Chrístõ was worried. Worried for two reasons. First of all Natalie. She had good days and bad days like anyone else with the sort of illness she was suffering. And today was one of the bad days when the best he could do was tuck her up in bed in the medical room and administer sedatives and tender loving care.

And in the middle of doing that he had a videophone message from the Chancellor of the High Council.

“Sir,” Chrístõ stood to attention as he addressed him. Chancellor Remonte was his uncle, his father’s brother, but this was no family occasion. He was sitting in the Chancellor’s office with the great Seal of Rassilon behind his back. This was business.

“Chrístõ,” Remonte began. “I apologise for the abruptness of this, but it is necessary. Do you know anything about the planet of Ariclia Castria in the Gemini sector?”

“No,” he answered. “Should I?” He keyed in the name on his database and found no more than five lines about the topography and the classification of the people as feudal-technological humanoids who had made first contact and had space travel capability but rarely used it as they were an isolationist society who shunned alien society.

“We have an agent missing on that planet.”

“An ‘agent’?”

“You are not the only Gallifreyan who occasionally does work for the High Council. We have been concerned that Ariclia is developing time travel technology. We sent an undercover agent to report on whether they are likely to succeed, and whether we should encourage or discourage them.”

“And he is missing?” Chrístõ noted that fact dispassionately. “You want me to go and look for him.”


“Who is the agent?”

“Paracell Hext,” he answered and frowned as Chrístõ laughed hollowly and with just too much Schadenfreude in the cadence.

“You want ME, the half blood, to go and rescue the great Paracell Hext, Summa Cum Laude of the class of 245FO? The one who led the ‘Pure Prydonian Movement’ to expel all half-bloods and Caretakers from the Academy? The one whose friends held me down while he carved a brand into my neck. The one who received no punishment for that act of cowardly bullying even though the whole Academy, staff and students, knew that he did it?”

“Chrístõ…” Remonte sighed. “Whatever your feelings for him, he is still a Gallifreyan, a Time Lord, who is in possibly hostile territory. And you are the only agent available with enough offworld experience.”

“I am NOT an AGENT of the Gallifreyan government. I am a civilian, and an under age civilian at THAT.”

“My apologies, Chrístõ,” his uncle answered. “Your experience outweighs your youth in the minds of those of the council who hold your name in high regard.”

“And the rest hope that I’ll bite off more than I can chew one day and what’s left of me gets posted back to my father in a very small casket.”

Remonte opened his mouth to reply to that, but there was no answer he could give that wouldn’t be a lie. Chrístõ DID stand highly in the eyes of many High Council members. The more so since his part in the battle against the disgraced Lord Ravenswode’s clone army. But there were still those whose prejudices were so ingrained they made Ravenswode seem a reasonable man. They even muttered against HIS appointment as Chancellor because he was uncle to the notorious Half Blood. Yes, they would be pleased to see Chrístõ fail. But it was not they who had thought of sending for him when they knew that Hext was in trouble.

“This was your idea, uncle?” Chrístõ couldn’t read his mind over videophone. The frequency interfered with the telepathic signal. But he could read his face almost as easily.

“You are the best man for the job, Chrístõ. If you can set your own prejudices aside, that is.”

“MY prejudices?” Chrístõ was scathing in his response. “As I said, I am NOT an agent of the government. I am a free Gallifreyan who owes no more allegiance than any other citizen. No. I have enough to do. Let somebody else rescue your golden boy from the alien hordes.”

“That was a very childish response,” Remonte answered him. “As well as bordering on disrespectful to me as your uncle AND as Chancellor.”

Chrístõ replied with a low Gallifreyan curse that WAS, without doubt, disrespectful to Remonte de Lœngbærrow in every way.

He turned off the videophone and stepped away from the console. As he did so, he was aware of a bleeping sound at the navigation panel. He looked and found a co-ordinate being fed into it. He felt the engines change pitch as his TARDIS changed course. When he returned to his communications console there was a text message from Chancellor Remonte telling him that this was the source of the sub-space distress signal sent by Paracell Hext before all contact was lost with him.

That was why Remonte was Chancellor, Chrístõ noted with a touch of bitterness. He KNEW people. He knew that, angry as he was, he would have accepted the task eventually.

Remonte knew that he would not have answered another videophone call from him, though. And that in ignoring it he would be invoking a reprimand on himself for insubordination.

This way, both of them saved a little bit of embarrassment.

“I don’t know what to expect in this place,” he told Julia and Natalie. “So I am going to lock the door when I go out and initiate the alarm.”

“It’s dangerous, isn’t it?” Julia said.

“Danger is my middle name,” he answered.

“No it isn’t. It’s….” He smiled as her lips moved silently, working out the syllables of his name. “It’s Dracœfire. Which has something to do with dragons.”

“One of my ancestors allegedly fought one,” he said with a smile. “And with ancestors like that I can hardly baulk at a little danger. So you take care of Natalie for today. I will try not to be too long about this.”

Julia clung to him tightly. “I’m scared, Chrístõ. If you go out there, I might never see you again.”

“Julia…” She was not one given to irrational fears. She had been along with him in plenty of difficult and frightening situations.

