The TARDIS landed smoothly enough, though Chrístõ had to admit he was puzzled by the location. He tapped the console gently.

“Now come on,” he said. “Does this look like a space station to you?” The central time rotor glowed a little brighter for an eyeblink. He felt that the TARDIS had just shrugged its shoulders at him. “Yes, very funny. I hope it isn’t YOU, Natalie. I told you to stay away from navigation.”

rHe went to the door and opened it. Definitely NOT a space station. The TARDIS had landed near the top of a grassy hill, overshadowed by what looked like some kind of broadcasting relay station or transmitter array.

“It’s EARTH,” he said as he took in the calm blue sky and the green grassy valley, dotted with the white of grazing sheep. This was the sort of image of Earth he used to have as a boy. Rolling countryside, blue skies. He smiled ironically as he recalled arriving in early 21st century London in the rain. A dream quickly shattered, though he later learnt to love London rain for its own peculiar qualities.

“It may not be the TARDIS’s fault.” Kohb said as he looked at the communications console. “What do you think this is, Chrístõ?”

Chrístõ turned away from the idyllic view and tempting green grass and came back to the console. The communications monitor was displaying nothing but a line of digits that scrolled across it like a ticker tape banner. A line of zeroes and ones.

“That’s odd,” he said. “Who communicates in binary code?”

“Maybe those?” Cam suggested as a strange noise filled the console room and they all looked around to see a sheep peering in through the door and bleating at them.

“No, they’re just wool and lamb chops,” Chrístõ said as he shooed the animal out and closed the door. He came back to the console and examined the signal again. He adjusted several dials and then stood back, viewing the screen critically.

“According to the local temporal date it is 2013,” he said. “And EASTENDERS is STILL on.”

On Gallifrey broadcasting was only used for official High Council announcements and news bulletins. On Cam’s world, too, there was no concept of television for mass entertainment. So his two friends viewed the soap opera as something very peculiar. Chrístõ just noted how very little the plots had changed since he last picked up a transmission in 2007.

“But look at that,” he said, his finger touching the monitor. “See… that same signal running underneath the visual transmission. In the light parts of the screen you can see it clearly.”

“Is that just our monitors picking it up or will anyone watching be able to see it?” Kohb asked. “Don’t many millions of people watch television on Earth?”

“Yes they do,” Chrístõ said. “I think it would be harder to see on their TV sets. The TARDIS is enhancing the signal. But I think it would be there, still, on the periphery of their vision.”

“Is it just random figures or does it mean something?” Cam asked.

“Just wondering that,” Chrístõ answered. “I used to be able to translate binary in my head, but I’m seriously rusty. I’ll get the TARDIS to do it.” He reached for another set of levers and knobs and then typed on the keyboard for a few minutes. Then the soap opera disappeared from the monitor and words filled the screen. Cam shivered as he read them.

“Fear, control, obedience, anarchy, control, obedience, fear, pain, obedience, control. Fear, fear, fear…”

“Subliminal suggestion,” Chrístõ said. “I’ve come across it before. Though signalling in binary is VERY subtle. The Human brain is even less able to translate it than mine. But if this continued for long enough something would be picked up subconsciously.”

“Fear, control….” Cam repeated some of the words.

“Turn away from the screen and do that,” Chrístõ said. “Tell me how many of the words you remember.”

Cam did so. And the two words that stuck most clearly in his recollection WERE ‘fear’ and ‘control’ but he remembered many of the others, too. And as he spoke them his face was pale and when Kohb took hold of his hand he was shaking.

“I’m sorry,” Chrístõ told him. “I asked you to do that because of the three of us your brain is most like an Earth Human’s. But I didn’t expect it to be so distressful.”

“I understand,” Cam told him. “I don’t blame you. It’s just…”

“It’s just words, macishlughm,” Kohb said, embracing Cam in a loving embrace and using a Low Gallifreyan word that meant ‘beloved’ to help drive away the fear inducing words.

“I know,” he answered, resting his head on Kohb’s shoulder and clinging tightly to him. “But… I felt… suddenly, as if everything was hopeless and the future was so very grim and I needed somebody to TELL me what to do, to feel secure.”

“Well, I’m telling you not to worry,” Kohb answered and whispered more Low Gallifreyan terms of endearment until Cam’s natural pheromones overwhelmed him and Kohb and even Chrístõ felt the effects. Humphrey, hovering in the shadows beneath the console like a pet dog, purred contentedly now, and Chrístõ realised that Cam’s distressing moment had been echoed by a soft keen from the darkness creature, empathising with him.

“Save it for later, both of you,” he said to the two lovers, though not unkindly. “We’ve got something to do here. I’ve just realised that this temporal location is in my presets. It’s something the Time Lords thought needed attention. We’re a bit off course, though. Maybe Natalie did have a hand in it. I’m just going to make an adjustment. Then we’ll see if we can’t get to the bottom of this.”


The TARDIS took only a few minutes to rematerialise closer to the source of the trouble. Chrístõ and his friends stepped out cautiously into a very different scene to the rural one of before.

“This is STILL Earth?” Cam asked.

“1960s architecture,” Chrístõ said. “Visions of the space race.” He looked around at the glass-windowed circular walls that enclosed the wide courtyard the TARDIS had brought them to. A circle of blue sky was above, but their eyes were all drawn to the sculpture on a raised terrace in the middle of the courtyard. The base of it looked to all three of the space travellers like a Jthinian hyperspace travel module, with the four spindly looking but surprisingly sturdy legs holding up the saucer shaped craft that the Jthinians ‘surfed’ through space in. Except this one had a tall, tapering column of concrete through the centre and at the top of it, several floors up, glinting in the sunlight, was a bronze statue of a well-endowed, naked god of the Greek pantheon.

“Helios,” Chrístõ said. “The sun god…. Here radiating the light of knowledge through the wonder of television. Or so was the hope of the sculptor. But you’ve already had a glimpse of Eastenders. The hope was largely a vain one.”

“So you know where we are?” Cam asked.

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered. Then he was distracted by a voice calling to them.

“You three,” said a woman with a clipboard who approached. “Stick together in the group, please. We cannot have you wandering off on your own until you’ve been through orientation.”

“Yes, sorry,” Chrístõ said and he signalled his companions to come with him to join a group of about twenty people who were clearly being given a guided tour by the woman. Her name, according to the name tag pinned to her blouse, was Karen Melling. She worked for an organisation called “Teen Dream Productions.”

Chrístõ’s eye passed quickly from her to note that the group he had joined were all young men, aged between nineteen and twenty-five in Earth years. And all of the sort that girls of Julia’s age up to about seventeen would find irresistible. Teen Dreams indeed.

