Ambassador De Lœngbærrow was waiting when his son walked into the arrivals lounge of the Talos V space platform. He looked as handsome as ever in a jet black robe that denoted a nobleman of Gallifrey with a cloak edged with silver and fastened with a silver clasp with his own unique symbol, TS. On the robe itself over his chest, was a silver brooch of the Lœngbærrow crest. The Ambassador’s hearts swelled with pride as he saw him. He smiled also to see the companions who stayed with his son out of love and loyalty. They, too, were dressed for the occasion. The two young men he knew as Terry and Sammie were in crisp black suits with silver tie pins with the Lœngbærrow crest upon them. Chrístõ had designated them as his personal aides on this diplomatic occasion. The ladies were in evening dresses, Cassie, the beautiful dark-skinned girl in a coral coloured satin and Bo the oriental girl in green and gold.

“Father!” Chrístõ cried joyfully and without in any way losing his dignified poise he seemed to speed his step. For a moment they retained that dignity and shook hands manfully, but then the Ambassador himself found it too much to behave so formally when he had not seen his own son for so many months. He embraced him lovingly.

“It is good to see you, my son,” he said truthfully.

“Good to see you, too, father,” Chrístõ said. “Though I still don’t know why you were so enthusiastic to get me here.”

“This is my first diplomatic mission in twenty years. They got me out of retirement for it. There are several Treaties of interest to our government. And I thought this might be an excellent opportunity for you to learn more about practical diplomacy.”

“I haven’t been with you on a diplomatic mission since….” Chrístõ broke off. His father knew what he was thinking of. When Chrístõ was a youngster of 125, he had spent his summer vacation with his father on his diplomatic work. There had been an assassination attempt on the Ambassador and Chrístõ had witnessed his regeneration. His first experience of that aspect of Time Lord life.

“You’re older now, you may understand what happens at these conferences much better. There is one Treaty in particular that I am overseeing which I thought might interest you. The High Council of Time Lords are considering establishing consular relations with the twin planet government of Adano Gran and Adano Menor. I felt sure you would like to join me when I meet with the Lord of Adano Menor to discuss his planet’s diplomatic relations with ours.”

“Penne… he’s here?”

“He is indeed,” the Ambassador said and he took his son’s arm and turned around to where another young man was standing, dressed in a deep maroon robe with a hooded scarlet cloak edged in gold. He turned down the hood and Chrístõ’s smile widened as he embraced his blood-brother, Penne Dúre of Adano Menor. The Ambassador watched as Chrístõ’s Earth friends flocked around them both joyfully. The resemblance between Chrístõ and Penne never ceased to amaze him. It was a remarkable coincidence considering Penne’s true origin.

“Lord de Lœngbærrow.” An ambassadorial aide approached him. “If your party is complete, it is time to be presented.” The Ambassador nodded and called Chrístõ and Penne both to his side. The four Earth friends formed two very natural looking couples and followed behind as they were led to the grand ballroom where the official reception of the Ambassadors was taking place.

Chrístõ had attended such functions before with his father. His first was when he was ten years old. He had fallen asleep on a chair in the corner and woke after the ball was over and his father was carrying him to bed. He had managed slightly better when he was twenty and had only stood on the toes of three of the daughters of important diplomats he was asked to dance with. He wasn’t even going to think about the one when….

As he stepped into the room, the noise overwhelmed him. Chrístõ stopped at the top of the wide staircase that led down to the ballroom floor and stared in surprise at the people who turned and cheered and clapped…. For him.

“What….?” he asked looking at his father who smiled and put his hand on his shoulder. Penne, on his other side, did the same as the crowd gradually quietened. He watched as two men in elaborate gold and black regalia mounted the stairs and stopped in front of Chrístõ. They bowed their heads respectfully and held out to him a black velvet cushion upon which a gold medal on a black and gold ribbon was laid.

“For courageous and intelligent action which prevented the annihilation of the Regia Omnia space station and a direct attack on the people of Regia Omnia you are awarded our highest civilian honour, the Medal of Valour.”

“You are the guest of honour tonight, Chrístõ,” his father told him. “Treaties will be made tomorrow. But tonight everyone is here for you. So…accept the medal and enjoy this night.”

“Every young woman down there is going to want to dance with you,” Penne told him. “With any luck some of them might mistake me for you. I’m still searching for a princess to share my life.”

Chrístõ laughed at Penne’s words and stepped towards the Regia Omnians. He bowed his head as they put the medal around his neck. There was a new round of applause and then Penne and his father came beside him again and they walked down the stairs. Chrístõ breathed out for the first time as he stepped onto the floor. He turned and looked at his friends. They were all smiling. They all remembered the nightmare on Regia Omnia. They knew they all owed their lives to Chrístõ’s actions. They knew he had never expected any kind of reward for it. But they were pleased that he had.

