“The Lighthouse of Alexandria, sometimes called the Pharos of Alexandria, was a lighthouse built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom between 280 and 247 BC. It was between 393 and 450 feet tall and cited as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world for many centuries. Badly damaged by three earthquakes between AD 956 and 1323, it was eventually abandoned and fell to ruin.”

Chrístõ recited from memory the first paragraph of the TARDIS database entry about the Lighthouse of Alexandria, including the ancient Greek spelling of the name. Riley Davenport just looked up at the mighty structure in awe.

“It really does look like MOST of the pictures I’ve seen,” he said regarding the three levels of the towering structure. Historical descriptions spoke of a square base supporting an octagonal section which in itself supported a rounded column ending in the open cupola where the fire was maintained day and night. “But promise me we’re not here just before one of those earthquakes.”

“We’re not,” Chrístõ assured him. “We’re in the time of Ptolemy XII, the father of Cleopatra. The Library of Alexandria is over that way and not due to be destroyed in Julius Caesar’s firestorm for a couple of decades. Everything is peaceful. Alexandria is the greatest port city in the world, Egypt is the bread basket of the known world. All is well.”

“Until we arrived,” Riley observed. “I wonder what might disturb the peace and prosperity during our visit?”

“Cynicism does not become you,” Chrístõ pointed out.

“But you have to admit, we’ve never been able to just leave the node and go on our way.”

“We haven’t always wanted to. Alexandria is an interesting place. We can stay a while. I might even get to see the Library properly. My last visit it was actually on fire so I didn’t have a lot of time to peruse.”

Riley laughed, unsure if Chrístõ was pulling his leg or not. Still, it sounded as if they were going to do some exploring later, and he WAS an archaeologist, after all.

The TARDIS had landed at the end of the mole that connected the island of Pharos with Alexandria and the mainland. This definition of the word ‘mole’ meant an artificial breakwater made of large rocks that split the harbour into two distinct sections. A narrow causeway was built upon it to bring fuel for the fire and food for the surprising number of people who lived at the base of the lighthouse. Once the island was reached the causeway was raised up on an elegant arched limestone ramp that led to the first part of the lighthouse proper – above the wide fortress structure at the base.

Chrístõ stopped just before the door and pointed to a plaster sign above it. In big Greek style letters was the name Ptolemy II, the pharaoh under whose reign the lighthouse was completed. Chrístõ laughed and aimed his sonic screwdriver at the sign. It acted like an x-ray, revealing other lettering beneath.

“Sostratus of Cnidus, son of Dexiphanes, to the gods protecting those upon the sea,” Chrístõ translated. “Sostratus was the architect, but Ptolemy wanted only his own name on the structure. Clever old Sostratus hid his personal dedication under plaster that would eventually fall away and reveal the true architect.”

“Could have got him in trouble if Ptolemy found out,” Riley observed. “I should think that was a garrotting offence at least.”

“The very least. But gold stars for ingenuity.”

They passed through the door into a dimly lit, cool space at the bottom of a winding stairway. There were many people climbing the stairs. None of them were bringing wood for the fire.

“They’re tourists?” Riley was surprised. “Tourists in the time of the Ptolemaic pharaohs?”

“Under the Ptolemaic dynasty there was prosperity for many. When people are prosperous, and they have leisure time, they like to travel. Alexandria is a huge draw for them. Really. I could do with a few less of them about when I do the node, though. Let’s see if it’s a bit quieter further up.”

They mounted the winding stairs and climbed the steep and somewhat arduous stairway. Every few steps there was a glint of sunlight from a window space. But the building blocks were so thick it was hard to see out. A little light and a draught of air were all they provided.

“There will be view enough, soon,” Chrístõ promised. “Do you know the interlocking blocks of limestone were sealed together with molten lead for mortar. This was built to last.”

Riley didn’t know that, but he appreciated the information. It reinforced the assurance that nothing was going to fall down while he was climbing up through it. He was still a little suspicious of the regularity with which misadventures had coincided with what should have been easy work. He was convinced that the Guardian had manipulated them somehow into all these dangerous complications.

The stairway opened at last onto a wide platform that went all around the base of the octagonal section. This was where most of the tourists had come to look at the view and to buy food and souvenirs.

Yes, souvenirs. Riley was astonished to see men and women sitting with their wares on coloured cloths – wooden carved models of the lighthouse, cheap tin medallions with images of the lighthouse stamped into them, wax models of the lighthouse, plaster busts of Ptolemy with the lighthouse embossed on the base. There were even some sticky sweets with the lighthouse drawn on them with food colouring.