He couldn’t help thinking that he and his companions fitted that category very well. Cam was as handsome a man as Camilla was a beautiful woman. Kohb was tall and slender, and his dark brown hair and the neat miniature goatee he sported were attractive in their own way. A tougher, more careworn look than he or Cam had, but still striking. He was not out of place in this crowd, which included a few other ‘ruggedly handsome’ faces as well as the boy band ‘pretty’ look that Chrístõ was rather afraid HE qualified as.

“This is the central courtyard of Television Centre,” Karen Melling, hospitality director (so it said in the small print on her name tag) told the group. “For the duration of your stay here, however long or short that might be, this will be your outdoor recreation area. You can come out here any time you’re free from rehearsals, filming or promotional exercises to enjoy the natural light and air.”

There was something about the way she talked about “your stay here” that suddenly made Chrístõ think that the courtyard, for all that it was circular and beautifully laid out with flower beds and topiary, and the strikingly original statue in the centre, could feel like a prison yard if it was the ONLY light and air a body was allowed to enjoy.

“And now I’ll take you to your assigned rooms. The administrative offices on the third floor have been converted into perfectly comfortable en suite bedrooms with tea and coffee facilities. The commissary is on the floor below, and you CAN order room service up to one o’clock in the morning, but there are no breakfasts in bed. Breakfast will be a communal time, when instructions for the day will be given out.

Chrístõ was even more strangely reminded of being a boarder at the Prydonian Academy. Not that they had room service there, but breakfast was the time for instructions and announcements before the students split off to their different classes.

He still wasn’t entirely sure what this was all about, and he was rather surprised when he found that he and his companions were allocated rooms.

“Chrístõ De Leon?” Karen Melling called out checking her list, and after a pause Chrístõ stepped forward and took the key offered. De Leon, he remembered, was the surname his father took when he was on Earth. It was far easier to pronounce than de Lœngbærrow and less foreign sounding. He realised that it was almost certainly the TARDIS that had exerted some kind of psychic influence and written them onto the printed list of participants in whatever it was they were participating in.

“Campbell Gregory, you’re sharing with Chrístõ,” she continued. Cam took a moment to realise that she was talking to him and took the proffered key with the same room number on it. “And that leaves… Morten Kohl. That would be you?” She smiled as she offered Kohb the last key. “You’re on your own, I’m afraid. The odd one out.” Then she led them inside and up two flights of slightly curving stairs that followed the line of the outer wall before passing through a fire door onto the hospitality corridor. At the door to room ten, the one before the last, Chrístõ paused and handed his key to Kohb.

“You two share,” he said. “I’ll be the odd one out. I’ll pick up the TARDIS later and I’ll have Humphrey for company, anyway.”

“We’re staying here?” Cam asked. “We don’t even know what this is all about.”

“We’re winging it,” Chrístõ admitted. “We’ll go along with this for now. It gives us a legitimate reason to be here.” He exchanged keys with Kohb and slipped along to room eleven.

It WAS very comfortable, he had to concede. A lot of effort had gone into making an office into what looked like a nice hotel room. He sat on the bed and slipped off his leather jacket. He poured himself a glass of the complimentary sparkling spring water with a hint of lime that sat in a bucket of ice on the bedside table. He ate one of the complimentary chocolates as he opened the Teen Dream “Introduction, Guidelines and Rules” booklet that lay beside the chocolate box.

He learnt that Teen Dream productions was the latest independent television production company to lease the former BBC Television Centre since the hub of public service broadcasting had been moved to Manchester three years ago. They had spent so many millions converting it into the perfect self-contained community from where Teen Dream became a reality.

Teen Dream, Chrístõ discovered as he read on, was now in its fourth twice yearly season and was a massive ratings hit. The quest to find the summer Teen Dream was now on. As one of the twenty-one out of the two-hundred thousand applicants who got through the nationwide auditions he now had six days of intensive rehearsals, personal grooming, acting and music workshops, photo sessions and, of course, the nightly live broadcast where they would perform in front of a national audience of up to 15 million. For three ‘Dreamers’ each night the Dream would end when the telephone votes decided who would stay and who would go.

“Oh &#@^$£,” Chrístõ swore aloud. “I’m trapped in a reality TV show.”

He had half an hour to mull it over and decide whether it could become his worse nightmare or whether that was still the one where he found himself stalked through an empty starship by space vampires. He still wasn’t sure when there was a sharp rap at the door and Karen Melling’s voice cheerfully informed him that it was time to take the first step towards being a Teen Dream.

Cam and Kohb slipped in step with him as they were all herded along the echoing corridors.

“Winging it!” Cam exclaimed.

“Teen Dream?” Kohb said. And in the four words between them they expressed their feelings about it all.

“Should be ok,” Chrístõ assured them. “We can ALL sing. And you can’t tell me you have problems with stage fright, Cam Dey Greibella. I’ve seen you in action at conferences of thousands of delegates. As for you, Kohb, you used to perform your magic act. This is no different.”

“Yes, but…” Cam began, then sighed.

“I’m not sure I WANT to be an “overnight sensation” with “Millions of adoring teenage fans,” Kohb said.

“Camilla would love it,” Cam noted. “If the adoring fans were men, anyway. I’ve never aspired to be a ‘pin up boy’ whatever that means.”

“Me, neither,” Chrístõ said. “But I could do with a couple of days to find out what’s going on here. So let’s try not to get voted off for a while.”

They were shepherded down to what turned out to be make-up and wardrobe. Chrístõ, especially, found having somebody apply cosmetics to his face very surreal.

“You have lovely eyes,” said Alvin the make up artist. “I could just eat you.”

Several replies to that comment ran through his head. Pointing out that he came from the planet that defined ‘straight’ was one option. Telling him that he spent most of his life trying not to be eaten was another. He managed a slightly embarrassed smile as he told Alvin he had a steady girlfriend.

“Ah, just my luck,” Alvin sighed. “Still, if you change your mind…” Chrístõ felt him do something to his hand and was disturbed to find a phone number written on it in highlighter pencil.

And it wouldn’t come off, he discovered as he wandered through to wardrobe in a daze to find a nice middle aged lady who appraised him critically and then did nothing except undo three buttons on his cotton shirt so that a little more of his chest was exposed before sending him on through to the small photography studio. There he was asked to stand in various poses and make expressions ranging from happy to sulking while photographs were taken of him. He thought he had NEVER been so tired standing still and was just glad when it was all over and he was told there was time for a twenty minute coffee break before the first rehearsals began.

