The three Time Lords all slept on the floor of the console room overnight. That is to say they all three found places to sit or lie where they could put themselves into meditative trances and refresh themselves, knowing that their next destination might bring them in contact with the single most persistent and malevolent enemy they had between them. Eight and Nine both knew that Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, might all be more deadly in terms of the widespread devastation they caused wherever they went. But The Master, or Epsilon as Chrístõ knew him as, was just about the most ruthless being they had EVER met.

It was true that none of those other three species had any conscience about their actions. But that was because runaway science in the case of the first two and millennia of inbreeding in the case of the last, had made them that way.

But The Master came from a people who valued peace, valued life, and though they could be hard and narrow at times, they were usually JUST and understood the concept of mercy. And that made his evil all the more sickening. He darkened so much of the universe they had striven to bring light to.

All three of them had similar thoughts as they dropped into the deep levels of trance where their thoughts ceased and gave them mental as well as physical respite.


Chrístõ woke from his trance a few seconds before his two older selves. But all three were aware at the same time of a mournful sound.

"Humphrey!" Nine stood up and looked around the half-dark console room in 'night' mode. It was centuries since he had even thought of the darkness entity who had been one of the TARDIS crew in his younger days. "What's up, old thing?"

"La..d..ies crying," he said in his saddest drawl.

"They're in their rooms," Eight said checking the life-signs monitor. "Why would they be crying?" But Chrístõ didn't even wait to wonder. He was already on his way.

Once again it was a photo finish between the other two as they reached the two bedroom doors. Humphrey hovered behind them still quietly keening. Chrístõ opened Julia's door and Nine went through the connecting door between the two rooms to reach Natalie.

"Oh, you poor thing," Chrístõ said as he lifted Julia up from the pillow gently. He looked at her face. Her eyes were red and puffed up painfully so that she could hardly open them. He looked around as Nine guided Natalie through the door and sat her on the edge of the bed. She looked just as bad. "Try not to cry, either of you," Chrístõ said as he hugged Julia. "It will only make it worse." He turned to Eight. "Medical room, anti-histamine shots, ointment for the swelling, bandages…." Eight went at a run while he and Nine reached for their trusty sonic screwdrivers and set them to medical analysis mode.

"Oh, Natalie," Nine said in a gentle voice as he put his instrument back in his pocket. "Oh, it's a shame. Because you both looked so lovely. But I think…." He looked at Chrístõ who nodded. He'd come to the same diagnosis. "You are BOTH allergic to the eye make up you were wearing yesterday." He hugged Natalie gently. The poor woman had enough troubles in her life. This was hardly fair. But at least it was a minor problem. Their eyes were not harmed. It was just the lids and the flesh around them that was swollen and sore. Eight returned with the medication they needed and they gave what immediate relief they could before tucking both of them up in the bed together to recover. Chrístõ put his hands gently on their foreheads and induced a gentle sleep in them. Hopefully by the time they woke the swellings would be reduced and the pain less severe.

"Poor things," Eight said as the three of them returned to the console room to consider the situation. Humphrey had stayed with his ladies, purring softly now he had been assured that they were going to be all right. "We're an hour off the next destination. What are we going to do? The girls can't come with us like that."

"I'm not sure they should anyway," Nine added. "If we're sure this is the place we ARE going to catch up with The Master…. They're safe in here. It's a sort of blessing in disguise. Don't either of you tell them I said this mind you. Because they're in so much pain and I wouldn't have wished that on them. But it's about the only way we COULD stop them from coming with us."

"I'm not leaving them alone though," Chrístõ insisted. "One of us should wait with them."

"Going out and fighting the man we've hated since we were at SCHOOL versus staying in and looking after the girl we all love!" Nine half-smiled as he considered the options. "Shall we draw straws or will it be rock, scissors, paper?"

They drew straws. Eight was the odd man out.


"This is VERY odd, you know," Eight told them telepathically as they stepped out of the TARDIS. Chrístõ looked and noted where he was and what the TARDIS had disguised itself as today. The symbol was very discreetly embossed on the handle of the airlock.

"What's odd?" Chrístõ asked.

"I see The Master's TARDIS. It's on the other side of the research centre. But no sign of him about the place. I expected to pick him up on the lifesigns monitor. But the only Time Lord lifesigns I'm seeing are you two."

"That's not saying anything," Nine reminded him. "He might not show up as a Time Lord. Remember he has the ability to take over Human bodies and use them to extend his life."

"He does?" Chrístõ looked at him in alarm. "How?"

"No idea. He ran out of his lives a long time back. When I was still on my fourth incarnation, if memory serves. He ought to be dead many times over. Ever since then he has been searching for ways to extend himself. Can't help thinking this place might hold some attraction for him. A research facility dedicated to the science of eternal youth…"

"There's a Human lifesign coming towards you," Eight warned them. "Fast."

Chrístõ and Nine BOTH reached for their sonic screwdrivers, though as they held them up they wondered why they did so seeing as the only setting that could be used as a weapon was the welding tool and they would hesitate before using that even on Epsilon.

