“What planet is this?” Ben asked as he stepped out of the TARDIS and looked at the blue water and the stretch of fine, clean sand with palm trees providing a shady place further up the beach.

“It’s Earth, silly,” Donna told him as she took his hand and they walked together. She was in a sunhat and light dress with sandals. She looked back and grinned at The Doctor. He had abandoned his jacket and tie and put on a pair of sunglasses. He caught up with them and grinned happily.

“What do you think?” he asked. “Do you fancy a few days rest and recreation on a holiday island off the coast of Queensland in the Commonwealth of Australia?”

“Australia?” Ben looked worried. “But…”

“Ben!” The Doctor chided him gently. “Transportation of convicts ended in 1868. Australia is nothing to be scared of. It’s a lovely place. Friendly people, friendly climate….”

“Not so friendly wildlife,” Donna pointed out. “We’ve got cable at home. I’ve seen those programmes… the world’s most deadly spider is Australian. It has more poisonous snakes than anywhere else on the planet…”

The Doctor flashed a grin at her. She grinned back.

“Still, Australia! Can’t be bad! What year is it? I can send mum a postcard. She’ll tell the whole street in seconds.”

“I’ll bet she will,” The Doctor laughed.

“Doctor, what about the TARDIS?” Ben asked. “Are you just going to leave it there?”

“Oh, it’ll be fine. It’s above the high water mark.”

“Yes, but… won’t people think it’s strange? It wasn’t there a few minutes ago, and now it is. Won’t they…”

“It has a Somebody Else’s Problem Field on it,” The Doctor answered light-heartedly. “Even if someone walked into it and broke his nose he would carry on walking and not worry about it.”

Donna laughed. She got the cultural reference to Somebody Else’s Problem. Ben didn’t. His knowledge of English literature was widening, but she hadn’t got to that one, yet.

“It’s the same as people in posh clothes walking past beggars and not seeing them, because they’re somebody else’s problem,” she explained to Ben. “It’s not very nice, really.”

“No, it isn’t,” The Doctor agreed. “It taps into the selfishness of most sentient beings. But it’s useful for me.”

“But… That woman isn’t ignoring the TARDIS,” Ben looked back at the police box again. The Doctor turned and noticed the woman who had walked right up to it and was touching it carefully, feeling for the faint vibrations that were always present even when the TARDIS was stationary.

“Oh… Oh….” The Doctor made a strangely emotional sound in the back of his throat, then he sprinted towards her. Ben and Donna watched as the woman jumped back away from him at first, then after a rather hurried explanation, accompanied by hand gesticulations, hugged him enthusiastically.

When the hugging was done, he brought her by the hand to meet his friends.

“Donna Noble, Ben Carpenter, I want you both to meet Miss Tegan Jovanka, an old friend of mine. Well, when I say old, I don’t mean to imply… it’s been a lot longer for me than for her, of course…”

The Doctor seemed to be having a lot of trouble with his social skills just then. Donna was surprised. She had seen him holding his own at diplomatic conferences. But he was totally undone by this chance meeting.

Tegan was in her mid-forties, or maybe a bit older, Donna thought as she eyed her with a woman’s criticism of another woman. She was slender, with dark hair cut short. She smiled warmly at them all.

“Hello,” she said, shaking Donna and Ben by the hand. “You’re hanging out with him these days, are you? I used to do that years ago. He was different then. But… maybe not so different, in some ways.”

“We should take notes,” Donna told her. “Travels with The Doctor. Maybe we ought to write a book.”

“Would anyone believe us?” she answered with a laugh. Donna decided she liked Tegan. Ben smiled at her, but seemed suddenly shy. The Doctor got his act together and asked if she was busy.

“Not so busy I can’t find time for you,” she answered. “It really is wonderful to see you, Doctor. I’ve thought of you often, you know. I… don’t regret leaving when I did. But I have missed you.”

Ben and Donna exchanged glances. They wondered what went on between the two of them. Was Tegan an old flame? The Doctor glanced their way and gave them a ‘look’. It was impossible to describe it exactly, but it completely derailed their train of thought.

“So what brings you to Tangalooma?” Tegan asked as she brought them up the beach towards a long pier or jetty and a place where a café went right down to the beach. She invited them to sit and waved towards the waiter who called her ‘Miss Tegan’ and took her order for iced coffees all round.

“Actually, I was just about to ask you the same thing,” The Doctor replied. “The last I heard you were living happily in Brisbane.”

“I still have a flat there,” she answered. “But I share a very nice beachfront villa with my boyfriend, Gerry. He’s one of the marine biologists here. And I…” She pointed to a seaplane anchored near the end of the jetty. Along the fuselage were the words ‘Tegan’s Aerial Tours’. “You know I always loved flying. But being a hostess wasn’t really what I wanted. It was like being a waitress, except you can’t throw out stroppy customers. But I got my pilot’s licence and saved to buy my own plane. I’ve got five now. We take tourists up to view the island from the air, and also light freight from Brisbane to here.”