The trouble was, he didn’t have any reassurance to give her. This WAS an unknown and incalculable danger.

“I wouldn’t mind so much if I was with you,” she told him. “It’s having to wait.”

“I know. But I DO need you to look after Natalie. She shouldn’t be left alone. So, kiss me now and let me go and do my work.” He enclosed her in his arms and she kissed him lovingly. Natalie reached out from her bed to be hugged by him, too. And Humphrey gave him the boggart equivalent of a cuddle before he turned and left the medical room. He checked the environmental console before stepping out of the TARDIS. It told him that he was in a small industrial town with a population of some 3,000.

What it didn’t tell him was that the population all suffered a common affliction.

He stood by the door of his TARDIS. It had disguised itself as a disused shop front. On the door, instead of the usual , were a series of raised indentations.

It was a moment before he realised they were BRAILLE for Theta Sigma.

Because everyone on this planet was BLIND.

He watched the people on the streets. Every single one of them had eyes that were blank and unseeing. They didn’t even seem to blink very often.

There were no cars, of course. Everyone walked. They all walked the same direction in long crocodiles, reaching ahead to hold the shoulder of the man or woman in front. The one in front had a sort of short stick that Chrístõ assumed was a sensor that told him where to walk. They didn’t talk much. They stepped along as if they had somewhere they needed to go. Work, he guessed, since they all wore a sort of grey, workaday overall.

A world where everyone was blind.


Was there some sort of accident? Was it genetic?

He glanced at his wristheld lifesigns monitor. The DNA of the indigenous species showed up as off-white blips, moving in a steady stream. The dark blue blip that had to be Paracell Hext wasn’t moving. It was somewhere near here. But it wasn’t moving.

There was a crocodile of blind Ariclians blocking his way. He had to wait until they were clear before he could dart across the road. It occurred to him as he did so that it WAS a road. Once, surely, the Ariclians DID have sight and had vehicles that went on those roads.

There was an alleyway between two buildings with Braille signs at hand level proclaiming them as a grocery shop and a bakery. Neither, he noticed, had any produce in the windows. There was no call for window dressing in a world of blind people. But he had a feeling there wasn’t a lot for sale inside either.

“Who’s there?” a weak voice called. “Leave me to die in peace. You’ve done your worst to me.”

The voice was speaking in Gallifreyan. He was obviously delirious and forgetting that he was supposed to speak the local language.

“Hext?” Chrístõ called to him. It had to be him. Who else would it be? He stepped forward warily and moved aside a pile of cardboard boxes with the name of the baker in Braille upon them.

He let out an astonished and rather repulsed cry as he saw the battered figure, dressed in nothing but a pair of grey trousers.

It was all he could do not to scream out loud when the face turned towards the sound of his voice. Empty, raw, bleeding eye sockets stared blindly at him.

“Who is that? How do you know my name?”

Chrístõ looked at him for a long moment and remembered bitterly the way this man had tortured him when he was little more than a boy. He wondered briefly how hard he could hit him with any of the pieces of rubble and debris around this alleyway. The urge to take revenge on this man when he was helpless rose up in his gut like bile.

“No,” a voice that seemed to come from his own soul told him. “No. That is not our way.”

“Master Li Tuo,” Chrístõ whispered. “It is you…” He knew it was. He had occasionally argued with his own conscience and it could seem a real entity within him. But this felt different. He felt another will entirely lending its strength to his as he battled with that desire for revenge.

And he was right. To hurt somebody as vulnerable as that would be shameful. A momentary gratification he would rue long afterwards.

“You sent a distress signal,” Chrístõ told him. “I came to help you.”

“You’re… you’re from Gallifrey…”

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered as he examined him carefully. “Can you stand? What happened to you? Why haven’t your wounds repaired? You’re a Time Lord. Why hasn’t your body mended?”

“They used something on me. A drug. It increased the pain when they tortured me and it inhibited my regenerative cells. I can’t…” Chrístõ tried to lift him to his feet, but he screamed in agony. “My leg… it’s broken.”

“So I see,” Chrístõ noted. “You don’t handle pain very well. Don’t you remember what we learnt from the Monks of Malvoria about living through pain. Concentrate on pushing through the pain barrier.”

“I can’t,” he moaned. Chrístõ noted the defeatist tone in his voice. The Brotherhood on Mount Lœng would not tolerate that for a second. He remembered hours of meditation as punishment for using the phrase “I can’t” in their presence.

He WAS badly injured. He understood that. He had never seen a Time Lord with that many injuries. That drug which inhibited his natural regenerative capability sounded dangerous. He wondered was it a side effect of the pain enhancing or a deliberate attack on a Time Lord’s abilities.

“Stop moaning,” he snapped at Hext. “I’m doing my best for you.”

Actually, he wasn’t. If he wanted he could have helped him to withstand the pain. He could have hypnotised him or drawn the pain off for him. But even if it was a mean-minded and ungracious thought, even though it went against that Hippocratic oath he never got around to taking, he felt that Paracell Hext deserved to suffer a little more just yet.

At least as long as he had when Hext and his friends hurt him.

