Chrístõ moved around the TARDIS console to answer the communication that signalled loudly. He was surprised to find that it was from Paracell Hext.

“Isn’t the universe big enough for the two of us?” he asked. He didn’t mind, really. Whatever their past history, he and Hext had been allies often enough in the face of adversity to call each other friends.

“Chrístõ!” Hext greeted him. “Are you doing anything important right now?”

“I’m supposed to be taking Julia back to Beta Delta IV. We were at the birthday party of the Matrix of Ay'Ydiwo.”

“While I’ve been working,” Hext answered with a rueful expression on his face.

“I’m a student,” Chrístõ retorted. “Going to parties and having a good time is what I’m supposed to do! So did you call just for a chat or…”

“I want you to help me.”

“Help you with what?”

“Savang Hadandrox.”

“Savang? I thought they’d caught her trying to leave Karn. That was what I heard last.”

“She escaped. They didn’t take into account the tricks she knows. The fast time fold is only one of them. She evaded the agent who was bringing her from Karn to Gallifrey.”

Hext tried to disguise his embarrassed expression but Chrístõ’s grin was blatant.

“Yes, ALL RIGHT,” he admitted. “I WAS the agent. She made me look a fool in front of my superiors at the CIA and the High Council. That’s why I have to get her back.”

“So why do you need me?”

“Because she’s been traced to Earth,” Hext told him. “I’ve NEVER been to Earth before. It’s a complicated planet. And you know it better than any other Time Lord.”

“Can I come with you?” Julia asked. Chrístõ turned to look at her.

“You’re supposed to go back to school,” he said. “Besides, I’m not sure I want you exposed to Savang. She’s DANGEROUS.”

“Oh, please. You know I’m not scared of danger. And It’s AGES since I’ve been on Earth. I like going there. And maybe I can help.”

“Bring her,” Hext said abruptly as if he couldn’t be bothered waiting for them to discuss it. “Let’s get on with this. I’m transmitting the co-ordinates. I’ll meet you there.”

He ended the communication and Chrístõ heard the navigation console receiving the co-ordinate. He sighed.

“I’m sorry,” Julia said. “If you want to take me home first, that’s ok. But don’t be angry with me.”

“Oh, sweetheart!” He turned and caught her in his arms. “I’m NOT angry with you. You couldn’t ever make me angry, Julia. I’m annoyed with Hext for assuming I’m just going to go along with him as some kind of local guide to Earth. But Savang IS dangerous. And I don’t want you hurt by her. So… even though it IS Earth and there shouldn’t be anything else to worry about, the rule is the same as any hostile planet. Do what I say without question. ESPECIALLY If I tell you to get back to the TARDIS. It’s the one safe place where nobody can hurt you. Not EVEN her.”

He turned to the navigation console and initiated the drive, then he reached out his hand to her again. He wasn’t displeased by the idea of spending a little more time with Julia, or even Hext. He was travelling on his own since Kohb and Camilla went their own way. Visiting Earth always pleased him. Though admittedly he would prefer to spend a bit of time with Julia, and possibly EVEN Hext, in some of his favourite periods and places on Earth, not chasing Savang Hadandrox and perhaps stopping her from causing harm to innocent people there.

They landed smoothly at the co-ordinate Hext had given them. He noted that it was raining outside and told Julia to put on a raincoat as he buttoned his leather jacket, then they stepped out together. The rain made its presence known right away, falling steadily from a sullen, grey sky. Julia pulled up the hood on her gabardine coat and put her hands in the pockets for warmth. Chrístõ turned and noted that his TARDIS had disguised itself as a portacabin with the TS symbol on it. There was a genuine one beside it with the name of a local builder who was doing up a closed down pub nearby. He turned around a full circle and got his bearings in a place he recognised.

“Williamson Square, Liverpool,” he said out loud. “Ok.” He strolled over to a kiosk and bought a copy of the Liverpool Echo. He noted the date. August 28th, 1994.

“A bit earlier than my first visit here,” he added. “I first came to Liverpool in 2001 to see Li Tuo.”

“So he lives here now? Julia asked. “He’s alive, now?”