"Wow!" The Human lifesign rounded the corner and stopped and stared. Chrístõ and Nine stared too.

"Hey… I know you…" Chrístõ began. "You're…"

"Yeah… that's me. Is that weird ship of yours anywhere around here? Because if it is, RUN, now."

In their heads, the two Time Lords were hearing urgent calls from their third counterpart and there was a sound growing louder and more insistent. They turned and ran, the newcomer keeping pace with them. Chrístõ reached for his TARDIS key as he ran and sprinted ahead to open the door. As the door slammed shut behind the three of them, they heard the eerie sound grow louder. It seemed to rush past the TARDIS like a sudden wind.

"What the hell happened?" Chrístõ asked as he ran to the console and examined the environmental control.

"You saved my life, for one thing." Chrístõ looked at the Human they had run back with and remembered where he had seen him before. He blushed deeply as he recognised the young Time Agent he had met once before on a space station in the Gamma Quadrant.

"My favourite Time Lord," he said with a grin. "Where are your friends you were with last time we met? And who are these guys? They're kind of cute for OLDER men."

"My uncles," Chrístõ lied for the sake of simplicity as he sought his memory for the name of this surprising young Earth born Human. "Jack… Jack Harkness."

"You remembered me! I knew you would. Even though you rejected me. Do you still insist on being straight?"

"YES," Chrístõ said.

"Shame," Jack said. "How about your uncles then? Are they straight, too?"

"YES!" They both answered, and Chrístõ couldn't help notice that Nine was the more emphatic about it. He was looking at Jack curiously, as if trying to work something out.

"A massive energy wave just swept through the space station," Eight said, getting back to the matter in hand. "The TARDIS is having trouble identifying exactly WHAT it is."

"A form of energy my TARDIS doesn't recognise?" Chrístõ looked at him in surprise. "Are you sure?" He went to the environmental console and checked it for himself. His older self was right. What had swept through the space station was not any form of energy that even the TARDIS's massive databanks could identify.

But its results were clear. Where the lifesigns monitor had registered hundreds of lives before there were now only a handful of faint signatures, and some of those getting weaker.

"Damn… look…" Eight pointed to the one lifesign that seemed to be moving. It was distinctly the DNA pattern of a Time Lord. And it was heading towards what the monitor recognised as a TARDIS. "He's getting away."

"We'll have to let him," Chrístõ said. "There's a medical emergency here. Track him… we can catch him up later. We need to see if we can help people here. We should put out a call to the nearest hospital ship."

"On it now," Eight said, typing rapidly. "Hey, there's a thing." He grinned at his older incarnation. "The S.S. Grace Holloway."

"I always knew that girl would go far," Nine said. Chrístõ looked at them and waited for an explanation of what they were talking about, but there wasn't one.

"It's a couple of hours away," Eight confirmed. "The energy wave - whatever it was - it's gone now. There's no immediate danger. You'd better go and render assistance."

Jack made up the third in the party as they set out this time. He led the way using his own wrist-held lifesigns monitor to locate the strongest and most dense group of Humans left on the ship.

It was the mess deck. And it had been a meal time. Half eaten meals were on the tables.

"What the HELL!" Jack exclaimed. Nine and Chrístõ said something similar in their native language. They all stared at the half a dozen half naked, hysterical toddlers and several even more helpless babies that seemed to range from nearly newborn upwards.

"Where did these kids come from?" Nine asked. "And where are the staff?"

"I think…." Chrístõ began. His face was white as he worked it out. He looked around the room. There was adult clothing all over the floor and chairs, coats, trousers, skirts, blouses, shoes. "I think these ARE the staff."

"What?" Jack turned and looked at him as Nine bent to investigate under the nearest table.

"It sounds insane, I know. But I think that somebody exposed them to a reversed temporal accelerator and reduced grown adults back to infants."

"I think you're right," Nine said as he stood holding a very tiny baby that looked completely wrongly proportioned. It was struggling to breathe and failing. It died pathetically in his arms. He laid it down on the table and covered the body with a tea towel. "That one was reversed so far it was premature…. It looked like a thirty-six week Human foetus - unviable outside the womb without an incubator and a lot of help." He moved among the chaos and saw several more dead or dying 'unviable' babies among piles of clothing that littered the floor.

"That's not the worst of it!" Chrístõ reached out for Jack's wrist. He used his sonic screwdriver on the lifesigns monitor and Jack gasped as it began to pick up hundreds of weak readings of something that wasn't life exactly but was Human DNA of a kind. "All around us, on the chairs… the floor… Human embryos too small to see with the naked eye…." Even as they watched most of the readings were winking out of existence. "DEAD Human embryos."

"Some of them were reversed so far back they…" Chrístõ couldn't even finish what he was saying. It was too ugly to speak of it out loud.

