Chrístõ put the TARDIS into the vortex, heading for the next destination and turned to look at Julia. She was sitting on the sofa sewing new dresses for her dolls. She had several very beautiful ones now. She was creating a ballet dress for the new one he bought her for her birthday. It involved a lot of red satin and feathers and he recognised that she was recreating the design of the costumes from the premiere of Stravinsky's Firebird that he had taken her to a few nights before. She was already practicing the steps in her dance studio. It was a very lovely dance, full of life and joy and he was glad to see her picking such positive ideas to recreate. She was putting the traumas of her life behind her very well, now.

"We should find a dressmaker to create you a Firebird costume," he said, coming to sit with her.

"The TARDIS could make one for me, if I asked it," she told him.

"Yes, I know. But I sometimes think that's a little too easy. It would be nice to go somewhere and get measurements and choose fabrics the proper way. We shouldn't rely on the TARDIS every time."

"Yes, that would be nice," she agreed. "When can we do it?"

"Maybe tomorrow," he said. "Today I have to do some work. Another task for the Time Lords."

"How many tasks do they expect you to do?" she asked. And it was a not unreasonable question. He had wondered himself. He only meant to travel this way until he was 200. Another eight years. Then he would be going back to Gallifrey to graduate and work for his government in whatever way they saw fit. Eight years of solving the problems of the universe in order to prove to the High Council that it was possible for them to involve themselves in those problems in an official way seemed a daunting proposition at times. He almost regretted telling them he would accept the responsibility.

After all, it WAS an awesome responsibility and it should never have been given to one as young as him. They were using him in an outrageous way if truth be told.

And yet, he did enjoy the challenge. When there was some danger threatening, when there was some puzzle to be resolved, he felt something stir within him. One of his ancestors was reputed to have killed a dragon. That was the origin of the Dracœfire part of his name. His father had once told him, as a way of getting his enthusiasm for some activity, that the Dragon’s Fire did indeed burn in his blood. It was a romantic notion, but perhaps there was something in it.

"Is this going to be dangerous?" Julia asked him.

"I don't know," he admitted. "That's the trouble. They gave me a set of co-ordinates and brief descriptions of what the planet is like, but nothing else. I have to find out for myself what is happening. I have to decide who are the victims and who the oppressors, who are guilty, who innocent, and make things right and see justice done. And stay alive and look after you as well."

"I can look after myself," she told him. "I did for so long on the ship."

"Yes, you did," he said. "You are a brave, wonderful girl. But you shouldn't have to look after yourself. I am here to do that now. You should have nothing else to think about than playing with your dolls and practicing your dancing."

"Those things are nice," she said. "But I also want to help you, Chrístõ. The way Bo and Cassie used to help you. I know I am younger than them, but not very much really. I'm only eight years younger than Cassie. In Time Lord years that's nothing."

"Time Lords know that even a second is not nothing. Every moment of life is a precious thing. And I want you to have as many peaceful, happy moments like you have now as possible. But… I won't make you wait behind. You can see this planet we are going to. And hopefully there won't be anything so terrible there or so difficult to fix."

"Maybe there will be some dressmakers there."

That was rather unlikely, Chrístõ thought as they looked at the city that lay ahead of them just across a graceful bridge over a placid and crystal clear river. The bridge was obviously meant to be for show. Traffic, in the form of hover cars that seemed to resemble elongated eggs with windows travelled through the air to and from the city. Freight arrived by the sort of VTOL craft that he saw coming into land on the far side of the city, which was a sprawl of metal and glass that screamed ‘progress’.

It was clearly an advanced society. The notes he had been given said that the people led a life of learning and culture and all menial tasks and manual labour was done by robot drones. What he had in mind for making her Firebird costume was a Human or Humanoid anyway, of imagination. For all the advances any society had made with robotics, they never gave them imagination. That was the preserve of organic life.

They walked across the bridge, looking back once to see the TARDIS, disguised today as an ornamental gate into the pleasure garden they had landed beside. The garden had occupied them for the first hour of their visit to Pernandria. The corner of his education that was concerned with plant biology had been fascinated by the varieties of trees and shrubs and flowers that were grown in beautifully arranged beds and arbours. They both agreed it was lovely. But somehow just too neat and perfect. Julia had summed it up when she said she would have liked to have seen a meadow with the grass growing how it liked and dandelions and daisies and just any old wild flowers in it. Wild flowers seemed to be banned in this garden.

Wild flowers didn't grow in the city, either, Chrístõ thought as they explored the wide, paved streets. And he meant it both as a metaphor and a simple statement of fact. The streets were scrupulously clean. There was no litter, not the slightest bit of chewing gum, not a weed growing in the cracks between the flagstones. Vehicles were apparently not allowed in these streets. Those who did not wish to walk could step onto a continuously moving concourse and be carried along at a pace a little faster than a brisk walk. They did that for a while, but both agreed that their own two feet would do.

"At least it would be good for disabled people," Julia said of that form of transport.

"Yes," Chrístõ agreed. "Although, I don't actually see any disabled people."

