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Terry was looking through the list of preset co-ordinates that the masters of the Prydonian Academy had left in the TARDIS’s computer. He laughed at the pompous and patronising manner in which they described the locations.

“98 per cent of the planet is under water. No architecture or natural phenomena. No civilisation.” He paused and looked at the statistical data on the computer screen.

"Wow! Tropical temperatures, pure water with no pollutants. No extremes of weather. Why hasn’t this planet been taken over by the holiday industry.”

“Just be thankful it hasn’t,” Chrístõ replied. “Or it would cost a fortune to visit.”

“I’d love to go,” Cassie said. “I love swimming. That place sounds wonderful. What is the 2% that isn’t water?”

“Coral atolls,” Chrístõ told her. “I remember seeing pictures of it. But if you like swimming, why didn’t you say. There is a pool in the TARDIS. I’ve never used it myself. I hate swimming on my own.”

“Why?” Cassie asked.

“Nearly drowned when I was a child,” he said. “Can never get over the feeling of being alone under the water, and not knowing where anyone was. I hadn’t been taught how to close off my lungs and recycle the air then. I was in big trouble until my father reached me. I was all right in the end, and I DO enjoy swimming. But I never do it alone.”

“Well, how about this planet then?” Terry suggested. “It sounds brilliant and you don’t HAVE to swim alone if the wardrobe has any bathing suits.”

“Sounds good to me,” Chrístõ smiled as he selected the co-ordinate. “And yes, I am sure the wardrobe will have the very thing for everyone.”

As ever, the girls surprised them with their choices of outfits. Cassie was stunning in a bikini with a silk sarong wrapped around her waist. Bo wore a one piece bathing suit in deep red and also had a sarong around her waist, although she clearly felt self-conscious about being in so few clothes. Terry opted for shorts and Hawaiian shirt over his swimming trunks.

They all looked around at Chrístõ, the last to emerge from the changing room. For once he was not wearing black. His knee-length baggy swimming trunks were red with a yellow stripe down them and his cotton shirt was yellow. He wore the shirt open and Cassie stole a look at his bared chest, beneath which two hearts beat so strongly. If she didn’t love Terry as much as she did, she would have found him completely irresistible.

Bo said nothing. She did find him irresistible, with or without a shirt.

“The TARDIS DOES love being a boat,” Cassie laughed as they emerged onto the ‘deck’ of the sleek yacht with its blue sails with the symbol on it. She looked around at the clear sky and crystal clear waters to the horizon and the coral atoll they were anchored next to. It was a beautiful place. A warm sun was high in the sky making it absolutely perfect. She stood up on the prow of the yacht, threw off the sarong and dived, her body making a graceful arc in the air before plunging into the water. Terry laughed and threw off his shorts and shirt and ran to dive after her with a yell of excitement.

Bo looked longingly after them but seemed suddenly shy. Chrístõ took her by the hand and they jumped into the water together, feet first, Chrístõ embracing her as they came up to the air again. Then they both swam towards their friends.

The water was pleasantly warm and it was nice to feel that there was NOTHING that could harm them. Despite what he had said about not liking to swim alone, Chrístõ took a deep breath and closed his lungs off in the way he had been taught and dived under, swimming down deep into the clear water. He felt free and amazingly happy as he dived deeper before turning around and letting his body rise up to the shallows. Bo had swum down to meet him and he reached his hands to hers. They rose together. As they emerged into the air he let himself breath before he kissed her. She smiled and splashed him and swam away and he waited a few minutes before racing after her. She wasn’t seriously trying to get away from him, of course, but she put up a pretence before allowing him to catch her and hug her again.

Terry and Cassie were having equally as sweet a time, playing in the water together. It was nice, the four of them, two couples, and nothing to worry about. Nothing on this planet could harm them or cause them concern. Chrístõ was glad of it. He was an adventurer. He thrived on adrenaline. It was his main reason for being out there in space and time instead of at home courting favour with those who would secure him a good job in the diplomatic corps. But even he enjoyed a chance not to be shot at or burnt at the stake or otherwise plunged into danger for a while.