"So… Say the energy rolled back about fifty years…" Jack reasoned. "Anyone less than fifty years of age was a gonner…. These kids… they were all a bit over fifty. The retirement age on these facilities is fifty-five, so the oldest would be five…"

"How old are you, Jack?" Nine asked him.

"Twenty seven," he said. "I told you, you saved my life. I'd be a lump of microscopic jelly on the floor if your ship hadn't been around."

"Yeah, that's one you owe us." Nine looked around again and then started to organise the situation. He found table cloths and used them to wrap each of the small babies in and tried to calm them while Chrístõ and Jack dealt with the toddlers. All of them seemed to have blank memories. Everything they were as adults was lost. Probably just as well, Chrístõ thought. If their adult minds were trapped in these bodies it would be horrifying.

They had sorted out a makeshift crèche and accounted for some sixty of what should have been at least two hundred personnel when the hospital ship arrived to take over looking after the infants. That left them free to get to the bottom of what had happened.

"Eight says it started in here," Chrístõ said as they came into the main research laboratory. "This is where the energy wave originated according to the readings he's picked up."

Nobody had survived in the laboratory. They had all been under fifty years of age and were reduced to a handful of dying cells instantly. The accident was recorded on the security cameras that constantly monitored what was happening in the laboratory for precisely that reason - so that in the event of a catastrophe the investigators could work out what went wrong.

Only this wasn't an accident. Nine was especially attentive as he watched a tall man in a lab coat step out of a door marked 'danger'. He was carrying a box-like object that looked something like a portable body scanner. One of the technicians challenged him and he pressed a switch. A beam of pale blue light shot out of the box and hit the man who had challenged him. For a second or two of the security camera's playback the man seemed to shrink through the ages of his youth and childhood before disappearing. He made no sound. It probably didn't HURT. But it was still a gruesome way to die.

"Is it him?" Chrístõ asked. "He doesn't look like…" Then he realised THAT was a silly thing for him to say.

"He wouldn't," Nine reminded him. "He's using a body of some poor soul who crossed his path at some time. But a borrowed body never lasts long."

"It will now he's got hold of the Rejuvenator," Jack said. They saw him looking through the laboratory computer's files. Nobody asked him how he got into locked and password protected data. Both knew enough about him to realise he was a smart Human with hidden talents. "These guys… what they were doing here goes beyond cosmetic surgery. They developed the process that reverses aging."

"The ultimate beauty treatment!" Nine said as he investigated the private room. "Eternal youth for the rich and vain." And Chrístõ wondered why the name Cassandra flashed into his mind along with a vision of a pair of blue eyes and a pouting mouth made up with very red lipstick.

"That has GOT to be illegal," Chrístõ said. "Messing with that sort of thing."

"Oh it is," Jack said. "That's why they do it out here in space where there's no jurisdiction to stop them. The Time Agency heard rumours somebody was developing something that MIGHT be under our purview… They sent me. I was supposed to sabotage the place in some way so that the project would have to be abandoned. But this guy you're after got here first."

"And he has a portable version of the device," They all stared at the screen as they saw The Master look up at where he knew the camera was. Chrístõ shivered to see his eyes flash an eerie red as he smiled malevolently. A moment later the door to the private laboratory disintegrated as an explosion ripped through it. A wave of rejuvenating energy swept through the room. The people caught in the immediate area never stood a chance. The Master stood there smiling still. His body seemed to absorb the energy. The face of his borrowed form did become softer and younger, but he was otherwise untouched. Fifty years was nothing to a Time Lord.

"He killed all the people on this space station to get his hands on that thing?" Chrístõ was appalled. "And that really IS my cousin…"

"Your cousin?" Jack looked at him curiously.

"Only by marriage," Chrístõ snapped. "I'm nothing like him. He's evil… he's…"

"Hey, cool it," Jack told him. "I'll take your word for it. My question is what are we going to do about this guy?"

"We?" Nine queried as he stepped back into the main room carrying what looked like a duplicate of the portable Rejuvenator. "Are you on the team then, Jack?"

"In my experience getting on the team with Chrístõ is the best way to stay alive," Jack answered. "Beneath this cool, macho exterior you see before you is a coward who would rather have a dry martini and the prospect of not sleeping alone tonight. But failing that I'd rather be on the winning side when things get tough."

"Same old Jack," Nine said with a smile. He looked at Chrístõ. "You can trust him."

"What do you mean, same old Jack?" Jack asked. "How do YOU know?"

Nine didn't answer his question. He just gave a smile that made the fifty-first century time agent wish that Time Lords DIDN'T come from Planet Straight and turned to walk away. Chrístõ looked at him, then back at Jack and remembered he was supposed to be in charge.

"I would value your help," he said. "Is your ship in the hangar bay here?"

"Yes, but I think yours will be more use in this situation."

"I'll slave your engines to the TARDIS. Bring it along. I don't know about you, but I for one don't think I want to come back to this place again. The thought of how so many of these people died…"

"Yeah," Jack agreed. "The day something like this doesn't give me the creeping horrors I'll be listed among the dead."

