"Epsilon got clean away," Chrístõ sighed. "There were at least two ships that entered hyperspace before we could close the spaceport. He would have been on one of them."

"He'll be caught," Penne assured him. "Your father tells me that your own people are searching for his TARDIS. The universe is not such a big place that he can avoid capture for long."

"I wish it was a bigger place. Big enough for me never to set eyes on him again." He sank into the warm water of the bath Penne insisted they share on the morning of his wedding. "Are you really all right, brother?" he asked. "You went through a dreadful ordeal."

"I am all right. I don't feel any pain now. But I am still puzzled about what happened."

"It was an Artron chamber. Your body was being bombarded with particles of the same energy that drives my TARDIS. It accelerated your aging process while stripping away your in potentia regenerations."

"So I'm not a Time Lord now."

"My father says that when your body stabilised your DNA was reverted to the double helix of ordinary Gallifreyans. The distinctive quadruple helix of Time Lords is gone."

"And I can't regenerate now. I was kind of looking forward to that. To be a different man...."

"It took all twelve lives just to keep you alive. It's not fair. I know but… if you look after yourself, you can still live to as much as a 1,000 years. Time enough to take care of your people. Time enough to get married to Cirena, produce an heir and teach him to be a good ruler after you. You're alive, Penne, that's what matters most."

"Yes." Penne reached out and touched his blood brother on the shoulder. He remembered with a half smile that the first time he did that in the bath Chrístõ had shied away from him. Now he put his own hand up over his in a brotherly gesture.

"He was trying to kill you, Chrístõ," Penne added. "Not me."

"Makes a change. Last time somebody tried to assassinate us I got shot for YOU."

"I would take the bullet for you any day."

"You shouldn't. You're the King. And a lot of people need you to be their king. You take care of yourself and Cirena. And your Empire."

"I'll do my best," Penne promised. I've decided to be lenient with Kohb, by the way. His only crime was being used by Epsilon… Rõgæn whatever you call him. And he did redeem himself in the end."

"I'm glad of that. One less life ruined by Epsilon's murderous schemes. Poor Valena. She went through nearly as bad an ordeal as you."

"Is that a friendly feeling towards your stepmother?" Penne smiled.

"Julia likes her. That's a point in her favour. But… I have only one mother. She sleeps in my mind. She always will. And Penne, you're the only brother I can ever acknowledge. Valena has to understand that. Even if I can be friends with her, I will never call her mother. I will never call her son brother."

"You're a Time Lord, Chrístõ," Penne reminded him. "Never is a long time."

"I mean it though," he said. Penne looked at him and wondered why it was that he felt so strongly about his stepmother. It was uncharacteristic of Chrístõ not to give anyone a fair chance. After all, he had given HIM more than that when they first met. He had seen the good inside his selfish and dissolute outer shell and brought it out. He knew he would never be the man he was now without Chrístõ's help and friendship. He doubted he would be getting married today. He would probably be dead.

"Come on," he said. "Time we were getting dressed." They both rose from the bath and manservants came with towels and robes. Chrístõ insisted on taking the towels and drying himself, but Penne, he noticed was happy to be attended to.

"This is my wedding day," he answered to Chrístõ's disgusted expression. "Can't I enjoy a little of the same attention my beautiful bride will be enjoying right now?"


Cirena's preparations, in fact, had begun several hours before. Her bathing was long done and now she was in the hand of the hairdressers and cosmeticians. So were her maids of honour. Cassie, Bo and Julia were all enjoying the same detailed attention.

"I hope Penne and Chrístõ don't play their switching game today," Cassie said with a laugh as their attendants helped them into the first layer of crisp petticoats that went under their dresses. "Cirena has to be married to the right man!"

"I should think after yesterday they would have had enough of that game," Cirena noted. "That we are getting married at all is a miracle. We could have been preparing for a royal funeral instead." She shuddered as the memory of Penne's agony in that fiendish cabinet came back to her.

"Don't think of it," Bo told her. "It is over."