And he was quite happy treading water while Bo put her arms about his neck and pressed herself close to his bared chest. She might not be the woman he was destined to spend his life with, but she was his for the time being at least and he loved having her near him.

They played and swam together for timeless hours, and when they grew tired they swam to the atoll and lay on the warm sand. When they were hungry, Terry climbed the trees and picked bananas and coconuts.

“Funny the same fruits grow here so many millions and millions of miles from Earth,” Cassie said as she drank fresh coconut milk from its shell, amazed at just how sweet and moist it was. The ones her mother bought from the market in London were already quite dry with only a trickle of milk left in them.

“Light years,” Chrístõ corrected her in a lazy drawl as he stretched out on the sand. “Not miles. Space is measured in light years.”

“Well, it’s still a long way,” Cassie said. “And how come bananas and coconuts grow here?”

“The universe is made of the same raw material no matter where you go in it,” Chrístõ explained. “Everything in it was created from the same basic stuff. And it follows certain set patterns. Tropical places have bananas and coconuts. Temperate ones have apples, pears, cúl nuts…”

“Cúl nuts?” Terry shook his head. “No, we don’t have those.”

“No,” Chrístõ reminded himself. “Those are exclusive to Gallifrey. On the other hand we don’t have passion fruits. Though I doubt some of us would know what to do with them if they did. Passion isn’t something Time Lords indulge in.”

“You do,” Cassie said, and Bo reached and kissed him very passionately, stroking his bared chest as it warmed in the sunshine. He had only a manly sprinkling of fine hair on his chest, enough to feel nice under her hand as she caressed him.

“I do now,” he said, enjoying the touch of her light, feminine hand on his body. “But when I am 500 I expect I will be just as boring and dispassionate as the rest of them. These are my carefree times before I must take up my responsibilities.”

Cassie looked at him and wondered how that free spirit she had come to love in him could ever be reined in by ‘responsibility’. It didn’t seem possible. And it didn’t seem right. But, she thought, isn’t it that way for everyone? Sooner or later wouldn’t she and Terry have responsibilities, too? Even flower children had to work, had to support their families. That was the way of things. But in her heart she knew she and Terry would ALWAYS be flower children. Life wouldn’t kill their spirit. But Chrístõ, who she thought had more life and spirit than any of them, seemed certain that his spirit was doomed to die. It just didn’t seem right.

“Why do you have to go back?” Terry asked. “To Gallifrey? Why go to a life you don’t want?”

“I DO want it,” he said. “I love my world. I want to serve it with all my hearts. Just not yet – I’m not ready yet. But when I am… I shall make my vows of allegiance and take my place in my society.”

“Don’t forget us,” Cassie said.

“I never will,” he promised. “When I am 600 years old and Lord High President of the High Council of Gallifrey I will still remember my first real friends.”

“Ambition!” Terry laughed. “Lord High…”

“Lord High President of the High Council,” he repeated. “The most powerful man on our world.”

“And that’s what you want to be?”

“My father was, for seventy years,” he said. “And so were my grandfather and great-grandfather… and his father before him. I can’t disappoint my ancestors. Of course I shall be Lord High President. In the fullness of time.”

Terry looked at Chrístõ and smiled at his earnestness. But all the same it WAS disturbing listening to him make these plans for his future. Because the length of time he talked of was so far outside his comprehension. Six hundred years – he and Cassie and Bo would all be dead, even if they lived as long as Humans can live. WOULD he remember them? How did a memory last that long? It was impossible to think of.

“Oh….” Bo sat up from where she was lying alongside Chrístõ in the warm sand and looked with eyes wide and big. The others were just as excited when they saw a dolphin rise out of the water gracefully and sink back down before another one leapt even higher.

“Ohh!” Bo slipped into excited Mandarin at the sight. Pulling off the sarong from around her waist she dived in among the graceful, beautiful, gentle creatures. Two of the dolphins swam alongside her, as if they knew she was a friend, brushing against her gently. Cassie dived into the water after her, and she, too, was joined by the sleek grey-blue creatures as she swam.

