The boy scrambled over the mountain ridge, his bare feet scraping on the uneven stones around him. He had been walking for hours, climbing, slipping, struggling onwards despite the hard going. He saw no reason to stop; after all, he hadn't yet found what he was looking for.

A jagged outcrop of rock caught at his clothing, and the boy heard a tearing noise. He glanced down at his shirt and winced. That was going to take some explaining. The Supervisor would have him on report again, and that would mean extra homework and at least one lengthy declaration to translate. The boy hated his schoolwork on days such as this. The sun shone down from the clearest of skies, and he was supposed to be sitting inside, debating the finer points of temporal theory with his classmates. That hardly seemed fair.

Another few steps, and the boy reached the crest of the ridge. He was standing at the top of the last mountain, gazing down into a deep, rich green valley, its sloping sides lit up by the sun, and sprinkled with a fine showering of colour from the flowers and blossoming trees. He grinned. This was beautiful; one of the most spectacular sights that he had seen in his short lifetime. Why did the Time Lords insist on isolating themselves in their unwelcoming citadels when there was all this to see? He thought about the town where he had been raised; the huge, curved building that had been his home for as long as he could remember. There were lakes and trees, sure; but compared to all this, they were nothing.

"I told you that you should've come, Rabian," he said, startled by the sudden volume of his voice. It sounded so clear up here, in all of this solitude. He had craved such openness back in the town; longed to be in a place where there was no other person to see him, and no one else to hear him. Somewhere where he could be truly alone with his thoughts and his dreams.

"I suppose I should be going back." He gazed down at the valley, thinking about school, and how he would already have been missed a long time ago. He had slipped out at first light, but it was long past midday now, and before much longer it would be dusk. He probably wouldn't make it home before dawn even if he started back now. They couldn't really punish him much more for spending two days away than just for one. Why return without seeing a little more of this unknown paradise? He grinned, and his eyes flashed in the sunlight. To hell with the Time Lords and their stupid ideas. He had never asked to be a part of it all. He started off down the mountainside, his thoughts already fixed on what might lie beneath him.


K'anpo leaned back and stretched, smiling up at the open, red sky. He had been toiling in his garden since daybreak, and the warmth of the sun was pleasing on his tired back. He sighed deeply, and surveyed the garden. Vegetables and flowers, growing together in a pleasing mixture; pleasing to the eye and to the palate, he thought with a smile. He was looking forward to gathering this year's crop, and of indulging in one of his favourite spiced vegetable stews.

Life was not easy for a hermit on Gallifrey, and K'anpo had put up with much; visits from Time Lords eager to make him rejoin the fold; invasions by city dwellers anxious to gawp at the sight of a famous Lord who had chosen to throw aside the benefits of his rank and lose himself in the serenity of the outback - but he ignored it all. Somehow, despite everything, in his garden he felt at peace. It was a less than perfect universe, but K'anpo was doing all that he could to make his small part of it as harmonious as possible. Time Lords tried to fill their lives with far too many rules and regulations, and for a free spirit such as his, that was unacceptable, as well as impossible to understand. K'anpo had had enough of the complicated life on the other side of the mountains. Here he was in peace, and the world of rules and red tape could be quietly forgotten.

"You made the right decision, K'anpo old man," he said to himself, and laughed quietly. He never tired of hearing how loud his voice sounded, in all of this emptiness and solitude. He turned about to go into his small house, thinking of a long cool drink, and a book in which to immerse himself. Suddenly he froze. There was a shape, visible in the corner of his eye, trying to hide amongst the rocks that marked one of the boundaries of his garden.

Moving slowly, K'anpo headed for his house, and changed direction once he was out of the vision of his unknown spy. His face set into a hard line as he crept around the building, taking care not to make any noise. He hated to be watched; hated to think of somebody intruding on his peace. This was his place, and he had done his best to ensure that nobody else came near it. If they wanted to hide themselves away in their cities, let them; but he wouldn't have them coming here to try to catch a glimpse of the man who had tried to be different.

"Got you!" Swooping down on the rocks, K'anpo reached out with a large hand and grabbed his visitor by the scruff of the neck. A childlike cry sounded out in shock, and the hermit dragged his captive to his feet, holding him at arm's length to get a good look.

"What the-?" The spy was a boy, no more than eleven years old, with tightly curled black hair and a pair of the bluest eyes that K'anpo had ever seen. He had a furious look on his face, and as the hermit let him go and watched the small figure straighten itself out in angry defiance, he recognised the arrogance of nobility. A Time Lord; or future Time Lord at least. The boy must have come from one of the cities.

"What in Rassilon's name are you doing here?" Towering over the boy, K'anpo hoped that his superior height would intimidate the child. It seemed to have no effect at all.

"Walking." The boy scowled up at him. "What do you think you're doing, grabbing hold of me like that? Don't you know the uniform I'm wearing?"

K'anpo gave the boy's clothes a rudimentary glance. The uniform had not changed in more than a thousand years, and he knew it well enough. The grey tunic was torn, and the black trousers were muddy, but it was still unmistakably the uniform of a primary level cadet. The boy was definitely a noble.

"And why should your clothes make any difference?" Hooking his thumbs in his lapels, K'anpo gazed down at the boy, an expression of vague disapproval on his face. "Hmm?"

"Because I'm to be a Time Lord, and that means you have to be respectful." The child grinned, and K'anpo arched an eyebrow in response.

"It means," he told his guest, "that you're a cadet, and that means that I outrank you. So snap to attention, Cadet!"

The boy jumped, surprise showing on his face, but he made no move to comply with the order.

"You're a Time Lord?" he asked. K'anpo nodded.

"I am Lord K'anpo, of the family line of Turis. And who might you be?"

"Solan. My name is Solan, of the family line of Feres, Lord of Malar." The boy frowned up at his captor. "What are you doing out here?"

"Minding my own business." K'anpo regarded the boy thoughtfully. "Feres, hmm? Wasn't he the scientist on the black hole project?"

"Yes." Solan shrugged vaguely. "But that was a long time ago."

"About eleven years if I remember correctly." K'anpo smiled gently. "I'm sorry. Your father was a great scientist; and your mother too by all accounts."

"Didn't save them did it." The boy sounded sullen. "A whole research ship full of scientists, and it vanished into the void."

"Such is the way." K'anpo sighed. "Alright, my boy, so you were out walking. May I ask why you've come so far? And on your own?"

"If you want." Solan kicked at the ground. "I've run away. I decided I'd had enough."

"Of what?"

"What do you think?" The boy made a face, as if to suggest that K'anpo, like all adults, was a fool. "Of everything. Of being a cadet, of having to do what's expected, of all the rules and the regulations. Ordinary Gallifreyans only have to go to school six days in every ten, did you know that? Cadets don't get any days off at all. I'm not due another break until I reach secondary level, and that's in another two years."

"I know. I remember it well." K'anpo sighed, thinking back to the summers spent studying Rassilon's theories of universal mechanics, whilst knowing full well that the children from the ordinary families were out playing ball games in the streets. "Such is the burden of office."

"Yeah, well I didn't ask for any office." Solan kicked at the ground again. "I never asked to be a noble, and I never asked to become a cadet. I'm not going to be pushed around by Time Lords anymore. That's why I came here; to see what it's like living miles from anywhere; to see what it might be like not have to worry about my next lecture, or about holding my head at the right angle." He sighed, as though the weight of the world were on his shoulders. "There's no fun in being a Time Lord."

"I never found that. Who else but a Time Lord can have access to the whole of Time?" K'anpo thought about that for a moment, and then smiled to himself. Of course, even though the Time Lords had the ability to travel through all of eternity, they never seemed to bother to do so. They were always far too worried about the possibility of affecting something, or of unintentionally altering the timelines. Solan seemed to be thinking along the same lines, for he smiled up at the hermit.

"All of Time? I'd have a better chance of travelling through that dimension if I fell into a space warp. Every lecture I've been in for the past season has been about the dangers of interfering. One minute they're telling us about the importance of our knowledge and abilities, and the next they're telling us that we're not supposed to ever use them. I mean; what's the point? Why be a Time Lord if all it's going to get me is a research post in some lab somewhere in the Citadel? Or on a one-way mission like my parents? Being Time Nobles never did them any good."

"But if you don't want to be a Time Lord, what do you want to be?" Despite having actively avoided human contact for so long, K'anpo found that he was actually enjoying speaking with this young boy. The child had a knack for putting the old hermit's feelings into words. Everything that K'anpo had ever thought about the Time Lords; every frustration and every exasperation; all seemed to be crystal clear in the boy's mind, and ready to come tumbling out of his mouth. K'anpo only hoped that Solan was careful about who he spoke to.

"Me? I want to be an explorer! I want to travel, to see places and people that I've never heard of before. I want to have adventures. Like in books, except without the Time Lords and their rules getting in the way all the time. You know what I mean?"

"Yes, I know what you mean." K'anpo smiled. "But you must know that you can't possibly stay here. The Time Lords will come after you."

"Then I'll hide from them." The boy shrugged nonchalantly. "I don't care what they do. They're just Time Lords."

"They preside over much of N-Space, Solan. Never forget that. Wherever you go, and whatever you do in this universe, it is very difficult to do it without the knowledge of the Lords of Time."

"They don't rule over me." Solan grinned. "Or you. Else why would you be here?"

K'anpo grimaced at the boy's grammar. "I am here because I choose to be. The Time Lords don't think much of it as it happens, but I'm getting towards old age now, and what I do is my own affair. I served my people for years."

"Bet they didn't thank you for it." Solan glanced around. "I like it here, though. I'd like to live somewhere like this. When I'm old, I'd like a big garden. To retire in."

"Hmph. I'm far from retired, I can assure you." K'anpo regarded the boy thoughtfully, unsure whether to dislike him or to invite him in for a drink. He decided on the latter. A thought struck him.

"By the way," he inquired mildly. "What have you done about the homing beacon in your tunic?"

"Homing beacon?" Solan glanced down at his clothing and groaned. "Heck. I knew there was something I should've done." He tugged at the collar of his tunic and pulled free the small metal device, at the cost of a large piece of material. "I don't suppose you could suggest anything?"

"Hardly. I'd say you have a very short time before our superiors send a carrier to fetch you. They probably figured you'd find your way here." The hermit sighed. "The place will be full of people, tramping all over my vegetable patch, just like last time. You're a curse, boy."

Solan grinned. "Thanks. I do my best. I guess I could go and hide this somewhere."

"There's no point. They'll have scanned the area already. I cannot believe that you'd plan an escapade like this one, and then miss out a detail like the homing beacon. What were you thinking of, child?"

"Not a lot." The young Lord grinned again, his aura one of distinct carelessness. "I was just thinking about getting out of the Citadel. I didn't think about the rest of it much at all. Planning isn't my strong point. Borusa tells me that all the time."


"My teacher. He's in charge of my unit's instruction. Head man, you know? He's pretty new; really keen, you know the type."

"Oh yes, I know Borusa. He was a pupil of mine for a while. When I was the new man on campus." K'anpo smiled. "Might be rather nice to see him again."

"Glad you think so. I'm leaving. You can see him for me." Solan turned to walk away, but K'anpo caught him by what remained of his collar, and held on tight.

"Oh no you don't. You're staying here."

"Hey!" Solan struggled, but to no avail. "What's the idea?"

"Don't be stupid, boy. They'll find you wherever you go on this planet. There's no point in hiding."

"Then I'll stow away on a ship and go someplace else. I don't care."

"Stow away? On what? The only ships that leave this planet are research vessels, crewed by Gallifreyans and commanded by Time Lords. You won't get far."

"I won't stay." For a second, violent intensity burned in the boy's eyes, and he glared at K'anpo. "I won't wish my life away in some dead end job in a lab somewhere in the city. Or hide from it all and hope the Time Lords will forget about me." This last was clearly a stab at the hermit. "I'm going to live my own life no matter what you say."

"Bravo." K'anpo smiled slightly, although his grip did not slacken. "Just think about this for a while. They're going to find you. No matter where you go, they'll catch up with you in the end. Why not play their game for now, at least until you've got a little more independence?"

"Independence? There's no such thing here." Solan's eyes glowed fiercely. "I won't pretend to be something I'm not, just to please them. Let me go, old man."

K'anpo's face clouded. He jerked the boy's collar harshly, forcing the angry child to look up at him. There was no denying the rebellion which burned within the small figure, or the danger that Solan's views were likely to put them both in.

"Now you listen to me, boy. Nobody defies the Time Lords. Nobody. Don't you think that others have tried it? That others have run away, or tried to make up their own rules? It doesn't work. The Time Lords always find them in the end."

"They won't find me."

"Yes they will."

There was a silence. Finally Solan smiled.

"Then I'll wait," he said coldly, and his eyes sparkled with something that was very like delight. "I'll get my own TARDIS, and I'll leave Gallifrey, and I won't come back. I'd like to see them find me then; with all of Time and space to search through." Contempt showed on his face for a second. "I won't stay here and hide in a garden."

"You need somebody to pull you into line, boy." K'anpo let go of the child's collar, watching as he straightened the torn tunic. "You need to learn a little more than the Time Lord Academy can teach you."

"Such as?"

"Such as all the things that a man can learn from a lifetime spent studying nature, and the forces of life within the universe." K'anpo smiled at the glazed look in Solan's eyes. "Inner peace is the key to an ordered mind. Did you know that?"

"Did I want to know that?" Solan shook his head. "I can hear the carrier coming."

"It'll be here in a few minutes." The hermit stepped aside. "So? Are you going to run?"

"Not much point now, is there." Solan sighed. "Extra homework. Extra duties..."

"Well perhaps I can talk to Borusa." K'anpo looked up at the approaching ship, his eyes scanning the curves and the lines. Gallifreyans were capable of producing works of great beauty, and yet they always worked for practicality rather than aestheticism. It was depressing. "Maybe I can make a suggestion."

"Such as?"

K'anpo glanced down at him. "Such as that you come here for extra lessons, instead of doing whatever it is they've got planned for you." He smiled at the child's horrified expression. "I'll offer to teach you the old fashioned way. The way that I was taught. I was a respected Lord in my time, and I think they'll decide that the experience will be good for you."

"What about me? Don't I get a say in this?" Solan looked positively horror-struck by the suggestion, but K'anpo merely laughed at him.

"When did a condemned man ever get to choose the method of his execution? And which would you prefer; extra time spent in the Citadel, or extra time out here?"

"Out here, I guess..." Solan raised sorrowful eyes towards the carrier. "It doesn't matter what you try to teach me, though. I won't change my mind. When the time comes, I'll leave Gallifrey and I won't come back. I won't be a slave to the Time Lord code."

"We'll see." K'anpo led him out of the way, so that the carrier could land. "Just watch your mouth now. If they hear you they'll never let you out of the Citadel again."

"I know." Solan had straightened his back, and stood facing the approaching Time Lords with a determined expression on his face. "It doesn't change anything."

"Good." The hermit smiled to himself. He had no idea whatever fates had sent this child to him, but he thanked them all the same. One small child who had seen through all the stupidity and hypocrisy of the Time Lord culture. He would have to be watched, coached a little; but if he could only continue to resist the rules and the laws of Gallifreyan nobility, he might just get somewhere. He might just accomplish something. K'anpo smiled broadly, mind filled with all that he could teach this child. If he could have seen just what the boy was to become, and just what he was to accomplish, he might have changed his mind right away. But then again, maybe not.


"You're crazy." Leaning back on the grass, the tall, blond boy glanced across at his companion. "This is the third time in a fortnight that you've missed school."

"So?" Solan chewed on a piece of grass, gazing up at the red sky above them. "This time you're missing it too. We can both get into trouble."

"On a day like this, who cares." The blond boy sighed. "Do you think Borusa ever cut classes?"

Solan laughed. "Maybe I should ask K'anpo. He'd know."

"I'll have to meet this hermit of yours one day." The other boy yawned. "Although I can't say that I'm much attracted to the idea of going all that way up the mountain just to talk about nature and philosophy."

"It's not as simple as that, Rabian. And anyway, there's more to life than science and Time theory." Solan grinned. "Although to hear you talk, you wouldn't think so."

"I'm just a dedicated, enthusiastic student. Being led astray by you."

"I'm good at leading astray, don't you think?"

They both laughed. The sound of footsteps made them both look up, and they saw a third boy approaching them, dressed, as were they, in the uniform of the Academy cadets.

"Dorchan, you made it!" Happy to see his friend, Solan jumped to his feet. "How did you get away?"

"The same way as you, undoubtedly." Dorchan, a thin, sandy-haired boy of a similar build to Solan, nodded a greeting to their companion.

"Morning Rabian."

"Dorchan." Rabian raised a hand in sleepy greeting. "I trust that this means the relaxing and contemplative part of the day has been finished with?"

Dorchan raised his eyebrows. Solan grinned.

"Don't worry about him. He's trying to be a grown-up."

"Ah." Dorchan nodded in understanding. "Does that mean that he doesn't want to come with us to the lake?"

"Yeah, sure." Standing up, Rabian straightened his collar. "Naturally, I have to come along, to make sure that the pair of you don't do anything stupid." He smiled. "Or more stupid than usual."

They all laughed. Although Rabian was only a year older than the other two, he was inclined to be more responsible, when the mood took him. The threesome made a good team, with Rabian's good sense, Dorchan's quiet genius and Solan's instincts.

They walked quickly, anxious that they should not be spotted, and therefore stopped before they reached their goal. The great, still lake had been sculpted by a long dead generation of Time Lords as a tribute to some President whose name none of the three boys chose to remember. It stretched out for some distance, a clear, cool expanse of water far from the confines of the Citadel, desolate and inviting.

"Beautiful." Rabian sighed happily, and Dorchan smiled at him.

"Our scientist longs to be a poet," he observed dryly. Rabian scowled at him.

"Poetry has no place on Gallifrey," he said, with a trace of sadness in his voice. "Ordinary Gallifreyans might have time for it, but a Time Lord has other things on his mind."

"Like the smothering grip of the Laws of Nobility, and the great longing to be free, like ordinary people are." Solan pulled off his tunic and boots, wandering down to the water's edge. Dorchan nodded slowly.

"How very true." He tugged off his own tunic, leaving his boots arranged neatly beside it, in contrast to the scrumpled heap left by his friend. Rabian shook his head.