"I hope so. That dreadful man…. The one who tried…"

"Epsilon is a man hunted across the galaxy," Bo assured her.

"I almost pity him," Cassie remarked. "To be that desperate."

"I don't," Bo said, remembering her own encounters with him only too well.

"What is happening with the other man?" Cassie asked. "Kohb… the one who Epsilon used?"

"Oh, I hope he won't be punished too hard," Julia said. "I don't think he was a bad man at all."

"The King of Adano Ambrado has granted him a full pardon for all crimes committed in his sovereignty," Cirena said. "It is his privilege to grant such a pardon on the occasion of his Wedding. And he chose to give Kohb the chance to redeem himself."

"Penne is a wonderful king," Julia said.

"You would think so anyway," Cassie teased her. "He looks like Chrístõ."

"I know," she admitted with a laugh. "But that's not just it. I know he is a good man."

"He IS," Cirena assured her. "And so is your Chrístõ. When it is your turn to be married to him I hope you will be as happy as I am today."

Julia sighed. The thought on this day of all days gave her heart an excited flutter. As the attendants helped Cirena to put on the traditional Gallifreyan wedding dress she happily imagined herself in that position. She didn't know if there would be as many diamonds sewn into the dress she would wear. Her future husband was only an ambassador's son, not a king. But she knew she would feel like a princess that day, even so.

"Gallifreyan diamonds," Cirena said as the attendants straightened out the dress. "Adano-Ambrado rubies."

"Is it heavy?" Julia asked. "So many jewels on it."

"A little," she admitted. "But it is worth it."

The bridesmaids stood and looked at her as she stood. There WAS lace and satin in that dress somewhere. But the diamonds that covered it glittered so brightly it was hard to see any fabric at all. As they were helped into their bridesmaids dresses they watched the attendants put the finishing touches to Cirena's outfit. Satin shoes with diamonds and rubies adorning them, more rubies in a beautiful necklace around her neck, and a veil of lace with a golden crown because she was already a princess even before she married her king.

"I want to thank you all," Cirena said to her bridesmaids. "For being here for me, today. I may be a princess, but I have so few friends. Until I am married to Penne I am but a displaced refugee on this planet. But I have real friends in you all. Even you, dear one," she added to Julia. "I have not known you so long, but you are Chrístõ's chosen one, so your heart must be as pure as his other friends hearts are." She reached out and held their hands in turn, then she stood. The dress shimmered in the light as she walked towards the door, opened by the attendants. Her bridesmaids caught up the long satin train, edged in diamonds and they made their way down the stairs to the great hall where all the servants of the royal house waited, as well as the ministers of Penne's government. All of them bowed as the princess passed them by. The great palace doors were opened and she and her retinue stepped outside. There the outdoor staff greeted them with showers of flower petals before they were helped into the horse drawn carriage that was to parade them through the city streets before returning to the Palace to begin the wedding ceremony.


Epsilon drank another glass of strong liquor of a variety he had never heard of. He was letting himself get drunk. He let his body absorb the alcohol and his brain to be affected by the chemicals. As a Time Lord he wouldn't normally be affected that way. But he was celebrating.

He had cause for satisfaction. He had killed his cousin and made his escape from the planet. Of course, they would work out what had happened. The Ambassador would be outraged at the death of his precious son and would press for a full investigation. That upstart of a servant would take much of the blame, of course. But it was too much to hope that the truth would not come out.

Another warrant against his name! Epsilon laughed. He wasn't worried. They could only hang him once, as the saying went.

Not that hanging would be his fate if he WAS taken, he added to himself. The mode of death for capital crimes on Gallifrey was the atomising chamber. That wasn't a pretty death. But he was confident it would not be his fate.

