Being able to travel to her own time on Earth through the static portal that connected Mount Lœng House on Gallifrey with her flat above the Welcome Friend restaurant in Liverpool, Marion tended to forget much of the time that she actually lived in what would be known as the twenty-eighth century on Earth – the year 2792.

On Gallifrey, of course, the years were counted completely differently. It was the late autumn of the year 197ß652???-RE. RE stood for Rassilon Era. As far as she could tell that was the equivalent of AD in the Earth Christian calendar. It counted the years since Rassilon founded the Time Lord race and turned a previously powerful but rather callous and barbaric people into the very powerful but thoroughly civilised society that they were so proud of.

She had never before travelled to Earth in that same century. For a long time she had thought she didn’t want to go. The very idea of visiting her home in the future disturbed her for reasons she could never entirely explain.

But she had spent so much time lately with Lady Margery Stevenson, wife of the Earth Ambassador to Ventura. She talked of Earth, and in particular that part of it they both came from in their different times – Merseyside – in such vivid detail that curiosity had got the better of her doubts. Marion asked Kristoph if he would take her to Liverpool in 2792, to see for herself how much had changed and what might have stayed the same.

Lady Margery hadn’t been home for some years herself. The hyperspace ship from Earth took six months to reach the Venturan system. When Lord Stevenson had taken the post of Ambassador it had been a long term undertaking for them both. She had been resigned to the idea of speaking to her family only by videophone and making a life for herself offworld.

When Kristoph suggested to them a trip home to Earth that would take only a few hours, Lord and Lady Stevenson both jumped at the chance.

They were going to stay at Lady Margery’s family home on the Wirral, but they went, first, to Liverpool itself. Kristoph parked the TARDIS on the waterfront at Pierhead.

The sight of it was at once very familiar and very new to Marion. She stepped from the TARDIS and walked in the landscaped park between the river and the graceful buildings that lined the waterfront.

She looked up at the sky. It was the clear pale blue of a crisp winter’s day. There might even be snow in the surrounding countryside. But the metropolitan area known as Merseyside was protected by a huge envirodome that spanned both sides of the river. Within it, the temperature and humidity was carefully controlled. It felt no colder than late September. She wore a light shawl over her dress and sandals on her feet.

She sat on a bench and looked at the river. It was still as wide as it ever was, but there was a great glass bridge spanning it now. It carried a gravity tram of all things, for foot passengers. Cars, of course, didn’t need a bridge. They flew along the carefully controlled lanes in mid-air, roughly corresponding to the routes the old Birkenhead and Wallasey tunnels used to take under the river.

She watched a tram car made of glass and steel that was crossing the bridge silently and swiftly, slowing as it got close to the terminus at Prince’s Dock so that the passengers could enjoy the view.

“The bridge isn’t REALLY glass, surely?” Marion asked. “It could never stand up.”

“Not the sort you know of,” Margery answered her. “It’s not silicone based. It’s a form of transparent steel. It replaced glass in most modern constructions because it is absolutely unbreakable.”

“People don’t need glass any more?”

“Not for the last century,” Margery confirmed. “It was a local man who invented it, you know - Fergus Lewis, later given the title Lord Woodside when he was honoured for his work. He was a scientist at the Pilkington Institute of St. Helens before he patented his formula in 2689.”

Lord Stevenson smiled indulgently at his wife’s word perfect account of that scientific history and waited for a penny to drop. Margery’s surname before she married him was Lewis. Marion knew that, of course, but she hadn’t yet made the connection.

“So Pilkingtons still make a sort of glass?” Marion took some satisfaction from that, not the least because the company still existed in the twenty-eighth century. It had been touch and go whether it would make it to the end of the twentieth with productivity downsizing and shares sliding. “And it was used to build the bridge right here in Merseyside. That’s good to know. Most of the traditional industries of my time were lost to foreign rivals – the ship-building and everything Liverpool was once so famous for.”

“Well, now it is the centre of transparent steel production,” Margery confirmed. “Grandfather’s invention has brought prosperity to the city as well as full employment.”

The penny dropped. Marion looked at the bridge with a new interest, knowing that her friend’s forebears had been so instrumental in its creation.

“It’s still amazing that it stands up all by itself, though,” she remarked. The gracefully curving bridge with its apex halfway between the two shores was, as far as she could see, completely free-standing. There were no stanchions, no suspension wires. It looked impossible.

“Well, of course a structure as long as the Woodside Bridge needs a LITTLE help,” Margery admitted. “There is an anti-gravity field used at the centre point to anchor it firmly. Do you see just there, in line with the old tunnel venting station, there is a depression in the water.”