Penne was right. Every young woman in the room wanted to dance with him. He gave as many of them as he could to his doppelganger. Not that he wasn’t enjoying the ball, but he really wanted to spend a little time with his father.

He finally found that time. His father had retired to a drawing room off the main ballroom. He smiled at him as he invited him to sit down and share a drink with him. Chrístõ refused the drink but sat down.

“You deserve this night,” he said. “But why is that pretty young oriental girl no longer with you?”

“She was meant to be with Sammie. He’s a good man. He will take care of her.”

“And you…”

“I will meet the woman I will love for all my life in the near future and I will know her when I do. Li Tuo assured me.”

“Then I expect it is true.” The Ambassador looked at him and thought for a moment. “Chrístõ, there is something I have to tell you. And you’re not going to like it.” He paused and breathed in as Chrístõ looked at him. “Valena is pregnant. You…are going to have a brother.”

“Half brother,” he said automatically. The news was not as big a shock as it might have been. He had almost expected it.

“Half brother, yes.” his father said. “Though BOTH of you will be equally of my blood.”

“Except HE will be a pureblood.”

“YOU are my first born son,” his father assured him. “Nothing will change that. There is no statute of our world that can disinherit you.”

“I know that,” he replied. “I HAVE spent 50 years studying Gallifreyan law. My right of primogeniture is inviolate.” His eyes glittered as he went on. “That means that Valena’s pureblood son will have to look to me – the half-blood - for advancement when I inherit everything. That’s what it means. His life, his future, would be in my hands. And by law I don’t even owe him an indenture as one of our servants.”

“Yes,” his father sighed. “Yes, it means that. But…. Chrístõ… I didn’t raise you so cruel and heartless.”

“I didn’t say I would. Only that I could. Just something for Valena to reflect upon.”

His father sighed. “I never wanted you to be an only child. You should have had siblings. It was a lonely life for you. And now it's too late. You are what you are, and I have never been anything but proud of you. Can you accept that I will be no less proud of you when I have a younger son to be equally proud of.”

“I won’t be there. I will be home to graduate. After that, I shall be joining the diplomatic corps. I will no doubt be assigned to some other planet. There will be no need for me to even MEET this child.”

His father reached out and took his son’s hands in his. “Let me share a memory with you.” Chrístõ nodded as he felt his father’s mind reach out to his. It was a technique called Memory Visiting. Chrístõ used it sometimes when he wanted to feel close to his mother, though it didn’t work very well because he had too few clear memories of her. But as his father concentrated his mind he found himself taken into his memories. Chrístõ saw them clearly through his father’s eyes and his father’s thoughts. He never lost himself in the vision. He knew who he was and where he was. But at the same time he was there, 192 years ago, seeing and hearing, thinking, feeling all that his father had seen and heard and thought and felt.

The Ambassador said nothing to the butler who opened the door, or to any of the servants he passed as he ran up the stairs three at a time. At the landing he stopped and steadied his breath before continuing down the corridor to the master bedroom.

His wife was asleep. She looked as if she needed the rest. Beside her was a crib. The baby lying in it was not asleep. Deep brown eyes looked up at him as he approached. He reached and lifted the child in his arms. His son, his own son, two days old now. It was five days since they called him. It had taken four of those days to complete the negotiations that prevented two races from annihilating each other, and one to travel home to Gallifrey. His son was born on the last day of the negotiations.

“He doesn’t have a name yet.” The Ambassador looked at his wife as she opened her eyes and looked up at him. “Not a Gallifreyan name, anyway. The one that he will have for all his life. I’ve been calling him Martin. But I know that won’t be allowed to stand.” She paused breathlessly, as if such long sentences were hard work. “Kristoph… Tell me I am really his mother, not merely the vessel that nurtured him until he was ready to be given up to you.”

“You are his mother. He has your eyes. Human eyes. He has tear ducts.”

“I know. I saw. He’s going to have a hard life. He will be pointed to…. the half blood. You should have married one of your own kind, Kristoph.”

“Marion, I love you. And I love our son. Nothing changes that. Be sure of it. I am sorry I was not here. I should have been the one to hold him. I should have been there for you, my love.”

“You were in my heart,” Marion told her husband. “Did you make the Treaty?”

“I did.”

“Then it was worth it. The lives that will be saved. And our son is beautiful.”

“Yes. He is. And his name is Chrístõdavõreendiam?ndh?rtmallõupdracœfire-delunmiancuimhne de Lœngbærrow.”

“I prefer Martin,” Marion said with a deep sigh.

“We can’t have a Time Lord called Martin. Half blood or not, he is my son, and he WILL be a Time Lord.”

“Chrístõ Cuimhne?”

“It means remembrance.”