He wasn’t a Time Lord then. He was a tyro in his first decade at the Academy. Hardly more than a child. And yes, he had cried. What they did to him hurt. And he had been scared, too. Because he was sure they meant to kill him when they were done.

Lucky for Hext he didn’t, Chrístõ thought with a certain satisfaction.

“Where is your TARDIS?” he asked. “Is it near here?”

“She has it, the Queen, the leader of the people here,” he groaned. “She took it. They tortured me for the secret of how it worked.”

“And you told them?”

“They gouged out my EYES!” he protested. “I just wanted them to STOP.”

“You gave away Time Lord secrets? That’s TREASON.” Chrístõ sighed deeply. “Ok, you’ll have to walk to my TARDIS. It's not far, but for you, moaning all the way, it’s going to seem like it.”

They had to wait for another crocodile of blind workers passing by. He looked across the road to his TARDIS and decided he didn’t want to waste any more time. He lifted Hext over his shoulder like a sack and ran. He didn’t stop until he reached the console room.

There he put him down on the floor and examined him again. His eye sockets were bleeding. He looked WORSE than before.

“I think you’re dying,” Chrístõ told him. “Considering that your career is over when this gets back to the High Council,maybe you’re better off.”

“Who ARE you?” Hext asked as Chrístõ put a bandage from the first aid kit around his eyes. “Did the High Council send you?”

“Yes, they did,” he answered. He ignored the first question and Hext was in no position to press it. “Ok, I’m going to get you to a bed.”

He lifted him upright again and walked with him to the medical room.

“Oh my!” Julia gasped as he laid Hext on the examination table. “Who is he?”

“He is the man I was sent to rescue. He is very badly injured but not as bad as he is making out. He’s a bit of a cry baby. Can you make sure he doesn’t fall off the table while I take a blood sample and start to find out how to help him?”

Another kick in Hext’s ego, Chrístõ thought. Being looked after by a twelve year old Human girl.

Julia wondered about the cold note in Chrístõ’s voice. He was usually much kinder to sick people.

“Ok,” he said after he had examined Hext’s blood carefully. “I’ve identified the drug. I’m going to move you to a more comfortable bed then I’ll set up a drip with a counter-agent. Your body will start to recover in a few hours. The eyes will take much longer though. Maybe as much as a month. Eyes are tricky.”

“You said I was dying,” Hext responded as Chrístõ lifted him from the table. He reached out blindly and held him by the back of the neck as he carried him effortlessly to a bed beside where Natalie lay and set up the drip into his arm.

“Well, you’re not now. Just lie down and be quiet. I’ve got another patient to look after.”

He turned and went to look at Natalie. She was waking up from a sleep and looked a little better than she did.

“You’re not getting out of bed for a bit, either. But that’s ok, because we’re here to look after you.” He kissed her on the cheek and then returned to his more urgent patient. He unfastened the bandage over his eyes. He heard Julia gasp in horror as she saw him.

“That’s horrible! Why did they do that to him?”

“To get him to betray the secrets of time travel,” Chrístõ answered with an angry note in his voice. “You were sent here to find out what experiments the Ariclians were doing with time travel, and whether it was anything that would conflict with our Laws of Time. And you handed them the whole secret of OUR time travel.”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

“So you bloody well should be. Especially since I have to sort the mess out.”

“I thought you just had to rescue him,” Julia said. “Can’t we go now?”

“No. I have to rescue his TARDIS, too. And I need to finish his job, making sure the people who would do this sort of torture aren’t allowed to develop time travel and the power over other beings that affords.”

“It’s not ALL the Ariclians,” Hext told him. “The ordinary ones, the ones in the street, they’re just workers. They do as they’re told. It’s the Queen, and her guards. They’re the problem.”

“Ok,” Chrístõ said. “So I need to free a people from slavery, too. All in a day’s work.

“Chrístõ, be careful,” Julia told him. “I don’t want you to….” She glanced at Hext’s sightless eye-sockets and shuddered as she thought of Chrístõ subjected to such barbarism.

“I WILL be,” he assured her. “You’re head nurse again, Julia. Watch him. If Natalie feels up to it, you can read her your literature essay. We’ll try to keep up your education as WELL as running a field hospital.”

“Are you going out again, Chrístõ?” she asked him.

“Not yet,” he answered. “I’m just going to check some things in the console room and report in to the Chancellor, seeing as he was so anxious about this one’s whereabouts.”

“Why doesn’t he like you?” Julia asked the patient after he left the room. “Even if you have done something really stupid, he is not usually like that… cold and mean.”

“Who is he?” Hext asked. “I keep thinking that I know him. but…. He IS a Time Lord? One of ours?”

“Yes, he is,” Julia answered. “A very wonderful one. You should be glad to be alive. You wouldn’t be without him.”

“I DO know him,” he said. “I just don’t know why.”

“If you’re not in any pain now you should sleep. You might be better when you wake up. Chrístõ says your eyes will grow back eventually.”


“Go to sleep,” Julia insisted. “If you’re really lucky, he will have sorted out all your other problems by the time you wake up.”

When he returned Chrístõ watched for a while, unnoticed by Julia. She seemed to have taken to the Head Nurse role very well. Hext lay still and Chrístõ felt him slip into, not sleep as such, but a low level meditative trance that WOULD help his body to recharge and mend. He stepped towards the bed and looked at him closely.

