Chrístõ looked at the planet that came into view as they dropped out of the vortex. He sighed.


“Home,” Kohb said, standing beside him. “It’s been a while for me.”

“Me, too,” Chrístõ answered him. “And I’d rather not be coming back here now. I wanted to spend time with Julia, not giving depositions to the Inquisitor. Besides, every time I come home, I feel as if I am never going to leave again.”

“But you are an ambassador now, sir,” Kohb reminded him. “They WANT you travelling.”

“That’s true,” he conceded as he turned to answer the insistent signal that came from the Transduction Barrier Control Centre in the Capitol.

“Type 40 Capsule, please state the number of non-Gallifreyan citizens aboard,” the Controller said.

“One,” Chrístõ answered. “The Honourable Ambassador for Haeolstrom IV, Madame Camilla Bar Dey, who of course has diplomatic status and has no need to report to immigration.”

“I am reading two non-Gallifreyan humanoid lifesigns aboard your capsule,” the Controller answered.

“Then why ASK?” Chrístõ replied irritably.

“And one anomaly…”

He sighed wearily. He hated the Gallifreyan civil service.

“The anomaly is Humphrey. He is nothing to do with anything. He’s a shadow entity hibernating in my secondary console room. I have papers that prove he is of no threat to the flora or fauna of the planet. The other humanoid is my intended fiancée, Julia Sommers of Earth and Beta Delta IV. As my future wife she is an honorary citizen, and she, also, has no need to pass through immigration. We will not be landing in the Capitol. I don’t need to begin my depositions before the Inquisitor until tomorrow. Meanwhile I shall spend a civilised night with my family.”

The Controller looked at him as if he was about to pull rank on him in some way. Then he seemed to realise that Chrístõ, though not yet graduated from the Prydonian Academy WAS a fully accredited member of the Diplomatic Corps as well as the heir to one of the great Oldblood Houses. He had no rank to pull.

Chrístõ felt a little guilty about that. Even before Kohb became his friend he disliked the rigidity of their caste system. The Controller would be a younger child of one of the lower Newblood Houses or even a Caretaker who had done well for himself. But there were few opportunities for further promotion within the service. He was a man stuck in a dead end job for life.

But he was tired, and so were his passengers, especially Julia, and he REALLY didn’t want to spend hours in Immigration. So he salved his conscience and said a polite thank you when the Controller passed them through the Transduction Barrier.

He landed the TARDIS on the front lawn of Mount Lœng House, his family’s ancestral home. It disguised itself as a gazebo. Chrístõ stepped out with Julia, followed by Camilla and Kohb. They walked to the door and were admitted by the family butler who bowed deeply to them all. Chrístõ noticed that Kohb was a little embarrassed by that, but the next moment his father came through from his study and he forget everything else.

“I’ve missed you a lot, father,” he admitted as they embraced lovingly.

“I missed you, my boy,” his father admitted. “Come through to the drawing room. Valena will want to see you all.”

Valena looked like a typical Gallifreyan lady, in a fine gown and immaculate make up even for sitting in the drawing room. Garrick was sitting on her knee, and he, too, a baby of eighteen months old, was dressed impeccably in a little blue baby suit. Julia smiled happily and went to hold him, which gave Chrístõ the excuse not to. His feelings for his half brother were ambivalent at best and he was glad not to have to be emotionally involved with him if it were at all possible.

“No doubt you will want to take tea?” Valena said, and she signalled to the maid who stood quietly by the door. The girl curtseyed to her and scurried off to do her bidding. “I know you inherited your father’s taste for that Earth drink, Chrístõ.”

“Yes,” he answered as he sat next to Julia on the sofa. “He always had it imported because my mama liked it.”

“I became fond of English tea and good Scots single malts even before I met your mother,” his father told him. But both men knew there was only so much they could say about that without Valena feeling left out in the cold. The Ambassador turned his attention to Camilla, who matched Valena for elegance, and asked her about the diplomatic circuit.

“Hectic as ever,” she replied. “Chrístõ is making his mark upon it,” she added. His father smiled at that.

“Like father like son, like mother like daughter. I remember your parent when we were young diplomats. At least Hillary was. I was never young!”

