Julia signed herself out at the reception on the ground floor of the Junior House and walked down through the beautifully laid out campus grounds to the main gate where she showed her student ID to the gatekeeper. He smiled and told her to have a nice day. She fully intended to do so. It was just gone ten-thirty on this Saturday morning. She had permission to be out until eleven o’clock in the evening, thirteen and a half hours of Beta Delta V time. She meant to make the most of it.

It was a warm day, despite being late autumn. She was dressed in a pastel blue knee length skirt and jacket with a white silk blouse and matching shoes and handbag. Her hair was in a neat pony tail as usual, but adorned with a silk flower that matched her blouse. She wore her favourite silver pendant with the constellation of Kasterborus picked out in tiny diamonds on it.

Outside the gates of the New Brisbane Academy for Sports Excellence, she turned east along the coast road, walking at a leisurely, unhurried pace, enjoying the view across the wide, sweeping bay of the clean, modern city where she was planning to spend her free Saturday.

A hover car went by. The metallic blue finish was a flash of distinctive colour as it passed but Julia didn’t pay much attention to it. It was just a car. They came by every so often.

She paid it a little more attention when it stopped some fifty yards ahead of her. She wondered why, since there was nothing there except the sea shore on the right and the perimeter fence of the Academy on the left. She wondered if the driver needed directions, but if he did, he had already gone too far ahead for her to help him. Besides, she had only been here three weeks and most of that had been taken up finding her way around the Academy. She really didn’t know much outside the gates, yet, apart from the beach where she went for an early morning run before breakfast most days.

She walked a few more steps and then stopped and looked at the car with a new wariness. She looked around and realised she was alone. There were no other cars and no pedestrians. Most of her friends had gone into the city on the scheduled bus a half hour ago. She had deliberately chosen to be one of the last to sign out.

She was already a long way from the gatehouse with the nice, polite man who checked people going in or out of the Academy. Too far to run back.

Was she being paranoid?

No. After all, she HAD been kidnapped twice in the past two years.

It wasn’t paranoia when they really were out to get you.

She took three more steps, noting that the metallic blue car had polarised windows so that she couldn’t see the driver.

She reached into her jacket pocket for her mobile phone. If there was anything sinister happening, the police were the second number on the speed dial keypad. Then she took her hand away from it. What could she say? A parked car was frightening her?

She was close enough to read the registration number of the car when it suddenly accelerated and drove off. She sighed with relief. It was nothing at all. Perhaps the driver stopped to make a phone call or something perfectly innocent.

Sometimes it was just paranoia after all.

She walked on again, putting the incident out of her mind. After all, it wasn’t even important enough even to be called an ‘incident’.

It was a non-incident.

A quarter of a mile further on, there was another car parked by the roadside, but this one didn’t worry her at all. She waved to her fiancé, leaning against the driver’s door looking as handsome as ever in his all black clothes and his dark, curling hair framing a pale but striking face. She laughed at herself for actually putting that description into words in her head. It was like the opening of a romance novel.

She forgot about walking leisurely and ran the last few yards. He reached out to hug her tightly. They kissed happily, if briefly.

“I missed you,” she told him. “I miss you all the time.”

“So do I,” he assured her. “Especially on Friday nights when you used to stay over. Humphrey misses you, too.”

“I’m really enjoying the Academy, though,” she told him. “It makes up for missing you. And Humphrey.”

“Well, then my money is well spent.” He opened the passenger side of the hired car and she sat and buckled her seatbelt while he slid into the driver’s seat and did the same.

“I passed a nice looking restaurant with a balcony overlooking the bay,” Chrístõ told her as he started the car and put it into hover mode. “I thought it would do for lunch. Then we can do whatever you want for the afternoon. After dinner, Madam Butterfly is at the New Brisbane Opera House, or Cats at the National Theatre. Or we can go to the Tate Intergalactic…”

“You planned the whole day already,” Julia said happily.

“I haven’t seen you for three weeks. I want it to be special.”

“It already is. Lunch sounds great. I’m hungry. Madam Butterfly is a good idea, later. But it’s going to be a nice, warm afternoon. We could go to the Botanical Gardens and just… just be together.”

“Fair enough,” Chrístõ answered and set the onboard computer to direct him to the Gardens. “So... how come you wanted us to meet like that, instead of me coming up to the Academy for you?”

“Because...” Julia looked out of the side window for a long time before answering. “Because I don’t want people there to know I have a boyfriend.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m the only girl in the Junior House who does. Everyone else, they’re only interested in their sport – in gymnastics or running or swimming, tennis. Whatever it is, it’s their life. They have nothing else on their minds but the next Olympiad, and the trials for it.”

“I thought you wanted to be picked for the Beta Deltan gymnastics squad,” Chrístõ pointed out. “It’s why you wanted to go to the Academy.”

