Cassie stood in the garden, leaning on the ornamental bridge and trying to stay calm. She wasn't doing a very good job of it.

"Come on, Chrístõ," she murmured under her breath. "We need you. Oh, my beautiful alien, we need you so much."

A sudden breeze came out of nowhere and a noise filled the air. A noise that Cassie realised she had never witnessed from OUTSIDE before. She had always been inside the TARDIS when it materialised or de-materialised. She stepped forward as a smaller version of Li Tuo's pagoda summer house appeared next to it. But it did not have Chrístõ's symbol on it and it was not Chrístõ who stepped out.

"Ambassador…" Cassie ran to greet Chrístõ's father. "Oh, thank you for coming. But where is Chrístõ?"

"Isn't he here?" The Ambassador asked. "I thought he would be here before me."

"Oh," Cassie looked worried suddenly. "Oh no, he can't be lost. Please don't let him be lost, flying the TARDIS on his own."

"Hush, child," The Ambassador said to her. "Don't upset yourself in your precious condition. I did expect him to be here first. But there is no need to fear. Chrístõ can easily programme his return to a destination he knows as well as this one. But time travel is an inexact art at times. The vortex is not like a road of fixed distance. We both set off at the same time but from different points in space. Our arrival may not be the same. Chrístõ will be here soon enough. Meantime…" Cassie still looked distressed, even though relieved of one anxiety. He steadied her with one hand on her shoulder and touched her forehead with his other. She sighed as she felt his gentle touch inside her head, drawing the knot of anguish out of her. "There now," he said. "Now, tell me…."

They both turned as they felt the displacement of air and the same familiar sound. And then another pagoda solidified next to The Ambassador's. The door opened almost the moment the sound died away and Chrístõ rushed out. His father caught him and steadied him.

"You need to calm yourself, too," he said and put his hand on his forehead, calming his son's fretfulness. He turned to Cassie. "How long has it been since you contacted Chrístõ?"

"Three hours," she said. "I've been so worried. I don't know where Terry and Sammie are, and I don't dare even try to find out what they've done with Li Tuo."

"Li Tuo?" The Ambassador looked alarmed. "What has been done to him by whom?"

"Where is Bo?" Chrístõ asked, surprised that she had not rushed to greet him.

"They took Li Tuo to the hospital," Cassie explained. "Bo went with him."

"You let Humans put him into an ambulance and take him to one of their hospitals?" The Ambassador looked angry. "How…"

"We had no choice. He was in the street, bleeding, dying on us. There were crowds gathering. Somebody called the police and an ambulance and… Well, at least in the ambulance there weren't dozens of people to see that his blood is a different colour. That was better in a way. But…"

"What hospital?" The Ambassador asked. Cassie told him. "I'll go get him and see what I can do to limit the damage. Chrístõ, you try to find out what this is all about." He turned and strode back to his TARDIS. Chrístõ watched it dematerialise then he took Cassie by the hand and brought her into the house.

He made her lie down on the sofa in Li Tuo's drawing room and as she told him what she knew he listened to the baby's heart and made sure it was in no distress.

"Li Tuo took us to his favourite restaurant for lunch and we were having such a nice time, but when we got back, there were two men waiting. They attacked Li Tuo. They didn't do anything to any of us. They just went for him. They shot him with some kind of dart and he collapsed and then they stabbed him with knives as he lay on the ground. Terry and Sammie and Bo all tried to fight them off but they were stronger than all three of them. Then they ran off. Terry and Sammie followed them…."

"A dart?"

"Some kind of drug. I think it was a neural thing…. Like Epsilon used on you."

"Neural inhibitor." Chrístõ frowned. "That means they KNEW he was a Time Lord."

"Chrístõ, THEY were Time Lords. They spoke to him in Gallifreyan. And he looked so afraid of them. As if he thought they had come to take him away. But they didn't. They just attacked him and left him for dead."

"Why?" he asked, though he didn't expect an answer. "Why would anyone…"

Li Tuo was a Renegade, of course. This might have been a simple assassination attempt. To remove a man who was an embarrassment and a danger to Gallifrey's political system. But why now? Li Tuo had lived peacefully in exile since before he was born. Why should they come now and hurt him?

To get to me? Chrístõ dismissed the thought straight away. Not everything in Gallifreyan politics revolved around him. It seemed like it sometimes. But despite the mission they had sent him on, despite the 'Mark' and his shadowy 'Destiny' that caused others such distress, he was, when all was said and done, just a student, still to graduate, who only became a fully fledged Time Lord eleven years ago. To imagine so many conspiracies revolving around him was a conceit.

Cassie's mobile phone rang. She grasped it up and the relief on her face was clear.

