The Christiana was anchored in another quiet bay of another of the deserted islands of the Haollstromnian sea. The four friends had enjoyed the sand and the warm water all day, as well as the easily accessible exotic fruits that grew right up to the edge of the beach. They had lit a fire when the sun went down and sat on the beach until long after midnight enjoying each other’s company. Now, just before an early dawn on a summer morning they were asleep in their cabins aboard the yacht without a care to disturb their dreams.

A sudden swell that hit The Christiana broadside and pulled her anchor chain to its fullest extent woke them. Kristoph reassured his wife that there was nothing to worry about but he was not entirely sure that was the truth. He reached for slacks and shirt and pushed his feet into a pair of shoes before hurrying up to the deck where Jean-Claude was surveying the debris caused when the wave had swamped them. The water was running off now, but the deck was covered in seaweed and detritus and two of the deckchairs were broken when they were slammed against the companionway door.

“It could have been worse,” he said. “The boat isn’t damaged.”

Kristoph looked towards the shore. It still wasn’t quite daylight but his Gallifreyan eyes could process the starlight and see well enough that the wave had gone well beyond the high water mark and it had still been forceful enough to break the trunks of the trees closest to the shore. They had fallen backwards and in turn caused other trees to fall, leaving a swathe of devastation for several metres inland.

“What caused it?” Kristoph asked. Hillary, coming from the cockpit, had the answer. He had immediately checked the yacht’s communications.

“There was a quake along the fault line that runs under the sea ten miles south-west of Sarabetal,” he said. “Of course, most of these islands were formed by some kind of seismic activity millennia ago and minor shifts in the plates are common enough. But this one was severe enough to create a tsunami wave. We were far enough away to feel only minor effects.”

Marion had reached the deck by now and when she heard the word tsunami in connection with the busy resort island of Sarabetal she was concerned.

“The wave began to the south-west and was driven away from the resort,” Hillary reported. “There is no danger there. They’re reporting only minor quake damage. They will need to thoroughly inspect all of the rides in the park before guests are allowed to use them, but they are otherwise unscathed. A disturbed night and some minor inconvenience.”

Marion was relieved by that news. But Hillary and Jean-Claude were weighing anchor and preparing to set off, not under sail but the powerful motor engine that The Christiana had in reserve. She wondered why at first.

“We were safe, and the resort, too,” Kristoph explained. “But between us and Sarabetal are five hundred miles of scattered islands, some of them inhabited, scores of fishing boats that will have been out this night. An undamaged boat may be needed.”

“What can I do?” Marion immediately asked.

“Find spare blankets, the first aid kit,” Hillary told her. “Boil water to make hot drinks.”

“Yes, yes, I can do that,” Marion said. She hurried to do those necessary things as The Christiana cut through the waves at a much faster speed than she had under sail on their leisurely holiday. She felt the difference when she was in the storeroom and galley doing what she could to make the pleasure yacht into a lifeboat ready to save lives.

When she had done all she could she came back on deck. The difference in speed was immediately obvious. There was far more wind blowing in her face. Hillary was in the cockpit, piloting the yacht and keeping in contact with the coastguard. Kristoph and Jean Claude were watching the water for any sign of survivors. They had seen a lot of debris including an overturned dinghy and a lifebelt as well as broken length of wood that must have been the hull of a boat before Jean-Claude gave an urgent shout. Hillary slowed the yacht and made a course correction. Marion watched as they edged close to the small boat in which five men drifted helplessly. One was injured. Kristoph quickly descended the companion ladder and carried the man on his back while the others came aboard exhausted and grateful to receive the blankets and hot coffee that Marion had prepared.

Worryingly, these five were all that remained of two fishing boat crews. Each boat ought to have had eight men aboard. None of them knew where the rest of their friends were. They had given them up for dead. And, indeed, within a short time Kristoph spotted a body caught on a broken length of wood. He hauled the man aboard and the survivors identified him. Jean-Claude wrapped the body in a piece of sailcloth. That was all that could be done for him, and for three more that they found.

“Wait,” Kristoph said when he lifted the body of a slender youth aboard. “I think this one is hanging on, yet. He laid him on the deck and began CPR expertly. One of the men from the boat cried out emotionally and shifted form from male to female, settling on the latter and crying for her child who had been working on the boat alongside her.

The youth morphed twice between genders as he coughed up water and breathed raggedly. His parent embraced him as Kristoph drew back, thankful that he had saved one life among so many there was no hope for.

“There’s a hoverplane coming,” Hillary said. “It’ll take them all off to the mainland for medical treatment. They’ll take charge of the bodies, too.” He sent Marion with a marker pen to write the names of the dead on the canvas they had been wrapped in. It was a sad duty, but necessary. There was, Hillary said, a makeshift morgue being prepared and those bodies which could be identified would be returned to their loved ones for burial so much sooner. It would ease their burden.

