Chrístõ smiled as he saw the videophone signal connect to his father’s chamber in the palace of Adano Ambrado.

“Father,” he said brightly. “Good to hear from you. How are things there?”

“Things are very well,” The Ambassador answered. “Very well indeed. I don’t suppose you will be interested in a list of interesting things your brother did lately like cutting his first teeth and learning to crawl?”

“Not really. Valena should send Cassie notes on that sort of thing. It’s more her line.”

“She does,” The Ambassador told him. “Through Li Tuo’s videophone link. We did hope you would be less…”

“No,” Chrístõ answered. “I don’t…. I feel….”

The Ambassador nodded. These unfinished sentences told a deeper story than either of them would admit. But he didn’t call his son for an argument.

At least not one about his brother.

“Chrístõ, I was looking at the accounts. Are you aware that you have exceeded your annual allowance three times over?”

“I’ve had some unforeseen expenses,” he replied. “Natalie’s medical needs…”

“Yes, I see those bills here. And I fully understand that. But I notice you also paid for medicines and professional care for an entire village on the planet of Monoria. Do you know how big the bill from Klatos Research was in the end?”

“I believe it worked out at a little over five credits per life saved,” he said. “Would you consider that too much?”

“Put that way, how can I argue? But then I am curious about this…. Hire of a theatre on Pernandria. Also advertising in all broadcast media, costumes, sets, airtime on Pernandrian national television for a whole evening, a whole TV production crew.” The Ambassador waited for his son to explain his brief but expensive hobby.

Chrístõ decided not to worry about specifics and aimed for the bigger picture.

“Father, I know I’ve been a little over-budget in the past year. But when you consider the three years I spent in London in the 1860s, when I hardly spent anything, and the five years I was with the Shaolins in China, when I spent NOTHING because the Shaolins have no use for material things…”

“Ah,” The Ambassador smiled wryly. “You wish for your expenses for this year to be retrospectively amortised over previous years?”

“I’ve never really spent any money on myself,” Chrístõ added. “All those expenses were to help others.”

“Yes, I understand that,” The Ambassador said. “You are a compassionate, generous young man and no doubt you will be patron of a dozen charities when you are patriarch of our family and our wealth is yours to do as you choose. But what happens the next time there is a village to be saved?”

“I will do the same,” Chrístõ answered. “Father, money is surely not a problem for our family?”

“It will be if you use it to save the whole universe.”

“It would be money well spent,” Chrístõ answered.

His father sighed and decided he was not going to win this argument.

“Very well,” he said. “I am willing to cover these expenses and extend your allowance. But I think you might do something for me. Call it EARNING your keep.”

“Father, don’t I have enough to do with the tasks the Time Lords have for me?”

“This will stand you in good stead for your future in the diplomatic corps,” The Ambassador answered. “I want you to represent me and therefore our government, at the Conference of Ux.”

“What?” Chrístõ was stunned. “Father… You want me to act as Ambassador for Gallifrey?”



“I have confidence in you, Chrístõ. There’s a fairly important Treaty to be discussed and signed – it concerns the status of non-organic lifeforms. Other than that, it is the usual sort of diplomatic occasion with formal balls and dinners. Julia and Natalie can both enjoy dressing up and being the centre of attention.”

“Julia is a LITTLE young to attend an official function as my consort,” Chrístõ pointed out.

“Put the idea to her,” The Ambassador said with the knowledge of the female species only a man who had been twice married could have. “I don’t think she’ll be worried. And besides, it will be a foretaste of the life she should expect as your future wife. One day, I hope you will be Ambassador in your own right, my boy. And I am sure she will be an elegant asset to you in that role.”

“I’ll do it,” he promised. “But… father, did you bring up my expenses first in order to blackmail me into accepting the task?”

His father laughed.

“I ask because I have two women who will no doubt tell me that the TARDIS wardrobe is entirely inadequate for such an occasion and when they find out that the largest retail centre in the galaxy orbits Ux….”

“I see you are quite skilled at blackmail too,” The Ambassador laughed. “Call it ambassadorial expenses,” he added before he ended the videophone link.

Blackmail of that kind was something he and his father were amateurs at compared to the womenfolk in his life, as Chrístõ found when he took them shopping. But he was happy to indulge them both. He always liked to be able to treat Julia, and Natalie certainly deserved a little ‘retail therapy’. She had been tired a lot lately. When he asked her if she felt all right it took an effort for her to smile and lie to him about it. A new dress, even half a dozen new dresses, were a small compensation for her failing health, but it was good to see her forgetting her troubles even for a short while.

“Your hair looks lovely, Natalie,” he told her as they emerged from their rooms in the Ambassador of Gallifrey’s hospitality suite later that evening. She smiled widely at the compliment. Julia looked beautiful as well in a ballgown that made her look just a little older than she was, thoroughly elegant, but with the innocence of her youth preserved. Chrístõ came to them both and pinned on silver brooches with the great Seal of Rassilon wrought in silver. He himself was in a formal robe and gown of Gallifreyan style, all in black with silver edging and the same seal in silver thread on both shoulders as well as a large medallion around his neck.

“I’m not wearing the collar for this occasion,” he said. “It’s not strictly necessary except for our own Gallifreyan ceremonies.”

Julia remembered how he had dressed at Penne’s wedding and smiled. He had looked magnificent then, but the black and silver seemed much more him. He had worn black when she first met him, and almost every day since. It was his colour.

“Come along then,” he said to her and reached out his arm. “You are my consort tonight.”