"One day, you two are going to get into some serious trouble. You can't rebel forever."

"Ah, but we can try, Rabian." Dorchan smiled back up at him, as he wandered out into the lake. The waters rose quickly to chest height. "Can you honestly say that you have never felt the desire to be free, and to know that no man, or Time Lord, can prevent you from attaining your goals? Are you truly satisfied here?"

"No one can ever do everything that they want. The universe doesn't allow it." Rabian sat down on the grass in order to pull off his boots. "That's life, Dorchan. Live with it."

"Maybe." The smaller boy smiled and turned away, swimming through the clear waters to join Solan. The dark-haired child was floating on his back, gazing up at the sky.

"Hey, Solan." Treading water, Dorchan stopped beside his friend. "You realise that after this little adventure, Borusa isn't going to let us out of his sight for a season?"

"I know." Solan sighed. The pair had slipped away from their lessons numerous times since the warm weather began, and that particular day had been sent to lessons at different ends of the Citadel as punishment. The chances of them being able to get away again were extremely small.

"I was thinking... If this is going to be our last day of freedom for a while, shouldn't we do something special with it?"

Twisting around so that he faced his friend, Solan frowned.

"What were you suggesting?" he asked. Dorchan shrugged.

"Oh, I don't know. Something exciting. Something other than just swimming. We come here all the time."

"We could go up into the mountains." Solan glanced towards the rocky slopes which stretched away above them.

"And risk running into your mountain man? No way." Dorchan shook his head. "There has to be something better than that."

"You do have an idea, don't you." Solan was intrigued, and Dorchan grinned at him.

"Yes... But Rabian would never agree to it." His companion looked uncertainly towards there friend, who was swimming about closer to the shore. Much as he was attached to the tall blond boy, Solan knew that Rabian could not always be persuaded to join in with their more entertaining escapades. Besides, there was no sense in all three of them getting into trouble.

"So what is it?" he asked. Dorchan grinned, and held something up. It was a decorated piece of metal, intricately woven into a cross shape.

"That's a TARDIS key!" Solan took the piece of metal, staring at it in amazement. "How did you get this?"

"It was easy. I was sent to study with Horus this morning. The man is as absent minded as a Velorian, and he left that just lying on his work bench."

"Do you think he's noticed it's missing yet?" Solan stared at the key as though it were an object of deep religious significance, his eyes wide. Dorchan shook his head.

"No way. When I left, he was studying some new readings from the Black Hole." He smiled. "The probe is still functioning, it would seem."

"Yes." Solan nodded, silent for a second. The only sound was the faint splashing as the pair trod water to stay afloat. Finally he smiled too. "Your parents, my parents - gone into the void to deliver a probe. The Time Lord scientists all use it, but they never remember who gave their lives to see it put into place."

"What do you expect? They forgot all about Omega too, and he went the same way." Dorchan shrugged. "Maybe they're not dead. Maybe they're in there somewhere."

"I hope not. I'd rather be dead that stuck in there all this time." They stared at each other for a few seconds, joined by their feelings of anger at the Time Lord hierarchy, then began to swim to the shore.

"Hey, where are you two off to?" Pulling himself from the lake, Rabian waved to them to stop. Dorchan waved back as they paused to pick up their clothes.

"We're just going to get something to eat. We'll be back soon!" They ran on. Rabian sighed.

"Always hungry." He wondered just where exactly they were planning to get food from, then dismissed the thought. With a pair as resourceful as those two, it was possible to get almost anything from just about anywhere.

"Any idea what we're doing?" Running together through the long grass, heading back towards the city, Solan glanced over at Dorchan. The other boy shrugged.

"Does it matter? We'll find the right TARDIS first. That shouldn't be too difficult. The all we need to do is work out how to use it."

"I've never even been in a TARDIS before." Solan grinned. "Do you think we'll be able to take off?"

"Easily." Dorchan was grinning too, his face flushed with excitement. "Where do you want to go?"

"Heck, I don't know. Somewhere exciting."

"How about Metebelis Three. They have blue crystals there that are supposed to be the most beautiful in existence."

"Or Aqueas Seven. There's a species of lizard there which is supposed to grow up to six hundred feet long." Solan slowed to a walk. "Or one of those planets where the inhabitants are invisible. That would be good."

"I think I'd like to be invisible." Dorchan smiled happily, pausing to pull on his tunic now that he had dried off a bit. Solan did likewise, anxious to attract as little attention as possible now that they were drawing close to the Citadel. "I could go anywhere, do anything, and nobody would know I was there." He smirked. "I could listen in on the High Council; or rob a bank perhaps."

"Then buy a TARDIS and leave Gallifrey." Solan nodded, obviously approving of the idea. "We could go anywhere."

"Do anything." They grinned. Dorchan had a far away look in his eyes. "There'd be no one to tell us what to do. I hate the way they're always ordering us about."

"Trying to tell us what to do."

"As if they have a right to." Dorchan's eyes glittered. "Maybe I'll show them all one day. Make them do what I say."

"Become President?" Solan looked horrified. "But then you'd have to stay here until you're old; third or fourth incarnation at least. We're going to leave before then, aren't we?"

"Yes. Don't worry, I'm only thinking aloud." Dorchan smiled, running his hand through the grass. "Of course we're going to leave. We'll go somewhere together. Explore the universe."

"Yeah." Happy now, Solan quickened his pace. "Come on; if we hurry we can make the changing of the guard. Nobody will see us then."


The Citadel was quiet in the middle of the day. Only a handful of Gallifreyans were in the streets, most of them workers. They nodded respectfully at the young Lords as they passed. Solan smirked, amused by the show of deference. Dorchan seemed to revel in it, playing the part of nobility to the fullest. His companion rolled his eyes.

"Come on, quickly. Before somebody else sees us."

"I'm coming." Dorchan allowed his friend to pull him onwards, and they soon reached the large building where the high ranking Time Lords kept their TARDISes. The pair slipped past the bored looking sentry by the door, and were soon in the huge room. Rows of space/Time machines lay before them, all grey, plain and oddly box-like in appearance.

"New models." Solan smiled in delight. "Type II, from the new design specifications we were learning about last lecture."

"Nice, aren't they." Dorchan wandered along the first row, looking at the name plates on the floor before the parking spaces. "Here's ours."

"It's brand new!" Solan ran his hands over the front of the ship, his excitement clear in his eyes. "Open it!"

"Sure." Dorchan pulled the key from his pocket, and hesitated before using it. "Last chance to turn back..."

"I'm not turning anywhere. Use it." Dorchan nodded, and placed the key into the lock.

"Don't move." He froze, key still in his hand.

"Did you say that, Solan?"

"No." The other boy's voice sounded quiet and grave. Dorchan felt an odd, heavy weight descend upon his shoulders. He turned around.

"My TARDIS. You were going to steal my TARDIS." The old man standing in the midst of a stream of Citadel guards sounded deeply indignant, as though somehow it would have been alright for them to take somebody else's property; just not his. Dorchan shrugged.

"So what, old man. Why not yours?"

"I trusted you, that's why not." Horus, an old and particularly well respected Time Lord, stepped forwards, staring down at the two boys. "I left that key on my desk, never suspecting for a moment that you would actually take it. What would make you do such a thing?"

"Who cares?" Dorchan threw the key onto the floor between them. "Here, take your stupid key. Come on Solan." The two moved forwards.

"Stay where you are." Gun raised, the captain of the guard stepped in front of the pair, his dark eyes bright behind the visor of his helmet. "You two are under arrest."

"Arrest? For what?" Managing to sound hurt and innocent, Solan widened his eyes. "We haven't done anything."

"That's rather irrelevant isn't it." The captain lowered his gun to point directly at the boy. "Now move."


First Cadet Rabian, his new boots gleaming in the sunlight, strolled nonchalantly down the main street, glancing through the shop front windows as he went. The first signs of the warmer seasons were in the air, and the shopkeepers had opened their doors again. It looked good, to see so much new cheer.

"Hey, look at that. The Academy's got a new pretty boy." The jeer came from the edge of the street, and Rabian did not bother looking at its source. He recognised the voice. Leron was a troublemaker; an ordinary Gallifreyan who had always been bitter towards the Time Lords; just as his father had been before him. For most of his life, Rabian had listened to Leron's taunts. He had used to think that the boy played truant from school just so that he could roam the streets of the Citadel, looking for Academy cadets to insult, but there was more to it that he now realised. Leron was a fool; a bully who would never accomplish anything in the school room; and he was not worth the energy it took to worry about him.

"I ought to knock his block off." The comment came from Rabian's companion, a small, wiry boy of fourteen. Rabian smiled, speaking quietly to his friend.

"You ought to walk on by and not notice him," he whispered. "He's not worth it, Solan."

"To you maybe." The dark-haired boy sighed. "What are we doing here, anyway? I'm bored."

"You're always bored." Rabian grinned. "And you know why we're here. We're going to the library."

"To look at books. Big deal."

"To look at some of our peoples' greatest works of literature; some of the most valuable pieces of Gallifreyan heritage." There was a trace of reverence in the older boy's voice. "I need them for my project on art and cultural history."

"And I need them like a hole in the head." Solan sighed. "It's a beautiful day, Rabian. Can't we go swimming instead?"

"No we cannot." The blond teenager shook his head in exasperation. "Solan, if you help me with this you'll get another sixty credits. You'll be top of your class."

"I don't want to be top of my class. If I wanted to be, I'd already be there." There was a trace of arrogance in the boy's tone which was not entirely unjustified. Rabian had no doubt that if Solan wanted to be the best, he could be. It was just a question of getting him to care about something other than whatever it was he was interested in this month. He decided to try a different tack.

"Look, I need some help, okay? My teachers said I should work with Gerus. Now would you really condemn me to that?"

Solan laughed. Gerus was the Academy sneak, a straight Alpha student who had made himself singularly unpopular with his fellows after years of telling tales and getting others into trouble.

"I'm surprised they didn't insist on you working with him. Got to better than working with me."

"True." Rabian grinned. "I think they felt sure you'd steal the books, or vandalise them or something. It takes real work to be that mistrusted, Solan."

"Yeah, I know." He grinned. "Stealing a TARDIS... Well, trying to steal a TARDIS anyway... Escaping from official custody..."

"All in one afternoon. And before you were twelve years old. If you have to break records, do you think you could stick to legal ones? Please? Preferably while I still have some chance of making it to fourth level?"

"Relax. Nobody is tying you in with any of my escapades." Solan sighed. "Here we are, oh venerated head-of-the-class respectable one. Can I go and look at the galactic history section?"

"You're supposed to be helping me."

"I will." He opened his eyes wide, looking innocent and childish. "Please... K'anpo has been telling me all about this planet called Earth. You should hear the stories... Powerful gods fighting battles in the skies. Amazing beasts that breath fire..."

"Okay, I get the picture." Rabian rolled his eyes. "But be quick. I'm sure the Supervisor thinks you'll wreck the place if I let you out of my sight here. I swear Borusa is the only adult in the whole Academy who doesn't believe that you're a dead loss."

"Tell me about it." Solan grinned. "Such a reputation could be yours too, if only you'd cut school occasionally, and gaze of the window every once in a while."

"Thanks, I think I'll pass on that one." They parted company by the doors, and Solan wandered off on his own. He knew the library well, whatever views his teachers might have on his academic prowess. He went to the huge building often, although rarely to read anything which bore relevance to his school work. K'anpo was a hugely intelligent man, whose knowledge extended to a thousand or more subjects, and he inspired Solan to similar heights of knowledge. It frustrated him that the Time Lord Academy chose to teach quantum theory, and the venerated Laws Of Time, and continually failed to mention that a distant planet named Earth had once been the home of a race of reptiles bigger than some of the Citadel buildings. He wandered along the towering shelves of books, Rabian and his project forgotten. Somewhere here was a book that K'anpo had told him about, which illustrated all of the animals of Earth. Solan searched for it eagerly, his mind already wandering. He had to go to that planet one day, to see for himself just how wonderful it really was. Odd how a place that he had never been to - had never heard of until a few weeks ago - could suddenly have captured his imagination so completely.

"Hey, Time Lord." The voice was loud and unpleasant, and Solan knew it instantly. Not blessed with unlimited patience like that of Rabian, he glanced up. Leron stood a few yards away, his face twisted into its perpetual sneer. "You looking for something?"

"Just a book." Trying to ignore the other boy, Solan turned back to the shelves. He heard footsteps, and sensed Leron's approach. The Gallifreyan was not alone.

"Which book? Maybe we can help you find it."

"No thanks." Keeping his voice level, Solan concentrated on the shelves. He saw the book that he was looking for and picked it up, turning it over in his hands. It had been written by K'anpo's father, a zoologist who had made it his life's work to study the nature of certain alien worlds.

"Any good?" Pressing closer, Leron caught hold of the book, tearing it from Solan's hands before he could react. Angrily he tried to move forwards, only to be held back by several of Leron's friends.

"Hey, don't they teach you nobles that you have to share? Commoners are allowed to read books too, you know. I think the head librarian would rather I read his books than some Academy troublemaker that nobody trusts."

"Leave it, Leron. Just give me back the book." Solan tried to break free, but the other boys were holding him too tightly. He felt a sudden flash of anger that was hard to contain.

"Take it from me." Leron's voice was taunting, and the boys with him were beginning to laugh. Solan glared at their leader. They had always hated each other. Leron wanted to be a Time Noble, and Solan wanted to be an ordinary Gallifreyan. Each had what the other wanted. Leron's jealousy tended to manifest itself in acts of violence and general unpleasantness, however, and it was this facet of his character that Solan liked least.

"Maybe you're not strong enough." Seeing the young Lord's unwillingness to fight, Leron decided on a different line of approach. "Maybe you're scared of me."

"And maybe you want to come outside, right now." Eyes blazing, Solan had clearly taken all the provocation he was intending to put up with. Leron laughed.

"Fine." He nodded to his companions, and they released their struggling victim. Solan straightened his collar and headed for the door. He didn't need to look back to know that the crowd of Gallifreyans was following him, and he could only hope that he would be able to take on the whole gang.

The courtyard behind the library was deserted at such an early hour. Later in the day it would have been full of older students, reading and talking. The boys walked out into the sunshine, Solan in the lead. He stopped in the middle of the yard, and turned to face the crowd, his anger clear on his face.

"So who's first?" he asked. There was a laugh from someone.

"Are you serious?" Leron laughed derisively. "Fighting will get you into trouble, Time Lord. Do you really want to ruin your flawless reputation?"

"Shut up, Leron. We didn't come here to talk." Solan's anger was past plain frustration now. He was angry about the book, about the unnecessary unpleasantries, and about the fact that if he gave in to this anger now, he was likely to get into serious trouble with the Academy. It hurt even more to know that nobody would say anything at all to Leron and his cronies. Ordinary boys were allowed to get into trouble.

"You asked for it, Time Lord." Raising his fists, Leron stepped forwards. Solan met his attack, dodging easily. He was light on his feet, and a good deal smaller than the other boy, which could stand him in good stead. He knew that Leron's greater size would give him a definite advantage should he manage to land a blow, though, for he could put a lot of weight and strength behind his fists.

"What the-?" Solan heard Rabian's voice, but did not see him. He heard the footsteps that told him that his companion was running towards him, and he also heard the other boys cutting the older cadet off, pulling him away. He heard the sound of a heavy punch, and his anger grew. They had no right to drag Rabian into this. It wasn't his fight.

With a sudden burst of rage that he found he could not control, Solan ran forwards, pushing past Leron, and heading straight for where Rabian was struggling in the overly zealous hold of three boys. He grabbed the nearest of them, determined to free his friend, and was at first only distantly aware of the hands which grabbed his arms. He tried to pull free, but it was no use. He was spun to face Leron.

"Nice try, Solan." Leron grinned. "But we win this one, I think." He raised his fist.


"So was it worth it?" Sitting cross legged on the ground, his eyes closed, K'anpo spoke in his usual soft voice. Despite five years together, Solan had never seen the Time Lord angry, even though he had had plenty of provocation. The boy shrugged.


"Hitting him a few times was worth three days in hospital, and an official warning from the Academy?" K'anpo shook his head. "Think, boy."

"Think about what?" Solan sighed, and sat down opposite the older man, unconsciously emulating his cross-legged position. "He was asking for it."

K'anpo smiled. "Close your eyes, Solan," he said gently. Solan did as he was told, trying to focus on the Lord's gentle voice, so that he could relax. "Now think. Think about what happened. Can you see a better way that you could have handled it?"

"Of course. It's always easy to see a better way afterwards, when it's too late." Solan shrugged. "Rabian would have walked away."

"So why didn't you?"

"Because I'm not Rabian."

"Precisely!" K'anpo seemed hugely delighted with this observation. "So who are you?"

"I'm Solan." He opened his eyes, confused with this line of questioning. K'anpo's eyes were still closed, but nonetheless he frowned.

"Close your eyes, Solan." Caught by surprise, Solan did so. "Now, again; who are you?"

Solan sighed. "I'm Solan, and--"

"Who are you, not what is your name." K'anpo sighed. "What are you?"

"Damned if I know." A giggle answered him.

"Very good." The hermit sounded inordinately cheerful, considering the circumstances that had brought Solan to him. The boy opened his eyes again, frustrated now.

"K'anpo, I really fail to see--"

"Precisely, my boy. You fail to see. That is because your eyes are always closed."

"They're open." Solan was well and truly confused. K'anpo laughed again, enjoying their conversation.

"You think they are open, because you think they see. In point of fact, you see only what is there, and not what there is."


"You are confused." K'anpo nodded. "That is good. Now, again. Who are you?"

"I'm..." Solan sighed. "I'm supposed to be a Time Lord, but I don't want to be. I want to be an explorer."

"Not want to be, Solan." K'anpo, eyes still closed, held up a hand to point at the boy. "Am, or am not."

"Then I am an explorer. Or will be, once I can get off this planet."

"Good." K'anpo nodded with enthusiasm, then opened his eyes and stood up. His pupil did likewise. "Now, if you were to meet Leron today, and he made you angry again, what would you do?"

Solan shrugged. "Think about it?" he offered tentatively. K'anpo nodded.

"And then what?"

The boy frowned. "And then I'd hit him."

K'anpo smiled. He took a book from out of the folds of his robe, and handed it to the cadet.

"Read this, Solan."