“Well, I already have an admirer,” Cam said with a hint of a smile as they sat with the other ‘Teen Dream’ contestants around a table in the commissary. “She’s called Della and she works in wardrobe.”

“Mine is called Alvin in make up,” Chrístõ answered. “Even though I told him I had a girlfriend.”

“Well, if you don’t want him…” said a young blonde with the name “Marc” in silver letters on a chain around his neck.

“Here’s his number,” Chrístõ laughed, reaching out his hand.

“You don’t want that to get about,” cut in another of the contestants who said his name was Ray. “Most of the telephone voters are female. You have to at least PRETEND you’re interested in them. And you want to keep quiet about the girlfriend, too. They like the Teen Dreams to be ‘available’.”

“Or if they’re not, they soon will be,” somebody else said. “Last year, remember what happened to Keith Sangster’s girl. The press ripped her reputation to shreds. They split up and he got voted off on day five.”

“I think we’re safe,” Chrístõ said, thinking of just how difficult it would be for the paparazzi of London to reach Julia on Beta Delta IV.

Rehearsals were just as exhausting and went on for hours under the watchful eye of one Barry Masefield, the producer and presenter of Teen Dream. It was an afternoon of sheer hell with one of the contestants actually reduced to tears by the cutting comments Masefield made about his performance, appearance and apparent lack of commitment. Chrístõ wondered more than once whether any of them regretted volunteering for all of this.

After rehearsals they were taken to the commissary for a meal and then shepherded back to their rooms where they had a bare hour of rest time before they had to get ready for the live broadcast beginning at seven o’clock. Chrístõ wondered when they EVER got a chance to go out in the courtyard for the promised light and air. He felt as if he needed some, as well as the opportunity to get his TARDIS.

There certainly wasn’t any opportunity during their ‘rest’ period. He looked out of his door once and saw that the corridor was ‘patrolled’ by men with ‘Teen Dream Security’ on their jackets. Not for the first time he felt as if he was in some kind of prison.

By seven o’clock as they gathered in the Green Room there was an air of excitement. Some hundred young women clutching much-sought-after tickets had been admitted to the studio audience and were being whipped into a frenzy of excitement by the warm up man. The contestants watched it all on a large TV screen on the wall. On the hour a stirring TV theme and some garish opening credits heralded the entrance of Barry Masefield onto the stage to applause and cheers from the audience. He told a few jokes and got a response that far exceeded their entertainment value and then he introduced the first performer, who had already been led out of the green room by the floor manager. Masefield left the stage and the spotlight was turned on ‘Zac’, a dark haired boy of nineteen who sang a love ballad sitting on a high stool. While that was happening Kohb slipped away ready to be the next act.

Cam sat proudly and watched when the lights came up on her lover, dressed in a black cloak, lined with red silk, which he pulled off with a flourish to reveal a matching red silk shirt, several buttons opened at the neck, and tight leather trousers. As he sang the Queen song “It’s a Kind of Magic” he moved his body to the rhythm and performed sleight of hand tricks, producing flowers and coloured feathers and silver stars from various parts of his body or out of thin air.

“Ohhh, I am in LOVE!” cried Marc, who seemed to have forgotten all about Alvin the make up man as he watched the screen.

“He’s MINE,” Cam whispered and there was a proud look in his eyes as he watched his lover on stage and felt the appreciation of him that was going on all around the Green Room.

“He’s too good for this show,” Ray commented. “He’s a real star. We’re all just pretty boys who can sing a bit.”

“They’ve chosen pretty boys the last three finals,” somebody said. “If he won at least it would prove that talent counts after all.”

Seventeen young men with ambitions that possibly outweighed their talent looked with envy and admiration at Kohb as he concluded his performance with a rock star pose and a burst of glittering stars falling around him. Cam didn’t see them as he had been hurried away to get ready for his own performance. Kohb was back in the green room just in time to see him on stage, dressed in a white suit and black t-shirt to sing the Beatles song ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’. Chrístõ smiled as he remembered the first time Cam and Kohb joined him on the TARDIS and they had all sung that song together. He had a soft but masculine baritone voice as a male that contrasted to Camilla’s feminine contralto. And Ray, who seemed to be something of an expert on the subject, declared that he was bound to get plenty of votes as he had the ‘boy band look’.

Chrístõ was twentieth out of the twenty-one performers and he was getting slightly bored by the time he was called. He was led back stage and had his make up touched up by Alvin, who kissed his hand and told him to ‘knock them dead’. Only then did he find the adrenaline pumping in his veins as it did when he approached anything a little dangerous. He stepped onto his mark and waited for the spotlight to turn on him. He looked beyond the lights at the all female audience and imagined that Julia was there. The opening bars of the music stirred him and he sang in a strong tenor voice the words of a song he knew would one day be inscribed on his tomb. A song that seemed to sum up his life.

“To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe…”

He enjoyed himself. He really did. And when it was over he smiled at the applause he received. He was happy as he made his way back to the green room to be congratulated by his fellow contestants.

He felt good. And he had almost forgotten the reason he was there. He felt as if getting a good vote in the fifteen minutes that the lines were open after the last aspiring Teen Dream had sung his song was what his life had been leading up to.

Even if he had been thinking about it there was no opportunity to put any of his plans in action now. The twenty-one contestants all had to go out on stage again and sing a song they had rehearsed together as well as their personal contribution. And then it was time to hear the results that were so carefully compiled using the most up to date telephone voting system that could not possibly go wrong. Accompanied by loud applause and the theme music, the results were placed in the hands of Barry Masefield by a young woman in a short skirt and low top combined with a wide smile and utterly vacant eyes.

And the results saw Zac, Tony and Brian eliminated from the competition with a tearful exit from the stage, while Chrístõ, and Cam came a respectable 8th and 5th places and applauded joyfully as Kohb took centre stage as the viewer’s favourite on Day One of Teen Dream.

“I feel wonderful,” Kohb said when the three of them sat at last in the double room and toasted his success in lime-flavoured spring water. “I always loved performing. The magic show… even if it was only at fairs and solstice parties… I loved it. And tonight was the biggest audience I ever had. I wish…”

He stopped, but Chrístõ knew what he wished. He wanted to win the contest, to achieve something in his own right for the first time in his life, with no help from anyone else.

“Well, you’re doing well so far,” Chrístõ assured him. “You never know.” Then he stood and said goodnight to his friends and stepped out of the room.

In the corridor he was immediately met by one of the Teen Dream Security Team.