“Yes.” Chrístõ felt an ache in his hearts as he spoke. “But we can’t go to see him. It would be a paradox if he meets me now BEFORE my first meeting with him.”

“Oh.” Julia felt the disappointment, too. She had loved the old man as much as he did and she clearly hoped for a chance to see him again.

“There’s Hext,” she said, and waved. Hext waved back enthusiastically and didn’t see the young woman putting up her umbrella as she came out of a shop clutching a large carrier bag. He bumped into her, sending her umbrella and carrier bag flying out of her hand. He caught the bag neatly and pressed it back into her hand before chasing after the umbrella. He returned it with apologies for his clumsiness.

“Chrístõ?” Julia turned and looked at him and saw at once how pale his face was. She heard him murmuring something under his breath that must have been some sort of Gallifreyan that was untranslatable to English.

“What’s the matter?” asked Hext as he reached them at last.

“August, 1994, in Liverpool,” Chrístõ said. “Savang is on Earth in Liverpool, in August, 1994. SHE is here somewhere, right now.”

“Well, I HOPE she’s not RIGHT here in this square,” Hext answered. “I chose this as a good space to put down two TARDISes safely. But she’s around somewhere in this time and place.”

“It wasn’t random.” He turned and watched as the young woman with the carrier bag pulled in her umbrella again and went into a coffee shop. “Savang is after my family again. That woman is my MOTHER.”

Hext and Julia both opened their mouths in surprise and were a step behind Chrístõ as he strode off towards the same coffee shop.

“He can’t do that, can he?” Julia asked Hext. “He can’t meet her. He was just telling me about paradoxes…”

“Come on.” Hext took her by the arm and they followed Chrístõ as casually as possible. It was warm and cosy and dry inside the coffee shop. Julia immediately took off her gabardine and put it over the back of a chair at the window table where Chrístõ had sat. He could see his mother as she ordered a pot of tea from the waitress. Hext pulled up a third chair and joined them.

“She’s beautiful,” Julia said as she risked a glance at the woman. She had taken her coat off now and was drinking the tea that was brought to her table. She had long, nut brown hair done up in a neat pony tail and grey eyes in a lightly made up face. She wore a pretty light brown dress. She looked happy. Her eyes shone with pleasure as she sat and relaxed with her tea.

“Don’t stare,” Hext warned both of them. “Chrístõ, stop looking at her. And don’t even THINK about talking to her.”

“I wasn’t going to talk to her,” he answered. “But you can’t stop me looking. I haven’t been THIS close to her since I was a little boy. It feels nice. I never knew her when she was young. She was forty already when I was born and her health was never good. She IS beautiful. She’s young and happy and very beautiful. And whatever else we’re here for, I just want to sit here and look at her for a while.”

Hext sighed and summoned the waitress who took his order for three coffees. When the waitress asked what sort Chrístõ came out of his reverie long enough to make them large cappuccinos. They said nothing else until after the coffees were brought. Chrístõ’s mother answered a phone call on a mobile phone that was considerably more advanced than the average one in 1994 and smiled happily as she signalled to the waitress and ordered a fresh pot of tea for two.

“If Savang is after Chrístõ’s mum…” Julia began, addressing herself to Hext but not entirely sure what exact question she wanted to ask.

“She’s trying to create a grandfather paradox by harming his mother before he is conceived.”

“Oh, one of those,” Julia noted. “We’ve done that before.”

“You may have to do it again,” Hext said. Then after telling Chrístõ not to stare he, himself watched her intently for a long minute. “The shop she was in… Pro-Nuptia?”

“Wedding dresses,” Chrístõ said. “She and my father had an Earth wedding in September of this year, BEFORE they went back to Gallifrey for their Alliance of Unity in the Panopticon.”

“Savang is going to stop them getting married?”

“If she harms my mother, I’ll rip her to pieces.”

“If she does that, you won’t be able to. You won’t exist.” Hext pointed out.

“Nor will I,” Julia noted. “Or YOU, Hext. You would already be dead without Chrístõ. He saved your life.”

“More than once,” Hext noted. “We ARE all in peril if her plan goes ahead. Not just us. She could unravel time itself by her actions. We must stop her.”