Chrístõ turned and looked at Kohb. He looked rather uncomfortable. Chrístõ knew why. He wasn’t used to butlers bowing and housemaids curtseying to him.

The Ambassador noticed, too. He turned to Kohb and smiled warmly.

“I don’t supposed you remember my mother?” he asked.

“Yes sir,” Kohb replied. “She often attended luncheons with Lady Arpexia. That would be Madame Valena’s mother, of course. I was only a footman in the household, but Lady de Lœngbærrow was always gracious. So was your first Lady wife, sir.”

“My mother came from the ranks as it were. She was a housemaid until my father fell in love with her. She suffered the scorn of the Oldblood snobs, but most accepted her in the end. Even Lady Arpexia. My dear Marion conquered them all again. As an Earth Child she met with much the same snobbery but those whose minds were open for my mother stayed open. And those who could never accept either a lower caste or a foreigner could not be helped.”

“The House of Lœngbærrow has always been kind to those less fortunate,” Kohb said. “It is not for me to criticise others.”

“That’s my point,” The Ambassador told him. “You are a guest in my home, Kohb. Not a servant. Don’t be afraid to count yourself equal.”

“Which DO the snobs think is worst?” Julia asked as she looked up from her petting of the baby. “A Caretaker or a Human?”

“I don’t think they would choose between the two,” Chrístõ said. “When I was at the Prydonian Academy Caretakers were kicked about as often as I was for being a half blood.”

“They won’t like ME, either, will they?” she told him.

“When you are old enough to be presented,” Valena assured her. “Your debutante ball will be one NO society lady will dare miss. I will make sure of THAT. Julia, you will be Lady de Lœngbærrow in your time. This will be YOUR drawing room where you will receive the Ladies of Gallifreyan Society.”

“And visiting ambassadors,” Camilla added with a reassuring smile.

Chrístõ sat quietly and let the women talk of luncheons and fashions. He watched his father talking to Kohb as an equal and attempting to get him to call him by his first name instead of Sir, Excellency or Lordship. He let his own thoughts drift to the depositions he had to give in the morning.

It had come as a shock to him to receive such a summons.

His cousin, Epsilon, Rõgæn Koschei Oakdaene, the last son of the Oakdaene family, had finally been captured offworld and the countless warrants against him had been issued. But the planet where he was currently incarcerated was reluctant to allow his extradition until sufficient evidence was submitted of his guilt. Chrístõ was the chief witness to the majority of his criminal actions. He was to make his depositions before the Inquisitor and a panel of High Councillors.

He wasn’t looking forward to the procedure. It wasn’t merely a matter of telling his side of things under oath. Gallifrey had more sophisticated methods than that. He would be required to sit in the Deposition Chair, where he would be connected to the Court Recorder – not a man or woman with a stenograph machine, but an interactive, semi-sentient computer which under prompting from the Inquisitor would induce him to remember everything that had taken place in detail. The memories would simultaneously appear on a video screen and be recorded on the Deposition Recorder.


And it proved as wearisome and distressing as he feared. First thing in the morning, he hugged Julia and told her to try not to miss him too much. Then his father went with him to the shuttle port and wished him the best. He told him to face his duty manfully and assured him that he had faith in his ability to do that. Chrístõ promised not to let the family honour down by being anything less than his father believed him to be.

For three full days he did his best. He gave his testimony on three separate occasions on which Epsilon had committed capital crimes. There was the cold blooded murder he committed on Grepharia III, for which Chrístõ had been arrested and tried unfairly, there was the matter of the gun-running in the Gamma Quadrant. Chrístõ’s testimony there was not the most solid. Neither he, nor his friends, nor the Time Agent Jack Harkness who they had worked with actually saw Epsilon with the illegal weapons, but other evidence had been found by Gallifrey’s own agents linking him with the affair.

Then there were the traumatic events at the wedding of the King of Adano-Ambrado. Chrístõ found that one of the hardest to go through. But he was assured at the end of that long day that it was almost over. A half day more of cross-questioning to see if any salient point was missed, and then he would be done.

He was glad enough to return to the lodgings where he was staying overnight until the depositions were over. He ate a high protein meal that replaced nutrients lost while engaged with the Recorder and then he called Julia on the video-phone.

“I miss you,” she told him. “Will it be over soon?”