She sounded proud of her achievements. And she had a right to be. The Doctor told her so. Then he sat back in his chair and drank his coffee while Tegan, Donna and Ben swapped tales of life in the TARDIS. He seemed oblivious to what they were saying. A lot of it was highly complimentary to him. Some of it was a gentle dig at his alien indifference to everyone else’s health and welfare as he got stuck into an adventure.

“What really worries me,” Tegan said to her two successors as companions to The Doctor. “Is just why he brought you here? If he says it’s to enjoy the sunshine and watch Gerry and his colleagues feeding the dolphins then he’s a big fibber. He NEVER takes holidays. Which means there’s something here that interests him. And THAT really worries me. Because I like Tangalooma the way it is. I don’t want Daleks or Cybermen or… or Sea Devils… reducing it to a smoking ruin.”

“Tegan!” The Doctor admonished her gently. “Would I let that happen?”

“Just promise me it isn’t Daleks or Cybermen,” she urged him.

“Or Sea Devils, thank you,” Donna added. “I don’t know what they are, but I don’t like the sound of them at all.”

“It’s nothing like that,” The Doctor promised. “There is something. I sensed a trace of it as we came into Earth’s orbit, and followed it down to here. I’m picking up low level telepathic images now. Very low level. I’m having difficulty working out what it is at all. But I don’t get any sense of hostility. More like somebody needing help. I’m getting a sort of telepathic SOS.”

“From here?” Ben looked around at what seemed to him a bright, happy place. His perception of Australia up until now had been one where men and women toiled under a taskmaster for long years in hope of earning their freedom. But this was a place where people WERE free. He watched them walking on the pier and lying beside a blue swimming pool built into the rocky shore, eating and drinking good things as they enjoyed themselves. Others were sitting on towels on the long sandy beach. He saw a boat go by with a person towed along behind – he vaguely understood that to be something called ‘water skiing.’ He looked up in the sky and saw a person hanging from a pair of colourful wings. He searched his recent memory and remembered that was called hang gliding. And even as he watched a second sea plane came in to land next to the one already moored.

It didn’t look like a place where anyone would be in distress.

“So this is a rescue mission?” Donna asked. “We’re here to help somebody… or some thing. Like when I first met you and you were helping that bogeyman in London.”

Ben and Tegan both looked at her and decided they’d like to hear that story sometime. But it sounded as if there was already a story going on right here.

“A rescue mission, yes,” The Doctor said. “At least it will be if I can find out who needs rescuing and from where.”

“How can I help?” Tegan asked immediately. “Whatever it is, just say the word. I know the island and the waters around it like the back of my hand.”

The Doctor smiled widely.

“Actually,” he said. “I was just thinking an aerial tour of the island would be a very good idea. How much do you charge for three passengers?”

“For you, on the house, Doctor,” Tegan replied.

In fact, The Doctor insisted on paying. Aviation fuel wasn’t free, after all. And while she was in the air with them she couldn’t take any other passengers. He settled the account before he, Donna and Ben settled in the comfortable passenger seats of the De Havilland Otter.

Ben looked a little nervous, and as the plane took off from the calm waters of Tangalooma Bay he clung to the arm rests and kept his eyes closed tight.

“But you’ve been to the other side of the universe in the TARDIS,” Donna pointed out to him.

“That’s… different…” he managed to say.

“It’s true,” Tegan said from the pilot’s seat. “It is different. The TARDIS is fantastic, but it is nothing like flying a plane. There isn’t the same sense of mastery over something powerful that responds to my hand at the controls.”

“Well…” The Doctor replied. “Actually, that’s exactly how I feel about the TARDIS. And as flying machines go they don’t come more powerful. But I do understand what you mean.” He looked around at Ben. “Open your eyes and look out. It’s absolutely magnificent.”

“It really is,” Donna assured him. Ben slowly did as they were urging him. He looked out at Tangalooma Bay below. The sea was several shades of ultramarine, depending on the depth of the reefs. The beach was beige white, reflecting the sunshine. Beyond that, the island itself was mostly green and covered in trees.

Tegan circled the resort twice and then set a course roughly north along the coast, close to the beach that stretched like a ribbon between land and sea. Ben still looked a little worried about flying, but he was entranced by the view. He watched yachts and speedboats below and when Tegan flew low and pointed out a pod of dolphins hunting tuna he almost forgot about his fear of flying in his amazement.

It was a sight to behold. The dolphins were leaping out of the water gracefully and plunging back down, dragging the tuna with them. Donna was a little disturbed to see blooms of fresh blood on the water.