“It might help if we KNEW her plan,” Chrístõ noted. Then his face froze and Hext immediately knew why. Julia didn’t. She didn’t recognise the middle aged man in an ulster coat who came into the coffee shop and smiled warmly at Chrístõ’s future mother. He bent to kiss her on the cheek and sat down at the table. She poured him a cup of tea and he drank it with her.

“My father,” Chrístõ said. “BEFORE his last regeneration. That happened when I was a boy…”

“Keep still and STOP staring,” Hext commanded him. The man who would be Chrístõ’s father glanced their way and seemed puzzled and, he thought, angry. He stood up and walked past their table on the way to the inner door with a sign for ‘toilets’ over it. Hext and Chrístõ both felt the psychic jolt in their heads. Hext stood.

“DON’T follow me,” he ordered Chrístõ and casually headed towards the same door. Chrístõ glanced at Julia.

“You stay here,” he told her.

“But Hext told YOU…” she protested.

“I don’t take orders from Hext,” Chrístõ answered. Julia sighed and sat back with her cappuccino. She watched Chrístõ’s mother as she reached in her bag and took out a pair of pretty white silk shoes. She looked at them with a warm, satisfied expression on her face and then put them back in the bag again. Julia thought dreamily of buying shoes like that one day, to go with a white wedding dress. Chrístõ’s mother looked so very happy. It made her shiver to think that some harm was being plotted against that beautiful, happy lady.

Chrístõ stepped into the short corridor where three doors led to ‘ladies’, ‘gents’ and ‘staff’ and was startled to see his future father pinning Hext against the wall.

“WHY have they sent ANOTHER agent here?” he was demanding in a cold, hard voice that made Chrístõ shiver knowing how much anger he was actually suppressing. “The warrant against Lee Koschei Oakdaene was cancelled.”

“I don’t know anything about that,” Hext answered. “I AM a CIA agent but that’s not why I’m here. Sir… please let me go or I shall have to use force.”

Chrístõ smiled at the idea of Hext trying to fight his father. He knew who would win. His father obviously knew, too. He half laughed, but stopped pinning Hext against the wall.

“What ARE you doing here, then?” he demanded. “And who is this OTHER one with the mixed telepathic signals?”

“Thete,” Hext said. “I told you…”

“It doesn’t matter who I am,” Chrístõ answered with a voice that he tried to keep steady and a mind he was desperately trying to lock against his father’s telepathic touch. “Hext, tell him why we’re here. He SHOULD know.”

Hext told him. Chrístõ Mian de Lœngbærrow of Gallifrey, living on Earth as Professor Kristoph de Leon of Liverpool, listened. His face took on a hard expression as Hext told him the very vaguest story he could of a threat against him and his future wife.

“I will protect Marion,” he said. “I don’t need EITHER of you frightening her. Go back where you came from.”

“Sir…” Hext replied. “I can’t do that. My remit from the Chancellor of the High Council was to bring in the Renegade. But her presence in this time and place means that she intends to attack you or your family. And therefore my first duty is to protect you.”

“Hext?” Chrístõ spoke to him telepathically. “Did you lie to me? Did you KNOW this was going to happen? Did you KNOW Savang was after my parents.”

No,” he answered. “I swear to you, I didn’t. I would never have risked the temporal anomaly that could occur… This isn’t even LEGAL. I’ve made you cross your own time stream.”

“Whatever you have to say to each other, say it openly,” Chrístõ’s father demanded. “Telepathic conversations hidden behind mental walls… Typical CIA.”

“Sir…” Hext began.

There was a crash of crockery and a scream in the café. It was Julia. A moment later the door swung open and she ran to Chrístõ.

“She’s gone,” she sobbed. “She took her!”

“Who did?” Chrístõ asked, his hearts thudding as he knew there was only one answer to that question. He was the first to run back into the café, the first to take in the strange, eerily silent, still scene.

“What in the name of Rassilon…” Hext swept past him to the open door where a delivery man carrying a tray of wrapped bread was frozen half in and half out. Around him the customers and staff were frozen, too. But the coffee machine was still pouring hot coffee into an overflowing cup and the rain was still pouring outside. Only the people had been frozen in their personal time, not time itself.

