He promised her she would not have an unhappy birthday. And he meant to keep that promise.

“Thirteen years old,” Chrístõ said proudly as he watched Julia come into the console room in her party dress. “You’re growing up fast.”

“Not too fast,” Natalie added as she stood by his side and admired the knee length cocktail dress of red-russet cashmere with warm woollen tights and ankle boots. “You’ve plenty of time for that. But you DO look beautiful, my dear.”

Humphrey added his own opinion as he glided, semi-transparent in the bright console room, through her.

“Pretty Shoo..lia,” he enthused.

“Do you think he’ll ever learn to pronounce a ‘j’ sound!” Natalie laughed. “I should have him in class for remedial reading.”

Chrístõ laughed and stepped towards Julia holding out a warm hooded cloak that went with the winter ensemble.

“Little Red Riding Hood,” she laughed as he put it around her shoulders and fastened it.

“Quite right, too,” he said. “But what’s this?” As he straightened the hood, his hand brushed against her hair. She was wearing a sort of net over it, which gathered up the length into a soft bundle at the nape of her neck. It was in a metallic gold finish and glittered prettily, contrasting with the black of her hair and complementing the red of her dress.

“It’s called a Madden,” she told him. “I thought you knew about them.”

“Er… no,” he answered. “I’m really not a great expert in girls’ clothing.”

“It was in the wardrobe. A whole set of them in different colours.”

“The wardrobe is part of the TARDIS. It responds to the needs of those travelling with it. Why do you NEED a hairnet?”

“Chrístõ!” Natalie scolded him. “She is thirteen. Officially a young woman. The ‘Madden’ is…” She looked at him. She looked back at Julia. “Your experiences of Earth are mostly in the 20th and 21st century,” she told him. “It is a tradition in the 24th century that young, unmarried women wear the ‘Madden’. It is a sign that they have not…” Natalie blushed at that. She was an unmarried woman, too. But she had not felt ‘young’ for a long time. “Madden… is derived from the word MAIDEN,” she added in explanation.

“Oh!” Chrístõ understood finally. “Right. I am an idiot. I know SO much about Earth. How did I miss that?”

“Because you’re a man,” Julia told him. “Why would you know about how women dress?”

“Well, anyway,” he said, moving on from his own ignorance. “It is very fetching. And very appropriate, too.”

Very appropriate, he thought. And a subtle reminder to him that he still had a long time to wait before he was allowed to loosen her hair from that pretty constraint.

One thing he was certain of, though. HE was the one who WOULD loosen it. She was his. He could not imagine any other future.

But right now, she was thirteen years old and it was her birthday.

He chose the venue for her party. Cappralla in the Alpha quadrant was noted for its natural beauty. And when they stepped outside of the TARDIS Julia and Natalie immediately agreed with his choice.

“Oh, it is lovely,” she said as she looked down the steep, snow-covered glacial valley to the beautiful town below, standing on the edge of a lake that looked as still as glass except where a speed boat cut a swathe through it.

“We’re a long way from the restaurant though, Chrístõ,” Natalie pointed out. “Are we not going to move the TARDIS a bit closer?” She looked around to see it disguised as a neat mountain log cabin. “You surely don’t intend Julia to hike through the snow on her birthday.” She looked around at Julia. In the cloak and with the thermal gloves that went with it she wasn’t cold, but the boots had a feminine high heel and were NOT meant for walking in.

“No,” he assured them. “We’re going by air.” He pointed to where something was moving down in the valley. A cable car. They followed his finger as it traced the near invisible cables that came up to a station only some fifty yards away from the TARDIS cabin.

“Oh dear,” Natalie murmured quietly. But Chrístõ smiled reassuringly and took her arm and Julia’s as they walked to the station.

“You’ll be quite all right, Natalie,” Julia assured her. “It’s just a cable car.”

“No just about it,” she answered.

“You’ll be fine,” Christo assured her.

“I will if you’re there,” she answered. That certainty had got her through plenty of bad experiences already. She was more than willing to trust him.

