Six months! Can it really be that six months had gone by? Marion sighed with pleasure as she packed her books away after the last tutorial before the February semester break. She knew Kristoph would be waiting at the gate as he always was, and they had a holiday in the sun planned. Not this sun, of course. What was the name of the planet again? Kallo V’Asel. It had TWO suns, in fact. The sunsets were amazing, Kristoph told her. And from every part of the planet, as well as a viewing platform above it, there was a remarkable aurora that occurred every night after sunset. As much as she liked Liverpool, and loved the cosy home she shared with Kristoph, Kallo sounded like a wonderful alternative to what the weather forecasters were predicting as wet and windy.

She was smiling happily as she walked through the university, waving to friends and teachers who wished her a good break. She didn’t even notice the dark haired man who watched her with more than passing interest. She didn’t think anything of him at all until he grabbed her arm and pulled her through a door marked ‘library supplies’.

She barely registered the fact that this building was nowhere near the library before she realised this was not a supply cupboard. A moment later, she lost consciousness.

She didn’t feel as if she had been out of it for long. Maybe a few minutes. But it was long enough for her to be tied, hand and foot, and anchored by a chain set into the wall. She pulled herself up into a sitting position and looked around.

It was a TARDIS.

It looked different to Kristoph’s TARDIS. This one had red and black lacquered walls with what looked like Chinese symbols. The console was bigger, with ceramic panels around the controls.

“You don’t seem surprised by your surroundings,” the man said as he operated something on his console. “But then you wouldn’t, would you? You have been in a TARDIS before.”

“How do you know?”

“Anyone who has travelled in a TARDIS picks up a certain resonance. It is the reason why you can understand languages. And a very well attuned mind can practically SCENT a time traveller.”

He turned from the console and moved faster than she thought anyone could move. He grabbed her face roughly and forced her to look at him.

“What does The Executioner want with you? Where do you fit into his efforts to find me?”

“You’re the traitor he was sent to Earth to find, to capture…”

“To KILL,” he snarled. “There are no half measures with the Celestial Intervention Agency. They kill their quarry. Ordinary criminals may be sentenced to Shada and the cryogenic prison or, if they are lucky, a quick death in the vaporisation chamber. But for Gallifrey’s political dissidents there is only one outcome. The Executioner is also my judge and jury and he sentenced me long ago. He only awaits the chance to carry it out.”

“Well, if that’s true, you must deserve it,” she replied, wondering where she summoned the courage. “You must have done something very terrible. He called you the TRAITOR. You… you must have done something bad to your world. Kristoph is a good man. If he wants to kill you then you must deserve it.”

“Kristoph?” he laughed. “Did he not teach you to say his name properly?”

“Yes, he did. But he is Kristoph to me. I…”

“You are in love with him!” He laughed coldly. “The Executioner takes a woman and she is in love with him!”

“He is in love with me, and when he finds out that you have kidnapped me…”

What? She wondered. What WOULD Kristoph do? Would he come for her? HOW could he do that? Could he follow this TARDIS and reach her?

Was she lost in time and space with a stranger who hated Kristoph and had no reason to be kind to her?

“Oh, he WILL come. I know he will. And when he does I will have him. I have known for a long time that he was close. I have seen the pattern of his TARDIS materialising and dematerialising within a few miles of me. I knew he was closing in.”

“You’re wrong. Kristoph has given up the hunt for you. He retired from the CIA. He is working as a teacher in Liverpool. We are… We are engaged.”

“So I see!” He grabbed her hand and looked at the ring she wore. “Gallifreyan.”

“You can tell?”

“I feel it. The resonance… the gold, the stone, both came from the soil of my homeland. I feel it like an ache in my hearts. My world. You don’t know what it is to be an exile, to never even dream of setting foot on my native soil again.”

“It was your own fault,” she answered him. “You became a…” What was the word Kristoph used?“A Renegade.”

The man hit her, hard. She reeled back from the blow.

“Never… NEVER use that word in my presence. You don’t know… you have no idea what it means.”

“I know that Kristoph is going to punish you,” she answered when her head cleared enough to let her speak.