"What's it about?" Solan took the book, interested. K'anpo had many books, all of them much better than the ones he was told to read at the Academy.

"It's about a boy, who wants to know things, but doesn't know the best way to learn. It was given to me by the author, an odd sort of man from Earth, when I was there as a young man. I was studying philosophy at the time."

"Siddhartha." Solan read the title of the book, intrigued by its plain cover. "Thanks."

K'anpo inclined his head in response and turned away, obviously intending to vanish once more into the mountains. Solan stared after him. The ageing Time Lord had an odd grace, a sense of deep peace and contentment. The boy had no idea how he had achieved it, but with it had come freedom from the laws of the High Council. There was a lot that he could learn from K'anpo. He glanced down at the book, wondering if the old man was hoping that it would give him some burst of enlightenment; or whether it might explain some of that cryptic talk about eyes, and seeing. Somehow he doubted it. He sat down on the grass, cross-legged as before, and began to read the book.


The wind blew softly across the mountaintop, ruffling the head of the figure sitting there. His dark curls moved gently about, failing to disturb him. His eyes were closed, and he sat cross-legged, in meditation.

"Greetings, Solan." K'anpo, filled with the new energy of a recent regeneration, approached his pupil from the shadows, appearing as if from nowhere. Solan's eyes flickered open, and he smiled at the older man, nodding his head in greeting.

"Am I disturbing your meditation?"

"No." Solan stood up and stretched, gazing down the mountainside, to where the Citadel was just about visible. He never ceased to like looking down at it from up here, where they couldn't get at him.

"I wanted to congratulate you." There was a gentleness to K'anpo's voice, maybe even a suggestion of pride. Solan smiled.

"About finishing fifth level? Yes, well I was rather surprised myself."

"Not surprised, my boy. Just pleased. I didn't imagine for one moment that you would be the first to fail to graduate."

Solan shrugged. "Then you're the only one that thought that; except maybe for Borusa." He grinned. "But then, I've been a model student recently. I haven't got into trouble once in this whole level. Well, nothing serious anyway."

"Probably because I've been keeping you too busy." K'anpo gave a wry smile. "Idle hands, and all that. All the same, I'm glad, Solan. I understand that you find it hard here. Your spirit calls you elsewhere."

"So does yours." Solan kicked at the ground with his feet. "Anyway, I soon will be elsewhere. You know what sixth level means."

"Yes I do." K'anpo nodded slowly. "Use of a TARDIS. Free range to choose a planet and a Time zone in which to study for some local academic qualification. Need I ask where you're going?"

Solan grinned. "Probably not. I asked for Earth, early twentieth century. It's a Time I don't know much about. I thought I'd study for a doctorate in something. Law maybe, or history. Something like that."

K'anpo nodded. There was a question that he obviously wanted to ask, but clearly was not sure about.

"Solan... You will be coming back, won't you?"

"Are you kidding?" He laughed. "They check these loan TARDISes out so carefully, if I don't bring it back on time, they'll be able to track me down to the last square foot. Of course I'll be back. When I do leave, I can assure you that I'll be a lot more subtle about it. I certainly won't be telling them in advance where and when I'm headed for."

"Good." K'anpo nodded. "I'm sure your studies will be successful, anyway. I'm pleased with the progress you've made with me. Perhaps you'll never be a Master, but at least you've learned to look beyond the truth now, and that's a start. I can think of many Time Lords who would benefit from an education like the one you've had."

"All down to you, old man." Solan grinned. "I've enjoyed the last nine years, even if you have had me working my arms off. You know, I've been so busy recently, I've been having to sneak out at night time to go and get into trouble with Dorchan."

"Ah yes. Dorchan." K'anpo shook his head with a trace of regret. "Perhaps I should have spoken to him as well; taught him in the same way that I've taught you."

"Dorchan?" Solan laughed. "Why? He's been top of the class for as long as I can remember. The teachers don't quite trust him, but that's only because he's cleverer than they are. He's a genius."

"Yes, precisely. A mind such as his should be disciplined. I worry about your friend, Solan. He may be heading for trouble."

"No." Solan shook his head. "K'anpo, I know you worry, but Dorchan's okay. He's been my closest friend since we were small children. He lost his parents in the same way that I lost mine. They used to work together. I know him better than anyone, and I'd trust him with my life."

"Good. We should all have somebody that we trust in that way." K'anpo was obviously still worried about something, but was prepared to let it pass for now. "Perhaps I worry too much. Goodness knows you've given me reason enough to worry over the last few years."

"Who, me?" Solan was all innocence. "I'm as good as gold." He grinned. "I'm glad you came here today, old man. I don't know when I'll be back, and I wanted to say that I appreciate the time you've spent with me. I think everybody else had given up."

"They didn't understand you." K'anpo shrugged. "And I did." He smiled. "I doubt you even understood yourself. Perhaps you know now that the secret to understanding, is not to try."

"Knowledge takes us further from the truth." Solan smiled. "And the more we know, the less we understand."

"And so the more we must try to understand." K'anpo nodded. "Do you understand now, my boy?"

"Me? Are you kidding?" He grinned. "I don't understand a thing."

"Then the universe will teach you."

"Sure. And maybe I can teach the universe too."

"We all learn from each other."

"But some of us have more to teach." Solan sighed, and flashed the older man a grin. "Goodbye, K'anpo. I'll see you when I get back."

"And when will that be?"

The young man grinned. "I don't know. When I'm ready."

"Don't get into trouble, Solan." K'anpo was smiling, but Solan saw the concern in the other man's eyes. He grinned.

"Nothing is as it seems, and all truth is only relative." He shrugged. "In the end, when all is said and done, there's no such thing as trouble; so I can't get into it." He turned away, to head back down the mountain.

"My boy..." Solan turned back, glancing up at the old hermit.


"Trouble may not exist, but that doesn't stop you getting into it. So be careful."

"I don't know how."

"Then learn."

Solan grinned again. "The more we learn, the less we know. So it stands to reason that if I try to stay out of trouble, I'll just end up getting into even more of it. Whether it exists or not."

The old man smiled. "I should have known that one day you'd learn enough to start quoting my philosophies back at me." He sighed, suddenly looking sad. "Good luck, Solan. Take care of yourself."

"Naturally. I'll see you when I get back." He turned and headed off down the mountain, without looking back. K'anpo smiled at the retreating figure.

"Take care, Solan," he whispered softly, then turned about. His garden was waiting for him.


"Dorchan!" Brushing his cumbersome robes out of the way, Rabian hurried down the pathway to greet his old friend. "Welcome back!"

"Thankyou. You've been back a year already, I suppose?" Brushing a long strand of sandy hair out of his eyes, Dorchan looked the taller man up and down. "How did it go for you?"

"Fine. I studied for one of the highest academic honours available on the planet of Cirrus Seven. I chose a delightful period from the planet's history; one with no temptations to interfere. How about you?"

"Oh, I didn't do too badly. Mustn't complain." Dorchan smiled slightly, telling his companion that whatever the younger man had been doing for the last couple of years, it had been extremely successful. "Have you heard from Solan?"

"Solan? You mean he isn't back yet?" Rabian consulted the list in his hand. "According to this, he should have been back shortly before you."

"Ah." Dorchan nodded understandingly. "Well, I can't say that I'm surprised. He's on Earth, you know."

"No, I didn't know. Although I suppose I should have suspected." Rabian sighed deeply. "I was away on Cirrus Seven when you two reached sixth level, remember?"

"Yes, of course." Dorchan nodded, seeming unconcerned about their friend's disappearance. "Well he was fine when I dropped in to see him a while back. He was doing rather well, actually."

"You went to see him? How?"

"Oh, you know how it is... I finished my tasks rather sooner than expected... Thought that I'd pay him a visit. He had finished ahead of schedule as well. Was doing a little sightseeing."

"Sightseeing?" Rabian sounded shell-shocked. "That's illegal, you do realise it. You go to your scheduled place and Time, and that's all. If the Council finds out..."

"But they shan't, Rabian." Dorchan sighed. "You worry too much." He smiled. "There's really no need to get concerned. Solan was working for a doctorate in law, in some dreary little period known to the locals as 1910. London. It's the capital city of a small sort of country that he seems rather taken by. Anyway, he was having a fine time by all accounts. Acting as legal advisor to some people who were demanding to be allowed to vote." He shrugged. "Democracy. Causes all kinds of problems if you ask me. When he got bored there, he went off somewhere else, which is where I met him; quite by chance as it happens. 2017 local time, London again. He was studying for another doctorate to pass the time... in history I think it was. I found him with a group who were demanding an end to nuclear somethings. Experiments, or testing or... I don't know." He smiled. "So you see? Nothing to worry about."

"Then where is he?" Rabian was looking towards the landing bay, where the last of the arriving Academy students were hurrying off towards a debriefing.

Dorchan shrugged. "Who knows, my friend, who knows? He never did have much grasp of the occasional need for urgency. He'll turn up."

"Yes, that's what I'm afraid of." Rabian took one last look around for his errant friend, then had to admit defeat and begin walking away. "I'm afraid he'll turn up on a prison barge. Can you imagine visiting him in the confinement area for the next fifty years?"

"No..." Dorchan was already leaving his companion behind, walking with an air of studied indifference. "They wouldn't do that to Solan. He'd be out the door before they managed to lock it."

"No doubt." Rabian stared at the younger man's retreating back, then sighed and hurried to catch up. Somewhere out there; somewhere else in Time and space, Solan was up to something. He only wished that he knew what it was.


The campus was loud and wild. Students of all disciplines raced through the corridors, shouting and throwing paper aeroplanes at each other. Only the small group of slightly older students seemed to be handling themselves with any real sense of decorum, threading their way through the unruly ranks.

"This is incredible, John. I can't believe how well everything has turned out. And it's all down to you." One of the group, a tall, dark-haired man in a neatly pressed suit, gestured about them. "Everybody's over the moon."

"I didn't do anything." The slight, curly-haired man walking beside him sounded strangely emphatic. "All I did was put a little suggestion before the board..."

"Which they decided to implement." The other man clapped him on the shoulder. "You're a useful guy to have around, pal."

"Thanks." The smaller man, whose accent suggested that he was English, although he had no idea why that should have been the case, shrugged. "I think you just have to know how to speak to them."

"Then maybe you can be a diplomat." Another member of the group, a young woman of about twenty, smiled. "Can you imagine it? Us, being politicians and diplomats. Running the world."

"Not me." John almost shivered at the suggestion. "I'm going to be an explorer."

"Cool." A fourth member of the group nodded. "Definitely cool. Not much left to explore, mind."

"I'll find somewhere." The student had an odd, faraway look on his face, suggesting that he was a born daydreamer. His companions could not have known what distant worlds and civilisations he was seeing in his mind's eye. He shook himself suddenly, and grinned around at the others. "I'll, er... see you tonight. I really have to get some work done."

"Sure. Later, pal." The tall dark-haired man nodded at him, watching as he hurried away, then glanced back at his friends. "Crazy guy, huh?"

"Sure is." The girl smiled. "But that is a cute accent." One of the others laughed.

"Don't tell him that," he advised her. "He'll be blushing for a week." They all laughed, and began to walk off together across the campus.

John reached the library to find it almost deserted. He wandered alone amongst the shelves, glancing at the titles and running his fingers along the rows of neatly aligned spines. There were so many books here, and yet this place was only a fraction of the size of the library at the Academy. There they had books from a thousand different planets or more, all arranged in order according to galaxy, star-system and name. Too many languages for one person to learn; too many volumes for any one student ever to read. He wondered what was going on back on Gallifrey. They would have noticed that he hadn't arrived back, of course, and it was only a matter of time before somebody thought to ask Dorchan about him. The other cadet would never admit to having seen his friend, since that would get him into trouble for also not being where he was supposed to be, but all the same... Solan had a sneaking feeling that Borusa would know what had happened.

At first he had not meant to stray. London in 1910 had been wonderful, and he had learned a great deal from the professors and the citizens. The suffragette movement had been particularly interesting, and he had been spurred on rather by the single-minded women on their quest for equality; their desire for personal freedom. It had mirrored his own, similar quest in an odd sort of way. When he had finished his course, so much earlier than expected, he had flown off in the TARDIS almost without thinking about it. 2017 had been wonderful too, and he had become caught up with more protesters there. He loved it all; loved their certainty that they were right, their determination to achieve their goals. If they could make a stand against their rulers, why couldn't he? From there it had been an easy step, and Dorchan's visit had only sharpened his resolve. What right did the Time Lords have to order him around? He was a citizen of Gallifrey, and he wanted to exercise his rights just as these humans were doing. With that in mind, he had listened hard to the history lectures, and heard tell of a Time that would be just right for him to make his stand; the nineteen sixties. It was a legendary era from what he could make out; a period when authority and custom had been thrown out of the window by groups of protesters dedicated to peace and understanding. He had gone there as soon as he had won his second doctorate, again in record time. Odd how he was so slow in his academic work on Gallifrey, and yet here he was so much faster, so much better at it all. A free mind evidently worked so much better than a frustrated one.

Solan wandered to the window, looking out on the buildings of San Francisco. He wasn't altogether sure how he had managed to land here. He had set the co-ordinates for March 1966, hoping to land in London, and had somehow wound up in the summer of 1967, in San Francisco. Not that he was complaining. The weather was superb, the company entertaining... and there was certainly plenty of the famed protesting going on. He loved it all. Somehow his doctorate in moral philosophy was coming along by itself, whilst he joined marchers, waved banners and shouted merrily away with the rest of the students. There was the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the anti-nuclear movement... All that he needed was an anti-Time Lord Authority movement, and he really would have been in second heaven.

"They're out there somewhere..." Leaning against the window, Solan gazed up at the sky. He knew in which approximate direction Gallifrey lay, but it was far too far away to be able to see anything familiar. When the stars came out at night, and he stared up at them, he could not even begin to see those same ones that he watched in the skies back home.

"Who's out there?" The voice startled him, and he swung around. The girl who had been with him and his friends earlier was standing nearby, looking puzzled. He frowned.

"Lucy... I, er..."

"You were talking to yourself." She smiled. "It's supposed to be a sign of stress."

"It is?" He shrugged. "Sorry."

"You're not supposed to apologise." She wandered closer. "You're what? Twenty? Twenty-one? And you're nearly at the end of a doctorate. I think we can allow you a little stress." She grinned. "Maybe it would help you to relax if you came to a few more parties instead of hanging out with the protest crowd all the time. Let your hair grow a little; smoke some stuff..."

"No thanks. It doesn't agree with me." Solan smiled. It sounded like a standard refusal, but it was very true. He had once made the mistake of wandering into a room full of marijuana smoke, and had suffered for a week. It played havoc with Time Lord physiology.

Lucy shrugged. "Whatever." She sat down at a nearby table, and yawned. "Boy, I'm beat. Working on these protest rallies just recently has just about done me in. I don't know how you keep it up."

"Enthusiasm?" He shrugged. He kept meaning to enter into a proper study of human physiology some time, and try to understand why it was that he was so much more robust than they were. It might have interesting medical possibilities.

"Maybe you don't have any choice." She frowned at him. "What did you mean, when you said they were out there somewhere? Were you talking about the Communists?"

"What?" He frowned. "No, of course not. I don't care much for politics."

She laughed at that. "Then why shout about war and nuclear weapons so much?"

"Because I dislike violence. That has nothing to do with politics."

"Oh." She didn't seem to understand. Solan could sympathise; he had landed in a particularly politically orientated time. "Then who do you think is out there?"

"You don't give up, do you."

"No." She watched him in contemplative silence for a few minutes. "Somebody's after you, aren't they. Are you wanted?"

Solan grinned. He probably was, in a way.

"You are, aren't you?" Lucy sounded excited. "Boy... Is it the FBI?"

"Who? Oh, them. Well, I--"

"A real fugitive!" She whistled. "I guess they're after you because of all the protest work you're involved with." She leaned closer, speaking in a low voice. "I've gotta say, though, John; you should have come up with something better than John Smith as an alias. They'll see right through that."

"They will?" He frowned. He rather liked the name. He had used it in both 1910 and 2017 without any trouble.

"Sure. Maybe you should change it. Drop out of sight. There's a whole underground network that could hide you if necessary, you know. All you've got to do is ask. My boyfriend Martin heads the local group. They help out people who are in trouble with the authorities; so long as they're on the right side of course. You want me to get you a meeting?"

"Are you serious?" It was so simple that he wasn't sure why he hadn't thought of it earlier. A network set up to protect people from the authorities... It was worth a try. All that he had to do was make sure that he went nowhere near the TARDIS, then if - or rather when - the Time Lords found that, they wouldn't also find him. He would be lost somewhere, dropped out of sight. Ingenious.

"Yes." He grinned at her, suddenly excited. "See what you can do. Thanks Lucy."

"No trouble." She grinned back. "Now, er... How are you on chemistry, 'cause I'm really stuck on this term paper and..."

"Say no more." He took the book from her hand and opened it. Science was a subject he had steered clear of whilst on Earth, since he knew so much more about it than any human. He should be able to pull this off okay, though. "Let's see... Do you know anything about the Linnemann Theory?"

"Linnemann? Who's he?" She sounded concerned.

"Hans Linnemann. He first theorised that..." He frowned. Come to think of it, that wasn't until 2180. Bad move. "Okay, how about Faraday. You heard of him?"

"Of course I've heard of Faraday." She laughed. "English guy, long time ago."

"Right." He nodded. Okay, Solan... Just ease your way forward from here, and you'll be fine... He sighed. "Alright, let's see what we can do."


"Well? Are you just going to stand there, or are you actually going to say something?" Stretching himself up to his full height, Supervisor Torsa, head of the Time Lord Academy, prowled around the table with a look of fierce hatred on his face. "Perhaps you could do something for me. Try quoting the Academy handbook; rules for sixth level cadetship. Can you do that Solan?"

"Sure, if you like." His tone one of blatant disrespect, Solan frowned. "Er, let's see. Something about achieving your academic best, and striving for something. Isn't that it?"

"Not exactly." Torsa's voice was like ice. "Two years, cadet. Two years. In one period, on one planet. Then a prompt return. Do you have any ideas of the charges waiting for you?"

"Yeah..." Solan sounded as though he didn't care. "Going AWOL, theft of a TARDIS... I've been there before."

