Marion wondered where exactly they were going. Kristoph had asked her to meet him for tea in the Capitol and after they had eaten they had got into the presidential limousine and, accompanied, of course, by the front and back security cars, they had set out across the Red Desert.

“Are we visiting the Camp?” she asked, referring to the outward bound school that began as a place of punishment and rehabilitation for the young Arcalian Renegades and was now considered a highly desirable place of learning which many Oldblood fathers had sent their boys to.

“Not this time,” Kristoph answered. “There’s something else I want you to see.”

They were, in fact, heading north-west, the opposite direction to where the camp was, well out of the way of the Dark Territory that was so much trouble to any vehicle.

They were travelling very fast, though it was hard to tell looking out of the window at an almost featureless scene. The sun beginning to set on the right hand side of the presidential convoy was the only clue to their speed and distance travelled. It dropped lower towards the horizon every minute. To the west, the yellow sky deepened in colour to rust brown while the sunset itself painted crimson red, orange and purple shades across the eastern sky.

“Stop the car for a while,” Kristoph told his driver. The presidential guard in the passenger seat was surprised, but he repeated the command to the drivers of the escort cars and the convoy of three hover limousines touched down on the sand.

The Lord High President got out of the car before his driver had time to open the door for him. He took his wife’s hand as she stepped out after him and walked a short way from the cars. The bodyguards quickly organised themselves into a phalanx of protection, but they weren’t needed. There was no threat in that empty piece of the desert in the last minutes of the day.

“It’s beautiful,” Marion remarked. “It’s like… Gone With the Wind but with more orange.”

Kristoph chuckled. That was possibly the most obscure way of describing the sunset on the Red Desert. Poets of a bygone age had waxed lyrical about it. Artists had reproduced it in iridescent oils and watercolours, mosaic and stained glass.

But nobody had EVER called it Gone With The Wind with more orange.

“It’s beautiful,” Marion added. “Whatever way it is described. “But surely we didn’t come all this way just to watch the sunset?”

“No, we didn’t. But since we were here, I thought we might enjoy it.”

The sun was almost completely set, now. Only a sliver remained. Then that, too, was gone and it was like turning out a light. The desert became that much darker. Marion looked up and saw the stars of the northern hemisphere shining brightly in the brown-black sky.

“It’s getting cold, Kristoph remarked. “Let’s get back in the car.”

Marion agreed. It WAS getting cold very quickly. When she first stepped out of the temperature controlled car she had felt the dry heat radiating up from the desert sand. Now it was cooling rapidly. She was glad to get back into the car set to feel comfortable at her own blood temperature.

“So WHERE are we going?” she asked again. “Not to the observatory at the pole, surely? I would have heard if there was an open evening there. Your father would be excited about it, for one thing.”

Kristoph smiled and agreed. Astronomical events were the one thing his father, at his great age, still took a youthful delight in – not counting nights when his mother had put something in his nightcap, anyway.

“We’re not going quite that far. Just a few miles into the temperate zone.”

It was fully dark by the time the desert gave way to tundra with a reasonably comfortable temperature all year round. Few people lived here except in mining colonies. It was too remote from the Capitol to attract the aristocratic classes or businessmen who needed to be near the stock exchange in the city.

But a glow in the distance resolved itself into an enviro-dome, and when they entered through one of the portals, Marion gasped in surprise.

“But how can there be a city here?” she asked, staring at the tall, majestic buildings on either side of a wide boulevard lined with trees. The primary material used in the buildings was a red sandstone like the desert, but that didn’t mean they were plain buildings like the factories and terraced streets of Lancashire industrial towns. Different shades of red from a pale rose-pink to deep burgundy decorated the cornices, and almost every building had a spire reaching towards the sky or a burnished bronze dome.

The open spaces had been planned, too. There were paved plazas with fountains and parklands with red grass underfoot and carefully cultivated flower beds.

“It isn’t REALLY here,” Kristoph said in reply to her puzzled question. “Not yet. This is a hologram of what the new city of Arcadia WILL look like when it has been built.”

Marion was speechless. She had seen some amazing things since coming to Gallifrey, but this was absolutely incredible.

“WHY?” she managed to ask after several minutes.

“So that people can take a look at it and submit changes that might need to be made, and also to buy the properties.”

“Buy a property that doesn’t even exist, yet?”

“It’s not that unusual,” Kristoph answered. “In my time living on Earth, I don’t know how many brochures I got in the post - for new city apartments that were still derelict warehouses or villas on the Costa del Sol that were no more than artist’s impressions.”

“Yes, and I wouldn’t put a penny into a project like that,” Marion told him. “And nor would you, I am sure.”

“Well, some of those city apartments in downtown Liverpool have turned out very nice,” Kristoph answered. “But in this case, the project has the guarantee of the highest authority on this planet.”

“YOU are the highest authority on this planet,” Marion pointed out.

“Exactly. I have guaranteed that this city WILL be built. We don’t have dodgy property deals on Gallifrey. The budget for the completion of the development by two years this Septima was agreed. In case of cost overrun an additional sum was also set aside.” He tapped on the internal window and signalled to the driver. He stopped the limousine outside a very beautiful building with its three floors decorated in coloured bricks. There was a glass dome rising up from the roof and gardens and playing fields all around it.

There was an identical building directly across the plaza. Marion wondered why.

