“From one extreme to another,” Marion remarked as she relaxed in a spa bath and looked up at a curved glass ceiling across which a very large fish had just swum. “A few days ago we were in artificial gravity on an artificial planet. Now we’re on a planet that is ninety-percent ocean in a hotel on the sea bed.”

“Yes,” Kristoph noted in a lazy tone. He was enjoying the unique ambiance of the hotel suite with a sea view of a very different kind. The lights within the room were soft, casting no shadows and no reflections that would obstruct the sight of the myriad different fish. “It’s beautiful.”

“Is it me or are there more colours in the fish here on Aestuno-Drueff?” Marion added as a shoal of purple and orange striped fish zipped swiftly across her view and hundreds of almost transparent silver-red ones scattered in all directions as three huge yellow and blue spotted ones ploughed through them like undersea juggernauts.

“I think it’s you, my dear,” Kristoph answered. “Your Earth oceans are teaming with multi-coloured life, but as far as I know you’ve never been scuba diving in the pacific or Indian oceans.”

“No, I haven’t,” Marion admitted. The closest I’ve been to Earth sea life is paddling in the sea at Rhyl when there was a swarm of jelly fish in the water – and eating cod and chips, of course.”

There were a range of fish-based dishes available in the revolving restaurant at the hub of the hotel, but battered cod wasn’t among them. That was something unique to planet Earth, and mainly to the British part of it at that.

“There’s a Sea Life Centre at Rhyl, isn’t there?” Kristoph added. “A walk through aquarium.”

“Not when I was a little girl,” Marion answered. “Later… when I was in foster homes… I never really went anywhere on holiday. Harrogate was my first trip anywhere after I went to university. And then YOU preferred to take me to other planets.”

“There is some amazing sea life on Gallifrey, for that matter,” Kristoph remarked. “We should have a weekend on the ocean some time. We could explore in the TARDIS, using it like a mini submarine.”

“We could go to the Pacific ocean, too,” Marion suggested. “If we haven’t had our fill of fish on this trip.”

“I am thoroughly enjoying the fish,” Kristoph admitted. “I’m enjoying this environment. I feel quite relaxed here, and not just because we are in a spa bath right now. I have felt thoroughly tranquil ever since we arrived.”

“Yes, you have, haven’t you,” Marion commented. “Just like you used to be when we first met. I never realised just how stressful your work is now. But you look so much better this last few days.”

Kristoph smiled languidly.

“I don’t think I realised how stressed I was, either,” he admitted. “Until it all fell away from me in the peace of an underwater world.”

“I’m glad,” Marion told him. “I don’t know if people with two hearts can have stress related coronaries, and I don’t want to find out the hard way.”

Kristoph reached out and took her hand in his. He pressed it against his chest. She felt his two hearts beating in slow syncopation, completely at rest. He pressed his hand against hers and felt her single heart beating. It was at rest, too. She was relaxed and happy. He was glad about that. Her heart was far more at risk than either of his and they had endured some stressful times lately. If he seemed worried, it was at least partly because of the effect those events had on her. It was a relief to know she was calm and happy right now.

“I was scared before we came here, mind you,” Marion admitted. “I actually expected to feel claustrophobic about an underwater hotel. When we landed on the surface platform and got into that revolving glass lift going down into the water….”

“You expected it to leak?”

“Yes.” She laughed.

“I did have a small misgiving, myself,” Kristoph admitted. “After all, we had problems with gravity on the Ring of Aabessia. I was a little worried about history repeating itself in some way.”

“Yes, I had the same thought,” Marion replied. “And it WAS very strange when we went from sunlight into the half light just under the water, then darker as we got deeper. I wouldn’t have minded quite so much if the lift wasn’t made of glass. It’s like I don’t mind the height going up the Eiffel Tower because the lift is enclosed and I can’t see anything. But in the Blackpool Tower lift I can see the girders passing by and I know how high up I am in a box hanging by cables.”