“Tomorrow,” he promised. “Then I can make it up to you over the weekend. But haven’t you had a nice time there? I thought you liked Valena?”

“I do. We’ve had some great chats and she took me to her dressmaker to have some fabulous dresses made. And I’ve spent loads of time with Garrick. HE misses you, too.”

“No he doesn’t,” Chrístõ told her. “He’s a baby and he hardly knows me. I’ve been away nearly all the time since before he was born.”

“Your father misses you.”

“I know he does.”

“Kohb and Camilla DON’T miss you,” she giggled. “They hardly notice anybody else.”

“Yes, I know,” Chrístõ laughed. “I ought to be jealous. I thought she was in love with me.”

“I’M in love with you,” Julia reminded him. “You’re MY boyfriend.”

“I know,” he assured her. “My beautiful girlfriend. You’ll look lovely in the gowns. I shall have to make sure your school holidays coincide with some diplomatic balls you can wear them to.”

He talked some more with her about light-hearted things before saying goodbye. His life felt darker and quieter afterwards and he went to bed early. He needed his rest with another session to get through tomorrow.

Even though it WAS just rounding up, it was still painful. The cross-questioning involved deliberate searching of the facts to be certain they were true memories. It WAS possible for a very strong-willed person to put false testimony into the Recorder and the cross-questioning was a guard against it.

“Thank you, Son of Lœngbærrow,” the inquisitor said at last. “You may step down.” The bailiff unfastened the restraints that prevented him from moving while the Recorder was operating and removed the probes from his forehead. He was pale and perspiring from the mental effort and he stumbled slightly as he stepped from the raised platform. The inquisitor herself reached and steadied him.

“You did very well, for one who has never made such a deposition before,” she told him. “Well done.”

“Thank you, madam,” he answered politely. “But… Madam… May I ask… Two things. First… As you saw, there WERE friends of mine involved in those incidents. If it comes to trial…”

“We took your deposition as a full citizen of Gallifrey of a good family. That ought to suffice for the extradition case. When it comes to a full trial, yes, their evidence will be needed, too. We will use the time portals. They will be brought here to give their testimony and then returned to their own times and places with their memory of giving the evidence erased. They will not be harmed and their lives will not be disrupted in any way.”

“I understand,” he said.

“And the other thing…”

“The… The accused… is a cousin of mine, by marriage. You will know that of course. The family lines of the Oldblood Houses are well known. You will understand… though there is no love lost between us, I may find it hard… my evidence will condemn him…. to DEATH?”

“Ah.” The inquisitor looked at him steadily. “That thought disturbs you? So it should, of course. None of us take such a thing lightly. I cannot say what the future will hold for any of us. But despite the terrible things the Son of Oakdaene has done, I think it likely his youth will be a mitigation. He may escape the atomising chamber.”

“Shada then?” Chrístõ said in a hoarse voice. “Some people say that’s WORSE than atomisation. But thank you for speaking frankly to me on that matter. I will do my duty. You will not find me wanting.”

“I am sure of it,” the Inquisitor answered. “But do not let it prey on your mind. It may still take some time to bring the matter to trial. In the meantime carry on with your life. Enjoy your travels and the friends you make along the way.”

“Thank you, madam,” he said and took his leave. He would have run from the courtroom but that was not dignified or proper. Outside its doors, though, he did break into a run, into Julia’s waiting arms. She was waiting for him. So were Kohb and Camilla, and his father.

“We came to meet you,” Julia told him. “As a surprise.”

“It was a very nice surprise,” Chrístõ said. He looked at his father and saw him nod slightly. Telepathically he congratulated him on completing his onerous task.

“It doesn’t feel like something to be congratulated on,” Chrístõ answered him. “I am glad it is over.”

His father nodded again. “Lunch,” he said. “And then it is time you had some REAL leisure. I have arranged transport to take you to the Lodge.

“The Lodge?” Chrístõ looked surprised. “With Julia? Isn’t she a little young?”

“To be alone with you, yes,” his father said. “It would be quite unsuitable. But your travelling companions will chaperone the two of you. And your presence will, I hope, temper their enthusiasm for each other.”

It hadn’t escaped his notice that Camilla and Kohb were holding hands. He was glad his father approved of that arrangement.

