Marion dressed herself in a warm winter gown of the sort worn by the ladies of Gallifrey. It was completely unsuitable for Liverpool where women wore skirts or trousers, but Li had told her to dress in a manner that befitted her dignity. Then she walked out of the bedroom. Li met her on the landing and told her that he would get Rodan dressed and ready to leave.

That worried her even more. They had to leave quickly with Remonte. What was the cause of such urgency?

“Remonte….” She could barely speak his name by the time she faced him. She was so afraid of what might have happened.

“Marion, I have to take you back to Gallifrey. There has been a terrible accident….”

“What sort of accident?” she asked in a trembling voice. “Remonte… why did YOU come? Why not Kristoph? Is he… tell me he isn’t….”

“No, it’s not that. The accident was to the Space Freighter Omega…. It went missing four hours ago in the Argon sector after transmitting a subspace distress signal.”

“The Omega… you mean… Rodan’s grandfather’s ship?”


Li came into the drawing room with Rodan. She was holding his hand tightly and her little face was solemn. She didn’t yet know what was wrong, but she was a Gallifreyan child and her telepathy was already well advanced. She knew that the adults were all hiding bad news behind mental walls.

“Child….” Remonte reached out a hand to her, but she turned from him and hid her face in the folds of Li’s Chinese tunic. He sat on a chair and lifted her into his arms. He broke the news to her gently. She clung to him all the more. Of course, she didn’t cry. Gallifreyan children didn’t. But that didn’t mean that her hearts were not breaking.

“What happened?” Marion asked Remonte. “Missing… what does that mean exactly?”

“We don’t know,” her brother-in-law admitted. “That’s why Kristoph went off straight away. His was one of only three TARDISes that could reach the sector in the short time. Even if it wasn’t… you know what he’s like. He wouldn’t hesitate to rush into the fray.”

“There is a local expression that might be paraphrased,” Li said. “You can take the man out of the adventure, but you can’t take the adventure out of the man.”

Marion smiled grimly. Li was right. So was Remonte.

“Even with his duties as President of the whole people of Gallifrey, Kristoph thought only of finding the few hundred missing souls aboard that ship,” Remonte added. “We don’t know what happened. There are so many possibilities.”

Li looked at Remonte with deeply expressive eyes. Marion knew they had shared a thought, one they didn’t want to share out loud. She had travelled in space often enough to know all of the risks – engine failure, subspace collision with another ship or with unexpected space debris….

There was also the possibility of space piracy, and a freighter carrying valuable trade goods was an obvious target. Of course, even the civil freight service was not completely defenceless. But a freighter wasn’t meant to withstand determined attack, and she knew there were sectors of space where any ship was vulnerable.

“We should return to Gallifrey,” Remonte again reminded her.

“To do what?” Li asked. “Wait for news?”


“We can all do that right here,” Marion said, watching the way Rodan clung to Li. She loved her grandfather who had cared for her since she was two years old. She loved Kristoph who had been the first father she had known as a baby. If neither of them were here, then Li was the nearest she had to a man who cared for her in that way. Nobody else could fill that place for her.

“This child hasn’t had any breakfast yet,” Li pointed out. “And I think the rest of us could take some tea.”

“I’ll do it,” Marion said, rising from her seat and going to the kitchen. She found eggs and bread. Rodan liked scrambled eggs on toast. She prepared Chinese tea and a plate of savouries left over from the celebration of the New Year last night for the rest of them.

While she was cooking the eggs Remonte followed her into the kitchen.

“Marion, you should come home,” he said. “This is not appropriate.”

“What isn’t?”

“You visiting him... alone. Spending the night in the home of a man… a man who is persona non grata on our world, at that.”

“I am visiting a friend… a very good friend… on MY home world… my home city. All of my friends on Gallifrey know that. The only one who knows EXACTLY which friend is Lily, and she knows very well that Li is a gentleman who would never do anything that compromises his honour as a Time Lord. And I would never compromise my vows to Kristoph. The suggestion that I would…. Who, other than you, even imagines anything else.”

“It is how it looks, Marion.”

“Only to you. And you know it isn’t so. So… so stop complicating what is not at all complicated. All that matters right now is the whereabouts of the Star Freighter Omega and Rodan’s grandfather.”

“And that’s another complication,” Remonte pointed out. “If we find that the freighter has been destroyed… if all hands are lost….”

“Don’t say that. There’s ALWAYS hope. As long as Kristoph is out there trying to do something, there’s no reason at all to think….”

“My brother isn’t a god. If they’re dead… nothing he can do can bring them back.”

“Then… Rodan… will always have a home with us.”

“Yes. I knew you’d say that. But what sort of home? Even if you formally adopt her in some way, it will always be known that she is a Caretaker child, and not related by blood to either of you.”

