Garrick wandered through the tiered gardens of the Villa Pollinus. It was a peaceful place, with the sounds of the sea and sea birds in the not so far distance and the sound of a stringed instrument, Chrístõ had called it a lyre, playing somewhere behind him.

For the Roman civil servant Pollinus who had been happy to lease his holiday villa in Baiae to a group of respectable Romano-Britons this was a large property. Garrick was a little puzzled by that idea. From the top tier with the sparkling fountain gushing out of an artificial spring and running towards the first of several cascades he could see the ivy covered walls that bound the villa’s limits.

His father’s estate on Gallifrey was more than a hundred miles wide. He wasn’t sure he had ever really seen the borders with the d’Alba or Oakdae?e estates – at least not on foot. He had travelled by car, of course, and Chrístõ was always promising to take him by hovertrike across country, though that would have to wait until his older brother was home long enough to do so. But as far as his eyes could see the estate was boundless.

Still, the wide, pale blue sky and the Aegean Sea sweeping towards a pleasingly clear horizon hardly leant itself to feelings of claustrophobia, and these formal gardens with the fountain and cascades of water, the follies built of pure white stone where it was possible to get shade from the burning Italian sun, the scents coming from the trees and flowers, were all very enjoyable.

He looked up at an overhanging tree above him. There were small yellow fruits there. Chrístõ said they were apricots. They had eaten some of those fruits cooked in a piquant sauce at dinner last night. He reached and took one, tasting it as a raw fruit and finding it tasty. He filled a fold of the Roman ‘toga’ he was wearing with a few fruits and continued his walk.

He smiled knowingly as he looked around the garden and out across the Aegean. Only a fortnight ago, Chrístõ’s friends from the RSV Marine Explorer had completed their survey of the sunken remains of Baiae. They had a provisional map of the villas and a list of their owners. Over supper they had all imagined how glorious it would be to spend time in one of those magnificent pleasure houses in the days of the Roman Empire.

A few of the group of professional sailors and expert scientists knew that the fantasy didn’t have to remain a fantasy. Much later when several wine bottles were empty and most of the crew had gone to bed, the small group who knew about Chrístõ’s ‘special’ circumstances prevailed upon him. “Was there any chance of taking a bit of a time-out, a trip back to before most of Roman Baiae fell into the sea?”

Chrístõ had turned them down at first, but they poured more wine and begged until he reluctantly admitted that he might be able to ‘rent’ a property from a man who owned a Baiae villa but rarely used it.

“But no orgies,” he had insisted. “Nothing that would get me into trouble with my stepmother when Garrick goes home.”

Nobody really wanted the orgies. Patrick Hanratty, the galley chef from the Wanderer professed an interest in authentic Roman banquet cooking. Mairead Deasy mentioned testing the water quality and the marine plants that might have grown before modern pollutants. She promised not to do anything other than free diving with her girlfriend, Anne-Marie Brendon, who was coming with them on the adventure. Gerard Leeson and Michael Annis of the boat crew wanted to know if time travel was as interesting as seamanship, while Riley Davenport and Colm O’Sullivan just relished the idea of ‘one more TARDIS trip’.

And so, here they were, enjoying having their every whim indulged – at least those involving food or drink and lounging around in rather less clothes than they were accustomed to wearing. Master Pollinus had a cohort of household slaves to provide those indulgences.

Chrístõ and Garrick were quite accustomed to having servants. Riley had a middle-class upbringing that included a cook, housemaid and a gardener. The others, though, were utterly new to such luxury and were thoroughly enjoying it to the limit.

Garrick laughed to himself as he remembered Chrístõ banning him, absolutely, from asking serving girls to peel grapes for him - or any other lazy and dissolute activity. They were not Romans with a scant regard for the lives of others. They were Gallifreyan nobility who were always aware that their privileged position came with responsibility to those less fortunate.

Yes, those were sentiments his father had always drilled into him, Garrick recalled. The only time he had ever been seriously punished was after a carelessly rude remark to the family’s long-serving butler. Even his mother had agreed with the punishment. Usually she prevailed upon his father in his favour.