“I’m being silly,” she said. “I’ve only ever seen dolphins in a zoo, jumping up to take fish from the keepers. Dead fish, I mean. But obviously… in the wild… they must kill to eat. Only, we see so many cute images of them. It’s strange to think of them as predators.”

“We feed the dolphins at Tangalooma,” Tegan said. “In the evening, a pod of them comes into the bay and we feed them for the tourists. We only give them about ten percent of their daily diet, though. They’re real, wild dolphins. We don’t interfere with their natural life cycle. Although if any of them are injured or sick we can help them, of course. And the feeding sessions are a chance to observe them in that way.”

“I’d like to see that,” Donna said. “We can, can’t we, Doctor? We are staying long enough to do that?”

“We very well might,” The Doctor answered. Donna smiled. Rescue mission, this might be. But so long as they didn’t know who they were rescuing, it could also be a bit of a holiday for them. Watching dolphins feeding in the bay by moonlight sounded good.

“What’s that?” Ben asked, forgetting his fear altogether as he saw another interesting feature of the bay. “Was there an accident?”

“No,” Tegan explained. “That’s an artificial reef started in the 1960s by sinking some of the old whaling ships. This island wasn’t always about preserving wildlife, I’m afraid. In the past, over six thousand humpback whales were slaughtered and processed right where the resort now stands. The ships were scuppered to form a sheltered harbour for leisure yachts and a marine habitat. People come from all over the world to dive among the wrecks. I’ve been down there a couple of times. It’s amazing.”

“Well, I’m glad some good came of those horrible ships,” Donna said. “I can’t stand that sort of thing. It’s a strange looking place, but a great idea. Don’t you think so, Doctor?”

The Doctor didn’t reply. Donna turned to him. His eyes were open, but they seemed to be focussed somewhere else. She reached out to touch him, but then changed her mind. It might be dangerous to do so when he was like that.

Presently he opened his eyes again and shook his head.

“This is why I asked Tegan to take us up in the plane, rather than hovering in the TARDIS. The telepathy I’m picking up is so low level it would be blocked out by all the shields around the console room. As it is, I still can’t get a fix on anything. I’m getting vague images of something underwater. But I can’t even work out where. It could be right below us or a mile out to sea – or ten miles.”

“Do you want to carry on around the island?” Tegan asked. “Maybe it will help to get a focus.”

“Yes, please do,” he replied. “I’m going to try to concentrate again. Don’t worry if I seem a bit spaced out. I’m perfectly all right. I’m just not terribly sociable when I’m trying to communicate telepathically with unknown entities.”

“Oh, we all get like that when we’re communicating with unknown entities,” Tegan replied light-heartedly. “You just carry on doing what you do, Doc. I’ll give Ben and Donna the regular tourist spiel. We’re coming up on Bulwer Beach any moment. There’s a couple of wrecks there, too. But they drove them onto the sandbanks to protect the beach from erosion.”

The Doctor was already back in his trance. He didn’t hear any of the interesting facts about Moreton Island that Tegan shared with her other two passengers. But that was all right. She had a captive audience in the two of them.

“It’s fantastic here,” Donna said. “An island paradise. I really wish we were here just to enjoy ourselves.”

“You sound as if you’re getting tired of life with The Doctor,” Tegan observed.

“No, not exactly,” Donna assured her. “But… well… you know… sometimes…”

“Yeah.” Tegan returned to tourist guide mode and pointed out the change of hue in the water as they turned east around the northern point. They were passing from the more sheltered landward side of the island that faced Queensland itself into that arm of the Pacific Ocean known as the Coral Sea. They rounded North Point, which was, as its name suggested, the most northerly headland of the island, and Tegan pointed out a small cove known as Honeymoon Bay. She wasn’t too busy concentrating on her flying to notice the smile Donna gave to Ben.

She also noticed that they were holding hands and admiring the view together as the plane flew down the more rugged east coast from Cape Moreton with its rocky cliffs and headlands that made a lighthouse necessary to prevent disasters at sea. She had read them right. They were an item. She had already heard from Donna that Ben came from Victorian England and she from present day London. She wondered if that would be a problem for them. Would The Doctor insist on him going back where he came from when their time together ended. Or would he find a way for them to be together?

What would he do when they were gone? Would he miss them? Would they miss him? Moving on from life with The Doctor was not an easy thing to do. She had done it twice, and although it was true that she had no regrets about doing it for the second time, it had taken a while to get used to an ordinary, Earthbound life again.

She wondered if Donna and Ben had thought about that.

“Are you sure he’s all right?” Ben asked. The Doctor had been quiet for a very long time. He reached out and touched him and he didn’t respond at all. His eyes were still unfocussed and his body very rigid and still. Ben pressed his hand against The Doctor’s chest and tried to find a heartbeat.

“He’s fine,” Tegan told him. “You have to remember that he isn’t Human. He’s a Time Lord. They can do things like that. His body is slowing down so that his mind can work overtime.”

