Chrístõ looked at the data viewer displaying the information he needed and then turned back to the examination table where Cassie lay, anxiously waiting his diagnosis. He smiled. She saw his smile and looked relieved even before he spoke.

"Nothing to worry about, sweet thing," he said. "The baby is lying across a nerve. That's why you are feeling those pains from time to time. The baby is just fine. Growing beautifully." He grinned widely. "Are you sure you don't want me to tell you if it's a boy or a girl?"

"No," she insisted. "It's not natural to know those things. I know my baby is unique. It was conceived in a time travelling space ship. And it may well be born in one. And my doctor is a Time Lord. But otherwise, I want this to be an ordinary pregnancy, an ordinary baby."

"My father told me years ago never to argue with a pregnant woman," Chrístõ said. "I wondered at the time WHY he told me that, but I have come to understand in recent months."

"You have a brother now, Chrístõ." Mention of his father reminded Cassie of the latest news they had from Gallifrey. Valena, his second wife, had safely given birth to a healthy boy. His name was Gárrïckdåibhîdõrionvúlfurloughmerci de Lœngbærrow. Garrick for short. Merci - Earth French for Thanks. Chrístõ smiled as he saw his father's choice of names there. The rest of his suffixes came from his step-mother's line.

"Half brother," Chrístõ replied with a hardness in his voice that Cassie could never understand.

"When you see him, you will love him, I am sure," she said, reaching out and caressing his cheek. "My beautiful alien, I know you don't really resent an innocent child. Such pettiness is not in you."

Chrístõ smiled at her. In all else she was right. But his feelings about his stepmother were so ingrained that petty, mean thoughts he never imagined of himself did rise to the surface when he thought about her and the child she had given birth to. He didn't like that part of himself that had those feelings, but he didn't seem able to cast it aside. There WAS a dark corner of his soul where his vices festered.

"This child is the only one that matters right now," Chrístõ said, touching Cassie's now clearly distended stomach and feeling the healthy kicks of the six month old foetus. "Are you ready to see?" Cassie smiled. She loved this bit of his examinations. He closed his eyes and looked deeper, reaching for her hand as he did so. She sighed contentedly as she saw in her mind's eye what he was seeing. Her baby growing in her womb. He took her further in and she felt its growing mind and its feeling of peace and safety within her. Chrístõ's mind gently caressed the child within her, reassuring it that it was loved, and wanted and cared for.

"That is so beautiful, Chrístõ," Cassie said when he withdrew and she looked up at him again. "I'm so glad you are my doctor." And she reached out her arms around his neck and drew him towards her. She kissed him briefly but with feeling.

"On no world that I know of is a patient supposed to kiss their doctor," Chrístõ told her. "But that was nice." He let her get dressed then and she returned to her husband. Chrístõ savoured the feel of that kiss from a friend who loved him as a friend as he tidied up the medical room before following her to the console room.

 

"Chrístõ!" Sammie drew his attention immediately. He was standing by the environmental console and studying the planet they were in temporal orbit around. "Either I am reading this wrong or something is very, very bad down on the ground."

Chrístõ moved to his side and even at a glance he knew Sammie was reading the data correctly. It was the data that was terribly wrong.

"This planet should have 100,000 people on it," he said. "I'm reading less than one per cent of that number of life signs." Chrístõ's psychic abilities were deficient in only a few areas. One of them was precognition. That was mainly because he HATED the feeling of imminent doom that he always had when he used it. It had been useful when he was a youngster in order to know when the bullies were waiting for him on the way home from school, but since then he had deliberately suppressed that ability.

But right now it surfaced with a vengeance and what it told him he was going to find down on the planet visibly sickened him. Sammie and Terry were close enough to him to see his face. The girls were both the other side of the room. They didn't.

"Bo," Sammie said. "I think you ought to stay with Cassie while we check things out. She really isn't up to a lot of walking at the moment."

Bo began to protest, but then she caught sight of Chrístõ's face momentarily before Sammie came towards her and blocked her view of him. And she knew that Sammie's request hid something she was better not knowing.

Besides, they couldn't think of leaving Cassie alone in the TARDIS. She needed somebody with her.

