Chrístõ was running for his life. Julia was slightly ahead of him because she had set off running before him. He had taken a few precious seconds to complete the circuit that would blow the ship to smithereens in a few more minutes. He hadn’t dared make the safety margin very much longer, but he was starting to think he should have given himself maybe one more minute.

He time folded and caught up with Julia. She gasped out loud as he scooped her into his arms, so that she, too, was caught in the fold. She closed her eyes and hung tightly around his neck as they crashed through the TARDIS doors. He put her down gently as he let the time fold collapse and she ran to close the doors as he went to dematerialise the TARDIS. In the moment before that happened they felt the TARDIS shudder as the ship exploded around them.

“We’re safe,” Chrístõ said as he began to take off the decontamination suit he was wearing and indicated to Julia that she could do the same. He took the suits to the trash compactor and a few seconds later they were carefully ground up space dust. The TARDIS’s own decontamination programme would deal with any trace of the virus that might have come off the suits before he got rid of them.

“That was horrible,” Julia said as he joined her in the kitchen. She put a cup of hot coffee in front of him and he drank it gratefully. “All those people…. A whole ship’s crew…”

“We couldn’t do anything for them,” Chrístõ said. “We stopped the contamination from reaching a populated planet. If anyone had opened those doors in an oxygen atmosphere, the virus would have escaped and the whole planet would have been dead within days.”

Julia nodded. What Chrístõ said made sense. But it didn’t make it any easier to bear. She moved from her own seat and sat on his knee. He put his arm around her gently and sighed. He loved being near her like this, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer.

“Back on course for Beta Delta IV,” he said.

“Yes,” she sighed. “Usually I look forward to going to places. But I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to…”

“I know,” he said. “I will miss you, too. But I promised Natalie. I promised her I would take you to your family, to a settled home, where you can go to school and learn to be a lady, do your gymnastics, your ballet.”

“What if they’re not nice people.”

“They’re your aunt and uncle,” Chrístõ said with a smile. “Of course they’ll be nice people.”

“They might not be,” she insisted. “They might have had their minds turned by aliens who want to lull you into thinking they are nice and then kill you, Chrístõ. Because they know that you’re the greatest Time Lord ever and you’ll destroy them when you catch up with them.”

“That isn’t very likely,” he told her with a soft laugh at her imagination. “But that’s just why you need to live a different life. You shouldn’t be worried about bad things happening. You should have nothing to worry about except doing your homework and dancing, making new friends, meeting boys.”

“I don’t want to meet boys,” she said. “I’ve got you.”

“You can still MEET boys,” he assured her. “Even if you’re my girl.” He touched the pendant she wore around her neck and kissed her cheek lovingly. “You’ll still be my Julia.”

“What if you do?” she asked. “What if you meet somebody who you love more?”

“Never,” he promised. “I am a Gallifreyan. We are loyal, and we are honourable. And a promise made, is never broken.” He thought about it for a moment, then he stood and reached out his hand to her. She took it and walked with him, trusting him implicitly.

He brought her to the Cloister Room. As they entered she looked at the elaborately carved cover of the Eye of Harmony and shivered, remembering Natalie’s death. He squeezed her hand and smiled reassuringly as he brought her to the altar before which the artificial light cast the seal on the ground. Chrístõ stepped onto the seal. Julia stood outside it looking uncertain.

“Come here,” he whispered and held out his hands to her. She stepped forward and the light creating the seal bathed her in warmth. She smiled as he took her hands and knelt before her.

“Julia,” he said. “Within the sacred Seal of Rassilon, the Creator of my Race, I pledge myself to you. I pledge that ten years from this you and I shall be joined in Alliance of Unity and until that time you will be my only love. No other shall come between us. On my honour as a Time Lord of Gallifrey.”

Julia looked at him as he pledged his love for her. What more could a thirteen year old girl wish for than a handsome man who promised on his knees to be her man for all of her life? She knelt, too, and in a few halting words promised that there would never be any boy or man in her affections but him.

Chrístõ smiled as he stood and raised her to her feet. The pledging was rarely used on Gallifrey when it was a love match. It was most often seen when a political Alliance was made with the young progeny of two families offered to each other to seal the bargain. Among the higher castes of his society people rarely fell in love of their own volition. Most, he thought, learnt to love each other as they spent their lives together. Some, perhaps, never did. He was glad of two things. First, that his parents married for love, and that he was a product of their love, not a condition of a contractual arrangement. Secondly, that his father had never bound him to such an arrangement and that he was free to find his own true love.

“Chrístõ, we’ve landed,” she said with a dull tone in her voice.