Nor would it be the living death of Shada. That was considered a worse punishment than the death penalty. The atomising chamber was used for those who committed crimes of passion, in the heat of the moment. For the most heinous and repeat offenders there was Shada. A prison planet like no other, where those convicted by the Time Lords were incarcerated for tens of thousands of years. Some of those suffering the living death had been there for millennia. Their crimes were spoken of as legends while their bodies still remained frozen in cryogenic chambers. It was said that the prisoners were aware of the passage of time, and that this knowledge was what made it a more terrible punishment than death. Millennia as an ice cube drove most of them insane. In the unlikely event that one of them was released from the chamber he would be a quivering, useless wreck with a brain turned to mush.

He wouldn't, he told himself. Ten thousand years in cryogenic sleep would be his time for planning the worst vengeance possible on those who condemned him. When he was released he would have his mind intact and he would hunt down every living descendent of his accusers and murder them in the most painful ways he could devise.

But he would not be caught. He would not be condemned. He had all of time and space to hide in. There were a million planets where Humanoid was the dominant species and he could pass for a local. And he had money enough from his illegal activities to live the good life on whichever planet suited him best.

He would never be able to return to Gallifrey. He thought about that and nothing happened. He felt not even a twinge of regret or sorrow. That surprised him a little. He thought he DID care a little about his homeworld. But he found when he thought about it that he didn't care a jot.

"Another seven hours of freedom," Penne said to Chrístõ telepathically as they stood in the Great Hall waiting for the princess to arrive. "Is it too late to change my mind? You know I USED to have a lot of fun as a lecher. I had a hard time keeping servants, mind you. Especially the female ones…. But still…"

"You know you don't mean that," Chrístõ replied with a laugh. "You LOVE Cirena."

"I know I do," he answered. "But still… What if I go back to my old ways? Will she forgive me if I stray from the monogamous life?"

"She loves YOU," Chrístõ answered him. "But I don't believe you will do that. I think you're a new man, Penne. You will never go back to that life."

"I'm not so sure."

"Penne, if you don't stop thinking about adultery and promiscuity I will refuse to conduct this Alliance of Unity," Ambassador de Lœngbærrow said, his authoritative tone silencing their half-joking discussion. "Remember you are a Gallifreyan by blood at least, if not by birth. And I am joining you and Cirena by the sacred and unbreakable bond of Gallifreyan tradition. For as long as Cirena lives you will be faithful to her. And if your love for her does not keep you to that bond, then consider that you will incur MY wrath."

Penne looked at The Ambassador and smiled. Chrístõ felt him block off his reply. It was private between him and his most valuable friend and advisor. But The Ambassador smiled in return and put his hand on Penne's shoulder gently.

Chrístõ looked at them proudly. His father made him proud in himself. He looked so magnificent in the formal gold and scarlet robes of the Prydonian chapter. He was a more than fitting celebrant for this Alliance.

He and Penne looked impressive enough, too. Penne wore a robe of deep purple with a gown of spun gold over it. A chain of pure gold and rubies was around his neck. The central decoration was the crest of Adano-Ambrado which incorporated, as only a few people could possibly know, the family symbol of the former Gallifreyan Oldblood House of Ixion. He wore the state crown of the King-Emperor on his black hair. A larger, more impressive one than the simple circlet of gold he wore on other occasions.

He himself was in the same deep purple with a silver gown, and he wore a great silver brooch with the crest of the House of Lœngbærrow on his breast and a silver circlet on his head. He had protested at that. He had no royal blood in him and had no right to wear a crown. But Penne insisted, reminding him that they made a bond of brotherhood when he was the Lord of only one of the planets that now formed his empire.

"Be a prince of my domain," he had told him, and placed the circlet on his head. And Chrístõ had no way to refuse.


No, Epsilon thought as he let another glass of liquor sting his throat and spread through his bloodstream into his brain. Gallifrey had done nothing for him. He had been born into one of the great Oldblood houses. Oakdaene was not one of the Twelve Ancient Houses but it WAS Oldblood. It stood at least as great as Lœngbærrow. He WAS the son of an aristocrat. But what good had it done him? His mother left him to the care of nursemaids while she attended social events, his father had hardly ever been there. And when he was he never had anything to say to him. Nothing he did made his father proud. No achievement evinced a word of praise or congratulations. His misdemeanours, on the other hand, got him punished, though his father usually instructed a servant to administer the lashes from the leather strap used for disciplining him. Too much to expect that his father would care enough even to thrash him.

