Marion was relaxing in the ‘lunar’ of the Gan Hydro spa hotel on the planet of Jox-Fol in the Cassiopeia sector. That fact alone was enough to excite her. Jox Fol! What an amazing name for a planet. And what an amazing planet. She looked up at the crystal glass roof of the ‘lunar’ at the three moons, each almost as bright as a sun because their constituent rocks were a kind of quartz that not only reflected sunlight like an ordinary satellite, but intensified it. Of course, the roof had special filters that prevented the light from hurting her eyes as well as filtering dangerous UV and Exotonic rays. It was safe to lie on a cushioned lounger in a very small bikini and enjoy the exotic light and warmth on her body.

If she ever ceased to be amazed to be doing such things in such amazing places, that would be the day she forgot that she was once Marion Horsley of Birkenhead

“This is amazing,” said the young woman lying on the lounger next to hers. A Jox-Follian stewardess, a humanoid that reminded Marion of a stick insect because she was so thin, with long, angular limbs, of which three pairs were arms, had just brought them both cool, delicious fruit drinks. “Absolutely amazing. Moon bathing on a planet called Jox-Fol.”

Marion was surprised, not only by the fact that the young woman was saying aloud exactly what she had been thinking, but that she did so in Earth English with a Scottish accent. She had to make a mental adjustment before replying to her. She was used to speaking Gallifreyan that was automatically translated to the vernacular language of whoever she was speaking to by the low level psychic radiation of the TARDIS. But when her Gallifreyan was translated into Earth English people always remarked about her unusual accent, and she much preferred to be herself with them.

“I feel the same way,” she said. “Where are you from? And... er... when?”

“Inverness, originally,” the young woman told her. “But when I left Earth it was from my aunt’s house in Leadworth, in Gloucestershire... England. In the twenty-first century.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it,” Marion admitted. “But it sounds nice.”

“It’s... ordinary,” the young woman replied. “Ordinary, safe, boring. I’d rather be moon-bathing on Jox-Fol any day. This really is the life. It even makes up for all the really creepy and scary stuff that’s happened since I left home. If I hadn’t come, or if I’d gone back when it got too weird, I’d have missed this.”

“What made you choose to do that?” Marion asked, thinking that this young woman could have been expressing everything she, herself, had experienced since that day on Leeds railway station that so changed her life.

“I met an amazing man,” the young woman answered. “He changed my life.”

“So did I,” Marion said. “In ways I couldn’t begin to explain. “My name is Marion de Lœngbærrow, by the way.”

“Amy Pond,” the young woman replied. “Amy, short for Amelia. I’m pleased to meet you. Funny us meeting up like this. So far from Earth.”

“It’s lovely to meet you,” Marion said. “I haven’t been back to Earth for weeks. And then it was only to Liverpool for shopping.” Amy looked puzzled by that comment. “I live on my husband’s home planet,” she explained. “But I often go shopping for things like tea and chocolate biscuits, things I miss. But, of course, when I’m visiting Earth I can’t tell people I live on another planet. They’d think I was nuts.”

“I know what you mean. I could never explain it to anyone. It’s just so MAD!”

“Yes, that absolutely sums it up,” Marion laughed “Absolutely mad. But I’m used to it by now. Kristoph and I have been married for nearly four years, now. And I travelled with him for three years before then. So I’m quite used to these crazy things happening. But this is nice, today. Just a quiet afternoon in the lunar.”

“I agree,” Amy said. “The drinks are nice. I wonder if the stewardess can bring some more of those nice nibbles. Chocolate covered prawn cocktail crisps! Lovely.”

“And totally fat free and only one calorie per dozen,” Marion added. “Isn’t THAT a heavenly idea!”

“I should get the recipe. When I finally go back to Earth, I could make a fortune in the diet food industry.”

Marion summoned a stewardess and the chocolate savouries and other tasty but sinless treats were brought. Amy was impressed.

“It took me a long while to get used to doing that,” Marion admitted. “I wasn’t brought up as somebody who could summon servants and have them wait on me. It takes a bit of practice.”

“I took a bit of time getting used to people who look different to us,” Amy said. “The Jox-Follians... they’re not too bad. But I’ve seen a lot of really weird things. Some of them are really nice, even the REALLY weird ones. Sometimes really ugly things can actually be kind and sweet and generous and beautiful things are horrible and dangerous.”

“There’s a moral in that, I think,” Marion agreed. “The universe is a big place, that’s for sure. But... do tell me about some of the things you’ve seen. Who is this man you met? What’s his name?”

“I don’t really know his name. He calls himself The Doctor. I know that sounds very strange. I left everything I know, everything that’s safe and normal, to go with a man whose name I don’t even know. I don’t even really know where he comes from. He said his planet isn’t there any more, anyway. He’s the only one of his kind. I think there’s a very sad story, but he doesn’t talk about it. And he doesn’t seem to be sad. He’s very upbeat and excited, one of those people who runs on Duracells and he’s still jumping around when everyone else is collapsing from exhaustion. And he’s very clever. He has the answer to everything. But he’s not arrogant or anything. He’s very, very kind and caring, and he helps anybody who needs help, even if they’re not pretty.”

Marion smiled at that description of Amy’s friend. He sounded quite a bit like Kristoph. He, too, had boundless energy and unlimited capacity for kindness, as she had plenty of reason to know.

And he seemed to have the same capacity for getting into tricky situations as Kristoph. She listened to Amy’s descriptions of some of the more colourful adventures she had got into with her travelling companion.

“But... your.... Doctor... he’s not your boyfriend or...” she ventured to ask.