"We'll be fine," Bo said. "You three be careful, won't you."

 

Sammie looked around the village and tried to hold back the feeling of nausea as well as one of Déjà vu. He remembered coming across a village on the Kuwaiti border that the Iraqis had passed through a day or so before his unit arrived. Hardened special forces men had held back tears as they found every man, woman and child brutally slaughtered. Because they were behind enemy lines and weren't officially even supposed to be there they couldn't do anything. They couldn't even bury the dead, let alone find their killers and exact any kind of revenge. They had to walk away. They had to forget what they had seen and carry on with the mission they had been sent on.

"Chrístõ," Sammie said out of the blue. "Kuwait… Did… did we win?"

"What?" Chrístõ looked at him and wondered what had made him think of that in the midst of the carnage here on this planet light years from Earth.

"We went in there to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi invaders. Did we do it? Did we win? Did we liberate those people?"

"Yes," Chrístõ said. "You did. Although politics… It wasn't as simple… There were bigger issues in the long run than Kuwaiti independence. But… yes."

"Then they didn't die in vain." Chrístõ and Terry both assumed he was talking about his comrades who died the day they found him. Sammie shook his head and looked around at the village. "We can't leave them. Not this time. We have to bury the dead."

"There's only three of us," Terry said. "There must be hundreds of bodies. And this is only one village. Chrístõ said there were 10,000 people on this planet."

"Bury them," Sammie demanded. "Don't leave them like this. Please don't."

Chrístõ turned to him and suddenly he understood.

"You've seen something like this before - in Kuwait?"

Sammie nodded and burst into tears. The idea that Sammie COULD cry shocked both of his companions. They both reached out and touched him on the shoulder but he stepped away, clutching his M-16 as if THAT was his only friend. His words when he spoke were mostly incoherent, but they caught one or two phrases.

"Babies…. Eaten by dogs…" was one of them.

"Oh my…." Terry breathed as he realised something that, even after living with Sammie for so long, he hadn't realised before. Soldiers are Human beings too. They feel just as deeply and even they have limits to the horror they can witness before they have to find an outlet for their grief.

Chrístõ thought that if the perpetrators of the evil around them turned up at this moment Sammie's outlet for his grief would be to empty that gun into them, grenade launcher included.

"How can you do a job like that?" Terry asked. "Seeing things like…. like THIS every day?"

"If I saw things like THIS every day I couldn't," Sammie told him. He heard a noise and turned on his heel but it was just the partially incinerated portion of what had been a house roof finally collapsing in.

Chrístõ understood his nervousness. He wished he had brought weapons for himself and Terry, too. He felt exposed here in this silent scene of death and devastation which might still turn out to be a trap. Sammie had already assessed the situation with his skilled special operative's eye and told him that the bodies were no more than twenty-four hours old. There was a possibility that those who perpetrated this horror were still around. He glanced at the hills that lay beyond the village. They could hide survivors of the massacre or a murder squad.

"Sammie," he said. "You are right in one way. Making these dead decent is something we ought to do. Although I would think a mass cremation would be easier than burial. But not now. For the same reason you couldn't do anything in Kuwait."

"We were behind enemy lines and we'd have given ourselves away." Sammie nodded. Chrístõ was right, of course. He had not been thinking straight about that. He, too, looked nervously at the hills and wondered what they might hide.

"I think we ought to get out of here," Chrístõ added. "I don't want to meet up with the ones that did this."

"I DO!" Sammie adjusted his grip on the M-16 meaningfully.

"You know, I'm a pacifist and I think I agree with him," Terry said.

"So do I," Chrístõ added. "But I'm not sure that empty acts of revenge are why we're here."

"Why ARE we here?" Terry asked Chrístõ as they followed behind Sammie. He was 'on point' as he called it, checking their route out of the stricken village. Chrístõ was looking at his sonic screwdriver which he had set to a setting that had nothing to do with DIY.

"It was one of the presets," he said absently.

"Yes, I know. But I mean, it's not like we came here by accident or we were late or anything. Your people sent us here AFTER this happened. They didn't mean for us to stop it happening. So exactly what was their point?"