She just wasn’t sure she trusted a metal car suspended from a cable high above the valley.

The cable car operator was quite surprised to find the three passengers, all dressed for dinner, at the top of the mountain. But he wasn’t paid to worry about other people’s eccentricities. He ensured they were comfortable in the padded leather seats and closed the door. Natalie clung to Chrístõ’s hand as the car swayed and bumped and started its descent. But once it cleared the station the round car began to slowly revolve and even she was fascinated by the beautiful all round views of the valley it afforded. Julia was entranced. She left her seat and went to the window. Chrístõ came behind her and put his arms around her shoulders. She leaned into his embrace and he pressed his face against her hair, caught up in the Madden.

Natalie smiled as she watched them. Most of the time the relationship between the two WAS something like brother and sister. And that was how it ought to be while she was so young. But in moments like this, she could see a glimpse of the deeper love and she was certain that they were going to be something more in the future.

“This is great,” Julia whispered. “A really special birthday treat. Thank you, Chrístõ.”

“You’re welcome,” he said in reply. “Though it does give me one problem. What am I going to do to beat it for your fourteenth birthday, and your fifteenth and sixteenth.”

“And seventeenth?” she queried.

“That one is easy. On your seventeenth birthday we will have a grand party at which we will officially announce our engagement. You will wear a diamond ring and everyone will know you are mine. Then, of course, I will have to find ways of making your eighteenth and nineteenth and twentieth birthdays as wonderful.”

“And all the rest.”

“My poor life will be spent planning beautiful birthdays for you,” he said with a mock sigh. Julia laughed softly. But they both felt just a little guilty talking about future plans that way when Natalie was within earshot, so Chrístõ turned the conversation to geographical detail about the valley they were descending. They all looked up at the place, already far away, where he had left the TARDIS. They could just see it. That was only part way up the Montagna Tavolo.

“It is nothing compared to the Vertic on Hyra Betal,” he told her. “But I am glad I don’t have to climb this one, all the same. Especially in winter as it is now.” He pointed higher up as the car revolved around from the view of the valley to the view of the mountain again. The snow where they were was relatively light. But higher, they could see ominous overhangs of packed, tight ice and snow. “Nobody would think of climbing that in winter.”

“Not unless they wanted to bring a cold death on themselves,” the cable car operator added to his commentary. “That snow could slip at the drop of a hat.”

“Avalanche?” Julia looked at it nervously. “Oh dear!” She echoed Natalie’s usual understated response to such dangers.

“Not a bad one, not for decades,” the operator assured her. “Though if we have two or three more nights of snow we may have to shut down the cable car just as a precaution.”

“Ah.” Chrístõ looked a little worried then. He wished he had managed to fix the remote control on the TARDIS. But it needed parts he would have to go back to Gallifrey to get. And he didn’t want to do that. He was half afraid if he took it back to the TARDIS depot they might try to get him to exchange it for a soulless new Type 60. He loved his Type 40, even if it wasn’t the latest model any more. It was more than a ship. It was a friend.

And his friend was stranded up on the mountain because he wanted to give Julia a dramatic arrival at the hotel for her birthday dinner!

It should be all right, he assured himself. The man said two or three nights before they would have to close the cable car. They were only staying the one night.


It was a very fine hotel. Chrístõ, who had grown up accustomed to the best, could not fault anything. Their rooms, where they freshened up before going down to the restaurant, faced the mountain. He could just about see the TARDIS near the cable car station. From here, the frozen snow above looked even more threatening, and he wondered again about the wisdom of leaving the TARDIS there. But he didn’t want to spoil the evening for Julia.

The hotel restaurant, on the other hand, faced the great lake, and more importantly, the sunset, which was suitably spectacular, with two moons rising either side of the sun as it dropped lower. Julia was spellbound as the sun’s red, but still vibrant light bleached the reflected lights of the moons. But as they rose and it sank they took on a brighter glow and hung magnificently in the gradually darkening sky.