The transport was a private vertical take off shuttle. It picked the four of them up not far from the restaurant where they lunched and flew at subsonic speed as they crossed the ocean. After that it slowed to a mere hundred miles an hour and Julia enjoyed the view of the lush-green part of the southern continent that they crossed before reaching a wide plain where there was less greenery and a lot more rocks and where the shuttle set them down in front of a very big, sturdy, log built bungalow.

“Very nice,” Camilla said as they stepped inside. “Who owns it?”

“We do, it’s part of the family estate,” Chrístõ answered. “A weekend retreat. Come on, let me show you the best bit of it.”

He hadn’t been sure about the idea. He had gone along with it because Julia seemed enthusiastic and he wanted to please her. But as he showed his friends around the old family retreat he started to feel cheerful.

“What do you think of this?” he asked as he brought them to the very reason the Lodge had been built several generations ago. A natural hot spring poured into a swimming pool cut into the rock itself and a room was built half over the pool with sliding glass doors that cut it in half until Chrístõ reached for the control and opened them wide.

“Wow,” Julia said.

“Wow,” Camilla echoed.

“Very nice,” Kohb said.

Chrístõ smiled widely. The stress of the week was starting to fall away from him as he changed into swimming trunks and joined his friends to relax and enjoy himself. He swam several lengths of the pool, feeling his muscles stretching with the exercise. When he had done enough he lay on a mat beside the pool and watched Julia playing happily in the water. Kohb and Camilla had disappeared into the steam room and sauna, emerging looking pink and tranquil to sit and drink cool drinks by the poolside.

He was almost falling asleep in the balmy warmth of the pool room, listening to Camilla and Kohb whispering sweet nothings to each other and Julia diving and swimming happily. Then he felt a hand touch his cheek and a kiss on his lips. He opened his eyes to see Julia beside him on the mat. He reached out and touched her face gently.

“That was nice,” he said. “But you mustn’t, really.”

“I can’t kiss my boyfriend?” She looked disappointed and he didn’t want her to be.

“I kiss you lots of times,” he told her. “But when we’re both wearing almost nothing its not appropriate.”

“Camilla is wearing even less than me,” she pointed out. And that was true. Camilla’s choice of swimming gear was a bikini that had sent Kohb’s senses reeling and made Chrístõ think of a rather irritating Earth song about such a garment that got stuck in his head until he forced it out by means of some determined mental effort.

“Camilla is older than I am,” Chrístõ pointed out. “My parents were at her birth party before they were even married. And I can’t help remembering that the only reason your aunt and uncle were happy for me to take you away for the holidays was that I had an ambassador and an ambassador’s aide as companions. Herrik and Marianna thought they were a respectable couple and excellent company for us both.”

“Respectable?” Julia looked at them and giggled. “Although they ARE only kissing. There’s nothing WRONG with that. Is there?”

“Nothing wrong at all,” he answered. “For them. But I would not feel right kissing you in a bathing costume.”

“All right then,” she said, jumping up. She laughed and ran towards the changing room. He paused a moment before running after her. The changing room had some of the properties of the wardrobe on his TARDIS. It had cupboards with a wide and wonderful variety of clothes in it. It was where they had all found suitable bathing costumes, or in the case of Camilla, unsuitable ones. And now Julia found a collection of clothes that she was putting on in a laughing reverse of a striptease. Chrístõ joined in with her game. He found a pair of slacks and a thick woollen jumper that was about three sizes too big for him. Julia emerged in a full length evening dress of taffeta and more lace frills than he had ever seen in his life, long gloves and a wide brimmed hat.

“Will you kiss me now?” she asked with a laugh.

“Yes,” he answered and gathered her into his arms lovingly. He kissed her on the lips once, then held her in his arms gently, his cheek brushing against hers. “My girl,” he told her. “One day you’ll be old enough to kiss properly. And I will. I will kiss you so much. But don’t rush to grow up. I can wait. I promise you.”

“So can I,” she assured him. Despite that assurance she reached and kissed him on the lips again and then laughed and ran in her crazy outfit, complete with high heeled shoes, back out to the pool room.

He chased after her and grabbed her up in his arms again. She shrieked with laughter as he held her over the edge of the pool. Camilla and Kohb paused in their own activity and grinned as he laughingly threatened to throw her in.