"Your use of Earth vernacular is not going to improve your case any, Solan." Torsa glared at him, his eyes bright with anger. Solan sighed.

"Oh great, fine. So now I can't even talk how I like. Look at me, Torsa. Go on, look. I'm twenty-three years old. On Earth that's an adult. I get to make my own decisions, do my own thing. Be cool, have fun. But here? Here you won't even consider me old enough for proper responsibility for another seventy-five years. All that time I've gotta file other people's reports, or collate other people's scientific experiments, because I'm a Time Lord and I've gotta learn to be disciplined. Well I never asked for that, okay? None of it. So you can do what you like, 'cause I'm through with the lot of you." He stormed to the door.

"If you walk out of that door now, Solan, you're leaving behind your heritage. What about your parents? They were respected Time Nobles. Do you think they would approve of your attitudes? This would make them turn in their graves."

"Yeah, I'm sure it would. If they had graves. But they don't, do they. We don't know where they are, or what happened to them, and we never will." He shook his head. "Forget it, Torsa. I've got my final exams coming up in a month or two, and I'll sit them like a good little Time Lord. And when that's over, you just try to keep me here."

"Oh, we will, Solan." Torsa smiled at him, his voice soft and deadly. "We will. You won't be escaping from this planet again for a very long time."

"Sure." Solan sounded dismissive. He flashed a parting grin at the Supervisor, then stalked from the room. Once outside he heaved a long breath and closed his eyes, leaning against the wall. Great move. Now he was probably going to be under house arrest for the rest of his life, and that was only if he managed to escape a custodial sentence. He didn't regret his actions, though. How could he?

"Solan." The voice held a note of friendship, and he turned around. Borusa, his teacher at the Academy for the last fifteen years, was standing nearby. He smiled at the young cadet. "Need I ask how it went in there?"

"I've had better interviews." He smiled back at his teacher. "Am I a disappointment to you, Borusa?"

"A disappointment? No." The teacher smiled. "A surprise, maybe. Three doctorates in less than three years is a remarkable achievement, my boy. And so is managing to turn a two year visit into a five year crusade. May I ask how you managed to stay undetected for that length of time?"

"Good friends." He smiled. "I'm sorry if this makes you look bad, Borusa. But I had to do it."

"If you had to do it then you had to do it." The older man smiled. "So tell me; how was Earth? Did it meet up with your expectations?"

"Yeah." Solan grinned. "It's a fascinating place, you know. Most of the planets we hear about have one main religion, maybe with one or two off-shoots, but Earth has hundreds of them. And the cultures... the folklore. We don't have any legends here. Except for Omega of course."

"There are the legends of the Dark Times." They began to walk together down the corridors, heading for the barracks.

"Yeah, true. But we're supposed to be ashamed of all that." Solan sighed. "Maybe there were other times, before our people discovered science, but that's all far too long ago. Nobody has kept any records of those days. Even K'anpo doesn't know anything about them." He frowned. "Say, how is K'anpo?"

"Fine." Borusa smiled. "Worried about you and refusing to admit it. I've been keeping him up to date. I went to tell him yesterday that you had been captured and brought back. He'll want to see you."

"Yes, I suppose he will." Solan sighed. "And Rabian? Dorchan?"

"Both fine. Rabian graduated a year ago, of course. He achieved a Triple Alpha. Dorchan is still on his field placement, as are the rest of your class. As you should have been."

Solan grinned. "I was on a placement of my own. Come on, Borusa; three years playing secretary to some ancient Time Lord? Not my scene."

"Not your...?" Borusa laughed lightly. "You are going to have to lose your fondness for Earth slang, my boy. It's sure to annoy the High Council if you speak like that in front of them."

"I have to go and see them, huh?" The younger man sighed. Borusa nodded slowly.

"You are a criminal in the eyes of the Council, Solan. I think they'll be inclined to be easy on you this time, but they'll want to give you a good talking to nonetheless. Probably try to scare you into behaving from now on." He smiled. "Evidently they don't know you as well as I do."

"Evidently not." They both smiled. "Come on Borusa, I'll buy you a drink."

"Is that an Earth custom?"

"Yeah... I mean yes. Rather a nice one actually. They have this stuff there called beer. Definitely worth the trip."

"Really? I must try it some time." Borusa clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "Now come along, my boy. You have work to do. K'anpo has agreed to give you some extra coaching, as have I. You've missed some important work."

"Yeah, I guess I have." Solan smiled. "Sorry. Yes, I suppose I must have done. The price of freedom..."

"Freedom is an ill-defined concept, Solan." Borusa cast him a warning glance. "Watch yourself."

"I will." Solan smiled, the distant look of longing returning to his eyes. "But don't expect any miracles from me, Borusa." He quickened his pace and began to walk away down the corridor.


"So what did you get?" Filled with the sort of cheer that could only have come from great success, Dorchan lay down in the long grass beside the lake and glanced over at his old friend. Solan smiled.

"What do you think?"

"You're not stupid, Solan, no matter what the others might say. You proved that on Earth."

"That's all in the past." The young Time Lord ran a hand through his tight black curls, still well below collar length from his time on Earth. It had taken long enough to get used to wearing the regimented uniform of cadet-ship, after so long in flared trousers and floral shirts, and he had not been prepared to go back to the regulation hair cut as well. It was his hair, after all.

"So what did you get?"

"A half Gamma." Solan grinned. "Hell, like I care. I mean, what's a grade or two, right?" He sat up. "I trust you got your Triple Alpha?"

"Yes." Dorchan smiled at him. "I'm sorry that you didn't get one too. It'll mean we'll get different assignments."

"Ah yes. Our apprenticeships." Solan sighed. "I've been an adult, Dorchan. I've had adult responsibilities. I have no desire to come back here and have to wait until my hundredth birthday before they consider me old enough to do anything interesting. I used to think that I could wait, but now I'm not so sure."

"You'll get used to it." Dorchan sat up too, gazing out at the lake. They had spent so many days here as children, hiding from their Time Lord superiors, escaping from the interminable lessons which were designed to prepare them for Lordship. It was like a second home. "If you want to."

"I don't want to, that's just the point. This isn't me. Do you really want to spend the next hundred years as somebody's assistant, and then have to wait another five hundred years on top of that before they'll really consider you ready for something even nearly worthwhile? We'll still be young men when we're close to a thousand. I'll be twice that before they let me have a TARDIS."

"Then buy one. They can't stop you doing that. You could even have one made for you, if you make the right sort of friends. I've already decided that that's what I'm going to do. I'll make enough money to get the best TARDIS possible."

"Money? As an apprentice? You'll be lucky."

"Not lucky, Solan. Clever." Dorchan smiled at him. "They use their Time Lord laws to their own pleasure, and they don't care anything for us. So why should I care about them?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean, my friend." Dorchan sighed, turning once more to gaze out across the lake. "You could come with me."

"I don't know, Dorchan..."

"Come on, you know I'm right." Dorchan glanced sideways at him, his eyes glittering curiously. "We beat the Time Lords at their own game. Steal a TARDIS and go off somewhere. We could make a fortune, with our background, our knowledge... our unique knowledge."

"That's not allowed." Solan sounded vaguely troubled, and Dorchan laughed out loud.

"As if that's ever bothered you before."

"I know... But what you're talking about is direct interference. I'll admit that I dabbled a little when I was on Earth, but that was just small stuff."

"Who's to say what's small and what isn't when you're dealing with Time? We're Time Lords, Solan. We create Time, we rule it. It is our domain. Therefore it is up to us to decide what we do with it. It belongs to us."

"That's not strictly true, Dorchan." Solan smiled. "Look, I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm not going to go down that road. Running away is one thing, but actively interfering? For commercial gain? That's not what Rassilon stood for."

"So who cares about Rassilon? I'm talking about us." Dorchan leaned closer. "Look, Solan. You. Me. A TARDIS. Freedom to go where we want, to do what we want. It's what we always talked about; what we always wanted. You remember those days when we were kids. Sitting out here, or up in the mountains - making all of those plans. I'm showing you how we can do it for real. So what if we break a few rules here and there?"

"What did you have in mind?" Staring out across the lake, not turning to look at his old friend, Solan chewed thoughtfully on his bottom lip. Dorchan grinned.

"Out there are a million planets, all with who knows what in store for them. We can find out - tell them. If they're going to have an invasion, we can tell them in advance, so that they can make preparations. We could advise diplomats on whether treaties will be kept, tell kings who is going to try to depose them. The possibilities are endless. Just think of how much they would pay us. We could sell our services to the highest bidder."

"And how do we know that we were on the right side. If we stop an invasion on one planet, who's to say that we wouldn't be condemning some other place to the same fate instead?"

"Do you care?"

"Yes." Solan stood up, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, Dorchan, but I could never be a part of a scheme like that. I don't know what's got into you, but--"

"Hey, it's okay." Dorchan stood up as well, brushing the grass from his trousers. "I was just thinking aloud, brother. Don't get so wound up." He smiled. "Look, no hard feelings, okay?" There was no answer. "Okay?"

"Yeah, okay." Solan smiled back, relieved, and clapped his friend on the back. "Hey, can I show you something? Something nobody else knows about?"

"You mean your engine thing?" Dorchan smiled at his friend's surprised expression. "Listen, when you go sneaking out of barracks at odd hours of the night, without telling me, I start to get worried. I followed you once."

Solan smiled. "Sorry. I'd have told you, but I figured that if less people knew about it, less people would find out."

"And less people could tell you that you really ought to have been doing something else."

"Something like that." He grinned. "Okay, so maybe it wasn't sensible slipping out the night before the finals, but I was so close to finishing. It's all done now."

"Okay, lead on." Dorchan gestures onwards, and Solan took the lead, heading off towards the caves which lined the hillside. In one, hidden by a sheet of waterproof material, was a strange, lumpy shape. The young Lord pulled the sheet off, pointing dramatically to his pride and joy beneath.

"Do you like her?" he asked excitedly. "I got the idea from a book I found in the library, on alien technologies. Everybody on Earth has one of these. I had one myself when I was there. It works by means of an internal combustion engine."

"Primitive." Dorchan smiled. "But not without some charm I suppose. They had them when I visited you that time, but they didn't look quite like this one."

"No, that was later. They had developed the design more by then. I had to build this one myself so it's not perfect, but I modelled it on the car I had on Earth. It's called a Beetle."

"I can see why." Dorchan grinned. "Small, and eminently crushable. Does it work?"

"Of course it does!" He sounded almost insulted. "Problem is the fuel. I managed to make some in one of the labs the other day, but I don't have a lot. And I can't keep sneaking into the laboratories to make more. I think I'll have to alter the design so that it can run on something else. Shuttle fuel perhaps."

"Do you want to drive it, or fly in it?" Dorchan climbed behind the wheel. "You use this to steer it, I trust?"

"Yes. Turn that key, there." He pointed. Dorchan complied, studying the dashboard controls with his usual enthusiasm for learning.

"I see." The engine burst into life. "Jolly good. Hop in." Solan did so, slipping into the passenger seat just in time as the car began to move. They drove out of the cave and onto the mountainside, with Dorchan stalling and jerking the little machine about as he became used to the controls. Solan winced as they spun close to a cliff edge, and Dorchan grinned. "Not quite the same as driving through the streets of London, is it?"

"Hardly." He laughed. "Can you see us driving through the Citadel in this?"

"No." Dorchan could see it in his mind's eye; Time Lords scrambling to get out of their way as they drove through the streets, parents hurrying their children out of the way. "It might be worth a try though."

"It might. I'd rather not get it confiscated just yet, though." He sighed, relaxing slightly as Dorchan came to terms with the car. "Supervisor Torsa would have it impounded for the nest three millennia."

"We're not answerable to Supervisor Torsa any more." The two young men looked at each other, smiling as this realisation sank in. No longer students, no longer forced to obey damn silly rules that neither agreed with. Not that there weren't even more, equally silly rules, that one had to abide by as a Time Lord. "We can do what we want."

"I wish." Solan smiled. "You've got a point though." He smiled. "You know, I might actually miss sneaking out of the barracks to go swimming."

"You can still sneak out. We may not have to go to school any more, but we have to go to work instead. Apprenticeships can be just as strict as cadet-ships." Dorchan grinned. "Your car... a moonlit night... Maybe a Time Lady or two..." He scowled. "Second thoughts, they'd probably just report us. Make that ordinary Gallifreyan women."

"You've got all this planned, haven't you."

"Yes." Bringing the car to a standstill, Dorchan leaned back in his seat, and gazed out at the red skies. "Maybe I can keep you out of trouble for a year or two."

"Keep me out of trouble? What about you?"

"Me?" Dorchan laughed. "It's you that keeps getting caught, my friend. I'm the innocent party."

"Like hell you are."

"Ah yes... But nobody else know that, you see. I have charm... personality... an innocent face." He grinned across at his companion. "Whereas you, my oldest and dearest friend, look like a troublemaker. We each bend and break the rules, but you're the only one who will ever take the consequences."

"And don't I know it." They both smiled, unconcerned with such issues now. It was the start of a new section of their lives, and maybe, with luck, their new responsibilities might bring a little freedom.


Whistling softly to himself, Solan pressed another button and flicked a series of switches. There was a hopeful expression on his face, for he had no particular idea what he was doing. The design of this equipment was different to what he had used at the Academy, and he had not been able to find a User's manual. Still, beggars couldn't be choosers; or in this case, thieves couldn't be choosers. He smiled to himself, enjoying this new challenge. Getting to the TARDIS had been easy. It had been in for repair, and the guard had been asleep. Somehow some sort of sleeping powder had found its way into his drink. Getting into the TARDIS had also been easy, since the key had been hanging on the wall just beside the ship. Even taking off had been easy. The noise of dematerialisation had come as a bit of a shock, and he had been convinced that half of the garrison would come rushing to investigate, but nothing had happened. Everything had gone smoothly, just as planned. He wondered if Dorchan had been so lucky, and smiled to himself. Of course he had been. When had anything ever failed to go well for that young man?

It had taken some persuading before Solan had finally agreed to Dorchan's repeated suggestions that they steal a TARDIS. It was never easy for the pair to stay put on Gallifrey; to obey the laws and to behave themselves. They had found their respective apprenticeships neither interesting nor challenging, and even their increasingly numerous excursions in the car had failed to relieve the boredom. All the same, they had been willing to try to put up with it all for a little longer, until one day, when they had been pursuing their customary extra-curricular activities, they had been discovered. The car was confiscated, they were both given a severe reprimand, and Solan's frustrations had finally broken to the surface. Dorchan had only needed to make his suggestion once.

They had agreed, in the end, to take two TARDISes, and that way make their capture less likely. Dorchan, of course, had known how to disable the tracking devices hidden within the ships, so that the Time Lords would be unable to follow them. He should have been rewarded for his ingenuity, but Solan knew that if they were caught, they would not get off as lightly as they had done in the past.

Frowning at the console, he ran a hand through his curls; short again, now that the memories of Earth had begun to fade. Which buttons did what exactly? He thought that he knew, but he couldn't be entirely sure. He had never paid much attention during lessons. He didn't really even know where he wanted to go, except that he had had some half-baked plan to meet with Dorchan on some planet far away, and then decide properly what they were going to do with the rest of their lives. He felt a sharp pang of guilt. He hadn't seen K'anpo before leaving. Everything had happened so fast, and he hadn't even had time to see Rabian. He had been so angry, so hot with indignation. Damn the Time Lords and their rules; damn their strict adherence to duty.

"Solan? Are you there?" The voice came through faintly, sounding from somewhere within the console. He jumped, then fumbled with a few likely looking switches, finally succeeding in making the voice louder. He grabbed for the microphone.


"Solan!" The other voice sounded relieved. "Where are you? I've been trying to follow you on my scanner, but you dropped out of sight. I've been trying to reach you for ages."

"Sorry. Minor technical hitch." He glared at the console. "Where are you?"

"Temporary materialisation, somewhere out in space. I can't tell you where exactly, in case the wrong person hears. Can I count on you to meet me at the rendezvous point?"

Rendezvous point. Where had that been exactly? He grinned at the transmitter, filled with illogical, and misplaced, confidence.

"Sure, Dorchan. I'll be there. Might just be a little late, that's all. I, er... I'm not sure that she's working quite right just now. I think we understand each other, but she's still playing up a bit."

"Well figure something out, Solan. We don't have forever." There was a short silence, followed by a low laugh. "Well yes, I think we do actually."

"I'll be there, Dorchan." Solan turned back to the console, wondering which switch to flick at next. He heard a burst of static from the transmitter, and turned back to it. "Dorchan? Are you there?"

"Solan?... breaking up... can't... fading... out of range..." The words faded into indiscriminate static, and Solan turned the transmitter off, listening to the silence. He had never realised how quiet the world could be. The console beside him groaned and shuddered away to itself, and he grinned. The world wasn't that quiet. He would figure out how to use the blessed thing, and then he would meet Dorchan. It was just a question of which button to press first...


The TARDIS juddered one last time, squawked insanely to itself, and then was silent. Solan breathed a deep sigh of relief. What a trip. Next time he got into a TARDIS, he would make very sure that he knew exactly how to fly the blasted thing first. He glanced at the scanner screen. Breathable atmosphere, perfectly acceptable gravity. Just like home in fact. The sky was even red. He grinned. No wonder Dorchan had chosen this place for a rendezvous; it was so like Gallifrey. He opened the doors and walked out.

Trees stretched out before him, and flowers marked out a pathway. He wandered along it, quite content. The sunlight was warm and bright, there were birds singing. Even the buildings growing progressively closer did little to bother his high spirits. He was sure that the people there would be friendly. Everybody was friendly. Time Lords were respected throughout the civilised star-systems, and Dorchan would hardly have chosen an uncivilised one to meet in. He liked his comforts too much.

The sound of footsteps brought Solan sharply back to full awareness, and he spun around, looking for the source of the noise. Silence greeted him, and he frowned. He had definitely heard something. He started on again, and again the footsteps followed him. He whirled about.

"Dorchan, is that you? There was no answer. "Hello? I know there's somebody there."

"Do you." The voice was cold and even, and entirely unfriendly. It came from behind him. Solan froze, wondering how his pursuer had managed to work his way around there. He lifted a smile from somewhere, and turned around.

