The Doctor gave an uncharacteristic yelp of fear and dived under the TARDIS console, yelling for Donna and Ben to do the same. Both obeyed, slightly puzzled. Moments before the TARDIS was in the time vortex, gracefully travelling back to 1911 so that they could see the coronation of George V, to which The Doctor, for reasons he wasn’t prepared to explain, had VIP invitations to.

The next, the TARDIS had dropped violently out of the vortex and they were now crouching in fear behind the console as the environmental monitor registered something small but fast heading towards them at super-light speed.

“Super-light speed is enough to punch a hole in the TARDIS doors,” The Doctor said in explanation as he adopted the position that old Cold War emergency leaflets once called ‘Duck and Cover. “And the TARDIS has no way to deflect it.”

“Why not?” Donna demanded. “The Starship Enterprise has shields. Why doesn’t the TARDIS?”

“The Starship Enterprise is a military vessel with photon torpedoes and a trigger happy captain,” The Doctor replied. “They expect to be shot at. The TARDIS is an unarmed scientific research vessel. We don’t.”

“Guv’nor…” Ben began, then stopped. The conversation hadn’t made the slightest sense to him even before the bit about the Starship Enterprise. He adopted the same position as The Doctor and closed his eyes, tight.

The TARDIS doors opened. Donna watched through half closed eyes as something small and shiny came through. It was fast, though obviously not super-light speed. It sped around the console several times and then hovered. The Doctor uncurled himself from his defensive position. Ben and Donna stayed down, just in case, but they watched carefully.

The shiny object was about the size of a tennis ball. As it hovered at eye level with The Doctor, a beam of bluish light came from it and widened into a hologram of a bluish woman who flickered and phased in and out for a few moments before stabilising.

“Doctor, the Torchbearer is fallen. I have been murdered. The Torch will be extinguished if you do not hurry. You must help. Please, Doctor, remember your pledge.”

Then the hologram switched off and the shiny tennis ball span away towards the navigation console. It hovered there for a few seconds and a thinner bluish light emitted from it, shining down on the console. Then it closed off again and the ball became a streak of silver light as it sped away out of the TARDIS again. The Doctor blinked and reached for the door control but it closed on its own before he touched the lever.

Donna and Ben stood up as The Doctor moved to the navigation console and examined it carefully. He looked up and noted they were in the time vortex. The shiny ball had actually put new co-ordinates into the TARDIS and initiated the drive control. The Doctor sighed and took the imposition philosophically.

“Wow!” Donna said. “That was like… you know… Star Wars… I mean. Oh, you know what I mean. But… Did she say she had BEEN murdered – past tense?”

“Yes, she did,” The Doctor said with a grim expression. Donna looked at his face and felt really insensitive for banging on about Star Wars. A life had been taken and The Doctor cared deeply about that.

“So… what is it all about? What is your pledge?”

“To go immediately to the place where the Torchbearer fell and render assistance,” he answered. “We’ll be there in a few minutes. We’ll have to put off the coronation. But hopefully this will only take an hour or two to sort out.”

“You’re going to solve a murder in a few hours?”

“No,” The Doctor answered. “The murder will be the responsibility of the local authorities, such as they are. My responsibility is to the Torch.”

Ben and Donna looked at each other. The Doctor was being deliberately enigmatic. He wasn’t telling them anything much at all about what was going on. Nothing new there, then.

He did tell them to wear silver lycra. Neither wanted to. The outfits looked stupid on both of them. Donna didn’t feel she had the hips for it, and Ben just felt vulnerable in the contour hugging fabric. And in any case, The Doctor didn’t bother to change at all before he led them out of the TARDIS into a futuristic hospital full of people wearing silver lycra.

“So why don’t you need to dress like this, guv’nor?” Ben asked.

“I’m The Doctor,” The Doctor replied as if that was an explanation.

“I have a theory,” Donna said to Ben. “Everyone else sees something other than we see. They look at him and they see silver lycra or a posh suit or something.”

“How does he know where he’s going?” Ben asked.

“That I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t. He could be lost, for all I know.”

But he didn’t seem to be. He led them both to a room marked ‘private repose’ and pushed it open.

Inside, a body was laid out in death, on a palette covered in satin and silk, surrounded by candles. It was the woman from the hologram. It was obvious what killed her. There was a bloodstain on the bodice of her long, silver dress.

“They didn’t clean her up a bit?” Donna asked. “For her relatives or whatever coming to pay their respects.”

