They stepped out of the TARDIS and looked around instinctively to see what it had disguised itself as today. A shuttlecraft was rather run-of-the-mill, but what else could it be parked in the hangar bay of a spaceport. As usual Chrístõ's symbol was displayed on it.

"Not too keen on being in a spaceport again after last time," Terry said.

"I don't think religious fundamentalists would be interested in this one," Chrístõ assured him. "It's really just a galactic equivalent of a motorway service station - Newport Pagnell in the Gamma Quadrant." He looked at the vehicles parked next to the TARDIS and smiled. "Those two craft are disguised TARDISes, too. Couple of my Academy friends are here."

"Not Epsilon," Cassie shuddered.

"I said friends!" Chrístõ led the way out of the hangar bay as if he was familiar with the spaceport. He hadn't actually been to this particular one before, but they were all much the same. The leisure and shopping level of this one was slightly less seedy than some he'd seen but otherwise indistinguishable. The motorway service station analogy was pretty well apt.

"I thought you didn't HAVE any friends," Sammie said to him.

"Well, not many. Not among the boys anyway. The girls were another matter."

Terry and Sammie looked at each other as they considered that comment. From any other man that might have sounded like bragging. But there was something about the way Chrístõ spoke that just made them very sure he was telling the truth.

Bo and Cassie just smiled. Why wouldn't Gallifreyan girls want to be friends with Chrístõ?

"There they are," Chrístõ said as they came into the cafeteria. He stepped up to a table where two young women were sitting and greeted them warmly. Both of them jumped up from their seats and embraced him enthusiastically. His Earth friends approached and he introduced them with a bright smile on his face. "This is my cousin, Rani, and my very dear friend, Romana."

"Cousin?" Bo smiled as she shook hands with the young woman called Rani. "It is good to meet kin of Chrístõ. He is very precious to me."

"Really?" Rani answered dubiously. "How very…." Bo stepped back as she saw the cold glint in her eyes. Was it jealousy or contempt? She wasn't sure. But she didn't like it.

"You are all travelling with my cousin?" Rani asked as Chrístõ ordered coffee for his friends oblivious of her apparent disdain for them all. "I never knew he was so sociable. He used to be the quiet one working by himself in the corner when I was in class with him."

"Are we talking about the same Chrístõ?" Sammie asked. "Quiet one in the corner? Doesn't sound like him at all."

"We are," Chrístõ said.

Romana looked at him thoughtfully. He HAD been a quiet boy at school, because asserting himself drew the attention of the bullies. Only in their senior years at the Academy had he really come out of himself. Then his brilliance in all subjects became obvious, and even the most sceptical of his tutors had to recognise him. At the same time the training in martial arts he had taken up in his spare time had developed and strengthened his once scrawny body, making him a physical force to be reckoned with by those who used to gang up on him.

It was about then, she thought with a smile, that girls like her had started to notice how beautiful those Human eyes of his were, how attractive his smile was, how gentle and unassuming he was. About that same time their parents started to realise that his mixed blood might be a minor matter set against the political advantage of Alliance with the House of Lœngbærrow. THEN he had turned, almost overnight, from the insignificant loner to the young prince that the men wanted to emulate and the women just wanted.

But Chrístõ had never forgotten the bullies and the scorn and the rejection and he had not forgotten that, while it WAS only a core group that did the bullying, the rest of them had turned a blind and indifferent eye to his suffering.

She had been one of the indifferent ones. She'd seen his suffering and thought it none of her business. And she was sorry for that. She was glad that he counted her as a genuine friend, and not just because she was the daughter of a Newblood house with less political power and less economic clout than Oldbloods like the Lœngbærrow House.

"You're from Earth?" Romana said to his friends, genuinely interested as well as seeking to change the subject from one that distressed Chrístõ.

"Yes," Terry told her. "But how did you know?" He looked at her and thought she looked like the kind of girl his mother would have been happy for him to bring to tea, dressed neatly in a skirt and blouse with a silk scarf matching the skirt and a narrow brimmed hat over her long, flowing hair. She looked as if she played piano for the Sunday school and collected for the Salvation Army. His mother would have LOVED her with all the passion with which she hated Cassie.

"I have a unique psychic ability," Romana said. "I can tell species by instinct."

"Oh. Right. I guess that's handy. And yes, we ARE from Earth. And we're all proud of that, so if you're going to get nasty about it like the last person we met from your planet, then save it."

"I wasn't." Romana protested. "Who….?" She looked at Chrístõ who seemed to give her the answer to her question telepathically. "Oh well, Eps would behave like that. I wonder if he missed the point of a field trip to meet people from other worlds. He despises every other race in the universe."

"Glad to see you're not ALL like him," Cassie told her. She smiled. She liked Romana. She seemed friendly.

"I've not been to Earth yet," she continued. "I wanted to see the Orion planets first. Chrístõ's first and only idea was to visit his mother's home planet."

"Did I hear right that you're Chrístõ's cousin?" Sammie asked Rani, who was sitting quiet but alert and taking in everything. "Does that mean you're also part Human?"

"Good grief, no," Rani said a little too quickly. "I mean… No, indeed. Chrístõ's father was the only one of the family who took a non-Gallifreyan wife. It's quite unusual among the Oldblood Houses where tradition and honour count for so much. His father rather scandalised the family by taking such a woman as his wife. My mother was of a noble Oldblood House just like de Lœngbærrow,."