"Morning. My name is Solan, and I'm from--" He paused. Three men stood before him, wearing black uniforms and visored helmets. They carried laser rifles, all pointed at him. "Er... excuse me, but--"

"Shut up. You can leave the introductions for the High Council." The man who had spoken before spoke again, suggesting that he held some rank. He caught Solan by the shoulder. "Move."

"Hey!" Indignant, Solan pulled back. "You can't talk to me like that."

"I can talk to intruders how I like." The guard caught hold of him again, and pushed him forward. "Now march!" He began to lead the way down the flower-edged pathway. Solan allowed himself to be pushed along in the midst of the patrol, anger burning inside him. Who were these people that they felt it warranted to treat guests in this fashion? Even on Gallifrey the rare visitors that turned up were treated with dignity and respect, although admittedly they were very restricted in their freedom of movement.

The walk to the distant city was a silent one, and hot. Solan endured the indignity of being pushed at gun point through the streets, controlling his usually explosive temper with difficulty. He imagined all of the things that he would say to this High Council when he was brought before them. Somebody around here must know that he was coming. Dorchan must have announced his presence by now.

The little group marched along more streets, and through ornamental archways and passages that seemed almost familiar. Eventually they stopped before a huge, ornate doorway. Solan tipped back his head to look up at it, marvelling at the height and the workmanship. It was like nothing he had seen before, except maybe in books. K'anpo would have called it unnecessary opulence; a display of unwarranted materialism. He grinned at the thought, almost forgetting to scowl as he was pushed unceremoniously through the door and into a long, white corridor. Onwards they walked, past other doors, past fountains, and past panels of impressive circuitry, telling Solan that these people were quite definitely highly sophisticated. He tried to get a better look at them, but his guards dragged him onwards, and he followed them obediently, until finally they stopped at another large door. One of the guards knocked, and the doors opened automatically. Solan was pushed through.

"So this is our guest." He turned automatically towards the sound of the voice, and saw a tall, dark-haired man wearing a long, flamboyant robe of white and silver. He smiled at Solan, bowing extravagantly. "Our guest who arrived in a ship that came from the Matrix. Can it be that this is a Time Lord?" Solan drew himself up to his full height, trying his hardest to look sincere and impressive.

"Of course I'm a Time Lord." He scowled, finally pulling free of his guard's grip, and straightened his tunic. "Who did you think I was?"

"Oh I never think. I have people to do that for me." The robed man laughed shortly. "Are you really a Time Lord? Your ship was not built on a design that I recognise." He stepped forward, grabbing Solan by the front of his tunic. "What Time zone are you from? What year was it when you started out? Tell me!"

"I don't have to tell you anything." Solan tried to pull free, but the man's hand only tightened its grip. "Who are you?"

"You do have to tell me, if you're really a Time Lord, because I'm the Lord President." The man smiled, a cold, unpleasant smile. "You have to tell me everything."

"You can't be Lord President." Solan frowned, but in his mind it was all beginning to add up. The familiarity of the architecture in the city, the sophistication of the electrical panels on the walls. Could he have landed back on Gallifrey? Great. Some escape attempt this had been. He wondered where Dorchan was, and if he had given up waiting yet.

"Can't I?" The tall man laughed again. "I am Lord President Torkus, and I rule this planet. I am leader of the Time Lords. Now." His hand tightened its grip again, twisting the cloth at Solan's neck and beginning to make it hard for him to breathe." You will tell me what I want to know. What year was it?"

"It was the Seventh Era of Rassilon..." Solan found it hard to speak, so tight was the tunic around his neck. "The year was... 42675... I think."

"Seventh Era of who? That doesn't mean anything to me." Torkus pushed him away. "You're from the future, and that's all that I need to know." He rubbed his hand together. "Tell me; do they remember me in your Time? Do they still tell stories of my fame and glory?"

"You" Solan shook his head. It was all beginning to sink in; to become horribly clear in his mind. "You've never heard of Rassilon..."

"So? Tell me! Am I remembered?"

"Not by name." Solan clenched his fists, hearing a voice inside his head telling him to keep quiet. His anger caused him to ignore it. "None of you are remembered from this period. We call it the Dark Time, and we rarely speak of it. Everything from this Time is reviled. The whole period is hidden in our archives."

"Liar!" Torkus struck out, hitting Solan hard enough to make the younger man stumble and almost fall. "I am revered here! I am making our people great! Why would they hate me?"

"Because of what you stand for. The misuse of power. Tyranny, oppression." Solan's fists clenched and unclenched in his fury. "We stand for so much more now. We help people, we guard Time. You - all of you - you're nothing but thieves and murderers!"

"Thieves and murderers?" Torkus wandered closer to his prisoner, smiling icily. "You think so? You refer to our Game, perhaps, where we allow members of other races to entertain us?"

"Where you let them be killed by monsters they have no chance of defeating, all so that you can relieve your boredom!" Solan glared back at the older man. "It's not a game, it's a massacre. And you created it!"

"That's right, I did." Torkus giggled, sounding insane. "It's my Game. It was all my idea. You see? You did know my name. My people do remember me."

"They hate you."

"But they remember me." He smiled. "Tell me; what do you know of the Game?"

"Enough to know that it's wrong." Drawing himself up to his full height, which still left him considerably shorter than the President, Solan tried to take up an intimidating stance. "Warped and wrong, and unforgivable."

"Genius. Pure genius. It took true vision to create it." Torkus sighed, as if overcome by his own charisma, then clapped his hands together. "Have our guest's ship brought here to the Palace. I may consider using it. And escort his Lordship to the cells." He smiled. "He can join our other guests. When the next Game begins, you will be in the front line, my friend." He clapped Solan on the shoulder. "We've never had a Time Lord play before. It'll be such fun."

"You're mad." Solan pulled free as the guards stepped up to grab his arms. "I won't play. I won't kill other people just to please you."

"You'll do what you have to do to survive." Torkus turned away, but Solan could still hear his soft, almost imperceptible laughing. "I might let you stay out of the Gamezone, if you'll do a little something for me..."

"Such as?" Solan's voice was as hard as flint, and Torkus swung back to face him, apparently amused by his prisoner's defiance.

"Tell me about your Time. Tell me about the future of my planet. How did this place come to be hated so much by my descendants? What happened here that could have changed the course of our history?"

"If I tell you that, you'll change it. You'll make sure that you and your followers keep control of the planet." Solan shook his head. "I won't help you to do that. The whole universe as I know it would cease to exist. If the Time Lords continue to be evil and corrupt, whole worlds will be destroyed."

"Who cares?" Torkus laughed, and began to prowl around the room, glaring at Solan all the while. "This is my world, just as much as it is yours. Who's to say that your version of events is better than mine?"

"Nobody." Solan glared back at the Lord President, determined not to be out-stared by a madman. "But I won't be the one to help you find out which way is best. I can't take that kind of responsibility. Millions would die!"

"Millions still will die." Torkus smiled, his eyes burning. "My people may have not yet discovered how to travel into the future, but now that we have your ship, perhaps we can do just that." He wandered closer, eventually standing eye to eye with Solan. "I trust you would not have travelled into the past without the means of returning to your own Time?" Solan didn't answer, and the older man laughed. "I see. My boy, I give you permission to return to whenever it was that you came from. I shall accompany you, with a few of my men." He glared at a nearby scanner screen, which showed a picture of the TARDIS. "It is big enough, I trust?"

"It's as big as you want it to be." Solan stared at the scanner screen himself, beginning to formulate a plan. "I have to warn you though, that I'm not the world's greatest TARDIS pilot. I'm still learning."

"TARDIS?" Torkus played the unfamiliar word around in his mouth. "Learn as you will, my friend. Just as long as you can take me into the future." He gestured to a guard. "Has the team been dispatched to bring the vessel back here, Captain?"

"It has, sir. We anticipate its arrival within the hour." The Captain saluted smartly. "Shall I remove the prisoner to the cells, sir?"

"What? Oh, no you shall not." Torkus turned his glare back on again. "He shall remain here with me. I enjoy his company. You" He turned back to Solan. "You will tell me about Gallifrey in the future."

"No I won't." The young Time Lord straightened his back, staring at the bigger man with an expression of fierce determination fixed onto his face. His senses warned him not to antagonise the Lord President, but his anger and his indignation prevented him from taking the advice of that inner voice. "We have rules; laws. They apply in this Time as much as they do in mine. No one is allowed to interfere."

"But you're here. That's interfering." Torkus approached his unwilling guest, eyes bright with amusement and interest. "

"Some interferences are for the best." Solan squared his shoulders. "I change what I think needs changing. What you're talking about is the destruction of an entire culture. Time Lord history as I know it would cease to be, and I'm not going to help you to do that."

"Then I'll go by myself, and you can stay here and die in the Game." Torkus turned sharply about and walked across to the other side of the room. "Watch him," he called back to the guards, and then he had vanished, into whatever chambers lay beyond that room.

Solan sighed. He was not entirely unused to messes, but this one was beyond even his experience. He wondered how his TARDIS could have made such a wrong turn. Obviously he had done something wrong when he had laid in the co-ordinates. He wondered what it had been. Something wrong in the mathematical calculations perhaps? Or a simple mistake in geography? Piloting a TARDIS was not entirely different to driving a car. Maybe he had done the inter-dimensional equivalent of holding the map upside down. Dorchan would know. Dorchan, however, was half a universe - to say nothing of half an eternity - away.

The hour passed slowly. Guards came and went, and Solan thought that he heard Torkus singing in the adjoining room. Finally the outer doors swung open, and an anti-gravity sled came in, the TARDIS resting precariously on it. Solan headed towards it, only to be held back by the guards. He watched helplessly as a small army of Gallifreyans unloaded the unwieldy machine and laid it down in the ground. Torkus appeared from out of his retreat, and surveyed the machine with a proprietorial air.

"It doesn't look like much," he commented sourly. "Apparently my Time Lord descendants have unusual ideas about what makes a good ship."

"It's disguised." Solan finally succeeded in freeing himself from the grip of his guards. "It picks up on its surroundings when it lands, and chooses a suitable shape. Watch." They stared at the TARDIS as, removed from the landing ground, it slowly changed shape until it appeared to be just another piece of Presidential furniture. "See?"

"Ingenious." Torkus tugged uselessly at the door. "Open it."

"Alright." He pulled the key from his pocket, and slipped it into the lock. It turned easily, and the ship hummed, as if welcoming him home. A heavy hand fell onto his wrist, and he looked up at a large, muscular guard.

"Step back," the man warned him, in a decidedly unfriendly tone. Solan obeyed, watching as the President pulled the TARDIS door open. He heard the sound of footsteps, heard the cry of delight as the older man examined the console. Finally Torkus appeared in the doorway, gesturing frantically to him.

"Make it work," he called, the words somewhere between a command and a plea. "Take me into the future."

"It'll take time. I have to work out the course first." Waiting for the large guard to let him go, Solan sauntered into the TARDIS, faintly amused by the battalion of guards that followed him. What did they expect him to do, exactly? It was a TARDIS, not a warship. It was quite likely that, in this period, they could not imagine a ship without weapons.

"How long?" Torkus could not keep the eagerness from his voice. Solan shrugged.

"A day maybe? At best, and that's only if I'm left alone to work in peace."

"You won't be." Torkus smiled. "You have as much time as you need. My guards will remain here with you." He turned towards the door. "I will be back at the end if the day to see how well you are doing."

"Oh I shall look forward to it." Ducking down under the console in case of reprisals, Solan set to work. Fortunately, none of these people knew how to lay in a course for a TARDIS trip. If he could just have a couple of hours of uninterrupted work, he might just be able to save the day.


Time always seemed to move slower in Gallifrey than on any other planet in the universe, and Solan felt every second of it as he crouched beneath the console, connecting, disconnecting and reconnecting wires. Once or twice a guard would peer down at him, frowning at the mass of cables and printed circuits. Solan sympathised with their looks of confusion. He didn't understand half of it himself, and he had spent fifteen years of his life studying such things. Or supposedly studying such things, anyway. There was a difference.

Finally, with his stomach telling him that a long, long time had passed since his arrival, Solan climbed to his feet and stretched.

"Ought to do it." He yawned. "Is somebody going to get Torkus?"

One of the guards gestured to an underling, and the man strode away. Only seconds later he was back, the Lord President following at his heels like an excited puppy. The Time Lord leader gazed around the console room, finally bringing his eyes to rest on Solan.

"It's done?" he asked. Solan shrugged.

"As near as I can tell, yes. The computer will make any necessary corrections to the course whilst you're in flight, but it's a pre-programmed path, so it shouldn't take you long."

"Good." The President surveyed the instrumentation. "Which button do I press?"

"You pull that, then flick that, then press those three - red, green, yellow, in that order." Solan smiled at him. "Well, good luck. I suppose the rest of us should be leaving."

"You leave." Torkus smiled. "My guards will be accompanying me."

"All of them?" Solan stared around at the group. There were thirty of them at least. "It should be only you."

"Am I expected to arrive without my honour guard?" Torkus stormed towards him and pushed him to the door. "They will come with me."

"Fine." Shoulders looking oddly slumped, Solan walked through the door, taking a last look back at the TARDIS. He felt terribly guilty about what he was to do, and largely because of what it meant for this little ship. He stepped back. Behind him the doors swung shut, and he heard the dematerialisation begin. He stepped back a little more. Slowly his fists clenched, and he felt his chest tighten, as both of his hearts reacted to his tension. The noise grew. Gradually the room began to shake. He broke into a run, dashing for the far side of the room, knowing that he was not going to reach the safety of the doors in time. The noise reached a crescendo, and in a bright, furious blaze of fire, the TARDIS exploded.

Solan climbed to his feet, brushing the dust from his clothes and trying to ignore the painful ringing in his ears. Dust stung his eyes, and something else too. He did not want to turn back towards the ship, but his conscience forced him to look. Through the cloud of dust, and through the haze of acrid smoke, he could see the bodies. Thirty of them at least. Torkus had insisted that they accompany him, but Solan knew that he could not blame the President for their deaths. It was all his fault. He had meant to do the right thing; to prevent them from being able to use the TARDIS to travel to the future, but his hearts told him that the deaths of those guards were his fault as much as anybody else's. His fault for fixing the TARDIS to explode. His fault for coming here in the first place. He heard his voice whispering softly in Gallifreyan, a language that even the Time Lord hierarchy rarely used. He wondered who the thirty men had been, and whether or not they had had families. He wondered if they had known what was killing them; whether it had hurt. Finally, slowly, he sat down on the steps by the doors, and waited. Somebody must have heard the explosion. Somebody must be coming to investigate. He probably had a few minutes left before they arrived. They would very likely kill him, or at the very least lock him up and throw away the key. What was the penalty for murdering a President? He couldn't remember it ever happening. The silence settled around him as he waited, and he listened to it. There was nothing familiar about it; no hum of machinery, no comforting presence of palace guards or Gallifreyan technicians. This whole place was as alien as an uncharted world. He smiled sadly to himself as he sat there. If he was allowed to live long enough, this place would become very familiar. He would never get home now. His last chance of returning to his own Time was lying in a million shattered pieces all over the floor.

At first it was just a faint noise; so faint that Solan was not sure that he had heard it. There was a silence, and then it came again. Scratching. He turned his head towards the noise. Was it possible that somebody had survived the explosion? Filled with a sudden hope, he stood up and hurried towards the source of the scratching. A heavy TARDIS panel blocked his view and he tugged it aside. Almost immediately he saw a set of dusty fingers scrabbling at a large chunk of console. Solan grinned. He seized the piece, and with all of his strength, he began to pull. Slowly, painfully, the console moved. Sweat broke out on his brow, trickling down his face. He blinked it out of his eyes and pulled harder, struggling furiously against the stubborn forces of gravity. The console resisted, but still he pulled, and finally, in a sudden, loud rendering of metal, the heavy piece of TARDIS equipment came free. A loud cough echoed through the suddenly silent room, and Solan dropped to his knees beside the dusty figure on the floor.

"Are you okay?" He pushed aside some of the smaller pieces of metal and plastic still covering the figure, and caught a glimpse of blue material. The man on the floor answered him with a groan, and then, with an almost superhuman effort, he sat up. The dust fell away, and Solan saw Presidential robes hanging loosely about the man's shoulders. He scrambled to his feet. On the floor, Torkus laughed.

"Very clever, my Time Lord friend. Did you forget that I might regenerate? That was quite an oversight."

"Everybody's entitled to forget something every once in a while." Solan glanced about at the wreckage, searching for a weapon. All of the guards had been armed, and at least a few of their guns must have survived the explosion. He saw one, and with a quick dash, he grabbed it and levelled it at the President. Torkus climbed to his feet and laughed again.

"You won't shoot me," he said, the conviction clear in his voice.

"Won't I?" Solan checked the charge in the gun. "I killed all your guards, and I tried to kill you. What makes you think that I won't try it again?"

"Because of the way you tried to help when you found there was a survivor." Torkus took a step towards him, unmoved by the gun pointed at his chest. "So you rigged your ship to explode. So what? You regretted it afterwards. And anyway; an explosion is one thing. It takes a different kind of man to look somebody in the eyes and then shoot them dead."

Solan stared at him. He remembered the sound of the explosion; remembered the deathly silence which had followed. He remembered the cold, dead feel of the guard's hand when he had taken his pistol. Slowly he lowered the gun. Torkus laughed again.

"I'll take great pleasure in killing you," he said softly. "I'm going to do it very, very slowly." Solan glanced down at the gun in his hand. It would be so easy to use it, but he knew now that he couldn't. Reading those tales of action and adventure was one thing, but it was all so different when it was for real. He seemed to remember K'anpo saying something similar once. He let the gun fall, and heard it clatter on the floor, caught sight of it as it skimmed away across the tiles. It took his last hope with it.

"Guards!" Torkus, apparently fully recovered, and not at all tired after his regeneration, slapped his hand on an intercom switch on the wall. The was a long, awkward silence whilst they waited for the security men to arrive. Torkus smiled all the time, his eyes glittering with something close to insanity as he watched his sullen, silent prisoner. Solan did not move when the door finally opened and the guards came in. He did not even bother to struggle as two of them grabbed him firmly by the arms.

"My guards will take you to the cells." The President seemed almost jovial, his whole manner one of careless abandon which belied the lurking menace. "And don't think about bribing them, or persuading them to abandon their duties. It might interest you to know that this man," he gestured at the Captain of the guard, "is my son. I thought it might be a good idea to spare him the rigours of the Academy, in order that he be my bodyguard."