“I still prefer Martin.” Marion De Lœngbærrow sat up after a struggle and again breathed hard from the effort. She took the child back from her husband. “One thing worries me. He has a birthmark. Everyone who has seen it has behaved as if it was the sign of the devil.” She turned his face towards her and pulled the blanket away from his neck. Ambassador De Lœngbærrow stared in amazement at what he saw. No ordinary birthmark. But a perfectly formed symbol he knew only too well.

“He has the Mark of Rassilon,” he said hoarsely. “Marion, half blood or not, our son is destined to greatness. He will be a great man. It is a blessing. One child in every ten generations has the mark. And those that do are the greatest of our people.”

“Oh no!” Marion held her son tightly. “No! None of your Time Lord mysticism, none of your predictions. He’s two days old. I was three days giving birth to him. Let him be my child, my little boy for a while, before he has to be a great and powerful Time Lord.”


“Two days he was mine alone. Because you put Treaties and war before us. He will be your son when he is old enough to be taught to be a Time Lord, to be a stuffy, stuck up, arrogant Gallifreyan. But… but until then… until he is old enough to be told his name… he is called Martin, and he is my Human child who cries real tears, unlike any of you.” Again the effort seemed almost too much for her. The nurse who sat quietly in the corner reading looked up and seemed on the point of intervening but the Ambassador waved her away.

“Marion.” He reached and embraced her and the child together. He kissed them both. “He will always be your baby, no matter what he is called, no matter what he grows up to be. And I will always love you both.”

Chrístõ felt something akin to grief as he felt his father withdraw from the memory and bring them back to the present. To be that close to his mother for so long, never mind all else that had taken place, had been wonderful.

“We cannot live in our memories, Chrístõ,” his father told him. “We must move on. You ARE a man now, and you already ARE a great man.” His father’s eyes stayed a moment on the ribbon of the Regia Omnian Medal of Valour around his neck. He had pushed the medal itself underneath his robe.


His father half smiled as if the memory both amused and saddened him.

“I don’t know where she got that name from. I think it was a random name – a Human name, as far as possible from Gallifreyan.”

“Did she really call me that? I don’t remember.”

“All the time. You ANSWERED to that name when she called you it. But your mother was the only one who did. I suppose you must have forgotten over the years.”

“I don’t remember you calling me anything but ‘son’. Did you worry that I might not think you were my father?” There was an edge to that question that cut him in the asking as well as his father hearing it.

“I was always proud that you WERE my son,” he said. “Your mother was very emotional in the days after your birth. She was not at all well, as you saw. If you thought there was any bitterness between us, I can assure you there was not. We loved each other more deeply than any two people could love each other. But I should have been there at your birth. I failed her and I failed you in your first days.”

“You got the Treaty signed.”

“And they began plotting war again before the ink was dry. I failed in that, too. But nobody could have brought those two parties to real peace. I realised that later and urged our government to have no further dealings with either side. As for you, I did what I could to make up for my first failings. I could not have loved you more. I hope you know that.”

“I do,” Chrístõ told his father. “But… will you be there for the birth of your new child?” The cold look came to his face again.

“I hope I shall. This time I won’t be so far away. But you are still my first born. You always will be. You are the most precious gift your mother gave to me. And at the greatest cost to her own health. I don’t care about Valena’s lineage. But the fact that she is Gallifreyan means that I don’t have to be afraid of losing either her or our child or both as I feared when your mother was carrying you for sixteen long months. But I need a second chance. I need this child. And I hope it will be a blessing for us all, not a source of division and dissent between us.”

“I will always love you, father.” Chrístõ gave him that much assurance, though he still felt an icy numbness about the prospect of his stepmother giving birth.

The door opened and Penne came in, grinning.

“Chrístõ, there are two girls I have found. Identical twins. Twice the loveliness. And if you don’t come and dance with one of them I am going to slide back into my old decadent ways and have them both.” Chrístõ smiled and stood, bowing his head in formal reverence to his father, who acknowledged him, then taking his blood-brother by the shoulder he returned to the party.

Ambassador De Lœngbærrow sighed and poured himself another drink. He wondered why it was that Chrístõ could so easily call Penne brother but was resentful of the idea of a child whose bloodline he shared. He hoped he would feel differently when his stepbrother was born. He knew Chrístõ was not a cruel man. Far from it, and his coldness towards Valena was only because of his deep love for his mother. A love he knew only too well. But a man needed more than dreams and memories. Even a Time Lord needed a future - as well as a past.

The door opened again and he looked up to see Chrístõ’s two male friends standing there. Sammie, who walked and held himself as a military man, and Terry. He smiled at them both and waved them to a seat. They did so and accepted the offer of a drink from him.

“I thought Time Lords didn’t drink,” Terry said as he looked at the single malt whiskey he was given.