Julia was a proud consort as she walked on his arm. Natalie was escorted by one of the ambassadorial aides and also looked very proud of herself. They were all flanked by members of the Gallifreyan Chancellery Guard in their strangely old fashioned ceremonial uniforms.

“When I am Chancellor,” Chrístõ whispered to Julia. “I shall order a new uniform designed. One that doesn’t make our army look stupid.”

She giggled at the idea of Chrístõ being Chancellor of the High Council and then did her best to hold a straight face as they entered the grand ballroom of the Presidential Palace of Ux. She was thrilled when they were introduced as the Ambassador of Gallifrey and Lady Julia. There were some puzzled expressions as they descended the staircase to the ballroom floor but most of them were for Chrístõ. They seemed to be wondering how Gallifrey had such a young Ambassador.

“Nobody seems surprised at how young I am,” she remarked as they mingled with the other important guests.

“On some planets you are already old enough to be married,” Chrístõ reminded her. “They all assume it is the same on Gallifrey. Actually, we’re a very secretive race. Very few people know much about our customs. Though the thing about how long we live for and the regeneration is well known for some reason. Some people seem to think I’m my father in a regenerated body. Good job I went with him to a lot of the conferences they’re talking about.”

His memory drifted back through his childhood. Once he was old enough to stay awake through the dreary parts his father had often let him join him at diplomatic functions offworld. He was already well trained in the art of diplomacy, as well as the un-diplomatic and shady things that went on behind the glamour of the formal balls.

“Chrístõ,” Julia whispered to him as he brought his thoughts back to the present. “That lady wants to talk to you.”

He turned and saw the lady in question. The word voluptuous sprang to mind. The low cut dress left nothing to the imagination, nor did the way the rest of the gold satin clung to her body. Chrístõ was sure his imagination would not have created such a woman anyway.

He held Julia’s hand and prepared to introduce himself to this fine example of the universe’s great diversity.

“Good evening,” she said in a voice that sounded like liquid gold to match her clothes and make up. Gold was the base colour of her eye make up, and her lipstick. Both cheeks sported a glittering gold leaf decal under the fine cheekbones. For a moment he wondered if she had heard that his family owned a couple of gold mines. Perhaps she needed to stock up.

“Ambassador de Lœngbærrow of Gallifrey,” she added. “I am delighted to meet you. I am Camilla Dey Greibella, Ambassador of Haollstrom IV – in the Gamma quadrant.”

“I am afraid I have not visited that quadrant,” he answered her.

“It is a big universe,” she replied. “I have never visited your planet, though its reputation is formidable. The princes of the universe, they call you.”

“Yes,” he said. “Though it is not an official title.”

“A pity. You have a princely bearing,” Camilla Dey Greibella answered him. “I should like to see Gallifrey, if you are an example of the manhood. And you would be honoured if you should visit Haollstrom. You and your….” Her eyes flickered towards Julia who clung all the harder to his hand and seemed nervous of the appraisal.

“My fiancée,” Chrístõ said. He heard Julia sigh happily at being described that way, and he noted Camilla’s almost imperceptible ‘backing off from another woman’s territory’ move. Even so, he had the feeling that her interest in him was more than just diplomatic and he was not altogether comfortable when he found himself seated next to her at the dinner table later. She made sure she was at his side along with Julia as they went through to the banqueting hall and she commanded his attention with conversation all through the meal.

Granted, it was diplomatic conversation, related to the Treaty they were planning to debate tomorrow.

“I think this legislation is well overdue,” she said. “There are more and more non-organic lifeforms with sentience. And it is important that they are recognised AS lifeforms.”

“Absolutely,” Chrístõ agreed.

“Yet there MUST be a demarcation line drawn,” another guest at the table said. Chrístõ recognised him as the Honourable Consul from the Saturn colony. “After all, we use very basic servo robots for the most menial tasks. They are FAR from an independent intelligence.”

“This is where the Treaty becomes complicated,” Chrístõ remarked. “Deeming where that demarcation line should be drawn. What is a mere robot, and what IS a lifeform.”

His thoughts turned momentarily to his TARDIS. It was, essentially, a computer. But it was more than just diodes and circuits and motherboards. It had a sentience of a kind. TARDISes were not built like any ordinary spaceship was. They began as a group of power cells that were infused with Artron energy. They then began to multiply themselves just as organic cells do, until eventually the structure of the TARDIS grew by accretion.

One of the definitions of life was that it should grow without outside interference. By that definition the TARDIS WAS a lifeform. But he thought he probably wouldn’t be trying to apply to have it accepted under this Treaty as a sentient being.

“Ambassador de Lœngbærrow…” He looked up from his thoughts and realised that the Consul had spoken to him twice already. He was not used to being addressed that way. Ambassador was his father’s nomenclature. It didn’t quite sit right with him yet, even though he had ambitions of that kind for his future.

“I’m sorry,” he apologised. “You were saying…”

“I was remarking that your fiancée seems a little bored by this discussion.”

“I’m not bored,” Julia said. “I find it very interesting. I have not met very many of the type of lifeforms you are talking of. But… how do you decide what is a…. a sentient lifeform. I mean… what about…” Her eyes flickered as she thought about something she didn’t want to think about too often. “What about monsters… like… like the Vampyres…”

“The… the what?” The Consul laughed in the manner of an older man indulging the young and untutored. “My dear child… mythological creatures hardly come into the purview of this conference….”