"I am not sure," Chrístõ said. "Find if there are any survivors, perhaps. But beyond that…"

"That's typical of the Time Lords," Sammie said. As they reached the open land beyond the silent death village he dropped back and walked with them, but he never ceased in his vigilance, looking up and around as they walked. "They don't give us anything to go on. We've no briefing at all. They just send us to these places and we have to figure out what we're supposed to do."

"I'm supposed to use my initiative and judgement," Chrístõ told him. "The Time Lord policy at present is non-intervention in any planet's affairs that has no bearing on Gallifrey. They are considering changing that policy and having some limited involvement in the universe. Which, incidentally, I fully support. I think sitting around with all the power we have and doing nothing with it is stupid."

"I agree," Sammie said. "But…"

"Well, we're the most powerful race in the universe. So we have to know whose side to be on. We have to judge right from wrong. As awful as what we have seen here is, suppose it was retaliation for an even worse outrage committed by these people on another race?"

"What could be worse than this?" Terry asked then looked at Sammie who had an expression on his face of someone who HAD seen worse.

"It depends on your perspective," Chrístõ answered him. "Hiroshima, Nagasaki…"

"….Forced the Japanese to surrender and saved millions of lives," Sammie immediately said.

"Yes, that's what the history books of your world say. Even the Japanese ones!" Chrístõ looked at his two Earth companions. "But you know, the first time I heard about it, when I was learning Earth history, I was outraged by it. I hated the USA and wondered why its leaders were not tried for war crimes. I could think of nothing more obscene than an unprovoked attack with atomic weapons upon a civilian population."

"But it wasn't unprovoked," Terry argued. "The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour…" He stopped. "And I'm the pacifist. I'm a member of CND. I just tried to justify the use of the atom bomb."

"The Iraqis regarded their invasion of Kuwait as justified, did they not, Sammie," Chrístõ went on. "And they regarded the American and British forces as the foreign aggressor. From their point of view they were right."

"Iraq is…"

"Yes," Chrístõ said. "I know. In fact I know a lot more about it than you do. Some day I should fill you in on what happened in that part of your world since 1991. Then you wouldn't ask questions like 'did we win' because you'd know that there is no winning and losing in war. My point is, judging who is right, who is wrong - it's not easy. On Earth, in your time, the USA is the greatest superpower. It decides who is the good guys, who are the friendly nations, who the rogues to be dealt with, who is the terrorist to be crushed, who is the freedom fighter to be given guns and money to fight their oppressors with. The USA - who in your time are still the only country of your world ever to use atomic bombs in anger."

"Do your people have nuclear weapons?" Terry asked Chrístõ. It was something he had never thought about, for all he knew about Chrístõ's home world.

"We have a worse thing. We have the ability to make a planet never have existed - to remove it and its people from time itself."

"Wow." Sammie whistled. "And… have you… Is there a Time Lord equivalent of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?"

"The Fendahl," Chrístõ said. "We wiped them out of existence twelve million years ago by Earth time. They were an evil that fed on the life force of everything on their own planet, even turning on each other when there was nothing else left. We destroyed them because they were on the point of discovering the secret of the time vortex and could have been a scourge on the whole universe."

"Sounds like they deserved it," Sammie considered.

"Feeding on every life force until nothing is left." Terry shuddered. "Creepy."

"Telling me," Chrístõ said. "I used to wake up at night screaming with nightmares about the Fendahl until I learnt to deep meditate instead of sleeping. But I have occasionally heard people say that we destroyed them because they were on the point of discovering time travel and threatened our monopoly over it - that they weren't monsters after all and we made those stories up afterwards to justify our actions."

"Same as some people say the Americans only care about Kuwait because it has oil," Sammie pointed out.

"Exactly."

"Where WAS the Fendahl planet?" Terry asked. "In Kasterborus?"

"No," Chrístõ said. "It was the fifth planet in your solar system."

"Eh?" Chrístõ half-smiled as he saw Terry counting the planets of the Sol system on his fingers. "Jupiter?"

"Jupiter was not the fifth planet originally. What's between Mars and Jupiter?"