 

Kristoph had waited by the gate until it was obvious something was wrong. Then he passed through the gate and found the English department where Marion should have been. The classrooms were all empty. It being the end of semester there weren’t even any evening classes later.

Even so, he found some of the staff still in their rooms. He asked several if they had seen Marion.

“Not since the end of the tutorial,” her Modernism tutor told him. “Is there something wrong?”

“Yes,” Kristoph said. “She is missing.”

“Missing?” the tutor looked up at him. “A little dramatic, surely? Perhaps she went to the library or the refectory… some of the students were planning to go to the pub…”

Kristoph made an impatient noise and turned away. He knew there was no point in looking in the library or the refectory. She certainly didn’t go to the pub.

Something had happened to her.

He stopped. There was something….

He looked at the blank wall behind which he assumed was one of the lecture theatres. Something about that wall…

He could feel the resonances. A TARDIS had been here.

He ran. He felt as if he couldn’t run faster as he ran through the corridor and through the college grounds. When he reached his TARDIS he didn’t even bother to look to see if anyone was watching. He yanked the door of the telephone box open and ran to the console.

Yes, he could detect the resonance. But it was just a residual, an echo of the presence. He had no way of tracing it.

He had lost her.

His hearts thudded. Grief overwhelmed him. He had lost her.

“Marion!” he screamed.

 

“What do you want with me?” Marion asked. “Why did you kidnap me?”

“Because HE will come looking for you. And when he does, I can kill him.”

“How can he look for me? We’re not even on Earth any more. You dematerialised the TARDIS. We could be anywhere. You’ve taken me away from Earth, from Kristoph…”

“We’re still on Earth. Just not in your time and we’re certainly not in Liverpool.”

“Where are we?”

“If you must know, we are in China, in the early years of the Xia Dynasty, approximately 2000 BC by the system of dates you would be familiar with.”

“Why?”

“Because I like China. I like the culture. It reminds me of Gallifreyan society in many ways.”

“Take me back. Take me back now, before he knows I’m missing, and I won’t say anything. I told you, Kristoph isn’t even interested in finding you any more. He RETIRED.”

“Why would he do that? He is the best agent the CIA ever had. He is relentless in his pursuit of his prey. He kills in an eyeblink. But not this time. I will not meekly wait to be assassinated. I will kill him first.”

“No!” Marion cried. “No, you can’t. Why… why do you hate him so much?”

“Hate him?” he laughed. “That’s the thing. That’s the reason the CIA sent HIM of all people. I don’t hate him. He was my best friend since we were children. We were like brothers. But I will kill him to preserve my own life.”

“If you were so close, why did HE come to… to get you?”

“Because our friendship means less to him than his honour with the High Council.”

“I think you might be wrong about that. And… I don’t know… Maybe… Look… if you mean to keep me here until he comes… at least… tell me what it’s all about.”

“You want to hear stories of brotherhood and friendship among men who had to do the dirty work that the great Time Lords would not soil their robes with?”

“Yes,” she said. “What else do we have to do?”

He laughed. And strangely, Marion thought, it wasn’t a cruel laugh. It was a pained one, if anything, as if the memories she had probed were difficult for him.

“Come on,” he said, and he unfastened the chain and lifted her to her feet.

 

Kristoph materialised his TARDIS on the exact spot that the Traitor’s TARDIS had been. He hoped it would pick up a more complete resonance.

He was disappointed. It gave him no more information than before. A TARDIS had been there. It had gone. He had no idea where or when.

The Traitor could be anywhere in time and space and Marion was with him.

There ought to be a way to identify TARDISes, he thought grimly. Even here on Earth, in 1993, they were starting to develop ways of tracking vehicles. At this stage it was confined to military uses, but in another ten years it would be fitted in ordinary cars. Why his own people had never managed to work out some way to locate individual TARDISes he didn’t know. Goodness knows it would make HIS job easier.

Not his job. He wasn’t The Executioner now. He was a teacher.

If The Traitor had Marion, then he would have to BE The Executioner again.

One more time.