"So are you Time Lords too?" Bo asked Romana.

"Yes," she said.

"Not Time Ladies?" Cassie asked.

"No," Rani said shortly. "It's always Time Lord regardless of gender."

"Its not equal opportunities," Chrístõ said. "We're misogynists. We can't actually stop women training to be Time Lords but we don't recognise them as women."

"He's right," Romana said with a wry smile. "And that's coming from the smallest minority group of all. If women are rare at the Time Lord Academies, half bloods are even more so. Chrístõ is the first to graduate in about a thousand years." She said that as if she was proud of him, and his friends noticed how her hand touched his as she spoke. "And the only one to come through that elitist bastion, the Prydonian Academy."

"It was my father's school," he said. "I simply followed his lead."

His friends noticed, he apparently did not, that Rani seemed much less impressed by Chrístõ's achievement against the odds than Romana. All of them separately came to the same line of thinking - that there was something of Epsilon's contempt for them underneath her smile. Her reaction to being asked if she, too, was half Human gave her away despite her attempt to cover it up.

They drank their coffee in what actually was a slightly awkward silence after that. The Human friends were at a loss to know what more to say to three Time Lords, two of them female, and one of those hostile to them. They in turn weren't sure what to say to the Earth people. Chrístõ bridged the gap, literally in his half blood DNA and culturally with his experience of Earth life. But even he found it hard to find a topic of conversation that his old friends and new could be equally comfortable with.

Terry solved the problem by getting up and going to the machine that, while definitely space,-age was unmistakeably a jukebox. As he read through the lists of available music he smiled. Chrístõ had told him that his interest in Earth rock music stemmed from spaceports like this one, but he hadn't quite believed it until now. He made his selections and then turned and smiled to Cassie. As the backbeat took hold of them, they danced together. Sammie laughed and took Bo's hand. Chrístõ was looking at Romana and thinking of asking her when Rani stood and took hold of his hand. There was no way he could refuse without it being a breach of etiquette. Rani was equal to him in family lineage and a refusal even to dance with her in this informal gathering would be the height of bad manners. He saw the disappointment in Romana's eyes, though, and was sorry for it.

 But she was not left alone at the table for long. As she sat watching them a young man who had been drinking coffee alone at a window table looking out on the cosmos politely asked if she would dance with him. He told her his name was Jack and her psychic instinct identified him as from Earth, though a later century than Chrístõ's friends. She smiled at him and gave him her hand.

For a half a hour or so it was nice. For Rani and Romana rock and roll was a new experience entirely. For Bo it was a relatively new art form, though she had been a traveller in the TARDIS with the two sixties children long enough to understand it now. Cassie was the only female with it in her blood as it were. But all four of the men knew what they were doing and whatever their individual opinions were about feminism, the girls were all quite happy to be led for that innocent half hour by their men.

What spoiled it was what spoils innocent fun in any time or place in the universe, alcohol and jealousy. Both arrived in the form of an off duty gang of interstellar freight hauliers for whom the first had fuelled the second. They saw the only four women on the entire space station not employed as cleaners, barmaids or prostitutes dancing with four men who looked as if they could be easily overcome.

That was their first and last mistake. Chrístõ and Sammie's talents when it came to protecting their womenfolk soon became obvious, and even Terry knew enough school gym boxing and whatever he had picked up from knowing Chrístõ and Sammie to defend himself. Their new friend, Jack, proved very handy by himself.

And unlike a barroom brawl in Carson City circa 1880, the womenfolk they were defending didn't just stand around looking helpless. Bo's talents at unarmed combat were nearly matched by the two female Time Lords and Cassie was perfectly capable of digging a heel into the softer portions of any male who came near her uninvited.

The damage to the space port cafeteria when the fight was over was EXACTLY like the stereotypical western movie bar brawl. Chairs and tables were overturned. Plates of food had been flung. There was broken crockery everywhere. The glass serving counter was shattered when Jack got the better of a rough who wanted to smash his head through it.

And the final count of unconscious troublemakers was fifteen, while the only casualties among their party were Romana's pretty silk scarf, Terry's nose and Jack's cheek which was bleeding from a nasty knife cut. Chrístõ had sustained a couple of minor injuries as well, but his repaired themselves almost instantly.

“That was invigorating,” Jack laughed as he enjoyed Bo’s ministrations with a soothing and sweet smelling poultice on his damaged face. He watched as Chrístõ gave a full statement of events to the space station security who had turned up exactly in time to have nothing at all to do but take statements and haul everyone off to the brig. Jack had been in similar brawls in similar places. He fully expected that to happen to them all. He was rather pleased to see that Chrístõ was making it clear to the authorities that they were the innocent parties and lawsuits would follow if any of them was arrested as a result of this incident

"He's a lawyer?" Jack asked the assembled friends as he noted the very legalistic language Chrístõ was employing. "Bit young for it, isn't he?"

"You get used to that when you know Chrístõ," Terry told him. "He's a Time Lord. From Gallifrey."

"Is he? I thought that place was a myth."

“I don’t know how that idea got about,” Rani answered him coolly. “But we’re most certainly not mythological.”

“You’re not ALL Time Lords are you?” he asked in surprise.

“No,” Romana said. “Just the three of us. They’re all from Earth.”

