Chrístõ was not in a good mood. That much was obvious by the way he slammed down the materialisation switch, almost broke off the helmic regulator lever and came close to snapping at Humphrey for being in his way – before remembering that a creature made of pure darkness couldn’t actually get in his way.

“Is this outfit all right for where we’re going?” Julia asked as she came back into the console room. She repeated the question before he looked up and managed to smile graciously and approve of the skirt and light sweater she was wearing.

“Yes, that’s fine. The Intergalactic Bar and Grill is a sort of space equivalent of a Bernie Inn – people stop off for a meal on long flights to other places.”

She laughed at his description, but he wasn’t in a mood to be amused.

“I just resent being ORDERED to go there by Paracell Hext,” he answered, pulling on his familiar leather jacket over his cotton shirt. “He takes me for granted. And besides, I told him you were with me, and he STILL wanted me to go and meet one of his agents for a Code Delta assignment.”

“What is a Code Delta?” Julia asked. “Or is it secret.”

“It’s supposed to be,” he answered. “But I really don’t care. It means the agent has to assassinate somebody and Hext wants me with him for some damn reason.”

“To help with the assassination?”

“Better not be. I made it clear to him that I would gather intelligence for the Agency, but I wouldn’t kill anyone. I’m not one of his hired guns.”

“Of course, you’re not. Hext wouldn’t make you do that. I’m sure the agent just needs the benefit of your experience. You’ve travelled more widely than any other living Time Lord other than your father and maybe your friend from India… whatever name he’s using, now.”

“Since my father is retired and the reason my friend uses so many names is to avoid getting involved with Gallifreyan politics, that may be true,” Chrístõ conceded. “But it is still annoying. As is the idea that bringing YOU along would be ‘good cover’. Bad enough he gets me involved in these things without dragging you in, too.”

“Firstly, I’m not being dragged anywhere,” Julia countered. “I’m interested in this space restaurant and maybe even a bit excited about meeting one of Paracell’s agents. And secondly after all the things we’ve done together, you could remember that I’m not a wilting flower who comes over faint when it gets a bit tough.”

“No, you’re not. But neither are you a Celestial Intervention Agency operative. Hext is playing me, and I really don’t like it.”

“You sound as if the two of you are at odds again,” Julia told him. “Don’t spoil your friendship. Besides, I don’t mind a little extra time away from college. I’ve got nothing but written exam revision next week.”

“I’ll get you back in plenty of time for that,” Chrístõ promised as he reached to open the door onto the hangar bay where he had parked the TARDIS – disguised as a short range shuttle. Julia smiled at the bold across the side. Chrístõ didn’t. He looked quite cross about it.

“If the target is Gallifreyan, then they will KNOW that’s my signature. So much for covert operations.” He went back into the TARDIS and tried to manually adjust the chameleon circuit, but it turned into a yacht, a sports car and a biplane all with the prominently displayed. He gave up. It settled back as a shuttle.

“I’m not sure I like this grumpy version of you,” Julia pointed out. She watched him scowl at the automatic parking ticket dispenser as it scanned his universal credit card. “Cheer up a bit, would you, and let’s make the most of the afternoon.”

He was trying, but when they stepped into the restaurant and he recognised the agent he was supposed to meet his anger welled up again.

“Remy!” he exclaimed as his cousin stood up from a table with a view of the unique planet the Intergalactic Bar and Grill orbited and came to meet him. He noticed the slight sound distortion as he reached to shake his hand. “You’ve got a localised aural perception filter running so that we can talk securely?”

“I have,” he answered. “Come and sit down.”

“YOU are the Code Delta agent,” Chrístõ added as he let Julia slide into the window seat and then sat beside her.

“Well, I will be when I complete this assignment,” he answered.

“Your first kill.”

“Really?” Julia looked at Remy in surprise. “Like James Bond – double O status… licence to kill.”