“I wouldn’t touch those with a ten-foot pole,” Chrístõ remarked. “Goodness knows what the food colouring is. If we’re lucky it’s just cochineal – red colouring made from crushed beetles.”

“My sweet tooth doesn’t extend that far,” Riley admitted. “I’m a bit thirsty, though, after all that climbing. Should we risk what’s in those amphora?”

“Probably not. People who live in this era will have some natural immunity to the water borne bacteria in their wells, but we don’t. I’ll buy some fresh figs over there. There isn’t much the can do to a fig.”

While he did so, Riley went to look at the spectacular view over the city of Alexandria. He wasn’t sure which of the buildings was the famous Library. It didn’t matter. He was looking at ancient Alexandria. It was an archaeologist’s dream.

Chrístõ was still busy as he walked around the other side to look at the sea view. The sun was strong, reflecting off the calm Mediterranean. It was a view for an Englishman, more used to dull, cloudy skies above London, to savour.

“Have a fig,” Chrístõ said to him, passing a small straw basket containing a dozen fruits. Riley took one and peeled it expertly, recalling how he and Chrístõ had lived on them for a day at an oasis in the Negev desert. He thought, then, that he never wanted to see another fig in his life, but now he appreciated the juicy inner flesh all over again.

“When you’re ready we’ll go up to the next level and see if it’s a bit quieter,” Chrístõ said. “I’ll be glad to get this last node done with. Then maybe I CAN spend some time in the Library.”

Riley was ready. He followed Chrístõ through the narrow door into another dimly lit interior with narrow winding stairs. It was very much like climbing the spire of a church, slightly claustrophobic and, if you let your imagination run wild, it was possible to sense just how high you were climbing.

Riley did his best not to think about that. When they emerged again into the daylight they were far above the first viewing platform and even further down to the rocky fringe of the island of Pharos where the tide crashed continuously.

There were tourists here, too, but not so many.

“Just like the upper deck at Blackpool Tower,” Chrístõ said with a smile. “Not for the faint-hearted. Keep a lookout. I’ll get on with it.”

Riley watched out while Chrístõ took the last of the nodes from inside the linen shirt he was wearing. He placed it on the limestone floor and watched as it spun and dug itself down into the heart of the structure just like the other six had done.

When it was over he felt a sense of relief, of a burden lifted. Strange, because it hadn’t BEEN much of a burden, really. He and Riley had seen some amazing things and had the sort of challenges both of them wanted from their travels as well as enough danger to get the adrenaline pumping.

All the same, perhaps he slightly resented being under orders, even from a Guardian, even though it was an honour to be chosen. He wanted to be free to decide where to go and what to do.

And now he was. He thought about that library with all its ancient wisdom, about exploring the market places of Alexandria, perhaps some of its nightlife, though he had little taste for hard drinking and even less for gambling, and as for the dancing girls and such entertainments, he felt sure even the most innocent foray would somehow get back to either his father, Paracell Hext or, most inexplicably and most damaging, to Julia.

But there was nothing to stop him looking.

He turned to Riley and found him leaning as far back as he could against the parapet to look up at the cupola where the fire burnt and a great polished bronze mirror directed the light out to sea to guide sailors safely into port.

“Do you think It’s true that the light could be turned on the ships, setting them on fire?” Riley asked.

“I don’t know,” Chrístõ admitted. “The idea of a primitive laser weapon is fascinating, but I’ve heard it said that the light couldn’t possibly be strong enough. If they refracted sunlight, maybe. But it wouldn’t be instantaneous. It would be like using a magnifying glass to set a campfire going. I think it is just a fantastic story.”

“Shame,” Riley sighed.

“We’re both pacifists,” Chrístõ reminded him. “We shouldn’t be so gleeful about what would be a terrible weapon.”

Riley took his point.

“Anyway, we’re free now, to enjoy the delights of Alexandria? I suppose you’re still set on seeing the library? I think I might stick around the port for a bit, get some see air…”

“Enjoy the sight of shirtless men at work?” Chrístõ suggested. “Well, why not? You know where the TARDIS is parked. I’ll see you later.”

So they parted. Chrístõ headed straight for the great Library to read in their original language and in many cases, original handwriting, the wisdom of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and more. At the Prydonian Academy he had studied the great philosophers of Gallifrey’s past, but he had known there were other great thinkers in other cultures. As great as his own people were, there were others who had ideas, too. He knew that Humans stood high amongst those great thinkers, though he was careful not to suggest that to his tutors at the Academy. It would have led to mockery and derision of his mother’s race and he always felt more deeply about that than a young half-blood trying to prove his worth in Time Lord Academy dared reveal.