“They are not mythological,” Julia protested. “They are real. My family were killed by them. I saw them… Chrístõ fought them…”

“They exist,” Chrístõ confirmed. “Blood-sucking monsters who kill any living being they come into contact with. And yes, they are sentient. They are capable of space flight. They have communication between each other. But their bloodlust overwhelms their intelligence and there is no way they could ever be invited to join a conference such as this. They would see so many living beings with blood running in their veins as nothing more than a feast.”

“I….” the Consul seemed at a loss to respond to his words.

“Really, Ambassador,” Camilla laughed. “This is most unsavoury talk for the dinner table. Let us talk of more pleasant things.”

“A diplomatic suggestion,” the Consul said recovering his poise.

There was dancing after dinner. Chrístõ and Julia made a pretty couple on the dance floor. He was pleased to see that Natalie enjoyed herself, too. The diplomatic aide was doing his duty faithfully in entertaining her. But she looked tired before very long. And he was proud when Julia proved herself a diplomat in her own right. She announced that she was weary and would retire from the function if Natalie would come with her. Chrístõ was prepared to come, too, but she was adamant.

“You have to be here,” she told him. “You are the Ambassador. You must do what your father would do. I’ll see you at breakfast.” She reached on tip toes and kissed him before she and Natalie made their exit. He kept his eye on them until they had left the ballroom and then he turned.

“You are alone now, Chrístõ,” Camilla said. “May I call you Chrístõ?”

“Yes, feel free,” he answered absently.

“Let’s dance,” she suggested and took his arm. To refuse would have been un-gentlemanly as well as un-diplomatic. He let himself be led to the dance floor. He danced with her precisely and carefully in the way he was taught by the private dance tutor his father had employed to teach him how to deal with exactly this kind of diplomatic crisis.

She danced as if she thought him a new toy to be played with and explored. He became convinced that she had more than two arms as he tried to keep his dignity and honour both intact without saying anything un-diplomatic to her.

Several dances later he managed to swap partners with the Malseruan Consul and when that lady excused herself at the end of the set he made his escape from the dance hall, out into the beautiful formal garden of the palace. It was a warm sweet night with fragrant flowers scenting the air and two moons shining down. He wished he was walking there with Julia. Walking alone with the distant sound of the music in the ballroom and some kind of songbird in the trees was a second best.

“Chrístõ!” He sighed as he stepped through a rose arch and saw Camilla. He wondered briefly about turning and running away but not only would that be un-diplomatic and un-gentlemanly, but it would also be rather silly. It wasn’t as if he was AFRAID of her, after all.

“It’s a lovely night,” he said.

“It always is on Ux. They regulate the weather by a satellite. Look… that’s it in the sky just above the south wing of the palace. The small bright disc too big to be a star.”

Chrístõ looked. And when he looked back again Camilla was standing close to him. She reached for his hand and kissed it.

“You are a very attractive man,” she told him. “You have very beautiful eyes. I thought so the moment I saw you tonight.”

“You are a very beautiful woman,” he replied dutifully. “But you do realise that I AM already spoken for.”

“The pretty little girl.” Camilla laughed. “Chrístõ, she is very sweet. But she IS just a child. You need a woman.”

“Julia is the woman of my hearts,” he insisted.

“Hearts?” Camilla looked puzzled at first then seemed to remember. “Ah, yes, Gallifreyan. But your little sweetheart is Human. Such a shame.” She put her hands over his two hearts. They jolted as if there was electricity in her touch.

“My people are skilled in the art of seduction,” she said. “Chrístõ, Ambassador of Gallifrey, you enthral me.” And before he could protest he found her reaching to kiss him. It was a long, lingering, passionate kiss, and he responded to it despite himself. The only other thing he could do was push her away and he didn’t want to hurt her.

“Camilla,” he protested when she finally let him go. “There is only so far even a diplomat can go. I told you I am spoken for. Julia is the woman I shall marry at the appropriate time.”

“That may be so,” she answered. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun first. I find you very attractive, Chrístõ. I want… I want to find out what a Gallifreyan man is made of beneath the reserve… beneath those robes… What do Gallifreyans wear underneath all that cloth on a warm night…”

“No,” he replied sharply as he pushed her hands away from him. “On my planet we have a code of honour. I cannot… I am not… I WILL NOT commit any dishonourable act.”

“Chrístõ…” There was an awkward silence and they stared at each other. Then Camilla’s tone softened. “Oh, I am sorry. I have offended you. I have acted most inappropriately.”

“Yes,” he said. “You have. You must realise…”

“I do realise,” she said. “I AM sorry. Please… won’t you accept my apology? It was unbecoming of me as a diplomat. I have no excuse. Except to ask you to understand that my world is very different from yours. There, when seduction is offered, it is commonly accepted. When we feel the urge to love we indulge it.”

“I…” Chrístõ’s throat felt curiously dry as he tried to imagine Camilla’s world. He couldn’t. His experiences of the universe, as far reaching as they were, could not embrace such a concept. It was just too different from all he thought he knew about love. “No,” he said. “No, Madam, that is not how it is done where I come from. And I cannot. You must not press this any further.”

“I will not,” she promised. “Yet, permit me to say this. You DO enthral me, Chrístõ. There is something about you. I think even for one of your kind you ARE passionate. I regret that it cannot be. For you I might have acted against my own instinct and tried fidelity after all.”

“My destiny lies elsewhere,” he answered. “Understand that, and we can at least be friends.”

“Friends.” She smiled wryly and reached to touch his hand. “Friends it is then,” she said with a regretful sigh. “May we share a kiss of friendship?” His eyes flickered doubtfully and she laughed gently. “It IS a custom of my world that FRIENDS kiss each other. Will you permit me?”