“Exactly like that,” Remy answered. “Yes, I’ve read the books. There was an antique set in the library on Mineas Luimnea where I was stranded during the Mallus war. I like reading.”

Julia was less surprised by that comment. Remy was a gentle looking man with horn-rimmed glasses that must be for appearances since she had never heard of a Gallifreyan with bad eyesight. He looked more like somebody who would sit reading about that sort of adventure rather than taking part in them.

“Remy, are you serious?” Chrístõ asked him. “You are an assassin?”

Remy didn’t reply straight away. His eyes turned to the door from the observation lounge. He smiled warmly and stood to let his wife sit opposite to Julia with the best view out of the wide exo-glass window. He sat opposite Chrístõ and picked up the menu.

“We should order food before we talk,” he said. “Then we look normal.”

Julia glanced around at the other diners. This restaurant mainly catered for people who ate meat that had been slaughtered before being cooked. There were no live food sections and vegetarians tended not to come to a place famed for its fifty methods of seasoning steak. Even so, there were enough varieties of ‘people’ with different skin colours and textures, numbers of heads, limbs, wings and other appendages to defy any concept of ‘normal’.

What Remy meant was that they should look like two couples who had met to enjoy a meal, not for some dangerously ulterior motive.

Chrístõ decided to order a rib eye steak with mushrooms and tomatoes and looked across his menu at Remy’s wife. He remembered when he had first met her, in the most desperate of situations.

“Are you on this assignment, too?” he asked.

“No,” she answered. “I left the Agency in order to look after baby Remy. Director Hext wasn’t very pleased about that. He really wanted me to stay. But I think he was worried about what you would say if he put too much pressure on me.”

Chrístõ made no comment about that. He knew full well that there were very few women in the Celestial Intervention Agency. Losing an agent to motherhood was a blow to Hext. After all, female renegades were just as likely as male. His other cousin, Rani, was looking like a candidate for that notoriety before her father sent her to a closed Sisterhood to mend her ways. But he was glad, all the same, that Rodan had chosen motherhood over assassination. He had some ideas about that which he didn’t dare share with Julia lest he receive a lecture about women’s rights.

“She’s here so that we look like two couples,” Remy explained. “Later… when we have to do… what we have to do… the ladies can keep each other company.”

“Oh, really?” Julia protested. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to get to know Chrístõ’s cousin’s wife. It was the assumption that annoyed her. She expressed her preference for a char-grilled fish fillet and salad and stared out of the window, ignoring both of the men.

The view was fascinating. The restaurant space station was in orbit around a remarkable planet called Aabessia, which had almost ceased to exist when its sun died. The technologically advanced people had encased the planet in a metal sky under which an artificial sun warmed the planet and held in the atmosphere. Around that was a metal ring which had its own internal gravity and atmosphere and provided leisure facilities in specially terraformed zones. If this had been an ordinary visit, Julia would have liked to have seen that. She thought it was unlikely in these circumstances, and the mood Chrístõ was in, it might not be so much fun.

“I think I’ll have the fish, too,” Rodan decided, passing the menu to her husband. Remy summoned one of the waiters and ordered for everyone. He attempted to make small talk, telling his wife about Julia’s Olympic achievements and mentioning that Rodan was keen on sports, too, having won medals in show-jumping on Ventura when she was younger.

“Yes, they’re fond of horses there, aren’t they,” Julia commented. She and Rodan talked about their respective visits to that planet without bringing the men into their conversation. Julia hadn’t brought her psychic brooch, so she couldn’t communicate telepathically, but she could tell that Rodan was slightly annoyed about the situation, too.

“Don’t start nagging me, Chrístõ,” Remy said out loud after their telepathic conversation spilled over. “I’ve made my mind up. I’ve been training at the Tower and I’ve completed three missions that didn’t involve killing since the beginning of the year. Hext thinks I’m ready.”

“And it’s really what you want to do?”