"Terry," she cried. "You and Sammie… Are you all right? Chrístõ is here. He came back to us." She gave him the phone. "He wants to talk to you."

Chrístõ was relieved to hear Terry's voice. He listened carefully as he told him how he and Sammie had chased the two men through Liverpool, on foot until just past the Chinese Arch where they had a car waiting. Chrístõ almost laughed at the description of Terry and Sammie jumping into a taxi and demanding that it 'follow that car'. And of the driver's face when Terry paid him for the fare in diamonds.

"Where are you now?" he asked. Terry told him. "No, don't do anything yet. Just stay put until I get there."

He turned to Cassie. "I don't like the thought of leaving you here," he said. "I don't think they'll be back. They've done their worst here. But…"

"I'll be all right," Cassie assured him. "Please, go help Terry and Sammie. Bring them both back, safe."

He hugged her and promised he would do his best and then he left her there and returned to his TARDIS. He still had her mobile with him. It was not absent-mindedness, simply a short-cut to navigation. The TARDIS could trace the last call and triangulate the exact position Terry was in when he called. He didn't want to waste any more time.

The Ambassador entered the hospital looking like he had a perfect right to be there, with the walk and the manner of a senior consultant as he breezed straight through the waiting room, past triage, and into the emergency department.

"Bo Juan!" he called as he spotted the unhappy looking young woman standing by an empty bed in a treatment bay. A body, covered over with a sheet, was being wheeled away by hospital porters. His hearts both sank.

"Ambassador!" She fell into his arms, crying. "I'm sorry. You're too late. He's dead."

"It takes a lot to kill one of us," he told her. "Are you sure? You've seen Chrístõ in deep meditation. It looks a lot like death."

"No," she sobbed. "He REALLY is dead. The doctors… they used something on him that sent power through his body again and again, but there was nothing. His heart…. His hearts… they're stopped. He IS dead!"

 

Chrístõ stepped out of his TARDIS. It had disguised itself perfectly incongruously in the great container terminal of the Royal Seaforth Docks - as a container. He looked around at what seemed like miles of near identical containers, some stacked four or five high, and took out the sonic screwdriver. He made a mental note of the EXACT co-ordinate where his TARDIS was, in case he needed to find it in a hurry later. Then he set off towards the dock itself, where several huge freight ships were being loaded. The tide was high on the Mersey just before midnight and there was work to be done. But much of it was done by the crane operators. The dock itself was quiet enough for him to be unchallenged.

"Chrístõ!" Terry's voice called out, the last syllable muffled as Sammie put his hand over his mouth and pulled him back down into their hiding place behind the stanchion of one of the great cranes that lifted the containers on and off the ships. Chrístõ darted towards them.

"Hey," he said as he hid himself with them.

"Good to see you, Chrístõ," Sammie told him. "We've got a bit of a situation here."

"Yes, I know," he said. "Where are they? The men you followed."

"They're in there," Terry replied, pointing to a container that was currently being lifted onto the ship that lay alongside. They watched as it was slowly swung out and lowered down onto the deck.

"That's not a container," Chrístõ told them. "It's a TARDIS. They're Time Lords."

"How do you know?" Sammie asked him.

"It has the livery of the Gallifreyan Interstellar Freight Company," Chrístõ told them. "That maroon and white colour. MINE chose the same colour scheme. I think TARDISes can be a bit sentimental at times."

"Why did they kill Li Tuo?" Terry asked. The memory of the knives sinking into the old man's chest and stomach as he lay helpless still burned in his mind.

"I don't know," Chrístõ answered. "But I am going to make them pay." His hand went to his side and his friends saw the glint of a sword in the last rays of the sunset over the river Mersey. "The Challenge of Oldbloods. The only way to settle a matter of honour between Time Lords."

"You're going to FIGHT them? With a sword?" Terry was appalled. So was Sammie.

"You can't be serious. A one on one fight? For one thing, it's NOT one on one. There's two of them." He had expected a covert operation, involving the three of them together. His skills were equal to a Time Lords even if he didn't have their superHuman strength, and Terry had learnt enough in his time with them to be useful. He had been planning ways for them to get on board the ship and take them by surprise. The news that the apparently simple container WAS, in fact, a TARDIS, changed the situation slightly, but he still expected to be a part of the team, and he expected them to work together to defeat these people.

Not for Chrístõ to stand there and challenge them to single combat like this was some matter of honour in the court of King Arthur.

"It is the only way to see honour done. They have struck down a friend of mine. I have to challenge them to the death."

"Yes, but not YOUR death!" Sammie objected.