So he had peeled his own grapes – or more usually eaten them with the skin on. He couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to have them peeled, anyway. He drank wine when his brother wasn’t looking and enjoyed the bathing in the amazing pool heated by natural hot gasses from the hypocaust. He enjoyed a massage afterwards from a young woman trained to that purpose who seemed surprised that a massage was ALL any of them expected of her. Garrick still didn’t quite understand the obviously adult jokes about the extra services usually rendered. Mostly he enjoyed the Italian sunshine that was very different to the summer sun on the southern plain of Gallifrey.

He was enjoying himself. So was everyone else in the extended group of time travellers. His brother had joked that it was unusual not to have tentacled monsters trying to kill him, but he didn’t seem displeased by the break from such occurrences.

Garrick wondered sometimes if he ought to be homesick. Did he miss his mother and father? Chrístõ, of course, was playing the latter role, keeping him on a moral path. His mother….

He loved his mother, but sometimes he wondered if she loved him TOO much. He understood why - the war that had happened when he was little more than a baby, when she had thought she had lost his father and brother. She had clung to him both literally and figuratively and continued to do so even after their world had been liberated. Chrístõ was about the only other person she trusted with his safety. It was a wonder she was even letting him go to the Prydonian Academy to be educated by tutors she hadn’t personally vetted, to mix with other boys with ideas that she couldn’t control.

No, he wasn’t homesick. Exploring time and space with Chrístõ was the most freedom he had ever had, and he was happy.

He walked down the marble steps down to the next tier of the garden. New scents assailed his nose in a garden filled with spices that would be used in the villa’s kitchen. Some of them resembled the spice garden in his own home, but others were new to him.

There was a girl collecting herbs in a basket. She was wearing a knee length dress of some kind of hard wearing fabric. Her skin was golden tanned, her hair dark. Garrick thought she was pretty, though his judgement of such things was limited.

“Hello,” he said. The girl looked up from her work and almost dropped her basket in shock. One of the masters of the house had spoken.

“It’s all right,” Garrick assured her. “I’m not going to hurt you. Do you have a name?”

“Anna,” she answered timorously, her eyes downcast. Garrick found that disconcerting. The servants at home were deferential, calling him ‘young sir’, and such things, but they met him eye to eye. He didn’t like the idea that a girl picking herbs was so scared of him.

“It’s all right, Anna,” he told her. “I don’t mean you any harm. Are those for supper tonight? The herbs, I mean?”

“Yes, lord,” she answered. “For flavouring an oyster sauce. I… have to take them in, now, or I’ll be whipped for laziness.”

“Whipped, by whom?” Garrick asked. “We’re the only ‘masters’ in this house just now, and none of us would whip you for talking to me.”

“Anton, the kitchen master, would whip me.” She turned quickly and hurried away. Garrick watched her thoughtfully. This was a great place to be rich. But Anton was a slave as much as Anna was, and he was the one who scared her so much. That didn’t strike him as entirely right.

But there was nothing to be done about it. Chrístõ had been clear with everyone about that. They couldn’t interfere with the destinies of anyone living in this time. They couldn’t free any slaves. They couldn’t start any rebellions. The single men among their party couldn’t be intimate with any of the local women. Siring their own dynasty two thousand years before they were born was strictly against the Laws of Time he had already bent by bringing them all here.

Garrick was considering the time travelling principle known as the ‘Grandfather Paradox’ when he reached the lowest tier of the garden where it met a small beach with pure green-blue sea lapping it.

Patrick was there.

Patrick was quite obviously breaking the rules. He was sitting on a seat under an apricot tree holding hands with a woman. Her clothes were much richer than those of young Anna. She was obviously one of the aristocrats from an adjoining villa.

They were talking quietly, expecting not to be overheard. Patrick obviously didn’t know that Gallifreyans had exceptional hearing.

Not that he was deliberately eavesdropping, of course. Besides, the spoken words weren’t as telling as the body language and the emotions exuding from the two. The word for what they were saying and doing was ‘intimate’.

Before he made his presence known by noisily splashing along the edge of the sea the last thing he heard was ‘I am so sorry, Li. You deserve to be happy. I wish I could do something to help you.”

“Thank you, Patrice,” the woman answered him. “Thank you for your kind heart and your concern for a woman with such woes as mine.”

Then both looked up to see Garrick playing in the cool, clean surf. The woman hurried away. Patrick waited for a few moments before heading down the beach to meet his young travelling companion.

