Gallifrey’s newest citizen said goodbye to the planet of his birth three days later. The parents of Li Ang Thomlinson proudly looked at the birth certificate signed by the Magister of Southern Gallifrey that proved he WAS, indeed, a bone fide Child of Gallifrey, albeit a Human one. They planned to go and register a home birth in Liverpool once they got home, of course. But they would always know, and possibly, one day, when he was old enough, they might tell him the incredible story. For now they were happy to be going home, though sorry to say goodbye to Chrístõ.

“I think this really WILL be the last time for a long while,” Sammie told him. “You said we should make our own lives, without you. And we were doing that until the Epsilon thing came up. We really SHOULD get back to doing that.”

“You’ll always be my friends,” Chrístõ told them. “All of you.” He hugged them all again, kissed Bo and Cassie, and the baby, and then they stepped out of the TARDIS, onto the street where Liverpool’s Chinatown began with the great ornamental archway. He closed the door and a moment later dematerialised the TARDIS. He had already taken Penne and Cirena back to Adano Ambrado and dropped Kohb and Camilla on the Eye of Orion for a relaxing honeymoon fortnight. Now he had to take Marianna and Julia back to Beta Delta IV.

“Chrístõ,” Marianna said, as Julia looked at her expectantly. “Why don’t you come and spend a few days with us. It’s term time, so you won’t be able to be with Julia all day, but perhaps that’s a good thing. You need to see how we live in the ordinary way, when you’re not taking her to royal birthday balls and such. I think a little bit of normal life would do you good.”

Chrístõ looked at Julia. She was beaming with pleasure. And why not, he thought. He had nothing else to do for the time being apart from a vague idea about going pot-holing with Humphrey. But he could do that any time.

Humphrey was perfectly happy anyway. He had thoroughly enjoyed the TARDIS’s time at the depot, bouncing around and purring at the technicians as they repaired the damaged systems. Chrístõ had wondered if he wanted to stay with them as the depot mascot, but his attachment to him and to the TARDIS was too strong. He said goodbye to his new friends and was content to go travelling with his old ones.

“Yes,” he said. “I’d love to do that.”

And it had been a pleasant few days so far. The ordinariness of the daily life in the Sommers house felt like a refreshing change to him. Waking in the guest bedroom and going to breakfast with the family, kissing Julia good bye as she and her cousins went to school, spending the day exploring the very ordinary town, reading, typing up those log reports he found such a chore, and being plied with tea, coffee, and home cooking from Marianna until four o’clock when Julia got home. Then there was tea and homework before the rest of the evening was their own.

It being autumn with the nights drawing in quickly, they spent their time in quiet pursuits, playing each other at chess and backgammon and Mah-Jongg. Mr and Mrs Sommers watched them quietly, noting that Chrístõ was always perfectly correct in his behaviour. They stopped worrying that he could be a corrupting influence on Julia and congratulated themselves that they had a teenage girl who would not be hanging around with unsuitable young men. Not when she had one so very eminently suitable for her.

Then it was the weekend. Instead of her purple and grey school uniform, Julia dressed in slacks and a jumper and Chrístõ borrowed Herrick’s car to drive her to her Saturday morning ballet class. Then they had lunch in town before heading to the bowling alley.

The most popular activity for the youngsters of Beta Delta on a Saturday afternoon was always the bowling alley. Julia met her friends there. When they arrived at the coffee bar they all waved and called out to her. When they saw Chrístõ with her they all looked surprised.

“Wow!” Carrie, a blonde with sparkles in her eye shadow commented. “Who’s he?”

“This is Chrístõ,” she said, smiling and clutching tightly at his hand. Chrístõ said nothing. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say. Or if he was supposed to say anything. He was her trophy to be shown off right now. As such he wasn’t really required to speak.

“THAT’S your boyfriend, Julia?”


“He’s really real? I thought you made him up because you didn’t have a boyfriend at school.”

“He’s real, and he’s mine,” she announced proudly.

“Lucky you,” Carrie said. “He’s totally yummy.”

Julia smiled widely at that description of him. Chrístõ concentrated on his internal body temperature and avoided blushing as a group of 13 and 14 year old girls all appraised him. He knew he ought to pass their inspection. He was dressed in black, as usual, with his favourite leather jacket over a shirt fastened at the collar with a silver clip bearing his TS insignia. He was taller than most of the boys who accompanied the other girls and since he had long passed the age where his limbs didn’t co-ordinate with his body, he looked much more self-assured.

“So where’s his uniform?” asked a brunette called Tina. “I thought you said he was in the Space Corps.”

“I’m off duty,” Chrístõ managed to say. Then he ordered coffee and cake for all and slid into a seat next to Julia. Again he wasn’t required to contribute to the conversation much, although he WAS the subject of it for most of the time.

It felt strange. It was the first time he had really felt like her BOYFRIEND in the teenage sense. For all the many times they had been to the theatre or concerts or opera, restaurants, museums and art galleries, theme parks, ice skating, swimming, all of the things they had done together, this was the first time he really felt like he was ‘on a date’ with her in the expected sense.

It was strange, but at the same time, it was right. It was the reason Natalie had asked him to bring her here, so that she could live a normal life, so he could be a normal boyfriend and drink coffee and play ten pin bowling with her on a Saturday afternoon.

He had never played ten pin bowling in his entire life. But it was mostly about hand-eye co-ordination and he quickly picked it up. Julia and Chrístõ won all of their games, because Chrístõ never missed and got perfect scores every time.

“Show off,” Julia teased him when they finally decided to sit out and have another cup of coffee while watching the others play. She perched on his knee and he held her round the waist as they watched the players and the electronic scoreboards and let the noise of the bowling alley and coffee bar and the shopping mall around it wash over them.