Nor, for that matter, did he see any short people, any fat people, any people with anything less than a certain definition of perfection. All the adults were at least six foot for the men, at least five foot six for the women. The children were all healthy with straight limbs and bright looking eyes. Nobody even had freckles.

A perfect society? A society where they had managed to eradicate all genetic "flaws" so that everyone was healthy and 'perfect'?

Chrístõ was suspicious of perfect. He had spent his childhood being treated as a freak of nature, and that was his first objection to such ideals. Even on his planet with its notions of eugenics, though, there were variations of size and shape. Apart from himself and Epsilon he remembered another brilliant student in his temporal physics class who always got top marks. His shortform name was KIm and he was born with a defective growth gene, so that even aged 150 he was no taller than Julia was now. He was hopeless at physical activities, although in his later years Chrístõ had taken him aside and taught him enough martial arts to defend himself from bullying by those who would always be taller and stronger than him. Martial Arts levelled the playing field and gave the short, weak boy a fighting chance.

But Kim excelled in other ways. He had declined the chance to take these ten years travelling and spent it instead as a research assistant in the Prydonian Academy's science department and from all he had heard from home, Kim was already showing his elders and 'betters' a thing or two. Even if he needed to stand on a stool to get their attention.

And sometimes even perfect people had accidents. One of Gallifrey's most brilliant philosophers debated hotly from a specialised wheelchair after an accident had left him completely paralysed.

And the same was true on his other favourite planet. True, it had prejudices and people could be cruel. But one of its most brilliant scientific thinkers was the disabled man, Stephen Hawking, and a genetically short man called Toulouse Lautrec was not only one of it's greatest artists but also, apparently, one of it's greatest lovers.

Yes, the universe needed diversity. It needed the short people, and the fat people and the people with freckles.

So why didn't Pernandria?

"They all dress so alike," Julia observed. There WERE differences of colour and style. The woman wore skirts or dresses in every length from short to ankle length and the men had various coloured shirts or sweatshirt styles of casual clothing. The children, male and female, all seemed to wear a sort of overall, but again there were varieties of colour.

Even so, the impression was of one general pattern and Chrístõ guessed that clothing was made by those robots who did those menial and manual tasks. A limited number of variations could be programmed.

That was ok in its way. If everyone dressed the same it was a sort of equality. Nobody would be beaten up for their designer trainers. Nobody would be beaten up for not having the right sort of designer trainers. And nobody lorded it over anyone else because they could afford the latest fashion.

But it put THEM at a disadvantage. He in his all black outfit - a colour which did not seem to be very common - and Julia in her red dress with yellow polka dots and her long hair fastened in an Alice band both stood out as strangers.

Though that didn't seem to be a huge problem as such. People who passed them by smiled and said things like 'Welcome, stranger," and "good day to you," in a friendly way.

Then something happened that confirmed all his suspicions. A boy suddenly ran out of a building they were passing. He bumped into Julia and fell over. He dropped the armful of fruit he was carrying and they spread all over. Julia bent to try to help him pick them up and as she did she noticed his face.

He was NOT one of the perfect people. His face was half-covered in one of those wide, disfiguring birthmarks that were euphemistically called port-wine stains. It completely covered one cheek and one eye and half of his nose and mouth and continued down the side of his neck. The sight startled her, but she continued to help pick up the fruit.

"Come away, child," Somebody said and pulled her away. "That's an Abnorm. You don't want anything to do with one of those." Julia reached out and passed the boy the fruit that was in her hand and for a moment her eyes met with his and then he turned and ran again. He had got only a short way though when a siren was heard. Something that could only be a police vehicle descended from the sky and a voice through a tannoy called on the 'Abnorm' to halt. The boy stopped, disorientated and unsure which way to run, and something shot out from the bottom of the vehicle. Chrístõ thought it was something like a plastic baton round at first, but then it opened out into a sort of net that enveloped the boy. Not just an ordinary net. It seemed to have a low level charge through it that rendered him unconscious, though not, Chrístõ thought, painlessly.

The net was raised, boy and all, into a panel that opened in the bottom of the car and then it was gone. The people went on with their business, though Chrístõ caught some snatches of conversation. "That's the way to deal with Abnorm rubbish", "disgraceful, one of those out in public before dark", and "Time the government cracked down on the Abnorm nuisance."

Julia was crying bitterly. He looked at the woman who had pulled her away from the 'Abnorm' boy. She looked about thirty-five and seemed to have a kind, gentle face. And yet, what she had said to Julia was so cold-hearted.

"Come along, Julia," he said, holding out his hand to her.

"Your sister has had a bad shock," the woman said. "You're strangers, of course. I expect that is the first time she has seen an Abnorm being cleared off the street."

"Yes," Chrístõ said. "We are visitors to your city. But…"

"Look, this is a café here. Your sister looks like she could do with a nice drink and a sit down."

Julia shook her head. She didn't want treats after seeing a boy not much older than herself netted and stunned and taken away like a wild animal. But Chrístõ thought it might be a good idea just to get her off the street. Her tears were attracting too much attention.