“You still think I’m trying to be like you, the war hero, the son of the Executioner… or even… to be like my uncle, the legend of the Celestial Intervention Agency.”

Chrístõ thought that was exactly why Remy was so ambitious to be a killer, but he didn’t say so aloud.

He didn’t have to. Remy saw straight through the mental wall behind which he kept such thoughts.

“I do admire you, Chrístõ,” he said. “And I have a lot to thank you for. You saved both of us – and our son. I will never forget that. But I know my own mind. I don’t need to follow you, or your father, or anyone else. Not even Director Hext. The only man I need to prove anything to is me, so just let it be. I’m ready to do my duty for Gallifrey in any capacity… even assassination.”

Chrístõ left it at that for now, but he still wasn’t happy about the whole situation. He knew Paracell Hext had set him up by not telling him it was Remy he was coming to meet, and he was angry with him more than anyone.

The food was brought to the table. For a little while Julia and Rodan led the ‘small talk’ and wouldn’t let their men argue about the Celestial Intervention Agency. The food was good, fully up to the reputation the restaurant had for finely cooked food. They enjoyed the meal as much as they could in the circumstances.

When they had finished the very fine dessert, the two men stood and said they were going to the bar to talk business. The girls should have coffee and chat.

“Do you think….” Julia began. Rodan hushed her. She checked what looked like a watch on her wrist. “No, it’s ok. The aural perception filter is in place. We’ll just sound like we’re talking in an undecipherable language.”

“Do you think the man that Remy has to kill is in the bar?” Julia finished asking.

“I hope so,” Rodan said. “It might be over and done with quickly. I’m not exactly thrilled about this whole thing, you know. I wish Remy WOULD stick to a desk job. I’d rather Chrístõ was the one dashing about doing the hero stuff. He’s more cut out for it.”

“Hero stuff, yes, but not assassinations,” Julia corrected her.

“Sometimes it amounts to the same thing. But you really don’t want to talk about it, do you?”

“No. Isn’t there anything else we can talk about?”

“There must be a lot of things. I just can’t think of them right now.”

Julia laughed and admitted that she was all out of social chit chat, too. She turned her attention to the remarkable planet below.

“I was there once before,” Rodan said. “When I was a little girl.”

“Really? With your parents?”

“No. With Chrístõ’s parents.”

Julia was surprised at that.

“He probably doesn’t even know. I’m not sure I want him to know. There was a time when I was young, when I hated him for taking their love and their attention.”

Julia was still puzzled.

“Before he was born, when it looked as if they might never have a child of their own, they looked after me for a while. My parents were dead, and my grandfather worked in the long haul freight service. I was their foster child. That was what they called it, though the very concept was unknown on Gallifrey. I loved them. I know they loved me. When I went back to live with my grandfather they paid for me to have the best education possible – as an aristocrat, not a Caretaker. I was privileged to have such generous people as my benefactors. But when he was born… he was their own baby. I felt as if I had been forgotten. I wasn’t, really. It wasn’t their fault. I realised that later. But for a while I hated that little baby boy. Then… when his mother died… I was as sorry as he was. I grieved so very much. His father came to see me but he was so full of sorrow himself he hardly knew how to comfort me. After that, I hardly saw him, and I never saw his son while he was growing up. I wasn’t unhappy. I loved my grandfather and he loved me. We had a good life. I went to the Time Lord Academy with all of my fees paid for just like an Oldblood. But it was different – and Chrístõ was the difference.”

“But you don’t hate him now?” Julia asked.

“I stopped hating him long ago. But even if I hadn’t…. He saved my life – and Remy’s. He brought my baby safely to birth. He did all of that without question, without knowing or caring who I was. How could I resent him for a moment?”

Julia considered this new facet of Chrístõ’s life that even he was unaware of before starting to say something else. But Rodan’s attention was elsewhere. She looked around to see what had distracted her, and she was surprised, too, by the very last person they expected to see there.

“Ladies,” the new arrival said to them. “Come with me. Don’t ask any questions, now.”