“WOW!” Terry said. Chrístõ said nothing, but smiled inscrutably as he sat and watched the girls swimming and diving with the dolphins. It was a beautiful sight. He knew they were harmless, even friendly. He could feel their benign nature instinctively.

“You want another coconut?” Terry asked after a while. “I’m thirsty.”

“No, I’m fine,” Chrístõ replied. “You go ahead though.” Terry scrambled to his feet and went to one of the coconut palms. He started to climb then looked at it with a puzzled expression.

“Chrístõ,” he said. “Come and look at this.” Chrístõ reluctantly stood up. He was very comfortable where he was and with nothing bothering him, and there was a note in Terry’s voice that spelled ‘mystery to be solved’.

“This isn’t a real tree,” Terry said, knocking the trunk. The hollow metallic sound was unmistakeable.

But the others are. What….” Chrístõ made as if to climb the tree that was not a tree, but before he got a foothold he heard Cassie and Bo calling. He and Terry both turned. The girls were standing on the shore and with them was a Humanoid, a little taller than they were, slender, female. She seemed to be dressed in a sort of all in one body suit of dark grey and her skin was a light grey. Chrístõ was immediately reminded of the dolphins, and when one of them beached itself and stood up, morphing into a male form of these people – breathtakingly beautiful people he added to himself – he understood why.

“Please do not be afraid,” the female said in a voice that was slightly higher pitched than he expected, with a kind of clicking from the back of the throat, just like a dolphin’s ‘voice’. “We know you mean us no harm, and we, for certain, mean you none. Welcome to our world.”

“I am Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow of Gallifrey,” Chrístõ said coming towards them. He was schooled in the etiquette of many thousands of cultures and knew how to greet many beings: with a handshake or a bow; by kissing one or both cheeks; by pressing noses or foreheads together; by all manner of formal and informal gestures. But at this moment, he was at a loss. The female must have sensed his dilemma, because she stepped forward, putting her hands out at her sides slightly and bowing her head momentarily. Chrístõ matched her and continued to introduce his Earth-born friends.

“Do you know of either of our planets?” he asked. “Are you aware of other races and beings?”

“We may know of your home-worlds by other names,” the female said, introducing herself as Ka, and her mate as Ko, who, she said, did not have speech when in walking form, but was able to communicate by thought-speak.

“As can I,” Chrístõ said in his mind and Ko bowed in acknowledgement and replied. Chrístõ staggered under the raw power of his telepathic message and put his hand to his head. Ko apologised in a quieter tone.

“You are more receptive than we are. Our thought-speak takes much concentration. But you can do it at will.”

“On my world we are trained in it,” he explained. “But which is your natural state? Walking or swimming?”

“We are equally happy in both forms,” Ka told him. “Come to the waterside and we will talk. The hot sun is uncomfortable unless our bodies are kept moist.”

Ka and Ko wallowed in the shallows on the shoreline. Cassie and Bo sat with them in the warm surf. Chrístõ and Terry preferred to stay on the dry land.

“We call this planet Aquaria,” Ka told them.

“Well, that’s a nicer name than Chrístõ’s teacher’s had for it,” Terry said with a smile. “They just called it 1043X4.”

“Aquaria?” Cassie said. “But that’s Earth Latin, isn’t it? Like Aquarius.”

“Languages are another thing that have been repeated all over the universe,” Chrístõ explained. “Latin is the root of the languages of over a billion worlds.”

“Do you live in the water then?” Bo asked them. She looked at Ka closely. She reached out and touched her arm. “You are the one who swam with me,” she said. “You brushed against me. I can feel… you are the same…”

“Yes,” Ka said. “We felt your presence here, and we came to greet you. But we had to know if you were trustworthy beings before we revealed ourselves to you.”

“We are honoured by your trust,” Chrístõ replied on behalf of them all.

“The metal tree,” Terry asked. “Is that something to do with you?”

“It is part of the technology of our city,” Ka explained.