Kristoph remembered experiencing both trips in Marion’s company. She had enjoyed the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and from Blackpool’s famous high point she had been the one telling him about the view of Southport sands across the estuary and the hills of the Lake district to the north. He hadn’t imagined it bothering her at all.

“You’ve stood on the threshold of the TARDIS door looking at supernovas,” he reminded her.

“But you were in control of the TARDIS,” she pointed out. “Anyway, it WAS all right once we got down here. It really is beautiful and calm, and I love watching the fish swimming over the top of us. Perhaps we should do it in the lounge with a drink, soon, though. We’re going to wrinkle up like prunes if we stay in here much longer.”

“Time Lord skin does not wrinkle in that way,” Kristoph told her. “But as yours does, and I don’t want you to spoil, we should certainly rise from this excellent spa bath.” He stood up, his body un-wrinkled and in magnificent shape for a man of his years, and stepped out of the sunken bath onto the non-slip tiled floor. He dried himself on warm, thick towels left by the staff. They could have had attendants to pass the towels and even dry them down afterwards, but Kristoph thought that was a service too far. He hadn’t been dried off after a bath by a servant since he was ten.

Marion rose, too. He put a silk robe around his body and watched her dry herself. She was still as beautiful as he remembered when she was barely more than a shy girl who dared to take a bath in his house on the second ‘date’ they ever had. He never told her that he had peaked in on her that afternoon, watching her relax in a steamy, bubble-filled bath that washed away the nervousness and inhibitions and let her believe that he was a real friend to her.

He hadn’t really seen anything he shouldn’t, of course. The bubbles were very thick. But he had felt the stirrings of love for her by then, a love that complicated his life, but in ways he found he wanted to complicate them.

Now she was his wife, and he was entitled to look at her in the bath, and out of it.

“You have got a little bit wrinkled up,” he said, reaching for a bottle of oil scented with essences of sea plants. “Lie down there on the towels and let me….”

Marion lay down and sighed deeply as he applied the oil to her body and massaged it in gently everywhere that the prolonged exposure to the water had robbed her skin of its natural moisture.

“Where does a Time Lord learn things like this?” she asked. “It certainly isn’t any class at the Prydonian Academy, and I’m sure the Celestial Intervention Agency didn’t include it in their training.”

“My mother is the most skilled herbalist on the southern plain. She knows everything there is to know about therapeutic massage.”

“Yes, but surely that’s not something that is passed on to an Oldblood Heir,” Marion pointed out with a soft laugh.

Kristoph didn’t answer her, and another reason occurred to her. She turned over onto her back and embraced him lovingly.

“When you came back from being a prisoner of war, wounded in mind and body,” she said. “Your mother tended to you, every day?”

“Like I was her babe in arms again,” Kristoph answered. “I think, even in the deep coma, I knew her touch, but I was too far gone to reach back to her. Later, when I was awake, but my body still had mending to do, she massaged my arms and legs until muscles that had atrophied began to be useful again.”

“I’m sorry to remind you of dark times,” Marion whispered.

“The dark times were before then. My mother’s tender care while I recovered was one of the blessed times… as are each and every day I have spent with you, my dear wife. Don’t fret about reminding me of things I should never forget – the love of my mother, the reassuring words of my father, the understanding of a brother who was born while they thought me dead. Those things were the making of me.”

He kissed her tenderly and reached to touch her in ways that had nothing to do with massaging her skin. She responded tentatively.

“Are you sure Rodan won’t be back, soon?” Marion asked.

“She is having scuba lessons with the children of the Venturan ambassador and those of the Prefect of Trekaerg.”

“The children of the Prefect of Trekaerg don’t need scuba lessons,” Marion pointed out. “They are from an ocean world, too, and have gills as well as lungs.”

“They are top of the class. Though from what I hear, Rodan is getting good at it, too. She’s a bright child, and a fast learner.”

“Will we have to build a diving pool for her when we get back to Gallifrey?” Marion wondered, remembering the trouble it took Kristoph to import the horses for their foster child.