"Chrístõ, no way," Terry told him. "Listen to me. You may be a Time Lord, and a superior species and all that, but right now, you're NOT thinking in a superior way. You can't do that. Apart from anything else, have you considered it may be what they WANT? I mean, why attack an old man like Li Tuo? Why do it in broad daylight in front of us all? Why make it SO easy for Terry and me to follow them? It's a TRAP, Chrístõ."

"I know it is," he said. "But they KILLED Li Tuo. I can't let that go unchallenged."

"He was our friend, too," Sammie told him. "Bo loved him. Let us help."

 

Bo sobbed uncontrollably. The Ambassador held her gently and tried to calm her before they attracted too much attention. What she had said worried him. The Humans had tried their primitive methods of reviving the clinically dead and pronounced it hopeless. He hoped they hadn't done too much damage in their attempts.

"Precious child," he told her. "Show me the body of Mai Li Tuo."

"They have taken him to the mortuary. They let me stay with him for a few minutes, but they said they need the bed. They moved him out. Oh, but this is no way for a warrior to die. Surrounded by strangers and then taken away like he is no more than a piece of dead meat. He should be honoured in vigil. He should be…"

"If he truly is dead, then he will have all that honour, be assured of that, Bo Juan. My people and yours are at one in that. But let us be sure." He looked around the emergency department and got his bearings, and then he set off towards the mortuary. Bo followed, running to match his purposeful strides. He slowed to allow her to walk at a more dignified pace.

They were challenged twice, but The Ambassador pulled out what Bo recognised as a psychic paper such as she had seen Chrístõ use on some occasions. It identified him as Doctor Kristoph De Leon, senior consultant. Nobody seemed to realise that they didn't HAVE a doctor by that name. Despite the grief that encompassed her, Bo found a fascination in the way The Ambassador so easily mesmerised people into believing who he was.

"I have seen Chrístõ do that, too," she said. "But not so skilfully as you."

"Chrístõ has not had as much experience of what your young man would call 'covert operations'," The Ambassador told her. Mention of Sammie disturbed her even more, though. Her face seemed already as pale as death, but at the thought of the danger her husband might be in she became positively ashen.

"Sammie is the most capable Human I have ever met," he assured her. "I would trust him with MY life. And Chrístõ is here, too. He answered the call for help, as you know he would. He can…" He stopped and looked at Bo again. "Precious child, now your heart is completely torn. You fear for them both. You love my son, still, don't you?"

"Sir…" She began to speak and burst into tears. The Ambassador was one of the few Gallifreyans experienced at dealing with this Human reaction to grief. His dear, late wife had cried often enough. The happiness of their love for each other had been punctuated by deep grief. The effort to prove to him and to the snobs of his world that a weak Human could produce an heir to a noble House of Gallifrey caused her too many tears. It broke his own hearts, too. So did the suggestions of even close friends that he should set aside his Alliance and take a new wife from among his own kind. His dear Marion had cried more often than he would have liked.

And Chrístõ, the source of their joy, had also cried more than he should. He had suffered at the hands of the bullies. His Gallifreyan hearts had been broken too often.

Yes, he understood tears. He understood Human grief. He held the slightly built young woman in his arms as she cried for all the grief in her heart just then - her mourning for Li Tuo, her worry for her husband, and now she fretted for Chrístõ's life and well-being, too.

"I DO love him," she said. "How could I not? Chrístõ is the reason I am alive. I owe him my life. But I love Sammie, too. My husband. And I would not dishonour him."

"No, you would not," The Ambassador assured her. "Bo Juan, do not grieve because you have love enough for two. Sammie is a good man. Your Alliance with him is a good one. Your love for him is true. But you need not be ashamed to love Chrístõ. That is a pure and precious love that so few people ever know. Treasure it in your heart."

"Oh," Bo stopped crying, though the grief was there still.

"We shall talk again of affairs of the heart, precious child. But for now, dry your tears and compose yourself. We must at least appear to be doctor and nurse if my little trick of suggestion is to have a chance of working."

She nodded and smiled at him. He had, at least, eased one burden on her. Too many nights she had lain beside her husband and wondered why her deep love for him could not entirely overcome the love she still had for Chrístõ. But apart from the good Master Li Tuo - a pang stabbed her heart as she thought of him - The Ambassador was the wisest man she knew, and one who shared her love for Chrístõ. If he thought she was doing no dishonour to either by loving both, then she was at ease.

If only BOTH were not in mortal danger, at least.

 

"No," Chrístõ insisted. "I cannot let two Humans fight a Time Lord battle. You should not BE involved. It is not your fight."

"Chrístõ, don't be daft," Terry protested. "It's never been our fight. But that didn't stop us getting stuck in alongside you. It's called friendship."