“City?” Cassie queried. “But when Chrístõ’s people visited this planet in the past, not only did they have no name for it, but they found no civilisation.”

“You do not reveal yourself to every visitor here,” Chrístõ said. Ka and Ko both nodded. “Very wise. Not everyone who comes here is benign. Though my people would have meant you no harm, and they would surely see through the metal tree disguise.” He paused. “I wonder… It could be as much as 10 or 20 thousand years since that survey was made. Was that before your people came here? Are you indigenous to this place or did you come as colonists to this aquatic paradise?”

“We do not know,” Ka answered. “We have little knowledge of our past. We have two languages - this and the one we use when swimming. And we have the gift of thought-speak in both forms. But we have no knowledge of the symbol language that tells of our past.”

“Symbol language?” Terry looked puzzled.

“Writing?” Cassie guessed.

“I understand,” Chrístõ said. “Once you had a written language in your culture. But your people had no use for it and it fell into disuse.”

“Chrístõ could read it,” Bo suggested enthusiastically. “He knows five billion languages,”

“I always thought he was fibbing about that,” Cassie remarked.

“I am not,” he protested. “Though as I said, Latin is the basis of at least a billion languages. So once you’ve learnt one, you’ve learnt them all.”

“If you could unlock the secret….” Ka spoke excitedly, and Chrístõ winced again as Ko’s emotions ran riot in his psychic nerves.

“If Ko doesn’t melt my brain, I could probably have a go. There are records then?”

“In the city,” Ka said.

“Which is at the bottom of the ocean, I suppose?”

“Is there a way we could get there?” Cassie asked.

“We can take you.” Ka looked at Ko and sent him a gentle message to say that it was all right.

“We can’t breathe under water,” Bo told them. “Even Chrístõ cannot do that.”

“I could stop my breath long enough,” Chrístõ assured them. “But you three can’t.”

“We have ways. Our young need help before their bodies are used to the two forms of being. The same way will aid you. Come… Will YOU trust us as we trust you?”

“We will,” Chrístõ said. “We will be guided by you.” He turned to his friends. “Don’t worry. Just trust them to show you what to do.”

Bo was the first to swim out into the deeper water. Ka and Ko came beside her, morphing back into dolphins as soon as their bodies were fully covered by the water. Cassie and Terry followed and four dolphins appeared almost at once to flank them. Chrístõ dived into the water after them. They seemed to know that he did not need assistance. His escorts simply swam at a distance from him. He was astonished at what he saw happening with his friends.

Each pair of dolphins had produced a sort of bubble from their mouths and this enveloped the head of the Human they escorted as they began to swim steeply down through the water. Chrístõ closed his lungs and followed.

It was a long dive. The sea floor was a very long way down – Chrístõ guessed it was about two hundred metres. That was far deeper than Humans could safely dive even with compression stops. But somehow he had the feeling that wouldn’t be necessary. There seemed to be a kind of aura around all three of his Earth friends given out by these remarkable beings of Aquaria that allowed them to descend through the depths without harm. His body, of course, simply adapted itself as he swam.

At last they reached the sea bottom. Chrístõ followed behind as the three pairs of dolphins and their Human charges swam a few feet above the sea bed to the translucent dome that covered the city. He watched as the lead pair, with Bo between them, pressed their noses against the side of the dome. Though it was clearly a kind of toughened glass, they slid straight through it as if it was no more substantial than a soap bubble. The other pairs followed and Chrístõ came behind them. He trod water upright and touched the dome with the flat of his hand. It felt solid, like glass, but when he pressed gently with his fingertips it was soft and pliable. He stepped through it and it closed again behind him with an elasticity that made the soap bubble analogy seem appropriate.

Inside the bubble was a moist, oxygen-rich atmosphere. Chrístõ stood looking around. His friends and their now Humanoid companions waited for him. Ka stepped forward and put a cloak of grey fabric around him. He was wearing nothing but a pair of swimming trunks and he felt immediately better for that. Bo, similarly cloaked, came and took his hand as they were led through the streets of the underwater city.