“She’s the Torchbearer,” The Doctor replied. “Her body can’t be interfered with in any way until the Torch has been passed on.”

“Here we go again,” Ben commented sarcastically, then remembered that he was in a place of death and bowed his head respectfully. Donna did the same. They both watched as The Doctor stepped towards the palette. He put his hands, palms down, over the body and began to murmur something in a language the TARDIS didn’t bother to translate. A shimmering light began to surround the woman then coalesce into an insubstantial ball. It hovered under The Doctor’s hands for a moment before spinning and expanding until it enveloped his hands, then his whole body, and then kept on expanding until it filled the whole room.

Then it winked out. The candles went out as well, plunging the room into darkness. The Doctor took his sonic screwdriver and used it to relight the candles. Then he turned to his two startled companions. He studied their faces and then smiled.

“Not quite how I expected it, but everything is ok. Come on, both of you. Back to the TARDIS.”

He strode out. Ben and Donna followed him through the corridors of the hospital, back to where he left the TARDIS.

“I’m getting out of this stupid outfit right now,” Donna declared as she stepped over the threshold. “Ben… you coming?”

She was surprised when Ben didn’t answer her, or follow her towards the inner door. Instead he stepped towards the TARDIS console. He began setting a co-ordinate as if he had piloted a TARDIS all his life. He reached for the drive control but The Doctor stayed his hand.

“Hold on, there, sunshine. What are you doing? You can’t just go programming my TARDIS without permission.”

“I must return to the home world,” he said in a voice that belonged to Ben, certainly, but wasn’t his accent or his cadence. “It is imperative….”

That clinched it. Ben would never use a word like ‘imperative.’ Donna stepped closer, but The Doctor waved her away.

“It’s all right,” he said. “I know what’s happened. Ben is the new Torchbearer. His mind is under control of the ‘Torch’ – the entity within him. I wasn't expecting it to choose him. I thought it might choose you since its hosts are usually female. Or me, because my mind is so much bigger than any other and could accommodate it. But it seems to have chosen Ben, and who am I to argue.”

That was a fairly explanatory piece of exposition, The Doctor thought. But Donna was still on the first point.

“Entity… within him… eww… Doctor… you don’t mean like… a snake thing in his stomach…”

“Snake thing?” The Doctor looked puzzled for a moment, then understanding dawned. “American science fiction television has a lot to answer for. The Human imagination about the universe is completely warped. No, it’s nothing like that. The Torch is… very much what it sounds like. An entity of pure energy… pure intelligence. But it needs a host body…. an organic being. It chose Ben because….”

“This being has the least intelligence,” Ben said. “It uses least of its brain, therefore, the disruption was less than if either of you had been chosen.”

“Cheeky sod,” Donna answered. “Ben isn’t less intelligent. He’s as clever as anybody. He just never had the chance to prove it. And don’t you dare hurt him.”

“I agree, on all points,” The Doctor added. “Ben is a very bright man for his species. And if any harm comes to him you’ll incur my wrath. In fact, right now, I want to speak to him. And if you don’t let his consciousness surface, that drive control stays in neutral and we go nowhere.”

“You seek to blackmail me?”

“I wouldn’t call it blackmail. Just a work to rule from the pilot of the ship that will take you to safety. Now, let me talk to Ben.”

There was a silence, then a frightened but familiar voice.


“Ben,” The Doctor put his arm on Ben’s shoulder very gently. “Ben, are you all right?”

“I’m… I’m scared, guv’nor. What’s happening?”

“You are perfectly safe. I want you to know that before anything else happens. Your body and mind are being used as a vessel for an entity known as The Torch. It is a very advanced intelligence. A bit arrogant. And that’s a real case of the pot calling the kettle, by the way. Us geniuses do have a habit of forgetting other people’s feelings. But it is completely benign. Its host was murdered and it chose you as the Torchbearer… a replacement body until we get it back to the Homeworld where it will transfer to a more suitable body. You won’t be harmed, Ben. I promise you that.”

“It… feels… strange,” Ben said. “My head… hurts… I can’t think.”

“Doctor… it’s hurting him. You can’t let it.”

“Ben, it hurts because your mind is struggling against the Torch’s mind. You need to… sort of… sleep… for a while. Let your mind be quiet and still. Don’t fight the Torch. It means you no harm. But usually its hosts are empty clones with no consciousness of their own. This is a bit more difficult. Just relax, Ben, and sleep.”