“Yes,” he said and stepped closer to her. This time it DID feel different. Her body pressed against his in a gentler, less urgent way and the kiss, though as lingering, was less insistent, less loaded with proposition.

“There,” she whispered. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“No, it wasn’t.” he answered. He took her hand. “It is getting cold. Let’s go back inside and dance. As friends.”

He danced with other women, too. And Camilla danced with other men, but whenever he glanced her way she smiled at him in a way that suggested a secret between them, and he found her again for the last dance of the evening. Afterwards he escorted her to the suite of rooms given over to the Haollstromnian Embassy and kissed her goodnight before he returned to the Gallifreyan Ambassadorial suite.

“Did you have a good evening?” Natalie asked as he entered the drawing room. She was sitting in her nightdress and dressing gown drinking hot milk.

“I did,” he told her. He poured himself a glass of deep red port wine from a decanter on the sideboard and came to sit by her. “You were supposed to go to sleep,” he told her.

“I did for a while. Then I woke again.” He looked concerned. “No, I’m not in any pain. I just found the night a little warm. Travelling with you, the seasons are so mixed up. Only a week ago it was winter on Earth, now it’s the height of summer on this planet.”

“Yes, that is one of the peculiarities of my lifestyle,” he admitted. “As long as you’re feeling well…”

“For now I am,” she answered. “You seem a little….” She paused and cocked her head to one side and studied his face. “I don’t know. You seem a little like me - expecting a cold night and finding it uncomfortably hot instead. After we left did that woman…”

“Camilla is a rather remarkable lady,” Chrístõ said with a smile. “It will be interesting sitting down to the negotiating table with her tomorrow. I wonder what she is like as an ambassador.”

“I wonder what you will tell Julia about tonight,” Natalie said.

“I did nothing that goes against my honour as her promised one, against my honour as a Gallifreyan, or against the good name of the Gallifreyan Embassy,” he protested.

“I’m sure you didn’t,” Natalie assured him. “But be careful. Julia loves you dearly, but she IS a child, and you are an adult, and especially here, doing your father’s work, you are in an adult world.”

“I won’t hurt her,” he promised. He drained his drink and stood up. He bent and kissed Natalie on the cheek and said goodnight.

He looked in on Julia and kissed her on the cheek as she slept, though he suspected she might only be pretending to sleep. There was something in the soft, happy sigh she let out as he bent over her. He smiled and went to his own room. He took off his formal robes and lay down on the bed. Before he dropped into a mind and body restoring meditative trance he couldn’t help thinking that Camilla would be interested right now to discover just what a Gallifreyan DID wear under his robes.

The next morning the Treaty debates began and he was surprised to find two notable absences as he waited with the other delegates in the foyer of the conference hall. The Consul for the Saturn colony was not there, and neither was Camilla. In her place was a handsome young man who looked so like her he supposed he must be her brother.

“Where is your sister?” he asked. “I am right, aren’t I?” he added. “You ARE so like her. But I thought Camilla was going to be here this morning.”

“She is,” the young man said. “I am Camilla.” Chrístõ gasped as the young man shimmered before his eyes and the businesslike suit filled out in ways it was never intended as he became Camilla briefly before shimmering again and returning to the male figure.

“I am sorry, Chrístõ,” he said. “It was unfair of me. I should have told you that Haollstromnians are a little unusual. We are born as both male and female in one body and we shape shift from one gender to the other. I have always kept the male form when I am doing business. It’s a man’s universe. But for social occasions I enjoy being feminine. It allows me to get close to wonderful people like you.”

He smiled and put his hand on Chrístõ’s shoulder and whispered in his ear. “I prefer to make love to men.”

Chrístõ stood back in alarm. He thought meeting Camilla had been shock enough to his understanding of inter-species relationships. But this was too much.

“We kissed,” he said.

“Yes, and you were delightful. A little inexperienced, a little frigid. But delightful.”

“Cam… Camilla… whichever you are…”

“I am both, Chrístõ. That is what I have been trying to tell you. But I am your friend in both forms. I want you to understand that much.”

“We kissed…” he repeated. “I thought you were a woman…”

“I AM a woman,” he insisted. “And a MAN as well.” His form shimmered once more and became Camilla. “Chrístõ… please… Last night was wonderful. I enjoyed your company so very much. I thought we were friends.”

“I thought I knew what you were,” he protested. “You’d better change back. It’s nearly time for the conference to begin. And as you say, it’s a man’s universe.”

He didn’t mean to sound so bitter as he turned away. He looked around at the other delegates – most of the humanoids were, it had to be said, male. There WAS a misogynist trait in the diplomatic corps of the twelve galaxies. Cam/Camilla had a point there.

But he felt so humiliated. ALL of these people had seen him in her/his company last night. All of them seemed to be aware of Cam/Camilla’s unusual ability. None of them had even murmured in surprise when he/she changed gender before their eyes. Only he, the youngest, and least experienced of the delegates was fooled by him/her.

Were they all laughing at him behind his back, the Gallifreyan boy pretending to be a man, caught out by a trick everyone else was too clever to fall for?

He swallowed hard and forced himself to control his emotions. He WAS there to represent Gallifrey, the most noble and dignified of civilisations. He had to pull himself together.

He did his best. But he felt out of his depth in a way he hadn’t felt since his first year at the Prydonian Academy when he was sure that everyone else in the class knew twice as much as he did before they even set foot in the school.

When his father asked him to take on this task for him he had felt confident in himself. He knew he was a good debater. He had been champion of his senior year debating club. And he had firm and sensible opinions, based on his own experiences of travelling around the universe, on the subject in hand, as well as a briefing from the High Council on which way they hoped the negotiations would swing.