“Are you on duty here all night?” Chrístõ asked him,

“Have to be,” was the reply. “Last time we had teenagers trying to get to the Teen Dream bedrooms. It’s for your own protection.”

“I was thinking of having a midnight stroll in the courtyard,” Chrístõ said. “Bit of fresh air, moonlight…” The body language of the guard made it clear that was not an option. Chrístõ had no choice but to return to his room like a well behaved Teen Dream. He showered in the well-appointed bathroom and changed into a neatly pressed pair of Teen Dream pyjamas! Then he laid himself down on the comfortable bed and realised just how tired and aching his body was, and how mentally exhausting the day had been, too. He calmed his mind and relaxed his body and entered into a second level meditative trance that would fully restore him for the rigours of the day ahead.

Day Two of Teen Dream began with the remaining contestants being interviewed for day time television. The interviews took place in the courtyard where all eighteen of them were posed in various ways around the gardens and the interviewer and her camera and sound crew moved from one to the other asking them questions about their family background and ambitions for life. Chrístõ was asked to sit on the low wall by the base of the statue, with the bronze figures of Sound and Vision behind him.

“I understand that you were born and raised in Birkenhead,” the interviewer said to Chrístõ and he smiled as he realised that the TARDIS had provided him with a reliable Earth biography. His mother came from Birkenhead, so it was not quite a lie.

“And will your family be watching? Will they be proud of you?”

Chrístõ realised that it didn’t matter what answers he gave. The interviewer was a well known television personality and it was her personality that counted, not his. But he gave an honest reply to the question.

“My father is always proud of everything I do. And I am sure my mother would be, too, if she were alive.”

“Oh, you’re an orphan!” gushed the interviewer. “You poor thing. No wonder you have such passion in your music. The pain and loneliness expressed in your voice.”

Chrístõ had no idea how to respond to that. His mother died over one hundred and eighty years ago and there were still moments when he missed her. No Human had any concept of pain and loneliness to compare with what his race felt when they lost a loved one. But the interviewer had already skipped on to other topics. He gave vague answers to them until she was ready to move on to the next interviewee. He stretched himself and stood up. He casually walked away, as if heading towards the entrance to the hospitality area. Instead he stopped by a door marked ‘Internal Mail Sorting Office’ and found his TARDIS key.

In his own familiar territory he breathed a sigh of relief and greeted Humphrey with a kind word. It was hard maintaining a pretence of being somebody else. He knew that. He had done it for years in Victorian London when he was training to be a doctor. But he always had the TARDIS to return to at the end of each day. He had missed it more than he realised.

The communications console was blinking to say that somebody had tried to contact him. More than one somebody, in fact, and both welcome. He smiled joyfully as he returned one of the “missed calls” on the videophone and Julia answered it.

“Where were you?” she asked him. “I tried to call.”

“I was busy,” he told her. “I am sorry for that. But… here… I’ve got something to show you.” He found one of the glossy photographs of himself from the portfolio he had been given at breakfast, fruits of yesterday’s session. He fed one of them into the image reader below the video screen. A few moments later Julia reached and took the copy that had printed out on the receiver in the drawing room of her home on Beta Delta IV, light years away from Earth. Her eyes lit up in excitement as she looked at the publicity photo.

“You look like a pop star,” she said with a laugh. “You’re so HANDSOME. I love you.”

“Not just because I’m handsome, surely?” he asked. “I thought it was true love, not a teenage crush.”

“Oh, it is,” she assured him. “But this is…” She giggled. “My own pop star hero!”

“I thought you’d like it,” he said. “Cam and Kohb are involved, too. Cam is absolutely stunning in his pictures. If this was about looks alone, he’d have won already.” He quickly told Julia about the Teen Dream contest and how they had entered in order to get to the bottom of the more sinister goings on at Television Centre. “I don’t know what it’s about,” he said. “It could be dangerous. But that’s nothing new. I thought you’d enjoy the picture, anyway. If we get nothing else out of this affair, there’s that.”

“Take care of yourself, Chrístõ,” Julia told him. “I love you, not your picture. And I want you safe here for Christmas.”

“I will be, I promise.” He smiled warmly as something printed out in reply to the picture. It was a sheet of A4 paper with the words, “I love you” and hearts – in pairs to represent his own double hearts – and singles to represent her own – liberally drawn in felt tip pen. “As long as you don’t mind if I become a Teen Dream and lots of other 13 and 14 year old girls send me things like that.”

“I don’t mind as long as MINE is the one you treasure,” she said.

He talked a little more with her and felt uplifted by it. Then he said a fond goodbye and ended the transmission. He quickly keyed in another number and his smile was even broader as he saw Bo and Sammie hurriedly sitting in front of the receiver in the private drawing room of the Chinese Herbalists in Liverpool.

“Hi,” Sammie greeted him. “What’s all this about you becoming a Teen Dream? We SAW you last night. And Cam and Kohb. He’s BRILLIANT, by the way. We voted for him. I hope you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind at all,” he answered. “And it is great to hear from you, both. How is little Li Ang getting along?”

“He is fine,” Bo assured him. “He is at school. But… Chrístõ… Are you here on Earth JUST to take part in a competition? Or is that just undercover?”

“It’s undercover, believe it or not. What with singing in front of fifteen million people and my picture in all the papers and an interview for Good Morning. Strangest undercover I’ve ever heard of. But yes, I am working on something.”

“Does it have to do with the riots and unrest going on?” Sammie asked.

“Riots?” Chrístõ was attentive now and he wasn’t smiling. “I didn’t know about any riots. We were tracking something suspicious that led us here to the Television Centre. But… riots…” He adjusted the screen so that it split. On one side he was still talking to Sammie and Bo. On the other he ran a series of TV news and newspaper reports at fast speed, his eyes flickering as he took in the details.

All over Britain, there had been spontaneous and apparently unprovoked riots and acts of violence going on for several weeks. In one of the worst, three police officers and four of the rioters were killed. Damage to property was reckoned to be tens of millions as arson attacks increased. Even the gates of Buckingham Palace had been stormed by an angry mob who declared that the Royal Family were a drain on the economy. The Guards had managed to bring that situation under control without resort to killing anyone, but it was felt that it was only a matter of time. The government were being urged to bring in martial law, or failing that, resign so that the opposition could do so.

“And while all that is going on, we still get Teen Dream to entertain us!” Sammie commented.