The city looked, Chrístõ thought, like it was built by a technologically advanced society who then gave up on technology and opted for a simple life. The houses, shops and workshops of the Aquarians were built of an advanced material, possibly a plastic or some other synthetic material. But they were simple in style, all single storeys, with two or three rooms. The people wore the same grey bodysuits and some of them had cloaks. Despite the uniformity, no two looked alike. And all were beautiful, from the young that played in the street, to the old that sat outside their houses on benches and watched the young benignly.

“Here is our Temple of Records,” Ka said, bringing them to a building that was bigger than those they had seen so far, and more elaborately built with a colonnaded front. Chrístõ stepped inside, the others following.

“It’s a library!” Terry exclaimed. And he was right. The Temple of Records was a repository of ancient books – the kind of hand-written manuscripts and scrolls that any society would carefully preserve as the record of their past. The Aquarians were no different. While outside the air was moist and humid, in here it was dry and cool to protect the books. Chrístõ carefully opened one and found it to be a perfectly preserved book of illuminated poetry in a language close to Latin that he easily mastered. He read one of the poems aloud and Ka’s eyes lit up.

“That is one of our great stories,” she cried. “We tell them among ourselves in the quiet of the evening.”

“Then the oral tradition has replaced the written,” Chrístõ realised. “In most societies I know of it is the other way about. Still, as long as you have the tradition, the culture, there is no harm to that. But you said you seek to know of your past. Do you know which of the books relate to that?”

“The story of our people is not in the books,” Ka said. “It is in the temple itself, and she lit a torch that shone with an unexpectedly bright light that illuminated the walls. Chrístõ stared. The whole of the back wall of the ‘temple’ was covered in writing, the words at least a foot high.

“You ARE colonists,” Chrístõ said after studying the words for some time. “Your ancestors came here many thousands of years ago – possibly after my people came and found it to have no civilisation. Or perhaps you hid thinking we were a threat to you.”

“We have often done so to preserve ourselves against the less pure of mind,” Ko said in his head.

Chrístõ thought of his ‘friend’ Rõgæn Oakdaene and reflected that not even everyone of his own people could be counted as ‘pure of mind.’ Ko looked shocked as he picked up the tail end of Chrístõ’s thoughts. He focussed on his memory of Rõgæn.

“If this man comes to your planet, do everything in your power to hide and protect yourselves. He is DANGEROUS.”

Ko understood.

“I know you are a good man, Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow,” he said. “If more of your people are like you, then we shall not condemn you for the one who turned to the darkness.”

Chrístõ acknowledged his words then went on with the translation. “Your world was dying. The oceans were drying up and what was left was too crowded and no longer wholesome. But you had the ability to travel in space. You sent out the youngest, the bravest, the smartest to colonise new planets – ones with abundant clean, good oceans. One ship came here and you settled in peace. You erected the Temple of Records and you built your homes from the materials you brought with you, and then you sent the ships back into space on autopilot. They were set to self-destruct for you had no need of them any more. You abandoned the technology and adopted a simple life. Even writing became a lost skill. You did not need it. You had your cities and the whole of the seas. A good life.”

“But we DID come from another world,” Ka asked as if in confirmation.

“Yes. You did. But that does not make Aquaria any less your true home.”

“No,” she said. “But, yet, it has long been believed that we came from elsewhere. And the knowledge that it is true will make our people wonder about our homeworld.”

“Perhaps this is not for the best,” Chrístõ mused. “If it causes discontent.”

“We do not know where that homeworld was,” Ka said, “And there is no way to get there.”

“There is a co-ordinate for it in the inscription here,” Chrístõ told them. “And I HAVE a ship perfectly capable of reaching it.” He wondered if he ought to have told them that. But it would have been deceitful of him not to tell them the whole truth of what the record said.

“Would you…” Ka began. “Could you take some of us to find the homeworld?”

“Yes, I could, and I would be willing,” he answered. “But you ought to discuss it with your elders, the leaders of your people. You should consider whether making the knowledge known would cause harm to your society.”

“That is wise,” Ka agreed. “Will you and your friends accept our hospitality in the meantime?”