“Well, there’s a coincidence,” Jack said with a smile. “So am I.” Then he looked back at Chrístõ and grinned. “He’s cute. Shame the jukebox got busted. Might have asked him to dance as well.”

"I should think again if I were you," Terry told him. "Gallifrey is the planet that invented the word 'Straight' and he is quite capable of breaking your arm."

"So am I," Sammie pointed out guardedly.

"Ah, you must be from the 20th century," Jack guessed and smiled the smile of a man in 'backing-off quietly' mode.

"And I'm also trying not to feel insulted seeing as you were dancing with me before," Romana added.

"Sorry," he said. "Nothing personal."

Chrístõ returned to where they were gathered. "Sorted," he told them. "No charges against any of us and the bill for the damage has already been taken out of their pockets." He nodded towards the still only semi-conscious roughs who were being taken in hand by security. "Everyone ok here?" He looked at Terry and Jack. "Sorry you had to get hurt, both of you. Especially you, friend," he said to Jack. "I guess we can definitely call you friend."

"Jack Harkness," he said, shaking Chrístõ's hand enthusiastically. "Time Agent. And apparently you're a Time LORD from Gallifrey."

"That's correct," Chrístõ said. "Time Agent? Heard of you guys. You stop abuses of the time continuum by the introduction of anachronisms."

"Yes. I'm on a case here, in fact," he said. "But my readings are totally mixed up. I've been picking up multiple non-contemporary power drives for a start."

"Er… that would be our time-space ships," Chrístõ admitted.

"Yeah," Jack agreed. "It would be. And you three Time Lords have totally stuffed my readings of the life forms around here. You register either as belonging to EVERY time period or NONE. And then there's these four - three separate Earth time periods. So how do I sort out a potentially dangerous paradox in the middle of a convention of time travellers!"

"You could ask for our help," Chrístõ suggested. "What's the problem exactly?"

Jack looked at him uncertainly.

"You don't trust us?"

"I don't know who any of you are, exactly," he said. "Except what you've told me. I know you're ALL outside your own time, and I'm supposed to REPORT activity like that to my superiors…. You are ALL time anomalies."

"Don't be ridiculous, you silly little ape-man," Rani told him, "WE are Time Lords. We rule time. Your pathetic Earth Time Agency is nothing to us. You have absolutely no jurisdiction."

"Rani is technically right," Chrístõ said. "Although I would have put it more diplomatically. OUR race is the one which governs temporal matters in the universe. Though the work done by the Time Agents in preventing dangerous abuses of time travel by lesser races IS invaluable."

"Can you BOTH stop using expressions like 'lesser races' and come down off your pedestals," Terry said. "Who actually elected the Time Lords as absolute rulers over all for that matter?"

"WE did," Chrístõ said. "Because we are the only race capable of handling that kind of power."

"Still sounds a bit superior, Chrístõ." Terry was getting irritated now. "Is it hanging around with your own kind that makes you sound like them or what? Because it really ISN'T you at all. Or if it is, we misjudged you."

"The ape-man comment isn't necessary either," Sammie added, looking at Rani who had adopted a very superior air.

"Hey, time out," Jack said. "Time Lords may THINK they rule the universe, but like I said before, I thought you guys were a myth, and I don't think it's possible for a myth to rule anyone. As for superior species - well that was pretty fancy fighting you did, I'll grant you that, but until I see something superior going on from any of you, I'll reserve judgement. As for trust…."

"When he's NOT acting high and mighty like he is right now, WE trust Chrístõ implicitly," Terry told him. "Cassie and I trusted him enough to leave our lives behind and come with him. And Bo and Sammie would both be dead without him. So if you've got a problem, he's your man."

Chrístõ just shrugged. "I offered to help. It's up to you. If you don't trust me, well I can't make you."

"Well, I have better things to do than hang around here with the Earth-born trash of the universe," Rani said. "I'll see you around the Galaxy, Romana. And you, too, cousin, perhaps. If you decide you want some better company." She stood up and strode out of the café. Striding is not something women do easily or convincingly, but Rani managed both.

"Wow, what a woman!" Jack commented sarcastically when she was gone.

"Chrístõ," Terry said. "Are ALL your relatives arrogant snobs? She ought to hook up with Epsilon."

"Something about her definitely puts me in mind of him," Cassie agreed.

"She has a cold heart," Bo said.

"Hearts," Jack corrected, glancing at the small display screen on the wide leather strap on his wrist. He glanced at Romana and Chrístõ. "You definitely ARE Gallifreyan. The body scanner confirmed it. Two hearts, quadruple helix DNA. I wonder…"

"Wonder what?" Sammie asked him. "For the record, I'd endorse what Terry said before. If you've got a problem here, Chrístõ is the man to help."

"I'll do my best anyway," Chrístõ said. In the absence of Rani, he DID, in fact, seem less superior and far more likeable. His Earth friends were relieved. They had none of them much liked that glimpse of another side of him.

"Well, okay," Jack said. "Come on with me." He glanced at Chrístõ, then at the rest of his friends. "All of you."

As they walked towards the turbo lifts to the hangar bay Cassie noted that they seemed to have formed couples again, she and Terry, of course, but also Bo and Sammie - an arrangement Chrístõ seemed to be encouraging - and Chrístõ himself and Romana, his old school friend. Cassie looked at the two of them and made a guess that Romana would have liked to be more than friends with him. Well, that would be good, she supposed. One of his own kind. A NICE one of his own kind, not Rani.