“How would we know if he was dead?” Ben asked.

“You’d know,” Tegan assured him. “I saw him die once. It was very dramatic.”

“Is there any tea?” The Doctor asked suddenly. Ben realised he still had his hand on The Doctor’s chest. He felt his double heartbeat quicken before he moved his arms away.

“Tea?” Donna queried. “You worry the heck out of Ben, making him think you’ve dropped dead in your seat, and you want TEA?”

“Yes, please,” he answered. “Mental projection takes a lot out of me. Gives me a very dry mouth, too. A nice cup of tea afterwards goes down a treat.”

“There’s a machine in the galley,” Tegan said. “Go get it yourself.”

The Doctor laughed and said something about women’s lib and how they didn’t allow it on HIS planet and then stretched his limbs. He stood up and walked to the galley at the back of the plane. He made tea for himself and for his companions and started back up the aisle with the spill-proof tray.

He had just drawn level with where Ben and Donna were sitting when he gave a yelp of shock. The tray of drinks fell, splashing Ben’s trouser leg a few seconds before The Doctor collapsed on top of them. Tegan glanced around, but Donna was already doing what was necessary for him. She concentrated on controlling the plane.

“We’ll be down in five minutes,” she said. “Should I call for an ambulance?” She paused. “No, what am I talking about? Never mind, I’ll just get us down. You take care of him.”

Donna and Ben lifted The Doctor up onto the seat. He was starting to come around, but seemed groggy still. They fastened the seatbelt around him and Ben sat next to him and fastened his as the plane descended towards the Tangalooma jetty. He managed to stand up by himself when the plane landed, and with Ben’s help he climbed the ladder up to the jetty. He and Donna flanked The Doctor carefully all the way back to the beachfront café where they made him sit down and drink iced tea.

“I’m all right now,” he assured them. “I had a bit of a nervous shock, that’s all.”

“Since when did you suffer from nerves?” Donna asked him.

“Since ten minutes ago, when I received a very loud, but extremely incoherent message directly into my head.”

“The SOS again?”

“No,” The Doctor answered. “The language was different. This message was from somebody else, entirely. But trying to reach me on behalf of the people who need my help.”

His three friends looked at him curiously.

“The language was different?” Donna queried.

“Yes. It’s ok. If it’s who I think it is, then the lost ones will be all right for a little while. And meanwhile… Tegan… you said your boyfriend is in charge of the dolphin feeding after sundown?”

“Yes,” she answered. “He’s the head marine conservationist. He checks them out for any injuries or infections while they’re being fed.”

“I’d like to talk to them, if I may.”

“Them?” Tegan was puzzled. “You mean the people who feed the dolphins?”

“No,” The Doctor answered. “The dolphins. I’d like to talk to them.”

“Er…” Curiously, The Doctor wasn’t the first person to ask to do that. There were all sorts of theories about dolphin intelligence, and from time to time people professing to have qualifications of some kind and research papers in progress would ask to try sign language or clapping sequences or underwater sonic sounds, all sorts of ideas. Gerry was usually polite but firm in his refusal.

But The Doctor wasn’t one of those crackpots. He was the smartest man she had ever met, and the greatest scientist in the universe. And if he wanted to talk to dolphins, she was inclined to let him.

She just wondered how she was going to explain to Gerry that he wasn’t another of the crackpots.

But it was still several hours to sundown, and nothing to be done until then. Ben and Donna took advantage of the lull to enjoy something of a holiday experience. That primarily involved going to the resort shops and buying Ben the most colourful clothing he had ever worn in his life – a bright orange and blue shirt in the sort of patterns that reminded The Doctor of a particularly violent solar storm in the horsehead nebula. They went with a pair of knee length blue shorts and a wide brimmed hat with the logo of Tangaloo resort – a dolphin leaping out of the water against an orange sunset. More than ever he looked a different man to the one they had first met in the rough clothes of a Victorian burglar.

Donna looked different, too, and not just because she had bought some colourful beach wear, either. As he watched them walking, hand in hand on the water’s edge he recalled the first time he met her. Well, actually, the second time he had met her, but lets not confuse things. She had been feisty and tough with him, but underneath it all was a woman who was generally disappointed with her life, knowing it was passing her by too quickly and the chances for something amazing to happen running out. He had given her that chance, and she had seized on it. She hadn’t stopped being Donna, but she had become a different kind of Donna.

A happier Donna.

“They make a lovely couple,” said Tegan as she sat down beside The Doctor on the edge of the jetty and watched as Ben and Donna ran hand in hand in the shallow water’s edge and stopped to hug each other joyfully.

“Yes, they do,” The Doctor agreed.