“We can’t have. We should be hours away yet.” But she was right. He could feel the difference in the engines. They were in idle mode after a materialisation. He ran to the console room. Julia followed a little slower.

“Well, the good news is we’re not on Beta Delta,” he told her when she finally got there. “The bad news is, I have no idea where we ARE! Something pulled us off course, AGAIN!” He grinned at Julia. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say the TARDIS was trying to STOP us getting to Beta Delta.”

“The TARDIS is a girl,” Julia said. “It knows how much I’m going to miss you.”

“Maybe,” he agreed. “But the TARDIS has to accept the inevitable, too.” He looked at the viewscreen. It was an unpromising looking terrain. A mountain with the distinctive conical appearance of an active volcano filled much of the view, with dull grey rocky ground in front of it. A few scrubby trees tried to grow but they didn’t seem to be having much luck in that barren landscape.

“Let’s go and explore,” Julia said.

“I don’t think so,” Chrístõ said. “Doesn’t even look like it would have a breathable atmosphere, and I don’t know what might be out there. Besides, I need to set us on our way back on course for Beta Delta IV.”

“Oh, let’s go and have a look at this planet, first,” Julia insisted. “It’s my last chance to do something exciting for AGES.” And she hit the switch that opened the door and ran out, ignoring his yells. Chrístõ sighed and looked at the environmental control. It WAS a breathable atmosphere, although there was more sulphur than on either Earth or Gallifrey. That would be the volcano, he thought. He noted the hot, humid temperature, and stopped to pick up a water pack before following her. This was the sort of planet where dehydration was an issue even for him.

Julia ran lithely across the uneven ground. She didn’t mean to get too far out of sight of the TARDIS, or so far that Chrístõ wouldn’t be able to catch her up. Just far enough so that he would decide to explore with her.

She looked back and saw him coming out of the TARDIS, disguised as it was today as a rock formation roughly the size of an Earth car. When he closed the door, it would become part of the rock, with, she guessed, his TS symbol on it somewhere.

She smiled and decided to run a little further. He could run fast, after all. No need to make it easy for him.

Chrístõ saw her ahead of him. He knew she was playing games with him when she turned and then skipped off again. He could, he knew, end the game by folding time and reaching her in a few seconds, but he thought he would play along for a little while at least.

He wasn’t angry with her. He fully understood her reasons for wanting to take one last chance of adventure with him, even in a place as dreadful as this one. He reached for the plastic tube that connected to the water pack that was carried like a rucksack. Cool, clean water refreshed his mouth that already burned from the sulphur in the air. This was certainly not a place he would have chosen to spend a last few hours with her.

He cleansed his mouth and then closed the water tube off again and closed his lungs. If he recycled his air rather than breathing this harsh, unpleasant stuff he would conserve the water, in case it was needed later.

Why did he think that might be necessary? He was just going to catch her up and come right back to the TARDIS. But it was better to be safe than sorry.

He looked up and couldn’t see her any more. His first instinct was to worry. His second was that she’d simply hidden behind a rock.

He trusted his first instinct.

He folded time and ran towards the place he had last seen her.

“Please, see me,” Julia thought as she saw Chrístõ come out of the time fold and look all around for her. “Please.”

But he couldn’t. The rock outcrop was a perfect optical illusion. From where Chrístõ stood – where she had stood before – it looked like a solid mass. Only close up could you see that it was two pieces of rock, one only a few inches thick, screening the cave in the larger piece. A hole through the screen gave those within the hiding place a view of the wasteland. She could see even as far as the TARDIS, looking small now, and far away. But Chrístõ, even when he looked that way, could only see an indentation in the rock.

Even so, he began to walk towards them. He must have decided to check out the only possible place she might have hidden.

She struggled against her captors. If she could scream he would be warned that there was something wrong. As it was, he was walking into a trap. She saw the tall, blonde man raise the rock over his head ready to strike. She closed her eyes. She didn’t want to see. She heard Chrístõ shout out once, then a dull thudding noise as the rock smashed into his skull. She opened her eyes again to see him fall forwards into the cave entrance. She kicked against the one who held her and scrambled towards him. His head was bleeding and his face was white with shock. She could feel his hearts beating still, but he wasn’t breathing.

“Chrístõ,” she cried before they pulled her away from him. “Chrístõ, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Bring her, leave him,” the tallest of the men said.

“Help him,” she demanded. “Don’t leave him to die.”

“Man not needed,” another said. “Girl useful. Gods will be pleased with offering.” And she could do nothing when one of the men simply picked her up and slung her over his shoulders like she had seen men carrying sheep in pictures of agrarian societies, pinning her arms and legs. She didn’t scream. She knew there was nobody who would hear.