But when it came to standing up and making his views known he couldn’t do it. He sat in his seat, frozen in fear of making a fool of himself. He watched as more experienced, professional diplomats took the floor. Cam Dey Greibella stood and talked ably for nearly fifty minutes. He made some of the very points Chrístõ had intended to make, and he made them much better than he knew he could make them.

Chrístõ sighed. He felt very bitter towards the Ambassador for Haollstrom IV. He felt it was HE who had shaken his confidence with his ridiculous and humiliating trick. And now HE was getting the applause for making the very speech he had wanted to give, the speech that would prove he WAS the Ambassador for Gallifrey.

He wasn’t. He was the Ambassador’s son. And that was all.

When the conference broke for lunch he swept out of the hall quickly, ignoring Cam’s voice when he called his name and asked if he would eat with him in the luncheon room.

He didn’t want lunch. He wanted…

He wanted to see Julia. He wanted to be with the girl he loved and familiar things. The TARDIS was parked in the space port. He and Julia could go away for the afternoon, spend some pleasant time together, and he could set the time co-ordinates to bring him back just after lunch as if he had just been strolling in the palace garden with her.

Yes, he thought with a smile. That’s what he needed.

An official car took him from the conference hall to the Palace. He went up to the Gallifreyan suite expecting to find her there. She wasn’t. Neither was Natalie.

He reached for his mobile phone and rang her number. It rang on and then went to the voice mail. He left a message and then tried Natalie’s phone. That, too, went to voicemail. He left a message there, too, and then went back to the car and returned to the conference.

He felt depressed. He had set his hearts on spending some time with Julia and he was disappointed not even to be able to talk to her on the mobile phone. There were tours and entertainments for the delegate wives and companions, but she hadn’t mentioned any plans to participate. He hoped she was having a nice time wherever she was, but for himself it just made him feel all the more miserable as he entered the conference centre.

“Chrístõ.” He looked around to see Cam approaching him. “There’s a delay restarting. A problem with the microphones on the chairman’s table. I was hoping… can we talk.”

“I don’t think there is anything to talk about,” Chrístõ answered.

“I think there is. Chrístõ… I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about myself. But I wish we could still be friends.”

“Which of you wants to be friends with me?” he asked. “I don’t… I can’t cope with this right now. I feel….”

“You feel threatened because you kissed me,” Cam said. “That’s it, isn’t it?”

“No,” he answered. “Yes…. No. I don’t know.”

“You kissed a female who you were attracted to, even though you tried not to be, because you love your little girl and you have taken a vow of chastity until she is old enough to be your lover….”

“My WIFE,” he snapped. “Gallifreyans do not.... We never take lovers outside of marriage.”

“Whatever. You WERE attracted, Chrístõ. You enjoyed kissing me. And now you think that makes you some kind of deviant.”

“I don’t know what to think,” he said. “I don’t want to think about it. And no, I don’t think we can be friends. Please leave me alone.”

He turned away. He didn’t want to talk any more. He felt confused.

He WAS attracted to Camilla. He had enjoyed her company. THAT was the truth he had to admit to himself. And he felt a little guilty about that because he felt, in truth, that he had been unfaithful to Julia.

But then he discovered that the woman he was attracted to wasn’t a woman – or not completely a woman anyway.

He didn’t know WHAT he was supposed to think about that, except that he didn’t like it. And he didn’t know WHY he didn’t like it.

They were calling the delegates into the hall. He turned, looking to see where Cam was so that he didn’t have to be near him.

“Chrístõ!” He turned again as he heard Natalie’s voice. Other’s turned, too, as she ran to him, gasping for breath. “Chrístõ, Julia has been taken. She’s…” She swooned dizzily as willing hands reached to help her to sit down.

“We were in the spice market,” she said as she accepted a glass of water that was passed to her. “Some men grabbed us both. We were in a car… I kicked the door open and jumped when it was stopped for traffic lights…. And I ran here…” She began to cry. “I’m sorry, Chrístõ. I left Julia with them. I shouldn’t have… I should have stayed with her.”

“No,” Chrístõ said to her gently. “No, don’t blame yourself. You got away and came to me. That was the right thing to do.”

“The police are on their way,” a voice said. He looked up to see that it was Cam. “Chrístõ, I’m sorry about this…”

“Is this something to do with you?” he demanded. “You have been distracting me all the time. Was that part of the plan? Keep me out of the way while your cronies grab her? Did you think…. Is your lust for me so desperate you would harm an innocent girl?”

“It wasn’t anything to do with him,” Natalie said. “It was… it was that man who was there last night. The… the Consul… the one who didn’t believe Julia about the vampyres.”

“The Honourable Consul from the Saturn colony?” Chrístõ was not the only one who was astonished by that revelation. “He was absent from the conference this morning. But…”

“Why would the Honourable Consul kidnap a girl?” somebody asked. Chrístõ was asking that question himself.

“Do you have any idea where you were being taken in the car?” he asked.

“The space port,” she said. “The Consul was phoning ahead, telling his personal aides to have his shuttle ready…”

“Somebody get my car,” Chrístõ shouted. “I’m not waiting for the police. I’m going after him.”

“Chrístõ,” Cam reached and touched him on the arm. “I arrived by helicraft…. It’s faster than a ground vehicle and it's at your disposal…”

Chrístõ hesitated. He looked at Cam and felt bad about the harsh words he had said before to the one man – the one person – offering him real, practical help right now.