“We would be honoured.”

They left the hall and Ka brought them to one of the simple houses, her own home, that she shared with Ko.

“We have no young of our own yet,” Ka said. “So our house is enough to provide for your needs.”

“It’s a fine house,” Chrístõ told them. And so was the hospitality. They were given food and drink and low beds with soft covers were provided. They rested while their hosts went to meet with the leaders of their people and discuss the new possibilities Chrístõ had opened up to them.

“What happens if they all want to return to their homeworld?” Terry asked.

“I don’t know,” Chrístõ admitted as he lay in the warm bed with Bo snuggled comfortably beside him. “I don’t think I could take them all. And I don’t think I should. If their homeworld still has space travel capability, maybe I can help them establish some kind of interaction between the worlds. But for them all to abandon this good place to return to a less than perfect homeworld, out of some misplaced loyalty to ‘where they came from’ would be madness.”

“My father came from Jamaica,” Cassie said. “Most of my life, through his stories, I had a longing to go there. I felt as if it was ‘home’ and I felt I belonged there. Then at last I had a chance to visit. I stayed for a month with my aunt and my cousins. It was wonderful. But I missed London so much I was glad to go home. Things you dream of aren’t always what you think they are. And home… is what you make of it.”

“Home is where we both are,” Terry said, hugging her close to him.

“My home is beside Chrístõ,” Bo said.

“For as long as that’s what you want, precious,” he told her. He pressed her closer to him and closed his eyes. Soon enough he might have to take a decision on behalf of the Aquarians that would be difficult for trained diplomats, for men like his father with all his wisdom and experience. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He was glad to relax for a short while with her to comfort him.

He drifted into a rare period of sleep. They all did. He only woke when he felt Ko’s excited telepathic waves jarring him out of his dreams. He sat up and looked at the two Aquarians.

“The elders said we can go with you,” Ka said. “But it must be now, without any fuss or noise – in case it all comes to nothing.”

“Ok.” He woke the others and told them they were leaving. The quest excited them even though, as Terry said, they only had a few hours of beach and swimming time before adventure and mystery called them. He promised they could stay a bit longer when they came back.

The journey to the surface was as ethereal as that going down. Chrístõ AGAIN wondered about compression stops, but again he felt that being in the presence of the Aquarians somehow meant it didn’t matter. On the surface they climbed into the TARDIS yacht. Ka and Ko both looked surprised, and even more so when they went below deck.

Terry explained about the TARDIS’s ability to disguise itself as well as its amazing interior. Chrístõ set about programming the co-ordinates of the Aquarian homeworld into the destination panel. Cassie took up the navigation position and Bo the life support and environmental control and they dematerialised. Chrístõ turned on the viewscreen so that they could see their journey in the vortex. For their new companions that in itself was a wonder. Terry expressed it best for the rest of them.

“We take Chrístõ’s world so much for granted. But it’s a kind of miracle.”

“Its not a miracle,” Chrístõ insisted. “It’s just advanced temporal physics.”

“Easy for you to say,” Terry laughed.

“Chrístõ is MY miracle,” Bo said, coming beside him as he adjusted the settings on the control panel. “My Chrístõ, my saviour.” He smiled at her. The love she had for him was a little miracle. She had every reason not to put her trust in men. He was glad she was able to feel so much for him. Though as he often did he wondered when and where the man he was supposed to give her up for might appear. And when the woman he was destined to love might come into his life. He hoped they didn’t come as a couple. That would be a bit too embarrassing.

“How long will it take to reach the homeworld?” Ka asked.

“About three hours,” Chrístõ replied.

“Three hours?” Ka was astonished. “But we understood that the nearest stars were months of travel away.”

“THAT’s the big miracle of Chrístõ’s world,” Cassie said. “You will be there and back in a day.”

“How will they believe we went anywhere?” Ko asked Chrístõ, a not unreasonable question.

“I will explain it to them when we return,” he promised. And though he had no reason to believe him, Ko did.