Chrístõ began to come around but as soon as he did he knew he was in trouble. He had been knocked unconscious while he was still recycling his air. He couldn’t do that for more than about an hour. He must have been out for at least that long. He was suffocating.

He unblocked his lungs and breathed deep. The sulphated air burned his throat but at least it WAS air. He took some more water and used a little to wipe the blood from his face. His hair was still matted with it where his head had been bleeding, but the wound had repaired and his blood replenished itself.

“Julia,” he groaned as he stood up and looked around. When he looked at the cave he realised how he had been fooled. It was like a natural duck blind. A perfect hiding place for a group of men stalking prey. If prey were likely to come into this inhospitable waste where there was no food to be found.

Perhaps it used to. He glanced at the volcano. Yes, it was an active one. Perhaps this HAD been a fertile piece of land once, but now it was covered in ash and pumice that killed the vegetation.

So why were hunters there? What did they hope to find?

A horrible thought occurred to him.


But then why leave him there? Plenty of fresh meat on him.

He dismissed the thought.

Julia struggled with the knots that bound her. But she knew, even if she could get free, there was nowhere to go. She pulled herself to the door of the sort of tent made of animal skins and some kind of fabric. Outside there was a whole village of these primitive people, cooking around camp fires, sharpening their flint knives. She watched one man flaying pieces of meat from a carcass of some animal and realised just how sharp such a knife could be. And she’d had one against her throat when they grabbed her. How close to death she had been.

A random search would get him nowhere, he knew that. He went back to the TARDIS and set the life-signs monitor to scan the area. There was a village five kilometres away. A brisk walk if he was inclined. He wasn’t. He set the TARDIS to materialise near the village.

It was more of an encampment than a village, he noted as he watched carefully, using his Time Lord vision to hone in on areas of interest. There were no permanent buildings, only squarish tents of the style used by the nomads of the Sahara on Earth. THERE was a nice bunch of people when you got to know them, he reflected. But he wasn’t sure he could say the same for these, and he wasn’t sure he WANTED to get to know them. They’d already proved themselves hostile by kidnapping Julia and hitting him on the head with such force as would have killed a Human.

Even he still felt a little concussed. His focus when he used the telescopic function of his eyes took a few seconds longer to adjust than it should and he had a pain in the base of his neck that told him his psychic functions shouldn’t be trusted for the moment.

All the people of this village were light-haired, he noticed. With blue eyes. It must be a racial trait. And when he thought about the dark hair and brown eyes that he and Julia both had he knew there was at least one reason for the hostility. To this tribe of simple hunter-gatherers, they didn’t appear to be of the same race, but to be alien beings as different to them as the Geolonias - blue-skinned and with rudimentary gills as a reminder that they only evolved from fish less than a million years ago – appeared to him.

And people all over the universe were afraid of what was not like them, and tended to react hostilely towards it. That was the root cause of racial prejudices on Earth, the most diverse planet he knew. He thought of Cassie and Terry and the unhappiness they had because of family resistance to their relationship. And he thought of their baby, with its Caucasian features and skin a little lighter than Cassie’s but darker than Terry’s, who represented the simplest solution to that problem - unlike getting to know each other and finding they weren’t unlike after all.

It had worked for his parents, too. And if destiny proved true, it would prove true for him, as well. He wondered what would happen when the son of a half-blood married another Earth Child. Their children would be unique among Gallifreyans. He hoped, by the time he had proved himself in whatever field he chose as his future career, the prejudices he suffered from as a child might have dissipated. His children would have a better time of it.

But unless he got Julia free of these people and took her home to Beta Delta IV where she belonged, that destiny couldn’t happen. It would end here, on this inhospitable planet. He knew they meant her harm. If the objective was not cannibalism, there were others equally awful. If they regarded her as alien to them then at least it was unlikely they wanted her for breeding purposes. The thought made his blood run cold.

He knew which of the canvas and skin tents she must be in. It was the one with the door flap closed down and a guard against it, sharpening his knife menacingly. But there were other men with knives, and even the women that squatted around steaming pots over the fires preparing food carried knives.

He crept a little closer, thinking about his strategy. Even if he used a time fold to reach the tent without being knifed or coshed he would have to fight it out with the guards and they could slit Julia’s throat while he was still struggling.

When it was dark, perhaps, he thought. He looked at the sky. It was covered in high, opaque cloud that seemed to make the humidity even more oppressive, but he could see the position of the sun more or less. It was dropping towards the horizon. In a few hours it would be dark. He had to trust that Julia would be safe until then.