Chrístõ ordered iced water from the bar. Remy had a glass of brandy. They stood watching the busy room in the mirror.

“Is the man you’re supposed to take out in here?” Chrístõ asked.

“Not yet,” Remy answered. “But he’s around somewhere. Take this, by the way.” Chrístõ felt something heavy pushed into his pocket.

“Why do I need a gun?” he asked.

“In case things go wrong and I need you to back me up, obviously.”

“Is that what Hext wanted me to do?”

Remy shrugged.

“Mostly, he thought we ought to work together. Have you ever wondered why it is, we’re blood kin, but we barely really know each other.”

“Our lives went separate ways.”

“Not that separate. I was only a few years ahead of you at the Academy. But you had a closer relationship with Epsilon.”

“I hated him, and he hated me.”

“Mutual hatred is still a relationship… more than we had. Hext thought we ought to put that right. The only way he could think of to do that was sending us both on the same mission.”

“That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,” Chrístõ answered.

“Yes. But we’ve talked more in the past hour than we ever have in our lives.”

“Maybe,” Chrístõ conceded. “But….”

“Do you know I was your father’s heir until you were born?” Remy pointed out. It was completely out of left field, and Chrístõ was so startled by the comment it took him a while to realise how that could be. But it was quite usual for a childless patriarch to settle the line upon the son of a close relative. It would have made sense at the time.

“It never bothered me. I always expected to make my own way. The sons of second sons do. in many ways we’re lower than Caretakers on the social ladder. We have to be resourceful.”

“Yes, I know. What’s your point?”

“That for a while your father looked on me as a surrogate son. I could have been the big brother figure in your life. Now I feel like your kid brother, because you’re so much your father’s son… so much the Heir of Lœngbærrow, that you have to remind yourself not to look down on me as inferior.”

“No I don’t,” Chrístõ protested.

“Yes, you do,” Remy said in a quiet, yet persuasive tone.

“Well, if I do, I don’t mean to. I’m sorry.”

“Apology accepted. Now….”

Remy stopped and checked a small device that had beeped in his pocket. He looked around casually then tapped Chrístõ on the arm.

“I missed him. Come on. He’s heading back to the restaurant.”

“Which one?” Chrístõ asked about the crowd of people by the door.

“The one with the line of horns poking through the back of his shirt,” Remy answered. “Take no notice of that. It’s a shimmer cloak. We need to move, fast. He could look like something else by the time we get to the restaurant.”

The need for haste was clear, but so was the need to look casual. Reconciling the two needs cost them time. By the time they reached the ‘grill’ part of the Bar and Grill the character disguised as a species descended from a horn-backed reptile was gone. Remy confirmed that there was no trace of him. He wasn’t just hiding behind a new form.

Then Chrístõ realised that the girls weren’t there, either and Remy yelped in shock.

“He has them. Rodan tried to reach me telepathically, but he blocked her.”

“How could he have known they were with us?” Chrístõ demanded “How could he have known we were AFTER him?”

“I don’t know,” Remy answered. He was using the same hand held device to try to get a bearing on the man he was pursuing.

“You do know,” Chrístõ whispered. “We both do. We’ve been betrayed. There’s a leak in the Celestial Intervention Agency.”

Remy nodded imperceptibly and his expression was grim. Chrístõ had read his half-formed thoughts disturbingly well.

He broke into a run, startling diners and almost upsetting a heavily laden waiter. Chrístõ ducked and missed his tray heading for the door to the observation deck.

“Three people used a personal transmat of Gallifreyan design a few minutes ago,” Remy said when he caught up with him. “The good news is I have a fix on it.”

“The bad news is we don’t HAVE a personal transmat,” Chrístõ responded.

Remy tutted disdainfully, then completely surprised his cousin by embracing him around the neck and kissing him on the cheek.

When Chrístõ drew back from that unexpected intimacy he was standing in a completely different place.