“Natalie, you’re safe here. When the police arrive, tell them what you can. When they’re done, my people will take you back to the palace. If you need a doctor….”

“I’ll be fine. You go with this young man and find Julia.”

Chrístõ reached and kissed her gently and then he turned and followed Cam to the turbo lift that brought them to the rooftop helicraft park. He was surprised that Cam was the pilot of his own personal craft. A skilful pilot, he realised as the craft rose into the air and picked up speed.

“Thank you,” he said. “I am… very grateful to you.”

“What else are friends for?” Cam answered softly. “Whatever else you think, Chrístõ, I AM your friend.”

“Yes,” he said. “I think you are.”

It took minutes to reach the space port. It felt longer. As they approached air traffic control told them to hold off. Cam swore spectacularly as a shuttle craft rose up in the air.

“We’re too late,” he said. “That’s the Consul’s shuttle.”

“Bring us in. My ship is parked. I can get after him.”

“It’d need to be a pretty special ship. That’s a very fast shuttle. And if he’s got a craft with hyperspeed capability waiting in orbit he could be on his way back to Saturn with her.”

“My ship is the best in the galaxy,” Chrístõ said.

He never actually invited Cam to join him, but he felt glad of the company as he found the TARDIS in the short stay hangar and prepared to dematerialise.

“You don’t have clearance to take off,” Cam pointed out.

“Don’t need it,” Chrístõ answered. “This isn’t REALLY a two man space runabout. It just looks like one.” He moved around the console and punched up the data he needed. “The Consul’s shuttle HAS docked with the Consulate starship,” he added. “And it has just filed flight plans to return to Saturn.”

“You have access to space traffic control files?”

“I can if I have need of it. I don’t usually. This ship travels in the time vortex. I don’t ask permission from anyone to do it. My people are Lords of Time.”

“I always thought that was an honorary title,” Cam told him. “You really CAN travel in time?”

“I see you were as deficient in your knowledge of my race as I was about yours,” Chrístõ noted dryly. “Yes, I can. But I don’t need to this time. We’re just heading for that spaceship.”

“Mmm.” Cam looked at him seriously for a long moment.


“Chrístõ, we’re ambassadors for our respective worlds. THAT is a Consulate ship. In effect it is a travelling Embassy. It is Saturn colony territory. There is an issue of protocol here.”

“There is a kidnapped girl THERE,” he responded. “If you feel you can’t jeopardise your diplomatic credentials then you stay in here. THIS is the ship of the Gallifreyan Ambassador. You can stay in MY territory. But I am going to get my girl back safe.”

“Then you need to resign your position first, in order to avoid embarrassment to your government.”

Chrístõ sighed irritably. His first concern was for Julia. But he realised that Cam was right. He put an emergency call through to his father on Adano-Ambrado and told him he was resigning, temporarily, from the Gallifreyan diplomatic corps. When he explained why his father looked concerned.

“I’m dealing with it,” he assured him. “But I do it on my own cognisance. I won’t involve our world in my private affairs.”

“Chrístõ,” his father said with a solemn nod of the head. “Your resignation is noted. I will speak to you again later about reinstatement. But… the Saturn Consul.… Chrístõ, on Saturn the legal age for marriage is eight Earth years. And it is not unknown for girls to be coerced into alliances….”

“THAT is why she was taken?” Chrístõ’s face paled. “But… NO.”

“The child brides are not expected to bear children to their husbands until they are much older,” Cam told him. “She would not be...” He broke off. Chrístõ clearly didn’t need to hear any more details of Saturn marriage customs right now. “At least we can be sure she won’t be harmed,” he added.

“Father…” Chrístõ turned to the screen. “Is he correct?”

“Yes, he is,” his father assured him. “But even a coerced marriage is a contract of sorts. If a ceremony is completed there would be difficulties in the future…”

“I will talk to you later,” Chrístõ told his father and cut the call. “Ok, I am no longer the Ambassador to Gallifrey and I AM going to get Julia back before she is forced into this… this….”

“You’re too emotional,” Cam told him. “You need to calm down a bit or you won’t be able to help anyone.”

“I’m NOT too emotional,” he protested as he went to the navigation console and began to programme the co-ordinates to bring the TARDIS onto the Saturn Consulate ship.

“Yes, you are,” Cam repeated as the TARDIS bucked and jolted and rebounded back from the ship violently.

“I don’t know what happened there,” Chrístõ said as he picked himself up from the floor and examined the console readings.

“What happened was you tried to crash through an anti-transmat barrier. That IS a Consular ship, remember. It would have protection against intruders.”

“Right.” Chrístõ sighed. Cam was right. He WAS too emotional. He should have EXPECTED that. Every Consular ship had that sort of protection. He turned to another section of the console and began to type rapidly at a keyboard. Cam turned his face away. Watching him work like that tended to make eyes water. “Ok, I have the code to bypass the barrier. Let’s try that again.”

This time it worked. The TARDIS materialised as a previously unnoticed airlock leading off from the galley deck of the Saturn ship. He was surprised when Camilla stepped out behind him.

“You are Ambassador for YOUR world,” he told her. “What about diplomatic….”

“Cam is for business, Camilla for pleasure,” the silky smooth feminine voice replied. “Cam is the ambassador. Camilla can do as she pleases.”

“That sounds like a very loose legal technicality,” Chrístõ told her. “But, thank you.”

“Thank me when we get out of here with your little girl,” she replied. “This way. I’ve been on this ship before. If they’re holding a wedding ceremony it will be in the chapel on the top floor.”