“Why are we not affected?” Julia asked as she ran to turn off the coffee machine and move the waitress away from it before she was scalded.

“We’re time travellers,” Chrístõ answered. “We’re not affected by time freezes. Even you, because you’ve travelled in the TARDIS with me. But WHAT has she done?”

He turned and looked at his father as he ran to the place where his wife to be had been sitting moments before. Her umbrella and carrier bag were still there. But she was gone. He pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and tried to read a signal in the air.

“It’s NOT a transmat,” Chrístõ told him. “She knows how to time fold in the blink of an eye. But she can’t have gone far. If we move quickly….”

“The time freeze will end in about sixty seconds,” Hext said looking at the reading on his own sonic screwdriver. “We should get out of here before it does. MY TARDIS. Ambassador, sir…” He addressed Chrístõ’s father formally.

“Yes, you’re right,” he replied. “A TARDIS is the best chance we have of finding her.”

Julia stopped long enough to pick up the carrier bag and umbrella and rushed after the three Time Lords. They crossed the rain-swept Square to a closed down newspaper kiosk that should only have been big enough for one man, but of course it was a TARDIS. At the door, she looked back and saw the man with the bread step inside the café and the door swing shut behind him.

“We didn’t pay for the coffees,” she said as she closed the door of Hext’s TARDIS and stepped towards the console.

“Neither did we,” the Ambassador noted, turning to look at her. “You’re not Gallifreyan, are you, child? Where do you fit in with this?”

“I’m… I’m with him…” she said, slipping her arm around Chrístõ’s waist as he protectively put his around her shoulder.

“She’s MY Earth Child,” Chrístõ said. “But our priority right now is to find YOURS.”

“I’m picking up a signal,” Hext said. “She’s got a time capsule of some kind. It doesn’t have the resonance of a TARDIS, but it has some of the functions. I’m locking on. Stand by. This could be bumpy.”

It WAS bumpy. Chrístõ wedged Julia against the console with his own body. His father obviously knew the kind of thing to expect, too. Hext, Chrístõ noted, managed to control his one man TARDIS very well without needing any help from either of them. He stood by his loyalty to his Type 40, even so, and wished he was in his own TARDIS, in control. He felt more than a little frustrated. Hext was in charge. The High Council sent him. But it was HIS family that was in danger. It was HIS mother who had been taken by Savang for some warped, perverse reason.

“What if she KILLS her?” Julia asked. “What if she’s killed her already?” Then she thought about that a bit. “No, she couldn’t have. Because otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Like we said before.”

“I’m sorry to say,” Hext answered. “But that no longer counts. We’re in a TARDIS in the time vortex. A state of grace exists. Actions outside of the vortex won’t affect us until we come out of it.”

“So…”

“Don’t think about it,” Chrístõ said. “It hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure it hasn’t.”

“All right,” The Ambassador said loudly and angrily. “Everyone stop talking in riddles. I want to know who this SHE is that you’re all talking about. And why SHE has taken my fiancée, and why temporal grace comes into it? What is this about?”

Chrístõ opened his mouth to speak but Hext flashed him a look that needed no telepathic interpretation and HE explained to The Ambassador that he was on Earth to arrest the renegade, Savang. He deliberately didn’t give her surname, but simply called her that.

“She is from your future, sir,” Hext explained. “We ALL are. That’s why temporal grace comes into it. Time Lord families are all so closely linked that if one link is broken, if the Patriarch of the House of Lœngbærrow does not marry his Earth Child, then the consequences are dire for us all. That is why the Chancellor of the High Council allowed me to bend the Laws of Time and cross all our timelines in order to prevent her from causing such damage. Please, sir, TRUST us. And…. Please stop trying to break down mental walls. There ARE things we are hiding from you, future knowledge that it would not be in your interests to know. Please accept that and accept that we are not your enemy.”

Chrístõ saw his father’s expression change. And he felt the pressure upon his own mind relax at once as he accepted Hext’s word.