"It's called comradeship," Sammie said. "We have seen combat together, the three of us. We have stood by you through all kinds of trouble. I fought Epsilon's hired thugs single-handedly when he hurt you so bad we thought you were dying."

"Yes, but this is different," Chrístõ insisted. "This is not a fight for Humans to be in. And I can't argue about it any longer." He turned and broke the cover of the crane stanchion and ran towards a huge capstan set into the ground. It held a rope the thickness of a man's arm that anchored the bow of the great container ship to the dockside.

Sammie and Terry looked in astonishment as Chrístõ leapt up and walked along it as if it was a wide gangway. He didn't even look at his feet as he moved swiftly, apparently not even encumbered by the steepness of the angle between the dock and the ship's bow deck. His friends tried not to look at the dark, oily water that he would fall into if he missed his footing and fell one way, or the concrete that would split even his head open if he fell the other. Their relief when he reached the top was palpable, even though that meant he was now walking into a greater danger, alone.

"I'm going after him," Sammie decided. "I can't walk it like a cat, but hand over hand I should be able to do it."

"Well I CAN'T!" Terry protested.

"I know," Sammie told him. "Look, I'm sorry, Terry. But one of us has to go help him and I'm the only one who really CAN."

"If you both die, Bo will kill you," Terry told him. Sammie grinned at the pathetic joke that was the best either of them could manage in the circumstances and ran to the capstan. His heart was in his mouth. But it WAS something he knew how to do. The angle was insane. Not perpendicular enough simply to climb up, not level enough for a rope walk. It called for completely different skills, and nerves of steel.

Sammie thought he had both.

And he wasn't going to let the Human race down by not being able to follow a Time Lord up a rope.

They reached the mortuary door. The Ambassador squeezed Bo's shoulder gently in reassurance. She composed herself to look like an assistant to a man of authority such as The Ambassador and stepped inside with him.

Her composure was nearly lost again when she saw the pathologist about to cut into the flesh of Master Li Tuo as he lay on the cold mortuary table.

"Stop!" The Ambassador shouted and strode forward. "You cannot perform an autopsy on that man. He belongs to a religious order that forbids the desecration of the body. If you so much as scratch the flesh with that knife you will be looking at a lawsuit."

"But…" the man began to protest. The Ambassador held up a piece of paper that appeared to be official. It said that no autopsy could be performed without applying to a court of law with proof that it was absolutely essential to establish cause of death.

"But this man was murdered," the man said. "We MUST establish cause of death. It is vital."

"Not until you have the paperwork," The Ambassador said. "Now, please go. This body must be prepared in the way proper to his culture. This young lady is here to do that. And she must have peace to do her work."

The pathologist gave up protesting and left them.

"We don't have a lot of time," The Ambassador said. "But it will be time enough. Now, let us see." He stepped towards the table and looked at the still figure lying there. Yes, to Human eyes, to Human medical knowledge he would appear dead. But…

"Old friend," The Ambassador whispered. He put his hand on Li Tuo's left heart, then the right. He smiled grimly as he felt the one systolic beat in an hour of one in deep trance. "You've been grievously hurt, but not so bad as these Humans think."

"He's not dead?" Bo's voice held a shred of hope now as she watched him lift Li Tuo's hand and grip it tightly.

"No, he's not. But he needs my help. He's too far into a chemically induced trance to come out of it by himself."

Bo didn't fully understand what he was saying. But she trusted him.

 

Cassie was startled by a knock at the door. She looked cautiously out and saw the young woman who used to serve in Li Tuo's shop and a group of other people from the neighbourhood. She was relieved but puzzled as she went down to open the door.

"Friend of Master Li," Lily Mae, the young woman bowed to Cassie, who remembered herself and returned the gesture. "This is my husband, Chen, and these are friends of ours who know and respect the good old man, Master Li Tuo. We come to hold vigil and pray for his recovery from the grievous harm done to him by strangers." She indicated the candles and incense that each of them carried.

"Oh!" Cassie was overcome by the gesture. "Oh, please, come in. I do not know what is Li Tuo's condition," she added. "I have not heard from our friends who went to the hospital to see him. But… thank you for your kindness. I'm sorry, I am only new to the customs of your people. But I would be glad not to be here alone at least."

"You are a good friend of Master Li," Chen, Lily Mae's husband said. "He is the oldest of our community, and has the esteem of us all. Be one with us as we do him honour." He reached and took Cassie's hand, and Lily Mae took the other as they climbed the stairs to the drawing room of the house. Cassie WAS glad to have company. She was glad of something else to think of than how near death Li Tuo looked when they took him in the ambulance - and how much danger Terry, Sammie, and now Chrístõ, might be in. She willingly went along with it as the people of Li Tuo's adopted culture laid out their candles and burnt incense and sat in a ring of friendship and reverence for the elder of their community who had been so cruelly hurt and might be dying.