So intent on the splendour of it was she that she almost forgot it was her birthday dinner and there were presents to open.

Three gifts were beautifully wrapped for her. They sat by her plate until they had finished the dessert course and were relaxing with coffee. Then Chrístõ gave her a smile and a nod and she reached for the largest of the packages.

This was from Natalie. She opened it slowly. She felt as if she wanted this moment to last. This was the first and only birthday present Natalie had given her. She wanted it to be a special one.

And it was. She smiled brightly as she looked at the finely made silver pen set, fountain and ballpoint, in a case with her name engraved upon it, and with it a thick, leather bound book that she opened to find another inscription, written with love, from Natalie, to her favourite pupil.

“A diary,” she said. “It’s lovely. I never had a paper diary before. I always used a computer tablet to write on.”

“I have taught you penmanship among all your other lessons. Call me old fashioned, but I believe it is important to be able to write as well as to type at a keypad or scribble on a tablet that converts the handwritten word to type on the screen. There is permanence and reality in the written word.”

“I quite agree,” Chrístõ said. “On Gallifrey we value handwritten manuscripts highly even though some of the best trained clerks have the ability to THINK words onto a computer.”

“Put all of your thoughts in it,” Natalie told her. “All your hopes and wishes.”

“Mostly, I will be wishing it was the school holidays and Chrístõ was coming for me,” she said with a smile. “But I shall try not to be dismal every day.” She took Natalie’s hand and held it tightly. “Thank you, Natalie, I shall treasure this gift forever.”

“I know you will, my dear,” Natalie told her. “But I think Chrístõ wants you to open HIS present to you.”

Julia turned to the smaller box. It had the weight of something containing jewellery, and she was not disappointed when she opened the box and found a brooch nestled in satin. It was silver, matching the pendant she always wore. It was finely wrought in twisted strands of silver to depict two tall silver trees whose branches met in the middle.

“The House of Lœngbærrow,” she said, recognising the symbol. She had seen it on collar studs and tie pins and cloak fastenings belonging to Chrístõ and his father. He was as proud of it as he was proud of the Rassilon Seal of his people.

“Because you ARE a part of that House, Julia,” he told her as he pinned the brooch to her dress. “You are my girl. And you always will be.”

“I like being your girl,” she told him. “I like being of the House of Lœngbærrow.”

“Good,” he told her as he kissed her cheek. “Now open the one my father sent to you.”

This was a thick gold paper envelope. She opened it and found within it a letter which proved what Chrístõ had said about penmanship being valued on Gallifrey and a small flat book. She held onto it as she read the letter from Chrístõ’s father.

“My dear Julia,

It is more than a year since you came into my son’s life. From that day we have all known that you are destined to be his wife. But there are so very many years until that can be so. That does not mean, however, that you cannot be a very real part of our family. Even when you are far from us, even though it is a long time until your Alliance, you ARE a child of Lœngbærrow. And as such, it is fitting that you should have your fair share of the wealth of the family. This is your legacy, child. To do with as you wish. To save, or to spend on whatever your young heart desires. An allowance will be added to it each year until you are a grown woman and ready to be my daughter-in-law. You shall not want for anything until that day.

My blessings to you, Julia, light of my son’s life.

Chrístõdavõreendiamòndhærtmallõupdracœfiredelunmian de Lœngbærrow, Time Lord of Gallifrey, Magister of the Southern Continent, Ambassador to Adano Ambrado.

Your loving father.

With shaking hands she turned and opened the passbook for an account with the intergalactic bank that operated in the Human colonies of which her family belonged. She gasped when she saw the opening balance of the account and when she saw that the account was opened on the day that she was born she was even more astonished.

“That means there would be thirteen years of compound interest to add to it,” Natalie explained to her. “You could buy clothes and toys and books and holovideos and music for a year and not even touch the original amount.”

“He gave it to me because HE thinks of me as one of the family, too,” she said with an awestruck voice. “Chrístõ, your father… signed himself … your loving father… to me.”