“No. Oh, no. Nothing like that,” Amy was quick to assure her. “He’s just a very good friend. I will be going back to Earth eventually and I don’t know if I will see him again after that, but I’ll go back to my ordinary life, and remember him and the things I did as an incredible, amazing time.”

“I don’t think I could give it all up, now,” Marion said. “Though there are days when I wouldn’t mind a bit of ordinary life. When it all gets a bit too hectic and surreal.”

And this was one of those times, she thought as she spotted one of the Presidential Guards coming into the ‘lunar’. She had managed to avoid them for most of the afternoon. They were more concerned with Kristoph’s arrangements in the conference hall. She sat up on the lounger and pulled a silk robe around herself so that she felt less self-conscious in front of the uniformed man.

“Madam,” he said. “His Excellency sent a message.”

“You mean my husband, Lord de Lœngbærrow?” she queried. One thing she hadn’t quite become accustomed to was the number of new titles Kristoph had since becoming President.

“Yes, madam.”

“What was the message?” she asked.

“His Lordship requests that you and Miss Pond join him in the executive lounge.”

“He does?” Marion was surprised by that. “I thought he wanted me to stay here until the conference was over. He said it was going to be incredibly boring and I’d have much more fun in the leisure area. I wasn’t expecting to have to do any diplomatic mingling for hours, yet.”

“That was the message, madam,” the Guard told her.

“Yes, of course,” Marion said. “Well, I shall have to take a shower and dress properly. I hardly think I am expected to present myself in the executive lounge in a bikini.”

The Guard was doing a very good impression of a man who didn’t know what a bikini was, and wasn’t going to find out by looking at his President’s wife wearing one. His eyes were fixed on a point somewhere just behind her left shoulder.

“She means that you can wait outside until we’re ready,” Amy pointed out as the Guard continued to stand there with his fixed gaze.

“Yes, exactly,” Marion added. “Go and wait. We shall be no more than ten minutes, and that is only because there are very excellent automatic hairdressers in the changing rooms. Otherwise his Lordship could hardly expect prompt attendance at all.”

Amy giggled as the Guard turned. She and Marion rose from their loungers and went to the very luxurious changing rooms. The showers had several different settings from a gentle spray to an invigorating torrent with a choice of sweet scented and skin moisturising soaps infused into them already. Without the summons to the executive lounge it would be easy to enjoy it much longer. But the two women dried and dressed themselves and availed of the automatic hairdressers – hoods like big old fashioned hair dryers, but which actually used ion technology to dry and style their hair in a few minutes.

“I much prefer to have it done the old fashioned way,” Marion said as she examined the results in a mirror and applied a little make up to her face to finish off. “Having my hair washed and dried and styled by somebody else is a nice way to relax. But I don’t often have the time these days.”

“What with your husband being an Excellency and a lordship and all?”.

“Lord High President,” Marion admitted. “I... wasn’t trying to deceive you by not telling you he was that important. It was just nice to have a normal conversation out of earshot of the entourage for a while.”

“That’s all right,” Amy assured her. “Lord High President, though! Wow. My mum would say you fell on your feet all right.”

“I thought he was a literature professor when I met him. And even that seemed a world above mine. But never mind. I’m glad he invited you to come with me. I’ve enjoyed talking to you, and it would be nice to spend some more time...”

“Yes. I agree,” Amy said. “Although... I am wondering how he even knew about me. Your husband, I mean. We only met an hour ago. How come he sent a message inviting me to come with you to this lounge?”

“Actually, that’s a very good question,” Marion conceded. “Why didn’t I think of it?”

The two women looked at each other and a dozen explanations ran through their heads. But none of them made any sense, and some of them were downright sinister.

“Do you know that Guard?” Amy asked. “The one who came in here.”

“No, not as such,” Marion had to admit. “They DO all look the same after a while. We have a few close protection men who I see every day and I know all of them. But the ones who came with us on this trip, I’m not so sure about.”

“Then... how do we know he’s even a real guard? Maybe it’s a military coup or...”

“A military coup on Gallifrey!” Marion laughed at the idea, but only because she knew what sort of place Gallifrey was, not because the idea was a silly one. “No, maybe not. But I think something funny IS going on. And maybe we should be careful.”

“Maybe we should go out the back way and avoid the Guard,” Amy suggested.

“Does this place have a back way?” Marion asked.

“There’s a service corridor where the stewards bring the food and drinks. We can go to this Executive Lounge. If everything is normal, then the Guard just looks a bit silly. But if there’s something funny going on, then we’ve given them the slip and we can do something about it... whatever it is.”

“I really did just want a quiet afternoon,” Marion sighed as Amy opened the door to the service corridor and confirmed that it was empty. They slipped through the door and closed it behind them moments before the Guard came back into the lunar in search of them.

“Me, too. But this is fun, too.”

“Fun?” Marion examined her usual definition of that word against what was happening now and couldn’t in all honesty say she was having fun. She was concerned. Something wasn’t right about the situation.

Or perhaps she and Amy were both jumping to conclusions and this was all a silly misunderstanding.

That small shred of hope was shattered when they turned a corner near the pantry where the chocolate covered crisps and cool fruit drinks were prepared. A hatch opened in the ceiling just ahead of them and a man jumped down. Marion’s first thought that he was a fatter than usual Jox Follian. His limbs were long and angular like theirs. But when he stood in front of them, straightening his bow tie and adjusting the cuffs of his tweed jacket he spoke in what Marion recognised as Earth English with a merest hint of a Gallifreyan accent.

“Amy,” he said. “I’m sorry. I promised this would be an easy afternoon. But the Lord High President is in terrible danger.”