The woman bought two cups of coffee and a bottle of something pink and fizzy with a straw for Julia. She seemed a little affronted at being given what was clearly a child's drink while Chrístõ was treated as an adult, but when she tasted it she found it pleasing. A sort of strawberry mixed with orange and pineapple.

"My name is Alana," the woman said. "I'm a teacher here in Pernandria City. Where are you two from?"

"We travel around," Chrístõ said. "Different places."

"How nice. I would love to travel. But then again when you live in a beautiful place like Pernandria, can anything really measure up?"

"Lots of things," Julia said. "Sunrise on Goryia VIII, and the great Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the plains of Tyrris, and the Solstice dawn at Newgrange."

"My, you have travelled," Alana said. "I have never even heard of any of those places. But, my dear, you must be more careful. That Abnorm could have bitten your hand off. You hear such stories. They are dreadful creatures."

"Creatures?" Chrístõ queried. "Surely they are people just like you."

"They are not, indeed," Alena said in a shocked tone. "You really don't understand, do you. They are not like us. They are Abnorms. You saw that one. Its face. They really shouldn't be allowed to live. They certainly shouldn't be allowed loose. The City council seems to turn a blind eye to them coming out at night - scavenging for food. But to have them running around in broad daylight among decent citizens… uggh. It doesn't bear thinking about."

"I understand," Chrístõ said. He had, indeed, come across just this kind of attitude before. When he lived in the 1860s, he had often had conversations with perfectly nice, respectable, liberal thinking people who nevertheless could not accept that coloured people were Human beings with souls equally as worthy as their own. He had been told once, with a perfectly straight face, by a man who spent his whole life raising money for homeless children and who was a patron of the Free Hospital, that God had given the coloured races half souls and their colour was the colour of Sin.

And Chrístõ had realised that this was not an evil man. He was not even racist in the sense of hating other races. He didn't hate them. He was simply a man of his own time and place, who had been taught by others to believe such a thing and never questioned the belief. Just as many people on his own planet had been taught to revile half-bloods. They were not bad people. Just badly informed.

He had liked that man. He liked Alena. He didn't like the things they thought. But he knew they were neither of them at fault. They were simply typical of their time and place. It took the atypical people to stand up and change things so that people like Alena, like the Victorian gentleman he remembered, would slowly realise there was a different way to think.

And he WAS an atypical person. About as atypical as they came.

"Are all the 'Abnorms' like him then?" Chrístõ asked, cautiously. "The face…"

"No, some of them are worse."

"How worse?" Chrístõ asked, but Alena didn't seem to want to elaborate.

"Where do they come from?" Julia asked. "How are 'Abnorms' born?" Chrístõ smiled proudly. That was the right question to ask. And it sounded better coming from her. An innocent looking girl who was only just about old enough to know how anyone was born.

"They're born just like any other child," Alena said. "But when an Abnorm is born they are put into the special facilities. It's a terrible shame for the parents, of course. I've heard of mothers who want to keep the babies. But it's just an emotional reaction. They soon realise how inappropriate it would be. Of course Abnorms themselves can never breed."

"You mean they are born sterile or they are operated upon to make them so?" Chrístõ asked.

"Born that way, of course," Alena said. "You really need to read some leaflets. It's all explained. The outward abnormalities are a sign of the inner weakness."

"These special facilities?"

"Oh, don't worry, they are a long way from the city. Though security is not what it ought to be. That's why there are so many of them living rough in the city. They come out after dark. Decent people never go out alone for fear of being mugged by an Abnorm. There are even tales of cannibal Abnorms, but I don't really believe that. It's an urban myth. All the same, they DO give me the creeps."

"I expect most of that is just rumour and gossip," Chrístõ said. "Well, thank you for the coffee, Alena. You have been most kind to us, and we strangers to your city. I think we both understand much better now, don't we Julia?" He added that they still had to find a hotel to stay the night. And he wished Alena well and took Julia by the hand.

"I like it when people think I'm your sister," Julia said as she sat on the bed in the larger of the two adjoining hotel rooms. Chrístõ was working inside what appeared to be a walk in cupboard but was, in fact, the TARDIS, which he had brought to the room once they had checked in. Julia half watched him and half watched a rather beautiful ballet on the television.

"What was that?" Chrístõ answered. He came to the door and she repeated what she had said.

"It feels nice," she added. "Like we really belong together."

"We DO belong together," he insisted. "But it's a good thing people think you're my sister. I hate to think what they would assume you are otherwise."

"You're my boyfriend," Julia said with a girlish giggle. "They can think that."

"No, I'm afraid not. There are very few planets where that would be considered suitable." He paused and looked at her. There was something else that he had to bring up, that had a bearing on that issue. "Julia," he said tentatively. "When you mentioned earlier about how Abnorms are born… I was wondering… Has anyone explained to you about how babies generally… you know…" He found himself blushing. He didn't know why. After all, he was a fully trained doctor. He had delivered countless babies. Julia had been in the next room when he had attended to Cassie. But he felt awkward now about having THAT conversation with her. But it WAS one of his responsibilities if he was going to look after her.