“No, and if she wanted one I would draw the line,” Kristoph insisted. “The horses can live in a paddock next to her home when she goes back to her grandfather. They don’t represent an over-indulgence. Anything else would. But to get back to your point, she is going to be away by herself for some time, yet. Long enough….”

With that, he put his hands back where they had been and Marion submitted joyfully to the love of her Time Lord.

Later they finally did sit in the beautifully appointed drawing room of the presidential suite on a blue-white sofa almost as big as a king sized bed. They had drinks poured by one of Kristoph’s staff who then retreated from the room and left them in peace to enjoy the one hundred and eighty-degree view of the sea from the window that curved around to become the ceiling over half of the room. It was like being in an undersea bubble, safely separated yet at the sane tine still a part of the magnificent fauna of Aestuno-Drueff.

Marion had fallen asleep curled up next to Kristoph, who held her gently and watched the fish lazily. She didn’t notice the micro-vibrations that shook the room for a few seconds. He did, and he wondered about them for several minutes until his aide came into the room.

“Sir,” the man began. Kristoph held up a hand for silence and communicated with him telepathically.

“There has been a small explosion on the west side of the hotel,” the aide said. “An exo-glass window was blown out, but the emergency shields contained the water. The section has been sealed off.”

“It takes more than a small explosion to blow out exo-glass,” Kristoph pointed out. “And not one that can occur accidentally. Are you telling me there was another act of sabotage in a place where my family and I are visiting?”


“No, of course you’re not telling me that. You’re not paid to come to such conclusions, and I don’t expect you to. I am starting to wonder if Gallifrey’s Dominion planets are as peaceful and secure as I have been told they are.”

Again, his aide was not able to make any educated comment. His job was to sort Presidential papers into order of priority and mix cocktails, a combination of skills that didn’t require an understanding of interplanetary politics. There were others in his retinue he would get the full information from later.

Meanwhile, Rodan arrived back from her afternoon’s adventure. Kristoph brought her to her own parlour for fruit juice and all the news while he let Marion nap in the lounge.

“Papa, something happened to the hotel when we were on our way back in the submarine,” she added after she had run out of ways to describe the joy of swimming freely underwater. “A big window exploded and the water rushed in – and a man floated out. He didn’t have breathing tubes and he died.”

“You saw all that?” Kristoph asked. He held her hand tightly in his arms as she nodded. “My dear, you are too young to be a witness to violent death. I am sorry about that.”

“I wasn’t scared,” Rodan assured him. “But it was nasty to see.”

“Don’t think about it, my dear. I am sure it was just a bad accident. Sometimes they happen.”

Rodan nodded. She had the clear logic of a Gallifreyan, even at her tender age. She folded away the memory of what she had witnessed and filled her mind with thoughts of swimming alongside fish as big as she was that let her reach out and hold onto their dorsal fins, almost as if she was riding them like she rode her horse.

“Tell your mama about that when she wakes,” Kristoph told her. “And let’s not mention explosions and people floating without breathing apparatus.”

Rodan agreed to that, too. Kristoph sat with her and listened to more of her talk about scuba diving until one of his protectorate detail came to him with a more complete report of what had happened on the other side of the mile wide hotel complex.

A man had committed suicide by setting a sub-light time bomb against the exo-glass and letting himself become caught in the wave of water that flooded in. Nobody else had been hurt. Bulkheads had automatically sealed off the damaged room. His suicide note on a water-resistant computer pad was found as soon as the pumps had removed the sea water and the emergency repair staff were able to get inside.

A desperate end to a life, Kristoph thought. But not a threat on his own. He really had to stop thinking like a Celestial Intervention Agency man. Not everything was a conspiracy and some things, like the sabotage on Aabessia and this sad incident, were just coincidences.

“Come on,” he said to Rodan. “Let’s take some of this lovely fruit juice to your mama and you can tell her all about the fish, too.”