Solan did not react to the news. He had had little chance of escaping anyway, and this new piece of information did not greatly affect him. He glanced around the room at the broken pieces of the TARDIS, thinking about his friends in the future. They would never know what had happened to him. He did not resist as the guards began to lead him towards the door.

"Wait!" Holding up his hand, Torkus frowned deeply. "Look!"

"At what, sir?" The Captain glanced about the room, unsure what he was supposed to be seeing.

"The scanner you idiot!" Torkus almost ran to the large screen on the wall, fumbling with the controls. "Didn't you see it?"

"See what, father?" Sounding faintly annoyed, the Captain stared up at the screen. He saw a swirling mass of lights and static, interwoven into a confused pattern. "All I see is--"

"This!" Finally succeeding in focusing the scanner, Torkus stepped back in triumph. "I knew I saw something."

"Such as?" The screen was blank, or at least as far as the Captain could see. The President cast him a despairing look, then pointed at the screen.

"It's gone again. It must be going to land." He swung round to the Captain, his expression suddenly anxious. "We have to find it!"

"Find what?" His exasperation reaching new heights, the Captain looked as if he would like to shake his father by the throat. Torkus shook his fists in the air.

"Another ship! I saw it materialise as it came out of the Matrix. It has to be the same sort of ship that our friend here arrived in. We must get it."

"A TARDIS..." His voice no more than a whisper, Solan felt a new hope grow in his chest, intermingled with the fear that Torkus might succeed in capturing this vessel for himself. The young Time Lord pulled free from his guards, hurrying to the scanner screen. It was blank, telling him that the TARDIS had not yet landed. It was still dematerialised, somewhere out there.

"You. You see? You tried to foil my plans, but it didn't work, didn't it. I'm still going to get to the future." Torkus giggled happily. He grabbed Solan by the shoulder. "I will still have a TARDIS."

"Father, look out!" The Captain, his eyes wide with surprise, was staring at something behind the President. Both Torkus and Solan heard the loud, blaring noise of the Space/Time ship materialising, and they turned as one. A great, grey shape, much like the various sculptures scattered about the edges of the room, slowly appeared before them, blinking in and out of existence before it finally solidified. There was a silence. Solan saw the Captain draw his weapon, and in a sudden, desperate movement he threw himself at the larger man.

The TARDIS doors opened as Captain and Time Lord fell to the ground in a heap, wrestling together for control of the gun. Solan heard the sound of laser fire above his head, and hoped that the Time Lord - whoever he was - had managed to stay out of it. He tried to look back towards the TARDIS, to see if the new arrival was alright, but the Captain caught him by the throat, pinning him to the floor.

The sudden blast of a laser gun scorched the air close to Solan's face, and he jumped in surprise and fright as the Captain's body went suddenly rigid above him. The large man's eyes filled with pain and anguish, then slowly glazed over. His body tumbled to the floor.

Solan climbed to his feet, shocked and dazed. He stared down at the crumpled body, then looked towards the TARDIS. He was barely conscious of the fact that the sound of gunfire had stopped. The TARDIS doors were wide open and Dorchan stood before them, a laser rifle cradled in his arms. Slowly Solan surveyed the room. All of the guards were dead. They had apparently been killed before they could even draw their weapons.

"Derian!" His voice dull, Torkus turned to the body of his son. "You killed him."

"It was him or us, old man." Dorchan grinned over at Solan. "Come on, get a move on. We're leaving."

"But" Solan stared around at all of the dead bodies.

"Now, Solan!" Dorchan kept his rifle focused on the President. "Should I kill him too?"

"No!" Hurrying towards his friend, Solan pushed aside the rifle. "Don't you think there's been enough killing?" His friend smiled.

"I see a lot of bodies in this room, my friend, but I know that I didn't kill all of them. I'd be proud of you if I didn't see so much regret in your eyes."

"You have a cold heart, Dorchan." Solan stumbled wearily into the TARDIS, pulling his friend away from the doors. Torkus stood in the middle of the room, watching them, the rage clear on his face. He made no move to stop them, or even to reach for one of the many guns lying on the floor around him.

"Are you only just realising that, old friend?" Dorchan laughed shortly, and closed the doors, immediately activating the dematerialisation circuit. The Time rotor began to rise and fall. Solan watched Gallifrey fade from the scanner screen, then turned to Dorchan, trying not to see the laser rifle cradled so lovingly in his friend's arms.

"How did you know where to find me?" he asked. Dorchan grinned at him.

"I managed to trace you. I told you that I disconnected the homing beacons, but I also rigged up a way to see where you were. I thought it would be best." He laughed softly. "I was remembering what you were telling me about aiming for London, 1966 and actually ending up in a different continent the following year. Then there were all those training sessions at the Academy..."

"Okay, don't rub it in." Solan smiled. "Thanks, Dorchan. I rather think that I owe you my life."

"Probably." The other Time Lord shrugged and flicked a few switches on the console. "We're heading back home, by the way. I'm rather afraid that I blew a few vital circuits leaving Cetus Major. Flew too close to a black hole."

"No one's perfect." They both smiled.

"The Time Lord's won't be terribly pleased with us," Dorchan observed, watching the Time/Space indicator with one, watchful eye.

"They'll have noticed the discrepancy by now, and have guessed that it must have been one or both of us that was in the Dark Times." Solan sat down on the floor, trying not to yawn. It had been a long day.

"Maybe not. We might get lucky."

"And pigs might fly."

"Pigs?" Dorchan wandered over to sit beside his friend. Solan smiled.

"Earth animals. Large, omnivorous quadrupeds with unpleasant table manners."

"Ah. And I take it that they aren't given to displays of aeronautical skill?"

"Not as a rule, no." They both shared a smile. They were well aware that their flight was not likely to take long, and were hardly looking forward to the inevitable arrival back in their own Time. They wondered what their reception was going to be like. For his part, Solan was almost too tired to be worried, and he yawned loudly, stretching and trying to make himself comfortable on the floor. TARDIS control rooms just weren't built for relaxing in.

"When I get my own TARDIS," he muttered sleepily, "I'm going to put some decorations up. Maybe a painting or two. And a chair. Definitely a chair. A comfortable one, that I can go to sleep in."

"By the time you get your own TARDIS you'll be so old that you'll need a chair to go to sleep in," Dorchan told him, but he received no answer. Solan was asleep. His old friend smiled down at him, then stood up and wandered over to the console. As he stood there watching the Time rotor, its rhythmical motion ceased and the familiar noises of re-materialisation began. They had landed.


It was cold in the Citadel. Winter had returned to the region, and the sharp drop in temperature had occurred whilst Solan and Dorchan had been away, even though it had been hardly three days since they had left. The guards marched them quickly from the landing zone to the depths of the Council Chambers, where the Time Lord hierarchy waited in their entirety. Solan and Dorchan exchanged a worried look.

"Doesn't look good," Dorchan commented. Solan's expression showed his agreement. He nodded towards one large, powerfully built Time Lord standing in the corner of the room.

"The President," he observed, in a troubled voice.

"Silence." One of the guards, his voice low and authoritative, took exception to their conversation. The pair lapsed into silence, watching the proceedings with interest as well as concern.

"Solan, Dorchan." Borusa stood to one side of the room. A lesser ranking Time Lord, he was undoubtedly present only because of his familiarity with the two young men. They nodded a greeting, but there was no time for words. One of the Councillors rose to his feet.

"Time Lords. We are gathered here to bring judgement upon two dangerous transgressors. The laws of Time have been broken, and the consequences are serious for all of us. I speak for the Council."

"And I for the accused." Borusa stepped forward. "You can't be serious in this, Councillors. I urge you to reconsider."

"There can be no reconsideration. This trial is merely a formality." The Councillor straightened his large, imperious collar. "Do the accused understand the charges brought against them?"

"Actually they don't know what the charges are yet." Relaxed and somewhat less than impressed by this show of rank and ceremony, Dorchan stepped forwards. "Is somebody going to bother telling us what is going on?"

"Be quiet Dorchan." There was real urgency in Borusa's tone. Dorchan glanced towards him. The Councillor held up a book.

"This is the First Book of Rassilon, chronicling the darkest times of our ancestors. All Gallifreyan historians know this book by heart. We know every word, every chapter in its entirety. It is the definitive work."

"Fascinating." Solan felt no more inclined to be respectful than did Dorchan. "But what has that to do with us?"

"The words have changed." The Councillor opened the book up. "Let me read to you, from the second chapter. Where before it spoke only of the creation of the Game, and its use to terrorise others, now it speaks of something new."

"Read on." Dorchan leaned against a large chair, wondering if he was going to get a chance to sit down before too much longer. All of this dramatic pomp and ceremony was having little effect other than to bore him. The Councillor glared.

"The book speaks of a Time Lord, who came from the future, bringing a ship which Lord President Torkus coveted greatly. The Time Lord destroyed that ship, and therefore foiled the plans of Torkus. Then a second ship arrived, and a second Time Lord, who killed Derian, the only son of Torkus, before rescuing his friend and making an escape. Torkus was extremely angry, and vowed to take revenge on the two Time Lords. He swore that he would not rest until he had gained the ability to travel into the future, and that he would find the two Time Lords and destroy them. He swore that he would destroy their entire Timelines; erase all that they had been as well as all that they would be. Now you know as well as I do that the effect on Time would be catastrophic, even so much as to threaten the existence of the universe. Torkus has no care for such effects. He cares only for revenge, and his desire to kill those who killed his son. Those who defied him, and made him lose face."

"He'd have to be insane to do something like that." Unable to keep quiet, Solan stared at his accuser in disbelief. "He would be putting himself at risk as well. That sort of interference in the Time continuum would cause a massive backlash that could destroy the Matrix."

"He doesn't care. Torkus was mad; completely so." Borusa smiled sadly. "He doesn't know what Timezone to search for you both in, but he does know who you are. If you were there, he'll have a record of your genetic make-up. He would be able to find you eventually. We know that it was during the reign of President Vortus that the our people first acquired the power to travel into the future as well as the past, but we can't take the chance that Torkus could change that. He does have a TARDIS, even though it's only the wreckage of one. He may be able to do something with what he has."

"Meaning what exactly?" There was a direct challenge in Dorchan's voice. "You're going to kill us, aren't you. Take us out of Time, so that he can't find us."

"It is the lesser of two evils." The Councillor, resplendent in his flowing robes, inclined his head regally. Borusa looked sorrowful, but he made no attempt to argue. Solan imagined that any arguments his old teacher had been able to put forward had already been made. "We can't erase your past histories, because of the possible effect that could have, but we can prevent you from having any future that Torkus could discover. The risk is too great."

"What if he finds us in our own pasts?" Solan imagined that this had been taken into account, but he wanted to know the answer. If he was going to die, he wanted to be kept informed about the whole situation. He was surprised to find how calm he was, but he felt guilty about Dorchan. The trip into the Dark Times had not been his fault.

"A mere twenty-five years? Amongst all those thousands? Hardly likely." The Councillor shrugged. "But steps have been taken to guard against even that small possibility. As I said; the risk is too great to trifle with."

"What steps?" Dorchan still sounded defiant, and refused to show any of the respect which the Council was used to. The Councillor stared at him icily for a moment.

"That period of Time can be protected. Guarded. It is a complicated procedure to say the least, and it has its limitations, but it's worth while if it can prevent the destruction of the universe." He smiled. "Or perhaps you consider that a small price to pay, in order for you to have your fun."

"Now wait just a minute." Enraged, Solan stepped forward. "We didn't intend to go to the Dark Times. It was an accident. Neither of us has ever meant any harm in anything that we've done. We were just... just trying to get some enjoyment out of our lives. When was the last time any of you left this planet? Explored the galaxies? There is an infinity of possibilities out there, waiting for somebody to experiment with them, and all that you do is sit here. I refuse to be condemned for living. It's certainly better than sitting on a throne looking down on everybody." He stared at the Council, eyes bright with indignant rage. Borusa smiled, laying a gentle hand on the younger man's arm.

"It's best to be quiet, Solan," he said gently. "You're not helping yourself."

"Why should he be quiet?" The voice came from somewhere behind them all, and was filled with such authority that they all turned to look. K'anpo, dressed in a long white robe, strode towards them. His dark tan contrasted sharply with the robe, and created an impressive image. He stopped before the accusing Councillor, fixing him with a disapproving stare.

"You, Ceridan. Why should he be silent, when your minds are already made up? Tell me; if these boys were important Time Lords, would you be so quick to pass judgement?"

"There is no judgement to pass. There is only the necessity." Councillor Ceridan, looking rather afraid of the man confronting him, glanced towards the President for support. "If Torkus finds them, he will destroy them, and to cause that great a disruption of the Timelines would"

"Don't lecture me, man. I was a Time Lord before you had lost your milk teeth." K'anpo sighed heavily. "You are worried, because Torkus knows their names, and their genetic prints. The answer lies right in front of you, and yet you want to kill them."

"The answer is to kill them!" Ceridan sounded exasperated. "It is the only way. The only possible alternative would be to keep them down here, where the shielding in the walls prevents detection. Do you think they want to spend the rest of their lives in this chamber? The only answer is death."

There was a murmuring of agreement. K'anpo shook his head.

"Pah!" He sounded disgusted. "Listen to you all. Baying for blood like a lot of primitives. I told you that the answer was right in front of you. If Torkus knows their genetic prints, change them. You have the technology. Why not use it? Or do you think that it exists merely for you to boast about?"

"Change their genetic make-up?" Stepping forward, the President surveyed the group before him with interest. "It is possible, theoretically, but in practice... It would be very dangerous."

"So you would kill them outright, rather than risk their lives?" K'anpo shook his head. "There are times when I wish I were anything but one of you."

"You believe it is worth the risk, Lord K'anpo?" The President stared down at him, eyes searching. K'anpo nodded sharply.

"I do."

"Hey, hang on, " Solan muttered. K'anpo glared at him.

"When did the accused ever get to choose the means of his execution?" he whispered. Solan smiled. Dorchan was glowering, but less so than before.

"Then it is decided." The President nodded. "Let it be so. The sentence will be carried out immediately. Lord Borusa and Lord K'anpo may oversee the operation." He turned, the Council with him, and as one they walked away.

"What happens now?" Dorchan asked, confused. K'anpo breathed out a long sigh of relief.

"A stay of execution," he answered, much relieved. "Your genes will be altered. In effect you'll be different people. Different looks, different personalities. Much like a regeneration, only something much deeper. It won't just be your basic genes that are changed. Everything will be altered."

"Will we still remember before?" Solan sounded concerned. K'anpo smiled at him.

"Yes. Your memories will remain intact, but you can never talk about them. You must be as your new identities suggest. You can never use your old names again, and you should avoid speaking of your past lives. The risk is too great. Even amongst friends you must be careful. You might put them in danger too; perhaps even make them targets for Torkus."

"Really." Dorchan sat down on a nearby chair. "I'm not sure that I like this idea too much."

"The choice is not yours, Dorchan." K'anpo shrugged. "I've done what I can for you, and if you refuse to accept these terms, I don't know what will happen. I do know that the Council was quite sincere in its intention to kill you. They will not risk the possible devastation that could be caused by Torkus' revenge."

"Then I suppose I will have to live with it." Dorchan smiled. "Adopt, adapt and improve." He stood up and walked away, apparently thinking hard. K'anpo stared after him.

"Extraordinary fellow," he said softly. Solan grinned.

"I know. But I owe him my life."

"Yes." K'anpo nodded briskly. "I only hope that you don't both come to regret that." He smiled. "Now, my boy. You must choose a new name. I would suggest that you choose wisely. And rest too. The technicians will be here in the morning, and the alteration process is long and arduous." He clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "I shall return here later tomorrow, to see how it's turned out."

"Thankyou, K'anpo." Solan smiled gratefully, and watched as the other man left. Almost immediately, Borusa likewise bade him farewell for the night. Soon Solan and Dorchan were alone, with only their guards and each other for company. Solan joined his old friend.

"What are you thinking about, Dorchan?" he asked. The other Time Lord smiled.

"Planning," he said softly. "Deciding what to do next. Where to go. Perhaps we shall steal another TARDIS, you and I, and see what is out there. In all of the Timezones, on all of the planets."

"No." Solan shook his head. "I'm staying here for a while."

"You're what? After all that they tried to do to us? After everything that they are still going to do? You're mad, Solan."

"Maybe I am." The young Time Lord shrugged. "I made myself a promise, when I killed all those people back there, that I wouldn't leave Gallifrey again. Not unless I had to. I killed thirty men, and caused the deaths of all those that you killed. My actions risked the safety of the entire universe. I may not have meant any harm, but that doesn't count for much when you consider all that's happened."

"You have too great a conscience, Solan." Dorchan sounded disparaging. "Myself, I do mean harm. I'm tired of being a Time Lord, and making all those oaths to protect Time, and the people of this universe. My own people just tried to kill me, and have now decided to take my identity away. My name is the one thing that I possess, old friend, and they are going to destroy it. I want no further part of this planet or its people. Or its laws, either. I shall be my own master from here on. Perhaps one day I shall be the master of everything. Of all Time. Of all space."

"Dorchan... You don't know what you're saying." Solan stared at him, confused and afraid. Dorchan laughed.

"Oh yes I do. I don't regret going back to save you, Solan. I could never regret that. But I do regret the rest. That I was ever a Time Lord. That I was ever born on this planet. That I have spent the last twenty-five years doing more or less what they wanted of me and never thought much of what I could have done instead. Enough is enough, Solan."

"You're leaving." Solan spoke the words in a dead voice. Dorchan nodded.

"The first chance that I get. Come with me. We've always been a team; the greatest team. Together there isn't a Time Lord who could stop us."

"No. I don't think we want the same things out of life, Dorchan." Solan turned away, his shoulders oddly slumped. Dorchan watched him for a few moments.

"Do you want to know my new name?" he asked finally. "You can watch out for it when I begin my reign of terror."

"Of terror?" Solan swung back round to face his old friend. "What has happened to you?"

"Nothing." Dorchan shook his head. "Perhaps I should ask what has happened to you? You never balked at my dreams before. We spoke for years of stealing a TARDIS, of the power we could wield over ordinary men."