“Hey, kiddo,” he called out.

“My brother calls me that,” Garrick answered. “I’m not sure I ought to let anyone else say it. My mother wouldn’t like it.”

“if she’s anything like MY mother, YOUR mother wouldn’t like you doing a lot of things,” Patrick answered with a grin. “I thought that was the point of you being here with your brother.”

“That’s true,” Garrick admitted. “Feels funny when other people say it, though. I suppose… because at home nobody else would. The servants wouldn’t. But… yes, that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? I spend too much time with my parents or with servants. Being here has made me realise a lot about servants and masters. I have seen how unpleasant it is for them in contrast to our luxury. I saw a girl before….”

“Yes,” Patrick noted. “We… I mean… I… saw you in conversation with the kitchen girl.”

“I wouldn’t call that a conversation. My nurserymaid when I was three talked to me more.”

“Oh, what about?” Patrick laughed.

“Wraiths. She said they come for bad boys who don’t go to sleep.”

Patrick laughed again. Garrick shrugged.

“I wasn’t worried about the wraiths. But the enemy who invaded our world when I was a bit older frightened me a lot. My father and Chrístõ were fighting them. Mother and I were in hiding. I don’t know what happened to the nurserymaid. She never came back to work for us. I should ask father about her when I see him. I didn’t like her very much, but I hate the thought of her being dead.”

“That sounds like a rough time,” Patrick admitted.

“I don’t usually think about it. Funny that I have twice, today. But… anyway… speaking of conversations…. I saw YOU with somebody.”

“She’s called Licinia,” Patrick said, almost reluctantly. “She is spending time here with her cousin, Marcinia, at the next villa along. She likes to walk along the beach. She says the air is so much cleaner and clearer than in Rome where her husband’s home is.”

“Yes, it is,” Garrick confirmed. “Chrístõ and I went to Rome. There are so many people and animals. It really is rather dusty and smelly. I didn’t like it much. I suppose she must be from the country like me.”

“Yes, in fact,” Patrick answered. “She’s from the Lombardy region of what I know as Italy. She was married off to a friend of her father who took her to his house in the city. She was glad when he announced they would spend the summer here. He… her husband… is too busy talking politics with the other big men of Rome down for the summer. She gets a bit more freedom to go where she wants.”

“You definitely had more of a conversation than I did,” Garrick noted with a grin that was downright cheeky. “You HAVE remembered what Chrístõ said about interaction with the locals?”

“Yes,” Patrick assured him. “What about you and the little slave girl?”

“I’m fifteen,” Garrick replied. “I won’t even be old enough for girls – of any sort - until I’m at least a hundred and eighty – when I finish school.”

Patrick looked at Garrick and smiled even more widely. He didn’t say anything, but Garrick thought he felt one of his thoughts rather more strongly than any others. He didn’t completely understand it.

What did ‘a lot of cold showers’ have to do with anything?

“Come on, kiddo,” Patrick said after giving up trying to interpret Garrick’s puzzled expression. “Let’s head back to the villa. I want to have a look at how they cook those oysters your little girlfriend was gathering herbs for. One of these days I’m going to get out of ship’s galleys and get a kitchen of my own that doesn’t move up and down. There are flavours around here that must have been forgotten before the town slid into the sea. I could be a sensation if I revive them.”

“Cooking is not a pastime for the high born on my world,” Garrick admitted. “But the very best chefs attain enough fame to be counted as near equals in aristocratic company. Perhaps your ambition will be rewarded.”

Patrick laughed. It was the only way to react to Garrick’s odd view of things. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was a snob or an alien, but he figured the kid would learn to be a bit more like his brother eventually.

Meantime they came back to the villa through the kitchen. Patrick had looked in there as a matter of professional pride many times and found it a hive of industry not unlike any kitchen he had ever worked in.

Today, it was a scene of horror. What caused the uproar was unclear, but Anton, the kitchen master, had already whipped two of the lower grade slaves until they were nearly unconscious. Now, he had turned his attention on the slight young thing called Anna who crouched on the stone flagged floor trying to shield herself from the vicious lashes.

“Stop that,” Garrick cried out with all the force of his aristocratic heritage. He grabbed the whip from the chief slave’s grasp and cast it aside. He squared up to the tall, tightly muscled man. He was head and shoulders taller than Garrick and twice his width. He could have snapped him like a twig.