"Space?" Terry answered. Then he realised. "Oh my…."

"The Asteroid Belt."

"Yes."

"Your people created the Asteroid Belt of OUR solar system by destroying a planet?" Sammie looked at him in amazement. "That's what I call foreign aggression!"

"You're only 250 million light years from Gallifrey," Chrístõ said. "Practically on our doorstep. Besides, unless we really have been lied to for millions of years those things WERE evil. If they'd reached your planet you would never have been born, because Human beings would never have evolved."

"Now who's justifying themselves," Terry said. "It really WAS your Hiroshima.."

"Yes," Chrístõ said. "I believe we were right in that action just as the USA believes it was right in its action then. But who judges us? We are the princes of the universe. Who stands up and says we are wrong? That's what my mission is. If we're going to take our part in the shaping of the universe…."

"Bloody hell, Chrístõ," Terry exclaimed as he understood what his friend was telling him. "They've put a lot on your shoulders. You have to show them that they CAN be the judge and jury of the universe."

"Until it becomes official policy, I AM the judge and jury of the universe. I have to decide who is right and who is wrong."

"I'd trust your judgement any day," Sammie told him. "For what it's worth."

"Thanks," he said.

Even with Sammie's endorsement of him, though, he was a little daunted. The Time Lords HAD charged him with a quest that could have consequences thousands of years in the future when he was dead and gone. Time Lord policy for generations to come could be changed based solely on his actions now.

It was easier before he knew, when he thought that it was just coincidence that so many of his presets brought him to planets with trouble brewing on them. Now, he was all too aware that in all his actions not only had he the welfare of the innocents of the planet to consider, but the impact his actions might have on his home planet.

The next moment all those ideas were put out of his head. Sammie yelled and pushed him and Terry together down behind a rock outcrop as bullets strafed the rough road they had been following.

"It's only a small group," Chrístõ said, his Gallifreyan eyes as efficient as the telescopic sight on Sammie's weapon. "I make eight of them."

"There's only three of us," Terry pointed out. "And only one with a weapon. Do we throw rocks at them?"

"There's one of us," Sammie said. "Chrístõ, can you do that thing where you 'fold' time or whatever it is and get you and Terry up to that ridge there."

"Yes," Chrístõ said. "But…."

"You're just about out of range of their weapons, but they'll fire at you anyway and that means they're not firing at me."

"We're the diversion?" Terry was aghast.

"It's a good plan," Chrístõ said and he took Terry by the arm and folded time. Inside the time fold they were running at the best speed Terry could muster. Outside, time seemed to have stood still for the few minutes he could maintain the time fold. When he let it collapse, they were up by the ridge that marked the start of the craggy range of hills.

And Sammie had been right. They were out of range by about three or four metres. Carefully, he set his gun to semi-automatic and sighted it. He figured he could take the first four before they marked his position. The rest would be good, fast marksmanship.

He figured right. He aimed carefully, not wasting his bullets, head shots each time. With eight to deal with he didn't have time for the 'double tap' but he made every single bullet count.

He turned carefully and saw Terry stand up, waving to him. He swore under his breath and swung his rifle around. There was another unit coming up on their left flank. And they were closer to his friends than he was. He began to run, wishing HE could fold time. He saw Chrístõ pull Terry back down as they came under fire.

He was still too far away to shoot accurately, but he reached into his webbing and pulled out a high explosive grenade. He slotted it into the launcher and took aim. He knew if he was accurate these men didn't stand a chance, and it was an ugly way to die. Those he had shot in the head wouldn't have known anything about it. These ones would hurt.

But he had to protect his friends.

He fired.

"Did you notice," Sammie said when he reached his friends. "They had different uniforms. We seem to have been fired on by BOTH SIDES of whatever war was being fought here."

"I noticed," Chrístõ answered tersely. "Did you notice there are tracks leading up the hill here. And that looks like a cave entrance up above. I think I know where the survivors are."

"Sounds good to me," Sammie told him. "Let's…."