Donna wondered if The Doctor was hypnotising him. Ben made no further protest, and his body swayed a little. His eyes looked vacant for a moment or two before opening wide again. The voice that spoke next was the Torch.

“The host consciousness is asleep,” The Torch said. “It will not be distressed.”

“Ben,” The Doctor said. “His name is Ben, not the Host consciousness, and you will respect him, or the deal is off. Look around you. I have technology even your people have never dreamed of. Don’t think I can’t find some way of extracting you from him if I decide I’ve had enough of you. And I might not care if you come out whole.”

Ben’s expression was one of shock and surprise.

“Right on, Doctor,” Donna said. “That’s put him in his place. Now, why don’t you go and be a good Torch on the sofa there while I help The Doctor steer the TARDIS.”

“I will not be ordered by an inferior organic…” The Torch protested.

“This superior organic says you’ll do as you’re told on board my ship. Donna, if he gives you any more cheek, make him recite the Alzonian alphabet, backwards fifty times. If there’s one thing ‘superior intellects’ hate, its repetitive and pointless tasks.”

Donna grinned. Ben frowned but obeyed the instruction to sit down on the sofa. He sat still for about thirty seconds before picking up the book that Ben had been reading with Donna before the crisis in the vortex had begun. They were still on The Time Machine. It was slow going teaching a grown man to read. But the bookmark was a good quarter of the way through by now and Donna was determined that Ben would finish it within the month.

She watched as the entity controlling Ben flipped through the pages. She saw his eyes dilating and knew he was reading the book. She felt a little disappointed. Reading it bit by bit with Ben had been a pleasant activity. She had enjoyed it when he mastered a new word or managed a whole paragraph without stumbling. She had enjoyed sitting with him while he read, for that matter. But now the entity had read to the end and then tossed the book aside.

“A flawed concept,” he said. “Time travel could not be achieved by the method described in this work of fiction.”

“I should hope not,” The Doctor replied. “I wouldn’t want humans using Herbert’s novel as a blueprint for building themselves temporal runabouts. Causality would be in shreds. It’s not his method of time travel that’s important. It’s the protagonist’s view of the dystopia he found when he travelled that makes it a significant work of literature… the post-Darwinian notion that mankind could not only evolve, but devolve.”

The entity responded with a counter argument, but Donna put an end to a possible literature debate by picking up the book and putting it down on the coffee table in front of the sofa with a loud bang.

“I thought it was a really interesting story,” she said. “I don’t care about post-dystopian whatevers. That’s why I hated English literature at school. You couldn’t just read a book and enjoy it. You had to tear it apart afterwards.”

“Quite true, Donna,” The Doctor agreed. “I felt exactly the same. But since our guest has a liking for reading, she can have some more literature.”

“She?” Donna queried.

“The Torch is, as far as we know, female. The host clones normally are grown from female DNA. Ben is a bit of a new experience for her. Might be why she’s acting a bit more high and mighty than usual.”

“What, brain the size of a planet plus male hormones!” Donna responded sarcastically. “Well, you manage not to be obnoxious… most of the time.”

“I’ve had a thousand years to get used to being male. She’s had half an hour.” He pressed several buttons on the console and then extracted a thin, rectangular object from a receptacle on the TARDIS console. It was a very portable computer monitor with touch-screen control. “Give her this,” he said. “It’s the 2396 edition of the Intergalactic Project Gutenberg Library. Enough literature to keep her quiet for a month.”

That was good enough for Donna. Keeping the Entity quiet was what she wanted most. It disturbed her to hear Ben using phrases like ‘flawed concept’ and arguing about Darwinian theory. It wasn't that she wanted him to stay illiterate. Far from it. But it just wasn’t him. He thought the Time Machine was an interesting story, too.

“We’ve only got to put up with her for another hour at the most,” The Doctor said to her quietly as she came back to his side and left the Torch to her own devices. “Then we’ll have our Ben back.”

“She annoys you, too?” Donna asked him. “I kind of thought… you know… seeing as you made this ‘pledge’ to help, that you and Torchy were friends.”

“I am a friend of the people of Ta-Rache,” he answered. “The Torch is their spiritual leader. They look to The Torch for guidance and inspiration. It has been their tradition for tens of thousands of years. The Torch lives within a host body and bestows her wisdom and grace on the people.”

“Sounds a bit…” Donna struggled for a word that described how she thought that wasn’t too uncomplimentary. She couldn’t think of one. She settled for ‘weird’.