But he WAS a slave.

And Garrick was one of his aristocratic masters.

“Take him…” Garrick said as the man backed off. “Take him somewhere he can be locked up… secured. Then… look after those two.”

A pair of men came forward and took hold of Anton. He was led away. The women attended to those who had already suffered a beating. Garrick bent to lift Anna to her feet. The girl swooned and for the first time in his life he found out what it was like to lift a female into his arms.

“I’m taking her to my room,” he said, and because something did strike him as odd about that idea he commandeered another of the serving girls to cone with him to look after her and tend to the wounds she had suffered.

Patrick looked around at the kitchen, now missing half a dozen workers, including, of course, Anton, who would be considered the head chef if they had a word for that in this tine. He glanced at the basket of kitchen herbs and another one filled with freshly caught oysters, then at the huge stone oven and the fire for spit roasting whole carcasses of meat.

He smiled widely and wondered if the Roman pantheon included a god of cuisine.

“Come on, stir yourselves,” he said to the startled workers. “We’ve got a banquet to cook. Let’s get busy.”

Anna wasn’t as badly hurt as she could have been. Garrick had stopped her abuser before he got in more than three lashes. One of the girls brought an ointment made of garden herbs and some kind of oil. Garrick didn’t ask what it was. It smelt vaguely antiseptic anyway.

“What caused all this?” he asked the women. “Why did he beat her and the other two?”

“He beats anyone who doesn’t work hard enough,” answered the strong, capable young woman called Gia who had been a kitchen worker for longer than young Anna had been alive and understood her place in the world. “The two boys spilt water. Anna cried for him to stop. They are her brothers. She was afraid for them. He turned on her for insolence.”

“He is a cruel thug,” Carrick announced.

“He is the kitchen master,” Gia pointed out. “We do as he orders or we are punished. Anna and her brothers are new to the work. They were captured in Gaul and brought to the slave market in Pompeii before being bought for the kitchen, here. They have often displayed defiance.”

Garrick thought of many things he could say about that, but he choked them back. He was already out of his depth. Chrístõ had warned him expressly about interfering with events in human history. He had even been warned about talking to the slaves about matters such as ‘freedom’ in case it rallied them into any sort of rebellion. He wondered if his action against Anton might be in that category of mistakes.

He needed to talk to his brother. That was for certain.

But Chrístõ was out. He and Riley had gone to visit the Villa Barbro, a half mile around the bay, where they had a friend from an adventure they shared before Riley met Colm. The rest of the party were in the bathhouse, enjoying an afternoon of bathing, drinking and snacking in the Roman style.

He sat by Anna’s side and dismissed the women. He watched her quietly for a little while. The girl probably needed sleep, but she was in some pain despite the poultice on her wounds.

“Let me help you,” he said, reaching out to touch her on the forehead. He was only just learning to do these kind of psychic tricks, but a mind that was unused to putting up walls against such intrusion was easy. He gently soothed the pain right out of her brain.

As he did so, he couldn’t help seeing some of her stray memories. He fixed on them and concentrated. That way he could see the village at the edge of a forest in the place called Gaul. She and her brothers were children of the village elder. They were, in a more primitive way, aristocrats. The people of Gaul were farmers. The three children worked as hard as anyone to make sure there was food to eat, but they also learnt to read and to write.

Their hard but contented life had come to a sudden end when the Romans came, demanding ‘tribute’. When the village had fallen short of the tax people were taken instead, mostly young, healthy people who would make good slaves. Parents had begged. Anna’s mother had screamed for mercy as all three of her children were taken, but all pleas fell on cruelly deaf ears.

Anna and her brothers had cried at night when they were lodged in dark, cold rooms with nothing but straw to sleep on, but they had dried their eyes and stood firm in front of their captors. They had kept that stoic attitude all the way to Pompeii. Their resolve was almost shattered when they realised they might be sold to different masters, but by the smallest miracle they were bought together to work in the kitchen of Villa Pollinus. It was a small comfort despite being set to work long hours under the constant threat of painful punishment.

“I’ll get you home,” Garrick promised. “I don’t care what Chrístõ says about not getting involved and changing history and all that. I promise I’ll get you and your brothers home.”