But here in the Library of Alexandria he was finally able to be proud of his Human heritage.

It was nearly sunset when he headed back to the TARDIS. The sea had a path of glowing red streaming from the sinking sun. He looked up at the lighthouse and saw its fire reflected off that copper mirror shining its own beam back out across the sea. He thought about that idea of the beam as a weapon. It was curiously exciting, despite his pacifist principles, to think that the Egyptians of the Ptolemaic Dynasty might have had a version of the laser weapon it took several thousand years for their descendants to actually perfect and use in combat. It would prove, above all, that those Human forebears of his were resourceful in fields other than philosophy.

He stepped into the TARDIS and was surprised and a little shocked by what he found Riley doing.

“What the hell is that?” he demanded as he looked at the images appearing on the TARDIS viewscreen – images produced and controlled by a device in Riley’s left hand.

“It’s a camera,” he replied. “A really small one from Beta Delta. Cal gave it to me when I was living there. He thought, because I was a photographer when I lived on Earth in the nineteen-twenties, it would interest me. And it did. Colour pictures that could instantly be seen on a computer screen – the idea wasn’t even dreamt of in my day….”

“You brought a twenty-fourth century camera into Earth’s past. What were you thinking of?”

“I was thinking… first and foremost, that I couldn’t tell you, because you would not approve,” Riley answered.

“Damn right. Do you have any idea how dangerous anachronistic technology is? I’m wary even of taking my sonic screwdriver out in places like this. Have you had that thing everywhere we went?”

“Yes, and I’ve been careful. The pictures are for me. Nobody else will ever see them. I just wanted something to remind me of the wonderful journey I’ve been on. But… but that’s not the point.”

“It’s absolutely the point.”

“No, it’s not,” Riley insisted. “Christo, look at that image. Look at it closely.”

Chrístõ bit back his anger at what seemed to him a huge betrayal by Riley and looked at the image of the sea from the top viewing platform of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

For a moment he didn’t see it.

“I used a sun filter to get a clear picture of the sea and sky without the glare,” Riley was saying. “And… well….”

It was a bit like one of those images where a rabbit suddenly appears just before the viewer goes permanently cross-eyed. All of a sudden he could see the outline of a space ship.

“What the hell?”

“Is it an invasion?” Riley asked. “Could it be Sontarans again?”

“No, that’s not their kind of ship,” Chrístõ said with absolute certainty. “I wonder….”

He turned to the TARDIS database and asked it to show him schematics of known spaceships. He scanned through tend of dozens at eye watering speed before he spotted what he was looking for. A few deft keystrokes and he had superimposed a blueprint onto Riley’s photograph. He confirmed it was a match and then laughed softly.

Riley was relieved that he was laughing and not yelling at him. He dared to ask what the joke was.

“That’s a Delphinine ship,” Chrístõ explained. “Here’s a quote from the database. ‘Delphinines have no culture of their own. In their entire history they have never produced a single poem or philosophical work. They have no songs, no works of art, no drama. Parties of Delphinines continuously travel through space and time using warp shunt technology looking for other cultures to imitate. Following the Exonian Controversy when they attempted to copy the sagas of the Exonian Sea Dragon Warriors BEFORE they were written, the Shaddow Proclamation’s intergalactic culture division prohibited the Delphinines from visiting any planet in an era before they had intergalactic travel and communication with other races.”

“So they’re breaking more rules than I was with my camera?” Riley observed.

“It’s the same rule, just a matter of scale. Your little camera and their big spaceship both shouldn’t be here. But the Shaddow Proclamation haven’t specifically proscribed you, so I won’t put the camera in the trash compactor and wipe all your pictures from the database. But we WILL do something about the Delphinines.”

He moved around the console to the communications array. First he sent a sub-space message to the Shaddow Proclamation to inform them of the Delphinine infraction, then he contacted the ship, itself.

He was rather affronted by the response when he identified himself and informed the captain that he was putting them under caution for breach of their prohibition.

“Try to stop us,” was the reply. “Everyone knows Time Lord ships are unarmed.”

That was perfectly true, and Time Lords generally were proud of being among the few genuine space explorers who didn’t travel in armed ships. Having it thrown back as an insult rankled.

“The Shaddow Proclamation are on their way. They DO have weapons.”

“We have a cloak and warp shunt engines. We’ll be gone before they arrive.”

“Don’t bet on it,” Chrístõ responded. He closed the communication and moved around once again to dematerialise the TARDIS. It almost immediately dematerialised on the very top level of the Lighthouse, the part off limits to the tourists, where the fire was maintained, day and night.