“Panem et Circenses,” Chrístõ said. “Bread and circuses. The Romans had the theory. Entertain the people, and they would not notice that the Empire was crumbling. Except this shouldn’t be happening. This should be a stable government and a prosperous time for all, unemployment at a post-recession low, likewise inflation…”

“As far as that goes, it IS,” Sammie said. “Economics is not exactly my bag, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the unrest. Which is why I thought… it isn’t normal. And you’re here. And all evidence to the contrary we thought you were doing something about it.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ said. “I AM. Or at least I’m trying. I think I know the cause of the trouble. And I suggest you try not to watch too much television and take care of each other. Tell Cassie and Terry the same.”

“They’re in Cairo taking part in an Egyptology symposium at the university,” Bo told him. “They’ve taken the children.”

“Good,” Chrístõ said. “If this is localised to Britain then they should be well out of it, there. So you two just take care of each other. And… if you MUST watch this silly programme, vote for Kohb. It means a lot to him.”

Again he talked a little more with his friends before he cut the transmission. He switched to the outside view and saw that the interviews were still going on and nobody was paying any attention to this corner of the courtyard. He reached for the dematerialisation switch and a few people may have been startled by the air displacement and the sudden noise of the TARDIS engine, but since it stopped moments later they quickly forgot it.

Chrístõ merged the TARDIS door with the door to his room on the dormitory floor, much as he had done when he lived in 1860s London. On the outside nothing was changed. On the inside was his TARDIS. He didn’t bother to disguise the interior this time. The only people who would be coming in were Cam and Kohb.

On cue, there was a knock on the door. He opened the door and his friends stepped in, surprised to see what he had done. He noticed their expressions at once. Kohb was angry and Cam had been crying. His eyes were red-rimmed and watery.

“What…” he began. Cam shimmered and reverted to Camilla, looking even more vulnerable with tears falling down her cheeks. Chrístõ took her by the hand and brought both of them to the sofa. “What’s happened?”

“We were summoned to Masefield’s office,” Kohb said. “He was livid. He…” Camilla looked at him and sobbed again. Kohb pulled an A4 size envelope from inside his jacket and gave it to Chrístõ. He opened it and stared at the grainy photograph, taken with a night vision camera. It was a top view of a bed in which two people were cuddling close and kissing lovingly. Chrístõ recognised immediately that it was his two friends.

“They have cameras in the rooms?” He looked at his friends in astonishment. “They filmed you two… together…”

“We didn’t DO anything last night,” Camilla said. “We were both too tired. I didn’t even have the energy to change myself to Camilla… as I usually do at night. We just cuddled up in bed and kissed, and went to sleep.”

“Masefield… REALLY doesn’t like what he saw in these pictures,” Kohb said. “He called us some quite disgusting names and said he wouldn’t have that sort of thing sullying a family TV show.”

“Hah!” Chrístõ responded sarcastically. “I know for a fact that Marc shared Alvin the make up man’s phone number with four other contestants. But…”

“He said ONE of us had to be voted off the show tonight,” Kohb told him. “Yes, I know… the viewers vote. But apparently they can fiddle the result. They did it last season when one of the contestants turned out to be a thief who robbed the other rooms. To avoid scandal they just had him voted off and thrown out.”

“So…” Chrístõ looked at them both. “Which one of you…”

“Me,” Camilla said. “Kohb REALLY wants to win, Chrístõ. And I don’t really. It was kind of fun last night, but I already have a career. I really don’t want to be a pop star. And… and anyway he’d be more use to you investigating what’s going on here.”

And that was all that could be said on the matter. Christo and Kohb both hugged Camilla and told her that she was wonderful for making such a sacrifice. But they both felt sick at the way things had turned out, and when the three of them went to lunch and then rehearsals, it felt much less fun than it did the day before.

For tonight’s performance they had to sing a romantic love song that would make each and every girl in the audience believe they were the object of that love. Chrístõ chose the Elvis Presley song “Loving You” and again imagined Julia in the audience as he sang the words “I will spend my whole life through, loving you…” Kohb stunned everyone again with “Magic Moments” accompanied by his sleight of hand tricks. Cam sat on a high stool and sang The Wind Beneath My Wings. Kohb swallowed a lump in his throat as he heard the lines ‘It must have been cold there in my shadow…” He knew those words were addressed just at him. He sounded good, and looked good. But they knew it would not be good enough.

And so it proved. When the eighteen were reduced to fifteen, Campbell Gregory was one of those voted off. He didn’t cry. The other two contestants did, publicly and excessively, and with what Chrístõ thought was an extreme lack of manliness considering it WAS only a singing competition and neither of them were the ones with Alvin’s phone number on the back of their hands.

Kohb again came out as the viewer’s favourite and that was a small consolation for Cam as he was escorted to his room by the Teen Dream security to pack his possessions. That didn’t take long since he didn’t actually BRING any possessions. Chrístõ and Kohb caught up with them on the landing. Kohb brushed past the guards and embraced his lover and kissed him.

“Let Masefield say what he likes,” Kohb said when he stepped back. “I’ll see you later, macishlughm.” Then he and Chrístõ were pushed aside as Cam was marched away. Nobody noticed as they both slipped into Chrístõ’s room.

“Give it a few minutes,” Chrístõ said. They had talked this over already during the day and they had a plan. “There’s a taxi waiting outside that will get him through the Press and the crowds. And then…”

Chrístõ inputted the co-ordinate and the TARDIS rematerialised a few hundred yards away from Television Centre in the disused Wood Lane underground station that for many years had been used as a convenient location set for television programmes that called for a scene in a railway station. It was abandoned again now, and the sound of the TARDIS, the wind that whipped at the old posters on the walls and the hurried footsteps as Cam ran to the open door of the disused ticket office were unusual activity in the silent, echoing place. A few moments later, the noise and the air displacement came again and then silence once more.

Chrístõ rematerialised the TARDIS as the door to his own room again. He looked at his friends as they hugged and kissed each other freely on the sofa. Cam had reverted to Camilla again but the difference had long since ceased to matter to Kohb.

He turned back to the console and accessed those security cameras that were the source of the unhappiness Cam had suffered. There were, indeed, cameras in every one of the rooms. They were used, apparently, not only for security purposes, but for candid pictures of the contestants for a late night Satellite channel supplement to the main show that got surprisingly high ratings. Chrístõ didn’t even bother to utter aloud his distaste at the idea. He concentrated on his own version of Kohb’s sleight of hand trick. He made the cameras see Kohb coming into his room, going into the bathroom and then emerging to climb, alone, into his bed. The same scenario took place in his own room. Those watching should have been perfectly satisfied that they were settled in for the night.

“Are you two up for a bit of espionage?” he asked. The two lovers broke their embrace and looked at him with hopeful smiles. “Let’s find out what this is all about.”