Anna didn’t respond. Freed from pain she had fallen asleep. But that didn’t make his promise any less valid. Garrick sat back and watched her and determined to keep his vow no matter how much opposition he faced.

The sun was going down when he heard Mairead calling him to the evening meal.

“I’m going to make sure she and her brothers get some of our food, first,” he insisted. “They deserve it.”

Mairead didn’t disagree. She had heard what had happened and had her own thoughts about the matter.

When Garrick got to the dining room where the supper was being served by a bevy of serving girls and a triumphant Patrick the whole company were assembled and much of the story had been told.

Patrick was mightily proud of having organised the kitchen and cooked the sumptuous meal, including copious amounts of the local seafood that was one of Baiae’s selling points for the Roman villa owners. Everyone agreed on that point. But there was a lot of concern about what to do with Anton.

“I’d like to whip him and see how he likes it,” Colm said.

“He probably knows what it is like,” Riley answered him. “He was probably whipped as a young slave.”

“Then he ought to know better,” Garrick remarked angrily. Then he mentioned his promise to Anna. Chrístõ groaned aloud.

“The only way we can keep that promise is by dropping them home by TARDIS.”

“Then we shall do that,” Garrick answered stubbornly.

“I think we should,” Anne-Marie said, backed up by Mairead and by the fest of the men. “After all, it is nasty the way they were taken from their homes and sold as slaves and beaten by Anton. I bet things like that don’t happen on YOUR planet.”

“Well,” Chrístõ answered. “There are Paracell Hexts’ electronic whips for stubborn prisoners, and an ancient law that allows a man to whip his sons for wanton disobedience. I could check if that was ever repealed. It would serve you right for causing me this much trouble, Garrick.”

The boy looked worried for a moment, but Chrístõ clipped him playfully around the ear.

“Yes, I’ll take Anna and her brothers home. I don’t think they’ll be safe around here. But I’ll probably have to let Anton free. He hasn’t actually broken any rules by chastising the lower slaves.”

There was a storm of protest around the table, but Chrístõ was right. In this time and place it was a head slave’s job to beat those under him. There was no way to change that without breaking yet another of the laws of time.

“Anyway, I just feel sorry for Anna. I’m not in love with her, like Patrick is with his lady friend,” Garrick pointed out.

“What lady friend?” Chrístõ asked, a beat ahead of a chorus from the others. Patrick was forced to tell his tale including some details he hadn’t mentioned to Garrick earlier.

“Lucinda is a very unhappy lady, trapped in a rotten marriage to a man twice her age who neglects her. She has been telling me about how helpless she feels. I am not in love with her. I’m just… a friend, somebody to confide in.”

“A knight in shining armour to sweep her away from her horrible husband?” Anne-Marie suggested.

“A dupe to kill her hubby for her,” said Michael Annis. “Have you seen Wayne’s World II where the biker chick tries to seduce Garth into doing in her bloke?”

Patrick hadn’t seen that film. Anne-Marie and Gerard both had. They explained the plotline to him. Patrick shook his head firmly.

“It’s not like that. She HASN’T asked me to do anything of the sort.”

“Well, not yet,” Michael told him while the others hummed the first bars of Stairway to Heaven in remembrance of the aforementioned cult films.

“I don’t know about films,” Riley said. “But I did study the classic periods. And there was a woman called Licinia who was put to death by her own family for killing her husband. Are you sure….”

Patrick looked worried, but Chrístõ put an end to that notion, quickly.

“We are here in sunny Baiae in the summer of AD 10 by the calendar most of you use, or to the locals, the thirtieth year of the reign of Caesar Augustus – the one who sent out the decree requiring all citizens of the Empire to be counted, and all the trouble that caused. I picked this year as one when the empire was fairly stable and peaceful. Augustus was a relatively wise and just emperor. He didn’t try to marry his own sister or get his horse into the Senate. Even Jesus is only a teenager. Things are quiet and we shouldn’t have any trouble.”

“Yes, we get that,” his friends answered. “So…”

“So, the Licinia Riley heard about, wife of Claudius Asellus, died in BC 153. Or hundred and sixty three years ago for those who have trouble with all the counting backwards involved in the dates around this time. It is not the same woman.”