 

"Old friend," The Ambassador said again, but this time telepathically as he reached out to Li Tuo's subconscious mind. "The physical damage is not so bad. Your body is already repairing it. The knives went deep. But I wonder did they mean to kill?"

They had come close, it had to be said. Both of his hearts had been pierced through, one so badly he had needed to stop it completely, and his lungs had been badly damaged. But already most of that was repaired. The problem was the neural inhibitor that kept him in a deep coma.

"We need to remove that poison from your body," The Ambassador told his friend. And he concentrated hard, mentally focussing on the very atoms that made up Li Tuo's body, seeing the chemical that shouldn't be there. He put all his mental energy into forcing it to leave his bloodstream and to bind instead to the water molecules that would be excreted through the skin as perspiration. It was not easy. His head hurt as he put all his mental force into the effort. But slowly, slowly, he pushed the molecules from his friend's body.

Bo, watching with her heart in her mouth, saw the old man's skin take on a strange ash colour momentarily as the poison was expelled. She allowed herself to hope. She had seen Chrístõ do that when he had been poisoned by such drugs.

"There," The Ambassador said. "Your body is clean once more."

"Thank you, my old friend," Li Tuo said to him. "For being here to help me fight one of the few things we cannot fight alone. Neural inhibitors are vile poisons."

"Who knew how to use it?" The Ambassador said again. "They knew a neural inhibitor would disable you. But they must have known that they couldn't kill you with mere knife thrusts."

"They didn't mean to kill me," Li Tuo said. "Only to harm me enough to cause grief to those who care about me."

"We will get to the bottom of it soon," The Ambassador said. "First let us bring you back from the dead. Let us try to do it without giving the Humans here anything to distress them, though." He held his friend's hand tighter than ever and mentally guided him back from the deep level of trance he had been in. It was very much like a diver coming up from the sea bed and taking compression stops along the way. At each level more of Li Tuo's organs began to function as they should. His liver and kidneys began working once more. His lungs took in air. That was the first outward sign that gave Bo reason to suppress a joyful cry that might have alerted the pathologist as he worked in the next bay of the mortuary on a cadaver that had no chance of returning to life. Finally, his two hearts one after the other began to beat strongly and he opened his eyes.

Bo could not contain herself now as the Ambassador helped Li Tuo to sit up on the cold mortuary slab. She hugged him, talking in fast, excited Mandarin.

"Precious child," he said. "I'm sorry you were grieved. But no, I was not dead. The intention was never to kill me. Chrístõ Mian, I was the bait - to draw your son here to Earth - to lure him into the trap."

"No!" Bo's face blanched again as she looked at the two men. "Oh no!"

"Time Lords - Our own kind - are at the bottom of this?" The Ambassador was shocked by that news. Yet, at the same time, not entirely surprised. He was bitterly aware of the divisions among his people that could so easily become murderous treachery of the kind suggested here.

"Yes," he said. "I felt their thoughts as they were stabbing me. They could not do it without touching my body and I felt them. Their hatred of me - the one who challenged the order of things on our world - that was the reason their attack was so fierce. But I saw also that I was only a tool in their plan. It is Chrístõ they want."

"People from your own world want to kill Chrístõ?" Bo looked from his father to Li Tuo as if she could not believe what either were saying. "Why?"

"Why, I shall deal with later," The Ambassador said. "Right now, I have to take care of my son." He passed Li Tuo a surgical coat that was hanging on a hook near the door. "You are weak still. You are not a young man, my friend. And they hurt you bad enough." He looked at Bo. "You must protect Li Tuo and young Cassie. I know for Earth women it is galling to be asked to play the waiting game while the men are in the front line of a fight, but truly, your skills are best employed in that."

"I bow to your wisdom, Ambassador," Bo said. "It is an honour to be of service to you and to Master Li. Let us not waste words and waste time." As Li Tuo stood she let him lean on her, and he did, indeed, need her aid as they walked. He was weak still. Bo knew that it was true - Li Tuo WAS old, even for a Time Lord. His body could not take what a younger man of his own kind could take without consequence.

She felt angry that he should have been so hurt. He was a good man, a kind, generous man, who had been wonderful to her ever since Chrístõ had first brought her to meet him. Her instinct to seek revenge was strong. But so was her instinct to obey The Ambassador's order and protect Li Tuo while he was weak and Cassie, who least of all of them could defend herself if they were attacked again.