“Where are we going?” Chrístõ asked. “Where has Savang taken her? Or when?”

“I don’t know,” Hext admitted. “I don’t think she’s going ANYWHERE. She’s got some kind of randomised course. At first she seemed to be just running back in time towards prehistoric Liverpool. Then we were following her forward in time. Now she’s altered course again and we’ve left Earth. But there’s no way she’s getting away from us. This is a Type 48 TARDIS, state of the art. Built especially for the CIA to pursue rogue travellers. And it’s not going to lose anyone.”

“Does she know we’re following her?” Julia asked.

“No,” Hext replied. “This capsule ALSO has stealth mode. She can’t possibly have guessed we were onto her.”

“Unless she knew you were in the café,” The Ambassador pointed out. “She must have been there, watching Marion. She saw you two follow me into the corridor and you gave her the opportunity she needed.” He glared at Chrístõ. “HE told you to stay in the café. If you’d been there you might have protected Marion.”

“I’m sorry,” he answered. He bit his lip and tried to control his emotions. He knew he deserved his father’s chastisement. His impulsiveness HAD meant that his mother was unprotected at the crucial moment. But he wished it had been tempered by the love his father always bore for him no matter what he did or failed to do. To see him like this, looking at him as if he was a stranger, and an incompetent stranger at that, hurt.

“She WAS in the café,” Julia said. “The woman in the red dress at the table behind where… where Marion was sitting. She stood up and did something with her hand. And time froze. Then she was gone. And so was Marion. It all happened in seconds. I don’t think ANYONE could have stopped her. Even if Chr…. If he HAD been in the café, he couldn’t have done ANYTHING.”

“Loyalty,” The Ambassador said with a wry smile. “A virtue we highly value on Gallifrey. Perhaps I WAS harsh. I am sorry. We have been through so much already, Marion and I. And it is just a week to our wedding. She was buying shoes and silk flowers for her headdress. And now…”

“We’ll get her back,” Hext assured him. “Damn, she’s changed direction again. Her machine is… the signature is unreal. It’s as if it was handmade. It’s not a registered TARDIS, that’s for sure. Then again, where would she get a registered TARDIS?”

“What I still don’t understand is why, with the whole universe to hide in she came here to kidnap Marion and cause me such anxiety?” The Ambassador looked at Hext, then at Chrístõ. “Why? Why does she bear me such ill will?”

Hext looked at Chrístõ before taking a deep breath and answering his question.

“When we questioned her, she raged against all Time Lords. But in particular, against you, Ambassador. Or rather… your son.”

“MY son…”

“In the future that we come from, your half-Human son will rise above every obstacle in his way and become a Time Lord, while Savang, a pure blood, lost her mind in the Untempered Schism and never had the chance. She blames your child for her own misfortune. She thinks if he is never born, then her life would be different.”

“THAT’S what this is about?” Chrístõ asked. “About… But that wouldn’t change anything. She would STILL fail the Schism. Taking m… Taking his son out of the equation won’t make any difference.”

“She’s insane,” Hext reminded them. “You should have been there at the interrogation. It was crazy.”

“And yet,” Chrístõ added. “Knowing that she had a particular grudge against the Lœngbærrow family, you never thought that her going to Earth was more than a coincidence? Hext, why don’t you retire from the CIA? You are SO not cut out for it.”

“My son who hasn’t even been born yet…” Ambassador de Lœngbærrow said, ignoring Chrístõ’s gibe at Hext. “You all know him?”

“I know him well,” Hext answered. “He… is a good man. You will be proud of him, sir. He… did something for me I will never forget.”

“He saved your life?” The Ambassador guessed.

“Several times over. But much more than that. He forgave me. After I did a terrible, dreadful thing to HIM, he forgave me.”

Chrístõ swallowed hard and said nothing. He watched the pride in his father’s eyes as he heard those words from Hext.

“My son is a noble Gallifreyan. I could wish for nothing more. But unless we can get his mother back safe from this insane woman…”

“It is difficult. She is still running wild in the vortex. I am wondering if she is in control of her machine. It’s like…”

“A runaway train,” Chrístõ said. Hext looked blankly at him. He had never seen a train.