“Do you think I should have deliberately missed a few just to give everyone else a chance?” he asked. “But it IS such a simple game. I can’t imagine losing.”

“It’s boring,” Julia admitted. “I only play because everyone else does. And they’re my friends, and this is where all the kids come on the weekend. But really, compared to some of the things we’ve done, this is VERY boring.”

“But it’s normal,” he said. “Safe. Some of the things we’ve done were terribly dangerous. I suppose none of your friends know anything about all that?”

“I haven’t even told most of them what happened to my family. I don’t want to LOOK different to them. I know I AM in so many ways. But I don’t want to stand out from them. I don’t want them to think of me as the ‘odd’ one. Now that they know I really DO have a boyfriend and you’re absolutely…”


Julia laughed. “Yes, yummy. Totally yummy. That helps. Now they know I’m just like them except my boyfriend is really special.”

Not standing out from the crowd. Not being different. He understood why it was important to her. But it was a small, petty kind of life to have to lead, living by the social rules of a bowling alley!

“It’s only for a few years,” she said. “When I’m old enough, when we get engaged, then I’ll tell them all about the ambassador’s parties and being a friend to royalty all over the galaxy and… Until then, all of that, is my secret world. The one I think of when I am TOTALLY bored with bowling and coffee and school gossip, and when I am tired of wearing that school uniform.”

“So you ARE happy living here?” he asked her. “I hoped that you would be.”

“Yes, I am,” she answered. “Even if most of it is a lie, and bowling is boring, I AM happy. I miss you a lot. But I think about you all the time. And I dream of you at night. Good dreams. About being with you like this. Being able to touch you, to put my head close to you and hear your hearts beating.”

“I’m surprised you can with all the noise around here,” he answered as she pressed her head against his chest.

“I can hear it. The most wonderful sound in the universe.”

And perhaps it was, at that, he thought as he sat with her, savouring as she did, the joy of being able to be close to her and ignoring the envious glances of her female friends.

“Julia!” cried an over-excited voice. “Chrístõ!” Julia slid off his knee and sighed irritably as her two cousins ran towards them.

“What are you two doing here?” she demanded.

“Come and see,” Cordell urged her. “They’ve found some really neat stuff at school.”

“Bodies,” Michal added. “They found bodies.”

“They WHAT?” The bowling game was abandoned as the teenagers gathered around to hear what the two youngsters had to say. “Bodies of who? I hope it’s Mr Jericho. I hate his lessons. Somebody should bump him off.”

“No, not THOSE sort of bodies,” Cordell hastily explained. “Not new ones. REALLY old ones. Under the ground where they’re digging for the new gymnasium.”

“THOUSANDS of years old,” Michal added.

“You mean an archaeological find?” Chrístõ asked calmly. “But I thought this planet was only colonised about fifty years ago. Your father told me they were only the second wave of settlers to arrive here after the first terraformers had built the infrastructure.”

“Yes, that’s right,” said Tina. “We did the history of the Beta Delta system in year four. There’s hardly anything to learn. The five habitable planets were designated for colonisation in 2331. The Terraformers prepared the planet before the first colonists, the Beta Delta Fathers, arrived on the Starship Philip K. Dick. Five thousand of them, a thousand each going to the five planets…”

“Maybe it’s the Leibliss,” suggested Carrie.

“There’s no such thing,” said her boyfriend, a young man called Marius who was fifteen and a little put out because until Chrístõ arrived he was the oldest boy in the group of friends and as such a kind of de facto leader.

“It might be,” Cordell said. “They said the heads were really huge and alien.”

“Now you’re making it up,” answered Marius. “You’ve not seen anything like that.”

“No, but I HEARD somebody saying it. Chrístõ, YOU believe me don’t you? You’ve seen aliens.”

“I’m interested,” Chrístõ admitted. “Show me.”

In the end it was quite a large party that headed towards the school, All of the teenagers changed from their bowling shoes and followed Chrístõ and Julia and the Sommers boys, curious to know what the excitement was all about. It was no great surprise, though, when they found themselves kept well back. There was already a chain link fence around the building site beside the school playing field. In addition, the foundations were now hidden behind plastic screens and there were police officers in fluorescent jackets mingling with the building contractors in their hard hats. Outside the chain link there was already a large crowd of onlookers.

“We’re never going to see ANYTHING,” complained Marius, and the teenagers were all grumbling in the same way. Chrístõ fingered his psychic paper in his pocket and knew that HE, at least, could get into the compound quite easily. But he wasn’t going to take an entourage. He waited patiently until most of the crowd that came with him had drifted off, bored by the lack of action or excitement.

“There ARE bodies,” Cordell insisted as they found themselves in a gradually thinning crowd. Soon there were just a few people, two very obviously local press who wanted a story, one who Julia said was the headmaster of the school, clearly disgruntled because the police had made even him wait outside, and one old man who stared at the plastic screen so intently Chrístõ was surprised it didn’t spontaneously combust.

“I believe you,” Chrístõ assured the boy. He looked at a group of police and construction foremen who were standing inside the fenced off area talking among themselves. “They’re waiting for an expert to come. A forensic anthropologist.”

“How do you know that?” Michal asked.

“Because he’s a Time Lord,” Cordell told his brother. “He can read people’s minds.”

“Not with you two nattering on and disturbing my concentration,” he answered them. “Actually I can hear much better than most humans. I heard them talking – despite your racket.”

He looked around. It was a lot quieter now. He turned and headed towards the entrance where a security guard and a policeman waited patiently by a red and white striped pole barrier. Julia walked with him. Cordell and Michal followed. He looked at them dubiously.