Sammie's voice suddenly seemed far away. Chrístõ looked around at his two friends and tried to reach out to them as the blinding whiteness of a Transmat beam enveloped them. He hated Transmats. He really didn't want his body reduced to its component atoms and reassembled. And if he had to use that method of transport he would prefer to do so by choice.

"Cassie!" Terry yelled as soon as they found themselves solidified again. He ran to his wife. She and Bo were already there, Cassie looking terrified and Bo mutinous.

"It's all right," Chrístõ said. "Transmat beams can't harm the baby." This was true, but even so he made a mental note to take whoever was responsible to task over it.

And what sort of Transmat could penetrate the TARDIS? It was supposed to be shielded against that sort of thing. He'd be having words about that, too.

They seemed to be in some kind of waiting room. It had chairs and a table, a coffee machine. The grey walls seemed to scream of resigned boredom. Terry took Cassie to sit down on a soft upholstered sofa by the wall. Bo sat beside them, outwardly calm, but Chrístõ saw a glitter in her eyes that told that she was ready to defend herself and everyone around her if she had to. Sammie tried to go to her but he was stopped by a man in a uniform that suggested 'security guard'. He was demanding that Sammie surrender his weapon.

"Like hell I will," he replied. "Who are you people and why are we here?"

"You are on the Galactic Peace Starship "Natural Justice", the guard said. "And no weapons are allowed aboard without authorisation."

"Then you shouldn't have beamed me aboard without MY authorisation," Sammie replied.

"It's ok, Sammie," Chrístõ told him. He looked at the guard. "My friend will be getting that back later. Just so that you know."

Sammie reluctantly made his weapon safe and handed it over. He looked at Chrístõ with an expression that said - "I hope you're right."

"Galactic Peace…." Terry turned the words over in his mouth. "What…"

"It's a mobile court," Chrístõ told his friends. "It is used for trials that might be difficult to hold on any but neutral ground."

"I only did what I had to do," Sammie protested. "Those people fired on us, first."

"It's ok," Chrístõ told him calmly. "You're not the one on trial." He looked around the room. They were not alone. There were seven other people there apart from the guard who was weighing Sammie's M-16 in his hands with the air of somebody who was impressed by large guns.

And by people he meant that in the wider sense recognised by an intergalactic traveller. Two of them were Cromiuns, vaguely Humanoid figures whose colour changed continuously, making them look like rippling pools of oil. Another three were a reptilian species he was not familiar with but their accents pointed to the Argon sector. Two others resembled rectangular blocks of wood with faces and twiglike limbs.

Twelve of them altogether.

A jury.

It was one of the strange coincidences that made the universe interesting that, almost everywhere that trial by jury was the accepted form of justice, twelve was the number of jurors required. It seemed as if some numbers seemed right in the natural order of things.

"This had better not take long," one of the Cromiuns complained, rippling with annoyance. "We were on our way to a wedding when the Transmat took us out of the shuttle we were travelling on."

"It's a nuisance," agreed one of the block people. "But there's nothing you can do. When you're picked for jury service you just have to drop everything."

Yes, Chrístõ thought. That's how it worked. But who was on trial?

The question was answered a few minutes later when the court bailiff came and escorted them all to the biggest courtroom any of them had ever seen. It was like a cross between a courtroom and a football stadium.

With the biggest prisoner's dock imaginable.

The accused, they learnt, were the entire remaining population of the northern continent of the planet. Chrístõ looked in astonishment at nearly 500 men, women and children, civilians and soldiers in the uniforms he recognised as those Sammie had launched his grenade at. They filled the seats along one side of the courtroom. They all seemed quiet at first, resigned to the fate that lay in store for them. Then a howl of rage seemed to begin on the edges of the group and ripple right through them. Opposite was another dock. What had to be the last remnants of the southern continent, including soldiers with the uniform of those who had opened fire on them first, filed into their seats. In front of both sets of accused guards in the uniform of the Galactic Peace Federation faced them like stewards at a football match - if football had ever had such issues with crowd control that their stewards needed to be armed.

All they needed was a judge. A hush came over the proceedings and then at once, without any obvious cue, everyone stood respectfully for the arrival of "His Honour, the Face of Boe of The Silver Devastation."