“He is very fond of you,” he told her. “He wants you to be happy, Julia.”

“Money doesn’t buy happiness,” she reminded him. “Love does.”

“You have all the love you need,” Natalie assured her. “That will buy everything else.”

Julia smiled happily as she thought of the bright future. Then her smile faded as, inevitably, sad memories of the past overwhelmed her. Chrístõ held her tightly as she cried for the year she spent with no birthday at all, afraid for her life and alone on that doomed spaceship. Then he dried her tears and Natalie helped her to fix the light make up she was allowed to wear for this evening. Then he took her hand and led her onto the floor where there was dancing for those who wanted it.

Natalie smiled as she watched them dancing together. Julia looked older than thirteen, Chrístõ looked younger than one hundred and ninety-two. They looked right for each other.

A happy birthday. He promised her that. And they got it. Midnight came and went as they danced together. Natalie said goodnight to them just after the hour and they carried on dancing. Julia told Chrístõ she wasn’t tired, and she didn’t seem to be. When the music ended he fastened her cloak around her and they walked for a little while in the crisp, cold air by that crystal lake.

“Time you were in bed,” Chrístõ told her finally when she failed to hide a yawn. “Come on. This has been as perfect a birthday as it could possibly be, but you have to sleep, too. In the morning we have another trip on that cable car. That’s something to look forward to.

“Natalie doesn’t think so,” Julia laughed. “Poor Natalie. Couldn’t we go up and then come and get her in the TARDIS?”

“Yes,” he said. “I suppose we COULD.” He laughed too and he kissed her one more time under the stars before they went back inside. He kissed her again at the door to her room before he went to his, content. He had made her thirteenth birthday a happy one. His promise kept for one year.


The next day after breakfast on a pleasant, crisp, wintry morning, Julia and Chrístõ kissed Natalie farewell and left her in the comfortable lounge of the hotel, stoked up with coffee and the promise that they would be right back for her in the TARDIS.

“Poor Natalie,” Julia said as she sat herself comfortably in the cable car. Chrístõ sat beside her. It was a busier car than when they came down with just the three of them aboard. Many people were taking the ride just for the joy of going up and then coming back down again. A couple who looked like they were on their honeymoon, another couple who looked like they had been there and done it all and were on their golden wedding anniversary, a family with children. Chrístõ looked at those people and reflected how they represented his own future at different stages. He and Julia would one day be the honeymoon couple, then the parents of children, and in the fullness of time the mature people whose children were grown, enjoying each other’s company still.

Of course it would be a little different for him. When Julia was the same age as the golden jubilee lady, he would still look more like the father in the family group. They wouldn’t grow old together.

But he would still love her just as much as that old man loved his wife as they read the guide book together and pointed out landmarks to each other.

They were more than halfway up the Montagna Tavolo when Chrístõ found himself jolted from his dreams. He stood up and turned around, counter to the revolving car, trying to pinpoint what had disturbed him.

“That noise…” he said as people began to stare at him.

“What noise?” Julia asked him. She stood and went to him. “Chrístõ, what is it?”

“Everyone be quiet,” he said. But they had all stopped talking anyway. “You’ll hear it, too, in a minute. When it comes into your hearing range. It’s….”

“What is it?” Julia asked him, her eyes wide with concern.

“It’s a spaceship,” he said. “Or a plane. It’s some kind of craft in trouble. The engine sounds wrong.”

“Sir…” The cable car operator looked nervous. “Sir… what are you….”

“I can hear something, now,” the honeymoon man said. “He’s right. It’s an engine…”

“Oh, my GOD!” the elderly woman cried and they all turned in the direction she was looking. It WAS some kind of shuttle craft. Something that was intended to travel between the space port on the Capprallan moon to the planet.

It was on fire.

It was out of control.

It was heading towards them.

Chrístõ was the only one who didn’t scream. He held Julia tightly though and he came as close as his race ever did to praying as the shuttle pilot managed to gain a little control, enough to raise the nose of the craft. Enough for it to miss the car, to miss the cables.