“You’re going to make sure they stay together, aren’t you?” she added. “I mean… he’s from a different time to her… but… you wouldn’t…”

“My people would say I can’t… that he belongs in his time and she in hers. But… they said a lot of things I didn’t agree with. Still… it doesn’t matter, yet. They’re not ready to move on…”

“I wouldn’t bet on that,” Tegan replied. “They look like a couple whose universe only needs two people in.”

“Not much chance of that once Donna’s mother finds out about them,” The Doctor replied. He hadn’t really grasped what Tegan was saying. When he did, he went through several different emotions at once. He was pleased for the two of them, of course. But a couple of selfish thoughts crossed his mind at the same time.

“You’ll be on your own again,” Tegan said. The Doctor wondered when she learnt to read people’s minds. Or was it just very acute female intuition.

“I’m used to that,” he lied. “I don’t mind.”

“You need somebody special,” she added. “Somebody you can walk on a beach barefoot with.”

“I’ve… had people that special,” he answered. “For a little while.”

He found himself telling Tegan about the brief times in his long life that he had been in that kind of relationship. Brief to him, that is. The years he had given to Dominique on Forêt had been a lifetime for her, but just an interlude to him.

“But when you were with her, it was good?” Tegan asked. “And there’s nothing stopping you have that sort of life again?”

“Only me,” The Doctor answered. “Oh, Tegan, I don’t know. Just lately… I don’t know what it is, but I have felt so OLD, as if I really have seen everything and done everything in the universe. Yes, I could have that sort of life again. There’s even a young lady there on Forêt who would be ready and willing to share that life with me, I think. At least, I had the feeling she would the last time I was there. I could find out. But… wouldn’t I just be letting history repeat itself?”

“If it’s a good history, why not?” Tegan reached out and squeezed his hand gently. “Remember what I told you when I left…”

“Um…” The Doctor smiled softly. “It’s been a couple of centuries for me. You’d better remind me.”

“I said I was taking my aunt Vanessa’s advice. When it stops being fun, get out. It had stopped being fun for me. Maybe that’s the problem for you, too?”

“Yes, but… it’s different for me. If the universe stops being fun, where else can I go?” He smiled reassuringly at her. “I appreciate the thought. But… I think I’ll have to work that one out for myself. Besides… right now, I’ve got others to worry about. I can still feel them, all the time. I still can’t work out where they are exactly, but they’re there, all right. I’m trying to send them a message back, telling them it’s ok, and that I’m doing my best for them. I hope they understand. I’m going to help, just as soon as I can.”

“And talking to the dolphins will help you to do that?” Tegan smiled. “Doctor Doolittle!”

He laughed. But that was exactly what he was planning to do. Though not because he could talk to animals. He couldn’t. Even his five billion languages only extended to sentient species. But Dolphins, after all, weren’t exactly dumb animals.

Ben and Donna were not alone in making the most of the glorious sunset. The long sandy beach became a romantic spot for many couples staying at the resort. Even Tegan and her man enjoyed a quiet half an hour. The Doctor walked quietly by himself, watching Earth’s blue sky turn all the yellow-orange-red-brown shades of the sky he was born under, and then darken gradually. As the stars came out he looked up and smiled a sad smile. The six stars of the constellation of Kasterborous looked like an arrowhead when viewed from his own space sector. But from Earth, they formed the bow of Sagittarius the mighty centaur. His planet orbited the star in the centre of the bowstring. And because the nature of light and the huge distance it had to travel across the galaxy, that star still shone in the Earth sky. It would be millennia before Humans witnessed the unnatural supernova that destroyed it.

Was that one of the reasons he like to come here to Earth, to pretend for a little while that his home was still up there?

No. He wasn’t that sentimental. Nor was he that much of a masochist that he would punish himself with the memories that it evoked. But it was nice to see it, and to think fond memories of those he was fond of, and bless their memories.

“Doctor, come on,” Donna said as she and Ben caught up with him. “They’re feeding the dolphins, soon.”

The beach was narrower now as the tide came in, but it was busier as people gathered, many of them in bathing suits. The resort staff, including Gerry and Tegan were in wetsuits and had waterproof bags on waist belts that contained the fresh herrings that they tempted the dolphins in with. Only a few were allowed to step into the water as the dolphin pod swam into the shallows. The marine biologists and a vet who would check over the creatures, and a few of the resort guests who had been given the privilege. The Doctor joined them. He hadn’t made any special preparations other than to take off his shoes. He didn’t care that he got his trousers wet as he knelt in the water and stroked the head of a sleek, grey bottle-nosed dolphin.

“She’s called Alkina,” Tegan told him as she offered the dolphin a fish. “It’s an aboriginal name meaning “the moon”.

“Pazithi is the Gallifreyan equivalent,” The Doctor said. It must have been looking at the stars that made him think of that. “But the nearest equivalent to her real name in your language is Ki-Li. Your ears would pop if I tried to pronounce it in Lagenorhynchan.”