“No, sorry, you’ll have to wait here. Your parents would give me hell if I exposed you to whatever it is they don’t want people to see inside there.”

In truth, the presence of the plastic screens was, to the youngsters, like an 18 rating on a film. It fired their imagination and filled it with ideas that were more frightening than the reality was ever likely to be. If it was up to him he would have just let them see it and be done with it.

But it wasn’t up to him and he waved off their protests.

“I’m not going to risk being banned from seeing Julia because you two start wetting the bed and having nightmares,” he told the two boys.

“We’re NOT babies,” they protested. But he winked at Julia who took hold of their hands and held them back. She had seen plenty of horrible things and really didn’t need to see any more. Chrístõ stepped up to the barrier with his psychic paper held out.

“Doctor Chrístõ de….” The man made a hash out of pronouncing his name. Maybe, Chrístõ thought, he ought to call himself something simple like John Smith when he pretended to be somebody he wasn’t.

“I’m the expert everyone is waiting for,” he answered.

“You’re a bit young to be an expert,” said the policeman. “And weren’t you hanging about by the fence with a bunch of kids before?”

“No, certainly not,” he answered, meeting the policeman’s gaze with a penetrating stare that made him instantly forget what he had just asked. “And I’m much older than I look.”

The foreman of the building works took Chrístõ to the site of the archaeological find. He looked from the top of the pit and was surprised enough.

There were five whole skeletons. And they really DID look non-Human. The term alien was one humans used incorrectly, especially when THEY lived on colonies in other galaxies. These were not aliens. They were simply not Human. The bodies were long and thin with gangling limbs and huge heads that made them look like giant lollipops. Even Chrístõ was glad of that comforting image as he looked at them, because they really did look quite disturbing lying there in the freshly opened soil.

Whatever they were, Chrístõ realised with only a cursory glance. they were murdered. There were holes in the huge skulls that could only come from a projectile weapon.

And there was the fact that the bodies were laid out and buried. To hide them? A murder committed and hidden, thousands of years ago, and only uncovered, quite by accident, today?

“What ARE they?” the policeman asked. “And how did they get here?”

“I’m not sure what they are but they GOT here a long time ago,” Chrístõ answered. “Let me see…”

He pulled out his sonic screwdriver and scanned the remains carefully. The results puzzled him. He scanned them again. He stood up and looked around. They were about fifteen feet deep. But that didn’t mean anything. The whole of the topsoil was re-shaped and landscaped by the terraforming machines when they were preparing the planet for colonisation.

“The school gym is going to have to wait,” Chrístõ said. “This is a murder scene.”

“Murder?” the policeman questioned. “Surely not. Whatever these are, they’ve been buried for a long time.

“No, they haven’t,” Chrístõ answered. “I make it about fifty years. This isn’t an archaeological find. It’s a cold case.”

The policeman stared at him. He knew what the term “cold case” meant. On Earth where crimes happened all the time there were police departments that dealt with murders, even old ones. They had forensic laboratories where a murder victim’s bones could tell the whole story of how and why and when they were killed, and in some cases, by whom.

But this was Beta Delta. They didn’t HAVE crime in the old sense that they had it on Earth. That was the point of coming here, halfway across the galaxy, to get away from the old way of life and start again. A policeman’s job here was to find lost property or lost children, or to attend road accidents, crowd control at the annual open air music festival. In all the years he had been a policeman on Beta Delta he had NEVER dealt with a murder.

Let alone a fifty year old one. How was he supposed to proceed?

Chrístõ saw the indecision in the policeman’s mind, and knew just what was going on in his head. He knew that Beta Delta was a nice, safe place where people lived without fear of crime. The deaths on board the SS Alduous Huxley a few years ago were the worst tragedy people here had ever coped with and that happened in space. It touched them only because so many of their friends and family were aboard.

“You proceed…” Chrístõ began. But there was a shout and a man came running, flanked by two more policemen. Chrístõ was accused of being a fraud by the REAL expert from the Beta Delta University, Professor Darius Gilliand of the archaeology department.

“There’s been a mix up,” Chrístõ said, coolly. “They sent me as well as you. Two experts for the price of one. But there’s still plenty for you to give your expertise on.” He went on to explain what he had found so far. Professor Gilliand was sceptical.

“Fifty years? That’s impossible. You can’t make an on the spot judgement just like that. It would take at least twenty four hours for me to analyse the remains. I have brought a photographer to record the untouched bodies and then arrange for them to be brought to the university for further examination. Until then, I am not prepared to make any pronouncement about the age of the find or cause of death.”

“I am,” Chrístõ said. “Fifty years. And it’s a murder scene.” But he knew this was a debate he was going to lose right now. The policeman didn’t want to have to open a fifty year old murder investigation. He was clearly coming down on the side of Professor Gilliand.

Simply to save himself some trouble.

“Professor Gilliand, when you’ve examined the remains and confirmed my initial analysis, the police will have to open a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, make sure the whole area is sealed off. Don’t have any amateurs tampering with the evidence.”

He climbed out of the pit and walked past the policeman. He stopped by Professor Gilliand and took the astonished archaeologist’s PDA from him. He typed quickly on it and returned it displaying the short form of his name - spelt phonetically - and his mobile phone number. “Contact me if you find anything interesting.”

He walked back to the gate where Julia and the boys waited, their faces positively agog, a word that he couldn’t remember ever using even in his private thoughts before. But it most accurately described the expressions on their faces.

“Where would your friends be now?” he asked Julia. “Would they go back to the bowling alley?”

“It’s a nice afternoon. They’ll be in Earth Park.”