Nine glanced back and smiled as he saw Jack walking apace with Chrístõ. Time was a strange thing.

"What IS it with you and him?" Chrístõ asked him telepathically. "I only met him once before."

"I was wondering about that, too." Eight added. "Your reaction when you saw him. It was like meeting an old flame."

"I've met him a LOT more times," Nine told them both. "You know I said I'm getting married next week…. JACK is my best man."

"So… he's a part of my future?"

"Oh yes. Funny thing is, I STILL can't remember THIS meeting. I DO remember the previous time. But this, and the circus adventure… I don't remember ANY of this. Wish I did. It would help to know what's going to happen." He paused. "The point is, you CAN trust Jack. What he said about being a coward underneath… yes, maybe. But underneath THAT is a man I would trust my life with."

"Yeah, but…." Chrístõ blushed, to the amusement of his older selves. "He fancies me, you know."

"Oh, I know that," Nine laughed in his head. "Think of it as a compliment."

"If you say so," Chrístõ told him, less certain.


"I've slaved his ship and set the co-ordinates to where we tracked The Master down," Eight said as they walked into the TARDIS. "We're ready to go."

"Later, I'd like that console BACK," Chrístõ told him. "Right now though, I'm going to see how Julia and Natalie are. You two can entertain our friend."

"Yeah, I just bet they COULD!" Jack said with an innuendo laden grin that was met by a cold stare by Eight and another inscrutable smile from Nine.

"Why do you two guys have numbers instead of names?" Jack asked as he tried out the sofa for comfort and watched the two Time Lords, one at work at the console, the other opening up the portable Rejuvenator and examining its workings.

"Long story," Nine told him without looking up from his work.

"I've got the time," he offered.

"We don't," Eight answered. "Things are a lot more complicated around here than you think. You 'Time Agents' may have a rudimentary understanding of time and space travel, but really you just get in the way."

"Oh, gee, thanks a lot," Jack retorted. "You know, we had this 'Time Lords are the superior species' conversation the last time I ran into Chrístõ. And if he wasn't such a sweet guy I'd have given him a pasting just to prove how wrong he is."

"You think you could FIGHT one of us?" Eight asked looking at him. "Don't make me laugh."

"Hey," Nine told his previous self. "Jack is one of the good guys. Leave him be."

Eight made a remark telepathically that Nine responded to in kind scathingly.

"This is why throwing more than one of us together is a bad idea," Nine added. "We don't get on."

Chrístõ returned to the console room and reported that the ladies were both sleeping easily and were a lot better now. Eight rather testily responded by saying he could have told him that.

"I know, but I wanted to see them for myself."

"Them?" Jack laughed lightly, trying to raise the mood between his companions. "You got yourself a little harem, Chrístõ? No wonder I'm always out of luck around you."

Chrístõ laughed and grinned at Jack. He liked him. That was one thing he did know about him.

"Where are we going anyway?" Jack asked and Chrístõ wondered why he hadn't thought to ask. He actually WAS feeling as if he was the junior partner in this trio. His two older selves seemed to have taken over the piloting of his ship as well as the decision making.

"Planet called Dess Frere. It's a Human colony. Technologically advanced. Stable government. Contented population."

"This is in my presets," Chrístõ said. "If it's stable and content why did the high council want me to go there?"

"To deal with the trouble caused by The Master?" Nine suggested.

"Does this mean that the High Council KNOW I am going to need your help?" Chrístõ asked. "Or is this something done by them retrospectively from your time?"

"Beats me. The High Council are a strange lot." Nine looked around at Eight as he thought of something. "Who was it who sent you here?" he asked. "Which of the Council?"

"Garrick," he replied. Chrístõ gave a soft gasp of surprise.

"My half-brother, Garrick?"

"The very one. He was a born politician."

"He's still a baby. I can't imagine…" Chrístõ broke off as he noticed Jack listening intently.

"Is this conversation meant to make no sense to me?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm afraid it is," Nine told him. "And we really DON'T have time to explain. The first priority is to find out what The Master is up to."

"Follow the trail of bodies," Eight murmured. "The Rejuvenator can be used as a horrible weapon. And you can be sure he will."

"WHY?" Chrístõ asked. "Doesn't seem any point to it."

"With The Master, there is only ever one point. He wants to live forever. He wasted his lives trying to be immortal."

"You're doing it again," Jack said. "Or are you saying that stuff about Time Lords having more than one life is true?"

"It's true," Chrístõ said. "As for The Master, or Epsilon or whatever he calls himself…" He paused. He thought about the mass slaughter he had caused on the research station. "He's a murderer. I always knew he was. He's killed people several times that I know of. He's tried to kill me. He's hurt so many people that I know. But what he did back there…"

"That's why were here," Nine told him. "You don't have to face up to him on your own. You don't have to be scared."

"I'm not scared," Chrístõ protested.

But he was. The thought of facing up to his cousin as a homicidal adult scared him a lot.