“She has a really unfortunate name, then,” Mairead commented. “Or highly coincidental.”

“She doesn’t want her husband murdered,” Patrick insisted. “Just a bit of quiet time out of his sight. She hasn’t asked me or anyone to do him in, or, as far as I know, has any plans to do it herself. I’ve just been TALKING to her.”

“All right,” Chrístõ accepted. “Just keep it that way, please. I’m going to have enough trouble with Garrick’s contributions to the altered timeline. You realise I will have to pay Pollinus for the loss of four kitchen slaves.”

“Four?” Garrick queried.

“I’m going to have to do something with Anton. I really can’t have him back in the kitchen. He might start poisoning Garrick’s food. “Or all our food. I think I’ll have to take him to the slave market in Pompeii. Maybe I can get a part exchange on a new chef. Yes, Patrick, I know you like playing kitchen boss, and the food is great, especially the oyster stew, but somebody will have to take over when we leave.”

“So Pollinus will get four new slaves and nothing much will have changed,” Mairead pointed out.

“The British Empire didn’t abolish slavery until the mid-nineteenth century,” Riley reminded her. “There isn’t much to be done right now.”

“No, there isn’t,” Christo insisted. “And I’m sorry about that, too, but I did warn you all when we came here. Those youngsters need a few days to recover from their beating. You can be in charge of their welfare until then, Garrick. I’ll deal with Anton tomorrow. Patrick, you make sure nothing goes beyond casual friendship with your Roman lady.”

Again, Patrick protested that he meant nothing more than a platonic relationship with the lady. His friends believed or disbelieved him in various proportions. Chrístõ told them all to behave or they wouldn’t get to listen to the Roman top ten lyre tunes before bedtime. That wasn’t by any means a severe enough threat.

But they all went to bed in good spirits. Garrick checked up on Anna and her brothers before retiring. Chrístõ let him do so. He still wasn’t sure if intervening in the matter was a good idea, but it was already too late to do anything else.

Besides, he wasn’t sure if he wouldn’t have done the same thing in Garrick’s place. He disliked bullies and had put a stop to a fair few in different times and places. Anton was small fry compared to some of the despots he had toppled.

Well, that was the plan. But when had plans ever gone.. to plan?

Just before dawn, Chrístõ was woken from a savoury dream that involved Patrick’s recipe for oyster stew by a loud crashing noise and angry shouts.

His first thought was that Anton was trying to escape from the room where he had been locked. But there was too much noise for that.

He dressed quickly and went to see what was going on. A house servant who was even more hurriedly dressed was looking at the main door and wondering if he dared open it. Chrístõ gave him a nod of authority and stood ready to deal with whatever crisis had arisen.

He was only slightly surprised to see the owner of the neighbouring villa, Lucius Cecilia, surrounded by hefty looking man servants bearing flaming torches and swords. They looked for all the world like a mob of villagers hunting vampires in a gothic horror film.

“Where is the wife of Tibus Desticius Severna?” Cecilia demanded.

“I am sorry,” Chrístõ answered calmly. “Remember that we are visitors, here. I do not know who you mean.”

“She was seen on three occasions in the garden of this villa,” Cecilia explained. “Is she here, now?”

Christo groaned inwardly, cursing the laws of narrative causality. This absconding wife could only be Patrick’s Lucinia.

“The household is, as you at discern, shut up for the night,” he informed his neighbour. “Nobody has entered the villa. May I know why you seek the lady in question?”

“She has murdered her husband,” Cecilia responded. “He was stabbed through the heart with his own dagger as he slept and the murderess has fled.”

Now alarm bells were ringing in Chrístõ’s head, but he kept a calm demeanour.

“She has not come to the house. You are, of course, free to search the grounds, but please do so discreetly. My friends are sleeping.”

His friends were doing nothing of the sort. He could feel their excited minds close by. Riley was concealed behind the balustrade at the top of the stairs. Mairead and Anne-Marie weren’t far off. Colm and Michael were both near, as well, ready to rush to his defence if the confrontation at the door turned dangerous. Garrick had rushed to defend his young slave girl should the need arise.

Only one member of the group wasn’t close at hand. As soon as Cecilia had turned away, satisfied that the fugitive was not within Villa Pollinus, Chrístõ ran upstairs calling for Patrick.