Julia had showed him Earth Park before. They had walked in it, and both loved it. Unlike most of her friends who were born on Beta Delta, Julia had clear memories of living on Earth. He did, too. And the Park was laid out with flowers and trees and grass grown from seeds brought from Earth by the first settlers along with the more immediately practical seeds for growing their first food crops. They created this beautiful place as a memory of the best aspects of the planet they had left.

Late on an autumn afternoon the teenage population of the town made their way to the park. That surprised Chrístõ until he noticed that for the older teens, the ones for whom romance was starting to be a serious business, the park was a much more private place than the bowling alley or cinema or any of the other amenities in the town centre. Julia’s age group, who weren’t quite ready for private corners yet, were at the Pavilion, a rather lovely construction of glass and chrome which had a stage area for open air theatre performances and a café, built partly indoors and partly in the open under a glass canopy. Julia’s friends were at a table together, pooling their money to see if they could afford a pizza as well as coffee.

“Tell you what,” Chrístõ said, sliding into a spare seat. “Pizzas are on me if I can borrow Tina’s mini laptop.”

Tina was sitting with her slimline mini computer playing a game of chess with an opponent over the internet. She paused the game and slid the computer over to Chrístõ, who glanced at the state of play and advised Tina on the winning sequence when she resumed before typing so rapidly the youngsters all stared.

“They teach them to type fast in the Space Corps,” Julia said in explanation. Chrístõ winced. He hated the idea of her telling lies about him.

“He’s NOT in the Space Corps,” Cordell said out of the blue. “That’s just a fib because Julia is embarrassed by what he really is.”

Julia glared at her cousin. Her friends all looked at her.

“So what IS he then?”

“A spy?”

“Intergalactic secret agent?”



“Private detective?”

Chrístõ looked at Julia and took her hand gently. “I work for the diplomatic corps of my planet.” He took a deep breath. “Gallifrey.”

“Gallifrey?” He felt Julia tense up as her friends considered that new information. He knew she would rather have kept on telling the lie. But he was almost glad that Cordell had spilled the beans. It just didn’t sit with him to keep up the deception. It was one thing when he was far away and she showed them pictures of him. It was all very well telling fibs to get through the security at the building site. But in front of her friends, the people she genuinely liked, he really wanted the truth to be known.

“Wow,” Carrie said at last. “That means you’re… you’re a Time Lord! Wow. They’re like… really rich.”

Julia relaxed as her friends interpreted Chrístõ’s origins in the most simple, material terms.

“Are you really rich, Chrístõ?” asked Marius.

“If you are, can we order the deluxe pizzas?” added Carrie’s boyfriend, Kendrick, before he could answer the question.

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered with a laugh. “And milkshakes and dessert, too.” He summoned the waitress who took their order. While they waited for their food he carried on typing until he had hacked into the private intranet of Professor Gilliand. As he had expected, the photographs he said he was going to take were sent electronically, straight to the university. He opened the files and studied them closely.

“Ok,” he said to the crowd around him. “I’ll show you the bodies on two conditions. One, everyone still eats their pizza, and two, you tell me all about the Leibliss.”

He passed the laptop around the table and they all stared but none of them lost their appetites for their food and resumed eating afterwards.

“It’s not so bad really,” said Cordell. “I’ve seen worse looking aliens on Galaxyfleet X.” This, apparently was a television adventure series about Humans exploring the deep regions of space where they met aliens of various sorts each week. Julia smiled knowingly as Chrístõ caught her eye. She didn’t need Galaxyfleet X to tell her about aliens.

“Seeing it on a screen is one thing,” Chrístõ said. “But you stay away from the real thing, ok. That’s another matter. And while we’re at it, why do you lot keep talking about aliens? Your parents and grandparents colonised this planet. You’re the aliens here.”

“No,” Michal insisted. “Aliens come from other planets and are…” He paused and frowned.

“We come from another planet,” Marius said as he understood what Chrístõ was getting at. “So do you, Chrístõ. A TOTALLY different planet. So you’re an alien, too.”

“Yes,” he said. “I fully admit that I am. I am an alien everywhere I go. And that’s no bad thing sometimes. It lets me see things for what they are. So, tell me, what or who are the Leibliss?”

“They’re not real,” Marius answered. “It’s a sort of kids story. The Leibliss are like ‘fairies’.”

“And who said fairies aren’t real?” Chrístõ asked. “But go on…”

“The legend is that they’re the people that used to inhabit this planet before we came here,” said Kendrick. “They are supposed to have died out hundreds of years ago, maybe thousands. Nobody really knows what they look like.

“The stories say they are tall, shining, beautiful creatures and that on a full moon their spirits drift across the countryside,” Carrie explained.

“But it’s more than THAT,” Tina added. “Because there’s a museum, with old pottery and tools and that sort of thing, that gets turned up every so often by farmers and when they’re doing building work like at school. But they never found skeletons before.”

“Do you think they’re the Leibliss?” Marius asked pointing to the pictures of the skeletons on the computer. “Are they REALLY them?”

“Well, it would make sense,” Chrístõ said. “Except…. Those bodies were not thousands of years old. If the Leibliss died out as long ago as people say, then this isn’t them. But whoever they are…”

Chrístõ looked up as he spoke, and noticed something.

“That old man,” he said. “Over there by the trees. He was at the school, too. Is he following us?”

The teens all looked around. Marius shook his head.

“That’s old Jackson Dane. He’s harmless. He’s about ninety years old. He’s got so many artificial organs he’s practically a cyborg. He’s a bit strange but he doesn’t bother anyone. He doesn’t SPEAK to anyone.”