Chrístõ suppressed a gasp of surprise. He had heard of that mythical entity but never thought to see him in person. It was a HIM. That much most people seemed to agree on, but nobody knew much else, not where he came from or what exactly he was. He was allegedly the oldest being in the universe, and spoken of as a creature of great wisdom.

A fragment of legend drifted into his mind.

"The Face of Boe is the keeper of the last, final secret of the universe; he will speak this secret, with his final breath, to one person and one person alone..."

But The Face was not on his final breath today. He looked as healthy as any giant, disembodied Face kept in a life support tank could possibly look. And he looked grave and serious as he took his place opposite the jury.

"Let all within hearing bear witness," the court bailiff began. "Let the jury decide the guilt or innocence of the people of the Northern Continent of Acriona in the Beta Alpha Lambda system, hereafter referred to as The Planet, accused here of genocide against their neighbours of the Southern Continent of The Planet. And let them decide also the guilt or innocence of the people of the Southern Continent of The Planet, accused here of genocide against their neighbours of the Northern Continent."

There followed the usual routine of prosecution putting the case that the Northern Continent attacked the Southern Bloc without provocation and the defence claiming that the Southern Bloc had already committed an Act of War and therefore it was justified retaliation. The Northern Continent lawyer was very clear that his clients were the peace loving people who had suffered at the hands of despots. He spoke of the massacre of the defenceless civilians while their brave armies were locked in a struggle to preserve their peaceful way of life.

The Southern Continent lawyer was equally adamant that the despots came from the Northern Continent and that their brave sons had fallen to a cruel invader that then went on to commit pitiless genocide on the innocents.

On huge screens around the courtroom scenes of devastation and death on both continents were shown. Chrístõ heard Bo gasp and sob at the sight of dead and dying in the streets. For her it looked too much like what had happened to her own people when the slavers struck. Sammie's face was impassive, though Terry and Chrístõ both knew already the feelings he was holding inside. Cassie just looked sickened by it all.

The prosecution and defence both went into the history of the conflict. As Chrístõ had guessed, it was almost impossible to say which side was responsible for the first act of war. The cause of the friction was astonishing. Chrístõ watched the graphics of the topography of the planet with interest. As well as the two main continents that formed the main landmasses, rather like they did on his own homeworld, the main ocean had about four thousand islands dotted around it. These ranged from the size of Ireland to the Isle of Wight. Chrístõ smiled at his own use of Earth terms. He had been there more often than Gallifrey in recent years. It was rubbing off on him. But for about 1,000 years these islands had been the source of increasingly bitter rivalry between the two continents. They sent out ships of exploration and claimed and counter-claimed them. Both sides produced maps that contradicted each other and fought for possession of a greater percentage of the islands.

And it was all pointless. The populations of both continents were so small that they hardly needed the land these islands provided. There were no minerals or other uses for them. There was no reason to possess them except purely to own them and prevent the other side from owning them. It was pure greed by both sides.

Each side had committed atrocities against the other. Each had suffered devastating losses. The last days of the war had simply seen soldiers from both armies slaughtering the defenceless people and fighting each other into the ground. A population of 100,000 was reduced to a fraction of that number before the Galactic Peace Federation stepped in to administer justice.

Justice? How was anyone supposed to ensure THAT in this situation?

By sentencing the party most guilty to DEATH. That became clear as the bitter argument continued on the floor of the court, interrupted time and again by shouts and screams and jeers from the two sets of defendants.

And it was clear from what was said, that should the Northern Continent be found guilty, the penalty was death.

Not just for the leaders of the governments, not just for the generals of the armies, but for every man woman and child of the side deemed to have begun the war.

 

"WHAT!" Cassie expressed the feelings of almost all when they were returned to the jury room to consider their verdict. "If we say they are guilty we condemn all those people to death. Women and children…."

"That's how it works," the elder of the Reptilians explained. "It is the only way of ensuring peace when such bitterness is ingrained in a society as it is here."

"But it's horrible," she said.

"But they ARE guilty," one of the wooden block people said. "The evidence is clear. They committed an act of genocide against the Southern Bloc."