"I never meant to hurt anyone. It was all just a game before. I killed thirty people, and now I know that I don't like it. I don't want that. I'm sorry."

"Then you don't want to know my name?"

"You'll tell me anyway."

"That's right, I will. I shall call myself the Master." He laughed. "It has quite a ring to it, don't you think?"

"It's not a name. It's an alias. It might bring suspicion."

"Rubbish." Dorchan laughed again. "You should read more about your own planet, Solan, rather than that inferior little place you seem to have taken such a liking to. There is an ancient cult on Gallifrey, of Time Lords who believe that individual achievements are to be spurned. They abandon their names in order to seek anonymity, and avoid all kinds of recognition. Amongst such a cult, titles are often used. If Torkus should ever meet me during his search, he would think nothing of it." He sighed. "The Master. I like that name. One day maybe even Master of Gallifrey."

"I don't think so, Dorchan." Solan began to pace. "Have you really though this through? Are you really sure that--"

"Sure? After twenty-five years do you think that perhaps I don't know myself?" Dorchan laughed again. "When you killed those men, you hated it. When I killed those men, I enjoyed it. The feeling of power. I should like to feel that way again. Maybe all of the time. You should listen to me, Solan. You are suggesting staying here amongst a race that hates you. A race that sees you as a dangerous revolutionary, with ideas beyond his station. You told me yourself that the only place where you were ever treated with respect, as an equal, was on Earth. You told me that all of the Academy diplomas on Gallifrey could not give you the same sort of pride as those doctorates that you received on that little planet. All that the Time Lords have ever given you is your name, and now they plan to take that. And yet you still want to stay here?"

"Yes. For now." Solan turned away. "I need to think, Dorchan."

"Master." Dorchan smiled sardonically. "Get used to it, old friend. Tomorrow Dorchan dies, and neither of us can ever mention his name again. What will you call yourself then?"

"I don't know." Trying to ignore the pain inside, Solan wandered away. He felt as though both of his hearts were about to break. The sense of betrayal was overwhelming, and not just because of the loss of his old friend. Dorchan's plans for the future had hurt more than any pain he had ever known, but something else that he had said had hurt as well. Something about the Time Lords, and about identity and a sense of belonging. His old friend was right. Whatever he did, and wherever he went, his name was lost forever, and with it all that he had ever been, and had ever planned to be. The only thing that seemed to matter now was the time that he had spent on Earth. He remembered the group that had sheltered him, back in San Francisco. They had had a nickname for him, and he remembered how it had amused him. Since that period of his history was to be sheltered, he saw no reason why he shouldn't use that name now. He tested it out, hearing how it sounded. He liked the way that it suggested an immediate importance. Even the highest ranking Time Lords would always have to address him by his title, if his title was his name. That amused him. He smiled to himself, and headed for a chair, intending to rest for the night. In the morning, Solan would be dead and gone, and he could not deny that he would be sorry; but at least he had found an identity that meant something to him. He had found a new name, and with it came a whole new beginning.


"Hello?" The voice was familiar, and the figure on the bridge turned towards the man now striding towards him. Both men smiled at each other, in much the same way that strangers might do on their first meeting. The figure on the bridge extended a hand.

"I am the Doctor," he said, by means of introduction. The second man smiled.

"Hello. My name is Rabian. Do I know you?"

"You might do. I grew up around here."

"Really? Then we might have met at the Academy." Rabian shook his hand firmly, and then stood next to him, staring out at the view across the lake beneath the bridge. He had swum here many times as a boy, with his childhood friend, Solan. Solan was gone now, and he could never even mention the name again. He cast a sidelong glance at the figure beside him. There was nothing there that could be recognised. Gone was the small, athletic frame with the black curls and the square, bright face. In its place was a slight, almost slender man, with straight blond hair. Only the bright blue eyes were similar to what had been before.

"Maybe we did." The Doctor sighed deeply, enjoying the fresh air. He had only spent three days in that underground chamber, but it felt like three months.

"I love this view, don't you?" Leaning on the bridge rail, Rabian gazed out across the lake. "I used to come here and swim when I was a boy, with two friends of mine. They're both dead now."

"I'm sorry." The Doctor's voice was quiet and subdued.

"Yes, so am I." Rabian smiled. "So, are you working near here?"

"I have an assignment working as assistant to a Time Lord named Hedin. I don't think I've ever met him before. Due to start in the morning."

"Really? That's good. I work with Hedin too." They both smiled at each other, and then turned to look back at the view. "It's been nice meeting you, Doctor," Rabian said finally, turning his head slightly to look at his companion.

"Thankyou. It's been nice meeting you, too." The Doctor managed a half smile, then gestured at the lake. "Do you have to return to the Citadel immediately?"

"I should do, yes." Rabian smiled back. "But I'm sure Hedin would understand. I hope you're not suggesting a swim, though. It's far too cold."

"Not a swim, no. Just a... talk." The Doctor could not tear his eyes from the view before him. It was almost as though it were too painful for him to look at Rabian properly.

"I would enjoy a talk." Rabian sighed. "I love this view. It has so many memories for me."

"Me too."

"Good memories?" Rabian asked him. The Doctor smiled.

"Very good memories."

"I'm glad." They shared a brief smile, and then lapsed into silence. As they stared out across the lake they could not see each other's faces; and neither could see the wordless pain visible in the other's eyes.


"Doctor?" The voice was excited and loud, just as it always seemed to be just recently. The Doctor scowled. The regeneration had not been good for Rabian; he had become too enthusiastic; too damned energetic. Everything had to be done at high speed and in great haste. He turned to greet his old friend.

"What is it?"

"Aren't you going to welcome me back?" Rabian sounded almost petulant, and the Doctor sighed.

"Why? Have you been away?"

"You know I have. For seven years!" He sighed, exasperated. "Really, Doctor, you've become quite impossible. It's time that you regenerated."

"Really? Hmm." The Doctor hooked his thumbs into his lapels, and frowned at Rabian. "Seven years, hey? Well what have you been up to? I thought your pass was only for six?"

"Then you do remember!" Rabian grinned. "I got a little carried away, but I hope that it was for the best. Actually, Doc, I need your help with something. A little... problem."

"Ah. I suppose that I shouldn't be too surprised." The Doctor frowned. "And don't call me Doc!"

"Huh. You never used to mind." Rabian scowled. "It really is time that you regenerated, you know. Look what it's done for me!"

"Yes. If ever there was an argument against regenerating, you're it. Anyway, extreme loss of age, as happened in your case, is very rare. It only occurs when the regeneration is triggered by something extremely traumatic."

"We could always reconstruct my accident." Rabian laughed. "Come on, Doctor, lighten up. Anybody would think you were an old man already."

"I am." The Doctor brushed back a long strand of white hair. "I believe you said that you were in trouble?"

"Yes..." Rabian was abruptly serious. "Quite a lot of it actually."

"Hmm." The Doctor's thumbs found their way back into his lapels. "Well don't just stand there, my boy. Spit it out."

Rabian grinned. "My boy? I'm a year older than you are."

"Whatever. Stop playing for time."

"Well..." The older - or younger - Time Lord sighed. "I met somebody whilst I was on Earth, Doctor. A woman. A human woman."

"Ah." The Doctor sighed. "Awkward, but not entirely unheard of."

"I married her; and I've brought here back here with me. She's waiting just outside."

"You did what?" The Doctor was astounded. "Rabian... Marrying a human is out of the question, you know that. The rules..."

"I know the rules, Doctor!" Rabian's voice cracked like a whip. "I'm sorry, but I love her. I know all the rules. I know that the Time Lord genes have to be kept pure. I know that half-breeds can't regenerate. I know all of that. I just didn't care. Her name is Rachel, and I love her, and I intend to speak my piece to the Council. Convince them to allow the marriage to continue. I don't think that I can live without her, Doctor."

"I see..." The Doctor began to pace. "Well bring her in, man. No sense in keeping her waiting outside." He paused in his pacing, then began again as Rabian ushered in two figures. One was a woman of about thirty, unquestionably attractive, and all too human. The second was a girl of about six.

"Yours?" The Doctor asked, peering at the girl.

"You make her sound like a possession." Rabian smiled fondly. "Yes, she's mine - ours - Rachel's and mine." He put a protective arm around the girl's shoulders. "That's the problem, you see. You know the rules. Genetically she can never be a Time Noble, but they'll want her to attend the Academy, and I don't want that. So what if I enjoyed it at the time? I couldn't allow a half-human to go through that sort of brain-washing."

"She's of noble blood. They won't give you any choice in the matter." The Doctor stood in front of the threesome, staring thoughtfully at the woman; Rachel, Rabian had called her. "Your wife will be sent back to Earth, with her memory wiped. She won't remember you or the girl. I heard of it happening once before, long ago."

"Thankyou, Doctor. That makes me feel a lot better."

"I didn't say that I would let it happen." The Doctor folded his arms. "Argue your case, see what happens; if you must. You should never have come back here."

"I know. But they found us; commanded me to return. They don't know that I'm back yet. I was rather hoping that you could help us..."

"I'm not the man to speak up for you. No Councillor would listen to a word that I had to say. It's possible that K'anpo might be persuaded to make a stand, but I haven't heard from him in nearly twenty years." The Doctor sighed. "I'm sorry, Rabian; I really don't know what to suggest, short of stealing a TARDIS and running away again. Staying away for good this time..."

"I'll do what I have to do to keep my family together." Rabian tightened his grip on his daughter's shoulder. "You could come with us. I know that you've just about taken all that you can of this place, and now that I've made you an accessory..."

"Taken all that I can?" The Doctor shook his head. "I had taken all that I could of this place eight hundred years ago, on the day that I was born. I have my own reasons for staying."

"Pointless reasons, Doctor. Come with us. Please?"

"You always did know exactly how to get what you want." The Doctor smiled fondly. "Alright, Rabian. You don't need to ask again. We can always steal a TARDIS, and I can fix it so that the Time Lords won't be able to follow us. That was one good thing that came from the Master. I would recommend that you try the legal route first though... Speak to Borusa. If anybody is going to look favourably on things, it's likely to be him. Hedin too."

"Of course." Rabian smiled, and knelt beside his daughter. "Did you hear that, Susan? The Doctor is going to help us." He grinned. "Come and say hello to him. I'd like you both to be friends."

He led the small girl over to the old man, and she gazed up at him, cautious and shy. He frowned down at her. What was one supposed to say to six year old girls? His characteristic frown crinkled his forehead, and she frowned back, then smiled.

"Hello. I'm Susan."

"Hello Susan." He spoke gravely, as if to another Time Lord, then seemed to realise that he was actually speaking to a child. Somehow he did not seem able to talk to her on her own level.

"This is your grandfather, Susan," Rabian said. He flashed a grin at the Doctor, who looked outraged.

"I am most certainly not," he began, but Susan caught his hand in one small fist, the delight clearly evident in her eyes.

"Grandfather!" Her voice was small, but mature. The Doctor stared down at the round, slightly pointed face, with its frame of dark hair. She was quite attractive, he supposed, if one was of a mind to become fond of children. Not that he had much experience in such things of course.

"Hmm. Well. I suppose given my proficiency in my other roles in life, there's no reason why I shouldn't prove to be an adequate grandfather as well." He scowled at Rabian. "But I don't baby-sit." His old friend laughed.

"We'll see." He let out a long, drawn out sigh, and sat down on a nearby chair. It was a relief to be able to take the weight off his feet, and to know that he had a reliable ally. The Doctor might not be the most efficient of men, but he was certainly one of the most well-meaning; on a good day at least. It was really rather sweet to see him holding Susan's hand, the future well-being of this little family suddenly uppermost in his mind. On reflection, he made rather a good grandfather.

"So it's decided then." Trying not to yawn, Rabian leaned back in the chair, willing his eyes to remain open. "We'll stay here tonight, and then in the morning we'll go and see Borusa. If he can help us, so much the better, but if he can't... we'll get a TARDIS, and then we'll leave. Go somewhere new." He glanced towards Rachel. "It can't be back to Earth just yet, I'm afraid. That would be the first place they'd look."

"You - you don't mind helping us?" Rachel spoke for the fist time, her voice sounding hesitant and unsure. No doubt she was finding her first trip to an alien world a little overwhelming. The Doctor smiled.

"My dear young lady, it would not be the first time that I did something which might be considered unwise. I seem to have acquired something of a reputation as a troublemaker, and whether or not that reputation is deserved, I see no reason why I should try to avoid trouble now." He hooked one thumb into his lapel, the other hand still firmly in the possession of Susan. "Now about stealing a TARDIS... I think that you should leave that up to me. You people will be busy with other things, and won't want that worry on your minds as well."

"Thankyou Doctor." Rabian smiled gratefully.

"Yes, thankyou Doctor." They all froze. The voice came from the door, where six guards stood, their weapons drawn. The lead man was smiling, and his weapon was trained on the little group. The Doctor's mouth hardened into a straight line.

"Your guns are quite unnecessary," he snapped. "Or are you afraid of a pair of humans?" The guard scowled at him.

"You're not helping yourself, Doctor. I can assure you that we heard everything. We know about your plans, and we all heard you planning to steal a TARDIS. Need I remind you that you were banned from owning them nearly a thousand years ago?"

"Hardly." The Doctor pulled Susan behind him, so that she was no longer in the line of fire. Secretly he was cursing the silent sliding doors which were so much a part of the Citadel. If only they had had some warning of the approach of the guards, he might have been able to get Rabian and his family away.

"I'm glad to hear it." The guard seemed to take a great deal of pleasure out of being rude to the Time Noble. He grinned. "You can consider yourself to be under house arrest, Doctor. Until further notice. Lord Rabian and his wife are summoned to appear before the High Council immediately."

"On what charge?" The Doctor took a step forward, and every gun swung around to point at him.

"You know the charge." The lead guard gestured with his weapon. "Both of you. Move."

"We're coming." Rabian sounded tired, his voice lacking its usual strength and vigour. "Will you look after Susan for us, Doctor?"

"Of course." He managed a smile in reply to the question, and tried not to look as his friend was led away. Rachel held Rabian's arm, obviously afraid. The guards circled around the pair, and the door slid shut as silently and smoothly as it had opened.

"Grandfather?" Susan's voice sounded very small. The Doctor smiled at her.

"Yes, my dear?"

"Where have they gone?"

"To, er... To talk to some important people. About some important things." He frowned. "Adult things, Susan. Very boring."

"Oh..." She turned to look around at the room. "Is this your house?"

"Yes." He sounded detached, as though his mind were a million miles away. "Do you like it?"

"Yes..." She was unsure. "Do you have many books?"

"Do you like to read?" He sounded interested. No doubt Susan would be intelligent, given who her father was.

"Yes." She gestured to a chair. "Will you read to me?"

"Alright." He hunted through a large bookcase, and eventually found a heavy, leather bound volume. "This is called Alice In Wonderland, and it was written by a human. Clever chap, actually. I'd like to meet him some day." He sat down in the chair, and Susan climbed onto his lap. She was very small, but he could already see the maturity of her Gallifreyan half. It showed in her bright eyes, and in the proud lift of her head.

"Shall I begin?"

"Yes please." She settled back against him, and he opened the book, showing her the pictures on the title page. She let out a contented sigh, and he allowed himself a small smile. With a child such as this one, he might actually start to get used to being a grandfather.


It was late. Darkness had fallen some time ago, and the small, shadowy figure moved with stealth and secrecy, watching for spies and trying to keep in the shadows. A group of passing guards made him jump, but he remained unseen. Obviously the guards were just going off watch, and were too tired to be fully alert. He breathed a silent sigh of relief and quickened his pace, trying to ignore the pain in his joints. Fit and healthy he may have been, but young he was not. Not any more. Rabian was right, and he knew it; regeneration was long overdue. It would happen in due course, that much was certain, but there were times when he wished that it would hurry up.

The building that he was aiming for was set apart from many of the others, as secluded as it was possible for a house to be within the Citadel. The Doctor hurried to the door and opened it, using the access code that allowed him entry to most of the low security buildings on the planet. He had his own codes as well, which he used far less often; codes which gave him entry to many of the high security buildings, but he used them as little as possible. No sense in drawing unwanted attention.

"Is that you, Doctor?" Rabian came out of the shadows, and the Doctor smiled.

"It's me, my boy. Is everything set?"

"Just about." Rabian drew the shutters over the windows, then turned the lights on. "I've finished checking over the TARDIS. It's not a new model, but it seems serviceable enough. Dematerialisation is likely to be a little noisy, and I can't seem to track down what's causing that, but we'll get by." He grinned. "Did you have to steal one that was in for repairs?"

"It's better that way. Any other one would have been missed by now." The Doctor sighed. "Well I suppose we ought to think about leaving." He hesitated. "Is Susan here?"

"Yes. She's asleep in her room at the moment. I made her go to bed fully dressed, so that we could make a quick getaway. She's very excited. She really loves the TARDIS, especially since you redecorated."

"A few home comforts in the control room does not constitute redecorating." The Doctor frowned. "She still thinks that we're going to find her mother, I suppose?"

"Yes. " Rabian shrugged. "I don't know what to say to her. I can't seem to make her understand that Rachel wouldn't remember any of us; that she had all knowledge of us wiped from her mind."

"And what about you? Have you accepted it? Are you prepared to admit to yourself that we can't try to find her just yet?"

"Yes." Rabian pulled a small, dog-eared photograph from his pocket, one which had been taken on Earth when he had married Rachel. "I have this, and I know that is going to have to be enough, at least for a while. I'd like to visit her one day though."

"One day, my boy. We may do all kinds of things one day. One day I may even be President of the High Council." The Doctor smiled, and rubbed his hands together. "Now, we must be off. No sense in hanging around waiting to be discovered."

"I know..." Rabian sighed. "It seems so strange. Leaving like this, with nobody knowing."

The Doctor looked horrified. "And who were you thinking of telling?" he asked. His companion laughed.

"Nobody, really. It's just that it's odd, sneaking away into the night. We're leaving forever, and it just feels as though we're going away on holiday or something. Maybe heading off into the mountains for a week or two. You know?"

"Hmm. I suppose I understand your meaning. Perhaps you think we should have crowds of well-wishers to bid us farewell, or that we should be standing in some favourite childhood haunt, making meaningful speeches? Yes?"