“WE were at the school and now we’re here, why shouldn’t he be?” Julia reasoned, and Chrístõ relaxed. He was too suspicious.

“Anyway,” he said, getting back to the question of the mysterious bodies. “Whoever these people ARE, they were murdered. Professor Gilliand didn’t believe me. The police officer didn’t WANT to believe me. And between them they might find a way of covering it up. But I know the truth. And I intend to get to the bottom of it.”

“Then you ARE a private detective?” Kendrick said.

“Not really,” Chrístõ laughed. “But I’m really nosy and I believe in justice and honour and I believe in the truth. And I intend to find out what happened here.” He looked around at Julia’s teenage friends. They were clearly unused to anyone with his sort of passion. But they weren’t upset by it. Rather they seemed to be looking at him with a kind of awe and respect. “But nothing I can do yet. So I’m just going to enjoy my pizza and ice cream and coffee.”

And he did just that. He was asked a lot of questions about just how rich he was, and about his homeworld, and returned with questions to the Beta Deltans about life on their world. Julia seemed happy, anyway. A hurdle had been safely crossed. Her friends accepted her boyfriend, and for himself, not for a lie.

All he had to do now was negotiate the minimum bribe level to make sure the boys didn’t talk about him showing them pictures of alien bodies in front of their parents, and for everyone in the house to go to sleep tonight.

Because his way of finding out what happened fifty years ago wasn’t the way Professor Gillaund or anyone in the police headquarters would do it.

He slipped quietly out of the house and out to the street where his TARDIS was disguised as an ordinary hover car with TS as a vanity plate above a genuine looking registration number. He slipped inside and snapped his fingers to make the lights turn up in the low-power mode console room. In his dark corner under the console Humphrey trilled at him joyfully.

“Just you and me for a little trip back in time,” he said. Humphrey sounded as enthusiastic as a creature made of darkness could sound as Chrístõ took his sonic screwdriver out of his pocket and interfaced it with the TARDIS. The navigation console extrapolated a temporal and spatial location from the data he had collected from the skeletal remains of what, for want of any other name, he intended to call the Leibliss.

The journey approximately fifty years back in time and a few miles distance took about ten minutes. Chrístõ used that time to prepare himself. Because he knew one thing. Whatever happened back then he wasn’t allowed to change. So he couldn’t interact with anyone or anything. He was just there to observe, so that the truth could be known.

A drawer in the bedroom he so very rarely used, the one identical to his room at home on Gallifrey, contained what he needed – a Panopticon visitor’s gallery perception filter. Members of the public who wanted to watch the proceedings of the High Council were given a filter at the door. It was a simple piece of technology - a medallion with the seal of Rassilon engraved upon it, strung onto a piece of ribbon. When worn around the neck, it rendered the wearer not so much invisible as irrelevant. They were neither seen nor heard below in the debating chamber and could not disrupt the proceedings. Visitors were meant to give them back when they left, but Chrístõ was so used to sitting in the gallery when he was younger and his father and uncle were on the High Council, that he had simply kept one of them and gone in and out of the gallery unnoticed.

That was exactly what he wanted to do now. He slipped the perception filter on and walked back to the console room. Humphrey perceived him, of course. Humphrey’s mind worked differently to humanoid minds.

It was night outside, Chrístõ noted when the TARDIS materialised. But it was no peaceful night-time. Something dreadful was happening.

“Fires burning over a fifty mile radius!” He noted the data on the environmental scanner with dismay. “Pattern and density of fires indicate deliberate burning of habitations.” The long range scanner told him there were no lifesigns except in the immediate area just outside the TARDIS.

“Come on, Humphrey,” he said. “Let’s go and see what’s going on out there.”

What was going on was a massacre. Chrístõ walked through the smouldering remains of what had been a village. Almost nothing was left of the wooden houses but he could tell that they were of a fairly basic sort typical of an early communal society, the agrarian people who were the next stage from the nomadic hunter-gatherers.

The people had been burnt alive in their homes. They had died in agony. He knew by looking at the bodies, at the way they were lying, huddled as if trying to protect each other. But there was no protection. The flames had been too hot.

They were the same species as the ones found at the school - the people he had called the Leibliss.

This was the school, fifty years from now. The village was exactly on the site where it would be.

Humphrey was making a soft keening noise. He knew well enough what had happened here and his soul cried out. Chrístõ cried, too, silent tears that rolled down his cheeks as he walked through the pitiful remnant of the Leibliss.

If that was what they were called. But he felt in his bones that they were. This was not a group of travellers who happened upon this planet. These were people who had always lived here. They were a proto-civilisation, just beginning to make the strides that humans and Time Lords and every other sentient species had made. They were a long way from space travel. A long way from anything more technological than a potters wheel or a loom. He saw broken and burnt remnants of both those simple tools as he walked through the village.

Then he heard gunfire. Two shots in quick succession. Then another two, and another. Five times in all, ten shots. And immediately after that he heard another sound. A shuttle craft flew over the smouldering village and landed somewhere near where the shots had been fired. Chrístõ ran after it.

He got there in time to see the pilot of the shuttle jump out and race towards another man who stood there in the darkness. Chrístõ moved closer to hear their conversation, though since it was shouted, angrily, he could have probably stood much further back.

“What have you done?” screamed the shuttle pilot. “This is murder. This is genocide. You… you… murderer.”

“Murder? These were barely more than animals. Their language was barely formed and never would progress to any level of sophistication. Those big heads… nothing but skull tissue. The brains are the size of a cat. They were just animals.”

“They are people. They are the indigenous people of this planet. I sent a report back to Earth recommending…”

“I cancelled the report. Do you have any idea how much money we would lose if this planet isn’t opened to colonisation?”