“ALL agents have personal transmats these days,” Remy told him. “It’s a nauseating way to travel, especially passing through a space vacuum. Standing close together helps reduce the effects.”

“Is the kissing essential?” Chrístõ asked.

“No. Director Hext told me it was a good way to stir you up. He said to remind you about a file he has about an Earth Time Agent….”

“I’m adding that to the list of things I’m going to speak to Paracell about later,” Chrístõ said. “Right now, where the hell are we?”

He looked around at an apparently idyllic pastoral scene with a lazy river winding through meadows with green hills in the distance.

He looked up and saw a strip of sky with a sun emerging from a fluffy white cloud. Either side of the strip were two elongated landmasses separated from the one they were standing on by two more sky strips.

“We’re in an O’Neill cylinder,” he said. “An artificial living space with circular gravity.” Looking up and knowing that both those sections of land he could see in the sky contained people and animals who thought they were standing on the solid ground with a downward gravity force keeping them there was disconcerting.

“Technically it’s a Gresspa Torus,” Remy answered him. “We’re in the Aabessian planetary ring. Gresspa was the Aabessian who had the same idea as the Earth man, O’Neill, and a Torus is….”

“The proper name for a donut shaped three dimensional object,” Chrístõ noted. “Geometry and physics can wait. Where is the traitor who took our women?”

“He went that way,” Remy responded, pointing towards the river. “Come on, we can still catch up.”

They raced towards the river, and Remy jumped into a motor boat that was moored there. Chrístõ looked around. There was no sign of another boat, but the river bank was wet from the wash created by one travelling at speed. He jumped in beside his cousin who was already casting off the mooring line.

“This might be a leisure zone, but surely we can’t just grab anyone’s boat?” Chrístõ said.

“We’re Agents on the trail of a traitor who has turned to kidnapping and for all we know, murder. Do you want to go and ask permission?”

“No,” Chrístõ conceded. “Come on, let’s go. Do you know which way he went?”

“Upriver,” Remy answered, starting the engine and spinning the steering wheel so that boat turned tightly before sending it against the tide at an impressive speed.

“You do realise that none of this makes sense,” Chrístõ shouted above the noise of the boat engine. “Unless we consider that somebody tipped your man off. And if that’s so, they tipped him off that we would have the girls with us.”

The more he thought about it, the less it made sense, even allowing for a leak in the Celestial Intervention Agency. Paracell Hext was the only one who knew he was joining Remy and bringing Julia along.

“How did he grab both of them out of a crowded restaurant without a struggle?” he added. “Julia knows how to kick a man where it hurts. I taught her. And Rodan is an AGENT. She must know self defence. But when we walked through, nothing had happened. Everyone was eating as if nothing had happened. If he had used a gun or made any kind of scene there would be pandemonium in there.”

Remy considered that and conceded the point.

“And then he dragged them down here… got them into a boat – both of them – and neither of them put up a fight. I don’t get it…. I’m not sure I believe it.”

“Do you think this is some kind of trap?” Remy asked. “If it is… what can we do? The girls… we have to rescue them.”

“Of course, we do, but there’s no need to walk right in blindfolded. Let’s be aware that there is more here than meets the eye.”

“Yes,” Remy conceding, taking mental note of Chrístõ’s warning but wondering how exactly to avoid a trap they HAD to walk into if they stood any chance of rescuing their women and completing the mission.

“Where did they go, anyway?” Chrístõ demanded with a mixture of anxiety and impatience in his tone. “There are NO boats ahead of us. Are you SURE they went upriver?”

“I’m sure,” Remy insisted. Then he yelped with dismay. “The signal… it’s gone crazy. Something….”

Chrístõ grabbed hold of the wheel and tried to steer the boat, but Remy was still holding it too, and they were trying to steer in opposite directions. As a result they ran straight into the patch of water where gravity was acting completely against the rules. There was a whirlpool of water that caught the boat, wrenching it out of control and rain travelling upwards. They both screamed as the boat was lifted into the air and tipped upwards towards the prow. Remy tried to hold on, but Chrístõ grabbed his hand.