“It’s working already. But his eyes ARE going to take a long time. Until he can see he will have to rely on other resources unless he wants to remain helpless.”

“Why do you hate him?”

“Long story, not one I want to talk about,” he answered. “Julia, come with me. There’s something I have to do. It might seem a little strange, even a little horrible. But I have my reasons.”

She followed him through to the console room. He looked at the viewscreen and noted that a crocodile of blind workers was passing in front of the disguised TARDIS. He opened the door and he and Julia watched them walk silently past. Then as the last one drew level he reached out and grabbed the man, pulling him into the TARDIS as Julia slammed the door shut again.

The man screamed in terror, of course. Chrístõ held him firmly but gently. He didn’t want to hurt him. He put his hand on his forehead and radiated calming thoughts. It only partially worked. The man seemed to think he had been taken by some kind of punishment squad.

“Please, don’t hurt me,” he begged. “I haven’t done any wrong. I work hard. Please…”

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Chrístõ promised. “I’m not who you think I am. And I mean you no harm. But I want to look at your eyes. Please come with me.”

He lifted the man to his feet and guided him to the medical room. This was the most people he had ever treated in it, he thought with a wry smile. He recalled looking after Cassie during her pregnancy. He remembered when Sammie was his patient. He remembered with a shudder when he, himself, had been a patient, and the many times recently that he had looked after Natalie’s needs.

“Sit down,” he said gently to the man, pressing him into a chair. “Can you tell me your name?”

“Worker J-564,” he replied. “I am obedient. I do no wrong. I work hard. Please don’t let Savine hurt me…”

“Savine, whoever that is, has nothing to do with this. I’m here to help you.” Chrístõ adjusted the sonic screwdriver and used it to examine the man’s eyes. He was astonished by what he found. “Your blindness… it’s chemically induced.”

“It’s what?” Julia looked at the man’s blank eyes and then at Chrístõ as he continued to examine the man, finding him in good health apart from being a little malnourished. He sent Julia to bring food for all of them and as the man ate, gratefully, he explained his findings.

“The reason why you cannot see is not natural. It is something introduced into your body. Something that should not be there. And by the same token, something that can be removed. It is not dissimilar to the pain enhancer that was given to my friend there when he was tortured.”

“I am a worker,” J-564 answered him. “Workers are not permitted to see. We do Savine’s will and we are rewarded with life, food, shelter.”

“You have never been able to see?” Chrístõ asked.

“Once, yes,” he answered. “Before Savine brought the curse upon us. Now… I am a worker… I do what I can. I stay alive.”

“Chrístõ….” He was startled to hear Hext’s voice and turned around to him. “If you’re thinking of giving him his sight… Don’t. It would do him no good. Savine would only punish him. Workers are not allowed to see.”

“We can’t allow that to go on,” Chrístõ answered. “It’s barbaric.”

“It’s nothing to do with us. My job was to find out what the Ariclians knew about time travel. Yours is to get me and my TARDIS OUT of the mess that… yes, all right, the mess I made of it. The PEOPLE here are NOT our problem.”

“They ARE,” Julia protested. “They have to be.”

“You are NOT a Time Lord,” Hext answered her. “I’m not sure why you are here at all, in a TARDIS. But this is no concern of yours. Interference in the affairs of alien races is against the Laws of Time.”

“Except when they are about to discover the secret of time travel and may become a rival for the power we have held a monopoly over for millennia,” Chrístõ noted with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “They considered THAT worth interfering with. But they are happy to let people live under tyranny.”

“Now I know who you are,” Hext said. “You’re the half-blood heir of Lœngbærrow. I remember your oral presentation for your ethics examination. You argued against our laws of non-interference. Your ideas were so ridiculously radical. You would have failed the examination, but your tutors thought you were deliberately putting the opposition viewpoint in order to emphasise WHY we have those laws. They rewarded you for being innovative in your presentation. I was never sure. The PASSION that you put into the argument. I knew you weren’t just acting. You really BELIEVED our laws should be changed.”

“And so they SHOULD,” Chrístõ responded. He turned back to Worker J-564, whose immediate issues had been forgotten by both Time Lords as they debated theoretical ethics.

“I can make you see,” Chrístõ said. “I can free you from this terrible thing which has been done to you. Or I can… I can wipe your memory of being brought here, and take you back to the moment I grabbed you from the line, and you need never know anything about it.”

“Do you mean to fight Savine?” J-564 asked him.

“No,” Hext answered.

“Yes,” Chrístõ contradicted him. “I contacted the Chancellor while you were sleeping. He told me that this is MY mission now. And he told me to take any steps I deem appropriate to repair the damage you caused. Because it really IS your fault.”

“How is it my fault?”

“You were sent to investigate the Ariclian development of time travel. But they DIDN’T HAVE any time travel research until YOU let your TARDIS fall into their hands. You came back too far into Ariclian history and TRIGGERED that development. Now it has to be stopped. And it is not enough to get your TARDIS back. We have to ensure that the information they already have is of no use. A popular revolt of the people will halt the research. I intend to find a way to give ALL the people their sight back. Then they can overthrow Savine and end this.”