“It’s not about money. Hal, for God sake! The colony programme is meant to open up uninhabited worlds to those seeking a new life and a fresh start away from the overpopulated cities of Earth. It’s not about money. It’s about dreams.”

“Damn right it’s about money. We’re talking billions. And I’m not letting some Neanderthal alien evolutionary cul-de-sac get in my way. And I’m not going to let you get in my way, either, Dane.”

Chrístõ had been moving closer all through the angry conversation, but now he folded time and put himself between the man called Dane and the one called Hal who was holding the gun. In the stretched moment of time he saw the bullet leave the gun and reached out to stop it with his hand. Even in slow time it hurt as it lodged in his palm, but he didn’t think about that as he pushed Mr Dane to the ground and whispered to him to lie still. He was still concealed by the perception filter which worked perfectly. He was invisible to anyone who didn’t expect him to be there. And Hal certainly didn’t expect him. Mr. Dane lay still, as commanded by the stranger he felt pressed against him but whose face he didn’t see as he lay on his stomach in the dirt. Hal turned and walked away. There was a sound of a shuttle leaving.

“You can get up now,” Chrístõ said. “Dane? Jackson Dane?”

“Yes, that’s my name,” Dane answered. He looked around as Chrístõ removed the perception filter. “Who are you? How did you get here?”

“Never mind,” Chrístõ said. “Suffice to say I heard everything. You tried to stop him.”

“Yes. But… I was too late.” Dane took a few steps and gasped in horror as he looked at the five dead people, freshly shot, lying beside a pit. “They were the last. They escaped the fires. They… I think they were digging that to bury the dead.”

“We’ll bury them in it,” Chrístõ said. “Make it decent. Make it clear… if the bodies should be found… that they WERE buried, not just left where they died.”

Dane shook his head. “They’ll never be found. Hal… Hal Gacek… he’s ordered the terraformers to start work in a few hours. The topsoil of this entire planet will be turned over and reformed. What happened here will be covered up, literally.”

Chrístõ looked at the pit. It was a good ten feet deep. They had meant to bury the dead of a whole village in it. He took out his sonic screwdriver and aimed it at the rough soil bottom of the pit and the laser tool cut it another three feet deeper.

“Terraformers never go much deeper than about five feet,” he said as he began the work of lifting the bodies into the ready-made grave with Dane’s help. It took time, even with the two of them working together, to lay the bodies neatly beside each other and then to replace the soil. When it was done they stood beside the grave. Dane whispered an Earth prayer. Chrístõ just stood, sadly, regretting that this was the only part of the whole affair he could do anything practical about. Preventing the deaths of the last of the Leibliss would have caused a paradox. It might have unravelled the whole history of the Beta Delta colonisation. It might even have changed his whole personal history.

Because if Beta Delta IV was not colonised, Marianna and Herrick would not have come here, and Julia’s parents would not have decided to join them.

Humphrey gave a sudden cry of alarm. Chrístõ heard the sound of low-flying ships a moment later. He knew what it was.

“The Terraformers,” he said. “Gacek must have ordered this area sterilised first. Come on. My ship is near here. Humphrey, you lead the way. This place is not going to be healthy for you, either.”

They hurried back to the TARDIS. Jackson Dane was a little surprised by the console room but as the Terraformers moved closer he was grateful for a ship that moved them out of danger in a matter of seconds. They watched from orbit as the great ships moved across the planet’s surface, their laser controlled ploughs turning over the topsoil and reforming it to order, ready for seeds and plants to be put in place. Where the only five whole and unburnt bodies lay would be seeded with grass and eventually become the playing fields of the secondary school until it was decided that they needed a new gymnasium.

“They’ll sleep in peace beneath it all,” Chrístõ told Dane. “But what will you do? Will you go to the authorities?”

“By the time they get here the evidence will be gone. Nobody will ever know the Leibliss ever existed. Gacek has erased them from history. Besides, he has influential friends. That’s how he got the contract in the first place. They’ll never listen to me.”

“At the least, I think we should go and see him,” Chrístõ said. “And make sure he knows you’re alive and kicking.” He reached into his pocket and found the perception filter again. “We’ll be discreet,” he said as he laid the medallion on the console for a few minutes – long enough to augment it so that its field would cover Dane as well as himself when he wore it.

As the surveyor’s ship came into view in its geostationary orbit, Chrístõ keyed in its co-ordinates. The TARDIS disguised itself as an ordinary airlock and they stepped out into the ship. Chrístõ slipped the perception filter back over his head. Dane blinked and looked at him.

“For a moment, I thought you had vanished.”

“For a moment, I had,” he answered. “But you know I’m here, so that’s all right.”

He ventured no further explanation of the perception filter as they headed to Gacek’s office. Dane stepped inside without knocking and was not surprised to hear his own accidental death report being dictated into the ship’s records. He WAS surprised by the fact that Gacek didn’t notice him. He saw the young stranger who had saved his life take the medallion from around his neck and then Gacek looked up and went deathly pale.

“No,” he cried out. “No, don’t hurt me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have killed you if there was any other way. I had to shut you up…”

“You didn’t have to do anything,” Dane answered. “You murdered the Leibliss and attacked me out of your own greed and ambition. You are a murderer and a cheat.”

“I’m sorry,” Gacek said again. “Don’t hurt me. I’m sorry.” He stood up from his desk and Dane stepped back instinctively, knowing that Gacek had a gun, after all.