“You mean… you really can understand her?” Tegan was astonished. “How?”

“Dolphins are not indigenous to Earth. They came here millennia ago when their own planet became unviable. They thrived in Earth’s oceans until Mankind began to cause wholesale damage to the environment. They’ve struggled. And they’ve hidden their true sentience for so long that some of them have regressed and lost such a lot of what they used to be. That’s why… when they called out to me, it just came out as an incoherent telepathic shout that knocked me out. They couldn’t control it. But Ki-Li is one of the cleverest ones. She’s managing to tell me a lot. I think I know what’s happening, now.”

He stroked the dolphin’s head again. Then he stood up and looked around. It was fully dark now. There was a slight glow on the horizon – the city of Brisbane some sixty kilometres across the water. The sea between was dark but relatively calm.

“I’m going to need a boat and diving equipment,” he said.

“Tonight?” Tegan asked. “In the dark?”

“As soon as possible,” he answered. “In the dark is better. If what I think is down there, then the less people watching with video cameras and mobile phones and what have you the better.”

“What… do you think is down there?” Tegan asked suspiciously. But she knew of old that if The Doctor didn’t want to explain something he wouldn’t. She just took his word for it that he needed a boat and diving equipment and went to arrange it.

And she did so very quickly. The Doctor barely had time to change into dry clothes before the boat was ready and waiting at the jetty. Gerry was at the helm as the party headed out. The Doctor gave him a bearing.

“That’s around the wrecks,” Gerry said in surprise. “But there’s nothing unusual there. I was diving there with a group of marine biology students yesterday. I’d have noticed if there was anything… well… alien… I mean… Look, I’m only just getting my head around this as it is. Tegan told me she travelled a lot when she was younger. But I thought she meant with Quantas, not… This is crazy stuff. But the wrecks… If there is something there…. Is it dangerous? What about the marine life down there. Is there an ecological risk?”

“There’s no danger to anyone or anything,” The Doctor replied calmly. “Except the aliens themselves if we don’t do something for them very soon. So… just trust me. I know what I’m doing. And I know we’re heading in the right direction. Ki-Li told me.”

“You know, Doctor, being able to communicate with the dolphins… that’s incredible. We could use a talent like that. If you ever want to retire to Tangalooma…”

The Doctor laughed.

“It’s tempting. But I think I’d have to decline. The universe still needs me.”

It was very tempting. When he thought about what he had told Tegan earlier, about feeling old, about feeling that he’d seen and done everything. Yes, it was tempting.

He turned to get into a wet suit for the necessary dive. He was surprised to see Donna already suited up along with Tegan.

“You’re an experienced scuba diver?” he asked.

“I learnt three years ago,” she answered. “Holiday in Spain. I only went down once at night before. But I know what I’m doing. I’m ready to help you, Doctor.”

“I’m staying on board with Gerry,” Ben said. “I can’t even swim.”

The Doctor surprised everyone by not putting on an oxygen tank and mask as they approached the location.

“I don’t need it,” he said. “I can recycle my breathing for a good twenty minutes. That’ll be more than enough time.”

“That’s just showing off,” Tegan told him. “But have it your own way.”

She and Donna checked their own tanks and got ready. It felt a little cold on the deck of the dive boat, but away from the lights of the resort they could see quite well in the moonlight. They did the final checks and then slipped quietly into the water. The Doctor closed off his breathing as he learnt to do when he was a very young Time Lord learning about survival in hostile environments. Under the water his eyes adjusted to the light of the submersible torch strapped to his wrist. His alien eyesight was better in these conditions than his Human companions and he could make out the sunken hulls of the old whaling ships easily enough. He headed for them.

He noticed two shadows either side of him. He thought it was Tegan and Donna at first, then he realised it was two dolphins. One of them was Ki-Li. The other was a male, her mate, he thought. He felt that bond between them. He reached out mentally to them and then carefully shielded himself against their reply. It was loud and unchanneled at first. Then they moderated their response and it was much easier to listen to.

“Yes,” he said. “I understand. Show me.”

They swam ahead of him. He followed, swimming strongly. He looked back once and saw Donna and Tegan catching him up.

The dolphins reached the bottom of the sea and The Doctor saw at once what they wanted him to see. In nature, it was noted, there were no straight lines. There were very few perfect circles, either. Still less perfect domes. This one was hidden under a layer of sand and debris. It looked, The Doctor thought, as if it had been deliberately camouflaged to fool the eyes of sport divers and reef explorers. If you weren’t looking for a three metre diameter flying saucer hunkered in the sand you wouldn’t see it.

The Doctor WAS looking for a flying saucer. He saw it. He also felt the beings inside who had been trying to contact him for so long. He pushed away the sand and pressed his hands on the cold, extra-terrestrial metal. He concentrated and made contact with the occupants of the ship. He felt their worried, distressed voices turn to optimistic and excited.