Julia shrank back as the tent door opened and two women came in. They brought food and water and they released her arms from the bonds even though her legs were still bound tightly. Despite her fear she ate and drank. The water only had a slight taste of the sulphur that tainted the air and it refreshed her burning throat and made it easier to eat the strange stew. She was glad she had seen the man cutting up an animal carcass, because the thought of cannibalism had crossed her mind more than once.

The women watched while she was eating, their hands close to knives in case she might try to escape. When she was done, two more came, with water in a deep bowl as if for washing and some kind of clothing.

“What is that for?” she asked. The woman with the water bowl seemed to look sharply at her and she replied to her in English. Julia understood, of course, that under the TARDIS’s influence she could speak English and be understood by any native of any planet and when they spoke to her she would hear English. But this woman WAS speaking English, not the native language.

“You are to be made ready as a handmaiden of the Volcano God,” the woman said as she assisted the others to take her now rather grubby skirt and t-shirt off and wash her arms, legs and face before clothing her in a long, sleeveless dress made of what seemed like soft leather, tooled somehow so that the surface was covered in designs like a cave painting.

Just like a cave painting they told a story. And it was one that chilled her.

To become a handmaiden you had to be thrown into the volcano.

“Who are you?” she asked, focussing her mind on the important point, that this woman was not the same as the others.

“My tribal name is Gova,” she said. She turned and dismissed the other women in the native language. When they were alone she continued to arrange Julia’s hair in a strange, elaborate way as if for some ceremony. “It means stranger. My name used to be Caroline Bevan. I was from a planet called Earth in…”

“I know where Earth is. I am from there,” Julia cut her off. There were other things she needed to know and they might not have much time to talk. “But why are you here?”

“Our ship crash-landed, five years ago,” she replied. “We lost three of the crew on impact. The rest… all of them, including my husband, were killed. The men were just slaughtered. The women…. They were made into handmaidens.”

“Why not you?”

“Because I was the only genuine blonde among the whole crew. Lucky me!” She didn’t say that last part with any sense that she considered herself lucky. “I was given to the chief of the tribe, Molgan. I’ve… I’ve borne him four children already. And… he doesn’t know it yet, but there will be a fifth before the wintering.”

“So… it's not that bad for you?”

“Bad!” She shuddered. “Five years of that man….that savage… every night… Every time he touches me I cringe. I hate every one of the children I have borne. They are… They make me sick to look at them. If I had the courage I would drown them all.” She looked at Julia. “You are lucky. Dying is easier than the nightmare I have had to live.”

“I don’t think so,” Julia answered. “I don’t want to have babies for anybody but my Chrístõ. But I don’t want to die, either.”

Chrístõ! Her heart jumped a beat as she remembered him lying there, bleeding. She knew his body could repair. He might not be dead. She had to hope he wasn’t. He was her only chance.

“Chrístõ…” she said aloud, clinging to the hope. “He can help us both. You could get away.”

“I daren’t. He would kill me. I have thought of it before. But where could I go? No other tribe would dare take me in for fear of war with Molgan’s people. And anyway, they would only give me to one of their leaders. I’d be no better off.”

“We have a ship. The TARDIS. We can escape.”

“No,” she sighed. “I can’t. I wish…but…” She stopped. There were voices outside.

“Molgan!” she said in a fearful voice. “The ceremony is about to begin.

Chrístõ’s hearts sank. He had seen the women go into the tent with the clothes. And he saw the preparations going on outside. A ceremony was being planned. One at which Julia was going to be the focal point. He saw them bring her out of the tent and tie her to a black lacquered ‘totem’ with a fearful looking figure carved on the top. Something like a raven crossed with a pterodactyl. He sincerely hoped it was a mythological figure. He had no desire to fight one of them.

He recognised the leader of the tribe sitting on a raised ‘throne’ of the same black lacquered wood. Beside him was a woman who looked like she was his wife, but there was something in her expression as she looked at Julia that made him look at her more closely. He wasn’t certain. He would need physical contact to look at her DNA, but he was almost sure that she was of Earth origin. There was something about her bone structure, her features, the fineness of her hair, that made her stand out even though at first glance she seemed the same as these blonde haired natives.

Would she be an ally, he wondered. But if she was, that made only two of them against a gathering crowd of fifty or sixty tribespeople, all armed with knives that could take his head clean off if they got close enough and he was stupid enough to let them. He was lucky to have been hit with a rock rather than stabbed. These tribesmen knew that a man could fight back even with a stab wound, but if he was knocked to the ground he was at their mercy.

As the ceremony got under way, he understood entirely what it was about. Julia was to be a sacrifice to the God of the Volcano. He glanced at the mountain. In the dark, the top glowed menacingly. It was probably going to erupt in the next month or so. It obviously did so on a regular basis. That was why the landscape was so dismal and why the air was full of sulphur and why the tribes had no settled village. They could up sticks and move to safety within a very short time. But they had some hazy idea that sacrificing a stranger with dark hair would save them this time.