But not enough to stop it crashing into the side of the mountain.

Julia clung tightly to him and tried not to look at the burning wreckage. Around them other people cried too. There was clearly no hope for those on board. If anyone had asked him Chrístõ could have told them that he had felt the dozen souls on board cry out in the last moment. His telepathic nerves had screamed in empathy with them.

“Oh no!” the car operator murmured quietly, very quietly. Chrístõ heard him though and glanced up.

“Everyone get down and hold on tight,” he said, pushing Julia to the floor and grabbing hold of the firmly bolted seat as he covered her. The car swayed and bucked terrifyingly as tons of snow and ice fell down the mountain. There was a collective scream as the car dropped at least twenty feet and then stopped, dead, swaying horribly in the wind created by the avalanche as it slid down the mountain.

Then there was silence. Almost silence. The creaking of the still swaying car was a sound they would all gladly have done without.

“Is everyone ok?” Chrístõ stood slowly, pulling Julia to her feet and gently pressing her into a seat. “It’s ok, everyone, get up now, slowly. Sit down.” He crossed to where the car operator was struggling to his feet. “Are you all right?”

“Just winded, sir,” he answered. “But the car… we’ve lost power.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered. “I can see that. I think…” He looked out of the window. The cable station had been smashed by the avalanche. The mast that held the cables up had been bent in the middle. That was why they had fallen so frighteningly. But the cables were intact, and the car was still suspended from them.

“What about the TARDIS?” Julia asked.

“What about the town?” somebody else asked and the car swayed as they all turned at once and looked.

“Natalie!” Chrístõ stared at the high roof of the town hall, the only building still above the snow. He looked left from that landmark and spotted the two great metal chimneys of the hotel’s ventilation system. The rest was covered over.

Slowly he reached for his mobile phone. He dialled the number of Natalie’s phone. He hardly dared hope that it would be answered.

It was answered.

“Natalie,” he said and he FELT Julia’s relief. “Are you all right? Are you safe?” He listened to her reply. “No, no, stay right where you are. All of you. If the roof is holding, then you’re all right. For now. Get down on the floor and keep still. Breath slowly, quietly. Try to be calm. I’ll…” He looked around. His hearts skipped when he saw something on the mountain. A chunk of packed snow collapsed and he saw the corner of the log cabin that was his TARDIS. It was there. It was undamaged. If he could reach it, then everyone would be safe. He could save them all, the people here in the cable car, and Natalie, and everyone down there, in the darkness, under the snow.

“Natalie,” he said. “Hold on. I’m coming for you.” He closed the phone and looked around. “Everyone hold on,” he said. “I’m going to sort this out.”

“What?” Julia looked at him. “Chrístõ… what do you mean? How can you? Even YOU? What can you do?”

“I can get up there,” he answered. He looked at his clothes. He was wearing his usual black leather jacket and jeans and shirt. Inadequate for what he had in mind. He cast a look around at his fellow travellers. He took his TARDIS key from his pocket and strung it on a length of string about his neck then he took off his leather jacket and gave it to Julia to hold onto. He went to the father of the children who was trying his best to hug his whole family at once. He spoke to him quietly. The man looked surprised at first then he took off the thick, fur-lined coat that he was wearing and gave it to him. Then he went to the cable car operator and got his thick leather gloves that took the friction out of applying the brake and a leather cap with a chinstrap. The elderly man saw his intention and gave him a thick woollen scarf that he wrapped around his face.

They all watched as he climbed on the back of the centre seat and pushed at the hatch in the ceiling.

“Oh, my God!” the mother of the children cried. “No. You can’t go out there. You’ll be killed.”

“Chrístõ!” Julia called out to him. “Chrístõ… please don’t…”

“I have to,” he told her. “Nobody else can. I’m the only one. I have to do it. You… you sit tight, Julia. You’re safe in here for now. I’ll be as quick as I can.” With that he reached up and got a firm grip on the hatch and pushed himself up. Julia felt the elderly lady reach out to her, comfortingly. But it was hard to be comforted in such a situation.