“We don’t get drunk – unless we choose to feel the effects. But certainly we do enjoy the taste of alcohol. I for one have always appreciated single malts. One of the things your planet does very well. My son has yet to acquire a taste for it.” He sipped his drink and regarded his son’s friends. “There is something you wish to talk to me about – without Chrístõ knowing about it.”

“I don’t want him to worry,” Sammie said, speaking for them both. “But Terry and I have been thinking about some things. We were wondering if you could tell us who programmed the presets on Chrístõ’s TARDIS computer.”

“I really don’t know,” the Ambassador answered. “I dare say I could find out. Why?”

“The day I met Chrístõ,” Terry said. “It was at a rock festival. An ordinary music event. It was one of his presets. And we found ourselves having to rescue Cassie and dozens of other people from alien cannibals. Abu Simbel was another preset. And we found aliens kidnapping people there. The citadel of Presoria V, we ended up rescuing the local children from the Emperor who was using their blood as a youth potion. Regia Omnia… Adare Castle you know about. Even last week – we went to an ordinary cave system in Derbyshire that Sammie used to play in as a child – and we found a deadly alien creature.”

“I thought at first we were just being paranoid,” Sammie added. “But the caves put the hat on it for me. When you add it all up, it seems suspicious that so many of those presets which are just meant to be educational turn out to be dangerous situations where Chrístõ might have been killed or… or in trouble for breaking the… what does he call them, the Rules of Time….”

“Laws of Time,” the Ambassador corrected him. “You think it's more than coincidence?”

“I don’t know,” Terry said. “It sounds stupid but…”

“Yes,” Sammie said firmly. “If I’d led my unit on this many missions where something pre-empted us I’d be looking for a security leak at the least. Yes, I believe there is something about these presets. Either somebody wants Chrístõ dead, or for him to take a fall.”

“Though why I don’t know…” Terry added.

“I can think of two reasons,” the Ambassador said. “The first would be to get to me through him. There are those who would like to see me ‘take a fall’ as you put it. Political rivalry is a fatal disease on Gallifrey. My son is my weakness. Too many people know that.”

“And the other reason?” Sammie asked.

“Chrístõ is a singular young man,” The Ambassador continued. “I can see by your smiles I don’t need to tell you that. You understand that it IS unusual for a half-blood to actually BE a Time Lord? And one with such high grades that he is pre-destined to rise through our ranks very quickly.”

“Yes,” Terry and Sammie both answered him.

“That in itself is a cause enough of bitter jealousy to make some among us wish to hurt him.” The Ambassador sipped his drink and again looked at his son’s friends. “Don’t mention this to Chrístõ for the moment. I don’t want him to think I am interfering. He values his freedom to be out here among the stars, making his own choices. And I want him to have that freedom. But I think you have hit on something that needs investigating, and I thank you for the information, and for being true, loyal friends to my son.” The Ambassador paused and looked at them quietly. “You know, of course, that your race is not held in very high regard on Gallifrey. I have always stood against that prejudice. The two of you…. make me all the more determined in my opinion.”

It was after midnight and the party was still enthusiastically going on. The Ambassador remained in the quiet room going over papers. Parties were for young men and women. He had more important things to do. When he heard the music abruptly stop, though, he looked up from his work. He had felt a change in the emotions in the room beyond. Pleasure had turned to dismay and fear. As he stood up one of his own personal entourage burst into the room.

“Ambassador, sir,” the aide said breathlessly. “You must come. Your son… there has been an attempt….”

The Ambassador’s face paled. He clung to the knowledge that his son was NOT badly injured. He knew it because he would always feel when Chrístõ was hurt, even across light years of distance and centuries of time. But even so, the urgency of the moment caught him and he ran to the medical centre on the second floor down from the ballroom.

“Where is Chrístõ?” he asked urgently as he came into the medical reception and found three of his son’s four friends there, the girls crying, Terry trying to comfort them both. The next moment the door banged open and Sammie arrived, still in his smart suit but with a bulge under the jacket that told the Ambassador that he was wearing a gun holster beneath it.

“He’s in there,” Bo said, pointing towards a private ward. “They both are. But they won’t let us see them.”

“Both?” The Ambassador looked at them then stepped towards the door. Sammie followed him. A nurse called to him and a security guard tried to stand in his path but he ignored both.

Chrístõ was sitting on the first of two beds looking dazed but unhurt. The Ambassador’s relief was evident as he hugged him tightly.

“I was hit in the back and shoulder,” Chrístõ told him. “My body repaired itself almost before they got me to the medical centre. Penne was badly hurt. He lost so much blood – I had to donate some of mine for a transfusion. That’s the only reason they’re keeping me here. I feel weak still But Penne’s still out of it.”