Primitive cultures! He despaired of them and their strange views of how life could be used and misused. Human sacrifices! What could be more obscene than that? And how did they ever get the idea in their heads that such a thing could stop anything as inevitable as a volcano eruption?

One thing was inevitable, he thought as he slowly edged back from where he had been watching the scene. THIS sacrifice was not going to happen. He ran back to the TARDIS and began to set it for ‘rescue mode’.

He could set the co-ordinate to centre on the totem where Julia was tied up. But in materialising around her, he would also bring in several of the natives. He got ready to fight as soon as they solidified within the console room.

Five of them, plus the woman who didn’t quite seem to belong. She looked the least frightened when she and her husband, still on their thrones, found themselves sitting in the TARDIS. She didn’t look at the green glowing central column of the time rotor and bow down to it as if it was a vengeful god.

Neither did her husband. He flew at Chrístõ in a rage, his knife flashing. Chrístõ responded with a Gung Fu kick that knocked him to the ground with a sickening and final crunch that suggested that his neck was broken. But that only galvanised the others into action. The glowing green thing might be a god, but men were another matter. Chrístõ took a painful knife wound to the shoulder as he faced three of them at once, but he was fighting his corner.

“No!” the woman screamed as she saw the fourth man head towards Julia, still tied to the totem in the middle of the console room. His knife was raised to kill her. Julia screamed too, and screamed again as the woman came in front of her and took the knife deep in her stomach. Chrístõ knocked the last of the three he was fighting to the ground and a moment later he had rendered the other one unconscious.

“Is she dead?” Julia asked as Chrístõ unfastened her arms and gave her a knife to cut the rest of her bonds while he looked at the injured woman.

“No, but she’s got a very bad, deep stab wound to the stomach. She’s going to need surgery.”

“She’s pregnant,” Julia said.

“Then she’s going to need very skilled surgery,” Chrístõ added. “Help me lift her up.”

“Should we move her?” Julia asked.

“No, but I have to. When we dematerialise, anyone not physically touching the console gets left behind.” He held her upright and between them he and Julia helped to hold her hands against the console as he reached for the dematerialisation switch. As he said they would, the dead tribal leader and the four unconscious ones were left behind. As soon as they were in temporal orbit he locked off the switch and caught the injured woman in his arms. “Medical room,” he said and Julia ran ahead opening doors without him even needing to give her any further instructions.

“Can you help her?” Julia asked as he laid her on the operating table and began to examine her with a medical proficiency that belied his apparent age. “It looks bad. Are you good enough?”

“Yes,” he said with no trace of conceit. “But the TARDIS medical room isn’t. It really isn’t geared up for major operations. I’ll do my best. Are you ready to play nurse for me?”

“She saved my life. I have to do what I can. Tell me what to do.”

“Scrub up, first. Even in the TARDIS basic principles apply.”

“Chrístõ,” Julia said as she got into the surgical gown he passed her and scrubbed her hands with antiseptic soap just as he did. “I… I have to tell you… it was my fault.”

“What was your fault?” he asked, busy himself making ready to operate to save the woman and her unborn child.

“I… while you were disposing of the hazmat suits… I changed the co-ordinate of our destination. I swapped two of the numbers. That’s why we went to that planet instead of Beta Delta IV.”

Chrístõ looked at her for a long moment. She looked at him and wasn’t sure if he was angry with her or disappointed. She felt terrible. Now he WOULD take her to Beta Delta and she wasn’t sure if he would ever come back to her when he went away.

“We’ll talk about that later. Right now I have to do an operation. What is her name?”

“Caroline,” Julia said. “That’s her real name. She’s from Earth.”

“Ok,” he nodded as he pulled on surgical gloves and got ready to do what he could. Julia did her best as a nurse, obeying everything he said quickly and without question as he worked.

“That’s the best I can do,” he said at last, as he made her comfortable in the bed in the corner of the medical room and closed the curtains around it. He sterilised the instruments he had used while Julia disposed of the blood-stained swabs and other materials from the operation. Then they cleaned themselves. He still didn’t say anything until they were done. Then he turned and looked at her again with that same inscrutable expression. She still didn’t know how angry he was going to be.

“I am angry,” he said. “And I AM disappointed. Julia, you know how dangerous what you did could have been. You might have done worse than end up kidnapped and sacrificed to a Volcano god.”

“What could be worse than that?”

“You could have set the TARDIS to materialise in a black hole, or the middle of a sun or anything,” he said. “It was a very, very foolish thing to do.”