 

“I could go faster if you freed my legs,” Marion said as she stumbled through the TARDIS corridor. “In fact, what is the point in keeping me tied up? Where could I go? Even if I got out of the TARDIS I’m in ancient China according to you.”

“Good point,” he said and he cut her bonds with a knife. “Walk this way.”

He brought her to a room that was again decorated in the Chinese style. There was a low table made of some dark wood, lacquered to a beautiful shine. Around it were low cushioned seats and there was a Chinese tea set on it, complete with oil burner with a kettle boiling on it.

“Sit down,” he said to her.

“What? We’re going to take tea?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I bear you no ill will. You are a means to an end. Sit and drink tea and I will explain to you why we both come to this pass.”

“What is your name?” she asked. It was strange, but she didn’t really think he was a naturally cruel man. He had hurt her, but not badly. She didn’t even feel particularly scared of him. Not for herself. She was scared for Kristoph. She was scared for HIM, because one of them was going to kill the other and both scenarios worried her.

“My name would be unpronounceable to you. I was known as Lee to my comrades in he CIA.”

“Lee. Ok. That sounds normal.”

“You mean it sounds like an Earth name.”

“Yes, I suppose I do. Sounds kind of Chinese, too. Goes with your obsession.”

“And what is YOUR name?”

“Marion,” she answered.

“And you are Chrístõ Mian’s lover? Finally he lives up to his suffix.”

“His what?”

“The heir of an Oldblood House receives the name of his father at birth, but with a new suffix to it. The name is chosen based on the reading of his timeline and reflecting some characteristic or talent he will have in his future.”

“So the one who fought dragons… I did wonder about that.”

“And his father was called Delun because he was destined to become our greatest astronomer.”

“So what does Mian mean?” she asked as she watched him prepare tea in the formal Chinese way and pass her a cup in such a polite, precise way, as if they really WERE just enjoying a social occasion.

“Desire,” he answered. “We never understood that. Chrístõ Mian subsumed all of his physical desires. As a soldier and as an assassin he was only ever focussed on the job.”

“Well, I suppose he must have changed. Because he is the most gentle, sweet, loving man I have ever known. He is…”

“Have you considered he is just USING you? After all, that is the point of an undercover agent. You could be his perfect cover.”

“No,” she answered. “He is NOT using me. His love for me is real.”

“If you say so,” he said. “But you were asking, were you not, about our past.” He sipped from his own tea. Marion wondered what would happen if she threw the hot liquid over him.

“It would be painful for a few seconds and it would be mildly irritating. It would also be bad manners to upset a tea ceremony in such a way,” he said.

She remembered that Time Lords could read minds.

“Yes, we can. We don’t often. It is considered rude.”

“Kidnapping people is pretty rude,” she countered.

“A means to an end. Chrístõ Mian would understand that, curiously enough. He has done much worse in the name of Gallifreyan security.”

“He has kidnapped people?”

“He has done worse. You don’t want, or need to know what agents of the Celestial Intervention Agency have to do in the course of our work.”

“Probably not. I understand that he gave it up. He’d had enough.”

“Yes, I know.” Lee sighed. Marion looked at him. “I know that.”

“Something happened?”

“The Executioner killed the wrong man. He was filled with remorse for his actions. He vowed he would never take another life and resigned from the Agency. But he made it clear that he placed the ultimate blame on the one who had given him the information implicating the innocent man.”

“And who was that?”

“It was me. It was my mistake that led to that innocent death. We joined the Agency together, Chrístõ Mian and I. We both rose through the ranks, I more than he. I was his supervisor. It WAS my responsibility to ensure he had the right information to work from. I WAS guilty of negligence. But I was not alone in that.” He paused. “The information came from a member of the High Council. I killed him.”

“Just like that?”

“No, not just like that. The man had deliberately implicated another man in a serious breach of security. He did it because he wanted the man killed in order to raise a relative of his own into the very important post the dead man held. And in doing so, he not only allowed a good, innocent man to be killed, but nearly let the REAL traitor escape.”

“Don’t tell me, you killed him, too?”