But Gacek didn’t reach for his gun. Instead he gave a strangled cry and clutched his chest. Chrístõ stepped forward and reached to support him as he crumpled up in obvious pain. That only seemed to cause him even more distress, though, and Chrístõ realised that Gacek had never, in fact, noticed him there beside Dane. The augmented perception filter had continued to hide him even after he took it off. Gacek had not expected a stranger to be there and so he simply didn’t see him.

He never expected to see Dane, either, of course. But in the middle of writing his death report, thinking about him that much, Gacek had unconsciously accepted Dane’s presence.

“He’s arrhythmic,” Chrístõ said as he began massaging his heart. “The shock… seeing you so suddenly… Get some help. There must be a medical room aboard this ship. Get somebody up here with a defibrillator.”

Dane hesitated for a few seconds before turning and running. Chrístõ continued to do what he could. Gacek was undoubtedly a murderer who deserved to be punished, but even so, Chrístõ tried to save him. He was almost a doctor. He had been so close to taking the oath that bound him to preserve life. He wanted Gacek to live.

“It’s too late,” he told the medics with the defibrillator who raced to the scene followed by Dane. “His heart stopped ninety seconds ago.”

The medics tried, even so. Like him, they would always try until the last minute and then beyond it. For several minutes more they tried to revive Gacek before checking the time and pronouncing him dead.

“He had an enlarged heart,” the senior medic said as he arranged to have the body removed to cold storage. “Nobody’s fault. It could have happened any time. By rights he probably shouldn’t have been involved in deep space exploration, but he got around the medical somehow. Nobody’s fault.”

“Nobody’s fault!” Chrístõ fingered the perception filter medallion and pondered on that phrase sadly.

“I’ve got to go,” he said to Dane. “You’re free to make whatever report you think best about this affair. Good luck. I’ll… I’ll see you in the future.”

“Perhaps,” Dane answered absently. He looked a little dazed as he considered that future and what report he could make about what had happened. Chrístõ touched him on the shoulder and then walked away, back to his TARDIS. Humphrey greeted him as he stepped aboard and he stroked his hand through the darkness creature’s body and took comfort from his presence, but he had a lot to think about, and none of it good.

He made himself put it out of his mind when he got back to the guest room of Marianna and Herrick’s house. He undressed and climbed into the bed and lay there in the dark, clearing his mind of all of the many issues that he knew he still had to address before letting his surprisingly tired body drop into a refreshing meditative trance.

Sunday morning was a cool, crisp, autumn day with a bright sun in a clear sky. Julia said she would usually meet her friends in the park and Chrístõ was glad to go with her. Cordell and Michal tagged along.

“Where did you go last night?” Michal demanded of him as they headed towards the Pavilion. “I saw you sneaking out of the house and going to your hidden space ship.”

“Did you?” Julia looked at him with disappointment clear in her eyes. “You could have taken me.”

“No, I couldn’t,” he answered. “If I decide to take a wander in the middle of the night, that’s my business. But if your aunt and uncle found you weren’t in your bed, I would be in big trouble.”

“It’s not fair,” she responded. “I’ve been away with you in the TARDIS lots of times. But now I have to be a good little girl and stay in bed.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered her. “Yes, you do. I’m sorry. But that’s the way it is. For now. Until you’re old enough to be with me always.”

She was hurt by that. He knew she was. But he couldn’t help it. Like so many things that had happened since yesterday it was beyond his control.

He looked around the park. He could see her friends already drinking coffee at the Pavilion café. He saw somebody else, too.

“Go on and sit down with them,” he said to her. “All three of you. I just have to do something. I won’t be long.”

He kissed her cheek and hugged her gently, hoping that was enough to make up for her disappointment, because there were bigger issues to be addressed and her feelings, for once, had to take second place.

Julia was still feeling sad and disappointed as she sat with her friends and listened to them talking about a film that was showing at the cinema this afternoon. She didn’t want to see it. At least not with them. If Chrístõ would come with her, then it would be fine. But she didn’t want to go just as one of the crowd.

She looked around as Chrístõ approached. She was surprised to see that the old man, Jackson Dane was walking with him. Chrístõ pulled out a chair for him and they both sat down at the table. He ordered coffee for everyone, including Mr Dane and said nothing for a few minutes. He seemed to be looking at everyone and summing them up.

“You’re all very young,” he said. “But I wonder… I think you can be trusted to handle the truth. It may be that those of you here will be the only people on Beta Delta who WILL hear the truth, because it’s going to be difficult to make other people listen. But I think you have a right to know.”

It was rather a solemn thing to say to a group of youngsters who normally only thought about ten pin bowling and films and music. But they all listened quietly and turned expectantly to listen to Mr Dane when he, prompted by Chrístõ, told the story of how the last of the indigenous people of the planet that would be called Beta Delta were brutally murdered. He left out Chrístõ’s part in it, but everything else he told them truthfully and plainly.

“They WEREN’T an evolutionary cul-de-sac,” Dane said. “They were a new people who had not yet had chance to develop beyond small village communities. Intergalactic law states clearly that such societies should not be interfered with. This planet should not have been colonised. It should have been protected. Gacek knew how much money that would cost the company. We would all lose. We all had shares in the project. But what is money next to the lives of a whole race of people?”

The girls were all crying. The description of how the Leibliss were killed touched them deeply. The boys were upset, too, but trying to be ‘manly’.

“But that means,” said Marius. “Our school, this whole town, this park… It’s built over the place where all those people were killed.”

“Yes,” Mr Dane said. “I am sorry.”

“Why should you be sorry?” Kendrick asked. “You tried to stop him. He tried to kill you.”

“Gacek thought I was dead. When I confronted him on the ship he literally died of fright. And that’s why I never reported what had happened. It seemed as if justice had been served. His life for the lives of the Leibliss. The terraforming continued on all five planets. Your parents and grandparents all came out as colonists and set up homes and businesses. Those of us with shares in these new lands became very rich.”