“I know what he means,” The Ambassador said. He looked at the temporal manifold. “We’re speeding backwards in time again. FAR back. We’ve already passed the point when most of the great civilisations began.”

“How far could she go?” Julia asked. “What’s at the beginning of the universe? How did it begin?”

“Nobody knows,” Chrístõ answered. “Not even Time Lords. We can’t go back to when time didn’t exist or forward to when time has ended. That’s our limitation. Our THEORY about it is called Event One. An inrush of hydrogen, a massive explosive instance that flung out the material from which the stars and planets were made.”

Even Time Lords had trouble getting their heads around it, because even they couldn’t fathom what existed before the universe from which the inrush came. Indeed, it was harder for them, having no concept of a God or a universal Creator who made all things, than for species who DID have such mythology to fall back on.

One thing they all agreed on, though.

“She can’t do that.”

“Is she really insane enough? To destroy herself AND Marion?” The Ambassador asked.

“Yes, she is,” Hext and Chrístõ both answered him in unison.

“Runaway train…” Julia said, fixing on an easier image than the creation of the universe. “Runaway train… pulling us along with it like a carriage. Can’t we put the brake on?”

“Out of the mouths of babes!” The Ambassador exclaimed. “YOUR Earth Child is at least as clever as mine, young man,” he added to Chrístõ before turning to Hext. “It’s your TARDIS. How experienced are you with it?”

“I’m VERY experienced. But Savang’s machine ISN’T compatible. I can’t slave it to mine. Locking on and following was hard enough.”

“Use the vortex itself. Reverse your trajectory using the manual temporal manifold while the helmic regulator is disengaged. It will cause a peristaltic reversal in the vortex itself and Savang’s machine will be propelled backwards. When it is in range, extend your TARDIS’s gravitational field to physically lock it on and then drop out of the vortex immediately.”

“If it doesn’t work, we’ll lose her for good,” Hext pointed out.

“It could rip both ships apart,” Chrístõ added. “It sounds like an incredibly dangerous manoeuvre.”

“It was perfected by a CIA agent called The Executioner before I was born,” Hext said. “His way of stopping fleeing Renegades. But even when I learnt advanced piloting during my agency training they didn’t allow us to practice it.”

“Now’s your chance,” The Ambassador told him. “Your young friend doesn’t think much of you as an agent, and I’m inclined to agree with his assessment, so far. But this is your chance to redeem yourself.” The Ambassador glanced at the readout on the console. “Get ready. And this time REALLY brace yourselves. This WILL be traumatic. Young lady, hold on tight to the console, not to him. HE will need all his effort to protect himself.”

Everyone braced themselves. Hext put his hand on the wheel that looked, to all intents and purposes, like a large scroll wheel from an ordinary computer keyboard. But the temporal manifold scrolled through time itself. He pushed it hard in an anti-clockwise direction and for a second or two before the TARDIS’s buffers could compensate for it they all felt time reverse itself abruptly. For the three Time Lords it was a painful sensation. They felt as if their bodies were being pulled two ways at once by an immeasurable force that threatened to rip them to pieces. Julia gasped and breathed hard as if she was trying not to be sick. Her discomfort wasn’t made any better when the TARDIS jerked violently, exactly like a train carriage bumping into the buffers of the carriage in front after an emergency stop. And immediately after THAT it dropped like a stone. She tried not to scream. She desperately tried not to vomit over Hext’s console, and she hoped they would not die a horrible death any moment.

They didn’t. The TARDIS stopped. The engines sounded different as they hung in ordinary space. Hext turned on the viewscreen and they saw the other time and space travelling capsule orbiting their TARDIS like a moon, unable to escape the much more powerful gravitational force of the better machine.

“It’s a Type One,” Chrístõ said. “Or it WAS a Type One. It looks like its been rebuilt. But it’s an antique. Only basic dimensional function. No chameleon circuit. To travel so far in something only seen in a technology museum…”

“Marion must be so scared,” The Ambassador said. “We’ve got to get her out of there.”