“Come and see what it will look like inside,” Kristoph said. This time he let his chauffeur open the car door and he stepped out with Presidential dignity before reaching for Marion’s hand. He ordered his guards to maintain a low profile before he escorted his wife through the hologram main doors into the hologram building.

“Oh, it’s a school!” Marion exclaimed as she looked around the assembly hall with its glass domed roof. Leading off from it on three balconied floors were classrooms, a library, music, art and drama rooms and a science laboratory. It was everything a school ought to be.

“Why is there an identical building across the way?” she asked again. “Don’t tell me one is for girls and one for boys.”

“Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as that,” Kristoph admitted. “This is the free school for Caretaker children. “The other is for the fee-paying sons and daughters of the Newblood residents of Arcadia.”

Marion looked at him sharply. Kristoph anticipated what was coming.

“I tried very hard for integration,” he said. “But too many councillors were against it. I at least managed to ensure parity. The schools will be identical in style and building materials, and they will be equipped to the same standard down to the last electronic slate and stylus on the last desk, and staffed with equally well qualified and experienced teachers. That was the best I could do.”

“I… suppose that will do. but does that mean that the High Council intends to pay for the education of Caretakers here in Arcadia?”

“They will pay for the staff and general maintenance,” Kristoph conceded. “But it was my hope that a Lady of an Oldblood House with a fortune in diamonds from her wedding dress still to dispose of might want to endow the free school and ensure the next half dozen generations, at least, will be educated to the very best standards.”

It was a few moments before Marion realised that he meant her. Then the hologram walls and windows and the hologram marble floor with the seal of Rassilon inlaid into it began to feel much more real as she imagined the children, from the age of four to twenty, coming here first to be prepared for the Untempered Schism, and then for entrance into one of the Great Academies in the Capitol.

“Yes,” she decided. “I will do it. just as soon as I can convert the diamonds into funds.”

“We’ll visit my broker next week,” Kristoph promised. “Lady Dúccesci will be pleased. Malika was the strongest opponent of integration, but his wife was as anxious as you that the free school would be fully equipped.”

“Talitha is a good woman,” Marion agreed. “I do wonder about Lord Dúccesci sometimes, though. Why would he oppose a school where all students would be equal?”

“Because they wouldn’t be equal. It would be obvious who was a free student and who was paying their fees. The lines of demarcation would be set in at the age of four, and they would never be crossed except for fights between Newblood and Caretaker and instances of bullying.”

“Kristoph, it sounds as if you agree with him,” Marion noted.

“Put that way, I do,” he answered. “Arcadia isn’t the place to break down class barriers. The best we can do is build fine new homes for the working class of our population and provide this school and other means of advancement for those who work hard.”

“I suppose there is no other way,” Marion conceded.

“There isn’t. Now, if you’ve seen enough of your school, there is somewhere else I want to see. We’ll pass the library on the way. I am sure you and Talitha will be forming a committee to ensure it is filled with the decadent works of D.H. Lawrence as well as the greatest literature of the twelve galaxies.”

“We most certainly WILL,” Marion answered. She quietly anticipated meeting with Talitha Dúccesci and Lady Arpexia among others to make such plans. When she saw the beautifully appointed building with its own mini-plaza full of fountains and sculpture, she knew it would be a task equal to all of the smaller free libraries she had seen established in townships across the southern plain.

But they left the main thoroughfare where the public buildings would be and came to a residential neighbourhood where some very elegant apartment buildings and houses were planned. Marion was surprised to see a small crowd outside one such structure – eight storeys high and topped by a floor entirely made of wrought iron and glass as if somebody had put a huge hothouse on the roof.

The crowd were there for an auction. These private buildings were for sale even before they were built, to the highest bidder. Marion looked at the faces in the crowd and recognised Lord Hext and Lord Dúccesci, Ravenswode, slightly aloof and not talking to anyone, and several others that she knew. A lot of wealthy men were interested in buying property in the new city.

Kristoph talked to a few of his friends and colleagues, but he gave no indication of his interest in the property. When the auction began he didn’t take part, he just watched the proceedings.

Then just as Lord Ravenswode thought he had cleared off all opposing bids Kristoph named his own price. Ravenswode was so surprised to be outbid by the Lord High President he forgot to make a counter bid. The auction was over and Kristoph owned a building.

Or so it seemed. Marion was by his side when he sealed the deal with a cash deposit that he had brought with him. She heard him tell the agent to make out the title deed for the apartment building to Rodan Mielles. She gasped in surprise but said nothing until the transaction was complete and he put the crisp new parchment deed inside his robe for safe-keeping.

“I told you I would make sure Rodan’s future was secure,” he said. “This is her dowry if she chooses it to be. It is her independence if she doesn’t want to marry. There are eight apartments to collect rents from, or seven if she elects to live in one of them.”

“You did this… to show me that you meant what you said. Because it is obvious I won’t live long enough to see her leave the Academy as an educated woman and decide her own destiny.”

“I did it because it is a very good investment,” Kristoph replied. “Arcadia is going to be a very desirable place to live. But there is that, too.”

“You’re wonderful,” Marion told him. She reached to kiss him on the cheek. “Thank you, from me. I don’t imagine Rodan will be entirely excited about it just yet. But it will be ideal when she is a grown woman.”

“I’m glad you approve. Now, shall we head back to the Capitol. Dúccesci has invited us to stay the night at his town house. You and Talitha can start hatching your plans for the library before dinner.”