house arrest in the palace formed a distinct set of lifesigns on the environmental monitor. Chrístõ homed in on them with a wide materialisation that brought the Ambassador and most of his aides into the safety of the console room right away. The others ran for the door as soon as it was opened.

“Is everyone accounted for?” Chrístõ asked. The answer was in the affirmative.

“My TARDIS has been taken by President Martex’s people,” the Ambassador said. “They want to use the technology. It is secured, of course, with a tri-phasic deadlock. But even so, we need to recover it from hostile hands.”

“Absolutely,” Chrístõ said. “Just give me the MAC code for your ship and we can recover it. I suggest that you and your people wait in temporal orbit for further developments. There ARE going to be some, I assure you.”

That much was easily achieved. Then Chrístõ got ready for the next step in his own plan. It involved a change of clothes for him and for Julia.

“Very impressive,” Remy commented about his royal robes and the crown of Adano-Ambrado that nestled in his curling hair. “What if she tries to arrest you?”

“I am banking on a Crown Prince of a planetary system known to have a very large battle fleet to be safe. Just in case I’m not, I’m leaving you in charge of my TARDIS. If I appear to be under lock and key, come and get me.”

“You’re letting me take charge of the TARDIS?” Remy was surprised. “YOUR TARDIS?”

“You’re related to me. It will recognise your DNA.”

“Yes, of course it will. But, Chrístõ, if you don’t need it for a while, how do you feel about me using it to bring Shelbourne and the rest of the Provisional Government direct to the chamber while their men secure the palace? It’s not exactly getting involved in the fight….”

“It sounds pretty involved to me,” Julia pointed out.

“And me,” Chrístõ added. “Remy, after all I said….”

“If you weren’t here as a diplomat, you’d be doing exactly the same thing,” Remy argued. “And don’t say you wouldn’t. I know everything you’ve done on every world you’ve visited. Director Hext has a file on you that takes up a whole memory sector on the Agency computer. And you’re the one who thought I ought to have a desk job.”

“You don’t get involved with any of the fighting,” Chrístõ told him. “Quite apart from the non-interference clause that we’re both severely stretching, your mother would be very cross with me if you got yourself killed. And I am very fond of Aunt Rika. I don’t want her cross with me.”

“I don’t want to get killed,” Remy answered. “But I’m a Celestial Intervention Agency man, and I accept the risk – as an adult. You need to stop thinking you’re responsible for me, just because you are the Heir to our House. You’re still eight years younger than me. I should be the one looking out for you.”

Chrístõ was about to say something else, but Julia decided she had been standing there in a satin ball gown and high heeled shoes being ignored for long enough.

“Remy, do what you have to do. But try not to get killed and don’t do anything that is going to embarrass your government. Chrístõ, get us to the palace before my ankles break in these shoes, or I’ll blame you for THAT.”

Chrístõ did as she said, landing the TARDIS in the ante room outside the Presidential Chamber. The Presidential Guard wearing very martial looking uniforms with lots of gold braid and polished buttons raised their weapons as Chrístõ and Julia stepped out of the ornamental arch that had appeared out of nowhere.

“Is that any way to greet royalty?” Chrístõ demanded as the TARDIS immediately dematerialised. “I am the Crown Prince of Adano-Ambrado. This is the Princess Julia. Announce us at once.”

He had learnt that imperious tone long ago as the son of a diplomat who often met with crowned heads. It was as effective as a really concerted Power of Suggestion with palace guards. It was a very short time before they were conducted into the Presidential Chamber.

Julia had been trained by Princess Cirena and by Valena de Lœngbærrow to behave properly in the presence of kings and presidents, but it took a great deal of effort not to laugh out loud at the sight of Madam Martex, President of Gentian-Re. She looked like she was about to go to a fancy dress ball as Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile. Her hair, clothes and cosmetics were all overly bright and colourful, and she was sitting on a dais with two men in black lycra waving long handled fans to keep her cool. Two more men brought chairs with silk cushions for her guests. They were placed on the floor at the foot of the dais.

“I am a Crown Prince,” Chrístõ pointed out, remaining standing. “Either your chair is brought to the same level or you make provision for me to sit on that dais. I do not sit lower than anybody.”