"I read about it in some books on the ship," she said.

"Ok," he said with something like relief. "But next time we're in Liverpool, I think you should have a long talk with Cassie. Make sure you've covered all the basics. It'd be better coming from another woman, I think."

"Ok," she said and went on watching the ballet. Chrístõ decided he had got off easy on that one. He glanced at the TV. It WAS a very impressive ballet. The bit about this being a very cultural society was certainly true. The evening's schedule on all nine of the channels they had were made up of ballet, opera, classical concerts, poetry readings and plays and film adaptations of great novels. Not a soap opera, game show or reality show in sight! If it were not for what they had found out that afternoon about the darker side of this society, he would have been happy to relax and enjoy a holiday here with Julia.

"Are you going to help those people?" Julia asked him. "The ones they call Abnorms."

"Of course I am," he said. "You think I could walk away from that?"

"No. You couldn't. You didn't walk away from me. You didn't walk away from Bo when she needed help. And all the people you have helped since. Even Humphrey." She laughed as she thought of the strange creature that inhabited the dark corners of the TARDIS. "You wouldn't turn away from anyone or anything that was suffering."

"There is so much suffering in the universe though," he said. He came and sat on the bed next to her. "I feel as if there is too much. If I carried on my whole life through - even my life - thousands of years - it wouldn't be enough to scratch the surface."

"Oh, Chrístõ," Julia whispered. She put her arm across his chest to touch his far shoulder while resting her head on the nearest one. "You DO make a difference. You have to believe that."

"Thank you," he said, kissing her forehead and letting his fingers run through her long black hair. "Sorry if I seemed a bit depressed. I'm trying to think what I can DO for these people. At the moment, I can't think what can be done. I don't even know where to find them. I've set the TARDIS to search for lifesigns. But this is a busy city and whatever people think, the Abnorms are NOT so different to them. I might have to resort to searching the streets after dark."

"I?" Julia questioned. "WE."

"Julia…" He began to say that she should stay behind. But he remembered she was NOT a helpless child. She was a child who had survived the greatest hardship by her own wits. And she COULD help him. "All right," he said. "But not until it is properly dark. Let's just sit here and watch this ballet together. And pretend we don't have to go out into an adventure later."

And it would have been so easy to stay there for the night, sitting up against the comfy pillows on the bed, his arm around her shoulders and her head on his shoulder as they watched the sort of things both enjoyed watching on the TV. It would have been easy to forget the hardship of others and enjoy the comfort. But Chrístõ couldn't do that. His sense of right and justice told him that he must do something for the sad underclass of this 'perfect' society.

It was late by the time the ballet finished and his first instinct was to tell Julia to go to bed. But the moment he moved she became alert and ready. She changed into a dark jumper and slacks that were warm and practical for what he was planning and they slipped down to the hotel foyer. He studiedly ignored the warning from the night porter about 'Abnorms' roaming the streets. After all, they were what he wanted to find.

And find them he did. Not so much on the main street where theatres and clubs and bars were still open and the 'perfect' people were still enjoying their leisure, but in the side streets and alleys. There they witnessed a group of Abnorms around a large bin where a bakery apparently dumped the unsold bread and cakes at the end of the day. The bin looked relatively clean, and the food would probably be perfectly good, Chrístõ thought. But that this scavenging was necessary outraged him.

In their black clothes they were hard to see, and he and Julia managed to get quite close to the group of Abnorms before they were spotted. At once the group scattered, taking their scavenged food with them in plastic bags on strings around their necks. Chrístõ watched in something like admiration as they vaulted a high fence across the alleyway, or leapt onto the fire escapes with all of the agility and a raw type of the same skill he had seen Julia use on the asymmetric bar. Moments later the alley was still and empty. But his Time Lord eyes, able to see in the dark and to take in detail even from a distance, had been quick enough to note which way they went. After scattering initially, they had come together at a point beyond the fence. He scaled it a little more slowly and carefully than the 'Abnorms' had done. He didn't have fear spurring him on and he wanted to go carefully now as he closed in on their den. Julia followed him over the fence easily and took his hand in hers on the other side. She shivered a little, but only because it was a little cold. Not because she was scared.

"Ok," he whispered. "Quietly now." And they moved towards the place where he had seen them disappear from sight. It was a grating set into the floor, giving access to the basement of what seemed to be an empty warehouse. It was interesting, he thought, how behind the shiny glass and metal front of this city, its back was as dingy as any other.

Was there a metaphor there for the society itself. Under its shiny surface there was a darkness that people seemed only too willing to cover up.