“I know, and I do. But I’m not DRIVEN by it. I’m not obsessed. AFTER the Olympics, if I make it, whether I make it or not, I have you. We’re going to be married. I’m going to have your babies. But the others… you would think there is no future beyond the next Olympic Games.”

Chrístõ said nothing when she paused. He pretended to be concentrating on his driving, but he was listening to everything carefully.

“Other girls don’t even THINK about having babies. That sort of thing makes you fat, and spoils muscle tone.”

“That’s what ante-natal exercises are for,” Chrístõ remarked. “So you stand out from the crowd because you aren’t as obsessed with gymnastics as they are? And having a fiancé would prove that you lack their dedication.”

“Pretty much, yes.”

She absently pressed the fingers of her right hand against her left, and Chrístõ, glancing towards her only momentarily, noticed, even so, that the ring mark from wearing the diamond solitaire he gave her on her seventeenth birthday, nearly a year ago, was gone.

“I rubbed palm oil into my fingers until the mark was disguised,” she said in explanation. “I keep the ring in the drawer by my bed when I’m not with you. We’re not supposed to wear jewellery, anyway.”

“Ok, so I’m your secret lover!” Chrístõ laughed softly. “All right, sweetheart. If you’re happy with that, I’ll go along with it. You are happy, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Julia assured him. “It’s great. I’m doing more gymnastics than I could imagine doing every day. Plus I’m studying sports history, fitness and nutrition, and business management. And don’t you dare ask what use any of those things would be to a Lady of Gallifrey. I am enjoying the courses, even if I never use any of the things I’ve learnt.”

“Well, that’s all right, then,” Chrístõ answered. Then he stopped the car in a lay-by with a particularly good view of the New Brisbane lighthouse guarding the entrance to the sheltered harbour. He unfastened his seatbelt and leaned over to embrace her in his arms and claim a long, lingering kiss. “This car has polarised windows. Nobody can see inside. A perfect place for a secret lover to kiss you.”

Julia slipped her arms around her lover, enjoying the feel of him, the scent of leather from his jacket, the familiar aftershave he always used, the softness of his mouth against hers. It was quite an ordinary thing to do, kissing in a car parked in a beauty spot. Every girl she knew on Beta Delta IV did it with their boyfriends. Her new friends at the Academy didn’t know what they were missing. Being chosen for the Olympics was not worth giving up the simple pleasure of being kissed by a man on a Saturday afternoon. Especially a man she loved dearly.

After several pleasant minutes they both sat up straight, smiling at each other. It was then that Julia noticed another car parked in the lay-by.

It was metallic blue.

“Sweetheart?” Chrístõ’s voice seemed to come from far away. She looked around and saw him looking at her anxiously. He had spoken and she hadn’t responded.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I am hungry. Let’s find that restaurant.”

Chrístõ reversed the car back onto the road, past the metallic blue car. Julia glanced at it as casually as possible then told herself she was being silly. Metallic blue was a popular colour this year. It might not even be the same car.

The restaurant was very nice. The balcony Chrístõ spoke of was open for lunch and they were shown to a table for two with a sea view. Chrístõ noted that Julia’s selections from the menu were all carefully low fat, and she said she didn’t want a dessert.

“You could have a lemon mousse,” he told her. “It’s mostly air.”

“Nobody eats desserts at The Academy,” she replied. “It’s... just not done.”

Chrístõ ordered a lemon mousse for her dessert.

“You’re not at The Academy today,” he told her. “And can I expect a refund for all the puddings you don’t eat?”

Julia laughed at the idea and scraped a thin layer of low fat spread on the wholemeal roll that went with her watercress soup. Chrístõ put a slightly thicker layer on his roll and enjoyed his cream of tomato soup. He didn’t say anything else on the subject until he was partway through his rib eye steak and watched her eating a grilled chicken fillet with salad and light dressing.

“You are five foot two and weight seven stone five ounces,” he told her. “One hundred and three pounds or forty-six point seven kilograms. Whichever way you look at it, that is a perfectly healthy weight for a Human female.”

Julia looked at him curiously.

“How do you know what my weight is? Have you looked at the results of the medical I had yesterday?”

“I know things like that. You’ve been seven stone five, give or take an ounce, since you were fifteen, by the way. You have a perfectly balanced metabolism. You do more exercise per day than most people do in a week. You can afford to eat the odd sticky toffee pudding or chocolate sundae.”

“I know I can,” Julia assured him. “I always used to. But it’s the same as the thing about boyfriends. If I did things differently to the other girls...”

