Apiath Traga was as close to the Human ideal of paradise as Marion had yet seen in her travels around the universe. It had a balmy temperature all year round and more miles of unspoilt coastline than inland territory due to the way the continents had split along several fault lines to create long, narrow islands in the blue ocean.

The chief industry of the planet was tourism, and its public beaches were always crowded with sunseekers of every possible skintype – dark, light, oily, multi-hued, flesh, hide and scales, claiming a portion of sand to spread out on for the day.

The VIP guests from Gallifrey didn’t have to fight for a spot on a public beach. They used a private one that belonged to the hereditary president of Traga and her family.

Tragans were people who enjoyed the sun. Although they had lost their scales over millennia of evolution, they were descended from reptiles and cold-blooded. Spending a day basking in the sunshine was their favourite leisure occupation. It was for that reason they rose at two o’clock in the morning and conducted all of their business in solar-heated rooms when it was still dark. That gave them the maximum hours of daylight to enjoy.

Kristoph had been up that early to attend a meeting with his fellow president and her aides. That was his excuse for being asleep on a deckchair under a sunshade for most of the day. Since he was a Time Lord and didn’t need so much sleep as other species, Marion strongly suspected he was just being lazy and enjoying the sunshine.

The Tragan president was asleep, too, though in full sunlight that warmed her blood. She wore the tiniest bikini that modesty permitted. Marion was more comfortable in a one piece swimsuit. So was Rodan who was learning to surf with the children of the Tragan President and other ministers.

The other remarkable thing about the Tragans was that they were amphibious. They had gills behind their ears that allowed them to swim underwater.

Rodan was Gallifreyan. She had the ability to close off her lungs and recycle her breathing for up to fifteen minutes at a time, so she was able to enjoy almost as much underwater fun as her friends.

As much as being under the surface they all loved being on top of the water on their boards. When they came ashore for refreshments, Rodan had explained how joyful it was to ride inside a ‘tube’. This meant being under a wave as it crashed over on itself and surfing inside the tube of air that was formed before it hit the shore and broke up.

Marion didn’t quite understand what she meant until Rodan put a cool hand on her cheek and mentally described the unique feeling of being inside a wave tube. It was amazingly quiet, the sounds of the ocean cut off by the water. Only a faint hissing of the surf roiling towards the shore could be heard.

“Amazing,” Marion agreed. “Do be careful, though, won’t you? I’m sure it must be a little bit dangerous.”

But it wasn’t. Not to Rodan. She had mastered so many skills – horse-riding, scuba diving, sea-horse riding. Surfing on a board was easy to her. She had picked it up straight away.

Kristoph listened to the conversation between his wife and foster-child in his dreams. He could do all those sort of things, too. His travels as a Celestial Intervention Agency man had brought him to many exotic locations and he had picked up all sorts of skills in order to look as if he fitted in. But he didn’t want to do it without Marion and he felt it wasn’t quite the right thing for her to be doing. Her heart was fully recovered from the operation she had needed a few years ago, but anything as strenuous as surfing was hardly recommended.

She had no ambitions to try, he noted. She was quite happy to sit in the shade of a sail-shaped diffuser that she had purchased on Saintal Pluca as a souvenir of that planet. There was a selection of Tragan fruits for refreshment and if she wanted it, music on an amazing portable system called ‘air tune’. It worked by placing an almost invisible bubble behind her head like a cushion and the music of her choice would play directly into her ears at the chosen volume. She had tried it this morning and found it very comfortable, but it was just as nice listening to the waves on the shore and the sounds of birds in the sky.

Kristoph was enjoying the same simple pleasures himself. He knew he could sit by the sea any time he wanted at home on Gallifrey. There was a beautiful stretch of coastline along the southern edge of the Northern Continent. Many of his friends owned beachside villas there.

But if he did, there would be several dozen Presidential Guards watching him and the next time he was in the Panopticon, some fool would table a question about why the Lord High President had time to lounge by the beach. And besides, Gold Usher would think that swimming trunks were quite an unseemly choice of clothing for him, unbefitting the Office of President.

Gold Usher could do with a bit of sun on his own face. But the thought of that venerable man in swimming trunks was impossible.

The Tragans had no such trouble. The outfit the President was wearing would be considered over-dressing on the beaches favoured by the indigenous people. Their own skins were the proper and natural covering. They had only adopted the concept of clothing to coincide with their offworld contact. The government took to wearing robes of office when they met with representatives of other worlds and the people began to clothe themselves when mixing with the tourists who visited them.

It was a strange world for Gallifrey to have dominion over. The only reason they did was that the Tragans were telepathic and the Time Lords sought to keep close ties with any species with those skills.

The Tragans could only communicate with each other telepathically. Attempts to make contact with other species that way proved fruitless. They didn’t worry about it. They didn’t think other people wanted to hear what they thought, anyway.