“He’s in there,” Anne-Marie said, pointing to the huge, carved wooden cabinet that was the Tardis’s Roman household disguise. Chrístõ had guessed as much. He wrenched open the door and stepped inside.

Patrick was, indeed, there, in the console room, along with a lady who had to be Licinia, wife and possibly killer of Tibus Desticius Severna. She was wearing a floaty silk item that might pass for a nightdress in these times if it wasn’t covered in blood. Her hands were bloody and her tear-streaked face was bloody, too, though some of that might have been her own. Chrístõ found his sonic screwdriver on the console and examined her carefully.

She had several cuts and bruises on her face and what looked like a ligature mark on her neck. There were bruises on her back, too. Worse, still, she had been punched or kicked in the stomach.

“Your baby is safe, despite everything,“ Chrístõ told her after carefully examining her with both skilled hands and a gentle psychic probe that revealed an added complication to the story.

“Ohhh,” she sobbed with a tinge of relief.

“He attacked her because he thought the child wasn’t his,” Patrick said. “The man was insanely jealous. He accused ME of being the father, even though we have been here only a month and she is….”

“At least twelve weeks pregnant,” Chrístõ confirmed. “You fought back….”

Licinia nodded and described how she had reached out and found a dagger, striking in desperation at her manic husband’s chest.

“Self defence,” Patrick said. “No question.”

“To you and me, maybe,” Chrístõ answered. “But there’s a mob with torches tearing up the garden. I’m not sure I’d fancy her chances. We’re a long way from fair trial by a jury of her peers.”

That other Licinia, one hundred and sixty three years before, had been strangled by her own family members. Whether she had been justified in killing her husband hadn’t even come into the matter. It wouldn’t this time, either.

“You can’t let them have her,” Patrick insisted. “You can’t. I don’t care about your rules. I won’t let you abandon this woman to a mob.”

Chrístõ took hold of Licinia’s blood-stained hand. He closed his eyes and tried to look at her timeline for a clue to how he should proceed.

She was inside the TARDIS, of course. The ordinary rules of time were negated. That meant that he could see two possible future timelines for Licinia.

The first was tragically short, ending in a lynching on a branch of an apricot tree while men with torches ignored her pleas for mercy.

The other was longer and happier. Chrístõ looked at enough detail to know what his plan should be. It did mean playing with the fabric of time, but it was just about impossible to avoid at this point..

One of these days he would get in trouble for it, but hopefully this wasn’t the day.

“What she needs most is rest,” Chrístõ said. “A bath, first, then sleep. I’ll send Mairead and Anne-Marie to help. You can look after her once she’s in bed.”

“Here… in the TARDIS?” Patrick asked. “You mean….”

“You brought her in here. The damage is done already. We might as well make the best of it. You realise this is the end of our Roman holiday. We’re all going to have to get out of here, now.”

Patrick knew. So did the others when he returned to them. They had already started packing. The two young women hurried at once to help Patrick’s distressed murderess, both of them quite fully convinced that Licinia was the innocent victim of a dreadful thug of a husband.

It had occurred to Chrístõ that she might be more sinister than that, using Patrick’s kindness towards her to disguise a premeditated crime, but he had seen her story clearly enough when he was in psychic contact with her. Yes, her marriage had been a loveless and violent arrangement. Yes, she was a desperate woman and he knew he had to help her.

“What about Anna and her brothers?” Garrick asked. “You promised to help them, too.”

“Yes, I know,” Chrístõ answered. “Go and get them into the TARDIS as well. I’ve got one more thing to do then we’re all leaving.”

That was thre more ancient Romans who shouldn’t even know that TARDIS technology existed. He was getting even deeper into trouble should anyone want to make a case of it.

But what else could he do when other people had made promises he had to keep.

He went straight to the cellar, where Anton was incarcerated. The room had obviously been used for that purpose before. There was straw on the flags and chains fixed to the wall. Anton wasn’t chained, but he was sitting mutely as if his confinement had taken some of the fight out of him.

“Stay where you are,” Chrístõ ordered as the sullen man began to stir. “And do exactly as I say or it will be the worst for you.”

He crouched beside the prisoner and touched him firmly on the shoulder.