The icy wind hit him straight away as he crouched on top of the cable car. He shivered. A rare thing for him. A Time Lord rarely suffered from extremes of temperature. The last time he had been aware of being cold was when he was on the Vertic with Penne and Maestro.

“Piece of cake,” he said to himself as he stood up and looked at the cable. There was at least a half mile of it still to travel. The angle was near enough forty-five degrees. He contemplated walking it like a tightrope first, but that would be insane. The wind would blow him over.

“Sammie,” he whispered. “Remember… the Race of Fortitude. You showed me how, Sammie. Thanks. Thank you, my friend.”

He reached up and grasped the cable. He pulled himself up and wrapped his legs around it and hung beneath it like a sloth on a branch and he began to move, hand over hand, very slowly at first, up the inclined cable. After a few minutes, as his confidence grew, he moved faster. He folded time and moved faster still for as long as he dared.

He could do it. He knew he could. The distance he had to go, the dizzy drop, they didn’t matter. That was just endurance. The problem WAS the cold. His hands were cold. Very cold. Even within the gloves they felt cold. And if they got much colder he wouldn’t be able to hold on.

His body usually regulated its temperature automatically, without him having to think about it. But this time it was struggling. He had to look into himself and force his blood to circulate around his body. He had to generate heat within himself and pump it to his extremities.

A Human would not have been able to do it. He took no satisfaction in that. But it was the plain truth. If he didn’t have his two hearts and muscles that worked twice as hard with half the energy expenditure of most other Humanoid species, he would be dead already.

“You can do it, Shang Hui, if nobody else can.”

He felt Li Tuo’s voice in his head. It was starting to fade now, as his father told him it would. But he was glad there was just a vestige of the spirit still hanging in there yet.


He decided that wasn’t a word he was going to use for the moment and folded time to cover a few more yards. There was a limit to how often he could do that. It sapped his mental energy, and he needed that as much as he needed the physical energy.


Julia watched his progress constantly. She wouldn’t turn away. She wanted to know. If he fell, she wanted to see.

Or rather she didn’t want to see. But she HAD to know.

“He’s a brave young man,” The cable car operator said. “But what is he going to do when he gets there? The station is a wreck. There’s no power. He can’t even call anyone. What would be the point? If anyone COULD get to us they’d be on their way already. But the town below is in a worse state than we are.”

“Natalie is down there,” Julia said. “But Chrístõ won’t leave anyone to die. Not if he can help it.”

“He’s very agile,” the elderly woman said. “Your brother is he, dear?”

“No,” she answered. “He’s… He’s my boyfriend. We’re going to be married when I am older. We’re destined to be together. He looked into the future and we were happy in it. So he HAS to live. We both do. For that future to happen.”


“It’s the altitude, and the stress,” the honeymoon man said. “She’s confused.”

“No, I’m not,” she answered. “Chrístõ is a Time Lord.”

That remark caused several very different responses around the car. The honeymoon man and the elderly woman had both heard of Time Lords. The others hadn’t. By the time they had half explained to each other, though, and Julia had dispelled some of the stranger myths about Time Lords, they were left with slightly more hope than they had before.

He was time folding repeatedly. He was exhausted, but he was closing the distance. He could see his TARDIS clearly now. It was buried deep, but that wasn’t a big problem. As long as he could GET to it.

The worst thing was that the cables at this point were icy cold and slippy. Thousands of tons of ice and snow had fallen through them. They had stood up to the punishment, but they were now horrible to hold onto. Every time he moved forward he felt he was going to lose his grip.

It was a long time since he had felt this unsure about himself. Not since he was a boy, the time he climbed Mount Lœng, by himself. When he was stuck and thought he was going to die.

“Maestro!” he whispered. “I hated you then. But you taught me one valuable lesson.”

A cruel, hard lesson. But one he had cause to thank him for many times.