And he could see no reason for it. He'd seen societies where people of a different hair colour or eye colour were persecuted because they had some image of their god with a certain hair or eye colour and they regarded any variation as an abomination. It was primitive and nasty but it was understandable. Even the racism he encountered on Earth had some kind of logic to it even if it was a twisted logic. The purists of his own planet picked on him because they thought watering the Time Lord blood would reduce their power. Again logical, if inaccurate and downright nasty. But there seemed neither a religious nor any other reason behind the obsession with rooting out physical impurity from this society. Eugenics might come into it, but apparently only by accident. By casting out those people who did not fit a certain norm they DID achieve a race of people roughly the same height and weight and probably even shoe size. But he got the impression that was purely incidental to the removal of the 'Abnorms' which just seemed to have become a habit nobody knew how to break.

He listened at the grating for a while. Obviously the Abnorms knew he was following them, and they were keeping quiet. But his Time Lord hearing detected small movements, even breathing. He knew they were down there. He knew a LOT of them were down there. Carefully he pulled back the grating and he slipped down into the cellar. Julia followed him.

"So this is where the wild flowers are?" he said as his eyes adjusted and he saw the great throng of people. Most of them shrank back away from him, but a few of the more able bodied stood firm, their body language that of men protecting their home and family. "I mean you no harm," he promised. "I am a stranger here, and I do not share the opinion held by those who rejected you from their society and make you live this poor life."

Somebody slammed the grating shut and a light was turned on. Now he saw the place in more detail. It was a huge underground storage space and it was full of people who had made it their home. He saw blankets and bits of old discarded furniture making up bedspaces and a place where the bread and other foodstuff was gathered to make a sort of mess area. There was even an old TV, its back panel broken and the circuits exposed, but working well enough for some of the children and the adults, too, to sit around watching, although at the moment they were too scared of his arrival to continue anything so leisurely.

"We do not trust perfects," one of the men snarled. He was a largely built man but with a hunchback. He looked capable of breaking him in half in a fight.

"I am FAR from perfect," Chrístõ insisted. "On my world, I was treated as an outcast. My 'imperfections' are not visible as yours are. But I have them."

"And the girl?" a woman with a malformed arm that ended with an elbow stump looked at Julia.

"There, I admit, I can find no imperfection. Julia is a perfect child. But I would love her no less if she was not."

"She is the one who tried to help Darrley." A girl stepped forward. Chrístõ wondered what was wrong with her until she turned her head and he saw that she had a massive patch of scar tissue on the back of her scalp. A burn, he supposed, that had healed badly and the hair had not grown back. He remembered seeing a girl with a hat on near the scene. As long as she didn't take it off she could pass for 'perfect'.

"My mother dropped me near a fire when I was an infant," she said in answer to his unasked question. "It was entirely her fault, but I was the one who was put into the 'abnormal' nursery and abandoned while she went on to have a new baby that was not 'damaged'."

"That is…." Chrístõ was at a loss to describe the casual cruelty that lay behind that story. "I am sorry."

"Why should you be sorry?" she said. "It was not your fault."

"I am sorry anyway."

"The one who should be sorry is her mother," the man with the hunchback growled. "If I ever met her I'd burn her hair off and make her one of us."

"If I met her I would ask her why she did not love me enough," the girl said. "Mardo, you know you would do the same."

"My mother is dead, and if she were not I would kill her." Mardo answered. His bitterness was so deep, and Chrístõ could not entirely blame him.

"What is your name?" Julia asked the girl. The one thing her life with Chrístõ didn't have was friends her own age, and she saw a chance to have such a friend, if only for a little while.

"I am called Belle," she said. Julia smiled. Now they knew each other's names they were on their way to being friends.

Belle, Chrístõ thought. French for beautiful. And but for that one accident that plastic surgery and if necessary a prosthetic hairpiece could have repaired, she WAS beautiful.

But then so were they all. Chrístõ looked at a man with a club foot, a boy with a port wine stain covering half of his face, just like the one they saw earlier, a girl with a cleft palette, a young man who was physically perfect in all proportions except that he was only about four foot tall. There were others, too, who seemed to be simply blind or deaf, and some born without one or more limb.

But all of them were beautiful because life was a most beautiful thing. That was the philosophy he had always lived by. And that this society went so much against that philosophy outraged his senses.

But what to do about it? He was at a loss. He looked around at the faces of these victims of chance and misfortune. They looked at him. But he didn't know what to say to them.

"I want to help you," he said. "That is why I came here. To help you. I…"

"We do not trust perfects," he was told again. "And we ask for no help."

"Nevertheless you need it. And I want to try. I know you have no reason to trust us. Except - look at us. We are clearly not a part of that society that shuns you. We…" He paused. There was a baby crying somewhere. He looked around in amazement and pinpointed the sound. He stepped towards the woman who tried to hide the tiny bundle in her arms. She was another with a facial disfigurement. In her case a growth over her left eye that caused it to be half closed. Gently he took the child from her. It was a girl, and it was physically perfect. He put his hand over the little body and examined it within. It was perfectly healthy in every way.

"She is beautiful," Chrístõ said. He looked at the man who put a protective arm about the woman's shoulders. The man with the club foot. "She is yours?" he asked them. They nodded. "I was told, though I did not believe it for a moment, that 'Abnorms' were born sterile. I suspected that they operated on you to make you unable to breed."