The TARDIS was working overtime now. Not only was it maintaining their cover in the bedrooms but it was searching for the source of the mysterious binary code that had brought them here in the first place.

And it found something. Only low level, but it was there. The schematic told him it was in the basement of the Television Centre, and that puzzled him. He had expected it to be somewhere around the Teen Dream studio. There was a huge room next to it where the programme was mixed and finished and broadcast to the nation and he had been sure that was the source of the signal.

“Teen Dream is not the only programme involved,” Kohb pointed out. “We saw those signals embedded in that ‘soap opera’.”

“That’s true,” Chrístõ admitted. “Anyway, let’s see what we have got here.”

First, he asked the TARDIS to do one more thing. He had it blank out all the security cameras in the basement. Then they stepped out into the low-lit corridor, knowing that they had only a brief time before anyone realised there was a problem here. Chrístõ took out his sonic screwdriver and applied it to the locked door behind which the signal was being broadcast.

The room was filled with broadcasting equipment. Banks of computers and technical equipment lined the walls. Even Chrístõ, who was a scientist and technician in his very soul, didn’t quite understand the purpose of them at first. There was a bank of monitors and empty chairs in front of them.

Chrístõ sat down at one of the chairs and looked at the monitors. They showed the five main British TV channels, the ones called ‘terrestrial’ before digital broadcasting made the term redundant. They were all broadcasting late night programmes; a film, a chat show, highlights of tonight’s Teen Dream, a football discussion programme, a post-watershed soap opera. Along the bottom of each screen was data which Chrístõ realised was the precise number of TV sets receiving each programme and an average estimate of how many people might be watching in total. And that was strange, because he was almost certain that the TV sets of 2013 had not yet been fitted with the chips that gave back that information. Ratings were still compiled by audience sampling. It would be at least another twenty years before the technology was available, to say nothing of the civil liberties legislation that had to be rewritten to allow such an Orwellian intrusion into the private homes of the population.

It was gone midnight on a Tuesday night. The ratings even for the football were relatively low. But even so, those people sitting up late, perhaps watching the TV in their bedrooms, were being fed the same subliminal signal he had detected before; the binary code which the Human brain could subconsciously interpret at a very low level. Just as a slow poison administered over time would eventually make a person ill, the constant stream of fear and anxiety inducing messages would cause mood changes, cause irrational behaviour, cause riots in the street and bring a government close to disaster.

“So…” he began. But his sentence was cut off as an excruciating alarm sounded in his head. Kohb felt it too, but second hand and it merely startled him.

“Somebody has tried to open the TARDIS door,” he said. “It disguised itself as a stairwell door and somebody is trying to go through.” He concentrated on the closed door for a moment and saw the corridor beyond clearly. He blinked and looked around. “It’s a security guard and he’s heading this way.”

“Leave him to me,” said Camilla, her hand on her top blouse button. Kohb sighed. So did Chrístõ.

“Really, it is time we STOPPED using you to distract guards. It’s utterly unbecoming and not fair on Kohb.”

“Do you have a better idea?” Camilla asked as they heard the key in the lock. Neither of the men had. She positioned herself by the door and as it opened she grabbed the security guard and kissed him. Chrístõ was ready to apply a neck pinch that rendered him unconscious. They laid him down on the corridor floor as they all three came out of the room.

“When he comes around he’ll report an attempted break in by a stunning brunette,” Chrístõ said. “But we’d better get back to our rooms for now. We need to think about this.”

The fast return switch brought the TARDIS back to its disguised position on the dormitory landing. The cameras in the real rooms still showed Chrístõ and Kohb fast asleep in their respective beds. They were safe in the TARDIS.

“You two go on to bed,” Chrístõ said. “I can guarantee there are no cameras watching you in the TARDIS.”

“That’s a tempting idea,” Camilla said. “But shouldn’t we do something about that room. We could smash the computers or something?”

“They can replace computers easily. Besides, those computer chairs are there for a reason. At peak audience times that doesn’t just run on automatic. I want to find out WHO is doing this and why. And then put a complete stop to it. We’ll get some sleep now and play along with Day Three of Teen Dream. I’ll have a plan by tomorrow.”

He had a half of a plan already, in fact. But he needed to think it through a bit more. He could, he realised, have done it now. But Kohb and Camilla were both emotionally overwrought after their distressing day and they were ALL tired. Better to leave it until tomorrow.

At least that was the excuse he told himself as he lay down on the sofa in the console room. There was another reason. He knew how much it had come to mean to Kohb to perform in the competition and he wanted to give him one more chance, at least. Even if they had to drop out after tonight, at least let him have that one more go at being a star, at being the centre of attention.

His inner voice came back with a nagging doubt. This was not a game, he told himself. There were already people dead in the riots engendered by this sinister subliminal broadcast. Did he have a right to put more lives at risk just to give Kohb a moment of glory?

But he COULDN’T do anything until tomorrow, whether he waited or used the TARDIS to travel forward in time, those things would still happen.

That’s just an excuse, his inner voice told him.

Yeah, but it’s the best I can do right now, he answered and closed his mind and stopped thinking at all for several hours.

Day Three was much like Day One and Day Two except a little lonelier for Kohb. Even knowing that Camilla was in the TARDIS disguised as Chrístõ’s room was not much consolation as a morning of acting and dancing lessons was followed by a very short lunch break and exhausting rehearsals. Barry Masefield kept Kohb working hard, declaring that his performance was not satisfactory and putting him through his paces again and again. Finally, Chrístõ decided to intervene.

“Leave him alone,” he said as he stood beside the producer and presenter and put his hand on his arm, apparently casually. “And don’t even think about fiddling tonight’s results. Kohb is going to be the Teen Dream. And if you do ANYTHING to stop him I’ll make sure the tabloids know about that time when you had too much to drink and you were driving too fast. That innocent woman in a wheelchair for life….”

Masefield went through several shades of deathly pale to embarrassed pink and worried purple. He began to speak then changed his mind. Kohb finished his song once again and he applauded slowly and told him that would do now. Chrístõ stepped away from him, feeling slightly unclean for seeing into his mind.

As well as finding that dirty little secret, though, Chrístõ had found out something else when he made telepathic contact with him.

Masefield was obnoxious, ambitious, corrupt. But he was not responsible for what was going on in the basement of the building. Teen Dream was being used just as every other programme on the TV schedule was. The only difference was that it had the biggest audience share every night and was reaching more people than any other programme, even the soap operas.

Which was why Chrístõ knew exactly when would be the best time to put his plan into action. And he knew how to do it, too.