If Rani was going to be a couple with anyone, Epsilon DEFINITELY jumped to mind. Yet it looked as if she was making a play for Chrístõ. Surely he wouldn't? The thought made her feel cold. He was a sweet, wonderful man. He deserved better.

Jack brought them to his own ship. A smart looking craft which, if it was an Earth automobile, would certainly have been a sporty American model with air conditioning and sliding roof and the latest music system. Inside it was roomy enough for the whole extended group of them. They sat around a table that looked as if it belonged to a music producer waiting to find out exactly what it was all about.

"THIS is what it's about." They all stared as Jack stood at the head of the table with a fearsome looking weapon raised in his hands. Cassie was instantly reminded of Sammie's M16 - and then some. It was like the M-16's great, great, great grandson that had acquired ever more effective killing power the way Chrístõ had acquired that fantastic collection of names from his ancestors.

Jack, in fact, with that gun, reminded her a lot of Sammie. He, too, seemed to be a man who was comfortable with weapons. If she had met him before getting to know Sammie she might have found him disturbing, but she had come to realise by now that even hard men are more than just that. And after all, he WAS on their side. He had helped them when the spaceport roughs had tried to hurt them. AND he had expressed exactly her own feelings about Rani. Her instinct about Jack was to trust him.

Even so she jumped when he dropped the weapon on the table in front of them. They all did. Sammie, was the one who picked it up and examined it.

"What IS this?" he asked with the fascination of a man who knew how to handle guns. "I've never see anything like it."

"It's a semi-automatic atomiser gun," Chrístõ said with a shudder. "Illegal and for a very good reason."

"On our planet atomising is the punishment for the very worst crimes," Romana added. "But it is done under specially supervised circumstances and only when the one convicted is very clearly and absolutely guilty."

"Atomising…" Sammie said slowly. "That means…"

"Exactly what you're all thinking," Chrístõ said. "It disassembles the body into its constituent atoms. It's a painful way to die. That's why we use it for murderers, multiple rapists and people who cause a Time Disruption by breaking more than one of the Laws of Time."

"And THAT….." Terry pointed at the weapon in Sammie's hands. "THAT is a portable version."


Even Sammie looked nervous about it.

“Relax,” Jack told them. “That one is disarmed. I disarmed it. But it's what it's all about. We have information that 100,000 of THESE are heading for the Drixian system. To be sold to the Drixian government to use against the Rebel Alliance."

"Oh…. %&^£%*£," Chrístõ said.

"Well, I would not have put it so crudely," Romana said rather primly. "I don't know where somebody of your high social position and good upbringing learnt Low Gallifreyan curses like that. But I would agree with the sentiment generally."

"Er…" Sammie looked at Chrístõ then at Jack. "Ok, this is a fearsome weapon but what's the big picture here? I gather there is one from the way you guys are reacting."

"The Drixian system is seven planets all ruled by a dictatorship on the outer planet," Jack explained. "In the time period we are in the rebellion has been ongoing for the past forty years and the government is set to fall to a popular revolt."

"They have space travel between the seven planets, though not yet interstellar travel," Chrístõ continued. "And their weapons technology is at about the same level as Earth in the late 20th century, except they never developed any nuclear capability."

"Just as well, Terry said. "Sounds like they'd have nuked each other by now."

"Exactly," Jack said. "An interplanetary war using what in YOUR century were called 'conventional' weapons. It's been dirty, bloody, but it hasn't yet been genocide. But with these…."

"These are advanced technology. From the future," Chrístõ went on again. All eyes went from him to Jack and back again, recognising that in their different ways THEY were the experts here. Sammie examined the disabled atomiser gun curiously. "Introduced into the Drixian war they would completely change the outcome."

"No kidding!" Under his breath Sammie said a word that was nearly as bad as Chrístõ's low Gallifreyan and much more universally recognised. "It's like… If the weapons we had in the Gulf were given to the Germans in 1917."

"Exactly," Chrístõ said. "Or if the Iraqis were given THOSE in your war."

Sammie said the same profanity again but louder, then apologised to the women around the table.

"And I thought I had them," Jack said. "I was sure the freighter was in this spaceport. But then you lot pop up and my readings go screwy."

"Is this a time travel ship?" Terry asked. "You said you were a Time Agent. So…"

"Yes," Jack said proudly. "Top of the line, latest model." Romana gave a rather unladylike snort at that, and even Chrístõ smiled. "WHAT?"

"51st century Humans cracked basic time travel," Chrístõ said. "But TARDIS technology makes this ship look like a 1917 gun next to this one. Besides, despite the work you Time Agents do, WE'RE the ones who have time travel in our very blood. That's why we're called TIME Lords."

"Ok, don't start that again," Cassie said, spotting a fight brewing. She looked at Romana. "I thought you were different to your friend Rani. I thought you didn't regard every other species as inferior. And you, Chrístõ - though I'm surprised to find myself even having to ASK!"

"Rani is typical of the more traditionalist and short-sighted of the Oldblood Houses," Romana said. "No, I don't think that way. And neither does Chrístõ. He'd be going against his own MOTHER if he did."

"It doesn't matter what anyone thinks," Bo said quietly. "What is important is that somebody STOPS this horrible thing happening."