“Let go. Let the boat fall first. Otherwise it will land on top of us. Hold onto me.”

“All right, but who’s holding onto you?” Remy answered. He let go of the boat and let Chrístõ grab hold of him as the world turned upside down and around about and they felt themselves falling down towards one of the other slices of land in the torus. The boat dropped away beneath them as Chrístõ closed his eyes and concentrated. He could levitate to show off to Julia, or to reach people in an earthquake damaged building. Could he do it as his body was falling through the air?

He couldn’t, not fully. But his attempt slowed them enough that the landing didn’t break every bone in their bodies and pulp their brains. They fell awkwardly and it hurt, but they stood up, winded, bruise, but alive.

It was night here in this land section. They looked up at a sky that was transparent so that the starfield beyond the artificial ring was visible. The Intergalactic Bar and Grill was a square, metallic moon hanging among them.

“What the HELL was that?” Remy asked.

“Part of the trap,” Chrístõ answered. “The other part, I’m guessing, is in that building over there.”

The building was a boathouse, built half over a wharf at the side of a wide river estuary. There was a boat moored up that was identical to the one they had abandoned. That was in very small, very broken pieces fifty yards away from where they had landed.

“Yes, it is,” Remy confirmed. “I can hear Rodan calling in my mind. She’s scared. Come on. We’ll shoot our way in if we have to.”

“That’s a great way to blow the whole thing,” Chrístõ told him. He looked at the gun that Remy had put in his pocket. “Waterproof, of course. The latest bastic pistols from the Villengarde munitions factory.”

Remy was surprised.

“I don’t like guns. I don’t like killing. Doesn’t mean I don’t know all about them. The point is they’re waterproof. Tell me you CAN swim?”

“Is the Lord High President a Prydonian?” Remy answered. Chrístõ shoved the gun back in his pocket and dived into the river. He closed off his breathing as he swam underwater. He saw Remy at his side, strongly pulling through the water. They aimed for the river side of the boathouse, knowing that their entrance would be unseen.

They came up inside the dark, silent boathouse and pulled themselves out of the water. Remy drew his gun as the water dripped from his body. Chrístõ kept his in his pocket, but his hand by the pocket. It was possible he might have to use it soon against a man who had betrayed his world and kidnapped his fiancée.

“I don’t know why you’re so cool about it,” Remy told him telepathically as they moved through the boathouse and carefully approached a door that had a light under it. “I want to kill him even more for what he did to them.”

“We’re supposed to be calm and professional about this, no matter what the personal stakes,” Chrístõ answered. “My father would say so if he were here.”

If his father were here, he would be appalled, Chrístõ reminded himself. He NEVER wanted him to be involved with the Agency.

Remy held his gun ready and opened the door carefully. He then did something Chrístõ never expected to see outside of a twentieth century Earth spy film. He rolled forward into the room and came up ready to fire.

Except he didn’t. Chrístõ stepped into the room in a less dramatic way, his hand still by the gun but not drawing it. What he saw there made him realise right away why Remy hadn’t already opened fire.

“Julia!” he yelled, ignoring the man who held Rodan as a shield and his gun pressed against her head. Julia was lying on the floor, her clothes ripped, bruises and gashes all over her exposed flesh. He ran to her, only to find that there was a forcefield between him and her. He reached for his sonic screwdriver to try to break it down. When he couldn’t, he grabbed the gun instead and aimed at the kidnapper. “Set her free, or I WILL use this,” he said, and he meant it in that angry moment.

“Chrístõ,” Remy called out. “I don’t think this is what it seems. Look beyond your anger. This is… not….”

Chrístõ was puzzled by his comment, but he tried to get past the rage he felt at the abuse his fiancée had suffered. He breathed deeply and closed his eyes. Remy was right. This wasn’t what it looked like.