There was nobody to give him a hand up.

If he couldn’t do something on his own, without help, then he couldn’t do it at all. He would fail.

“I won’t fail,” he told himself. “Too many people are depending on me. Julia, Natalie, all the other people trapped down there.”

Then it happened. He reached out to pull himself forward. He thought he had a firm grip, but as he put his full weight down his hands slipped. He lost his hold. For a few seconds he held on by his legs as his arms flailed uselessly, then he fell.


It was at least twenty feet, he calculated. It hurt when he hit the snowbank. It wasn’t like falling into soft, fluffy stuff. It was hard chunks of packed ice, and it hurt. He was bruised and winded and bleeding.

But he was alive.

He pulled himself upright and got his bearings. He could see the collapsed cable pylon about ten feet above and to the right of him. So the TARDIS must be a little to the left and above.

He looked. He was surprised to see that it wasn’t registering as a log cabin any more. It seemed to have defaulted to the simple grey cabinet. He could just see one top corner of it.

He pulled himself up as best as he could. As hard as the snowbank was when he fell into it, it now proved soft enough when he put his foot down on it. But he pulled himself slowly up about half the distance to the top of his TARDIS.

Of course, he reasoned, he didn’t WANT the top of it. When he got there he would have to dig down. He pushed his arms into the snowbank and started to dig horizontally, towards the TARDIS door. He pushed the snow back into the walls of the tunnel he was slowly creating for himself and pushed his body forwards. Behind him he felt the snow cave in. But that didn’t matter. He wasn’t planning to come out again through it. He closed off his breathing. He could recycle his air for a long time. More than enough to force his way through the snow.

It wasn’t easy. He hurt all over as chunks of snow and ice fell on him. Even with the hood of the big coat pulled up and a scarf around his face he felt the bruises and the gashes. Even though his body could repair itself it still hurt.

But he put his own discomfort aside. The knowledge that his TARDIS was only feet away from him now helped anyway.

He touched metal. His hearts leapt as he felt the faint vibration of his familiar, trustworthy friend. He felt around blindly until he found the door. One good thing about the default mode was that the keyhole was easy to find.

Easy to find. Less easy to use. He pulled off the thick glove in order to insert the key in the lock. His hand shook with the cold.

“Come on, concentrate,” he told himself as he forced his hand to steady. He got the key in the lock and turned it the correct way. The door opened. Warmth exuded from it. So did Humphrey’s plaintive wails.

“It’s all right,” Chrístõ assured him as he threw off the coat and gloves and reached the console. “I’m fine. The ladies need our help but they’re ok for….”

He grabbed the console as the TARDIS lurched and dropped. The snow had begun to slide again, taking the TARDIS with it. He pulled himself around the console to the drive and put it into hover drive. On the viewscreen the TARDIS was in the middle of an avalanche of snow, ice and rock. He pushed the drive lever and the TARDIS moved forward. He didn’t often use it in this mode. He always had a feeling it didn’t like it. The engines FELT and SOUNDED wrong. But it was the mode of flight he needed now.

The TARDIS came out of the avalanche and he looked in horror at the viewscreen as it cleared. The new fall had pushed the pylon even further and the cable car had dropped again. This time it looked as if it had twisted on the runners that held it on the cable.

It looked as if they weren’t going to hold on for very much longer.

He pushed the lever and the TARDIS descended towards the car. With one hand he reached for the phone and dialled Julia’s number.

“Julia, I’m coming for you. Be brave. No, you’re not going to fall. I’m coming. But it might be scary. Get everyone to lie down on the floor. The people with the children especially. You go and lie down with them and help calm the children. Thank you, Julia. My brave girl.”

He kept the phone line open. He wanted to hear her voice. He heard her tell everyone to get away from the windows and lie down. He heard a child whimpering and he heard her gently soothing him.

He wanted to hear her voice, in case he got this wrong and it was the last time he heard her voice. Because he had never done anything like this before. Neither had his TARDIS. And Julia’s life depended on him getting it right first time.