“The Chancellor agreed to all of that?” Hext demanded.

“No,” Chrístõ responded. “As I said, he told me to take any steps I deemed appropriate. Those are the steps I intend to take. But not yet. I’m not going to be on my own this time. You will be fit for action in a few hours. We will work together. That is to say you will follow my command as I take those appropriate steps.” Again he turned back to Worker J-564. “You’ve heard all of that. You know what is at stake. How do you feel about playing your part in it?”

“If you can give me my sight,” he said. “I will be your servant my life long.”

“That is the point,” Chrístõ answered him. “When I restore your sight you need never be anyone’s servant.” He called Julia to his side and with her help he set up another drip with a drug in it that would counter the one in J-564’s bloodstream.

“How long will it take?” she asked. “When will he see?”

“In a few hours. He’s luckier than Hext.”

He set up a makeshift third bed for J-564 and made him rest. He himself sat on a chair between his three patients. He tended to Natalie when she needed him. He checked on J-564. He examined Hext from time to time to ensure that he was recovering. He was. The inhibiting drug was cleaned from his blood now and his broken leg and his other injuries were repaired. His eye sockets were no longer bleeding. They just looked empty.

“How do you intend for me to help you?” Hext asked. It was the first time he had spoken in an hour. “I can’t see.”

“Neither can most of the people here on this planet, and they do fine,” Chrístõ answered. “But you have a lot of face to save. The High Council are rather disappointed with you, Hext. If I can report that you at least did your duty here it might redeem you a little. Not that I care about YOUR reputation. But since you have some experience of this place already, you can help me.”

“Chrístõ…” Hext’s voice was strange when he spoke again. “Your speech… I thought it was a good one. I’m not sure I really agree with you. But I thought it was impressive. I’m not surprised you did well at the Academy.”

“No thanks to the likes of you,” he answered.

“No,” Hext agreed and sighed. Then he did something unexpected. He reached out his arm and found Chrístõ’s shoulder. His hand moved up towards his neck, feeling with his fingers. Chrístõ knew what he was looking for. He flinched as he felt Hext’s hand find the scar hidden beneath his shirt collar. But he didn’t stop him.

“So you remember that too,” Chrístõ said coldly. “The FIRST time we met.”

“It was a stupid, shameful, cowardly thing to do.”

“Yes, it was,” Chrístõ answered, moving his hand away.

“I was showing off to my friends. I never would have done such a thing otherwise. I still believed half-bloods had no place in the academy. But to attack you was shameful and unworthy of a Gallifreyan. It was dishonourable.”

“Yes, it was.”

“If it’s any consolation to you, my father had our manservant whip me for an hour when he found out.”

“No, it isn’t,” Chrístõ replied. “Violence leading to more violence. That’s what causes so many problems in this universe.”

Deep within him he felt the spirit of Li Tuo smile at that answer. It was the right one.

“Then… will you forgive me, Chrístõ?” he said.

“No,” Chrístõ answered. “I will never forgive you. I am prepared to set it aside for the sake of the more important mission we have before us. But don’t imagine such a thing can be forgiven or forgotten. Your excuse for doing it only proves that you are weak-minded and easily led. To say nothing of cowardly. And I need hardly add that your actions here on Aricula have not helped redeem you in that respect.”

He felt this time that it WASN’T the answer Li Tuo would have wanted him to give, but it was the answer that lay deep in his hearts.

“Chrístõ,” Julia called to him from beside Natalie’s bed. He went to them.

“Chrístõ,” Natalie said in a quiet voice. “Forgive him.”

“Natalie, dear,” he replied to her. “You don’t know the whole story. Only what you have heard here. It is not so easy for me…”

“Chrístõ,” she said again. “Such bitterness is so unlike you. I hate the thought of it burning inside your soul forever. For your own sake, if not for his, try.”

“Natalie,” Chrístõ leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. “I think you’re taking advantage of my compassion for you as a dying woman.”

“Is it that obvious?” she asked with a laugh.

“Transparent,” he answered. “But how can I refuse?” He kissed her again and then went to Hext. He said nothing, but he took his hand and held it for a long time. He saw Natalie watching from her sick bed. She smiled warmly at him.

Deep inside he thought Li Tuo was smiling too.

“I don’t have a chance, between you both, do I?” he whispered.

His other patient had a tough time of it, too. He cried out at the stabbing pains behind his eyes as the counter agent dispelled the chemical and the optic nerves began to function again, after being blocked for almost ten years of his life. That was how long he had been blind. It had happened in a matter of minutes, he said, on the day that Savine was crowned as queen of Aricula. All the people of the capital city had been told to go to the great square outside the palace. They were made to drink a strange kind of liquid that Savine’s royal guard distributed. Those who refused were beaten until they submitted. They had been frightened, convinced it was a poison. But it wasn’t death that had come to them but darkness.