"And the Southern Bloc committed genocide against THEM," replied one of the Cromiuns, shimmering with barely suppressed emotions.

"THEY did nothing of the sort," Bo answered, her voice shaking at first as she plucked up the courage to make her feelings known. "These are just people, not government members. Ordinary people. They're not guilty."

Just like the ordinary people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Chrístõ thought, condemned to death by the decisions of men thousands of miles away. He understood the logic of it. It didn't make it any easier to be the ones charged with making that decision.

"The soldiers are guilty," the second Cromiun said. "They should be charged with war crimes. But the civilians…"

"But the soldiers were just following orders," the male of the three reptile people replied to that. "A soldier who follows orders isn't guilty of murder."

"No," Sammie said. "What we saw down on that planet - wasn't what I joined the army for. Killing civilians in cold blood. That's not about following orders. If it is, then those orders were wrong. The slaughter of innocents is nothing to do with soldiering. At least not as I know it."

"We can't condemn hundreds of people to death just like that," Terry said, and on that there was a universal agreement. The jury were split about whether the Northern or Southern Continent was the guiltiest either individually or collectively, but they were unanimous in their reluctance to pass a sentence that would mean a death penalty for either people.

"A verdict must be reached." The Cromiuns spoke together, shimmering so much that the rest of the jurors had to close their eyes or look away. All but Chrístõ, whose eyes shielded themselves against the psychedelic show. "But how can it be a just one? How can we send one side to their deaths and let the other free when both are clearly guilty?"

"The death sentence will act as a deterrent to the rest," the youngest reptilian said.

"But which is the most guilty? We must take a vote. We must decide which will die."

"No," Chrístõ said. Everyone turned to look at him. It was the first time he had spoken, and though all he had said was the one word, "No," they all felt something of his Time Lord authority in that one word. The jurors waited to hear what else he had to say.

He had plenty to say. And when he was finished they voted. He nodded to the bailiff standing by the door and told him they were ready to return to the courtroom.

 

When all were assembled once more Chrístõ stood front and centre, the jury behind him and the Honoured Judge, the wise Face of Boe before him. For a moment as he waited for silence he thought the Face was looking directly into his soul. Such was the intensity of the sad stare of those big eyes. Chrístõ felt as if his own worth was being judged.

And then for one fleeting moment he was sure the Face smiled at him and nodded slightly. He felt suddenly lightened, as if he had expected condemnation or disdain and instead had received approval.

"Your Honour," Chrístõ began, bowing his head respectfully to the Honoured Judge. "As representative of the jury, I declare that the Northern Continent is Guilty." The word "guilty" was almost drowned out by the cries of despair from the condemned Northern Continent people and the triumphant cheers of the Southern Bloc. The guards on both sides tensed themselves ready for trouble.

"HOWEVER!" How Chrístõ's voice was heard above the noise nobody, not even him, knew, but he was heard and the court fell silent. He felt all eyes upon him, not least those of the Honoured Judge.

"However, the Southern Bloc is ALSO guilty. Therefore, they must ALL be sentenced to death."

The courtroom erupted. There were screams of rage and grief from the Southern Bloc people and some tried to climb out of the dock and run towards their enemies opposite them. Northern Continent people did the same. The guards closed ranks and pushed them back as the court bailiff called for order.

Chrístõ remained standing, calmly waiting for an opportunity to continue speaking. The Face of Boe looked at him, apparently impassively, but Chrístõ felt a jolt in his mind that seemed to be an acknowledgement that the Face KNEW the card he was playing and approved of it.