But how to get the ship off the bottom of the sea? The dive boat didn’t have a winch. It was strictly for sport diving. And he knew just how heavy this was going to be even before he began to brush away the sand from the perfectly formed dome and the aerodynamic fins.

Then he noticed the dolphins nosing at the edges as if trying to lift it.

“Yes, yes,” he said. “But you two can’t do it on your own. Let us help.”

He signalled to the two women and they swam around and took up positions with him. They lifted with his signal. The ship was heavy, of course. But they managed to dislodge it from the sand. They started to swim up with it, but it was very heavy and they weren’t making much headway.

Ki-Li and her mate tried to help, too. They pushed their heads under the rim of the saucer and took some of the weight.

“You can’t,” The Doctor told them. “It’s still too heavy. You’ll hurt yourselves.”

He heard a warning from Ki-Li just in time to brace himself, then he heard her call out telepathically. Then he saw shadows in the water all around him. Other dolphins had responded to her call. They swam in and around the Time Lord and two humans and helped take the weight of the saucer on their heads. Gradually they were rising up through the water. The Doctor could feel the low level telepathic voices inside the saucer. They were frightened at the movement of their ship, which, it had to be said, was a tiny bit bumpy as they made their way up to the surface. When he responded to them, they became much calmer.

They broke the water. They must have looked a strange sight, three people and a pod of dolphins all around the saucer. The Doctor looked up and saw Gerry and Ben on board the boat with a bright lamp shining down on them.

“How are we going to get it into the boat?” Donna asked. “Is it really a flying saucer? There are aliens inside?”

“The answer to the first question is ‘I don’t know’,” The Doctor replied. “The other two, yes and yes.”

The dolphins had some ideas. They were all moving around to the seaward side of the saucer and pushing at it with their noses. The Doctor gave a triumphant shout.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, we can do that. Tegan, Donna, come around this side with me. We can’t get it into the boat. But we don’t have to. It’s only about a hundred and fifty metres to the beach. We can ground it there.” He called out to Gerry and Ben. “Keep the light on the saucer and follow us in slowly.”

It was even more difficult than bringing the saucer to the surface. They made very slow going, keeping it afloat and pushing it along. Humans, Time Lord and dolphins all joined together in the effort. The boat followed along until it reached the shallows and had to anchor. Gerry locked off the light on them and then he and Ben took to the dinghy. They were waiting on the shore with torches and blankets when the flying saucer was pushed up onto the dry sand.

Most of the dolphins stayed in the shallows. Tegan and Donna both yelped in surprise when Ki-Li and her mate grounded themselves on the sand and then began to transform. Two slender humanoids with blue-grey flesh stood up and blinked in the torchlight. The female spoke in quite good English that was punctuated by a clicking sound at the back of her throat.

“You… can…” Gerry stammered in surprise. “I mean… you’re… you’re Alkina… I… I’ve looked after you. Last year when you were bitten by a shark…”

The dolphin woman raised her arm and showed a place near her shoulder where an old scar had healed.

“I thank you for your kindness to me,” she said. “Do not be afraid. We do not reveal ourselves to humans, usually. But The Doctor assures us that you can be trusted. And we believe him. He is an old friend of our species.”

“He’s an old friend of OUR species, too,” Tegan said. “I can’t believe it. I mean… I CAN believe it. And I am just… amazed. I mean… you’re OUR dolphins… but… no, you were never OURS even if you weren’t… you know… but…”

“Let us sit,” said Ki-Li. “And we shall talk. I know there are many questions and we shall answer them.”

The Doctor had gathered together a small pile of rocks. He used the sonic screwdriver to heat them so that they glowed and gave off heat almost as effectively as a camp fire. Ki-Li and her mate and the humans whose definition of animal intelligence was being rapidly re-evaluated sat together and talked about mankind’s relationship to the creatures of the sea, and especially the people of Tangalooma and the life in the waters around it. The Doctor, meanwhile, with help from Ben and Donna, examined the flying saucer.

“It’s from a planet called Maté-Co 6. Yeah, I know. They sound like a high street clothing store. It’s in the Lupus constellation. A species descended from a primate much as humans are.”

“But… they must be really small?” Ben said.

“They’re the same size as an average humanoid, normally,” The Doctor explained. “But when they travel, they do so in a sort of condensed form. There will be about three hundred of them aboard. Their bodies are ‘shrunk’ and put into suspended animation, but with their minds free. They pilot the ship by telepathic thought.”

“So what went wrong with this one?” Donna asked. She was trying to imagine three hundred condensed people inside what looked almost like a toy ship. Her imagination, stretched as it was by a year travelling with The Doctor, still couldn’t encompass it.

“A simple mechanical failure,” The Doctor answered. “I’m going to sort it out right now.”

