Marion was aware of severe pain in her legs and arms and a dull ache in her head. She tried to move her arms and found there was no space to move them in. She couldn’t see anything. She was aware of a dusty, earthy smell and the voices of children calling to her.

“Lady Marion,” they called. “Lady Marion. Are you alive? Please don’t be dead.”

“I’m alive,” she answered. “What happened?”

For a moment or two as she regained consciousness she couldn’t remember. Then it all came back with horrible clarity: the explosion, the shockwave, the window shattering, the floor giving way.

“We’re trapped under the school?”

“Yes, Lady Marion,” said a voice.

“How many are trapped here?” she asked. “Who is it? Whose hand can I feel?”

“It’s me, Callim,” said a boy’s voice. “And Rowetta is here. And Lorris and Genessa. But I don’t know where any of the others are. They didn’t fall down here with us.”

“They must be trapped in the classroom, still,” she said. “Can you hear anyone? Can you feel them telepathically?”

“No,” Callim said. Then.... “Yes, I can feel Marla. And Danis. And...”

Callim named all of the children, one by one. They were all frightened, he said. But they were alive.

“They’re under the tables,” he added. “Where you told them to go, Lady Marion. But they can’t get out.”

“Neither can we,” Rowetta said. It was a simple statement of fact. She wasn’t frightened. She was bruised and battered but not badly hurt. All her friends were alive. Her teacher was with her. She knew there was nothing to worry about.

Marion was less sure. Her legs hurt a lot. So did her left arm. She thought they were broken.

“I think I might need help very soon,” she said. “Can you hear anyone else? Is there anyone outside?”

“I don’t know,” Callim admitted. “It’s all fuzzy.”

No wonder, Marion thought. The whole school had collapsed. She knew that the room above the infant classroom was used as a storeroom for unused chairs and desks and books. Nobody would have been hurt when it collapsed in onto the infant class. But what about the rest of the building? There were another hundred students aged up to twenty years, and their teachers. There was Madam Malcuss, the headmistress, whose room was near the refectory. Were they all right?

“I can’t thought project any further,” Callim told her. “I just know about all of our class.”

“It’s all right,” Marion assured him. “That was clever enough. Oh, dear. My legs really hurt.”

She tried not to groan when the pain intensified. She didn’t want to worry the children. But she forgot they were psychic. They already knew she was hurting.

“It will be all right,” Genessa told her, squeezing her hand. “People will come for us.”

“Yes, I’m sure they will. But...”

She sighed and felt herself passing out again from the pain. She heard the voices of the children as if from a distance. But she thought she heard Kristoph’s voice much closer. He told her to be brave.

“I’ll try,” she murmured before it all went black again.

Kristoph looked at the devastated school unhappily. Of all the buildings in the whole town it had borne the brunt of the shockwave. It was the only one that had completely collapsed. The others had lost roofs or collapsed walls. But the school was unrecognisable as a building.

“Do we know if anyone is alive?” he asked. His mind slipped back to the time when he and Marion had gone to New York and helped in the desperate task of rescuing people trapped in the aftermath of that terrible crime wrought upon that city. Marion didn’t see the worst of it. She was in the centre where the walking wounded and the exhausted shifts of rescue workers were brought. She didn’t see the shredded, broken bodies and worse. He did, and the thought of sifting through the rubble of this building, searching for Marion and her children broke his hearts.

“We’re trying, Excellency,” replied one of the men who were already beginning the task.

“Don’t call me that. Not right now,” he said. “I’m not the President of anywhere while people are dying. Show me where to start digging.”

He looked at his robe. He had divested himself of most of the trappings of the Presidency, but he was still wearing spun gold and silk.

“Get me some practical clothes and show me where to dig,” he amended.

Marion woke again to the children calling out her name.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m in a terrible lot of pain and I just can’t...”

“Stay with us,” Lorris told her. “We’re scared without you.”

“I’ll try. But I can’t help it... I can’t stay awake...”

“Read to us,” Genessa suggested. “It will help us all.” Marion felt something pressed into her hand. It felt like the book she had been reading before the disaster. She had been clinging to it even as they fell into the blackness.

“I can’t see the pages,” she said. “There isn’t enough light.”

“We can see without the light,” Lorris told her. Then she felt a small hand touch the book, opening the pages. At the same time another small hand touched her aching forehead. She saw an image of the page in front of her eyes. She concentrated on it and the headache seemed less acute. She supposed it was because she was thinking about something else.