“I know that,” she said. “I… I knew it was when I did it. But…” She glanced at the curtained off bed. “We saved Caroline. If I hadn’t… she would be…”

“Yes, we did. But even so, it doesn’t change the fact that you did something VERY wrong. Julia, you have to promise me that you will NEVER do that again.”

“I will never travel with you again anyway when we get to Beta Delta IV.” And she burst into tears then and admitted her fear that he would abandon her there.

“Of course I won’t,” he assured her. “I love you, Julia. I couldn’t be without you for too long. I’ll be back to see you lots of times. But, we ARE Going to Beta Delta IV.” He was firm when he said that. “After we decide what to do about Caroline.”

What to do about Caroline was more easily solved than it seemed at first. The answer lay where so many of his answers had been in the past year or so. Liverpool, England, in a warm summer day in 2007. He and Julia had not seen Cassie and Terry’s new house yet, one of the new detached properties with their own gardens built along the new stretch of the docklands renewal next to the apartment they had first settled in.

Caroline looked uncertain as she walked with them. She was glad to be alive, but she was alone in the universe apart from the unborn child of a man she had been glad to see die. She wasn’t even especially sorry to be parted from the four children she had given birth to already. She supposed somebody in the tribe would take care of them, but she had never loved them. She didn’t expect to love this one either. But even being stabbed through the stomach couldn’t destroy the life growing within her. What could she do but submit to the inevitable.

Then she saw Cassie sitting on a garden swing under a flowery canopy. She was wearing a flowery dress herself that matched it and holding a baby in her arms.

“Cassie, the loveliest of the flower children!” Chrístõ greeted her lovingly and took baby Chrístõ from her. He was nearly a year old now, and his brown eyes looked back at his namesake with bright intelligence.

“We’re going to wait before we have any more babies though,” Cassie added. “Terry wants to take an expedition from the university to Abu Simbel next year. And I SO want to go with him.”

“Abu Simbel,” he said with a smile. “Fond memories.”

“Yes,” Cassie smiled. “You know, people still wonder how those Greek letters got into an ancient Egyptian monument!” They laughed together. Julia laughed too, although she did not know the joke. She was looking at the baby in Chrístõ’s arms and daydreaming of the time in the far future when she, too, would be a mother. A nice dream. And she had almost ruined it with her foolish actions.

“May I hold the baby?” Caroline asked and Chrístõ turned to her. There was a different look in her eyes. A more ALIVE look than he had seen in her yet. When she held Cassie’s child in her arms she actually smiled at him. He, for his part, smiled and gurgled perfectly on cue. “I’m having a baby, too,” she said.

“Congratulations,” Cassie told her. “Is it your first?”

Caroline paused before answering. “Yes.” Because something had occurred to her as she held Cassie’s baby. This one WAS hers. Regardless of who its father had been, this was her baby and when it was born she COULD love it because she could bring it up as an ordinary HUMAN child, not as a savage of a tribe that worshipped a volcano. Her nightmare was over and there WAS something good that could come of her life now.

“Caroline is on her own,” Chrístõ told Cassie. “It's a long story, and for her to tell, not me. But she needs a friend, and a place to stay.”

“We have a spare room,” Cassie said at once. “You’ll be just fine. And it will be great to have somebody else to talk to who knows about Chrístõ. You should meet my friend Bo, later. Chrístõ rescued her, too. And Julia. He does that all the time. The universe is FULL of women that Chrístõ has rescued from horrible situations. It’s what he does best.”

“He’s a very kind man,” Caroline agreed.

“He’s mine,” Julia said, lest anyone have any doubts.

They stayed the afternoon at Cassie’s. Bo and Sammie came to tea, having heard that their best friend in the universe was in town. They all heard Caroline’s harrowing story and Bo, especially, understood her plight. They all repeated Cassie’s assertion that troubled young women of the universe could all breathe easy when Chrístõ came to their rescue. After tea, he and Julia said a fond goodbye to them all and he set the course once again for Beta Delta IV.

“It’s going to take longer now,” he told her. “Fifteen hours. We’ll be there in the morning.”

Julia said nothing. She knew there was nothing now to prevent the inevitable.

“An early night for you,” he said. “But first, come here.” He brought her to the sofa. He sat down and pulled her down onto his knee. He held her tightly and kissed her cheek gently. She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder. They didn’t say much, they just held each other quietly until he told her it was time for her to go to bed. She nodded quietly and kissed him goodnight. He waited a while and then quietly looked into her room to be sure she was sleeping. He returned to the console room and put himself into a deep meditative trance for several hours. He was weary enough. He still ached from the injuries he had sustained in the fight with the volcano worshipping tribesmen on that planet whose name he never even knew. The damage was repaired, but his body ached to remind him that even a Time Lord couldn’t keep doing that without suffering some small consequence.