He was the fifth one to perform tonight in front of the live audience of 17 million, swollen from the original 15 million as the media whipped up interest in the show. Kohb was eighth. Chrístõ was waiting when he got back to the Green Room, and after Kohb had been congratulated by his fellow contestants on yet another sparkling performance, they slipped away through the door with a label marked ‘Props’. In the noise and excitement nobody had noticed that door appear mid way through the second act. He had programmed it exactly, with Camilla only having to press two buttons to make it happen at the precise time.

“We’ll be missed,” Kohb pointed out.

“No we won’t,” Chrístõ answered. “We’ve got a TIME MACHINE remember. When we’re done we’ll come right back here and rejoin our fellow contestants and nobody will be the wiser. You’ll get your encore tonight, Kohb. I promise.”

“If I WIN again tonight,” he said. “It’s not guaranteed.”

“You’re the 2/1 favourite with the bookies,” Chrístõ said. “We could drop Camilla off in Shepherd’s Bush to put a side bet on.”

“I think NOT,” Camilla answered. “I’m with you two. No matter what we’re facing out there.”

“What we’re facing,” he said, looking at his monitor. “Is six lifeforms – all Human.”

“Was THAT ever in doubt?” Cam asked. “I thought we were the only non-humans around here.”

“Not by a long shot,” Chrístõ answered. “Barry Masefield is at least a quarter Beccuan for a start. Earth has been the secret melting pot of humanoid races for centuries, absorbing refugee races into its gene pool. But I was half expecting this to be some hostile species trying to engineer an invasion of Earth by destabilising the government, military, police, and leaving the people vulnerable.”

“But it’s not?”

“No,” Chrístõ sighed. “Six bone fide 100% humans are involved in this plot which has already cost a handful of precious Human lives and caused misery to many more. Sometimes humans can be so cruel to each other.”

Kohb and Camilla both knew that Chrístõ was part Human himself. And they knew he loved Earth as much as, and in some ways more than, Gallifrey. So it was shocking to them to hear him so critical of that species.

“Will they be armed?” Cam asked. “Perhaps you SHOULD have kept a couple of those p-90s on board.”

“I don’t like guns. And I’m NOT trying to kill anyone.”

“At least we should bring a couple of swords,” Kohb suggested. “A sword is an honourable weapon.”

“That it is,” Chrístõ replied. “But if my plan works, we can get all six in our custody without resorting to lethal weapons at all. Although…” He pulled open a cupboard beneath the console where some other remnants of Sammie’s stay aboard the TARDIS still remained. “Non lethal weapons are another thing,” He opened a cardboard box and took out just what he needed. His friends looked on curiously at his preparations, but they had no time to ask him what he was doing before he called on them to take up positions at the console. As he talked them through a series of complicated procedures, neither of them were entirely sure what he was doing, but they knew he had a plan and they trusted that it was a good one.

“First I’m doing what I had planned to do last night, but we were disturbed. I’m stopping the transmission of that blasted signal. The TARDIS can jam it easily enough. But we’re fine tuning it for two reasons. First, so that we don’t interfere with the legitimate broadcast of Teen Dream upstairs. Normal life goes on. Secondly, I want to turn the tables on this lot.”

On the lifesigns monitor the six figures definitely seemed agitated as their monitors stopped monitoring television channels and started feeding back a stream of words and images that the TARDIS had generated - subliminal messages that told them that they had failed, that the game was up. But these subliminal messages were far more intense than the ones they had been broadcasting and it only took ten minutes before they had been convinced that the only thing they could do now was RUN.

And they were so busy panicking that they didn’t notice the engine sound and the displacement of air around the door. It wasn’t until they rushed out into the corridor that they realised the corridor wasn’t there. Instead there was a strange room with white walls panelled with hexagons and roundels and three people standing by a hexagonal shaped computer bank. The female of the three was hurriedly putting on a face mask that one of the others had passed her. Then as the last of the six passed over the threshold the door behind them slid shut by itself and one of the strangers threw something. The would-be anarchists coughed and choked as the smoke bomb exploded among them and they were all writhing on the ground when the two men stepped into the smoke without apparently being affected by it and plasicuffed them behind their backs.

“Hit the extractor fans now,” Chrístõ called out in the hoarse voice of one who was recycling his breathing. Camilla hit the pre-arranged switch and the smoke was sucked out of the console room, replaced by clean, fresh air. He took a breath of it as Camilla removed her mask and then bent down to the nearest of the six captives.

“Who organised this, and why?” he asked in a cold, commanding voice that was taking no argument or prevarication.

“Mikhail Gradsky,” the man answered in a voice that was near hysterical. “It was his idea. He set all this up. He wanted the power. Real power. But he’s not paying us enough for this. I want out. I don’t care if we go to jail. I just can’t take any more.”

“You might just get your wish,” Chrístõ said. “But just hang tight there for a few more minutes.” And he stepped over the huddled captives and went out into the room again. His companions watched as he played the computer databank as if it was a grand piano and he a virtuoso pianist. Then he stood back and smiled as the screens all displayed the same message.

“Dumping memory, system reformat.”

And then the screens went blank. The server units all stopped. Chrístõ turned and stepped back into the TARDIS.

“A locked room full of old, disused equipment,” he said. “In the event of somebody ever coming in here, that’s all they’ll find. Relics of the past glory of this building. Meanwhile…”

“Who is Mikhail Gradsky?” Kohb asked as he returned to the console.

“Oh,” Chrístõ said in an almost matter of fact voice. “He’s a media mogul. Owns a couple of tabloid newspapers and a large stake in the satellite TV business. Some people think he’s a bit of a megalomaniac. Apparently they’re right. He seems to have had some delusions about bringing down the government using the power of his favourite media – television. But he’s not going to get away with it.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m doing something that proves how dangerous Time Lords could be if we really wanted to rule the universe in concrete ways as well as being the figurative ‘Princes of the Universe’. I am creating information on computer databases that prove that Mikhail Gradsky is a spy for communist North Korea, one of the few traditional enemies of Britain in this time. And sending it to MI5. He’ll be getting a knock on his door just about the time when we go out on stage to sing our group song for tonight.” Chrístõ smiled at Kohb and then looked at Camilla. “Can you baby sit this lot for an hour? If you turn the lights down a bit Humphrey can help scare the pants off any of them who think of making a break for it.”

“I can handle them,” Camilla said. “They’re JUST men after all.” She smiled wickedly as Chrístõ initiated their return to the Green Room no more than two minutes after they had left it. She kissed Kohb and wished him luck and sat down on the sofa with the viewscreen tuned into the Teen Dream live broadcast.