“You ARE different to them,” Chrístõ told her. “You’re my fiancée. You’ve travelled all over the galaxy with me. You’ve met the Beatles and your dresses are made by the Empress of Adano-Ambrado’s seamstress. You’ve stood back to back with me in the face of dangers that would reduce most of your friends to quivering wrecks. And if they want to give themselves anorexia in order to get onto the Beta Deltan Olympic gym team, that’s their choice. But don’t follow their example just to fit in.”

“Anyone with anorexia wouldn’t GET on the team,” Julia told him. “That’s why we have medicals every three weeks. To make sure girls aren’t doing anything silly. And as if I would. You don’t have to worry about me in that way.”

“Good. Because you are beautiful just as you are. And I love you. I’ll always love you whether or not you get onto the Olympic team. But when you do, I’ll be as proud as anything.”

Julia smiled at him and asked if it was possible to get chocolate sauce with the lemon mousse.

Just as they were being served their dessert, though, Julia almost lost her appetite again.

“Oh, no!” she whispered. “Oh, it’s Sarah Seers. In the red dress... sitting down there with that man.”

Chrístõ glanced once at the couple being shown to the only table left on the now very busy balcony.

“One of your friends?”

“Not exactly a friend,” Julia admitted. “She thinks she’s better than everyone else. And she is. She’s miles better than me at the beam and asymmetric bar and her rhythmic routines are outstanding. She’s bound to be selected.”

“Does she eat puddings?” Chrístõ asked.


“Well, don’t let her spoil yours.”

“Yes, but... what if she sees us?”

“Then your secret will be out. Everyone will know that you’re a pudding eater.”

“I’m not worried about the food. It’s... you.”

Chrístõ did his best not to be irritated.

“I thought I was your trophy boyfriend who all the other girls swooned over. Am I losing my touch? This is really bad for my ego.”

Julia laughed at his feigned indignation and ate her dessert. She glanced towards the girl and her companion several times. Chrístõ did, too, just once.

“I hope the man with her is her father,” he said. “Because by Human standards he looks a little too old to be her boyfriend.”

“I don’t think he’s either,” Julia replied. “I saw her father at the start of term. He’s a lot thinner and taller.”

Chrístõ closed his eyes and let the sounds of the open air restaurant meld into the background as his mind reached out to touch the two people who were so concerning Julia. He didn’t do that very often. It tired him contacting non-telepathic people without physical contact and it was, after all, an intrusion.

“You’re not allowed to have professional agents while you’re at the Academy, are you?” he asked presently.

“No. After all, the Olympics are our goal and those are for amateurs.”

“Then if she gives you any trouble about me, or eating dessert at lunchtime, just mention Cory Mathers to her. Blackmail is not a ladylike thing, and I don’t encourage it, but in these circumstances…”

Julia smiled widely and finished her lemon mousse with chocolate fudge sauce and had a cup of coffee to finish the meal. When Chrístõ had settled the bill and they rose to leave, he took her hand as he always did. She didn’t try to stop him. She didn’t even look to see if Sarah Seers or her agent were watching them.

In the car park, something else gripped her thoughts.

There was a metallic blue car parked near their hire car.

It was the same one, she was sure.

Well, why wouldn’t it be, she told herself. This was a popular place and if the driver had been enjoying the bayside drive he might well have stopped off here.

She forced herself not to look worried as they drove away towards their afternoon destination at the Botanical Gardens.

She managed to forget about cars and diets and girls from her dormitory for most of the afternoon. It was pleasant walking around the gardens where rare plants from all the different climate zones of planet Earth were represented. She liked the temperate zone best, with the sort of plant life she was used to as a child, and which she was familiar with on temperate and Earth-like Beta Delta IV, but the tropical zones were interesting, too.

And whichever part they were in, Chrístõ found quiet spots where he could take her in his arms and kiss her lingeringly. He had missed doing that more than he realised in the three weeks since she came to the Academy. He wanted to make those interludes last. He wanted to feel her slender body pressed in his embrace while kissing her lips and pretending they had more than a few short hours together.

“If I’d gone to that silly finishing school it would be just as bad,” she told him. “Or to Nova Castria University.”

“I should have just taken you to Gallifrey and given you to Valena to teach you to be a dutiful wife,” he said. “Instead I have to let you be your own woman for six years. I have to let you chase your dreams before mine can come true.”

“If you didn’t... you wouldn’t really love me the way you say you do,” she reminded him.

“I know. And I do. I’m glad you have a chance to enjoy doing what you love. That’s why I’m paying the fees, after all. But I wish I could see you more than every third Saturday.”

“It’s only the junior year that have restrictions like that. Because we’re still under age. When I’m in the second year, I can have a room instead of being in a dormitory and go off campus more often.”

“Here’s to the second year, then,” Chrístõ said and drew her into another kiss.