 

The planet was dead. Chrístõ knew even as they came out of the vortex in orbit around it. But even so, to be certain, they landed.

“Background radiation is normal,” Cassie said. “But it is very dry and hot.” She glanced at Ka and Ko. They cloaked themselves.

“These protect our bodies from drying out,” Ka explained. “We can manage for a short while.”

“Ok,” Chrístõ said. “Everyone else get a sunhat.”

They weren’t sure if he was joking. He had put his usual jeans and t-shirt and leather jacket on and as he stepped out into the baking desert he seemed hardly affected by the dry heat. Everyone else was gasping and sweating within a few yards of the TARDIS.

“I know you said there were a lot of deserts on your planet,” Terry said to him. “But I didn’t think you came from one of them.”

“I don’t,” he said. “I have explored the Red Desert though. I’m Gallifreyan. We’re not affected by extremes of temperature like Humans are.”

“Or Aquarians,” Cassie added warningly. “Let’s not take too long finding out what we have to.” Chrístõ nodded. Even with their cloaks, Ka and Ko looked distressed.

What they were looking for was not far away. It looked at first like a mirage on the horizon, but in a few minutes they reached it. The sad remains of a domed city not unlike the one they had seen on Aquaria. But the sea this one had been at the bottom of was long dried up. The dome was broken to pieces and the buildings ruined. Only the very biggest was anything like intact.

“The Temple of Records,” Ko said in his head. They hurried to it, if only because it afforded them some shade. But there was no respite from the heat even in the Temple. Ka and Ko hunched miserably and tried to preserve the last moisture in their bodies. Frantically Chrístõ searched for any sign of the records they hoped to find if they did not find any living beings.

“Here,” Terry called to him and he wondered why he had not looked there in the first place. On the back wall, as on Aquaria, the history was written in large letters. In the same variation of Latin it told how the planet had been knocked out of its orbit by a comet that collided with it. This had caused one of the great cities to be destroyed by the underwater tsunami that spread over one hemisphere. In the other, the city survived, but the planet’s new orbit was much closer to their sun and the seas were evaporating. They had one chance, and that was to seek new homes beyond their solar system. The youngest, fittest and brightest set out in five great ships to five different destinations where the planets had abundant water and an ambient temperature. The records showed that these had been one way trips. Nobody expected to return. Those left behind, the elderly and infirm, those who would not have survived the long space journeys, recorded their hopes that their children would prosper on these new planets. They knew they would die before their planet did and they went to their rest happy in that hope and belief that their race would continue beyond the stars.

Chrístõ was blinking back tears as he finished reading aloud the inscription left, he supposed, on the off-chance somebody like him came by. Terry was swallowing hard as if his throat was constricted by more than just thirst. Cassie and Bo hugged each other and cried. Ka and Ko looked as if they would cry, too, if they could spare the moisture.

There were co-ordinates at the base of the inscription. Chrístõ committed them to his memory and then he took his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and adjusted its setting. He aimed it and erased the co-ordinates. In case somebody more like Rõgæn Oakdaene happened to come by. He heard Ko whisper ‘thank you’ in his head.

He turned and looked at the two Aquarians. He knew they would not make the journey back across the desert. He took out his TARDIS key and summoned the ship to him. It was a bad practice, he knew, using the remote to summon it, and bad for the engines, but this was a time when he needed to use it. Terry and Cassie helped lift Ko and he and Bo lifted Ka and they brought them into the safety of the TARDIS.

“Chrístõ,” Cassie said as they closed the door. “You said there was a swimming pool…”

“This way,” he said, willing his TARDIS to make sure there was water in it.

“Ka is with child,” he heard Ko say in his head. “If there is any way you can get us there faster – take her first.”

“Why didn’t you say so?” Chrístõ said, and he lifted Ka into his arms and folded time. The others saw only a blur as he disappeared down the corridor and through the door at the end, which they saw led to a stairwell. None of them knew the TARDIS had more than one floor to it before. But then they had only been travelling for a few months and they learnt something new about either Chrístõ or his symbiotic ship every day.