He heard them gasp as the default TARDIS swooped down and under the cable car. He felt the crunch as the weight of the car settled on the roof. He heard the TARDIS engines change in tone as he altered the gravitational force on the top, clamping the car to it, while defying gravity to keep it in flight until they reached the ground.

He set the TARDIS down on the other side of the lake, where a rescue camp had already been set up to care for the people of the town. As he came out of the door people were already running to help. Ladders were brought. Julia ran to his arms as soon as she reached the ground.

“Chrístõ, you have to get to Natalie. The hotel… they’re saying the roof is going to go any minute. It took the brunt of the second fall.”

“We’ll both get her,” he said. “Go into the TARDIS.” He looked around. “Everyone get clear of the car now. I’m going to move my craft from under it and it will come crashing down.”

They didn’t understand what he meant about moving his craft, but they understood what ‘crashing down’ meant. As he ran to the TARDIS door they began to scatter in all directions. He didn’t see what happened when the TARDIS dematerialised and the cable car fell the eight feet or so to the ground. But he could fairly well guess.

Meanwhile he had to reach Natalie. He dialled her number again on the console phone and as he assured her he was on his way, the navigational computer traced her co-ordinate. He set the materialisation for as broad a range as possible, picking up as many lifesigns as he could. Natalie was one of them. She was lying down. So were most of the people. Some of them were having trouble breathing. He pressed another button and fresh oxygen streamed around the floor level.

He went to the door and opened it. There were people outside, too, in the wreck of the hotel lounge. He called to them and they began to pick themselves up, those who were still able to stand helping those who couldn’t. He could hear the roof creaking ominously. There must be tons of snow on top of them. There wasn’t much time.

A lot of people must already be dead, of course. The lounge and restaurant were both on the ground floor. Above them where the groaning and tearing sound came from should have been hotel rooms. A lot of people hadn’t made it. He couldn’t do anything about that. But he could save those who were alive now.

“Is that everyone?” he said as the last of the bruised and distressed kitchen staff limped through, along with a woman he recalled as the hotel manageress. She was in tears.

“Come this way,” he told her. “To safety. There’s nothing more we can do.”

“All the years it took to build this business… our reputation…”

“I know,” he told her. “I’m sorry. But your life is more important.” As he reached out his hand to her, the creaking became even more ominous. There was an almost pretty tinkle as the chandeliers vibrated and then a crashing as they fell. He pulled her inside the TARDIS as the roof fell outside.

“But we’re still trapped under it all,” somebody wailed as they heard the sound of the collapsed building around them. But Chrístõ was moving to the console. Less than a minute later he materialised the TARDIS beside the rather sad remains of the cable car. The walking wounded stepped out and looked around in amazement as first aid workers were ushered in to attend to those who needed more help. As that was happening around him Chrístõ looked out over the lake to the stricken village. Tears pricked his eyes as he saw the dead being lined up under covers for identification by the survivors.

“Chrístõ,” Julia and Natalie both came to his side. “You did well.”

“There’s more to be done yet,” he answered. “I can help still. The TARDIS can identify lifesigns. I can locate people who are trapped.”

“You go do that,” Natalie told him. “They’re setting up a kitchen to feed people. Julia and I will go help there.”

They did that. He did what he could do best. They did their part. So did everyone who could do something. By nightfall everyone who could be saved had been. The death toll was heartbreaking, but they had saved more than they might have hoped.

“That’s down to you,” Julia told him as they drank cocoa in the gathering dusk. “So many more were saved because you could tell them where to look. And everyone is talking about what you did with the cable car.”

“I’m never doing anything like that AGAIN,” he said as the memory of the climb along the cable came back to him. “I’d rather climb the Vertic single-handedly. Whatever we do for your next birthday, let’s do it at sea level.”

“Yeah,” Julia observed. “And we’ll probably get flooded.” She laughed and hugged him. “It WAS a happy birthday. The scary stuff was the day after.”