Ambassador De Lœngbærrow looked at the other bed where the young man he had come to care for as a surrogate son lay unconscious.

“He was hit four times,” Chrístõ continued. “Twice in the head and two more in his neck.”

The Ambassador glanced at Sammie and noted the flicker of his eyes as he stood with his back against the wall watching the door. Two shots to the head. A double tap, as Sammie would call it. An assassin’s method.

He touched Penne’s forehead where there were still the faintest traces of the wounds. It would be some time before he would wake up. His body was shut down while it repaired the damaged parts of his brain. If he was lucky there would be no permanent damage. But the would-be assassin had known that it had to be a headshot to have a chance of killing a Time Lord. The two further bullets that hit him in the neck, severing arteries and causing so much blood loss made his recovery that much harder. But he would recover.

“He’ll be all right,” Chrístõ said.

Yes, he will.” Ambassador De Lœngbærrow looked at his son, then at Penne, then at Sammie. “You understand this situation, don’t you, young man.”

“Attempted assassination?” Sammie nodded. “Aim shots to the head. But which of the targets was the killer aiming at? Chrístõ was honoured tonight for preventing a terrorist attack. The terrorists might have wanted revenge. Penne is the absolute ruler of two planets. Even the most loved ruler has people jealous of that love. Then there is the fact that Chrístõ is your son, ambassador. You said yourself… he is your weak spot. Two potential victims. Three motives at least. But their resemblance must confuse matters. Penne could have been hit in mistake for Chrístõ.”

“Whether Penne or Chrístõ was the intended target he failed,” Ambassador De Lœngbærrow said. “Penne is alive. But we must consider the possibility of a second attempt.” Sammie’s hand went to where his gun was concealed as he spoke. The Ambassador saw the gesture and understood. If the need arose, he was there to stand in front of either man and take the bullet. He was grateful for the gesture but he shook his head.

“You are not Gallifreyan, young man. You can’t mend your own body. Do your duty as you feel you must. But don’t take risks with your own life. It is just as valuable as my sons’ life, or the life of that young man whose recovery we all hope for.”

The Ambassador went out of the room. He looked around at first in surprise then satisfaction. The medical centre was under what Sammie would call ‘lock down’. Armed guards were positioned at the door, protecting the Lord of Adano Menor and the son of the Ambassador of Gallifrey.

The Ambassador thought he would put his faith first and foremost in that earnest young man who stood by his son’s side right now and had judged the situation so accurately.

“Is Penne going to be all right?” He looked around to see Terry and the two young women still looking anxious.

“Penne is as well as we could expect.” He turned and called to one of the medical auxiliaries. “Please make arrangements for these two young women to sleep somewhere close by. I don’t think they would wish to be anywhere else but here. Terry, come along with me, if you please.”

“WERE they aiming at Chrístõ?” Terry asked as they walked quickly.

“That’s what we’re going to find out.”


“You and I. Chrístõ needs to rest. His body may have recovered but he cannot brush off the trauma so easily. Sammie is protecting him. You and I both love him too much to stand around and do nothing while an armed assassin roams this place looking for a chance to finish the job. And I want to know the truth of the matter before political machinations obfuscate it. I want to know who was shooting who and why.”

“You think the security officers here are not going to work it out?”

“I am sure they are perfectly capable. But I want to know the truth. I want to look the person responsible in the eye and ask him – or her – WHY. If Chrístõ was the intended target then it matters a great deal to me. If it was Penne, then it STILL means a great deal. ”

“I don’t know what happened,” Terry said. “We were all up there on the observation deck. Cassie and me, Sammie and Bo, and Penne and Chrístõ talking together and watching the moonrise over the planet. Penne had a girl with him, but I don’t know what happened to her. I think she ran away when the shooting started. The gunshots echoed. I couldn’t tell how many there were, or which direction they came from. I just saw Penne and Chrístõ both go down… both of them bleeding. They were just in a heap together, blood everywhere. Sammie pulled me down, and the girls, made us take cover. Then security were in on us. Chrístõ and Penne were taken to the medical centre. Sammie went to the TARDIS to get his gun.”

They reached the entrance to the observation deck but it was guarded. The Ambassador sighed with annoyance and told them to let him past. Terry saw in his determined manner something familiar. He’d seen Chrístõ use that same manner to get his way many times. Gallifreyan arrogance could be useful at times.

The observation deck was quiet now. Terry felt as if the echoes of the gunshots should still be bouncing off the walls. They went first to the spot where orange blood still stained the floor by the great exo-glass window that looked out over the planet below and its silver-bright moon they had come up here to view. Terry watched as the Ambassador looked around him with a practised air.

“Sir,” he began. “Forgive me if this seems impertinent, but may I ask…. Have you ever been a military man? Only you remind me of Sammie – his way of noticing things.”