"What is going on?" As they reached the door the pathologist challenged them. He started in astonishment at the empty slab and then at Li Tuo, standing between the authoritative looking man and the Chinese girl. "But… that man… he was dead. How…"

"This man IS dead," The Ambassador said and he looked at the man with piercingly hypnotic eyes. "I am taking him to his family so that they can arrange the funeral according to their tradition."

"Yes, of course," the pathologist said. For that moment, with those eyes boring into his soul, the words made absolute sense. "Sorry to have bothered you. Let me get the door…"

"Move quickly," The Ambassador said to them as they stepped out into the corridor. "That trick won't last long. In a few minutes he will replay that conversation in his head and realise how absurd it was. And somebody will come running."

They were through two sets of doors and up a flight of stairs before the hypnotic influence wore off and the pathologist realised he had a missing body. By the time he had sorted out what he thought had happened - the dead man walking out of the mortuary with his friends - from what he BELIEVED must have happened - that somebody knocked him on the head before stealing the body - they were well away.

They reached the front of the hospital. They could hear running feet behind them and raised voices as the hospital security swung into action. But it was only a few steps to where The Ambassador's TARDIS was waiting, disguised as a private ambulance in the parking bay. By the time security reached the bay it had dematerialised. When they looked, later, at the CCTV tapes to try to see if the body-snatchers had come by the front entrance they found a whole hour of the tape, the time in which a parking space had been taken up by a vehicle nobody saw arrive or depart, was corrupted and unplayable. Later still, when the manager of the emergency department looked for the medical records of the dead man to try to inform his relatives that his body was missing, he could find neither the paperwork, nor any computer record of his ever having been brought to the hospital.

The manager considered they had a lucky escape. He didn't want word getting around that bodies could be stolen from the hospital.

 

Terry watched nervously as Sammie followed Chrístõ's lead, slower, to be sure, using a hand over hand crawl up the rope, but already passing the point of no return where he was safer and quicker to go on than to try to come back.

Though nothing would induce him to try to copy either of them, Terry felt more useless than he ever had in a situation where Sammie and Chrístõ both had advantages over an ordinary Human civilian. He wanted to help them both. But what could he do? He looked about. Across the great dock basin it was getting dark, but here, where work was going on to get this ship ready to sail on the tide, it was bright with strong overhead lights. The only reason neither had been spotted climbing the rope, Terry thought, was that nobody expected to look and see anyone climbing them.

The Ambassador's TARDIS again parked itself in the garden disguised as a pagoda. As he stepped out he noted that Chrístõ's ship was not there. He hardly expected it to be. Chrístõ would have gone to help the others. It did not help Bo's fears, knowing both the men she loved were putting themselves in danger. He was anxious himself, knowing what Li Tuo had told him. Chrístõ was almost certainly walking into a trap. Which was why HIS work was only just beginning.

When Bo and Li Tuo walked into the drawing room there was a collective gasp of astonishment from the crowd of friends. Li Tuo saw at once what they were doing and smiled.

"My friends, your vigil and your prayers have been rewarded. I am well. Let us now give thanks together and keep vigil instead for my other friends who have gone to avenge the hurt done to me and need our thoughts and hopes. He took Bo's hand and made her sit beside Cassie. He turned to The Ambassador.

"You have been a peacemaker for two and a half centuries now," Li Tuo said. "Your thoughts now grieve me. Shall a peacemaker take up the sword again so readily?"

"My son's life, and perhaps the peace of our world, are at stake," The Ambassador said. "I do what I must do."

"Do it swiftly then, as you used to do it."

The Ambassador nodded. He wasn’t happy to return to the shadows. He had walked in the light and brought that light to those whose lives were in shadow since before he had found his Lady Marion. She had known of his former work but preferred to be the wife of Ambassador de Lœngbærrow, the peacemaker. Chrístõ had never had an inkling that he was anything but a man of peace who abhorred violence and instilled into him that it should be used only when absolutely necessary.

But right now it WAS absolutely necessary.

 

Chrístõ walked boldly towards the TARDIS. It was a trap. Of course it was. Terry saw it better than he had. If they had meant to assassinate Li Tuo they would have done their foul deed and then gone straight away. There was no doubt that it was done to bring him back to Earth and force a confrontation.

Why? That he meant to ask them.

"Chrístõ, look out!" Sammie's voice startled him, but it also alerted him to the danger. He turned his head and saw the man raise what he recognised as a neural dart gun. But at Sammie's shout he had turned the weapon towards his friend. Neural inhibiting drugs paralysed Time Lords and put them into comas from which they could not wake. But the same drug in the Human bloodstream was deadly. He had no time to think. He folded time and plucked the dart from the air. Before he let the time fold collapse he turned and rolled, and stood up in front of his opponent, his sword at the ready. He had the advantage of surprise for no more than a second, though. The man drew his own sword and it became a match of equals. This was a Time Lord trained in the same arts of fighting as he was, with a strength equal to his.