“You’re not very rich, Mr Dane,” said Cordell. “You live in an ordinary house. It’s the same size as the one we live in.”

“Your school is built on land that was given to the town as a gift. So was the hospital, and this park. I thought, if something good came out of it, if the land was used for good things, maybe… Maybe I could live with myself and the memory of my part in it all.”

The old man was crying. The teenagers watched him in shocked silence. Julia stood up from her seat by Chrístõ and went to him.

“It wasn’t your fault, Mr Dane. And I think that was a nice thing for you to do. I like the school, and the park.”

“My grandmother was very ill last year,” said Tina. “The hospital saved her life. And I heard my mum say that they would not have had such a good hospital if the land had not been donated, saving them so much money to build it with.”

“It doesn’t REALLY make it right that those people were killed,” Marius said. “But it was a good thing for you to do. I’m glad to know the truth. But… when we go to school… when the new gym is built over the place where the last of the Leibliss were buried by you… when we play in this park… how do we not think about the horrible thing that happened here.”

“You don’t,” Chrístõ told him. “You remember them. You spare them a thought, and don’t let their memory die. When you’re older, when you have children of your own, tell them the story. Let it be remembered that your freedom and your happiness here on Beta Delta was bought at a price. But do them the honour of continuing to BE happy. Don’t let this spoil anything. Enjoy this beautiful park. Make the most of your school. Be thankful for the hospital facilities. And remember the Liebliss.”

“What are YOU going to do now, Mr Dane?” Kendrick asked. “Will you tell the police how they died? You’re the only witness.”

“I’ve spent my whole life wondering whether I should. I spent a sleepless night last night thinking it over, because I knew that this was it. Now the bodies have been found. If I don’t say something now, I never will. I thought about it, and thought about it. And I still don’t know the answer to that question.”

Chrístõ was about to reply to that when his mobile phone rang. He answered the call, noting that it came from the University of Beta Delta IV. He listened and responded a few times to what he was hearing and then said goodbye cursorily and ended the call.

“Professor Gilliand has concluded his examination of the remains,” he said. “He says that they are at least five hundred years old and is submitting the theory that they were victims of an act of space piracy, the bodies being dumped on the uninhabited planet. Which means he thinks they are NOT the indigenous people of this planet.”

Around the table as the implications set in there were outrageous noises of protest.

“Can’t you argue with him, Chrístõ?” Julia asked. “You’re way smarter than he is.”

“Not on paper,” he answered. “He’s a professor. I’ve only just finished my undergraduate degree, and it WASN’T in forensic anthropology. His view is the official one, and I can’t do anything about it.”

“Maybe it’s better that way,” Carrie said. “My parents were among the first to move here. If they knew the real truth, they would be really upset. I think most of the adults would be. And I don’t want them to say they want to move away. I like living here.”

The others agreed with that. Then they looked at Jackson Dane.

“If the authorities believe the Professor, then you don’t have to tell them anything,” Julia said. “You’ve told us. We know the truth. We’ll tell everyone else at school, all the kids. We’ll remember the truth, and pass it on, so that in the future it won’t be forgotten. But there’s no need for you to have to go to the police. And there’s no need for you to feel any guilt about what happened. Isn’t that right, Chrístõ?”

“Quite right. But Mr Dane still has to make the decision for himself. I can’t tell him what to do. None of us can.”

Mr Dane nodded quietly. Then he stood up.

“Would you walk with me to my car,” he said to Chrístõ.

“Of course, sir,” he answered.

“I don’t think I’ll be going to the police,” he said once he and Chrístõ were out of earshot. “Call me a coward….”

“You’re far from that. And as I said, it’s not for me to say.”

“I owe you my life. I… don’t know how. When I saw you yesterday, I thought I was seeing a ghost. A ghost from my past. I don’t know how you did it. I never asked you back then who you are or why you were there. And it’s too late to ask now. But I DO thank you for my life. For the chance to make some of it right.”

“You’re the only person I can say this to…” Chrístõ said. “Gacek. His death. It was… It was my trick with the perception filter that frightened him so much. I have to carry that guilt with me, much as you have carried the guilt of your part in it all.”

“I can’t tell you how to deal with that,” Dane said to him. “You will have to work that out for yourself.”

“Yes.” Chrístõ nodded. “Yes, I will. I regret, too, that there was nothing I could have done to save the Leibliss. That is another thing I will have to find a way to live with, for a very long time. I think perhaps that won’t be the last thing I live to regret.”

Jackson Dane looked at Chrístõ. He saw in his eyes something that surprised him. As an old man who had lived a long and eventful life, he was surprised to see in the eyes of this young man an affinity, as if his life was already as long and he had seen as much that disturbed him.

“Goodbye, Mr Dane,” he said. “Good luck to you.”

“And to you,” he answered before he got into his car. Chrístõ turned back to the café. The youngsters around the table all looked so very serious. Small wonder. They had been asked to carry a burden their parents could not carry. But he didn’t want them to dwell on it always.

“Julia,” he said. “There’s a film on at the cinema this afternoon. Do you want to see it with me? Your friends can come, too.” He laughed. “Yes, you two, as well,” he added looking at Michal and Cordell. “But you’re only getting ONE bucket of popcorn and one fizzy drink each. I may be rich, but that doesn’t mean you can take advantage of me.”

Julia smiled and slipped her hand in his. He seemed to be forgiven for going away in the night without her, too, now she knew WHY he had gone. The others beamed at him as he bought their loyalty for the afternoon, at least.