“When I was a young man – which is a lot further back than you could imagine – I was in the intelligence department of our government. Field operative. Like….”

“James Bond?” Terry guessed.

“Yes. The Earth cultural reference is apt. Though most of the days were not so dramatic or romantic. I have served my government in many ways. Ambassador, Chancellor, Lord High President, SPY.”

“Does Chrístõ know that?”

“No. I don’t think Chrístõ can imagine me as a young man. I married late even for my race. I’m on my last life, you know. Though if I take things easy I probably have another thousand years in me.”

“You know that it's impossible for us mere Humans to grasp the thought of 1,000 years of life.”

“Yes. My dear wife, Chrístõ’s mother, found it disturbing. But I lost her too young even as a Human. She was only 43 years old when she died.”

“Chrístõ said he was only six when she died. But he never said why.”

“Giving birth to him weakened her heart,” The Ambassador said.

“Chrístõ knows that? Does he feel it's his fault?”

“I hope not. If there was any fault it was mine. I should have realised she was not strong enough. But….” He stopped, his melancholic remembrances cast out of his mind as he spotted the very thing he was once trained to spot. They had walked to the far end of the observation platform and there as he turned and looked up his Gallifreyan eyesight spotted what ordinary eyes would have missed - the very smallest movement of somebody who had kept quiet and still for many hours in his hiding place and was obviously intending to keep quiet and still for many hours more until he judged it safe to move. But the Ambassador had seen him, and now he knew what he was looking for the shape of the dark-clad man in the shadows and the straight line of his rifle stood out clearly.

But he had kept his gaze on the assassin too long. He saw the movement of the hand to the trigger and pulled Terry with him to the floor just as a bullet buried itself in the wall roughly where his head would have been. Two more shots rang out but they were hidden by the rows of seats and out of the line of fire. He dared a look around as the security guards ran inside. He spotted the trap and shouted a warning but it was too late. As they came in their backs were to the place where the sniper was firing from. He could see the gun flashes from the maintenance gantry above the doorway. Six of the guards fell dead before they even managed to work out where the shooting was coming from. As Terry had said, the sound echoed around the deck and confused them. The remaining guards pulled back through the door.

“Bloody cowards,” Terry said. “They’ve left us here.”

Bo couldn’t sleep. She got up from the bed and found a hospital issue dressing gown that she put over the nightgown they gave her and went to see how Chrístõ and Penne were doing. She was surprised to find her way blocked by men with guns.

“I wish to see my friends,” she insisted.

“Sorry miss,” she was told firmly but politely. “No admittance without authorisation. That’s our orders.”

“Don’t MISS me,” she said angrily.

“Excuse me, but I have to give the patients medication.” A woman in nurse’s uniform and a surgical mask over her face stepped up as Bo argued with the guards. They stepped aside for her.

“Where was HER authorisation?” Bo began to say, then she stared at the nurse as she went into the ward. “Wait a minute….” Bo lunged forward and the guards tried to block her but she was in no mood to argue. A few moments later both of them were lying on the ground nursing painful parts of their body as Bo leapt across them and into the room.

“Chrístõ…” she screamed as the nurse bent over him to administer an injection. “That’s poison…” Her warning was almost not necessary. Sammie was on the alert the moment she ran through the door. They both reached the bogus nurse at the same time. Sammie pulled her back away from Chrístõ as Bo reached her arm and tightened her hold on her wrist until she dropped the syringe. Chrístõ moved at the same moment and applied a hand hold he learnt from the monks of Malvoria on the woman’s neck. Sammie let her down slowly to the floor unconscious while Bo tied her hands behind her back with the belt of her dressing gown.

“It's the girl Penne took to the observation deck,” Bo told them. “It was HER idea to go up there…”

“She was a lure to get us in position.” Chrístõ guessed the rest. He picked up the syringe and carefully sniffed the liquid in it. “Pure aspirin mixed with a neural drug like the one Epsilon used. That would have killed me. The neural drug would have knocked me out while the aspirin poisoned me.”

“Aspirin kills Time Lords?” Sammie looked at him in surprise.

“It's poisonous to us.”

“Whoever is behind all this KNOWS how to kill Time Lords.” Bo said looking at Chrístõ fearfully.

“Who IS behind it?” Sammie asked. “Who is so desperate to kill you?”

“Might not be me. She went for me because I’m awake and sitting up here. She might have mistaken me for Penne. Or her partner mistook Penne for me in the first hit. We still don’t know for sure. Until she wakes up and talks we know nothing except that we have ONE of the would-be assassins under our control.”

“But…” Sammie began. Chrístõ was not listening. He put his hand to his forehead and frowned. He was clearly getting some urgent telepathic messages.

“Sammie…. My father and Terry are in trouble up on the observation deck. The sniper is still there.”