“THIS they did train us to do,” Hext said. “And it being an antique HELPS in this case. There’s less chance of a spatial containment collapse.”

Julia pondered momentarily what a spatial containment collapse was, then decided she didn’t want to know. And then thought that, if one happened, she probably would be too busy screaming and dying in agony to actually take note of the details.

Hext didn’t collapse anything. What he did do was materialise his TARDIS around the antique capsule that Savang was using. They watched as it solidified in the middle of the console room floor, looking like a grey rectangular box the size of a 20th century Earth telephone box. There should have been a seal of Rassilon on the door, but that had been physically mutilated by what looked like knife slashes.

It was the TARDIS of a Renegade.

The Ambassador stepped forward, pulling his sonic screwdriver out of his pocket to open the door. Chrístõ was on the point of telling him that a TARDIS door couldn’t BE opened that easily when it opened anyway and he saw his father reel back as an angry woman in a deep red robe threw herself at him.

“No!” he screamed as he saw the glint of a knife in her hand and his father falling to the ground. Hext crossed the floor in an instant and grappled with her, taking several cuts himself as he tried to disarm her. At the same time, Chrístõ saw Julia run into the antique TARDIS and yell for him. He was torn between helping his father and answering that urgent shout.

“Marion!” The Ambassador gasped as he fought off Savang’s vicious attack. “Help her, please.”

Chrístõ ran after Julia and was startled to find himself in a space only a little bigger than the outside of the default box. There was a control panel that barely resembled the sophisticated console he was used to and walls of hexagons and roundels that glowed with an eerie red light.

“Chrístõ, here,” Julia called and he rounded the console and dropped to his knees beside his mother. She was stretched on the floor, unconscious. Julia was trying to lift her, but she was dead weight.

“She’s hurt,” Julia said.

“She’s been drugged,” Chrístõ said. He touched his mother’s forehead gently and read her last memories. She had been sitting there in the café, wondering what was bothering her husband to be that had made him leave the table so suddenly. But she wasn’t worried. Then she felt a cold as the door was opened by the man with the bread. Then a different sort of cold. She saw the woman in red approach and a sting on her neck. Then nothing.

Absolutely nothing. She was not aware of any of this happening to her. Her last memory was of being in the café.

He lifted her in his arms, pressing her close to him. Despite the seriousness of the situation, it was a precious moment for him. He was holding his mother. It had been so long since he had been able to do that. And then he had been too young to really appreciate HOW precious it was to be close to her.

He FELT the connection with her. Even though she was not yet even married to his father, even though it would be another seventeen years before he was born, he felt all of the love for her as his mother. When he touched her mind, he was acutely aware of that tiny part of his DNA that came from her. He wanted to hold her like that for a long, long time.

But he couldn’t. He could hear his father calling out anxiously and Hext telling him to keep still. He pushed back her hair and kissed her on the forehead and then carried her out of Savang’s TARDIS and into the bright, airy coolness of Hext’s console room.

He gasped as he saw his father’s clothes torn and blood-spattered. But he was struggling to his feet and the wounds beneath his torn shirt were mending. Savang was lying on the floor, unconscious and manacled hand and foot. She, too, had some wounds that were mending. Hext lifted her off the floor and put her into a straight backed chair, fixing the hand and foot manacles to it. He motioned to Chrístõ to put his mother on the much more comfortable sofa.

“Won’t she escape?” Julia asked about Savang. “What about all her time folding things?”

“Stasis cuffs,” Hext said. “She won’t be going anywhere until I get back to Gallifrey. And then it’ll be a secure cell at the CIA headquarters and a lot of hard interrogation.”

Chrístõ looked at her once, almost feeling sorry for her. Hext had clearly not been gentle with her.

ALMOST sorry for her. He knew how powerful she was, and how insane. The restraints were needed. The interrogation, and, he supposed, her eventual incarceration in Shada, was necessary to protect everyone from her madness.

Then he turned back to his mother and put a cushion under her head and made her comfortable. He felt his father beside him and reluctantly gave way to him as he knelt by her side and caressed her face.