“You wouldn’t DARE!” she replied, still shrieking with laughter.

“Wouldn’t I?” he answered. “Let’s see?”

He didn’t throw her in. But he did jump in himself, feet first, while still holding her in his arms. They both went down into the warm, deep water, her wide hat and the shoes falling off but the frilly dress swirling about her as the slight current of the constantly replenished water caught it. He adjusted his hold on her and pressed his lips against hers. He had closed off his breathing before he hit the water and he shared his oxygen with her for nearly three minutes before he swam back to the surface with her.

“That was fun,” she said, laughing and breathing her own air at the same time. “And it was the best kiss, ever.” She pulled off the sodden dress and let it float with the hat. Chrístõ pulled off his jumper and slacks and dived down to retrieve the high heeled shoes. He threw them out onto the poolside and then swam with her, now dressed in ordinary swimming costume again, splashing and playing. The big floppy hat stubbornly kept afloat and Camilla and Kohb joined them for a while in an impromptu game of aquatic hat throwing before returning to their own favourite poolside activity again. Chrístõ also declared himself tired of water sports long before Julia did. He returned to his mat, this time pulling a bathrobe around himself as he lay and watched her swim. When he persuaded her that she would shrivel up if she was in there much longer she found a silk wrap and a headscarf that she put around the back of her wet hair and covered herself suitably before rejoining her handsome boyfriend at the poolside. He put his arm around her shoulders and cuddled her gently, enjoying her nearness after missing her so often. He still wasn’t sure if her aunt and uncle would approve and he was certain they would be disappointed with their chaperone. Camilla had come with him to Beta Delta IV in a skirt suit and cloche hat with matching shoes, looking every inch the elegant lady diplomat and Kohb had been her gracious consort with charming manners. Even if they WERE only kissing just now, and there WAS nothing wrong with that as such, Chrístõ had a guilty feeling about it.


The sun went down slowly as they enjoyed the afternoon and evening. They watched it from their pool room. Even after it began to get dark they left the doors open. Julia loved swimming out in the warm water into the dark and coming back into the lit room.

“It doesn’t feel cold at all,” she said as she came back to the poolside to have a fruit drink. “It’s lovely.”

“The rocks around here are superheated from below,” Chrístõ answered. “It’s a natural phenomenon. But if you do feel cold, I’ll shut the doors.”

“I could go on all night,” she told him. “It’s lovely.” Christo laughed as she dived back into the water and swam with a quick, nimble backstroke.

Then she screamed. She turned in the water and began to swim back. Chrístõ dived in and raced towards her, pulling her out of the pool quickly. She didn’t look hurt, he noted immediately but she was scared.

“There’s somebody out there,” she said. “Somebody was standing there, outside. I saw him.”

At that, Kohb was on his feet and running, aide and protector to the last. Camilla came with a robe to put around Julia’s shoulders as she shivered with fright and sudden cold.

“Are you sure?” Chrístõ asked as he held her tightly, easing her fear. “It’s VERY dark. You could have been mistaken?”

“I saw somebody,” she insisted. “He was standing there, watching us.”

“There’s nobody there now,” Kohb reported. “If there was anybody, they’re gone now.”

“Nobody should be near here,” Chrístõ said as he reached and closed the window across the pool. “It’s ten miles to the nearest mining settlement. There is no reason for anyone to be here.”

“A burglar, perhaps?” Camilla suggested. “An unlucky one, if he is. This place is empty all year round and he comes on the day we arrive?”

“A burglar on our estate?” Chrístõ looked shocked at the idea. “Who would dare? Who would want to do such a thing? Our employees and our tenantry are all well looked after. They have no reason.”

“I could have been mistaken,” Julia admitted. “It IS quite dark. It must have been a shadow. I was just silly.”

“Do you think you were?” Camilla asked her.

“I’m not sure any more,” she answered. “It’s different outside in the dark. Then here in the light… It feels silly to have been scared.”

“Supper and cocoa, with marshmallows,” Chrístõ decided firmly. “You can swim again tomorrow in the daylight.”

“Yes, good idea,” Camilla said. She took Julia by the arm and led her away. Chrístõ looked at Kohb as they were momentarily alone in the pool room.

“What do you think?” he asked him. “You gave chase. Was there any sign?”