"They would not waste money on operations for the likes of us," the man said. "We breed. Though our children barely thrive in these conditions. We breed. We survive."

"And are your children born with 'imperfections'?"

"Some," he was told. "Others… like this little one and…" The man turned and reached to bring a little girl forward. She was about four years old and as pretty as one of Julia's dolls. Julia must have thought so, too. She stepped forward and hugged the girl.

"Her name is Caitlyn," the woman said. "She was our first. She loves to dance. She copies the steps that she sees on the television."

"I like to dance, too," Belle said.

"So do I," Julia whispered. "Show me what you can do."

And amazingly that broke the ice with the Wild Flowers as he had mentally christened them in place of the horrible "Aborm" title. Somebody brought out an old, battered violin that they had repaired and coaxed a tune from, and after a few experimental steps, Julia, Belle and Caitlyn danced together. The two Flowers were perhaps less precise than Julia, after all, they had never had a real lesson, but they were graceful and lovely.

And that was when he worked out what to do for these people. They were in no position to mount a revolution in the usual way. But he had an idea how to make a revolution in the minds of the people of Pernandria. It was subtle and bold at the same time. It would need careful planning, and no little courage on the part of the Wild Flowers. But he thought it could work.

It took several weeks, in fact, and it cost Chrístõ a lot of money to arrange. Much of it spent on bribes to get people to look the other way and not know what was going on. It was an organisational nightmare and much of it fell to him, although Julia proved herself invaluable to him, not the least because she, even more than himself, had formed a bond of friendship with the Wild Flowers. She learnt all their names even faster than he did. And THAT proved very useful for the second part of the plan.

Finally, the evening came when he put his plan into operation. He stood in the wings of Pernandria's Grand Theatre and watched the seats filling with the invited guests. He saw the signals of the men up in the camera gantry making ready for the live TV broadcast, and he looked around at the stars of his show. His hearts were pounding with nervousness such as he hadn't felt since he sat the first of his final written examinations. Waiting to go into the room and do that paper was hell. But once he began to fill the pages with the answers he felt all right. He knew he would feel the same once he stepped out onto that stage.

He was not the only one who was excited. Thanks to quite a lot of money spent on publicity this one night only benefit performance of the Masque of the Wild Flowers had become an avidly awaited televised event. Anyone who was anyone wanted tickets. All of the most senior government ministers and city councillors had VIP seats. Nobody asked the obvious question - Who were the Wild Flowers and who was this young entrepreneur who was putting on this show.

And for three sparkling hours nobody thought to question it. They were enthralled by the dancing and the aerial gymnastics and the musical talents of the young people who made up the Wild Flowers Company. They were carried away by the colourful costumes and the make up and masques that transformed ordinary Pernandrians into living flowers as they told a simple but moving story about love and loss in a colourful summer garden. The finale of the ballet-cum-opera was the dance of the three Child Flowers. The rest of the cast formed the chorus as for a whole minute the attention was on one tiny little flower dancing alone before two older ones joined her to complete a dance of joy and life. When they finished there was a standing ovation just for them, and another for the whole cast as they took their curtain call.

As Chrístõ waited in the wings ready to step forward and play his own part he was told that the viewer ratings were the highest of all channels on this evening. And that was gratifying in its own way. He didn't put on this show for the ratings, or for the applause, of course. But they did make the next part of his work a little easier. He took a breath and stepped forward. The people watching, in the audience and on their television sets did not know it yet, but the evening was far from over. The entertainment part WAS over. But now it was time to EDUCATE the audience.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he announced as they quietened and waited to hear what he had to say. Julia and Belle with Caitlyn between them came close to him. He put out his hand to hold the littlest of the three Flowers. "I am glad you have enjoyed our performance," he said to the audience. "Don't you think they are the most beautiful flowers in the garden?" There was a rising wave of agreement from the audience. "Hold that thought," he told them. "Because you can't change your mind later. Now it is time to get serious. Bear with me a moment. I'm going to call some people up to the stage. The stewards in the aisles will show you the way. Can we please have first, Mr and Mrs Cranley of City West, Mrs Poole of Riverside, Mr. Miller of North Waterview…." He reeled off several more names and the people stood and came up to the stage. They were nervous and puzzled. Not being the sort of people who were used to reality TV and audience participation quiz shows, they had no expectation of what was happening. They simply felt self-conscious in front of so many people. Strangely, so were Mr Brooke, the Minister for Health and Madame Grey the Minister for Justice who he also invited onto the stage.

"Thank you," Chrístõ said when the audience were quiet again. "Of course you are wondering what this is all about. And I am about to tell you. Mr and Mrs Cranley…" He reached out one hand to Mrs Cranley and she stepped forward, still wondering what was happening. With his other hand he reached for Belle. "Mrs Cranley, I would like to introduce you to one of prettiest and talented of the wild flowers - your daughter, Belle."