They moved quickly, but not so quickly as to rouse any suspicion that they didn’t have a perfect right to be there. Chrístõ noted that Camilla was used to being obeyed by men. When she told an embassy guard to summon the turbo lift for herself and her companion he did so without question.

Authority. It was not something you could LEARN, or something you could BUY. It was something you seemed to be born with. His father had it. So did he to a certain extent. Camilla EXUDED it, along with, when she WAS Camilla, a certain sexual presence that se bamboozled the male guards first before she hit them with her full on aristocratic mode.

And he thought his Marquess de Lœngbærrow act was effective!

Camilla was right about the ceremony, too. A very elaborate one was going on in what he would any other time have appreciated as a thoroughly beautiful chapel. The roof was an exo-glass dome with sun-shields to protect from the burning heat of nearby stars, but otherwise a panoramic view of the starfield and of the planet of Ux around which it was in orbit. Beneath that roof gold leaf and red lacquer was the dominant theme of a luxuriously decorated room where a hundred or more VIP guests were awaiting the arrival of a dozen brides for a group of nervous looking grooms who waited by the altar. Chrístõ noted that all of the grooms were about fifteen years old or so. But the brides who appeared at the back of the room as Cam pushed him discreetly into a seat were much younger. If eight was the lowest legal age, then twelve was clearly considered ‘old maid’ by Saturnian standards.

All the girls were in beautiful white dresses. Chrístõ had occasionally let himself think about Julia wearing such a dress when she became his bride. But in his imagination she was a grown woman then, with the same dark hair and deep brown eyes, but in a woman’s face, not a girl’s. When he saw the lithe figure he knew so well in white satin and lace, even though her face was hidden behind a veil, he knew her, and his hearts shuddered at the thought of her taken from him in such a way. As the group of girls passed by where he was sitting he jumped up from the seat and grabbed her in his arms.

“Julia,” he said, pulling the headdress off. He was right. It WAS her. But she looked at him with eyes that didn’t recognise him at all. “What have you people DONE to her?” he demanded loudly as the other girls scattered. People who looked as if they must be the parents took hold of the girls and held them as the grooms looked on in astonishment and somebody called for ‘security.’

“Back OFF,” Chrístõ said, pulling out his sonic screwdriver and holding it like a weapon. “Everyone back off. This girl is coming with me. I don’t know what you’ve done to her, but she is not the child bride of any of these…. These boys. She is MY fiancée.”

“She is NOT.” Chrístõ looked around as the Honourable Consul for Saturn stood and faced him. “That was a lie, in fact. She is from Earth and the legal age for betrothals there is seventeen. You are from Gallifrey and the legal age there is one hundred and eighty. You have no legally binding claim on this girl. And as she is an orphan with no legal guardian of any kind there is nobody with a legitimate claim to stop her being LEGALLY married to my son.”

“You kidnapped her,” Chrístõ replied. “She is here under duress. She is…” Camilla took the ‘weapon’ from him and maintained the stand off as he held Julia carefully and probed her mind gently. “No, not a drug. Some kind of hypnotic trance.” He concentrated hard and pushed away the fog that clouded her mind and made her a willing party to this charade. “Julia… come back to me, my sweet,” he whispered.

“Chrístõ!” She looked at him with eyes that knew him. “Chrístõ what am I doing here? Why am I dressed like this? What…”

Chrístõ held her tightly in his arms and began to move towards the chapel door. Camilla made a perfect act of an armed woman prepared to shoot the first person who stepped within arms reach of them.

“This isn’t going to get us all the way back to your ship,” she whispered to him. “Somebody is going to try something soon.”

Somebody did. Two Saturnian security officers closed in, blocking the doorway. Chrístõ held onto Julia’s hand still. He was not going to let her go while they were surrounded by so many people who might grab her from him. But his free arm reached out and one guard fell to a karate chop to the neck while the other fell to his knees, groaning from the Sun Ko Du kick applied to his solar plexus. The three of them stepped over the guards and once outside the chapel they began to run. Chrístõ cursed the fact that the anti-transmat protocols meant his TARDIS couldn’t be summoned by remote autopilot within the ship.

“Turbo lifts will be locked off,” Camilla said as Chrístõ stopped at one of the doors. “They’ll try to contain us on this floor.”

“They’ll try,” he said. He applied the sonic screwdriver to the doors and they slid open. He looked up and down. The lift was right at the bottom of the shaft, eighteen floors down. He looked up the shaft again. It was not an old fashioned type of lift that used cables and pullies that had hardly changed in their basic design since the Otis company of the USA fitted them into the Eiffel Tower in 1889. This one worked on the principle of anti-grav cushions that supported the lift as it ascended and descended.

In principle, you didn’t need the lift cage. They were only used because people tended to get nervous about standing on what seemed to be empty air. He broke open the panel inside the door where the anti-grav cushions were controlled. Camilla watched the corridor while he worked feverishly. Julia watched him with a puzzled expression. She was even more puzzled and not a little alarmed when Chrístõ suddenly stepped forward into the shaft. He turned and reached out his hand to her. Gingerly she stepped forward. Camilla followed hurriedly. What looked like a small army had just turned into the corridor. She breathed out in relief as Chrístõ turned the sonic screwdriver on the door mechanism and jammed it closed.

It WAS like standing on nothing. It was also like standing on a solid surface. There WAS a sensation of SOMETHING beneath their feet. When the something began to descend rapidly it took a certain amount of faith to believe they were perfectly safe, as Chrístõ assured them they were.

“Both of you keep behind me in case they’re waiting for us,” Chrístõ said as they reached the galley deck and he prepared to open the doors.