At last he was able to continue. "Although the guilty verdict is the only one possible, the jury recommends clemency. Because it recognises that the greatest crime committed by both sides has been sheer STUPIDITY. This was the bloodiest and most pointless war since the one about which end of a boiled egg to slice open." Chrístõ half-smiled as he realised he and The Face were the only people in the whole room who understood that literary allusion. Even his Earth friends looked puzzled and it came from THEIR culture. "The people of both continents allowed a petty disagreement which could easily have been solved by negotiation and understanding between them to escalate into a genocidal war which resulted in the near annihilation of the population of the planet. Both sides have already LOST the war. There are barely enough survivors to begin rebuilding their society. But we recommend that they be placed on probation for a period of three hundred years, and made to rebuild their world TOGETHER. The decimated population is small enough to live on the largest of the islands they fought over. We recommend that they are resettled there, that a stasis field is placed around the island at some distance out to sea, preventing them from sailing to other islands or returning to either continent. They should be prevented from advancing their technology beyond that necessary to build homes and produce food. They must have no access to space travel. An embargo on space flight to and from this planet must be placed. They will be shunned by all other species in the galaxy. No interplanetary alliances or trade agreements to be made with the people of this shunned planet. They must live in peace because if they commit any further acts of aggression against each other, or against any other race, the death sentence will be reinstated at once, without appeal. An independent arbitration commission should be set up to ensure compliance. Your Honour, I should gladly leave THAT at your discretion." There was the faintest of nods from the Honoured Judge.

There was shocked silence from the two sides as they took in the startling notion that their sentence of death could be stayed providing they made peace with their neighbours. Chrístõ used his telescopic sight to scan the faces. Some were mutinous. Others looked hopefully towards their enemies on the other side of the courtroom, seeing a possibility for the future. Those who seemed ready to take the chance offered to them were, he thought, in the majority.

"Let there be no mistake," he said. "These people ARE guilty, each and every one of them, in equal measure, and they ARE being punished. The whole galaxy will know this. They are shamed before all peoples of the universe. We stop short only of the ultimate penalty because we believe the universe must be a place where mercy must temper justice."

He was done at last. There was absolute silence for a half a minute that seemed much longer, and then everyone saw the very clear and definite nod from The Face of Boe and around the room a voice that may or may not have come from him spoke one word.

"Yes."

 

"So your job was to come up with a solution that meant that the death penalty didn't have to be applied?" Terry asked when they had all been returned to the TARDIS.

"My job was to choose which side was the right one," Chrístõ said. "But there wasn't one. They WERE equally guilty. And that's maybe true of a lot of wars." He saw Sammie begin to protest at that. "Yes, I know, Sammie. You firmly believe that you have always been on the right side. And maybe you have. Maybe some wars ARE about defeating a tyrant. But on the other hand, some are about greed. How sure are you that you were fighting to free the people of Kuwait and not its oil interests?" Sammie again began to speak but then he stopped. "How sure am I that my people had the right to destroy the Fendahl?" He shrugged. "I don't know. I don't even know for sure if what I did today was right. Maybe one side WAS more guilty than the other. This way at least the survivors have a chance to make amends. I could not have lived with condemning even one of those people to death. I did the best I could. I hope it's enough."

He looked one more time at the planet. It was a beautiful one. A lot like Earth, he thought. Too much like Earth in its people's determination to destroy each other. He knew at least that Earth WOULD get its act together and avert the sort of planetary catastrophe they had witnessed. But only just.

He keyed in a new co-ordinate and took them away from that place. He had done his best. Whether the people took advantage of the chance they had been given or not was up to them. He could do no more.

"So is it what your people wanted you to do?" Cassie asked him.

"That, I don't know. I did what I thought was right. I can't do much more."

"The Great One thought you were right," Bo said. "When he looked at you, he was smiling."

"Yes," Chrístõ said with a strangely distant look. "Funny, but I had the feeling that The Face had heard of me and was as curious about me as I was about him."

"The Face of Boe is the keeper of the last, final secret of the universe; he will speak this secret, with his final breath, to one person and one person alone… A homeless, wandering traveller..."

Chrístõ remembered the last part of the legend and a startling thought entered his head. HE was a wandering traveller, after all. And one with a 'Great Destiny' marked out by fate.

But he wasn't homeless. He was a long way from home, but he knew where it was when he wanted it.

He smiled at his own arrogance in believing an old legend like that could possibly have anything to do with him.

"The only Bo I'm interested in is my girl," Sammie said. "And she has the prettiest face of them all."

"I second that," Chrístõ said with a relieved smile as deep thoughts of destiny and fate were banished by more simple pleasures. "Though I think Terry begs to differ."