It was two hours later. Chrístõ got out of the taxi and paid the driver before sending it on its way. He used the penlight mode of his sonic screwdriver to see his way along the rough and badly kept path that led to the entrance to Wood Lane Underground Station. He smiled as his echoing footsteps were drowned out by the sound of the TARDIS materialising and sprinted towards the open door.

“We can release these guys now,” he said as he stepped around the six very quiet and docile prisoners. “You should know,” he added to them as he unfastened their plasicuffs. “I implicated all of you in the Korean plot along with Gradsky. MI5 will be calling at your doors, too. So you can either give yourselves up or you can go into hiding, its up to you. I don’t much care. But your careers as anarchists or whatever you thought you were is over.”

The six men ran for it, tripping over the broken paving in the dark, disused tunnel, but running for their lives from the alien ship with a woman who could turn into a man in front of their faces and some kind of shapeless creature that passed right through them and filled them with fear. Most of them had made up their minds to turn themselves in to the police as long as they could have a nice quiet cell to sit in.

“That IS power,” Cam agreed. “You could bring down the government yourself and seize control.”

“Why would I want to?” Chrístõ asked. “This country, this planet, is fine as it is most of the time. The riots will stop now. They’ll put it down to some economic cause or other and it will become a footnote in history after a few years. The government will need to ride out a “No Confidence” vote. But that’s just politics.”

“So we’re done now?” Kohb asked. “We can leave?”

“Not yet,” Chrístõ answered. He smiled at Kohb. “There’s still ONE of us with a chance of winning Teen Dream. I was a BIT disappointed to be voted off tonight, really. But I suppose I didn’t put my all into my performance what with everything else on my mind. But YOU are still the bookie’s favourite to win. And I KNOW you want to.”

“I WANT you to,” Camilla said to her lover.

Kohb just smiled widely. Yes, he wanted to. It was a small victory in the scale of things. But to be Teen Dream champion WAS a victory of sorts.

First he had to win the contest, and as the days wore on and the field narrowed he had to work hard every day. And with Camilla and Chrístõ waiting in the TARDIS, officially evicted from Television Centre it was lonely sometimes. But he managed to remain the viewers and the bookie’s favourite for Saturday night.

The final was broadcast a little later than the heats had been. Chrístõ and Camilla watched in the TARDIS, parked in the Green Room again. Chrístõ was especially curious about the programme that came on in the seven o’clock slot and apparently got even bigger ratings than Teen Dream. It was a science fiction series about a mysterious time traveller that was now in its fiftieth year of broadcasting. Chrístõ smiled wryly as the credits rolled on that week’s episode and wondered briefly if he or his father, or Li Tuo might have accidentally been the inspiration for such a fiction. But as its 19 million viewers stayed tuned in for Teen Dream, he and Camilla settled down and forgot about anything else except keeping their fingers crossed for Kohb.

“I suppose we could just go forward in time a couple of hours and find out if he won or not?” she suggested.

“That would be cheating.” Chrístõ answered.

“But I feel so nervous for him. Are you sure we couldn’t?”

“I’m sure. Besides, where’s the fun in knowing the result before we watch the contest?”

They were both sure Kohb was the best performer. But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. The audience could vote differently on the final night. Stranger things had happened. One thing he WAS sure of was that there would be no vote tampering. The TARDIS console was ready to monitor the system and ensure that it was fair and above board. He had phoned Barry Masefield in his office earlier in the day and reminded him of the consequences of anything less than honesty from him. Kohb stood or fell on his own merits. And that was how he wanted it to be.

Even so, it WAS nerve wracking and more than once Chrístõ almost gave in to Camilla’s suggestion. But he had a feeling it would come into the same category as the very severe sub-clause of the Laws of Time that forbad the use of time travel to fiddle the lottery. It was foreknowledge of events that depended on chance. And he was not allowed to do it.

It was three days later when Chrístõ finally put the TARDIS into temporal orbit and paused before he set his next destination to put a call through on the subspace videophone. It had been a long time, after all, since he spoke to his father.

“Kohb is a pop star?” Ambassador de Lœngbærrow laughed at the idea, though not unkindly. “And Camilla?”

“She’s enjoying having her photo taken along with him for the glossy magazines. They’re going to buy a house in Bedfordshire. They haven’t told the press yet that she’s ‘with child’ but I am sure when Hello magazine spots them shopping for nursery furniture the cat will be out of the bag.”

“Camilla doesn’t mind being the wife of a successful man?” The Ambassador asked. “Usually Haolstromnians don’t like being eclipsed by others. They’re rather an egotistical lot, for all that they’re such great people to know.”

“They both know it won’t last. At best Teen Dream stars have a year in the limelight, record deals, TV shows, personal appearances, concerts. After that they’re yesterday’s news and somebody else is flavour of the month. Camilla is happy to let Kohb have his year. When the glamour starts to lose its shine I promised them I’d come and pick them up and take them home to Haollstrom. Camilla is thinking she might go into government. Kohb said he’d be delighted to stand by her in her election campaign. He’ll be ready to step back into the shadows then.”

“Meanwhile, you’re on your own again?”

“That’s ok,” Chrístõ answered. “I might go and spend a few days on Beta Delta IV, a bit of quiet time with Julia. Then there’s the Vu'Epo Trade Conference and a couple of intriguing entries in the presets. I’ll be ok. There ARE two things I wanted to ask you, though, father. First, WHY was this in my presets? Why are the Time Lords interested in stopping a government on Earth from falling?”

“Humans have such a long term part to play in the universe,” The Ambassador replied. “It is important that nothing interferes with causality even in the smallest way. We dismiss Earth as a small, insignificant planet, but only because we’re too arrogant to admit that some races MIGHT just be as smart as us in their own way.”

“I see,” Chrístõ said with a nod of understanding.

“And the other thing?”

“I just wondered,” he began. “When you lived on Earth, before you married my mother… did you ever come across a TV programme on Saturday nights about a time traveller….”

The Ambassador laughed.

“Your mother and I used to watch it all the time,” he told his son. “The chap who was in the lead role in the early 1990s used to be her second favourite time traveller. Next to me, of course. And no, I don’t think the scriptwriters know ANYTHING about Time Lords. It’s just another example of Human genius. They really ARE a clever species.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ mused. “When they set their mind to it and stop hurting each other.”

“They’re not unique in the universe for that,” The Ambassador reminded him. “That’s why there ARE so many of those presets on your database.”

“I’ll deal with them later,” Chrístõ answered. “Julia first. The universe can hang on for a bit.”

“Quite right,” The Ambassador agreed.