“I’m on it,” he said. Chrístõ was ready too. They both looked at Bo. She nodded imperceptibly to indicate that she was fully capable of watching over Penne and the unconscious assailant. They turned and ran, Sammie picking up one of the rifles dropped by the guards Bo had disabled on his way past. Chrístõ heard him murmur something about locking and loading as they ran.

“The sniper is on the gantry above the door,” Chrístõ told him as they ran up the stairs towards the observation deck. “You can’t see him until he’s already got you in his sights. He’s taken out a half a dozen guards that way and Terry and my father are pinned down at the other end.”

“Ok,” Sammie replied. And nothing else. Chrístõ looked at him.


“Ok. That’s enough intel for me to go in on.” He checked the gun in his hands. It was of no make he had ever seen before but its principle was familiar enough. He reckoned it would have the same firepower as his M16. And like the M16 it had a grenade launcher attached. He checked the type of grenades that were in it. He smiled. “Tell your dad and Terry to cover their faces in 30 seconds.”

They reached the door to the observation deck. Terry looked scathingly at the guards by the door. They had their guns trained on it but were not making any move to go in.

“You lot are a waste of space,” he said. “You have all the equipment you need to get in there, take out the sniper and extract the civilians.” They looked at him blankly. “We’re going in,” he said. “When the door opens again, don’t bloody shoot. It’ll be ME and HIM and the HOSTAGES. Got that?” He looked at the nearest guard and leaned and snatched the goggles and face mask that were hanging uselessly on his belt. He put them on and stepped forward. Chrístõ took a breath and closed off his breathing. Sammie opened the door and launched three smoke grenades inside, to the left, centre and right of the door. As they went off he moved in slowly, skirting the wall under the gantry, watching the thin red beam of the laser sight of the assassin’s weapon against the smoke that billowed around the room. The sniper was expecting another rush through the door, but Sammie was already slowly moving around the side and now he had him in his sights. Chrístõ waited until Sammie fired twice in quick succession. He heard a thud on the gantry above that told him he had made his target and ran through the smoke to reach Terry and his father. They were both unhurt, of course, but Terry was having trouble breathing in the stinging smoke. Chrístõ time folded as they crossed the observation deck and reached the clean air beyond the door. As Terry gasped for breath and even the two Time Lords rubbed stinging eyes they heard two more shots ring out. They turned and looked as Sammie climbed down from the gantry and came through the door, pulling the gas mask from his face.

“You killed him,” Ambassador De Lœngbærrow said as he took stock of the situation. “Not that I’m ungrateful, but we still need answers to questions. That was a professional sniper. He was working for somebody.”

“We’ve got a live one downstairs you can question,” Chrístõ assured him.

The woman was starting to come around from Chrístõ’s Malvorian pinch when they returned. Sammie hauled her up none too gently and made her face Chrístõ and his father. Chrístõ picked up the syringe she was going to use on him and brought it near her neck. The woman screamed and tried to back away.

“Chrístõ!” Terry exclaimed. “You wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I?” he answered. “Maybe I would. Do you want to find out?” The woman looked at him and saw the coldness in his eyes. But she still wouldn’t speak.

“A well trained operative,” Ambassador De Lœngbærrow said. “But there are three Time Lords in this room, even if one of them is incapacitated. I don’t think we need resort to thumbscrews to extract the information we need.” He stepped closer to the woman and put his hand on her forehead. She flinched as he forced his way into her mind. Chrístõ felt it too. He could see his father probing her thoughts and he, too, saw the image of the man who had employed her to lure Penne and himself to the place where the sniper lay in wait. Chrístõ didn’t know the man, but he felt his father’s reaction, and it was one of surprise and shock. “Bring her along,” he told Sammie. “She can make herself useful.” He looked at Bo. “Look after Penne a little while longer. I think he is safe now, but somebody should stay with him. Terry, you should get some rest. You’re still suffering from the effects of the smoke.” Terry looked at the Ambassador and nodded his agreement. He’d seen enough action for one night. He told them he was going to look in on Cassie. Bo sat next to Penne, straight backed and alert to any trouble. The Ambassador smiled benignly at her as they turned and left the room, their prisoner, in Sammie’s firm grip, ahead of them.

They discussed the plan as they made their way to the deck where the living quarters had been given over to the ambassadors of different planets. They stopped outside one that had the crest of Ambrado Uno fixed on it. Chrístõ recalled it as a small planet, the outermost one of the solar system in which the twin planets of Adano Gran and Adano Menor orbited third and fourth respectively from their sun. Chrístõ and his father both stared for a moment at the crest. They recognised it as that of the dishonoured House of Ixion. Another piece of the puzzle dropped into place.

The Lord of Ambrado Uno looked startled and annoyed as his personal aide showed the woman into his private drawing room. This was not part of the arrangement at all.