But there was nobody in the corridor except some rather surprised caterers who were wondering why the lifts were locked off and how they were supposed to get the largest wedding cake in the universe up to the reception.

“The wedding’s off,” Chrístõ said as the three of them sprang out of the lift shaft and darted away down the corridor. Julia looked back once and grinned as she saw the caterers push the cake trolley forward into the lift shaft. Chrístõ turned and grinned even wider as he pointed the sonic screwdriver and cancelled the anti-grav cushion. The sound effect of a huge cake falling twelve decks down to the roof of the lift cage would have been interesting, but they were already out of earshot by then.

“Here,” Chrístõ said and he reached for his key to unlock the TARDIS airlock door. Julia sighed with relief as the familiar door closed behind her and she ran to Chrístõ’s side. He was already programming their departure. She hugged him lovingly and he was reluctant to stop her, but he had to recalibrate their dematerialisation to take into account that the anti-transmat barrier’s frequency would have been changed.

“Plenty of time for hugs later,” he promised. “Why don’t you go and change out of that dress.” He kissed her cheek gently and she ran to do as he said. He looked around to see that Camilla had turned back to Cam now that he was in a Gallifreyan ship – albeit one still parked inside the Saturn one. He was at the communications console making a videophone connection to Ux.

“Just get us through the barrier and we’re in the clear,” he told Chrístõ presently. “The Uxian space fleet have the Saturn ship under escort. The Consul has been banished from the conference and his diplomatic credentials cancelled. They’ve been ordered to leave the quadrant.”

“Then it is over,” Chrístõ said with a sigh of relief. He keyed in the anti-transmat code and set the TARDIS to take them to the conference hall on Ux.

“Not quite,” Cam told him. “But don’t you worry about it. Trust me.”

Chrístõ looked at him. He wasn’t sure what he meant by the first and second parts of that statement. But the last he did understand. And he DID trust him.

Or her.

Both of them.

After a tearful reunion with Natalie, Chrístõ found himself a quiet sideroom where he could put a call through to Adano Ambrado. He informed his father that Julia was well and that he was ready to resume his duties as Ambassador for Gallifrey in half an hour when the conference, adjourned due to the dramatic events of the lunchtime recess, recommenced.

“I am glad to hear it,” his father said. “You are taking your duties to your government seriously. It will go well in your favour when you seek permanent employment in the diplomatic corps.”

“I AM only here because of a certain blackmail,” he answered with a smile. “But I suppose it does not hurt to consider my future.” He paused and moved on to another matter that was worrying him. Father… about Cam – Camilla… She… he… is…”

“A gendermorph?” The Ambassador smiled. “They are wonderful people. Very passionate, sensual. But also good hearted. When you make a friend among them, it is a friendship for life. I knew Cam’s parent. Wonderful being. Both of them.”

“Father!” Chrístõ protested. “You didn’t…. What about…”

“My honour as a Gallifreyan noble remained quite intact,” he replied. “I spent a few hours dancing in the arms of a very lovely woman and the next day he and I forged a vital treaty.”

“I kissed her… him…” Chrístõ confessed. “I kissed a man…”

“Ah.” The Ambassador looked at his son intently. “You spent a lot of time on Earth in its less tolerant eras. I think some of that rubbed off on you. If you are going to be a diplomat you certainly need to learn that there are infinite varieties of species in the world and that even in one species there are different ways of living. And it is not for you to judge. Cam is an honourable being. He has proved a loyal friend to you. Treasure the intimacy you shared as a friend’s blessing upon you.”

Chrístõ took in his father’s words and seemed on the point of saying something. But at that point Cam came into the room. Julia and Natalie were with him. He made his excuses to his father and ended the call.

“Chrístõ,” Cam said when he turned to him. “Did you know that I am a fully notarised lawyer as well as Ambassador to my people?”

“No, I didn’t know that,” he said. “Is this something else I ought to have known and didn’t because I let my own ignorance and prejudices blind me?”

“No, it just never came up in conversation. But as such, I have been giving some legal advice to these two ladies.”

“Chrístõ,” Natalie added. “That man was mad, thinking he could kidnap Julia in that way. We know that. But he had a legal point. Julia is an orphan and nobody has any legally binding wardship of her. There is nothing to stop ANYONE trying to claim her in that way again.”

“Unless you sign this,” Cam added, handing him a sheaf of papers.

“What is…”

“Adoption papers,” Julia told him. “Making Natalie my legal guardian.”

“We considered it inappropriate for YOU to become her adopted parent,” Cam explained. “Since you two have future plans. But Natalie was happy to step in. Just sign here and these two gentlemen can witness and Julia is no longer an orphan with no legal status.”

Chrístõ signed. He wondered why he had never thought of that himself. Of course, even this was a temporary solution. But he noticed that the terms of the contract also made him executor of Natalie’s estate in the event of her death. Her estate was the contents of her bedroom in the TARDIS, and he had bought almost everything in it anyway. But Julia would become his Ward, at least until he brought her to her relatives on Beta Delta IV who had the REAL legal claim upon her. Either way, she was legally and properly protected by an adult who cared for her, and that was as it should be.

Julia and Natalie hugged each other happily. That was as it should be, too. Chrístõ turned and reached to shake hands with Cam, thanking him for his kindness and his invaluable help. As he did he saw him shimmer and become Camilla. She smiled and pulled him close and kissed him tenderly and when, in the middle of the kiss, she reverted to Cam again he didn’t object. The universe was full of infinite variety and he was just glad to count one of its more remarkable beings as his friend.