“The drug should wear off soon,” Chrístõ said. “It’s nothing permanent. And she remembered none of this. So… Sir… if you go to Hext’s wardrobe and look for a suit to match the one you’re wearing. We can return you both to Earth…”

Hext nodded and set the co-ordinate for ten seconds after they had all rushed out of the café. By the time he materialised his TARDIS disguised as a fourth door next to ladies, gents and staff, Marion was starting to show signs of waking up. The Ambassador reached to lift her, but Chrístõ stepped forward.

“Sir, would you let me, just one more time,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”

He knew he shouldn’t have said that. Everyone had carefully avoided calling him by name and giving away that HE was The Ambassador’s future son. As much as it had hurt, he had gone along with that. And now, at the last, his emotions had given him away. He looked into his father’s eyes. His father looked back at him. Brown eyes met brown eyes. Eyes that contained a lot of the same DNA, differing only in one respect.

“Tear ducts in the eyes of a Time Lord?” The Ambassador whispered and smiled warmly. “Your father must be very proud of you,” Then he stood aside as Chrístõ lifted Marion in his arms again and gently carried her through to the time frozen café. The Ambassador followed and Hext with him. Julia came behind them last, bringing the carrier bag and umbrella.

“You two sit back down now,” said The Ambassador as Chrístõ placed his mother on the seat where she had been taking tea. “You stay with us, young lady.”

Chrístõ and Hext sat at their table and picked up their still warm coffees. A few seconds later everyone began to move around again. The man with the bread came into the café. The waitress looked with a puzzled expression at the overflowing coffee and reached for a cloth. Another waitress gave an angry yell and ran to the door complaining that the woman in red had gone without paying. Marion gave a groan and put her hand to her head.

“What happened?” she asked.

“You fainted,” said her husband to be. “This young lady here helped you.”

“Thank you,” she said to Julia. “But why did I faint?”

“It’s cold and wet outside and warm in here, and you’re excited about the wedding.” The Ambassador smiled at Julia. “We’re getting married next week. She’s been trying on her dress and buying shoes and flowers.”

“I hope you have a lovely wedding,” Julia said, giving her the carrier bag and umbrella before going back to the seat by the window with Hext and Chrístõ. Everything looked quite normal in the café. They drank their coffee and waited until Chrístõ’s mother and father finished their tea and went out into the rain, walking close together under the umbrella.

“I’m going now,” Hext said as soon as they were gone. “Savang isn’t going anywhere in there. But the sooner I get her to Gallifrey, the better. I’ll see you two again, I suppose.”

“Good journey,” Chrístõ said to him. He watched as Hext went through the unmarked fourth door that nobody else seemed to have noticed. Its stealth mode proved its worth. There was far less displaced air and noise than Chrístõ’s Type 40. Though he was still loyal to his own beloved TARDIS.

“Do I have to go back home now?” Julia asked.

“Not just yet. We’re going to have another cappuccino and some of that rather nice chocolate cake I can see. And then… there’s something else I’d like to do. I know I shouldn’t. But the rules have already been broken today. One more time won’t hurt.”

 

It was a much brighter day than a week ago. It truly was a late summer day. The September sun shone down from a flawless blue sky on the Liverpool borough of Knowsley and the pretty church where a wedding was taking place this afternoon. Chrístõ and Julia stepped into the church quietly and found seats at the back. It wasn’t long before the organist struck up the traditional theme and the bride, preceded by her flower girl and page boy and bridesmaids walked down the aisle on the proud arm of an elderly Chinaman who didn’t yet know the two uninvited wedding guests. Chrístõ watched without breathing or blinking. He forgot about either as he watched the woman who would one day be his mother smile at his future father and take his hand. Julia noticed the tears in his eyes and the smile on his face as the ceremony continued. As the bride and groom exchanged their solemn vows and became man and wife for the first time he reached out and grasped her by the hand. He held on tightly as the newly married couple walked back up the aisle into the sunshine of a cold but bright winter’s afternoon.

The two of them slipped away again, equally quickly and quietly as the invited guests gathered to be photographed. Nobody noticed them go, except the groom who turned his head and noted the swirl of an unexpected breeze that stirred litter on the street.

“Good journey, my son,” he whispered.