President Martex looked startled for a moment then she rose and came down from the dais while two of her servants brought her chair to face the ones provided for Chrístõ and Julia. She began to sit, then realised that it was probably rude for a President to sit before a Crown Prince had done so. She waited until her guests were comfortable before sitting and waving to a servant to bring refreshments.

“I am delighted to receive you,” Madam Martex said. “I have heard great things about the King-Emperor of Adano-Ambrado – your brother, I believe?”

“He is,” Chrístõ answered.

“Of course, the Adano-Ambradan empire is relatively new,” Madam Martex pointed out. “The royal line of Gentian-Re is twenty thousand years old. I am, as you have doubtless heard, descended from the greatest Gentian Queen, Evalia Salatine. Her spirit was reincarnated in me. I am the embodiment of those millennia of Gentian royal blood.”

“Is that so?”Chrístõ replied. “Yet the people elected you as President, not as their queen.”

“I am the spiritual and moral leader of the Gentian people,” she replied. “The form of words are irrelevant. They love me all the same.”

“Do your Human subjects love you, too?” Julia asked. “I thought they didn’t want to be taken over by Gentian-Re.”

“Their opinions do not matter. They are inferior. Gentian blood is stronger. They will be outbred in a matter of generations. They will be a dwindling minority with no political voice at all. I am considering a Bill to restrict breeding amongst them, as well as a ban on inter-marriage, of course. That should speed up the process.”

“You mean the sort of thing that happened to the Gentian people when they were a minority race on Avula Zenu?” Chrístõ asked. “I know of your history – the transplantation of the whole Gentian people to Eridani C. The construction of a viable community there was a great achievement. You – your people – are to be commended for what they did.”

“Eridani C was only a stepping stone. Our true home is here, Eridani B. I saw a vision of it one night. Queen Avalia herself told me that this world was our true spiritual home, our promised land.”

Chrístõ listened to President Martex talk at length on those lines, emphasising over and over her royal ancestry and the divine destiny that led her and her people to Eridani B. That part of it was utter nonsense, of course. It would have been a harmless delusion if it were not for her ideas about eradicating the Human population by attrition….

….And the Lutan X deposits on Eridani B.

This woman should certainly not have such potentially dangerous materials within her grasp. She should not have the ability to create Lutan X missiles or sell the stuff to people who might want to make such a missile.

Chrístõ was of the opinion that anyone who wanted to make a Lutan X missile was unsuitable to have the materials to make one. The desire to have that sort of destructive power made them clinically insane.

And Madam Martex was obviously one of them.

Chrístõ glanced at Julia and noted that she was fighting to stay awake, bored by the nonsense the President was going on about. She jerked awake when he stood abruptly and raised his hand for silence. President Martex didn’t acknowledge the sign. She was still talking about her plans for the future of Gentian-Re.

“Shut up,” he told her in an imperious and impatient tone. “I have heard enough of your xenophobic nonsense. I am ready to tell you right now that Adano-Ambrado will have nothing to do with your mad scheme. In fact, we will do everything in our power to see you personally removed from office and your people driven from this planet that rightfully belongs to the people who first settled here and who have the fullest claim to all that it yields.”

“What!” Madam Martex was almost rendered speechless in her astonishment.


“I have never been so insulted. I will have you arrested and thrown into my dungeon. You will be the first prisoner of war in my campaign against the aggressor, Adano Ambrado.”

“Oh don’t be stupid,” Julia said, standing beside Chrístõ, ready to be arrested with him as long as she didn’t have to listen to the President’s boring voice any longer. “Adano Ambrado would wipe you out in two minutes if you tried to declare war on them. Penne is twice as smart as you, and he has a space fleet bigger than your entire Gentian population.”

“He won’t need it,” Chrístõ added calmly. He was not the only one who had heard the noise outside in the ante-chamber. The black clad servants had put down their fans and were backing away nervously.

Then the doors crashed open. Gresham Shelbourne was unarmed at the head of a company of men who most certainly were. The servants surrendered to them without a word. Madam Martex had a lot of words to say, but they were increasingly incoherent and hysterical.

“Enough,” Chrístõ told her. “It is over.” He looked at Shelbourne for confirmation.

“It will be as soon as we have her signature on this new Treaty, ceding the planet and all of its natural assets to the Provisional Government in the name of the rightful people of Eridani B.”

“Never,” Madam Martex answered defiantly. But news was coming in by the minute of sections of the city under control of the rebels and mining communities planet-wide where the Gentian overlords were so few in number they were easily taken down once the word was given.