"And it looks like it's down to us," Terry added.

"But Chrístõ, how can we get involved?" Romana asked. "The High Council forbids interference in the affairs of other peoples and races."

"It forbids the use of advanced technology in non-advanced societies, too," Chrístõ argued. "WE didn't start this. The people Jack is tailing did. We need to stop THEM causing the sort of anomalies in time our people guard against."

"And incidentally," Romana turned a cold look on Jack. "When you danced with me- bad enough I thought you felt sorry for me because I was the wallflower. Bad enough that you actually fancy Chrístõ more than me." She ignored Chrístõ's puzzled glance at her and at Jack. "But it just occurred to me that your interest in us was because we are time travellers and you figured us as suspects."

Oh, does it matter?” Bo interrupted wearily. “Let’s stop these people from selling these demon guns.”

“She’s right,” Jack agreed. “And for the record, you’re the sweetest suspect I ever danced with.”

“Lets all go back to MY TARDIS,” Chrístõ decided. “Your technology can’t differentiate between one time travel technology and another. Mine can.”

Jack was suitably impressed by the TARDIS interior. He made a guess at the technology that made it possible that was close enough to being correct to impress Chrístõ, though Romana still seemed a little miffed by him. And when Chrístõ showed him the environmental console he looked like a child who had been invited to be chief elf at the North Pole.

"Wow! That's more like it," he exclaimed. "Non-contemporaneous tech spotted. Leaving aside my ship and Miss Romana's - what do you call these - TARDIS - THAT's our freighter of illegal atomising weapons I'm betting."

"And it's taking off," Chrístõ told him as he worked at the flight control. "Terry, take Navigation there will you." Romana looked surprised when Terry, the Earth born male, took what seemed to be an accustomed place at the navigation console. Meanwhile the young Chinese girl, Bo, took an equally accustomed place at the life support.

"Don't you think I ought to do that?" Romana asked. "After all, you ARE slaving MY TARDIS to work in tandem with this one."

"Terry knows what he's doing," Chrístõ said. "I'm used to him as navigator now."

Terry smiled. Nice to know Chrístõ didn't REALLY think he was just an inferior Human. "It DOES handle strangely in tandem," he added. "You can feel the difference."

"Yes," Chrístõ agreed. "I always can, of course. Didn't realise you could."

"I'm used to you as pilot," he returned. "So…the plan…"

"We extend the vortex manipulator fields of our two TARDISes so that they act as an inhibitor on the freight ship, preventing it from doing what it's just about to try to do…

"Jump into hyperspace," Jack said before anyone asked what it was trying to do. If it does that we've lost it. And I want to stop it BEFORE it gets anywhere close to the Drixian solar system."

"There," Chrístõ said triumphantly. And they ALL felt the change in the TARDIS engines as the two time machines began to exert an influence on the huge freighter that filled the viewscreen.

"Its impossible," Cassie said as she saw the freighter slow down. "The TARDISes are both so small. And they're holding THAT."

"Cassie," Chrístõ smiled. "The TARDIS is not SMALL. You should realise that by now. Its outer form is, but its real size is unplottable and two of them can certainly handle a freighter. The combined vortex manipulators make an unbreakeable field."

"Yes," Sammie said, but how long can it keep it up?"

"Long enough," Chrístõ assured him.

"Long enough for what?" Terry noticed that Chrístõ was gripping the console and did likewise. His Earth friends all did the same. So did Romana who was aware of just what the forces exerted on the ship were doing. Jack was the only one who wasn't expecting it when the Freighter's engines broke under the strain. It came to a halt that would have been accompanied by an agonising sound of tortured metal if there was any sound in the vacuum of space. The TARDIS jerked wildly as the force of the sudden halt reverberated back to it but when Jack had picked himself up from the floor they saw that their quarry was immobilised. Chrístõ smiled as he cancelled the vortex field and prepared for them to materialise on board the freighter.

"Not bad," Jack said admiringly. "Beats a transmat beam hands down. Can only move people one at a time with the one on my ship and I never felt I could trust it to put me together again properly." Then he became serious. He looked at Sammie, who was already preparing his M-16 for action. He himself checked the breech of his space age equivalent of that weapon. Not the illegal atomiser but a 'conventional' gun that really WAS the descendent of Sammie's M-16, made by the same company. Samuel Colt, who made his fortune in the 19th century, making reliable guns for the protectors of the new frontiers of the American west might have warm feelings in his cold grave knowing that Colt Galactic PLC now made weapons for those who now protected the frontiers of space.

Sammie looked at Jack's gun with something like envy. Romana, Cassie and Bo looked at them both and though they all came from completely different cultures they shared a common thought about 'men' and 'guns'.

"Why is it," Romana said. "That no matter what planet or century they come from men always needed SOMETHING to compare."

Sammie looked up at the giggles coming from the women and then pulled his side-arm and gave it to Terry. "Press THAT to take off the safety and then point and shoot," he said. "Your life might depend on it."

Jack looked at Chrístõ and passed him HIS sidearm. He looked even more dubious about it than Terry.

"Well, didn't you once say you were a crack shot with a pistol?" Terry said to him.

"Yeah, an eighteenth century duelling pistol," he conceded. "Never used it in action though." He looked at Jack. "You're expecting us to need to defend ourselves?"