When they woke the next morning they were there. Julia looked at the viewscreen with trepidation.

“It looks like Earth,” she said as she took in the suburban street with clean looking detached houses and gardens and hover cars in the garages or under carports. “Why did they move to another planet and make it look like Earth?”

“Homesickness,” Chrístõ replied. “You’re a funny lot, you Earth Humans. You can’t wait to get away, seeking new worlds, reaching for the furthest stars. But when you get there you want to feel like you never left. In the 20th century it was the same. People went from England to Australia and built old English pubs and insisted on having a Christmas turkey dinner on the beach in blazing sunshine.” He adjusted the view to focus on one particular house, identical to the others except for a rather nice porch over the front door that suggested her uncle was a bit of a DIY man. “Home,” he said to her.

“The TARDIS is home to me,” she maintained.

“This will be from now on,” he said reaching out his hand to her. “Come on.”

It didn’t go exactly as he had hoped. Herrick and Marianna Sommers went through several different emotional states in less than an hour. First came tears of joy and relief at finding out that their niece was alive and well. Then anger, mostly directed at Chrístõ, for keeping her from them for more than a year. There had even been talk of calling the police. Marianna was convinced that Chrístõ was a child molester. Julia clung to him and begged her not to hurt him and he managed to convince them that his conduct had been above board, and that Julia had been cared for and educated. They relented, but he was having an uphill struggle to gain their trust. And he needed that if he was ever going to see Julia again before her 23rd birthday.

Herrick was concerned about just what SORT of education she had received. As the situation calmed and they talked to Chrístõ about her future he listened to Julia telling his sons about her adventures of the past year and he was alarmed. He was almost on the point of rejecting her, telling Chrístõ to take his half feral space gypsy child away and never darken their door. But then he looked at her again and saw in her the image of his dead sister, and he knew he could not do that.

But Volcanoes! Sacrifices!

“Julia,” he said. “Come here, child.” Julia did so. “Of course you must stay with us,” he decided as he held her hands and looked at her dark eyes that matched his own. “You ARE my sister’s child. I can’t turn you away.”

“Of course she must,” his wife said. “Oh Julia, my dear. It’s a miracle that you’re alive.”

“Chrístõ rescued me,” she told them. “He’s a hero.”

“He’s something,” Marianna said. “Chrístõ…” She began to speak then changed her mind again. She didn’t know what to make of this young man with the strange self-assurance who Julia seemed so emotionally attached to.

And if she was puzzled then, she was even more so when he reached into his pocket and took out a closely typed legal document.

“I want… When she is old enough, it is my intention to make a formal Bond of Betrothal with Julia. That won’t be for another four years, when she is seventeen. Until then, this is a Pledge of Intention. It sets out my claim… my suit for her…”

“Your what?”

“You have to look after Julia,” Chrístõ said. “You’re her blood kin. It’s the right way. I WANTED to look after her. But it isn’t right. Not on my own.”

“It certainly isn’t,” Herrick said, thinking about the way his sons had listened gleefully to her lurid description of decapitating some kind of monstrous creature on some hellish planet.

“I understand,” Chrístõ said, looking directly at Herrick. “That is why she has to have a normal life. But it is written in her future timeline that we are going to be married. When she is of age. That’s 23 for her. I know that. Ten years to wait. And I mean to wait. Until then…. Her schooling, whatever she needs…. That is what the Pledge of Intention means. It sets out my legal, moral and financial obligation to her and to you as her guardians. I will set up an account to pay for whatever she needs or wants.”

“We can support her. We are hardly paupers,” Herrick said. “It's not a question of money.”

“I know that. It’s not about money. I’m not offering some kind of charity to you. I’m doing my duty by her.”

“You’re a rich man, Chrístõ?” Marianna asked him.

“I’m the son of a rich man,” he said.

“That’s a subtle difference,” Herrick noted. “You stand to become a rich man then. I don’t think it matters either way. Whether you are rich or not, what signifies is that you have made these plans for Julia. This… timeline…”

“I don’t understand that,” Marianna said. “How can you know her future?”

“I’m a Time Lord,” he said and he saw the look on their faces when he spoke those two words. “You understand what that means?”

“You can travel in space and time.” Herrick looked at him. He HAD heard of that mysterious race of people. And some of the legends about them. “Or is that just a myth?” Chrístõ WAS an unusual young man, but was he THAT unusual?

“No, it’s true,” he said. “That’s how I came across the ship where her family were killed, how I was able to rescue Julia. And it's how we were able to get here today.”