The casualties were transferred to the hoverplane by winch. As soon as they were clear, Hillary increased speed, heading towards the largest group of those tiny islands with a tenuous fishing industry. They picked up more survivors, and even more bodies. They weren’t the only craft doing so, of course. Anything still capable of floating, any plane that could spot survivors and notify the coastguard, was doing all that could be done. On The Christiana they could no longer wrap the bodies. Marion made tags of strong cardboard and tied them to the victims’ wrists before they were winched off by the coastguard hoverplane. She held back her tears as she did so. She had a job to do and crying would only hinder the work, but it was terrible to see how many of them were young.

Then, halfway through the morning, even more terrible news came. All the boats and planes were being sent to Sarabetal to evacuate as many people as possible from the resort.

“Why?” Marion asked. “I thought it was hardly affected.”

“The seismic shift has caused the volcano to start rumbling,” Hillary explained. “They expect it to erupt.”

“I thought it wasn’t likely to do that,” she responded. “I was told not to worry….”

“Now you can worry,” Hillary told her. “It could blow within the next three hours.”

“Is that time to get all the people away safely?”

Marion looked at her friends, and at Kristoph who usually had answers to questions like that. He couldn’t make any promises either.

Even before Sarabetal appeared on the horizon they knew there was a problem. The plume of smoke from the re-activated volcano was visible before the island was. The smoke was high above the volcano, yet, but there was a smell of sulphur in the air and the closer they got the darker it was.

The scene looked like a colourful version of the pictures Marion had seen of the evacuation of Dunkirk. There were families on the beach in their holiday clothes desperately waiting to be picked up by the small boats that were taking them out to larger boats moored in the deeper water. The Christiana was able to get in to the pier and picked up as many people as possible and then motored out to a navy ship that had room for everyone. They went back again and again, but the line was never ending.

“What about the animals?” Marion asked in the midst of it all.

“What animals?”

“The zoo… the one we saw from the roller coaster. They’ve got all sorts of animals there. They’re in pens. They can’t escape.”

Kristoph looked at the volcano and shook his head. If they were lucky they might just get all the people aboard boats and get clear, but there was nothing they could do about animals that would need to be sedated and caged and lifted aboard a freighter.

Marion began to cry. She had tried not to all morning, but now she couldn’t take it any longer. Kristoph comforted her, but he felt impotent to do anything else.

He was still holding Marion in his arms when the jet engine of a military aircraft split the air. He looked up at it and then ran to the cockpit. The radio was in constant connection to the coastguard, but Kristoph asked to be put through to the military plane that was circling the area. At first they refused. Then he pulled rank, identifying himself as the President of one of Haollstrom’s trade and political allies. That did the trick. Very soon he was talking to the pilot of the plane.

“What ordnance are you carrying?” he asked. “You don’t have to tell me any propriety information, just the firepower.” The pilot answered him. Kristoph nodded and looked again at the volcano. Then he used the onboard computer in the cockpit to make some careful calculations and relayed them to the pilot.

“It’s a million to one chance, sir,” the pilot told him. “I would have to be one hundred per cent on target, first time.”

“I know. But it would save the island if it works. Give it your best shot. Good luck.”

He stood back and clutched Marion’s hand as he watched the plane get into position.

“What have you told him to do?” she asked. “I didn’t really understand. It was all co-ordinates and tonnes of explosives and stuff. And I suppose if I asked how you know about missiles and how to fire them ‘strategically’ I wouldn’t get an answer?”

“You really don’t need to know,” he answered. “It’s not a skill I’ve needed for a long time. The pilot is right. It’s a long shot. But if it works, the animals will be safe, as well as the people we haven’t been able to evacuate, yet.”

There were still hundreds waiting. The Christiana was doing as much as possible. So was everyone else. They stopped and stared when the plane fired all four of its air to air missiles into the far side of the mountain, where it was closest to the sea. There was a tremendous roar followed by a massive explosion as part of the cone was blown away on that side. Then there was an even louder sound. The bigger ships further out to sea and the hoverplanes above all sent images of a whole section of the mountain sliding away. The lava that was coming up from the caldera spilled out through the gap and poured over the rocky foreshore and into the sea, well away from the hotel and chalets of the resort, from the beach where the people still waited for rescue, and the frightened animals in their zoo pens. The whole force of the eruption was safely directed away. It was still a dangerous situation. The boats had to move away from the thousands of tonnes of lava pouring into the sea and there were still problems with bad air and the ash that was settling everywhere, now. The resort would have to be abandoned for now, but there was time to bring in ferries that would take the people away safely and a freighter to safely transport the zoo animals to a new home.

“You did it,” Marion told her husband. “It was your idea. And it worked.”

“It might not have,” he admitted. “There were so many ways it could have gone wrong. If the missiles had failed to break the cone, if the whole top had blown instead of just the seaward side… it was a gamble.”

“It worked,” Marion repeated. “Well done. And to the pilot, too. I hope there’s some sort of medal they can give him.”

Hillary promised there was, and he had enough pull with the government to ensure it was done.

“We can leave, soon,” he added. “The proper authorities have everything under control. I think we should head home to my lighthouse. I for one could use a long, long soak in my new spa bath.”

They were all hot and tired from the work they had done, their faces grimy with ash and dirt. Longing for a spa bath was not mere vanity.

“It’s takes up to four at once,” Jean Claude added with a smile.