Savine had proclaimed that she would not have any of her subjects looking on her. They were to be blind for as long as she was queen, and they were to do her bidding. Then she had the sighted guards escort them to their homes, and at first the guards had brought them to the factories from their homes until gradually they learnt to make the journey without supervision. Punishments were meted out to those who disobeyed. Sometimes those punishments were physical tortures. Sometimes family members were taken away and ‘relocated’. J-564 told Chrístõ that his mother and sisters had been relocated early in the regime. And later his father and brother.

“That took the heart out of me,” he admitted. “After that I just kept my head down and worked. Until…. Until you…”

He gasped and gripped Chrístõ’s hand tightly.

“I think… I think I can see!” he cried. “I can see. I can see you.”

It was fuzzy and blurred at first. But it took only a little time, a half hour, before his sight was as sharp as anyone’s. He was overwhelming in his praise for Chrístõ, his saviour.

“Oh, my young lord, how can I repay you?”

“None of that lord stuff, for a start,” he answered. “What I need from you is courage. You’ve been beaten for so long. It isn’t easy. I know that well enough. I know what it is to be pushed down so low you can’t even see the sky.” He knew Hext was listening when he said that. He was meant to be. “Are you ready, do you think?”

“I have been rested and warm and fed here,” he answered. “I am more ready than any day I have spent toiling in the factory.”

“What about you, Hext?” Chrístõ asked. “Are you ready?”

“How can I be?” he argued. “I am BLIND, remember.”

Chrístõ went to him. He put his hands either side of his head and concentrated. He found the severed optic nerves in Hext’s skull and concentrated on them. He mentally connected them to his own. For a moment he felt Hext’s own confusion as he seemed to be looking at his own self, then he understood.

“I’m seeing through your eyes.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ told him. “Pity you can’t walk in my shoes, too. Get up now. There are clothes there by your side. Get ready.” He turned to Julia. “This time it IS going to be dangerous. You must wait patiently and be brave.”

“I will,” she said. “I wish I could see what you’re seeing. I would be less scared.”

“I can’t do it for two people at once. It’s quite tiring as it is. Besides, sometimes I see horrible things that you shouldn’t see.” She gave him a look that reminded him, without any need of telepathy, that few things he saw matched the horror she went through before he rescued her. But he did not intend for her to see any other horrors if he could avoid it.

He kissed her gently and Natalie too, then he called on his two fellow revolutionaries. He looked at J-564.

“I never asked. Do you have a real name?”

“Joseph,” he answered. “Joe…”

“Well, that’s better. Come on, Joe. Let’s see what we can do for your world.”

He brought them to the console room. He told Joe to watch the viewscreen and guided Hext to the drive control.

“When I move away you won’t be looking at what’s in front of you. You’ll be seeing what I see. But you should be familiar with the drive controls of a Type 40. They were the new model when you graduated. My year got them second hand from your lot.” He checked the environmental console and laughed softly. “I see your TARDIS is equipped with a Dimensional Recognition Device.”

“They’re standard issue,” he answered.

“Yeah, I know,” Chrístõ told him. “It was my first accepted patent. I was only 150. I got quite bigheaded for a while about it. Until my father made me put the royalties into a trust fund for underprivileged students. You did know I invented the DRD, didn’t you?”

“Can you stop enjoying your victory over me for the moment,” Hext complained. “Does that mean you’ve located my TARDIS, by the way?”

“It does,” he said. “It’s in a large building which I’m guessing is Savine’s palace. We’ll get it later. First, I’m interested in these places around the city. Joe… can you tell me what they are?”

“I would GUESS that they’re the water dispensing centres. We are given bottles of drinking water for our personal use every day. There is no other source of water since Savine ordered it to be that way.”

“They’re all showing up as sources of the chemical that causes your blindness. She has been poisoning you all daily. Let’s go and look at one of them. Are they guarded?”

“Not during work shifts,” Joe answered. “Only at change of shift when the people come for their water.”

That was what he wanted to hear. He set the co-ordinate for the nearest of the centres and told Hext to initialise the drive control. He managed to get the right switch. A moment later they stepped out into a different part of the city.

The water dispensing centre was a wall with taps set into it such as might be found at a campsite. It all looked quite un-sinister until Chrístõ noticed something beside the wall. It looked like a pressurised gas canister. Again thoughts of organised camping came to mind. But this was not gas.

“It’s connected to the water pipes,” Chrístõ noted. “How very simplistic.” He bent by the canister and adjusted the pressurised nozzle at the top. There was a sound of hissing and he stepped back as the chemical expelled into the air.

“That seems too easy,” Hext said as they travelled to each of the other water centres. “Far too easy.”

“I agree,” Chrístõ told him. “It will take a while before the people start to see again. We need to go get your TARDIS and see what Savine has to say for herself.”

“We’re going to confront that woman?” Hext looked scared. REALLY scared.

“She’s JUST a woman isn’t she?” Chrístõ asked.

“She’s more than JUST a woman,” Hext answered. Joe, too, looked nervous. “She’s a woman who enjoys causing people pain.”

“There’s an old Earth expression that seems appropriate,” Chrístõ said. “The pot calling the kettle black.”

“That’s not fair,” Hext protested. But Chrístõ laughed at that.

“The universe isn’t fair,” he replied. “And even if I CAN forgive you, I can’t forget. Nor have I forgotten that you caved in the last time you came up against her. So I’ll be watching you.”