"I'm expecting us to take the offensive," he replied.

"Shoot first, ask questions later?" Chrístõ said dryly.

"Just shoot first. There are few questions I need to ask anyone who wants to shoot me," Jack corrected. "This is a freelance gun-runner, in the pay of somebody else. I'm not sure who that is, but somebody who wants to cause trouble in Drixia and make money for himself. There is PROFIT in it for somebody. But these people are not going to take being caught in an illegal act lightly. We have ONE advantage here. The freighter left with fifteen of its crew in the brig back at the space station. Fifteen we don't have to fight."

"Well, not twice, anyway," Sammie grinned.

"Ok, let's go," Chrístõ sighed. He looked at the women. He wasn't sure what their blank expressions signified. "We'll be back," he promised.

"You'd better," Cassie said. She looked at Terry with a glitter in her eyes. "We protested the American Embassy last year because we don't believe in violence." She looked at Chrístõ. "Neither do you. And yet…."

"Sometimes there's no choice," Chrístõ said. He glanced at the two professional warriors who were looking impatient near the TARDIS door. "Sometimes you just have to…" He sighed and turned. "Terry, come on." He moved to join Jack and Sammie and Terry came with him.

"They're going to get KILLED!" Cassie said as the TARDIS door closed behind them.

"Chrístõ knows what he's doing," Bo assured her. "He is brave and clever and he will do the right thing."

"Chrístõ isn't in charge," Romana replied. "Mr Charm-I-Like-Boys-As-Well-As-Girls-Gun-Toting-Time-Agent is."

Terry had noticed that, too. It came as a shock to him as he realised that Jack - the stranger - was the one they were following. Sammie seemed to have slipped into place as his lieutenant. And he and Chrístõ were just making up the numbers.

That was what was different about this situation of course. He was used to Chrístõ being in charge. He trusted Chrístõ's judgement.

Did he trust Jack's? He wasn't sure. Yes, probably. And he was probably the right man to lead them in this case.

And he was right about needing to stop this freighter. Of that he WAS sure. They were the good guys. They were PREVENTING a war. Yes, last summer they had waved placards outside the American Embassy. And the Vietnam War was still happening.

But what they were doing now - preventing guns from reaching people who would use them to suppress a freedom movement and alter the course of a war. Wasn't that ACTUALLY achieving more than all their protesting put together.

He just wished he didn't have to use a gun to do it. The thing felt uncomfortable in his hand, not just because of its unaccustomed heaviness.

Romana moved to the environmental monitor and followed the lifesigns of their menfolk. The corridor they were in was empty and their presence was not yet known, but that would not be the case for long. She easily made mental contact with Chrístõ and gave him directions to the bridge of the ship.

"You have feelings for Chrístõ?" Bo said to her.

"Is this the time or the place?" Romana asked her.

"Perhaps not. But…"

"YOU have feelings for him. That much is obvious. And yet…." Romana carefully blocked this conversation from that part of her mind that was in contact with Chrístõ. "The military type… Sammie… I thought at first you and him were…. But your concern right now is clearly for Chrístõ. You're worried for him."

"I'm worried for them all," she said. "But Chrístõ is…. He's very special."

"Yes, he is," Romana agreed. "Even for a Gallifreyan he IS that. I WISH… He thinks of me as a friend." Romana sighed. "If I thought for one moment it could be more… but we're JUST friends. At least as far as HE thinks."

"Sammie is very special too," Bo said. "I like him very much."

"I want them all back safe," Cassie said. "All I feel right now is scared."

Bo took her hand and squeezed it. Cassie looked at her friend and sighed.

"Chrístõ," Romana said in her head. "Six people coming your way."

Chrístõ relayed the information to Jack and Sammie. There was a clicking of safety catches. Chrístõ made his handgun ready. Terry tried to do the same but to his horror and embarrassment he pressed the catch that expelled the magazine. It clattered on the floor and he bent to pick it up, ignoring the disgusted sounds from the professional soldiers in front of him.

He was still down trying to replace the magazine - it looked a lot easier on TV he thought - when the six armed men rounded the corner and challenged them.

"Jack Harkness, Time Agent," Jack said, producing his ID card. Christo stepped between him and Sammie and pulled his psychic paper, willing it to give himself the same credentials. "This ship is transporting an illegal cargo contravening articles 45, 47 and 470 of the Rilos Treaty and I am impounding it and putting its crew under arrest."

"You and who's army?" one of the guards demanded and cocked his gun. They were at near point blank range and Jack and Chrístõ both pocketed their ID's and took a firm hold of their weapons. Terry was still struggling to make his gun work when the sounds of gunfire echoed around the corridor. He closed his eyes and prayed.

The silence that followed the gunfire was unnerving. Terry opened his eyes and slowly stood up. Sammie and Jack were flicking on their safety catches and checking their ammunition. Chrístõ still stood with his arm outstretched, frozen in shock at his own actions. Sammie reached out and touched him on the arm and gently pushed it down. He blinked and seemed to come to his senses as Jack stepped forward and examined the nearest of the six very dead bodies.

"I killed one…" Chrístõ said weakly. "I never..."

"Don't lose any sleep," Jack said taking the weapon from the dead man. "Look at what they were planning to use on us."

"Is that an atomiser?" Sammie asked.


"They all have those." Terry observed.