They had tea in the Botanical Garden tea shop and then went to the audio-visual theatre to watch a holo-presentation about the history of the colonisation of the Beta Delta system and the transfer of plant species from Earth to establish the Human colonies. It was interesting stuff, but in the warm auditorium, Julia fell asleep. Chrístõ held her around the shoulders and let the commentary drift by him, too. He just enjoyed sitting there with the girl he loved by his side.

She woke with a start when the lights came on at the end of the presentation.

“I slept for nearly an hour,” she complained. “That’s an hour I missed with you.”

“I enjoyed it,” he assured her. “What you need now is a therapeutic shopping trip. Buy a nice dress to change into for dinner and the theatre.”

Of course, a new dress was never just a new dress. Chrístõ knew enough about women to know that. It was a dress and shoes, and her hair and make up done at a quick stop parlour with automatic hair styling hoods. While she was doing that, Chrístõ changed from his leather jacket and casual clothes to a new black suit and dark blue silk shirt and looked ready to take her to dinner and the theatre.

They left their day clothes in the boot of the hire car in the car park above the shopping mall. It was a short walk to the restaurant and Opera House.

Julia noticed a metallic blue car parked close to theirs and was reminded of the ‘non-incident’ earlier. She hadn’t paid much attention in the Botanical Gardens car park when they came out. Chrístõ was talking to her about the restaurant on the ground floor of the opera house with posters and memorabilia from all the great operas that had been performed there. She was thinking about the sort of dress she would like to buy.

But there might have been a car there, too.

Was it possible that she was being followed?

A car pulled out of a parking space further down the long row of parked cars. It was metallic blue. She looked around and noted that there were five or six cars in the same colour.

She told herself not to be silly and then smiled warmly as Chrístõ locked the car and offered her his arm as they walked away.

“And you’re having pudding,” he told her. “This restaurant has awards for its lighter than air pastries with hot fruit sauces. Ten minutes of warm up exercises in the morning will work off the calories.”

Julia started to explain the way food was converted to energy by the body and how ‘working off calories’ was not so simple as that, but he laughed and said there was a New Brisbane city ordnance banning the mention of calories, diet or exercise within ten yards of a restaurant, café or other food outlet. She was too busy laughing at the idea to worry about anything else for a while.

The dinner was pleasant. Their table for two had candles and flowers. Music from great operas of the finest Earth composers played. Chrístõ told Julia about the greatest opera from his own home world, the Pazzione Gallifreya, twelve hours long in its original form, though usually condensed to six when performed anywhere other than Gallifrey. It was a love story with noble sacrifices and everlasting devotion as its theme.

“I wish you could see an unexpurgated version,” he said. “It hasn’t even been done at the Gallifreyan State Opera House for at least a century.”

“I’m Human,” Julia reminded him. “I’m not even sure how I’m going to get through our twelve hour wedding without toilet breaks. I don’t think I could do it for an opera.”

Chrístõ conceded the point.

The mere two and a half hours of Madame Butterfly were perfectly enjoyable. But when it was over, that was also the end of the day. It was time to drive back to the Academy.

“It’s five minutes to eleven,” Chrístõ pointed out as the car passed the place where he had met her before lunch. “I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m driving you up to the front door of the dormitory block.”

Julia watched a metallic blue car overtake and speed ahead and agreed that she didn’t want to walk along the road at this time of night. Besides, she was still wearing high heels and an evening dress.

“Where are you going afterwards?” she asked as he reached the gates and prepared to show identification to prove he had legitimate business at that late hour. “You have the TARDIS somewhere, don’t you?”

“It’s parked in the lobby of a rather nice hotel, disguised as an out of order service lift,” Chrístõ answered. “I think I might book a room for the night and head home tomorrow. I’ll phone you before I go.”

“I’ll look forward to that,” Julia said. She looked at her watch as Chrístõ stopped the car in front of the double doors to the dormitory block. There were five minutes to the Saturday night curfew for first year students. Chrístõ turned and reached to hold her in his arms one more time. Three of those five minutes were satisfactorily expended before she got out of the car and hurried indoors. Chrístõ watched until the door swung closed behind her and then turned his car around. The gate guard politely wished him goodnight as he stopped to let a metallic blue car pass before turning onto the road.

Julia hurried upstairs to her dormitory. Most of the other girls were sitting on their beds reading or brushing their freshly shampooed hair. She went to the bathroom and quickly showered and changed. She went back to her bedspace and put her pendant and ring into the drawer where she kept them along with her favourite photograph of Chrístõ and her diary. She took out the leather bound book and spent some time recording her eventful day before she settled down in her bed and turned out her bedside light.

A little after nine o’clock the next morning, Chrístõ had finished breakfast in the hotel restaurant and was looking forward to calling Julia and talking to her for a little while when his mobile phone rang. The call was from the Academy, but it wasn’t from Julia.

It was the Head of the Junior Department informing him that Julia was missing.