“It’s all right,” Chrístõ said reassuringly as he stepped out and faced the two fire watchers who stared at him in astonishment. In the mirror he could see that the TARDIS had resolved itself into a copy of the statue of Poseidon that stood on top of the cupola over their heads. A hundred points for aesthetics but none at all for stealth and incongruity.

“Do you come from the gods, masters?” asked the elder keeper of the flames.

“Yes,” Christo answered. “But don’t be afraid. Your work is pleasing to the gods. We need to use the fire for a new purpose.”

“Your wish is our command,” he was told.

“Good. I want you to stoke the fire as high and hot as possible. Meantime, let me look at this mirror of yours.”

He had guessed that it would be mounted on a frame with a pivot to allow it to swing into position to reflect the light. He also expected a chain that stopped it swinging too far. He used his sonic screwdriver held surreptitiously in his hand to break that and caught it deftly.

It was heavy, and hot, too, but he swung it so that the refracted beam of light swept up into the night sky like a searchlight seeking out Luftwaffe bombers. Instead, it caught the underside of the ‘cloaked’ ship and lit it up in shades of copper red. It wouldn’t catch fire, but the hull temperature ought to be rising quite quickly, causing the Delphinine quite a bit of concern.

He guessed right. Within a very short time the ship rose up through the Earth’s atmosphere, away from the ‘deadly’ beam of light. Chrístõ fixed the chain back onto the mirror and returned it to its proper position.

“Thank you for your help,” he told the two bewildered beacon watchers. He turned and walked back into the TARDIS and dematerialised before the two men had time to wonder further.

“The Delphinine have surrendered, unconditionally,” Riley announced. Chrístõ smiled as he heard the pleading voice of the captain from the audio communications panel.

“I thought they might. We’ll escort them to the outer edge of the solar system in a moment. Let them sweat until I’m ready.”

“You know, thousands of people in Alexandria will have seen your light show,” Riley pointed out

“Omens from the gods,” Chrístõ replied. “It could be worse. Thousands of years before my time a gang of senior Prydonian on a field trip pretended to be the gods of Olympus. They left some very unlikely stories and the ‘Greek’ alphabet when they were caught and sent home to Gallifrey in disgrace.”

Riley laughed. He thought he was meant to do that. He seemed to be forgiven for his own rule breaking as Chrístõ set about making sure the greater culprits were escorted to the limits of Earth’s solar system where the Shaddow Proclamation ship was waiting to put them in custody.

When that was done, Chrístõ turned and looked at a patch of empty air beside the console and watched as a figure coalesced. It was the Guardian who had set him on this quest seven adventures ago. As before, he bowed before the immortal.

“We have completed the mission you placed upon us,” he said.

“Yes, you have,” the Guardian of Eternity answered. “The planet you call Earth will develop culturally and technologically at the pace appropriate to its somewhat impatient and impetuous sentient race.”

Chrístõ smiled despite himself.

“Impatient and impetuous are terms that have been attributed to yourself, I think, Son of Gallifrey. But you have acquitted yourself well. You both have. Son of Earth, your courage has matched that of your friend and mentor.”

“Neither of us knew it was meant to be a test of our courage,” Riley ventured. “There were some things that happened… dangerous things.”

“That was not my doing,” the Guardian answered. “The seven destinations for the nodes were already programmed into this time and space machine along with many thousands of other destinations. The challenges you faced were pre-determined long before I gave you the mission. But, after all, you were equal to the work. I commend you both. And I give you these gifts as reward for your efforts.”

From out of the empty air the Guardian produced two crystal replicas of the seven golden nodes. They glowed slightly from within. Chrístõ and Riley both took hold of one of the gifts.

“They are not just pretty keepsakes,” the Guardian said. “They are tokens of promise. Should either of you face certain death, the Guardians of Eternity promise to intervene – just the once – to save your life.”

“That’s… quite an important gift,” Chrístõ said. “I did not expect any reward save the honour of serving the Guardians.”

“That is why it is given – because you expected no reward. Now, farewell, friends. Good journey to you both.”

With that he was gone. Chrístõ put his crystal on the console. Riley did the same.

“I should have realised about the pre-set coordinates in my TARDIS database,” Chrístõ admitted. “They’re pretty much always trouble. Never mind. We’ll pick a planet to visit, soon. First, dinner at the Psi Omicron intergalactic restaurant. That’s one pre-set that IS safe. And I’m paying.”

“Sounds just fine to me,” Riley agreed.