"If I fail…" he said. "I…" He looked at Nine and remembered what he had said about getting married. If he failed, he failed him, too. He failed everyone. Even Garrick, who had put his faith in them all when he sent his older incarnations to help him.

"You've never doubted yourself before," Nine told him. "Besides, we're not helpless. We've got a weapon, too." He held up the Rejuvenator.

"What use are two of them?" Jack asked.

"This one reverses the Rejuvenator," Nine answered. He looked at the device and frowned. "At least I think it does. They took five years to develop this. I've been tinkering with it for an hour. Ok, I'm a genius even by Time Lord standards and they were just Humans with ambitions beyond what was good for them. No chance to test it, either. We just have to hope I'm as clever as I think I am."

"You've got a terrible weapon in your hands," Eight told him. "The only thing that makes that better than the Master having it in his hands…."

"Is that I'm the good guy," Nine said. "It's a very fine distinction, I know."

"That's how I've always looked at it," Jack told him. "I'm the good guy, so it's ok for me to have the big guns."

"It's not," Chrístõ cut in. "It's still a terrible, horrible weapon. And if you're thinking what I think you're thinking, then I don't like it."

"Neither do I," Nine assured him. "But we're fighting The Master. We can't afford to play nice."

"We're there," Eight told them. "I'm picking up the Master's TARDIS in that building there." He flicked on the viewscreen and they looked at a bright, modern looking building with the universally recognised green crescent symbol proclaiming it to be a medical centre.

"Doctor Rõgæn Koschei's Rejuvenating clinic," Chrístõ said as he watched the screen. "WHAT?"

"He's set himself up in business?"

"Never. There's more to it than that. There has to be. He's up to something."

But as they watched the clinic it looked as if that was exactly what he was doing. They saw a woman enter, a still attractive woman in the mid-forties, nothing wrong with her that any of the men could see. When she emerged a half hour later she looked about thirty and was smiling so widely her head was in danger of falling off.

"There HAS to be more to it than THAT!" Nine insisted. "Come on, I think I'll make an appointment." He fixed a length of strap to the adapted Rejuvenator and slung it over his shoulder like a camera.

Once again Chrístõ wondered who was in charge.

"At least you're out there," Eight told him. "I'm nurse-maiding again."

"You're monitoring for us," Nine reminded him. "Besides, who else could do it? Jack?"

"You think two females would be safe with him?"

"Course they would," Chrístõ said. "Don't be daft. He's a flirt, not a predator. Anyway, Jack is here because the Time Agency sent him to do a job. We can't tell him he can't do it."

"If you guys have something to say, how about sharing with this mere mortal without telepathy?" Jack complained.

"It was nothing," Nine assured him as he pushed open the door to the clinic. "Nice set up. We must have overshot our arrival time. He's got himself well dug in here." He marched up to the reception desk and asked to see the doctor. He half expected to be turned away, but as the receptionist filled in his details it seemed as if the only thing that mattered was the limit on his credit card. He came away with an appointment card and went to the waiting area, accompanied by Chrístõ and Jack. They watched as two women in late middle age went in and emerged half an hour later with their bodies much younger and their bank balances much poorer. The process worked. Of course it did. They wondered what kind of bribes or coercion The Master must have used, though, to set up such a clinic using such dubious treatments.

"He's The Master. He's capable of anything." That was the one thing all of them were sure of.

"You can go in now," Nine was told by the receptionist who was rather disturbed when it was clear Chrístõ and Jack were going with him. "But… sir… the appointment is for one."

"They're my boyfriends," Nine said, putting his arms around them both and speaking in a deliberately camp way that made Jack go weak at the knees. "They have to decide how young and alluring they want me to look." The receptionist looked at him oddly but shrugged and decided she wasn't paid to care about how somebody with his kind of credit rating chose to live.

Inside the office, though, they were surprised to find, not The Master, but a woman of apparently twenty or twenty-five years of age. Both Time Lords immediately scanned her head mentally. Even if the Master had decided to go for a sex change they would have been able to detect his unique mental signature. She was definitely and unquestionably a Human woman. Her ID badge identified her as Doctor Laura Mallory.

Though she was a woman of twenty or twenty-five only by appearance.

"You've had the treatment?" Chrístõ said to her.

"Yes," she said. "If you have any qualms at all I am living proof that the process is utterly harmless. I was seventy-five. They said I was too old to practice medicine. Doctor Koschei gave me my life to live over. He's a miracle worker."

"Where is Doctor Koschei?" Nine asked. "I really wanted the treatment from him personally."

"He is attending the tri-galactic ethics conference in the Great Pantheatre," she said. "It is a measure of the respect he holds among his profession that he has been invited. It is a very important conference. Not only the greatest medical minds, but politicians, world leaders from a dozen planets and planetary empires. Florenza, Hadrassic V, Adano-Ambrado, Gallifrey…"

"Very impressive," Nine agreed. "Oh well, I'll make an appointment for next week then. When he's back."

"I am perfectly qualified to treat you," Doctor Mallory assured him. "I assure you. I hope you don't think it's because I am a woman. Really. This IS the fifty-second millennia."