“None at all.” He answered. “And yet, I couldn’t say there was nobody. Julia is not one who frightens easily. I would be inclined to believe her.”

“So would I,” Chrístõ said. “We should be wary.”

“I will be wary,” Kohb answered. “YOU are here to rest after a difficult week. I have had an easy week, living like a lord.”

“You’re here to enjoy some quality time with Camilla. We can share the duty. For now, let’s make sure the lodge is secure against intruders and join our ladies for supper.”

They said nothing to either about their concerns and Julia seemed more and more sure she had been mistaken. Chrístõ caught her nodding off at the supper table and sent her to bed. He went to see that she was settled after a few minutes. She was in bed, but the window was wide. He went to close it. She complained that it would be too stuffy.

“This is a bungalow,” he said. “The window is on the ground floor.”

“I don’t think I DID see anyone,” She said. “You don’t need to worry.”

“I ALWAYS worry about you,” he replied. He pulled the window in partly and kissed her goodnight. Outside the room he found Camilla heading to her own bed. She smiled and pouted at the same time, a familiar mischief in her eyes.

“I WAS hoping to persuade Kohb to spend the night with me. Now he has an excuse to avoid my bed.”

“You shouldn’t be tempting him anyway. He is an honourable Gallifreyan.”

“Just like you, Chrístõ,” she answered in her melted chocolate voice. “Just my luck. The two men I would gladly give up the bachelor life for are immune to my charms.”

“Not exactly immune,” he said with an indulgent smile. “Just resolute. But don’t give up. Kohb adores you. And you’ve managed to make him forget that he’s a Caretaker and you are an aristocrat. That was an achievement for a start. Now you’ll just have to be patient and be wooed slowly by a Gallifreyan man.”

“Being slowly wooed!” She smiled broadly. “That would be a worthwhile experience.”

“There you go, then,” Chrístõ answered her. “Problem solved.” He kissed her cheek tenderly and wished her good night before going to his own room.

He lay down on his bed. He WAS physically tired, though he actually felt less mentally weary than he did when he was in the city giving his depositions. He let his mind wander while his body relaxed and refreshed itself. He reached out and felt the minds around him. Julia was asleep and dreaming softly, without fear. Camilla was just slipping into that part of sleep where dreams come, too. Chrístõ passed over quickly what she might possibly be dreaming about. Kohb was awake. He was walking around outside the Lodge just now, guarding them all.

He focussed his mind. There was something - a resonance, the echo of a presence, as if not so long ago a person had stood outside, watching the house.

There HAD been somebody there. But they weren’t there now. He was sure of that. He let his mind reach out further. There was nobody for many miles around them. They were safe for now.

He withdrew his mind and let that, too, relax for a few hours before he would relieve Kohb of his vigil.

He took his turn several hours later, sending Kohb to bed. He walked around the house once, coming to the outside section of the pool. He sat down beside it and listened to the gurgling water. It wasn’t cold. And he was perfectly comfortable.

Again he let his mind reach out. Again he found everyone else in the house asleep and dreaming. Again he felt the echo of a presence several hours ago. Fainter now, but very real.

“I sensed it, too, this time, sir,” Kohb said. Chrístõ looked around as he came and sat beside him.

“You were supposed to go to bed.”

“I’m not tired,” he answered. “I’d just as soon keep watch with you. Especially as we know somebody WAS here.”

“I can’t believe it was anybody from the estate. I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t one hundred per cent loyal to our family.”

“Mmmm.” Kohb said.


“You’re the heir. Their homes and livelihoods depend on your goodwill. Of course they are loyal to your face. But people lie, sometimes.”

“Good point,” Chrístõ admitted. “Even so…”

“Even so, I don’t believe it to be the case,” Kohb added. “I think there is something more to it. It FEELS as if there is.”

“We’re here to have a pleasant time,” Chrístõ said, feeling as if he had to remind himself as well. “Don’t tell them. Julia thinks she imagined it. Let’s leave it at…”

He broke off mid-sentence. Something had distracted him. Kohb was alert too. They both stood, back to back, scanning the darkness around them for anything out of the ordinary.

“Down,” Kohb whispered loudly and he turned and pushed Chrístõ. They both tumbled with a loud splash into the pool as the beam of an energy weapon crackled over their heads and grounded in the wall of the Lodge.