“Mary made the long voyage to England under the care of an officer's wife, who was taking her children to leave them in a boarding-school. She was very much absorbed in her own little boy and girl, and was rather glad to hand the child over to the woman Mr. Archibald Craven sent to meet her, in London. The woman was his housekeeper at Misselthwaite Manor, and her name was Mrs. Medlock. She was a stout woman, with very red cheeks and sharp black eyes. She wore a very purple dress, a black silk mantle with jet fringe on it and a black bonnet with purple velvet flowers which stuck up and trembled when she moved her head. Mary did not like her at all, but as she very seldom liked people there was nothing remarkable in that; besides which it was very evident Mrs. Medlock did not think much of her.”

In her own mind’s eye she pictured a child on an old fashioned steam ship travelling by sea, then a railway station in London with steam trains waiting at the platform. She knew her students could see that, too, even though they knew nothing about ships or trains except from the stories she read to them. They forgot that they were in a cramped, dark place and didn’t know when anyone might come to get them out.

Marion almost forgot, too. She was aware of the words of the story and the soft breathing of the children as they lay near to her and listened to her reading.

Kristoph certainly didn’t look presidential now. He was covered in dust just like everyone else who was painstakingly removing pieces of broken plaster and wood, metal and glass to reach the students and teachers trapped in the wrecked building. Many of the other men were parents of the children. They had as much at stake as he did. They grieved with all of their hearts as they searched.

They had managed to find dozens of students alive beneath the debris. There was that much to be said for the Gallifreyan constitution. Even their young could withstand difficulties that would have defeated lesser species. There were a few, though, for whom there was no hope. Kristoph felt helpless to comfort the mother and father of a senior boy who was already dead of suffocation by the time they reached the remains of his classroom. Their grief amidst the relief of those whose children were alive was a double tragedy.

Two of the teachers were dead, too. Kristoph helped make their bodies decent and said the closest thing to a Gallifreyan prayer over them before they were taken away. He turned to try to say something comforting to Madam Malcuss, the headmistress of the school, who was frantically trying to reconcile the school register with the names of those found and those still missing.

Then a cry went up. Somebody had reached the infant classroom. He turned and ran. So did Madam Malcuss. They got there in time to see a small, dust covered body lifted from the rubble. Kristoph heard Madam Malcuss make a soft sobbing noise. His own hearts sank as he saw the child so very still. Then he saw him move. He ran to him and wiped the dust from his eyes.

“Jaris Gillon,” he said. “That’s your name, isn’t it, child? You’re one of my wife’s little charges. Is she there? Is Lady Marion all right?”

“She’s reading,” the boy said. “She’s reading the story to us.”

“She’s what?” Kristoph hugged the child. He had given him the news he had so wanted to hear, even if it did seem a little cryptic. Then he helped pull out two more boys, Brinna and Dúle, and a girl called Marla. They all said the same. Marion was reading.

He closed his eyes and let his mind reach out. He was surprised when he heard the words all of the children were listening to. They were the last thing he expected to hear in this place.

“It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together. Mary Lennox knew they were roses because she had seen a great many roses in India. All the ground was covered with grass of a wintry brown and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rose bushes if they were alive. There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees. There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at each other or at a far-reaching branch and had crept from one tree to another and made lovely bridges of themselves. There were neither leaves nor roses on them now and Mary did not know whether they were dead or alive, but their thin gray or brown branches and sprays looked like a sort of hazy mantle spreading over everything, walls, and trees, and even brown grass, where they had fallen from their fastenings and run along the ground. It was this hazy tangle from tree to tree which made it all look so mysterious. Mary had thought it must be different from other gardens which had not been left all by themselves so long; and indeed it was different from any other place she had ever seen in her life.”

He opened his eyes. He realised he wasn’t listening to the words telepathically now. He could hear them normally. The voice was muffled and it echoed oddly. But it was Marion’s voice, reading aloud the story she had planned to read to her students today.

“Stand back, Excellency,” he was told. “There’s a deep hole where they fell. But we’ll have them out in a few minutes.”

He watched and waited as more children were brought up. He hugged them all as joyfully as if they were his own children. He heard Madam Malcuss say that all the infants were accounted for. He held onto two of them as they all waited again.

Then Marion was lifted out of the hole. She was clearly injured. Kristoph gasped as he saw the wide, bloody gash on her leg, and it was obvious that one, if not both, were broken. She did her best not to cry out in pain. As she was placed on a stretcher he noticed she was still clinging to the book. He took it from her and closed the pages.

“I’ll look after it,” he promised as he bent to kiss her cheek. “You look after yourself. They’re going to take you to the hospital in Atlantica. I’ll be there very soon. I have to go to the mine. It’s my duty to the men who were killed there.”

“I’ll be all right,” Marion told him. “You do what you have to do.”

She was sedated before she was placed into the hover ambulance. She barely knew what was happening. But that was all right. She was alive. She was hurt, but nothing she wouldn’t recover from. Later, when she woke again in a warm hospital bed, he would be able to be by her side. But first he had to go to the southern deltic mine.