Madam Martex signed the Treaty. Shelbourne signed it. Then he looked at Chrístõ.

“Your Highness, as the representative of a neutral government, would you sign as a witness to the legality of the proceedings?”

“I will.” Chrístõ took up the pen and signed his royal signature as Crown Prince of Adano Ambrado with a flourish. “You really need two independent witnesses to be absolutely certain. Wait one moment.”

Everyone looked at Chrístõ in surprise as he took off the crown and the ermine-lined cloak and pinned a silver brooch to the robe he wore underneath. It was the Seal of Rassilon, symbol of, among other things, the Diplomatic Corps of the Gallifreyan Government. He bent over the table again and affixed a different signature, equally valid, to the Treaty.

Madam Martex was as astonished as everyone else, but she failed to see the funny side of Chrístõ’s dual role.

“That cannot be legal,” she protested.

“Well, you would know about illegality, madam,” Shelbourne answered. “My people have already taken over your private office, and we have the evidence that the original Earth Federation committee were coerced into ceding Eridani B to you. The Provisional Government will be demanding that the Federation launch an internal inquiry. I will be asking the Crown Prince of Adano-Ambrado and possibly the Gallifreyan Ambassador to appoint an independent inquiry into your activities, madam. And bear in mind that those two planets have many other friends. An inter-galactic embargo on mineral exports from Eridani C will be a painful punishment for your crimes, one that your people don’t deserve. Perhaps they might decide a change of leadership is preferable. Meanwhile, I shall be satisfied with the immediate withdrawal of you and your administration from Eridani B. Those Gentian subjects who have settled here may choose to go or to live under the protection of the Independent Government. We will not penalise them for your crimes. There will be no pogroms against a minority race among us.”

Again Madam Martex protested at first, but accepted the inevitable. She was placed under house arrest while her servants packed her possessions and arranged for her flight back to Eridani C.

“The planet is yours,” Chrístõ told Gresham Shelbourne. “Be sure to rule it wisely.”

“If the people decide that I am the one to do so as soon as free elections can be arranged,” he answered. “Meanwhile I intend to have a day of mourning for the casualties on both sides. There WAS some resistance. We didn’t have it all our own way, and I think that more appropriate than a celebration of our Independence.”

“Casualties?” Chrístõ looked around and realised there was one notable absentee from the group he had first met in a dark basement room and now met in a Presidential Palace. “Remy….”

“Be still, friend,” Shelbourne told him. “Your brave cousin is not one of the casualties. After delivering us to the palace in your amazing craft he headed for the tax office. He took personal charge of rounding up the Gentian revenue officers. Apparently he took a dislike to Madam Martex’s fiscal policies and wanted to deal with that right away. He seems to be enjoying himself there. A born civil servant. I was hoping you might prevail upon your government to let him stay here for a while and help unravel the frauds committed in that department of government.”

“A desk job for Remy?” Chrístõ smiled. “His mother will be happy, at least. I’ll see what I can do. Meanwhile, my fiancée and I will join Ambassador de Máscentaen for dinner in temporal orbit. Tomorrow, when things are quieter, I will return in my role as Crown Prince of Adano Ambrado, and his Lordship can represent Gallifrey in a discussion of trade links with the newly Independent Eridani B. That should help your election campaign when it gets up and running.”

Chrístõ bowed to the President Elect of Eridani B, who returned the gesture, then he headed out to where his TARDIS had been returned to the ante-chamber. He set his course to join the Ambassador.

“You did good,” Julia told him. “It sounds as if the Gentian-Re people will be better off without Madam Martex, too. You made things better for both planets.”

“Not just me,” Chrístõ reminded her. “Shelbourne and his people did it. I just provided a diversion.”

“You really wanted to get stuck in the way Remy was, didn’t you?” Julia added. “In the fight.”

“Yes, I suppose I did,” he admitted. “But I knew I shouldn’t. Not this time.”

Julia knew there would be other times when it would be different. She had accepted long ago that he was a pacifist who wouldn’t hesitate to get involved in a fight for what was right. It was who he was and she wouldn’t ask him to be anyone else, any more than his cousin Remy’s wife would ask him to be any different.

“Come on,” she said. “I’m still in a ballgown and heels. Let’s go and meet your uncle the Ambassador and make it worthwhile dressing up.”