"Well," Nine answered her with a smile. "When you put it that way…. Go on then…"

"No!" Chrístõ suddenly cried. "No, don't do it. I've changed my mind. I love you the way you are."

"Yeah," Jack agreed, playing along. "I love the rugged, lived in look. You're my favourite bit of middle-aged rough."

"Oh well," Nine grinned as he stood up and put his arms around them both. "I guess we've wasted your time. Sorry about that."

"I'll give you middle-aged rough!" he added once they were outside and heading back to Christo's TARDIS.

"Oh, please DO!" Jack answered.


"The great Pantheatre is the largest man-made structure on Dess Frere," Chrístõ read aloud from the TARDIS information database. "Hollowed out of the mountain called Great Fire Peak, a long extinct volcano south of the metropolis, and with the famous crystal glass entrance hall, it is considered to be one of the fifty-second millennia's greatest architectural achievements. The hosting of the fourth tri-galactic ethics conference means that the eyes of the universe will be on Dess Frere…."

"Yeah, and if The Master was INVITED to speak at it, I'll eat my jacket, lining and all," Nine said scathingly. "He's pulled a fast one somewhere."

"What worries me, is what he plans to do there," Eight said. "There are some seriously important people attending that conference."

"Adano-Ambrado…" Chrístõ murmured. "And Gallifrey…."

"The Chancellor will be there," Eight said. "Who was that in this period?"

"Our uncle, Remonte De Lœngbærrow," Chrístõ said. "He took over after the death of Chancellor Arpexia."

"Oh yes," Nine said. "I remember that. And the king of Adano-Ambrado…. Our old friend Penne."

"Father will probably be there with him," Chrístõ added. "He's supposed to be the ambassador for Gallifrey on Adano-Ambrado, but Penne regards him as his chief advisor."

"Then this is personal," Eight said. "And The Master knows it. He KNOWS that you would try to stop him."

"He's going to use that weapon on the conference," Jack was still playing catch up on these three way Time Lord conversations. But he had grasped the one significant fact. "You can't make it personal. Not with so many lives at stake. You guys have to focus."

"Jack's right," Chrístõ agreed. "Father, Penne, uncle Remonte… as much as they mean to us, we can't let ANYONE suffer at his hands. Besides, every one of the delegates is a VIP. He could destabilise whole quadrants or set medical science back centuries."

"We're there," Eight said. "Right inside the Pantheatre Press gallery. That means we don't get to view the 'famous crystal glass entrance hall', but we didn't come here for tourism anyway."

"Psychic paper at the ready," Chrístõ said to Nine and Jack. "Bit of a come-down for us," he added to Nine. "Only academic failures go into journalism on Gallifrey. But it won't hurt to slum it for a while."

"I've done worse," he said.

The TARDIS had disguised itself neatly as a telecast sound booth at the back of the gallery. They slipped out and made their way down to the main auditorium showing their ID at several points along the way.

"Delegates only beyond this point," they were told and they smiled in unison as their psychic paper confirmed them as representatives of Earth and Gallifrey respectively.

"Apparently I'm the vice-president of the USA," Jack said with a grin as he put his ID away.

"Congratulations," Chrístõ told him. "I'm Magister of Southern Gallifrey. That's nice. My father used to do that job." He looked at Nine who grinned.

"Lord High President," he chuckled. "And why not?"

"Always been my ambition," Chrístõ said. He looked at Nine. "Did I ever… can you tell me… will I make it?"

"That would be telling," he said. "Come on. Like Jack said - Focus."

"Focus is right. He's on the podium," Jack said. "Look."

The man they had seen on the research station dressed as a scientist was now looking very suave in a black silk suit. He had grown a goatee beard in the time since he escaped from the research centre. It made him look curiously convincing as a medical man. Though none of them could say why.

"It's a Freudian thing," Eight said. "We associate beards with intelligence. Probably because Freud had one!"

"Freud can take a running jump," Nine muttered. "I do not have a multiple personality disorder and my mother is none of his business." Then they gave their full attention to what The Master was doing up on the podium. They saw a couple of assistants setting up what was clearly the Rejuvenator - or a copy of it, they supposed, since there was one at his clinic, too. He was talking about a demonstration of its effects.

"He's going to use it on the whole auditorium," Chrístõ said. "We've got to stop him." Chrístõ started to run down the central aisle. Jack ran with him. They were halfway when the Master turned the ray on them. They both screamed as they were caught up in it. They screamed again when they were enveloped in a second ray from Nine's reversed device.

Nine could feel Chrístõ's screams in his own head. It was hurting like hell and he was sorry for that. It must have been hurting Jack even more. The Human body was far less able to cope with pain than their Time Lord bodies. But Jack was only twenty-seven years old. And he was Human. He didn't have as many years either way as a Time Lord. He would die first if he let up for one moment. He had to maintain the balance between the Rejuvenator and the reversed Rejuvenator and keep them at their proper age.