“I’ll be watching you, watching me,” Hext sighed. “What choice do I have?”

Chrístõ said nothing. He went to the environmental console and scanned the location of Hext’s TARDIS carefully before he prepared to do a more complicated materialisation than he had done so far today. He had materialised around people many times before. But not with another TARDIS nearby. He had to be very careful about how he extended his TARDIS’s dimensional field or he could risk partially materialising around the other TARDIS. The result would be fatal.

“It isn’t going to work, like this,” Chrístõ admitted. “Joe, I think YOU had better be his eyes.” He took Hext’s hands and placed them around Joe’s head. He knew Hext would know what to do. He felt the lightening of his own head as Hext let go of him and attached himself to Joe instead. “Ok, Joe, you stand in front of the drive control. Hext will stand behind you and see what you are seeing. After all those blind years, now two of you see through your one pair of eyes. It’s rather ironic, really.”

Joe smiled and did as they asked him. Hext nodded as he saw the drive console directly in front of him. He reached out and was a little disorientated to find his arms were in a slightly different place than he expected, but he compensated for it easily enough. His Time Lord brain was well-equipped to deal with such a small disadvantage.

Chrístõ had calculated exactly right. As the Queen of Aricula and her two closest bodyguards materialised in the TARDIS he moved quickly. Before the astonished guards even raised their weapons he had rendered them unconscious with some fast Sun Ko Du moves. Then he faced the Queen herself, Savine the Savage, Savine the Brutal.

He looked at the woman and his brain reeled. His own cultural conditioning meant that he regarded two eyes, one either side of the bridge of the nose, to be the norm, and beauty in the finer aspects of that norm.

This woman had three eyes. In the place he called normal were two blind, milky blue ones that saw nothing. And in the middle of her forehead was a larger eye, maybe half the size again of a normally proportioned eye – again, he reminded himself, according to his own cultural conditioning as to ‘normal’. It was a piercing blue.

In the land of the blind…. The Earth expression rang true in his head… the one eyed man is king. Or the three-eyed woman is queen.

She was stunningly beautiful. His cultural conditioning had no trouble with that. Long black hair fell down her back like a cloak. Her breast was covered in a swathe of silk cloth and her torso was bare apart from some intriguing tattoo work until a long, flowing skirt of the same silk hung from her hips well below her waist.

“Doesn’t work on me,” he thought. “I am a Time Lord. We are indifferent to such things.”

“You’re lying,” his inner voice mocked him.

“I’m behaving appropriately, with discipline,” he argued. “I am a Time Lord. We think with our heads, not other parts of our bodies. I am spoken for. Julia is my future wife. Besides, fiends aren’t my style.”

“How dare you look upon me!” she cried out. “I will have your eyes burnt from your head. Who are you?”

“I am Chrístõdavõreendiam?ndh?rt-mallõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhne de Lœngbærrow, Time Lord of Gallifrey,” Chrístõ answered. “And you are my prisoner. You are in my ship. Where you will remain until your people are ready to take you back and try you for your crimes against them.”

“Prisoner!” she laughed coldly. “I think not.”

She raised her hand and opened the palm. He was astonished to see another eye in the centre of her palm. It blinked. Hext gave an audible groan.

“It’s one of MY eyes!” he exclaimed. “Ughh… that’s….”

Hext screamed as she turned the palm towards him. It seemed as if having his eye implanted into her hand gave her some Time Lord powers. The Power of Suggestion for one thing. She was suggesting to Hext that he was still in the same state of acute agony that he was in when Chrístõ found him.

“It’s all in your mind,” Chrístõ yelled at him. “You’re not injured. You’re all right. Fight her. Fight her with your mind.”

“I can’t!” Hext screamed. “I can’t do it.”

“For Rassilon’s sake!” Chrístõ screamed back. “FIGHT it!” He sighed and tried to block her with his own mind. Immediately he felt as if he was on fire. He felt his skin burning and blackening as he was enveloped.

“It’s in my mind,” he told himself, but it wasn’t helping. He was still burning.

“Chrístõ!” He heard the voice through the haze of pain. It came from inside himself. “Chrístõ, concentrate. Pain is merely a chemical process. You can withstand it. Fight it. Fight the pain, fight what makes you weak.”

“I’m trying, Master Li,” he answered. “I am trying.”

“Try harder,” the voice continued. “Try harder, boy. It is in you.”

He tried. He concentrated on his own two hearts, listening to them beat. They were racing with fear and he slowed them to a calm, steady beat. When he looked up again he was whole, and unburnt and Savine was staring at him in astonishment. Hext was struggling to his feet. Chrístõ didn’t hesitate one more moment. He crossed the space between himself and Savine and grasped her hand in his fist. She squealed in pain as he squeezed. Blood poured from her hand as he crushed the eye. He pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket at the same time.

“This is penlight mode,” he said as he shone it painfully near her third eye. “I can change it to welding mode in a second. It will be less painful than what you did to my friend, and far quicker than the torture you subjected Joe there and all of the people of this planet to for years.”

“What do you mean to do to me?” she asked. “Kill me?”