“Remonte, I am surprised at you, talking that way. Rika is….”

“I know what she is. And so does the whole of Gallifrey. That is why we live in exile on Ventura, don’t forget. What do you imagine will happen to Rodan when she is older, when she is ready for marriage? Do you think the heirs to the Oldblood Houses of Gallifrey will be vying for her hand?”

“That is hardly going to be something I have any say in,” Marion pointed out. “Since the marrying age for Gallifreyan women is over two hundred years. Besides, it isn’t a problem. Rodan isn’t going to be our adopted daughter. Her grandfather isn’t dead. They’re just missing. Have a little hope.”

“I wish I could. I’m not an explorer and an adventurer, Marion. The number of planets outside of the Cruciform that I’ve visited – including this one and Ventura – is less than a dozen, still. But as Ambassador I am aware of events going on far beyond my personal experience. I know that the Venturan and Earth mechant fleets have had problems in that same space sector. A Venturan ship was attacked by raiders last year. They stole the cargo and murdered every man of the crew. And all it was carrying was Venturan silk. You know that Gallifreyan merchant ships carry diamonds on their outward journey – the currency of universal trade.”

“I know,” Marion answered. “I also know that all Gallifreyan diamonds are laser engraved with identification marks and stolen ones are worthless on the open market. That deters thieves.”

“Only those who CARE about the open market. On the black market they are still worth enough to entice criminals. That’s why I’m not optimistic, Marion. The chances are Rodan’s only blood relative is dead.”

“All right, maybe it’s true,” Marion responded. “But don’t you dare say so out loud in front of the child. We’ll face that possibility when we have to. In the meantime, I’m going to pray that you’re wrong and we’re going to stay optimistic that everyone on that ship is alive and well. Now… bring that tray for me.”

She brought Rodan’s breakfast while Remonte picked up the tray with the Chinese tea and the savouries set out on it. They returned to the drawing room where Marion carefully poured the tea in the Chinese style she had learnt in this very room over the years. The formality of it gave her a respite from her worries for a few minutes, but when she sat again, drinking her tea and watching Rodan eating her scrambled eggs and toast still sitting on Li’s knee, the uncertainty and dread gripped her again.

Of course, if it came to the worst, she and Kristoph would look after Rodan. She would need them even more desperately than ever. Yes, there would be questions from many sections of Gallifreyan society, and not just those hard-nosed traditionalists who usually talked behind her back. Even some of her friends might question the wisdom of calling a Caretaker orphan her daughter. And what WOULD happen to her? Even if she was their natural born child a girl could not be primogeniture under the archaic and patriarchal rules of Gallifreyan society. Remy was Kristoph’s heir. Rodan would be dependent on what kind of man he grew up to be. If he chose he could throw her out penniless or make her a house servant.

“Marion,” Li said quietly. “It is the morning of Chinese New Year. Shall we go out and watch the dragon procession?”

Marion was surprised. It was what they had planned to do today before Remonte arrived with his disturbing news.

“I….” She looked out of the window. The people of the Chinese quarter, as well as a fair few visitors who had come to see the festivities, were starting to gather in the street. There was Chinese music played on traditional instruments in the near distance. The dragon was almost ready to parade through the streets.

“Yes,” she answered firmly. “Yes, we will take Rodan to see the dragon. Remonte, come on. You’ll enjoy seeing this.”

She took her brother-in-law’s arm. Li held Rodan’s hand as they went down the stairs and out through the fragrant herbal shop to the street. They joined the crowds lining the pavement and enjoyed the rising excitement as the parade got under way. Rodan watched the colourful dancers and acrobats, the youngsters carrying banners and coloured flags, women – and men – dressed in beautiful traditional Chinese costumes, and the dragon itself, a good thirty metres long, the body worked by at least twenty strong men and the huge head controlled by three of them as it sashayed down the road. The head turned from one side to the other, huge eyes fixing on people in the crowds. Rodan shrieked with surprise when it looked at her, but she wasn’t frightened by it. For a little while she forgot her troubles and was enjoying the colour and joy of Chinese New Year.

When it was over, when the crowds dispersed and the street was quiet again, they returned to the drawing room. This was a day for visiting friends and family, and in past years Li had done so happily. This year he prepared a simple lunch for his immediate friends and they ate quietly before a long afternoon waiting for news.

It was starting to get dark on the first day of the Chinese calendar when they finally had some news. It came by videophone. Li asked Marion to draw the blinds before he opened the screen and accepted the incoming call that was preceded by the presidential seal.

Marion’s heart pounded as she saw Kristoph in his TARDIS on the video screen. His face was inscrutable. She couldn’t guess if it was good or bad news. She dreaded what he was about to say.