“Have you always been a slave?” he asked. Anton shrugged stubbornly, but Chrístõ saw it in his mind, anyway. He and his mother had been captured in southern Spain when he was a child. She had died before they reached the slave market and he had been sold as a kitchen servant, the very lowest of them, kicked and slapped and beaten by everyone until he grew up and could give some of the punishment back. Now, in his forties, he was the biggest man in the house and bullied everyone.

“You could have been kinder. You know what it is like to be taken from your life and treated like dirt. Why didn’t you remember that when you were beating children?”

Anton had no answer to that question. It was just how it was in the slave hierarchy.

“Do you want to go back to Spain?” Chrístõ asked. “I know your mother is dead and there’s nothing much there for you, but you could make a life of some sort. And you would be free.”

Anton said nothing in words, but Chrístõ felt the faint hope that sparked in his mind. Yes, he wanted to go home.

Of course, every one of the slaves who worked at this villa, or any of the villas, wanted that. But he couldn’t help them. Slavery was an accepted part of Roman life. He couldn’t interfere with that except in this small way of removing four of them from this one household.

There was a lot of noise in the garden as he brought Anton up from the cellar and a new hammering at the door. Possibly some evidence had been found that Licinia did, indeed, come to the villa.

“Should I open the door again?” asked the distinctly nervous slave who hovered in the hall.

“Not yet,” Chrístõ answered. “Give me half a minute to get upstairs. Then tell them we’ve gone away.”

“Gone away?”

“Gone away, never to be seen again. Carry on maintaining this villa for your master. I’m sure he’ll be in touch soon enough. You’ll be all right.”

There was no reason for anyone, not even the angry mob outside, to harm the house slaves. They would be safe. Meanwhile he hurried Anton up the stairs and into the cabinet. He ignored his exclamations about the strange, frightening room outside and those of his friends who had not expected the kitchen master to be included in their travel plans.

“Is everyone aboard?” he asked.

“Yes,” Garrick confirmed. “Anna and her brothers are in my bedroom. Licinia is in Julia’s old room. Everyone else is in the kitchen making coffee and ‘bacon buttes’ and calling it ‘breakfast’.

“Right,” Chrístõ confirmed. He went to the console and programmed the first of several destinations. Outside, three men searching for Licinia rushed along the landing. He dematerialised the TARDIS before they returned. Even if they noticed that the cabinet was gone there was little they could do about it.

The first destination was southern Spain in the time of the Roman occupation. It was Anton’s home.

“I don’t like you,” Chrístõ told him. “I don’t like bullies. But take this to get you started in your new life and make it a better one.”

Anton grasped the purse of coins Chrístõ offered him and stepped out of the TARDIS into the fragrant warmth of the olive growing Spanish countryside. He looked back once at whatever outer disguise the TARDIS had chosen, then turned and walked away, quickly.

Chrístõ programmed the second destination in another corner of the Roman Empire. This one was a more temperate climate. It was actually raining as the TARDIS materialised by a stand of trees on a sloping meadow.

Garrick brought Anna and her brothers out into this place. They knew it at once as their former home.

“But how?” the girl asked. “Are you a god? How else could you transport us here?”

“We’re not gods,” Garrick answered. “My brother would give me hell for suggesting such a thing. Don’t try to understand it. Just run home and live happily. Here….”

There was another bag of coins, a bigger one.

“The next time the soldiers come for taxes, this should cover it. Stay safe.”

Anna took the money and again wondered aloud if Garrick and his brother were gods, after all. Then she and her brothers turned towards their village. They looked back once, but the strange carriage that flew across a continent in an instant were gone.

“Now we get back to twenty-first century Baiae,” Chrístõ announced. “I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out. When they get back to Ireland Patrick is going to have to explain how he acquired a pregnant girlfriend who speaks ancient Latin. I’ll have to sort out a passport and visas for her.”

He didn’t need to provide a bag of money this time. Patrick had been saving up for a long time, and he had his eye on a little bistro on the waterfront in Galway city. He could achieve those ambitions perfectly happily with Licinia at his side. Chrístõ knew it would happen. He had seen it in that alternative future that didn’t end in the dark with a murderous mob bearing down on her.

They would be fine – at least as long as she could learn English.

“Next time I’m asked to take anyone in a holiday in the past, the answer is ‘no’,” he added. Though he strongly suspected he would be persuaded.