His father had been a businessman with profitable interests across the galaxy. Some of them, Epsilon proudly thought, illegal interests. He had found out in recent years that his father's name opened some interesting doors to non-traceable incomes. But that was only very recently.

He had been little more than a boy when his father died. He had not felt very much about it. He didn't care enough for his father to be upset. What had enraged him was the terms of his father's will. He made provision for his mother to be kept in the manner she was accustomed, with clothes and possessions and the means to enjoy her social life as she always did. But the provision for him, his only son, his primogeniture, was withheld until he was of age, and the executor of that will was his uncle, the patriarch of the House of Lœngbærrow, the father of his half-blood cousin, Thete.

It was only in recent years, too, that he had discovered that his father did not die of natural causes. He had been assassinated by an agent of the Celestial Intervention Agency for bringing disrepute to Gallifrey through his illegal business activities. He had tried to find out who the assassin had been. Some said it was the famous 'Executioner' - the greatest assassin the Agency ever had. But he had resigned from the agency years before. And in any case, nobody was alive who knew who the Executioner was. And he was not fool enough to try to find out.


"Your princess is here," The Ambassador whispered to Penne. And a moment later the orchestra began to play and the massed voices of the great choir filled the Great Hall. The wedding guests rose to their feet as the youngest of the bridesmaids stepped forward first, scattering rose petals from a basket as she walked, followed by the bride herself with the two older bridesmaids holding her train. Penne stood erect and proud and his thoughts now were happy and at the same time solemn as his bride approached. He wished he could see her face properly. But he knew she was smiling beneath the lace veil. And so was everyone else.

The flower girl reached the end of the aisle and Chrístõ met her eyes as she took her carefully rehearsed place. He knew what she was thinking. One day it would be her in the diamond dress. One day they would be the bride and groom.

"Time enough," he thought as he turned and took the bride's arm and brought her the last steps to her groom's side before standing back from them both. He watched Penne lift her veil and take her hand as they both faced The Ambassador. As the music came to a close he began the Alliance of Unity ceremony that would make them husband and wife, King and Queen, in seven hours time.


Epsilon was still drunk when he found his way to his TARDIS, disguised as a shuttle craft in the hanger bay. He unlocked the door and slipped inside. He locked the door behind him and crashed down on the leather sofa in the corner of the console room.

"Too drunk to pilot myself out," he murmured as he snapped his fingers and the lights dimmed. "Sleep it off. Leave later. Plenty of time. Got the whole universe and no Thete cluttering it up with his ape friends."


The ceremony progressed steadily, the complicated vows of fidelity and love for each other punctuated by glorious music performed by the choir and orchestra. The crowned heads and presidents of several hundred planetary systems watched as the King-Emperor of Adano Ambrado was married to his queen. The people of Adano Ambrado watched it on their video screens as the ceremony was broadcast on the public channel.

At last The Ambassador put his arms on their two shoulders as they turned and faced their guests and made the announcement they had all waited so patiently for.

"My friends, I give you our newly married couple, Penne Dúre King Emperor of Adano Ambrado and Cirena, Queen of Terrigna."

Penne and Cirena clutched hands and smiled broadly as the guests stood and applauded. Then Julia, escorted by the best man set off down the aisle again, followed by the two bridesmaids and then the newly married King and Queen. The doors to the Great Hall were opened and they stood at the top of the great, sweeping steps outside and waved happily to those of their subjects who gathered at the gates hoping for a glimpse of the beautiful queen and the handsome king they loved so dearly.

"I never imagined it would be like this," Julia said as she clung to Chrístõ's hand and smiled nervously. "I think when we get married I'd like it to be a little quieter."

"It will be," he promised her. He turned as his father and stepmother came out onto the balcony with them. Valena still looked a little weary and rather sad, and his father held her arm firmly and she did her best to smile warmly.