"Who are you?" Chrístõ demanded as he gained the upper hand momentarily. "What do you want of me and my friends?"

"I want you to DIE!" the Time Lord replied. "Half-blood scum."

"It's about THAT?" Chrístõ was stunned. "It's about that ridiculous issue of blood! I am sick and tired of having that thrown in my face. When will you pure blood fanatics learn that I am as good a Gallifreyan as you are!" He thrust angrily at the man as he said that, his sword grazing his face and drawing blood.

Terry heard the sounds of struggle even from below. He wasn't the only one. Dock workers were running towards the gangway and there were shouts from the ship's bridge.

"No!" Terry was startled as The Ambassador ran past him shouting and holding out his psychic paper. "Everyone get away from there. Evacuate the ship. Get away from this dock." Somebody asked why. Somebody else said the word 'bomb' even though The Ambassador had given no reason at all. The urgency of his voice told them that there was SOMETHING and paranoia did the rest. As Terry caught up with him they had to fight their way up the gangway past those who were struggling to get down it in a hurry.

"You have that power of suggestion thing down to a fine art," he told him.

"We don't want anyone else to get hurt." The Ambassador said. "Chrístõ… did he issue the Oldblood Challenge?"

"He said he was going to."

"He's too impulsive for his own good. That's exactly what they want. To lure him in and kill him."

They both ran the length of the container deck to where the fight between Chrístõ and the would be assassin was becoming rougher and nastier by the moment. Neither were using any particular fighting skill. They were just trying to hurt each other as grievously as possible. They were both bruised and bleeding from having cut each other more than once, but neither was giving an inch.

The sound of a TARDIS dematerialisation startled two of the three bystanders - Terry and Sammie. The Ambassador, though, just looked around as the container in the livery of Gallifrey's merchant fleet failed to dematerialise.

"There are three TARDISes here in this area. Mine, Chrístõ's and this one. It wasn't difficult to override the protocols and anchor them to each other. It can't take off until we do."

"There's another man inside," Sammie told him.

"I'll deal with him," The Ambassador said. "Sammie… Challenge of the Oldbloods is fine when we're dealing with a matter of honour. This is a matter of treachery. Help my son, please."

Sammie didn't need to be told twice. He had only held off because Chrístõ insisted. But his father overruled him. Sammie stepped forward, ready to take the man from behind and give Chrístõ the advantage. As he did so Chrístõ lunged at his opponent and he stepped backwards to avoid being skewered through the neck. But they had fought themselves to the very bow of the ship and as Chrístõ threw himself bodily at him they both pitched over the rail. They both yelled as they plunged into the dark, deep waters of Royal Seaforth Dock basin. Sammie went as if to jump in after him, but suddenly Chrístõ's father was there, pulling him back.

"No," he said. "You'll kill yourself. Take Terry back to the dockside and try to spot them when they surface."

"Yes, sir," Sammie answered and he turned and ran, Terry following him. The Ambassador turned and looked at the disguised TARDIS then he stepped up to the door. It opened. As well as slaving this TARDIS to his and Chrístõ's he had overridden the locking mechanism. It saved a lot of trouble.

 

Chrístõ closed off his breathing as he hit the water. So did his opponent. They had both lost their swords, but they carried on fighting as they went under the dark, cold, oily water, wrestling and struggling to break each other's limbs.

And then Chrístõ felt the body he was grappling with go limp, and the water around him was clouded with blood. For a moment he didn’t know what had happened, until he saw the fluke of the ship’s anchor buried in the back of his opponent’s head. The words “medulla oblongata” floated into Chrístõ’s mind from his medical studies. The part of the brain that regulated breathing, among other things.

He wrenched the body off the anchor and as he began to rise back up through the water again due to natural buoyancy, he pulled it along with him. When he broke the surface he swam with the body. He knew there were steps down to the water somewhere along the high dock wall. He aimed for them, aware that Sammie and Terry were running along the top towards the same point.

"Is he dead?" Terry asked as Chrístõ pushed the body in front of him and told his friends to grab hold.

"Yes," Chrístõ said as they hauled him out of the water. "Yes, very dead. But I couldn't just leave him down there."

"I would have," Terry told him. "Can't he regenerate?"

"Brain dead," Chrístõ said. "Time Lords can't regenerate if the brain is gone." He shivered as he climbed to the top of the steps and laid the dead man on the ground. "I don't even know WHO he is. A Time Lord, yes. But of what House? And WHY is he here?"