Chrístõ reached the pool. And he blessed the TARDIS’s strange mechanical telepathy when he realised it was full of warm SALT water. He laid Ka in it gently. She sank under the water and then, to his joy, he saw her morph into a dolphin and swim healthily. He watched for no more than a moment before he time folded again and ran back.

“I think it’s too late,” Bo said as he came out of the time fold in front of them. Ko was lying on the ground, deathly still. But Chrístõ shook his head. He could hear weak telepathic messages still. He lifted Ko and time folded again. His friends looked at each other and ran after him at their own Human speed.

When they got there, all they saw at first was Chrístõ kneeling by the pool. Then they all cried out in relief at once as they saw two dolphins swimming in the pool. Cassie and Bo threw off their shoes and ran to dive into the water, clothes and all, to join them. Terry looked at Chrístõ. He looked back.

“Feel like joining them?” he asked.

“No, not really. But let them play.”

“Come and give me a hand to take us back to Aquaria, then.” Terry nodded.

 

His Human companions elected to stay on the atoll drinking coconut milk and eating bananas when Chrístõ swam down with Ka and Ko to address the elders. As it happened, it became more like a town meeting. He stood on the steps of the Temple of Records and addressed a throng as he explained what he had found out about their history. There was dismay when he told of their dead homeworld, but joy when they heard of the other destinations. Chrístõ turned and used his sonic screwdriver to score the co-ordinates into the wall of the Temple of Records. “These are the locations of your brothers and sisters whose fates were different from yours. I intend to visit these planets and find out what has happened and tell them of your existence, so they, too, will know they are not alone in the universe. And I promise to return and tell you what I have discovered – so that it can become one of your precious records for your future generations. Meanwhile, be content with this world. It is perfect for your needs and longing for anything else beyond the stars would only bring heartache. Do just one thing for me – I think you will anyway. Respect the natural order of things here. Don’t let this world die of pollution and over-harvesting of its resources. Bless you, all of you.”

He ended his speech and the elders of the people blessed him and Ka and Ko who had risked all to travel to the stars with him. Then they walked with him to the edge of the dome.

They stayed many happy days on Aquaria, with their new friends. They spent as much time in the underwater city as they did on the surface, swimming or sunbathing on the atoll. It was beautiful. And they were reluctant to leave. Chrístõ promised faithfully that they could and would return again. The promise was made both to his Human companions and to the Aquarians who had come to love him. They ringed the TARDIS yacht in honour before it dematerialised.

“So,” Terry said. “We’ve got four co-ordinates to visit to find out what happened to the Dolphin People there?”

“Three,” Chrístõ said as he keyed the co-ordinates into the databanks of his TARDIS. “This one I don’t need to check. It’s Earth.”

“Earth?” Cassie gasped.

“OUR Earth?” Bo asked with big questioning eyes.

“YOUR Earth - a beautiful planet with big blue oceans teaming with life, despite mankind’s worst depravities upon them.”

“But…. Earth doesn’t have undersea cities.” Terry said. “We DO have dolphins, but they don’t…”

“They don’t turn into people when they are on dry land,” Cassie finished his sentence.

“That’s more than I would claim to know,” Chrístõ told them all. “As for undersea cities - Well there are many legends of undersea worlds – Atlantis, Lyonesse, Tír na Óg. And seafarers have always had a superstition that dolphins are the souls of the drowned. Even in your modern world it is considered bad luck to kill one. It all comes from somewhere.”

“But they don’t reveal themselves…” Terry said.

“Would you?” Bo asked. “Earth people have so much evil in them. Of course they hide themselves there.”

“Earth has no more evil than anywhere else,” Chrístõ told her gently. “But Humans have too much of a tendency to fear the unknown and to react violently against it. But you’re a young race. You’ll learn from your mistakes. In the nick of time in some cases. Especially in your relationships with other creatures. But there are enough good people who make the effort. When you return to Earth, I don’t doubt you three will rank among them.”

“After what we’ve seen with you, how could we do anything else,” Terry said. “I’m never going to be able to look a sardine can in the face again.”