He opened his eyes. Julia wasn’t there. The forcefield wasn’t there.

Rodan wasn’t there, either, and the man who stood in place of the kidnapper, smiling ironically, was Paracell Hext.

“What the #&%$*~ is going on?” Chrístõ demanded.

“I’d like to know that, too,” Remy said. “But I wouldn’t use that word to my boss.”

“I’m surprised,” Hext told them. “I thought it would be you, with your far superior experience, who would have recognised the signs, Chrístõ. Instead, it was Remy who sensed that things weren’t quite right and held his fire. Obviously I had a personal shield, just in case both of you wanted to riddle me with bullets.”

“Did you expect me to be calm when I saw Julia….”

“No, on reflection, maybe not,” Hext responded. “Your Human emotionalism, of course. Remy is the pure Gallifreyan and he used his logical mind to judge correctly.”

“My Human emotionalism?” Chrístõ bristled with a long held source of exasperation. “My Human emotionalism! Hext, are you trying to MAKE me shoot you?”

“That would just prove my point,” he replied. “Put the gun away Chrístõ. It really doesn’t suit you. Neither does assassination. You’re right about that. But you DID manage to talk to your cousin for longer than you ever had before in your life?”

“Yes… but….”

“Remy, it’s all right. It was a test… not to see if you would go through with killing somebody. That’s not as hard as it sounds. Even Chrístõ did it when he had to – when we cleared the Mallus from the Citadel. I’ll tell you about it sometime. He never will. But I wanted to be sure you had the judgement to know when NOT to shoot. There’s a story you should ask Chrístõ’s father to tell you, another time… about the day The Executioner went to ancient China after a man who had kidnapped the woman HE loved, and he didn’t shoot him.”

“Oh, Sweet Mother of Chaos,” Chrístõ swore. He KNEW that story well enough.

“So I did the right thing?” Remy asked.

“Yes, you did. You’re ready to handle a Code Delta assassination if one has to be done. Personally I think that’s too quick and easy. I prefer to get them into the Tower and use those electronic whips until they explain WHY they thought betraying our world was a desirable thing to do.”

“I think you enjoy using those whips too much,” Chrístõ commented. “There is a streak of sadism in you, Paracell Hext.”

Hext grinned widely in answer to that.

“What about the women?” Remy asked. “Where is my wife? Where is Julia?”

“They’re with my wife,” Hext answered. “Savang met them in the restaurant and took them on a shuttle trip around the Ring. She filled them in on the plan. They know you’re both fine. It was Savang who contacted you, Remy. She is perfectly capable of copying anyone’s telepathic ident. It was one of the mischievous things the Sisterhood got up to – planting false messages in people’s minds. Rodan was never in any distress. Julia, Rassilon bless her, was a little worried about ME. She thought you might just shoot me anyway. Apparently you’re in a very bad mood about all this.”

“Don’t tempt me,” Chrístõ responded. “Remember my Human emotionalism. You’d better have a TARDIS or a fast shuttle handy to meet the girls.”

Hext had a time ring. Chrístõ hated them more than he hated transmat beams. When his ears stopped buzzing he looked around and thought that the place where the woman had stopped to relax under the fake but warm and pleasant midday sun was delightful. There was a small pond fed by a waterfall that cooled the air. Julia, Savang and Rodan were eating ice cream cones from a cool box by their side. They invited their men to enjoy the same treat.

“Are you still grumpy?” Julia asked as he sat beside her.

“Yes, just a bit. But I’m going to take it out on Paracell later. I’ll show him how Human Emotionalism and Human Queensbury Rules go together.”

“All right. But have an ice cream in the meantime and enjoy the sunshine.” Julia reached into the box and passed him a double chocolate and marshmallow wafer. Chrístõ accepted it and contemplated letting Hext off, just this once.

As long as he didn’t have any more tests planned.