"Yes, I suppose so. We don't exactly have many friends to say goodbye to, but I still feel bad about leaving the ones that I have made. Hedin, Borusa... Especially Borusa. He stuck his neck out trying to argue the cause for letting Rachel stay here. He made a long case out of something that would ordinarily just have lasted one hearing."

"But he's still a loyal Time Lord. He's still the man who has tried a thousand times in the past to convince me that I am wrong in my views about the hierarchy. He could never be a part of what we plan to do, and it would be wrong to involve him. Hedin likewise." The Doctor smiled, hooking his thumbs in his lapels again. It was a stance which made Rabian smile, for he had seen it often in his friend's later years; just as he had once seen K'anpo standing the same way, years ago. The image of K'anpo made him think of something.

"Have you seen the hermit?" he asked suddenly. The Doctor shook his head.

"I told you; I haven't seen him in twenty years. If he wanted to see me he would have contacted me. He knows where I am."

"I wonder why he hasn't."

"He's a hermit." The Doctor shrugged. "He's probably just in seclusion, wouldn't you say? Hmm?" He frowned, looking at Rabian through accusing eyes. "Now go and wake up the girl, yes? I would say it was time to leave."

"Of course." The older - and by appearance, younger - Time Lord smiled, looking excited and tense. "Maybe you'd best go to the TARDIS. You are still technically under house arrest, and if anybody should stop by and find you here, we'll all be in trouble."

"Certainly, certainly, my boy." The Doctor waited until Rabian had gone, and then wandered to the light on the table in the middle of the room. Lit by the bright glow, he pulled something from his pocket and peered at it, glad of the light to assist his failing eyes. A picture stared back at him; his own face shortly after the alteration procedure, with K'anpo beside him. They were both smiling, and there was the familiar, paternal look in K'anpo's eyes which had come to mean so much to the Doctor. He smiled sadly at the picture. He knew why K'anpo was keeping away from him. He disapproved of the Doctor's decision to remain on Gallifrey for all of these years. He felt that his old pupil had lost the strength of his convictions, and that all of his old furies and beliefs were gone. The Doctor could understand the old hermit's point of view. He had never told anybody why he had chosen to stay; nobody except for the Master. He saw no need to explain himself to others, and no reason to tell anybody else what he had done in the Dark Times. No historical records mentioned the men he had killed. Only he remembered them, and he knew that he could never forget.

Sighing sadly, the Doctor put the picture back into his pocket and headed towards the door to Rabian's laboratory, where he had hidden the stolen TARDIS some days previously. As he turned his back on the main door, he failed to hear it open. He failed, too, to hear, as a dark shape entered the house, remaining hidden by the control panel by the door.

"Doctor?" The voice was soft, and it called to him from the shadows. At first the Doctor thought that he had imagined it, then as he turned once more to enter the laboratory, it came again.

"Doctor?" This time it was louder, unmistakable. He turned, seeing the figure standing against the wall, but uncertain who it was. Could somebody have followed him here, known about his plans? His fists clenched. He would not be stopped. Not now.

"Aren't you going to say hello to your oldest friend?" The voice was faintly mocking, and the figure, as it strolled out into the light, bore an expression of faint amusement on its face. The Doctor saw a tall, lithe man in a black suit, his face half hidden by the black hat which he wore. He had an air of calm sophistication, much like a gentleman from Earth. His clothes were from Earth, the Doctor could see, despite his long years away from that particular planet. He frowned.

"Excuse me?"

"Oh Doctor... Must you always be so vague?" The new arrival laughed, a low, mocking laugh which could only have belonged to one man. "I decided to come back; to give you another chance to change your mind. Will you come with me now? Has eight hundred years been enough to convince you that your place is not on Gallifrey? You were always meant to be by my side, old friend."

"Master!" The Doctor stared at the renegade in amazement. He had heard tales over the years... stories suggesting something of what his old comrade was up to. He couldn't believe that the man would have the gall to return now, and imagine that the Doctor would join him. "I would never join you. Give yourself up, man. You can't hope to go on like this."

"Give up? And have my freedom taken away?" The Master shook his head, exasperated. "At one time you would never have suggested that. You fought the rules with me, Doctor, but in the end you left me, and chose to remain with Rabian. Why?"

"Because in the end it turned out that he was my true friend. I trusted you, and you betrayed everything I thought that we believed in. All I ever wanted was fun, excitement. I never wanted to hurt people the way that you do."

The Master laughed. "Fun and excitement is about hurting people. You've no idea, Doctor. Really you haven't. Come with me, and I can show you. Gallifrey isn't you, and it never was."

"No, it isn't. But neither is what you're doing." The Doctor nodded towards the communications console on the wall. "Leave, Master, or I'll call the Citadel guard."

"You would, too, wouldn't you." The Master laughed. "Oh, maybe we're not quite so different as you like to believe, old friend. You can be quite ruthless as well when you want to be." He pulled a gun from inside his jacket. "I could make you come with me, Doctor."

"And what would that achieve? Hmm?" The Doctor hooked his thumbs into his lapels, staring up at the tall man now standing before him. The Master had regenerated since their last meeting, and was now nearly a foot taller than the Doctor, but still the smaller Time Lord managed to look down at him. "You don't want a prisoner, you want an ally, and you'll never get that from me."

"Never?" The Master stared at him from cat-like eyes. The Doctor smiled sadly.

"Never. I used to think that I would do anything for you, but times change."

"Time Lords don't."

"Don't they?" The Doctor shook his head. "Tell me, Master. How many guards did you kill when you landed? And when you were on your way here?"

"Three, maybe four." The Master grinned. "But that doesn't mean that I've changed. It is merely your perception of me that has. I was always capable of such acts before, but you chose not to see it. K'anpo did. I met him one day when I was walking in the mountains, just after graduation. He told me that you and I are much alike. Both troublemakers. But you, my dear Doctor, are full of good intentions, whereas I am not." He chuckled. "He thinks a lot of you, but then the man is a fool. I always thought as much. Like Rabian. A man that good has to be a little unhinged, wouldn't you say? You may be full of good intentions, but I know what you're capable of. I've seen it. They haven't."

"And they don't have to. Whatever my mistakes, I've paid for them these last eight hundred years. I've stayed here, when I could have been out there, in the cosmos, doing what I always wanted to be doing." He shook his head. "Why, man? Why now? Why did you have to come here today of all days?"

"I was looking for you. Perhaps I was lonely." The Master chuckled. "My lifestyle has caused my TARDIS to become a little run down of late, and I needed some new parts for it. When I was searching through the Citadel computer, I found your address, and something about you being under house arrest." He smiled a huge smile. "You know, I could almost be proud of you. When it turned out that you weren't at home, I was... intrigued, so I looked up Rabian's address on a whim." He chuckled again, this time with obviously darker intent. "So what are you doing here exactly? Plotting the downfall of the High Council? Or just catching up on a little paper work? Being a good scientist?"

The Doctor frowned. He had no idea what laws of cosmic chance had brought the Master here, tonight of all nights, but he knew that if his old friend guessed that he was planning to leave Gallifrey, he would cause all sorts of problems. He was not above calling the guards, or even warning the High Council, just to see what would happen. He could also try to follow the fugitives, and make life difficult for them wherever they went. After all of the stories that he had heard about the Master over the last few centuries, the Doctor had no illusions about what sort of a man he was up against. It still hurt, but he had faced up to the truth a long time ago.

"So which is it. Doctor? What are you really? An adventurer or a fool? Are you coming with me, or are you going to stay here for the rest of your days, filing reports, and behaving yourself with Rabian and his kind?"

"I'm not coming with you, Master." The Doctor shook his head. He wanted to tell his old friend the truth. He wanted to be able to tell him about all of the plans that he and Rabian had made; all of the places and the Times that they were going to visit, and the fun they were going to have. Perhaps part of him still hoped that the Master would come too, and that they could be a threesome again.

"I won't keep asking you." The Master shrugged. "I have plans for the universe, Doctor. Many plans. I wanted to allow you to change sides before it was too late."

"I chose my side hundreds of years ago."

"Rabian's side. You chose him instead of me." The Master scowled, his dark face transforming from idle amusement to fierce anger in the briefest of seconds. "There is some symbolism in that, old friend. Choosing conformism over adventure. The way of the Time Lords over the way we always went before."

"You'll never know how wrong you are, Master." The Doctor glanced towards the door through which Rabian had vanished earlier, for he could hear movements that suggested his friend was returning. The Master had heard the noises too, and he laughed.

"So friend Rabian is at home after all." He caressed the gun happily. "Perhaps I can give him my good wishes before I leave. I can warn him, too, to watch out for the day when I come here to take over once and for all. You had better be gone before that day arrives, Doctor, or I will kill you."

"Doctor? Do I hear voices?" The inner door slid open, and Rabian, obviously in high spirits, sauntered in. He took one look at the Master, and at his laser pistol, and his eyes widened.

"You." There was hatred in his voice, and the Master laughed.

"Very good, Rabian. You recognised me far more quickly than the good Doctor here. Although admittedly his sight probably isn't what it once was."

"Leave here now, Master. I won't have you in my house." Rabian's voice was soft and deadly, and the threat was clear in his tone. Worried, the Doctor took a step forward. The Master's gun swung to cover him; then the renegade smiled and turned the weapon back to point at Rabian.

"Try to make me leave," he said merrily, his smile almost friendly. There was an icy gleam in his eyes which belied the amiable facade. "You always did get in the way, Rabian. You and all of your kind, trying to stop my fun, turning my friends against me. Making the Doctor stay here, when he should be ruling the universe at my side."

"I would never--" The Doctor took another step forward, but this time the Master did not even bother looking at him, instead he moved closer to Rabian, the hate clear now in his face.

"You, and all of your kind. The antithesis of fun, the barrier to my enjoyment, and to the way that the universe ought to be."

"Go away, Master." Rabian sounded scathing, and unconcerned by this display of fury. "We don't have the time for this."

"Then I'll give you all of the time that you need." The Master smiled, and pulled the trigger. There was a quick burst of laser fire, and Rabian teetered oddly, his face showing confusion and disbelief. Slowly, almost as if it were in slow motion, he collapsed onto the ground. The Doctor stared at the body, aghast, then stumbled towards it, almost falling down to the ground beside his old friend.

"How...?" On his knees beside the body, the Doctor stared down at the dead face, unable to tear his eyes away from the sight before him. A shudder ran through his frame. "How could you?"

"Easily." There was a cold edge to the Master's voice, and as the Doctor looked up, he saw that his old friend's face was twisted into a sneer. "He's just another Time Lord."

"He was my brother!" The Doctor stumbled to his feet, silently cursing his ageing body as it resisted his sudden movements.

"Was, yes." The Master turned away, his expression uncaring, his posture nonchalant. "Hundreds of years ago, before the Time Lords took your life away, yes he was your brother. Look at you now. You're not the man you were. Neither am I. They stole all that."

"He was still my brother." The Doctor's voice was faint. The Master smiled.

"Look at you. You hated them all, and yet you mourn at their passing. You hated all that they stand for, and yet you've stayed here all these years. Why? What did you hope to gain? Forgiveness? You'll never have that Doctor. All that you are, they hate." He reached out, grabbing his old friend by the arm. "Come with me, old friend. Come with me now. I'll show you what I've built for myself. I'm a legend on many worlds. They fear me, respect me. I have all that I ever wanted. Freedom, power. And best of all, the Time Lords are too scared of me to try to get me back. They're so determined not to interfere that they'll let me do whatever I want, whenever I want."

"You're mad." The Doctor stared back at the Master, rage tearing away at his soul. "I would never come with you."

They stared at each other, their eyes burning into each other, the hate and the anger growing. Finally the Master turned away.

"Fine." His voice was cold again, and uncaring. "Stay here. Vegetate. Turn into everything you ever hated."

"I won't stay here." The Doctor's voice was cold too, and his eyes were hard and unrelenting. "Rabian and I had our escape all planned. We were going." He stared down at the body, then lifted his head once again to stare at the Master. "I'll come after you, and I'll get you. One day."

"Then it'll be a long day coming." The Master raised his gun. "I should kill you now."

"But you won't."

"No, I won't. Not unless I have to." He smiled. "Maybe I'll even enjoy it, knowing that you're out there too, trying to find me." His smile became a broad grin. "Good luck, Doctor. I'll see you again some day." His expression hardened. "I'll ask you again, to come and join me. One day I'll ask you for the final time."

"I won't join you, Master." The Doctor's voice had lost all of its emotion. The Master shrugged.

"Then I'll kill you. One day, when we've forgotten who we used to be."

"I've already forgotten." The Doctor stared down at the body at his feet.

"Good." The other man began to walk towards the door. "Don't tell them that I was here, Doctor. I know Rabian has a daughter somewhere, and I will kill her, if I feel provoked enough."

"I won't tell anybody. When you die, Master, I want it to be at my hands." The Master smiled, hearing the anger and the pain in his old friend's voice. That emotion, that capacity to be hurt just through the pain suffered by others, was why the Doctor could never be as strong as he himself was; and why he knew that the Doctor's threats all amounted to nothing in the end. The Doctor wouldn't kill him; but if necessary, he would kill the Doctor.

"I'll see you around old friend."

"Don't ever call me that." The Doctor tried to follow the other Time Lord to the door, but his old, tired body was not capable of moving at anything like sufficient speed. He could do nothing but watch as the lithe, dark figure vanished out of sight.

"Father? Is that you?" He heard the small voice of Susan calling from the next room, and hurried to intercept her. He had no intention of letting her see the body on the floor. He pulled her back into her bedroom, closing the door. She looked up at him, puzzled. "Grandfather. What are you doing here?"

"Meeting your father." He glanced out of the window, expecting to see the guards arriving at any moment. If they came, and saw the body, they would take Susan away; just as he had been taken away when his parents had not returned from that last expedition.

"He said we were going away together; all three of us. When are we going, grandfather? I don't want to go to the Academy. Father said it was very strict there."

"It is. They have rules and regulations for everything. They would never let you be a child." He smiled down at her, thinking how lucky she was that she had been able to escape it all so far. Other children of noble blood were already enrolled in the Academy by their seventh birthday. Borusa had begged for leniency given her human heritage, but now that her father was gone, she would be enrolled immediately.

"Father said that you hated it." She was smiling, obviously finding it hard to imagine the old man as a rebel. He smiled back. That had been so long ago. What had made him stay here for all these hundreds of years, after all of those plans he had made as a young man? At least he had the security of knowing that he was a Time Lord; that to all intents and purposes he was still young. He had another twelve incarnations in which to finally fulfil all those dreams. He smiled, thinking of something that Rabian had told him once, about staying on Gallifrey, and growing old in each of his lifetimes. K'anpo had told him something too, about a old sturgeon who had lived to be a great age by hiding in the mud. If he left Gallifrey, and went off into who knew what, he would probably use up those vital regenerations much faster than he would if he stayed here. Deep down he knew that he really didn't care.

"Where's father?" Susan's voice called him back to the present, and he stared down at her, frowning.

"He had to go away."

"When is he coming back?"

The Doctor hesitated before answering. What should he tell her? Finally he sighed.

"He's not. But he wanted me to take you away anyway, just like we planned."

"Really?" She sounded excited, as though her concerns about her father were already forgotten. What it was to be young...

"Yes, really." He knelt on the ground in front of her, staring into her eyes. She looked so like Rabian; shining with enthusiasm and intelligence. He found that it hurt just to look at her. "This is important Susan. Are you ready to go? We don't have much time."

"I'm ready. Father made me put everything that I wanted in my room on the TARDIS."

"Good girl." He stood, finding that he needed her assistance to do so. Really must think about regenerating soon, he told himself. Get a younger body. "Come on then." She followed him into Rabian's laboratory. It was dark, the equipment lying abandoned on the bench. The Doctor smiled around at the familiar scene. If all went according to plan, he would never see this place again; never return to this planet. Odd how that he could be sorry about that. After all that had happened, it was still home. He opened the door of the ship and led Susan inside.

"It's very old, grandfather. Are you sure it will fly?"

He smiled at that. Granted, the ship was old; but he was rather hoping that that meant its owner would be less sorry to lose it. If he had stolen a brand new one, they would be sure to come after him.

"It will fly," he told her. "It may be old, but it's a solid design." He ran his eyes over the instrumentation. A solid design, yes; but one that he was completely unfamiliar with. Flying the thing was to have been Rabian's job. He pressed a few switches. The dematerialisation controls were more or less familiar, and he thought that he recognised one or two other things. He would just have to experiment.

"Are you sure father isn't coming?" Susan stared at the doors. The Doctor sighed, and reached for the lever which closed them.

"Quite sure." He put an arm around her shoulders. "I'm sorry Susan; but we shall be alright together, the two of us."

"Three." She smiled. "The TARDIS is alive too. Look at it."

He glanced around. The odd little machine had lit up, and was busily whirring away to itself. It did seem almost alive. He smiled.

"Then the three of us will be alright."

"Shall we have adventures?" She sounded excited now, her eyes wide and round. He nodded.

"I rather think we shall."

"Where shall we go?"

"Go?" He glanced around at the control room, wondering quite how one got anywhere at all in this machine, then shrugged. "We'll go anywhere, Susan. We have all of space and Time to explore. But I think we'd better stay clear of Gallifrey for a while."

"So do I." She laughed, and hugged him, only able to reach as far as his waist. He smiled down at her, ruffling her hair gently. Somewhere out there was the life he had always wanted; the chance to wander and explore. Somewhere out there was his destiny. And somewhere out there was the Master, the man he had loved as a brother; the man to whom he owed his life. The man who had betrayed him, and all that he believed in. He had no doubt that their paths would cross again, one day. In the meantime, there were other things to think about. He turned to the console and made a vague attempt to set a course. It would do for the time being, he told himself. He would figure out how to work it later; there was no real hurry. Slowly they began to dematerialise, and the Doctor turned on the scanner screen, looking his last on Gallifrey. Susan smiled up at him.

"It looks beautiful, doesn't it grandfather."

"Yes, it does." He smiled. "It looks very beautiful indeed, from a distance." Slowly he reached out a hand and turned the screen to a different scene; the way forward. Infinity stretched out before him, and he felt his feet begin to itch. This was his real home. He let out a deep, contented sigh, and settled back on the old chair in the corner. It was finally goodbye to Gallifrey; he had had enough of boredom to last him the rest of his lifetimes. From now on, life got interesting.