“It was aimed at you,” Kohb told him.

“Yes, I know,” Chrístõ answered as he climbed out of the pool, keeping low and in shadow. They had both made a crucial mistake before. They were standing against the lit window of the pool room and were visible to the attacker. It was a mistake he didn’t make a second time. He rolled until he was clear of the light and then he stood and began to run towards the source of the weapon discharge. He could just see the dark-clad figure when it raised the weapon again, clearly trying to get another shot. He folded time and crossed the ground in a blur. As he came out of the time fold he launched himself at the figure with a well-judged Gung-Fu kick, bringing him down to the ground. He used another Gung-Fu technique to disarm him. But the attacker was not without defensive measures. He struggled to his feet as Chrístõ grappled with him and pulled something from beneath his cloak. It was a transmat control and he was pressing it desperately, but it must have been damaged as he fell the first time.

“Stay where you are and put up your hands,” Kohb called out from a few yards away. Chrístõ saw his silhouette outlined. He looked as if he was pointing a weapon. At least it might look that way to anyone who didn’t know it was a hand pump for unblocking the steam outlet of the Turkish Bath.

Their attacker didn’t know that. He snarled angrily and dived past Chrístõ who was left with a handful of black cloak as he tried to stop him. The man dived towards his discarded weapon. So did Kohb. There was a brief struggle and Chrístõ stifled a scream as the figure of the man briefly was illuminated by the energy weapon accidentally discharged.

“Kohb, he whispered as the light faded leaving a ghastly afterimage. “Kohb, are you all right?”

“I’m alive,” he answered as Chrístõ found him in the dark. “I am unharmed. But…”

He was shaking with the sudden shock of being THAT close to such a death. He had felt the heat of the energy weapon as it enveloped the man. He had not touched the trigger himself. It had been a pure accident, and it might as easily have been him who was killed.

“It WASN’T,” Chrístõ told him. “Be glad. Come on, let’s get inside.”

They walked back to the pool room. As they stepped inside, Chrístõ looked at the cloak he was still holding in his hands. He froze.

“Look,” he said, holding up something metallic that was attached to it. Kohb saw what it was at once.

“Sweet mother of chaos,” he said.

“I think we know WHY somebody was sent to have a shot at me,” Chrístõ added. “Though I don’t know why he ran before when Julia spotted him.”

Kohb looked again at the cloak pin. It bore a symbol of an oak tree.

“Oakdaene,” Chrístõ said. “This was a piece of inept vengeance against me for making those depositions.”

“It’s a house servant’s pin,” Kohb noted. “This was somebody who worked for the Oakdaene family.”

“Extremely inept,” Chrístõ added. “A real assassin would never wear anything that would reveal his identity or link him to a client.”

Chrístõ half smiled. He knew that assessment was not entirely his own. Li Tuo, the former assassin had put the thought in his head.

“Is this the first of many attempts on your life?” Kohb asked. “Or a foolish, futile, solo act?”

“I have no idea,” Chrístõ replied. But he was lying when he said that. In the pit of his stomach, he knew that this was only a foretaste of what was to come when the trial got underway. He and all his friends and family were going to be at risk.

He would have to report this incident. There would be repercussions.

But the lodge had no communications and the shuttle wasn’t returning for another day. Repercussions could wait.

“At risk of sounding boring,” he said. “I repeat, we ARE here to enjoy ourselves. This is a beautiful place where my parents spent a lot of their happiest times when they were young, and which is on the list of places I intend to spend time with Julia when she is old enough to appreciate it in that way. And meanwhile you and Camilla are supposed to be cementing your relationship in the same way and Julia just loves the swimming. I’m not going to let it be spoilt.”

He sighed and walked back out through the pool room door and stood outside in the thermally heated warmth. He looked to the western horizon. There was a pink glow to it. “When was the last time you enjoyed a Gallifreyan sunrise, Kohb? I know I’m not your first choice of company for such an event. And you’re not mine. But this is our planet and our sun rising. Let’s appreciate it together and worry about everything else later.”

On another planet with a different sun to rise in its sky, the one who had sent an inexperienced servant to do the work of a trained assassin realised his error and vowed that next time there would be no mistakes.