They were probably right. A government that sat for only three hours, during the night hours, in order to maximize sun-bathing time during the day, would scandalise Gold Usher, who believed that the business of government was the most important business of all.

Gold Usher was probably right. This lifestyle was nice for a short break, but it wouldn’t do for a people who loved to argue fruitlessly as much as Time Lords did.

Everyone roused for tea at what would be three o’clock by Marion’s Earth time, but a little earlier on Gallifrey with its twenty-six hour day. Tragan had twenty-two hours in their planetary revolution, four of them in full darkness, and three hours each end of the day of balmy, fragrant twilight.

This was a light tea to bolster them for another few hours of sun-bathing before the sun began to drop low over the southern horizon and lose some of its intensity

It was then that the Tragans were at their most awake and their most playful. As the sun dropped ever lower the quiet beach became a party place. A band came down onto the sand to play something like Tragan Calypso-Reggae. That was how Marion had described it when she heard it and Kristoph thought she had identified it very well. It was music to dance to barefoot, kicking up sand joyfully. Rodan and the other youngsters put away their boards but danced at the water’s edge, kicking up water instead of sand. The adults danced in pairs or in concentric circles, depending on the tune – the faster ones for group dancing and the slower ones for couples.

The Tragans danced in the same minimal clothing they wore all day. Marion put a sheer sarong around her waist and Kristoph wore a loose shirt in a colourful pattern that would still give Gold Usher cause to doubt his fitness for Office. When the sun set completely torches on long poles were lit around the ad hoc dance arena and a fire pit was filled with combustible material in order to roast the carcass of a huge animal. The aroma of meat cooking filled the air along with the salty sea smell and the scent of night opening flowers that grew along the edge of the beach.

The dancing stopped when the meat was cooked and everyone filled their plates with mouth-watering slices covered with fruity sauce and accompanied by something much like a sweet potato.

Rodan succumbed to weariness after she had eaten and settled down on the deckchair under the sun diffuser which now served to keep the sea breeze off her.

Kristoph and Marion carried on dancing until long after the midnight hour. They enjoyed the music and the free and easy way of the Tragans in their natural environment – by the sea.

“Their distant ancestors were a bit like the Gallapagos iguanas,” Kristoph said when they stopped dancing for a while and walked on the wet sand from the retreating tide. “Even when they had taken on a more humanoid form they still liked nothing better than basking on the sun-warmed rocks and diving into the water to swim when the fancy took them.”

“Sounds like a good life,” Marion agreed. “But then they got sophisticated and built houses, drove cars….”

“The houses, of course, all have sun-roofs and swimming pools. No Tragan day is complete without three or four hours of basking.”

“I enjoyed it today,” Marion agreed. “I think I could enjoy some of it tomorrow, too. After that… I think I’ll start to feel lazy.”

“There is no such concept on this world. It’s just their way of life.”

“Are you going back to the Parliament House again tonight?” Marion asked.

Kristoph had more to discuss with the Tragans, but he didn’t, in fact, return to the Parliament in the small city that was the administrative capital of the planet. Instead, Parliament came to the beach. As the dancing came to an end and the fire pit was doused, the Tragan ministers settled themselves in a rough circle on the sand. Kristoph joined them. Marion watched for a while as they talked politics in the most laid back way she could imagine.

She tried to imagine it, but failed. The idea of the High Council of Gallifrey eating cold roast meat in sandwiches of flat bread and drinking fruit juice while they talked over some weighty matter of government was impossible.

She couldn’t even picture the British government that she had been used to all her life giving up their seats in Westminster. It was just impossible.

And yet, the trade deals that Kristoph was negotiating were just as important as anything that went on in the Panopticon. The Tragans took their work as seriously as any other politician. They just chose to enjoy the warm breezes and the stars in the sky above them as they worked.

Marion retreated to the sun diffuser and settled down on a deckchair with a soft blanket over her more out of habit than anything else. She used the air tune cushion as a pillow and listened to soft jazz as she fell asleep under those same stars.

She woke a little before dawn to the smell of coffee. Kristoph pressed a cup into her hands and invited her to walk while they drank their early morning drink.

“Everyone else is asleep,” he whispered. “The Parliament broke up an hour ago. I put myself into a deep level trance for a while to refresh the mind and body. I won’t need to sleep now until mid-afternoon. I might have a go at the surfing with the youngsters in a bit.”

“Too much for me,” Marion admitted. “I’ll be happy with a good book for the morning. “I’ve got my electronic reader with me for just that purpose.”

They walked in the surf as the sun came up over the island, striking the beach and turning it golden. When it struck the sea it turned that a silvery-blue colour.

Soon the surfers rose from where they had spent the night. Rodan was with them. She had slept as much as any active child could possibly sleep when her bedroom was on a beach on Apiath Traga. Her foster parents watched her ride the waves with the other children before everyone was called to a breakfast of cold meat, bread and as much fruit as they desired and another gloriously simple day of contentment began.