“I did. And then I took my TARDIS and left Gallifrey for good. I was not authorised to assassinate the High Councillor. I acted out of anger. A crime of passion. Yes, a crime. There was no immunity for me as an Agent. I was deemed a criminal. My only chance was to flee.”

“That’s the truth? That is what you did?”

“Yes.”

“And Kristoph knows that? Knows that you killed the one responsible for… for the mistake HE made?”

“Yes.”

“And still he is prepared to kill you for being…” She hesitated to say the word that had made him angry before.

“Yes, but I do not blame him for that. He remained loyal to Gallifrey. I would be loyal to Gallifrey if I could. But Gallifrey has rejected me. I was declared Renegade. My name was expunged. Even my family cannot acknowledge me. I can never return there. All I can do is evade the Agents sent after me. I have done so for nearly two hundred years, but now, he closes in on me.”

“I don’t understand. He told me he was brought out of retirement. He had been working as a diplomat. But he said they recalled him and he accepted this one last assignment. But why would he do that if you were friends?”

“You can ask him, before I kill him,” Lee answered her.

“I…” She looked at him. Could he tell what she was thinking now?

“Yes, I can. You’re feeling disgusted with yourself because for a little while there, when I was talking, you forgot I am the mortal enemy of your lover. You felt sympathy for me and didn’t want him to kill me.”

“I DON’T want him to kill you. I don’t want him to be a killer again. He wouldn’t have had to if you hadn’t kidnapped me. I don’t want him to kill you, and… and please… Don’t kill him. I know you’re not a murderer. You don’t have to be one, anyway.”

She put down the tea cup, her hands trembling as the reality of her situation hit her.

“If you kill him… what happens to me? I’m… I’m still here with you in ancient China.”

“What do you think will happen to you? Should I sell you as a concubine to the local mandarin? Or should I keep you for myself? You’ve known one Time Lord’s bed. Would another be any different?”

“I haven’t”

“Haven’t what?”

“I haven’t been in his bed. Not the way you mean, anyway. We’re engaged, but he said that Gallifreyans don’t… before marriage.”

“Ah. Gallifreyan honour even in such matters. What if I took you to MY bed first, then? For amusement while we wait for him to arrive?”

“Please don’t,” she begged. “I would rather die than let anyone but him touch me. I love him.”

“So you do, it seems. Relax. I am a Gallifreyan, too. I know about honour. I was just trying to frighten you. It is poor sport though.”

Marion was about to say something in reply, but she was distracted by a noise. She reached slowly into her pocket, watching Lee as he watched her with hawk like eyes.

She pulled out the mobile phone that Kristoph had given her. It was the smallest phone she had ever seen. He bought it for her in the future, assuring her that such technology was only ten or fifteen years away. And he had altered it inside so that the battery never went flat and there was no bill, and it worked no matter where or when she was.

It was working now. It was set to vibrate mode and it had begun to vibrate.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” Lee said.

“Yes,” she replied looking at the display. Lee held out his hand. She had no choice but to give it to him.

“Your pretty little Earth Child is perfectly well,” he said in a cold voice. “Whether she stays well is up to you. Your life for hers. I know you’ll be in your TARDIS, tracing the call. That saves me having to give you the co-ordinate. We’ll be waiting.”

He listened to Kristoph’s reply and smiled. He passed the phone to Marion.

“He wants to hear your voice. Speak to him.”

“Kristoph,” Marion whispered in a voice suddenly hoarse and frightened. “Oh, Kristoph, don’t. The Pazzione Gallifreya is a legend. I would never expect you to give up your life for me. Don’t come here. He wants to kill you. He WILL kill you if you try to rescue me. I know he will.”

She listened as Kristoph spoke very gently to her, asking her if she was all right.

“I’m not hurt,” she said. “He hasn’t hurt me. I’m not scared for me. I am scared for you. Please don’t walk into his trap.”

“Marion,” he said in response. “I love you. And I am coming for you.”

The line cut off. She put the phone back in her pocket and looked at Lee.

“He’s coming, isn’t he?” he said. I knew he would. So much for retired. The Executioner will have his day. Except I will be ready for him.

Marion sobbed quietly and prayed she would hear Kristoph’s voice again.