Mrs Cranley almost fainted in shock. Her husband simply stared at Chrístõ as he put Belle's hand into hers. He stared again as Mrs Cranley bent and hugged the child who wore a pretty petal shaped cap that hid the back of her head.

"Mrs Poole," Chrístõ went on, and the spotlight turned on the older woman who stood next to the Cranleys. He picked up Caitlyn and put her into Mrs Poole's arms before she knew what was happening. "Meet your granddaughter." He signalled from the wings and Caitlyn's mother stepped forward with the smallest child in her arms. As she did so she removed the half face mask that she had worn to perform as one of the wild flowers. A murmur of consternation went around the audience as they saw her disfigured face. "Mrs Poole, your daughter and your other granddaughter." He turned to the audience. "Now, remind me, you did say you thought they were beautiful flowers?" That shocked them into silence for long enough for him to move onto the next example he wanted to highlight.

"Mr Miller," he said putting a microphone in the hands the man who stood looking puzzled and confused by events. "Please tell the viewers at home and those in the audience why it is that your wife is not here with you tonight."

"My wife.." Mr Miller stammered nervously. "My wife died eight years ago."

Chrístõ put a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I know it is difficult," he said sympathetically. "But please tell us how she died."

"She killed herself," Mr Miller said. "Because both of our twin babies were declared Abnorms and taken from her." He began to cry bitterly. The crowd murmured in shock and sympathy at his revelation. Julie went to him and touched him on the arm and pointed to the two twin boys in flower costumes who came forward now, calling him 'father'. Mr Miller cried even louder and hugged them both. Mrs Poole was crying too and hugging her daughter and grandchildren. Chrístõ took the microphone and passed it to the Minister for Health.

"Mr Brooke," he said. "Could you explain to Mr Miller why he had to be put through that terrible trauma?"

"Because… because…" Mr Brooke, though a man used to public speaking, seemed at a loss suddenly. "Because Abnorms water the gene pool and produce more abnormalities."

"I see," Chrístõ said. He looked to the wings were he was being signalled and listened to a message on the radio receiver in his ear. "Apparently the station owners have been trying to pull the broadcast, but I have to tell them and anyone interested that this won't be happening. I have technology far more advanced than theirs. Not only can I keep the broadcast going on their channel but I have now taken over all the other channels. In fact, I am being told that a few people have turned off their TV sets, but far more have heard what is happening and are turning them ON. So it seems a perfect time to hear from my next speaker." He turned to another man who stood there. "Doctor Friel, this morning I brought Mrs Poole's grandchildren to your surgery. You examined them. Can you tell me what abnormalities they have?"

"None at all," Doctor Friel said. "They are perfect children."

"And yet you met their parents. Both Abnorms?"

"Yes," Doctor Friel said.

"So Mr. Brooke… Abnorms water the gene pool? How do you explain that?"

"I… I can't," Mr. Brooke stammered.

"I can," Doctor Friel said. "Our geneticists are wrong. Their knowledge is flawed. Abnorms do NOT breed Abnorms."

"That is treason," Madame Grey said angrily. "You can be imprisoned for that."

"Maybe so," Doctor Friel said. "But I've stayed silent long enough. Put me in jail. But the people have heard me say it. You can't jail them all."

Brave man, Chrístõ thought. And what a lucky find. Of all the general practitioners in the city he found one who actually DID have doubts about his profession's part in this outrage.

"I never wanted to give up my daughter," Mrs Poole said. This was not part of his plan, but she sounded so plaintive that Chrístõ passed her the microphone to say her piece. "I never wanted to give her up. My husband said it was the law. He made me do it. I… He left me in the end. I never forgave him for what he made me do."

"Again, I ask," Chrístõ said turning to Madame Grey. "What was the cause of such grief? Mrs Poole's daughter could have had a simple operation to remove the growth that disfigures her face. Why does your law have to be so rigid and unbending?" He didn't actually give Madame Grey time to give an excuse, because he had a last ace up his sleeve. "Mr. Miller, I am sorry to impinge on your grief once again, but can you please tell us what was WRONG with your two babies?" He gave him the microphone and Mr Miller spoke clearly, though emotionally.

"They were born with something missing in one ear," he said. "Some tiny bone…"

"The Malleus bone," Doctor Friel explained on his behalf. "It causes partial deafness in one ear. But they have full hearing in the other. They are quite capable of functioning in society."

"So," Chrístõ said, hammering his point home. "For the sake of two tiny bones, which cannot be seen, these babies were taken from their poor, grieving mother. I wonder, does anyone think that is right? Does anyone think the laws of this planet have gone too far? Does anyone think this is too high a price to pay for a healthy population?"

From among the audience people shouted out in support of him. In his earpiece he learnt that people were phoning in from all over the planet asking if they could be reunited with their children. Chrístõ smiled broadly. He had taken a huge gamble. He had been about 50% certain he could sway his audience. As well as finding the families of his Wild Flowers and rehearsing them, engaging musicians and getting costumes made he had been testing opinion carefully and found that, while in public many said the same as Alana had said to him, in private, one to one, many admitted that they were uneasy about the government policy. He had simply given them a chance to say so out loud and in public.