“Time Lords are psychic, aren’t they?” Marianna said, slowly. She, too, knew some of the myths and legends. But if she had ever wondered what a Time Lord looked like, she would not have imagined a dark haired, pale faced young man in a leather jacket that looked like it came from the 20th century of Earth history. “Does that mean that you… you know about the future.”

“Yes. And I know Julia WILL be my wife in the future.”

“Even if we said no… it will still happen?”

“Yes. But you would make Julia unhappy in the meantime. This way, I can be around on her birthday, Christmas, take her to the theatre, take her on interesting trips in my ship in the school holidays, talk to her by video-phone, write letters, and let our love for each other grow as she does.”


“She loves me,” Chrístõ said. “You must realise that.”

“I can see there is something between you,” Herrick said. “But she is just a child. You are speaking of…”

“I love her. She loves me. - more as a brother now. But later… I know that love will change into the kind of love that is between a man and a woman. Meantime, you need not fear. On my honour nothing untoward would happen. Nothing untoward has happened in the year we have spent together. Only I have come to care for her very deeply.”

“Please,” Julia said, leaving her uncle and going to Chrístõ’s side. “Let me see Chrístõ whenever he can be here. If not, then I don’t want to stay.” She sat in his lap as she so often did and put her arms around his neck. “My Chrístõ, I love you.”

Marianna and Herrick exchanged glances as Chrístõ held her tenderly. There was nothing in their definition of relationships that covered what lay between the two of them.

“How old ARE you, Chrístõ?” Herrick asked, remembering something he knew about Time Lords.

“One hundred and ninety two,” he said. “That’s about twenty in Earth definitions. I am travelling at present, enjoying a certain freedom, but by the time Julia is of age, I shall be graduated from university and starting a career, either in the diplomatic corps of my planet, or possibly in law or the government. I have… prospects. I can give Julia the best life you could wish for her in the fullness of time.”

“Do we have any choice in the matter?” Herrick asked. “You seem to have planned this out. And how can we argue against a Time Lord? Your power….”

“If you insist on keeping her from me, I have no power,” he said. “I am begging you to accept these terms and allow her, allow me, to follow our destinies.”

Marianna was looking through the contract. She looked at Chrístõ again, and at Julia as she clung to him.

“This… it's almost as if you would OWN her. We are… we would not be her family, merely caretakers of her in your stead. It's….”

“You ARE her family,” Chrístõ insisted. “I hope she will come to love you as parents, and you to love her as your own daughter. That is what she needs now.” He gently prised Julia from his arms. “I love you,” he told her. “But you must stay here now. You must have a normal life.”

“Chrístõ,” Herrick spoke again. “This has all the makings of a marriage arrangement. I know those things happen in some cultures. But not usually in ours. What if…. If she did not grow to love you. If she should find when she is of age that she does not feel that way for you? Would you hold her to an empty promise?”

“No,” he said. “No I would not. If she truly did not love me in that way, no I would not. But…”

“But I DO love him,” Julia protested and clung to him.

“What if you did not love her?” Marianna asked. “I don’t think we could hold you to an empty promise either.”

“That would never happen. She is… she is my destiny. And I dedicate myself to her.”

“Ten years, never looking at a woman of your own age, never enjoying the company of women? Is it credible? A young man….”

“I am a Time Lord. We believe strongly in the sanctity of marriage.”

“Julia,” Marianna held her arms out to her and she went to her. “Julia, I ought to be angry with you both. When… when the ship was brought to dock. When the news went around that everyone on board was killed… we mourned for you and your parents and your brothers. Your mother was a dear friend to me as well as Herrick’s sister. We suffered a terrible grief. And the blow would have been softened if we had known you were alive. A whole year… why couldn’t you have told us you were alive?”

“I didn’t know you,” Julia said. “I didn’t know if you would be kind. If you would care for me. Chrístõ is kind, and he has looked after me. I don’t want him to go, but he says… he…”

“You belong with us, Julia,” Herrick said. “You are my sister’s child. We ARE your family. Yes, we will agree to Chrístõ’s proposals. You may see him in holidays and… and he will be welcome to join us at other times as part of our family. But you must stay here, Julia. It is not right. You cannot travel with Chrístõ all the time with no schooling, no home, no stability. It's just not suitable.”

“I’ll get her things,” Chrístõ said, standing up. “Her clothes and books and…”

“There’s no hurry,” Herrick said. “We can…. You can stay a few days, surely.” Now that he had accepted the inevitable he was prepared to be generous. Julia smiled at that. Chrístõ did too. The parting would be less of a wrench that way. He hoped.