“I don’t kill people,” Chrístõ answered. “It’s not my job, anyway. You aren’t my responsibility. I came for my friend and his time machine. YOU go back to your people, but not yet. They need a couple of days without you and your poison. Then, when they can SEE things clearly they can decide what to do with you.”

“You’re going to keep her here in this place until the blindness wears off of the people?” Joe asked. “What if she escapes? What if….”

“I’m not going to wait,” Chrístõ said. “Any steps I deem necessary. That’s what the Chancellor said. This is BENDING the Laws of Time, but we’re going to skip a couple of days. Hext, take the drive control again. Joe, you take this and keep it trained on her. Don’t worry, you can’t break it.” He passed the sonic screwdriver to Joe. “It’s in welding mode,” he told him. “But don’t try to weld her unless she tries anything funny.”

“She hasn’t done anything funny for a long time,” Joe answered.

“WHY did you do it?” Hext asked her. “That’s what I don’t understand. Not… not what you did to me, but the whole thing. The hurt you caused your own people.”

“Yes, that’s an interesting question,” Chrístõ said. “I think you should answer it.”

“So they could not see me,” she answered. “I was blind from birth. My parents, the king and queen before me, had the third eye installed and that let me see, but I was a freak, stared at, pitied, not admired as a princess.”

“So?” Chrístõ looked at her. She WAS still very beautiful even with the strange eye. Even if she wasn’t, the explanation was as shallow as it was possible to be.

“So, I made everyone else blind so that I could always be greater than them. I made it a crime to look at me, except for my guards. And they… They had their tongues cut out so they could not gossip about me.”

“That’s insane,” Hext declared. “Totally insane. She is mad.”

“That she is,” Chrístõ said. “But she isn’t our problem.” He looked at the viewscreen. They were in the city square. A great expanse in front of the royal palace. There were hundreds of people there. The royal guards had been overwhelmed by them already as they swarmed the palace. They saw some of them up on the balcony of the palace above the wall, where Savine had addressed her people. Any guards who put up a fight were being tossed off it into the crowd below. What they did to them then was not pretty. The people had suffered the bullying of the guards under Savine’s orders for too long. Their vengeance was savage, but Chrístõ could hardly blame them.

Savine blanched as she saw her own fate clearly. She turned to her captors.

“Have pity,” she begged. “Don’t leave me with those people. They will tear me apart.”

“Very likely they will,” Hext answered. “But that is your just deserts for a wicked life and for the torture and barbarism you practice.”

Chrístõ was very sure just how the people WOULD react as soon as they showed Savine to them. Unlike Hext and even Joe, he didn’t relish the prospect of her being lynched on the spot. He was wondering if his idea was the best one. Could he REALLY toss her to the wolves, because that was what it came down to.

“Chrístõ,” Hext told him. “This time it really is nothing to do with us. Protecting war criminals from their own victims is completely beyond our jurisdiction. We should just leave her to her fate.”

“Joe…” He turned to the Ariclian. “What do you think?”

“Leave her in my custody,” he said. “I will plead for a fair trial and a quick and painless execution.”

“That’s about the best she can expect,” Hext pointed out. “Principles are all very well. I recall you speaking passionately against the death penalty in the Prydonian debating society. But this woman is a monster who deserves all that is coming to her.”

“It still feels wrong to just abandon her.”

“Make a decision,” Hext told him. “Otherwise you ARE just a weak, half-blood fool who lets emotions get in the way of what needs to be done.”

It wasn’t the goading from Hext that made him decide. It wasn’t, he told himself. But he took a length of rope from the cupboard and turned to Joe and told him to bind her hands. Then he told Joe to go to the door with her. He opened the door and he stepped out, pulling the deposed queen along with him. They heard the voices suddenly raised in anger and outrage before he shut the door.

“Ok,” he said. “I can slave your TARDIS to mine from here and get us to the nearest space station. I’ll contact the Chancellor and he can have somebody meet us there. They’ll look after you.”

Hext nodded miserably. He was blind again, of course, without Joe’s eyes to look through. He had the prospect of a month or more of painful recovery before he could see again, and a High Council investigation of how he messed up his mission. But he, too, could not escape his fate.

“I will give a deposition to say that you co-operated with me, and did what was required of you.” Chrístõ promised. “Coming back to the palace after what Savine did to you took something approximating courage. That should help to redeem you against the charges of cowardice. But I think you should consider a nice, safe career in the civil service from now on. You’re not cut out to be an agent, Hext.”

“Your victory is complete,” Hext answered bitterly. “You have your revenge on me.”

“It was never about either of those things,” Chrístõ told him. “I did my duty to Gallifrey, as requested by the Chancellor. I did what I could for the Ariclians. I’m not happy with what we did to Savine. Whatever you say about it, I’m not sure handing her over like that was entirely moral. I have to live with that. I made the decision.”

He knew he was NEVER going to feel easy about that decision. But deep inside him he felt Li Tuo’s spirit telling him that there was no other choice, that sometimes he had to walk in the grey shadows rather than the pure light.

“Yes, Master Li,” he whispered. “But how long can I do that before the darkness closes in?”

But that was a question he knew he could expect no answer to.