"Well spotted," Jack said. "If we hadn't shot first we'd be vaporised. These people mean business. So let's get to the bridge and secure it and if anyone else starts to point a gun, don't hesitate, any of you. INCLUDING YOU?" He turned to Terry and took the gun he was still not sure about, clicked the magazine into it properly and checked the safety catch. "Here," he said impatiently. "And DON'T touch the release button until you actually run out of bullets." Terry took it back and said nothing. What COULD he say? He had made a fool of himself while everyone else was fighting for their lives.

"Yes," Chrístõ said under his breath to Romana's concerned questions. "I'm all right. We're all fine." But he didn't feel fine. Whatever about the weapons had been aimed at him he still didn't feel at all well about the fact that he had killed a man. The fact that his companions had killed five of them was no comfort to him. The one with the bullet hole directly between the eyes was the one he had killed. He stared at the body until Sammie practically barked an order to him to 'move.'

"Chrístõ, there's another four ahead and five coming behind you," Romana told him. Either side of her Bo and Cassie watched the monitor. If either of them were born into the age of video games it would have looked like a surreal and terrifying version of Pacman. The four lifesigns identified as their loved ones, Chrístõ's distinctive from the rest because he had, as Jack said, two hearts and a quadruple helix DNA, formed defensive positions against the walls of the corridor as the enemy challenged them from in front and behind. She saw them stop and then one by one the enemy lifesigns faded as they won their battle. They moved on again, slowly, in the same wall-hugging formation and Romana scanned the immediate are for the next threat.

Each time they engaged the enemy the three women watched with heavy hearts and breathed sighs of relief as the dots representing the enemy winked out. Their group of four remained each time and Chrístõ replied to Romana's inquiries that none of them were injured. She didn't pass on what he added the last time - that the weapons they were facing were the same atomising weapons they were trying to prevent reaching the Drixian system and that if any of them were hit they would be dead. Wounded did not come into it. She thought her Earth companions were worried enough without it. Especially Bo. Romana's first guess about her was right. She was carrying a torch not just for Chrístõ but for Sammie as well. She gave it away once by asking for him by name. Cassie clearly noticed that too. Romana was concentrating on maintaining the link with Chrístõ but she felt the confused emotions from both women. Something Chrístõ would have to sort out WHEN they were through this, she thought. But it struck her that with three men and two women emotionally tangled somebody was going to be left out in the cold.

And she knew her next thought was pure selfishness. If it was Chrístõ who lost out to Sammie, maybe…. Somebody of his own kind, to help mend his broken hearts? Maybe.

But they had to survive this first. And the luck they'd had so far must surely run out. For it WAS just luck. There were just four of them with 'conventional' weapons against apparently unlimited streams of the enemy with guns that killed in an excruciating and inescapable way.

"The bridge is up ahead," she told him at last. I'm reading nine life signs."

"Would the bridge crew be armed?" Cassie asked. "That would be communications and navigation and stuff."

"I don't know," Romana admitted. "This is my first gunfight on board a space ship."

"It's my second," Cassie said. "Plus being kidnapped three times and ending up trapped in places like that. And the hijacking of Regia Omnia."

"You were THERE?" Romana looked at her with wide-eyed amazement. "At Regia Omnia."

"The places we've been since knowing Chrístõ," Cassie said with a grimace. "But usually we're a part of it. It's harder watching like this. Helpless."

The four lifesigns dearest to them were on the Bridge now, and the way they were moving about it rather looked as if it had come down to hand-to-hand fighting. Then Romana dashed from the environmental console to the drive while shouting to Cassie to key in a co-ordinate on navigation.

"What's happening?" Bo asked, catching Romana's desperation as she coaxed the TARDIS to do her bidding. Thank Rassilon, she thought, with her own TARDIS being slaved to this one it recognised her as a valid pilot. Chrístõ was already symbiotically imprinted on the machine and otherwise it would not have responded to her even though its true owner's life depended on it.

All three of them sighed in deep relief when the TARDIS materialised around their four friends.

Except it was not just the four who were caught by the TARDIS's field of existence. Even as they solidified Chrístõ disabled the man he was grappling with by means of some neat martial arts moves. Meanwhile Jack was hand to hand with the man who looked as if he might have been the captain of the freighter.

"Get us out of here," Chrístõ yelled at Romana as he picked himself up and flew to the navigation control which was closer to him than flight control where Romana still stood. She was already doing it when he added "20 seconds until self destruct."

"Who set self-destruct?" Cassie asked as she gripped the TARDIS console and watched the viewscreen. The freighter, now a safe distance away imploded on itself and turned into a fireball.

"This idiot did it," Jack said as he struggled with the captain still. "Granted, he THOUGHT a whole army was on board, not just the four of us. He thought he was beat."

"He was anyway," Sammie said as he crossed the floor intending to come to Jack's assistance. "He was beat once we made it to the bridge."

The captain uttered a string of oaths and turned unexpectedly. Jack found himself looking at the wrong end of a hand-gun version of the weapons they had just destroyed. He could hear it powering up to deal instant death to him.

Cassie screamed when the shot rang out. It was a lucky shot. Later they all said as much. And it was Jack it was lucky for. The gun aimed at his head clattered to the floor a moment before the captain went limp and collapsed on top of it. Jack dived out of the line of fire as the atomiser discharged beneath the body of the captain. He shimmered and for a moment his body seemed to be made of a million tiny silver lights before vanishing. Jack looked up and saw Terry, his arm outstretched, holding the gun that he had not, until then fired a single shot from.