And, indeed, he was opening up a panel in the side of the saucer and using the sonic screwdriver to repair the circuits. In torchlight, in the middle of the night, on a beach, he was doing something so technical she couldn’t begin to understand. Donna felt rather proud of him. He really was the greatest scientist in the universe if he could mend this ship right now, like this.

“Yes! Eureka! Give the man a medal!” he cried suddenly as the dull metal craft vibrated and cool blue lights shone all around the edge of the saucer.

“You’ve done it!” Donna hugged him enthusiastically. He smiled happily at her and waved his sonic screwdriver. Then they stood back. Everyone stood, Humans, Time Lord, and Dolphin people. They watched as the space ship’s engines whirred loudly and it began to hover.

“They’re sending a message,” The Doctor said. “Thanking us for our help. All of us.”

“Tell them they’re welcome,” Tegan told him. “And wish them well.”

The Doctor smiled as the space ship span with a low hum and rose higher. As its light ascended into the sky he raised his hand and waved.

“Good journey, my friends,” he said.

Then they were gone. He turned and looked at his friends of both species as they stood in a half circle around the place where the space ship had been. He smiled widely.

“That was good, Doctor,” Tegan said. “I wish there were more days like this when I was with you. And… I wish you’d taken me to see people like Ki-Li.” She held the hand of the dolphin woman. “I never knew… all these years. The dolphins we have cared for here at Tangalooma…”

“We shall return to the sea, soon,” Ki-Li said. “We shall not appear in this form again. It is too dangerous. But we shall see you on the beach at night as always. And we will know you.”

“Thank you,” she said. “I’ll… I’ll be there.”

The two dolphin people turned and walked into the water. They swam out into the deeper water and by the time they disappeared they had returned to their dolphin form. Tegan followed them down to the water’s edge and then, when she knew they were gone, she turned back. She took hold of Gerry’s hand and clung to it. He seemed to be incapable of saying anything right now. He just looked out at the dark sea and smiled.


In the morning, after a few short hours of sleep at Gerry and Tegan’s beachfront house, Ben and Donna took an early morning walk. The tide was going out, leaving cool wet sand. They looked out over the quiet blue sea and spotted the grey-blue bodies of a couple of dolphins leaping out of the water gracefully. They smiled and waved, on the offchance it might be the two they had spent so much time with last night.

They walked up to where the TARDIS had been parked yesterday, up beyond the high water mark. The Doctor was sitting outside it, in the trousers of his blue suit and a shirt without a tie. He looked peaceful and happy. They looked at each other. How was he going to feel when they broke their news to him?

“Doctor,” Ben said as they approached. “We were…”

“We…” Donna began.

“I know,” The Doctor told them. “You’re ready to leave, aren’t you?”

“You don’t mind?” Donna asked. “I mean… you said to me, come and travel with you for a year. And it’s been nearly a year now. And… Tegan and Gerry have offered us jobs here. Good jobs. And we’ve got the jewels from Pangomiss that we can trade on and put some money in the bank.”

“That you can,” The Doctor said. “What about your mother, Donna?”

“I think, when I ring and tell her I’m working for a marine biology centre in Australia she’ll collapse in shock,” Donna answered. “I’ll give her a couple of weeks to get used to that before I tell her that I’m engaged as well.”

She smiled warmly at Ben. The Doctor looked at him. He seemed to have something he wanted to say.

“Doctor,” he managed. “I think… we don’t need both of the jewels for money. I was wondering… My mother is dead. But I have a sister. She has a wee boy and no man to support her. Would you… could you find a way to give her the money and see that she’s set right. Tell her... about me… tell her I’m not dead, and I’m not in prison. But I won’t be coming home again.”

“I’ll do that,” The Doctor promised him.

“Then the only thing we have to sort out is…” Donna added. “Well, I arrived in Australia without a passport or visa and Ben doesn’t even have one, because he was born in the Victorian age. We were hoping you might…”

“I’ll contact Harriet Jones,” he said. “She owes us a favour. She’ll sort out the paperwork for you both. You’ll be Australian citizens within a week.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” they both replied happily. They looked around and saw Tegan coming across the beach to them. She was pleased to hear that Ben and Donna had made their arrangements to stay.

“What about you, Doctor?” she asked him. “There’s a place for you, too, if you want it. The dolphins will certainly love you to stay.”

“No,” he said. “It’s tempting. VERY tempting. This is a beautiful place. But I think the universe would pull me back sooner or later. Besides, I have an errand to do in Victorian London. I’ll stay a few days, make sure everyone is all right. Then I’ll be off on my way.”

“Come back and see us,” Donna told him. “Promise you will.”

The Doctor remembered briefly some of the partings he had known in his life. He had been back to see so very few of his friends. He had failed in that promise too many times.

“I promise,” he said.

And he meant it.