“Well?” he snapped.

“My Lord,” she said. “It is done. The Lord of Adano Menor is dead.”

“So why come here? I already made arrangements to pay you without further contact.”

“Because they said they would kill me if I didn’t,” the woman said as Chrístõ and the Ambassador came into the room, followed by Sammie who stepped over the unconscious aide, sent to his not entirely peaceful sleep by Chrístõ in order to have one less distraction from matters in hand.

“Rumours of my death are happily exaggerated,” Chrístõ said. “Cousin, did you think I was so easy to dispose of?”

Thanatos Ixion stared at him in alarm for a moment, then his face cleared as he worked it out.

“You’re not Penne Dúre,” he said. “You’re the Ambassador’s precious son. That means… that means he IS dead. And as his nearest blood kin I inherit absolutely. You needn’t look so shocked. Even in polite Gallifreyan society Dead Man’s Shoes apply. Out there… there is no law except the law of survival. Mordlock Ixion killed the true Lord of Adano Menor in order to take his planet. Penne killed the ruler of Adano Gran to unite the two planets. Who is to stop me taking those planets under my domain now?”

“We will,” Ambassador De Lœngbærrow said. “Penne rose above his background. He made the House of Ixion fit to keep decent company again. But you keep it mired in blood.”

“Who is this guy anyway?” Sammie asked as he kept a close eye on the man against the slightest false move.

“He is, indeed, Penne’s cousin,” Ambassador De Lœngbærrow said. “Mordlock Dúre - or Ixion, whichever you please - had a brother, who took as full a part in the crimes of that family. He, too, fled Gallifrey as a Renegade and could not return under pain of death. He, too, had a son – ironically, a HALF-BLOOD son.” He saw Chrístõ’s eyes narrow at that but he went on. “His father mated with a native of Ambrado Uno. He named the boy Thanatos after a mythological god of Death worshipped on many planets. And clearly he was raised to be his father’s son.”

“There you have it,” Thanatos Ixion crowed. “My right of blood succession. You have spelt it out.”

“It would be but for two things. One, you are going to jail, and two, Penne is still alive.” Chrístõ stepped forward to grasp him. Thanatos moved much faster than he expected. Chrístõ remembered nearly too late that he was a half-blood Gallifreyan, with strength and reflexes equal to his own even if he lacked precision of movement. He found himself falling to the floor, his legs taken from under him by the unexpected counter move and he saw a knife glint as it began to descend towards his left heart.

Two gunshots rang out and the knife clattered to the ground. Chrístõ pushed himself out of the way as Thanatos Ixion fell.

“Is he dead?” he asked as his father bent to examine the body.

“Yes,” Ambassador De Lœngbærrow said. “Two in the head at close range – A Time Lord might survive that, but not a non-regenerative half-blood. He’s lucky.”

“Lucky?” Chrístõ looked at his father and wondered at such an idea.

“The death penalty we have for his kind is far more painful. And we’re lucky, too. His death means that his relationship to Penne need not come out, or the fact that you and I both know him as the son of a Renegade and continue to associate with him.” He looked around as the woman was brought back into the room by two of the guards. “I’d forgotten about her for the moment. And as for you lot – I would say better late than never but that is utterly untrue. The security on this station is a disgrace. I shall be making a report about that to the Council of Ambassadors later today. Meanwhile see that this woman is charged with complicity in the attempted murder of the Lord of Adano Menor. This death here was self-defence and you will have our statements to that effect by the end of the day. Meanwhile, we are returning to the medical centre to ensure the well-being of our friends.”

Penne woke feeling disorientated but aware of a hand clasped in his and as he opened his eyes he smiled to see his own face looking at him.

“Chrístõ,” he said. “You’re a good looking man, you know.”

“So are you, Penne,” he laughed. “And a rich one. Do you know you are now the ruler by right of blood of the planet of Ambrado Uno.” Penne looked puzzled until Chrístõ explained, then worried about how he seriously was supposed to rule three planets at once.

“With trustworthy Lord-Lieutenants,” Ambassador De Lœngbærrow told him. “You know your people best. I’ll talk to you about it in more detail later, along with the establishment of consular and trade ties with Gallifrey. We were SUPPOSED to be discussing that this morning.”

“I owe the House of Lœngbærrow so much,” Penne said. “Should you call in the debt I would be hard pressed.”

“Just as well we don’t plan to, then,” Chrístõ laughed.

“The continued friendship of our two houses is repayment enough on my part,” Ambassador De Lœngbærrow told him. “But later when we discuss business, I shall not think twice about calling upon that friendship to ensure Gallifrey gets favourable rates for the import of the minerals your planet is so rich in.” He looked around at his son and his Human friends. “I serve Gallifrey, in whatever capacity it asks of me.”