"You don't want to be married like a princess, Julia?" Valena asked her.

"I don't care as long as I am married to Chrístõ," she answered, clinging all the tighter to his hand.

"They look beautiful," Valena said of the King and Queen. "Bless them both. I hope they will be happy and free from troubled thoughts." Her husband's arm closed around her shoulder as she spoke. Even Chrístõ could not begrudge her the comfort. He didn't know the exact cause of the sadness that seemed to be upon her, but he could see that even proud Valena Arpexia was vulnerable in some way.

Bo and Sammie, Cassie and Terry, all thought of the wedding Chrístõ had devised for them. It had been so much simpler than the one they had just witnessed, but even so it had been as binding. And they held each other joyfully as they watched the newlyweds greeting their well-wishers.

"Come," Penne said at last. "There is a wedding reception to attend. He and Cirena waved one more time to their cheering subjects and then they retreated inside. His people had street parties and festivities of their own. He had a formal dinner and a ball that would go on into the night.


Epsilon woke to the sound of the videophone incoming call signal. He rolled off the sofa and reached to connect the call.

"What HAVE you been doing?" Rani asked him. "You look a mess."

"I've been celebrating. I killed my cousin."

"No you didn't," she answered him. "I've been watching the intergalactic news channel. The wedding of the King of Adano Ambrado went on despite the attempted assassination of the king and Chrístõ was his Best Man…"


"Regicide, Eps?" Rani laughed. "Even for you that's crazy."

Epsilon tried to process the information but his head was too fuzzy. He grasped the edge of his console and concentrated deeply, forcing the alcohol from his bloodstream. His flesh appeared momentarily to be covered in a fine powdery residue before he stood straight, his head now clear.

"They switched the crown." He remembered the events of the previous day clearly now. He recalled Penne and Chrístõ in the ballroom, dressed exactly alike. "Thete was wearing the crown. It was the king who came up on stage…"

He looked at the viewscreen. Rani had split the transmission to show him a playback of the royal wedding on Adano Ambrado. He scowled at the scene. Then something else occurred to him.

"Wait a minute…" He stared as the camera closed in on Penne and Cirena as they walked back down the aisle as man and wife. "How… If the king was…. No Human could have survived the Artron chamber for more than five minutes."

The pieces began to fall into place.

"The king of Adano Ambrado is Gallifreyan."

"How could that be?" Rani asked.

"I don't know. But it all makes sense. That's why they had a full Gallifreyan wedding with The Ambassador presiding as if they were in the Panopticon itself."

"But if that's true, then which family does he come from?" Rani asked.

"No idea. Not mine, anyway. One version of our cousin is enough. Although…" Epsilon's eyes almost glowed with malicious glee as another thought occurred to him. "Maybe Ambassador de Lœngbærrow liked to play the field. That would explain the resemblance between the king and Thete. It would explain why they're all so cosy with each other, too. The Ambassador and his illegitimate spawn and his half blood seed as well."

"If that's the truth of it…" Rani smiled slyly. "Imagine the scandal. Never mind killing him. Bring him to his knees with the revelation. Destroy all Chrístõ's illusions about what a great man his father is. Him and his precious Earth mother who he loved so much. When all the time his father was an adulterer. Do we still have public flogging for that, by the way?"

"Yes!" Epsilon smiled widely. "Oh yes! I would love to see Chrístõ's face as his father is disgraced before the whole High Council and taken out to be flogged!"

"I'll send you pictures," Rani told him. "YOU won't be anywhere near the High Council. You're a marked man, remember."

"You just find out what I need to know. Who IS the King of Adano Ambrado."

"For you, cousin, anything," Rani simpered. "I'd better go. My father will be home…"

The screen went blank. Epsilon went to the console and found the signal for Adano Ambrado public broadcasting. He watched the highlights of the royal wedding with renewed interest, looking closely at the King in his finery. And he noticed something he didn't notice before about the Adano Ambrado crest.

He smiled. He had just worked something out.

What to do with the information was another matter.