It was a stalemate. And it came down to which Time Lord would tire first. Around him, he saw the delegates evacuating. He saw security guards approaching the Master on stage. He saw out of the corner of his eye that he was being approached, too. He heard somebody shout. He thought it might have been Eight, telling them to back off. If either one of them broke Chrístõ and Jack would be dead, either aged or rejuvenated to death. Until something was done to end this nobody could touch them.

Chrístõ fought the pain. He looked at Jack, trapped in the beam with him and he could see he was in agony. He reached out slowly. It was like moving through treacle. He put his hands either side of Jack's head and reached in and found his pain and eased it for him as best he could. They were both in agony, but sharing the pain helped. He saw his blue eyes focus on him with something like gratitude and his arms lifted slowly and held him by the shoulders. They neither of them could speak, and Jack wasn't telepathic, but they didn't need words. They were holding onto each other, seeing each other through the ordeal.

Around them, the combined beams were acting very strangely. They seemed to be forming a glowing bubble of light. And it was growing. Nine stared at it but he knew he didn't dare stop the beam or move it.

And then the bubble burst. Chrístõ and Jack both fell in a heap on the ground, released from the beam and Nine froze as he saw the beams reversing, coming back towards him and The Master. He screamed as his latent precognition told him what was going to happen to him in a matter of seconds.

Then it didn't happen. He didn't even see Eight reach him. Later he heard a witness say he had jumped from the press balcony and then 'blurred' as he ran down the aisle and knocked the aging machine from his hands before diving to the floor, covering him with his own body.

"I owe you one," Nine told him as they both stood up and looked around. They saw Jack and Chrístõ first and then The Master up on the podium. "You get The Master, I'll help them."

Chrístõ was ok. He was dazed and a bit dizzy and when Nine lifted him to his feet he felt as if he had an electrical charge running through him. But he was ok. Jack didn't look quite so good.

"Oh hell," Chrístõ said. "I think he's dead."

"No," Nine assured him. "But he's not so good. You know CPR, Chrístõ. Go to it."

"What?" Chrístõ looked as his older self as he stepped back. "No…"

"Go on. You're not going to let a man die because you think he might take the kiss of life as a declaration of intent?"

Chrístõ looked at him and then at Jack as he lay there so pale and still. He knew Nine was right. Although he also knew he was deliberately leaving it to him, knowing full well it was more embarrassing for him. Still, he began CPR. And he did it calmly and efficiently and he didn't let any feelings Jack may or may not have for him get in the way of saving his life.

Nine grinned and left him to it. He sprinted up to the podium where Eight was dealing with The Master.

Or the man who HAD BEEN the Master.

He looked about sixty years old by Human standards. And he was standing there staring, mouth opening and shutting wordlessly, a shocked expression on his face.

"I don't get it," Eight said. "Didn't he get the rejuvenating beam?"

"Yes," Nine told him as he reached and put his hand against The Master's forehead and reached into his mind. "About five hundred years worth, off his total age of just over a thousand. He's reverted to how he would look if he was five hundred in Gallifreyan years. An elderly man. But…" he probed a little deeper. "His memory is blank. He has no idea who he is or where he is." Nine laughed. "We'll find a nice old people's rest home and leave him to enjoy his twilight years."

"He might get his memory back. He's got a strong will."

"By the time he does we'll have programmed his TARDIS to autopilot itself into a black hole and he'll be stuck here, powerless, an old, decrepit pensioner with nobody to help him."

"Almost a fate worse than death. Speaking of which…." Eight tapped Nine on the shoulder and pointed to where Chrístõ was attending to Jack. They both smiled knowingly as he regained consciousness and reached out and pulled Chrístõ into a REAL kiss.

"Funny thing is, I still don't remember any of this," Nine said. "Not EVEN getting snogged by Jack Harkness. And I am quite sure I would remember THAT." He left Eight to take the Master in hand and bounded back to his younger self and his future friend.

"He's lost his memory," Chrístõ said. "Not all of it, only about two years. He has no idea where he is or how he got here."

"He remembers how to take advantage of a situation involving a good looking stranger in a compromising position," Nine observed. Chrístõ blushed. Jack smiled disarmingly.

"Dunno who this guy is," Jack said. "But I think he saved my life somehow and I just wanted to say thanks."

"You'll be all right," Nine told him as he took out his sonic screwdriver and aimed the hypnotic blue beam at him. He caught him before he fell to the ground in a faint and lifted him in his arms. "Come on," he said to Chrístõ and Eight with the very confused Master in tow. "Time to deal with loose ends."

Loose end number one was Jack. They took him to his ship and put him to bed in his sleeping quarters. Nine shone the sonic screwdriver light in his unresponsive eyes and in a hypnotic voice told him he would not remember what happened in the auditorium, that he would wake up in his ship with two years missing. He told him to conclude that it was something the time agency did to him, and vow to see those sons of %$%@* in hell before he would work for them again. Then he set the autopilot to take him to a safe orbit around Dess Frere's moon.