"No!" Somebody screamed and Chrístõ looked up. In the lighting gantry over the stage there were four policemen getting ready to fire hand held versions of their electronic nets. Chrístõ reached inside his suit and pulled his sonic screwdriver. He quickly adjusted its setting and took aim. He was like an old fashioned quickdraw gunman of Earth's wild west as he shot four low level lazar beams at the weapons. They were not very powerful and they had very short range, but they did the job. Meanwhile Mardo and some of the other heavier set men of the Wild Flowers reached the gantry and disarmed and took hold of the police.

"There will be no nets, no arrests on national television," Chrístõ said. "There will be no more roundups of the Wild Flowers. There are enough members of the government here right now to make an ad hoc pronouncement granting them freedom. They can iron out the details later. Will they make such a decision? The government represents the people, do they not? Shall we hear the will of the people? Shall they let the Wild Flowers grow?"

The people the government represented - or at least those in the audience - were of one voice now. Their response was deafening and it was definite. The two ministers standing on the stage still knew what they had to do.

It didn't happen overnight, of course. It took them three weeks of debate to produce legislation to protect the rights of the Wild Flowers. That new name for those once called Abnorms caught on amazingly fast though, and the people acted for themselves to make sure the Government did not go back on their promises. The "Abnorm Nursery" and the detention centre for the older children and adults were both besieged by parents demanding their children back. Very few, it transpired, had ever given them up voluntarily. They had obeyed the law because they had no other choice.

"Belle's mother didn't want to give her up," Julia said when she came into the TARDIS after a tearful but joyful farewell to her friends. "The people at the hospital made her. She DID love her after all. Oh and… I saw Alana today. Do you know, MARDO is her brother. She didn't even know her mother had another child. She's… sort of pleased."

"Well, I'm glad for them all," Chrístõ said. "I wish there was better news for them all. SOME people HAVE rejected their children still. But they have been so used to looking after each other I think they will continue to do so. Poor Mr. Miller. Nobody can bring his wife back. But at least he has his children back."

"You did good, Chrístõ," Julia told him as he put the TARDIS into temporal orbit.

"I feel as if I did," he said with a smile. But just then the videophone signalled an incoming call. It was from Gallifrey and it had the signature of the High Council. "Go and play in your room for a few minutes," he told Julia. "This is important and private." She nodded and obeyed. He accepted the call.

"Chrístõ Cuimhne, I have been noting your activities," the Lord High President himself said. "Your solution to the problems on Pernandria were very interesting. I thought we had sent you there to help put down an uprising against social order and progress. Instead, you seem to have aided and abetted it."

"You sent me to sort out a problem. You didn't say what the problem was. I saw that the social order was wrong. Besides, I didn't start an uprising. I just put on a benefit concert."

"Very subtle, but still seditious in its way. You altered the status quo."

"Is that not what you sent me to do? I did what I thought best for the greater good of all Pernandrians. As you well know if you have examined the situation there. And surely Gallifrey does not wish to prop up such a society where an underclass was so cruelly treated? We are far from an equal society ourselves. But even our Caretaker classes have homes and medical and education facilities and are valued as a part of our society. Their existence is not denied."

"Indeed, I should hope our model of citizenship has much to commend it. And yet, you might want to curb this tendency, Chrístõ Cuimhne. Subversive activities would not advance your position in our society. And if you start any rebellions on Gallifrey you will lose."

"I am a loyal Gallifreyan, my Lord," Chrístõ assured him. Though he noted the warning contained in those words. "I am no rebel. No Renegade. I would do nothing to dishonour my people, whether at home or here in the universe."

"Then Rassilon guide you, proud and loyal son of Gallifrey," The Lord High President told him.

"I believe he does," Chrístõ said and bowed to the President before the videophone connection was closed. Julia hovered at the door. She looked a little nervous. "Don't worry, not all Gallifreyans are as frightening as the Lord High President. I must take you to meet my father, soon. You need not be afraid of him."

"I won't," she said. Then she came and took his hand as if she had something she wanted him to see. "The TARDIS made me some new dolls," she said. "Come see."

He went with her to her bedroom. There on the bed were the pretty dolls in ballet costumes that she loved. But on a shelf by the bed were a new set of dolls that MUST have been created by the TARDIS's rather eclectic imagination. They were dolls that were not perfect as dolls usually were. There was one with a port wine stain on its face, one with a cleft pallet, one with a club foot, one with a hunchback, one with a stumpy arm, one that looked perfect except that it had no hair on the back of its scalp. But for all that they were all beautiful.

"The Wild Flowers," Chrístõ said. "I'm sorry to take you away from the friends you made there," he said. "But at least you have something to remind you of them."

"I'll always remember them," Julia said. "We're wildflowers ourselves in a way," she added. "Or the seeds, at least. Blowing in the wind until we find a place to put down our roots."

"But we know that we will, one day," he told her.