 

The Ambassador knew why they were here. The other man had blanched with fear as he stepped into the TARDIS. He fought, it is true, briefly before he was subdued. And The Ambassador held him down as he reached into his mind and read his memories of being commissioned by a hooded man who stayed in shadow to arrange the death of the half-blood who had the sympathy and support of the majority of the High Council.

"I don't know WHO he is," the man protested. "He always kept his face hidden."

"I know who he is," The Ambassador said. "His face his hidden, but I know the voice. He will be dealt with. This treachery will shock many, but it will be exposed. Meanwhile…" His face hardened as he looked down on the man who had been sent to kill his son for political expediency. "Do you know who I am?"

"You are the Ambassador, you are the Lord Patriarch of the House of Lœngbærrow."

"Yes," he said. "And it was my son you came here to kill."

"The half-blood abomination."

"The Time Lord who bears the Mark of Rassilon and is destined to be the greatest of us all," the Ambassador said. "And that destiny he shall have, despite the plots and machinations of such as you." He paused and watched the man carefully. He was one of the Newblood houses, but he was not sure which one. It did not signify.

"I taught my son that all life is precious. That to take life is the gravest thing a man can do and even when there is justification for it he should think twice before such an irreversible act. He learnt that lesson well. He is a good soul. But he little knows why I taught him that. It is because I wished him to walk a different path than the one I walked. What did you say you know me as?"

"The Ambassador…."

"Yes. I have been known as that for two and a half centuries now. Diplomat, negotiator, bringer of peace. But before then, I was something quite different. I was the Celestial Intervention Agency's most hardened assassin. I travelled the universe in search of rogue Time Lords who would cause harm to our world or to other worlds, who might unravel space and time and devastate the universe. And I had one remit. It went with the name I had then. I was known as The Executioner."

"What!" The man stared. Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow senior raised his sword.

"The thing about the Agency," he said. "You can retire, you can begin a new life, walk a different path, but you are still bound by its code. You still belong to them. I am STILL The Executioner." And he brought down his sword swiftly.

Afterwards he cleaned his sword and put it back in the scabbard by his side. He turned and walked away.

 

"Father!" Chrístõ's voice was what sent The Executioner back deep into his soul and allowed The Ambassador to return to the surface. He ran to his son, embracing him despite how cold and wet with dirty dock-water he was. He saw the body of the other man lying on the ground.

"Sammie," he said. "Take that body and put it with the other one in the TARDIS and close the door."

"The other man is dead?" Terry asked as Sammie did as he was told.

"Yes," The Ambassador said, and no more. He took Chrístõ to his TARDIS while Sammie did that gruesome duty.

 

At Li Tuo's house there was another emotional reunion. Chrístõ especially was relieved to discover that his friend was alive. His father watched him hugging the old man and smiled. He turned away. He had work to do yet.

Sammie followed The Ambassador to his TARDIS. There was something he needed to know.

"What are you doing?" he asked as he stepped into The Ambassador's TARDIS and watched him performing some very complicated operation at the drive controls.

"Disposing of the two bodies and their TARDIS. We can't leave either lying around on Earth. I've remotely set it to jump forward nearly five billion years to the day when this planet is finally engulfed in the supernova of your sun. Nothing will remain but a few fragments of debris."

"Ok." Sammie nodded, then he came to a point that was bothering him. "Chrístõ's rage against the man he fought came from believing he was acting in revenge for Li Tuo's death. That's a bad reason to fight somebody. He was angry and emotional and it made him reckless. And I think if the man hadn't been killed accidentally Chrístõ WOULD have murdered him. Which would not have been a good thing on his conscience."

"Chrístõ realises that, now," The Ambassador said. "A lesson learnt less painfully than it might have been. He WASN'T responsible for the death, and Li Tuo is not dead. There is nothing to trouble his hearts. And he knows now that he must guard against his most impulsive instincts."

"Yes, put that way…" But Sammie had another point to make. "But, sir…. YOU knew that Li Tuo was alive. Your motive for killing the other man was not revenge."

"When I return to Gallifrey I must flush out a traitor whose name is known to me now," The Ambassador told him. "He holds high position in our government but he opposes that government and means to overthrow it. The man I disposed of is also a traitor. A less important one, merely a hired gun, but a traitor nonetheless, working to cause harm to our society. He meant to do that by murdering my son. If I was a vengeful man I might have made him suffer for that before I killed him. His execution was quick and clean. You of all of my son's companions understand the need for such actions from time to time."

"Yes," Sammie said. "I understand. But… Chrístõ doesn't know that you are a professional assassin?"

"There is much that Chrístõ does not know of my life before he was born."

"Best if it stays that way, then," Sammie observed.

"Indeed," The Ambassador said.