"When I first met Jack," Nine said. "In MY lifetime, I mean, I didn't remember him at first. What with the London blitz and trying to stop all life on Earth being obliterated. It came back to me later. But Jack mentioned that he had lost two years of his memories. He said he thought the time agency did it to him. If he ever finds out otherwise I hope he'll forgive me. But it really is better all round if he doesn't know me until he is meant to know me."

Loose end number two was dropping The Master at a good, comfortable rest home for the mentally unbalanced. It was not free, but an easy bit of forgery paid for his care out of the personal bank account of Doctor Rõgæn Koschei, the eminent cosmetic surgeon.

Loose end number three was closing the office of the eminent cosmetic surgeon, Doctor Rõgæn Koschei. They felt a little sorry for Doctor Mallory when they returned posing this time as medical ethics commissioners who confiscated the rejuvenating equipment. But only a LITTLE sorry. She surely knew that the process was illegal. She had let her own ambition get the better of her scruples.

As all three machines, the two Rejuvenators and the reverse machine, crunched loudly in the trash compactor of Chrístõ's TARDIS there remained just one more loose end.


"He knows way too much about his future," Eight said as he put the TARDIS into temporal orbit. "Garrick told me if he discovered too much I was to take appropriate action."

"Natalie and Julia too?" Nine asked him. "Got to be, I suppose?"

"Best for them all."

"What are you talking about?" Chrístõ asked.

"I've got to wipe your memory of us being here," Eight said. "We've risked too much of a paradox."

"What?" Chrístõ looked at both his older incarnations. "No. You can't do that."

"I have to," Eight told him. "You've all got to forget any of this happened. The Master… He's a part of your future. So are many things that you should not have foreknowledge of. I've got to erase it all before we're taken back to our own parts of your future."

"That's why we can't remember what happened," Nine said as if it had just clicked into place. "I do remember…. One time… I was sure I had lost a couple of days and didn't know what had happened."

"You do the girls," Eight said, taking his sonic screwdriver from his pocket. "I'll do Chrístõ."

"You're not doing me anything," he protested. "No, I won't let you."

"Chrístõ," Nine put a hand on his shoulder. "You must. It's for your own good. You've learnt too much. It would harm our future. And I don't want my future messing with. I'm happy with it as it is. I want to go back to my girl and let things be as they are, as they should be."

Chrístõ sighed. He nodded sadly. Nine went to the bedroom where Natalie and Julia were sleeping. They were oblivious of this adventure anyway. But it would be best to take them right back to the morning before it all began. He took the bandages off their sore eyes. They looked ok now. Just a little red. He gently put Natalie back in her own bed and applied the sonic screwdriver's memory erasing function to her red-haired head. She was already in a deep sleep but this deepened it.

He went back to Julia and did the same. He tucked her into the bed and kissed her gently on the forehead then walked away back to the console room. Eight had put Chrístõ into sleepy-bye mode, too. He was laying him down on the floor, gently.

"Wipe the TARDIS memory of where we've been the last couple of days," Eight ordered him. "He'll be puzzled and a bit worried but he'll never work it out."

"That's right," Nine said. "I never did. I thought we'd been through some sort of time dilation that pushed us two days into the future and knocked us all out."

"Yeah," Eight said. "I remember something like that, too." He stood up and looked at Nine as he, too, wondered when their OWN loose end would be tied and they would get out of here.

"It was… great working with you," Nine admitted as the silence lengthened.

"You, too. But…" He shook his head. "You know there's still that thing you're hiding from me… about my future."

"If I told you I'd have to wipe YOUR memory, for the same reason we did it to him."

"Ok," Eight said, accepting that. "I wonder if we'll meet again… outside of our pyramid on SangC'lune."

"We're not supposed to meet. These paradoxes are dangerous."

"Tell that to our lords and masters on the High Council. When you get back, tell our kid brother next time he needs a favour, I'm not available."

"Why don't you tell him? He's your brother too."

"I'm too busy getting married," Nine replied quickly.

As he spoke he felt it begin. The force that had dragged him there was dragging him back. "Goodbye," he shouted to his eighth incarnation. "Nice knowing me!"

"Same to you," Eight replied with a grin as he felt it too.

Chrístõ woke from his induced faint first. His immediate thought was for Julia and Natalie. He was relieved to find them waking up when he went to them.

"What happened?" Julia asked when they were dressed and in the console room together. "I feel strange. My eyes feel funny"

"They look rather red," Chrístõ said. "Natalie, yours do too. I think it might be connected. We all seem to have been knocked out by something. According to the TARDIS we've been out for nearly two days."

"No wonder I feel hungry," Natalie commented.

Chrístõ went back to the console and looked at the log, but it, too, seemed to have slept for all that time. There was no indication that they had gone anywhere or done anything. "I think I'd better run a diagnostic on the TARDIS." He selected a co-ordinate. "Let's go see our friends in Liverpool for a couple of days while I check things out." His two companions both agreed with that idea.