She couldn’t, in fact, see it without the aid of special telescopic glasses that Kristoph had bought from a vendor. Margery had a pearl-rimmed set of her own. Marion used the glasses and looked out across the river. She saw the place where a ten metre square hole was actually created in the water. The tide ran around it just as if there was an invisible pylon there.

“It is beautiful,” she said. “And utterly amazing. In my time you had to go all the way to Runcorn to find a bridge across the Mersey. The ferry and the tunnels were our only way to the other side.”

“The ferries still run on weekends,” Margery told her. “A group of historical enthusiasts pilot them for the tourists. The tunnels have been closed for a long time. The advent of the air car really made them redundant, of course. The last I heard there was talk about turning them into some kind of tourist attraction, too, but nothing has been done, yet. I must say, I’m not sure I like the idea of being down there in the dark, under the water.”

“It wasn’t really dark,” Marion told her friend. “There were plenty of lights. And they were a long way from the water, itself. There were never any leaks or any problems of that sort.”

Kristoph smiled softly as he heard Marion defend the engineering feats that were the Mersey tunnels. Whenever he had driven through either in an ordinary car she had closed her eyes most of the way and breathed a sigh of relief when they emerged into the open air again. Though she was born and raised a stone’s throw from the Queensway Tunnel, she had never overcome her own childhood fear of the water bursting in when she was halfway through.

She turned from the river and looked at the great landmarks of the Liverpool waterfront. Most of them she recognised from her own time. The warm red sandstone of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral rose above and a little to the right of the cupola atop the clean white Portland stone of the Port of Liverpool Building. The other two of Liverpool’s Three Graces were equally unchanged. The Cunard Building and the Royal Liver Building were just as she knew them except that the two Liver Birds which had a patina of verdigris in her time were now a shimmering gold – actual gold plating on the original copper-based sculptures, Margery explained. A sign of just how much they were loved by twenty-eighth century Liverpudlians.

“A sign of how honest twenty-eighth century Liverpudlians must be,” Marion commented. “I don’t think gold plate would have stayed on them in my time. But your Twenty-Eighth century architects had funny ideas about what fits in a scene like this.”

She turned her attention to the old Mann Island site where an ultra modern edifice of concrete and glass swept upwards like the prow of a very angular ship.

“It’s all right in its way,” Marion admitted. “I mean, I don’t mind modern architecture in its proper place. But I’m not sure Pierhead IS the proper place. It hardly goes with the classical lines of the early twentieth century buildings.”

Margery and Lord Stevenson both looked at the building in question and then at Marion. Then both laughed. She wondered why until Kristoph put his arm around her shoulders and whispered in her ear.

“My dear, that is the Museum of Liverpool, built in 2011, only two decades after you left the city to live on Gallifrey.”

“Oh.” She suppressed a blush and recovered her thoughts. “Well, Twenty-FIRST century architects had funny ideas about what fits in a scene like this, too. It really looks odd in comparison with the Graces.”

“Does it?” Margery considered. “I’ve always taken it for granted as part of the progression of styles in your century. The Graces represent the classicism of the Edwardian era – baroque, Italian Renaissance and Byzantine styles. Then the Egyptian inspired George’s Dock Ventilation station represented the modernism of the era between the wars, the two very different post war styles of the two cathedrals, and finally the museum completing the picture. It all seemed to belong to the same historical mosaic making up the view I always loved.”

Marion looked again at the building that belonged to her own era after all. If she had remained in Liverpool instead of going to live on another world she would have seen it being built, seen the waterfront change gradually, and learn to take it for granted just as Margery did. Coming back to it now had been a bit of a shock to her sensibilities, but her friend was almost certainly right about it.

“Well, if you ladies have finished admiring the architecture, shall we head for the tram?” Lord Stevenson suggested. “We are expected in Birkenhead for lunch.”

“We’re going on the tram?” Marion asked. “Over the river?”

“You can’t visit Liverpool without riding on the Gravity Tram,” Lord Stevenson told her. “It is the one experience not to be missed.”

“I quite agree,” Kristoph said. “That’s why I parked the TARDIS at Pierhead rather than going straight to Birkenhead. Come, my dear. I am quite looking forward to this myself.”

He took Marion’s hand in his. Arthur Stevenson took his wife’s arm and the two couples walked leisurely through the garden in front of the Graces, heading towards Prince’s Dock, where the terminus for the Gravity Tram that took passengers over the Mersey via the Lewis Bridge was actually a structure of transparent steel that straddled the water of the long defunct dock itself, another triumph for local invention. Marion looked forward to a very exciting and new experience. Even though exciting and new experiences happened to her regularly since a Time Lord came into her life she didn’t often experience them right back where she began on the banks of the River Mersey.