"Thanks," he said. But Terry hardly seemed to hear him. Sammie stepped forward and put his hand over Terry's, clicking the safety catch on.

"It's over," he whispered to him. Cassie came the other side of him and touched his arm. He looked at her and tried to speak then fainted.


They sat in the cafe back on the space station. The fact that a freighter had just exploded within a short distance of the station was causing a lot of concern among the staff and civilians. Nobody had the slightest inkling that the seven of them were remotely connected with what was being put down as an accident. Jack was perfectly happy with that. The guns were destroyed. They had ceased to exist in this time zone. And his job was done. Looking at his new friends, though, he knew there WERE consequences for them. For Terry and Chrístõ this had been the first time either of them had been directly responsible for a death. He knew that was a monumental thing for any man. He remembered his own 'first time'. He had been physically sick for hours afterwards. He glanced at Terry. He looked like a man whose world wouldn't stop spinning, but he had Cassie all over him making it right for him. It had hit him hard, but he actually thought Terry was going to be ok.

Chrístõ was the one worrying him. He was taking it harder. He had also been hugged thoroughly - by Bo. Jack noticed how Sammie felt about that and was glad he wouldn't be around when that relationship triangle reached a crisis point. But right now Chrístõ looked like he was alone in his own head and Jack knew that wasn't a good thing.

"Hey," he said. "Are you ok now?"

"I'm… no." Chrístõ told him still feeling sick in the pit of his empty stomach. "I… Life has always been sacred to me. It shouldn't be that easy to take it."

"You're right," Jack said. "It shouldn't. But you did what needed to be done. You've nothing to reproach yourself with." Jack put his hands on Chrístõ's shoulders and was startled at the way he stiffened. He wished to hell the 'cute' remark hadn't got back to him. He knew as well as anyone that there was a time and a place. This was not the time and the place for hitting on anyone and he hoped Chrístõ would realise that. "Hey," he said to him. "Of all the things you have to be scared of in this universe, I'm not one of them."

"I…." Chrístõ looked at the open, friendly face of the man who held him and something in him gave. He pulled him close and hugged him as he cried. Jack let him get it out of his system before he drew back from him.

"There, see," he said. "And you still come from the planet that invented the word 'straight'. Don't beat yourself up over this. Or anything else. We did good. We stopped something bad happening. The people who died would have killed us and a lot of other innocent people."

"When does it stop feeling like this?" Chrístõ asked. "When do you stop feeling like your stomach will turn inside out afterwards?"

"It doesn't," Sammie said. He, too, had realised how hard it was for his less experienced friends. "And be glad it doesn't. If it does, then you're just a killer. As long as you FEEL it, you're still a Human being…. Or…. Well in your case… well you know what I mean." He looked at Terry who was listening to what they had to say intently. "That goes for you, too. You're allowed to feel sick about it. You're allowed to BE sick. But you're also allowed to go on living yourself."

"He's right," Jack said.

Chrístõ looked at Jack, and at Sammie and smiled. He still felt like hell, but there was something in what they were both telling him. He looked at Terry who nodded and also smiled weakly.

"I think I might be clear to get out of here," Jack added. "I don't know if we'll ever run into each other again. It's a big universe and we don't even live in the same time zone of it all the time. But if we do…"

"We'll have a drink and talk about old times," Chrístõ said. "You look after yourself. There's a lot of bad stuff out there and it seems like it's your JOB to look for it."

"Will do." Jack kissed the three girls and shook hands with the men and then he was gone. Romana sighed and said it was time she was on her way, too. Chrístõ stood to say goodbye to her in the correct form between two Time Lords, but she put her hands in his and kissed him.

"It was nice seeing you," she said. "I know we WILL meet again, because our future when our time out in the universe is over is back on Gallifrey. You are one of the people I will be looking forward to seeing. I want you to know that."

"You too," he said. "You're a good friend."

"Friend," Romana smiled. What else could she do. "I'm not the only one you have," she reminded him. "You have some good friends with you there. Take care of them. Let them take care of you. Until we meet again."

Chrístõ sat down again as she left and sighed. Bo moved from where she was sitting next to Sammie and daintily sat on his knee, her arms around his neck and her head resting on his shoulder. He smiled as he held her that way. He felt weary for many reasons, including the knowledge that he couldn't depend on having her sweet love like this for very much longer. But as long as she WAS there, hugging him like this, he felt a lot of his anxieties melting away.

Rani looked up from the console of her TARDIS as the viewscreen flickered to an incoming videophone message. The face of Rõgæn Koschei Oakdaene, sometimes known as Epsilon appeared scowling.

"You heard?" She said. "The arms shipment?"

"He is going to DIE! He cost me a fortune. Him and his sense of 'fair play and justice'."

"And his LOVE for those Earth people he hangs about with!" Rani looked as if the Earth people were causing a bad smell near her.

"And who IS this Earth 'Time Agent' he helped anyway?"

"He's nobody. The Time Agency are nobody. Ignore him. But what of our cousin?"

Epsilon gave a malicious laugh. "I have my plans for Thete and his friends." he said. "He'll regret tangling with me - for as long as I LET him live."