“I’ve seen weirder things,” The Doctor answered. “Cultures with a living, immortal deity of some sort are not unusual. The Ta-Rache are a gentle, peaceful people who don’t cause anyone any trouble at all. They have no more military strength than they need to defend themselves against aggression. They have a social system that is based on egalitarianism and works as well as any other society that claims to do that. The Torch, even if she is a bit arrogant and superior – and again that’s a case of the pot calling the kettle – is an ambassador for peace throughout the galaxy. That’s why she was so far from home when she was attacked. That makes something like the tenth assassination in her last century. That’s why I promised I would make myself and my TARDIS available if there was another attack. I admire her courage… standing up and doing what she does, even though there are people ready to kill her for it.”

“Yeah, but she’s immortal. She’s not like the Pope in his Popemobile, kind of thing. It’s not actually brave when you know you can’t die.”

“Dying and not actually being dead is an excruciatingly painful business,” The Doctor replied. “Believe me. I know.”

“Regeneration hurts? I didn’t know.”

“Death… even a slow, lingering death… at least at the end there is peace and no more pain. We… Time Lords and Torches, and other immortal or near immortal races, we don’t have any peace. And the pain of nine pretty gruesome deaths… that’s always with me. Sometimes I think I’d be glad when my final time comes. When I can rest at last with my ancestors.”

Donna looked at The Doctor. That seemed a very dark thing for him to say. Usually he was so alive and cheerful. Even in the midst of the worst danger he could crack a wide grin and set his enemies reeling with confusion. The idea that he would welcome death was shocking to her.

“Not yet,” he assured her. “Still got too much to do. Too much of the universe to see. But there will be a time when I really will be too old, too sick, to go on and it will be over for me. And that’s ok. I’ll be ready. The Torch… as long as she always has a host body, she’ll go on for eternity. That’s actually quite a hard thing to bear.”

“Are you trying to make me feel sorry for the arrogant sod?” Donna asked. “Because it’s not working. I feel sorry for you. But not her. She’s just… never mind. I’ll just be glad when we get where we’re going and we can get rid of her.”

It was a strained, difficult journey. Usually Donna enjoyed the quiet parts of the TARDIS travel. It was when she spent most of her quality time with Ben, enjoying his reading lessons and sometimes just talking, comparing his Victorian London with the city she knew more than a hundred years later, or discussing whatever strange alien world The Doctor had brought them to last. Not having Ben’s company, and yet seeing somebody who looked like him but wasn’t him, sitting there scrolling through a computerised library as if he intended to read the whole thing in the course of the hour long journey, spoiled it for her.

“We’re here,” The Doctor said at last, just when Donna thought she couldn’t bear it any longer. “The Great Temple of Ta-Rache.”

“Good,” she replied. She looked at Ben – or the Torch, anyway. “Come on, sunshine. You’re home.”

Ben stood and walked to the door. The Doctor stepped in front of him and Donna as he opened the door and stepped out into a huge room with high vaulted ceiling and white marble steps going up and down all around, few of them apparently going anywhere important. Donna stared at them for a while and shook her head. She was almost sure some of the steps going up were actually ending up down.

“It’s like that picture…. My mum has one on the kitchen wall… with steps going up and down and sideways and backways…”

“M C Escher’s Relativity,” The Doctor said. “Funny how that image is seen all over the universe in some form or another. I remember a holographic version of it on the front cover of my junior level quantum theory text book at school. Not sure why it was chosen as the internal décor of the temple. Frankly, it would drive me nuts living in it.”

“It is a superior example of abstract architecture,” The Torch said with Ben’s voice, making Donna shiver uncomfortably.

“Seems a bit quiet around here,” The Doctor added, deciding that architecture could wait. “They knew we were coming. I sent a message with our ETA. I thought there would be somebody to meet us.”

“They will be in the room of preparation,” The Torch said. “Making ready for the transference to the new host body.”

“Ah, right, of course,” The Doctor said. “That’s… this way, isn’t it? Allons-y! Haven’t said that for a while. Sounds good, don’t you think! Allons-y Torchy. Allons-y, Donna.”

He strode off, looking and sounding as if he had shaken off the dark mood of earlier as he mounted what turned out to be the only practical staircase of them all. Donna followed him. Ben, under the control of the Torch, did the same.

“Oh!” The bright mood faded as The Doctor stepped into the preparation room. Behind him, Donna groaned in horror. The Torch let out a shrill scream.

“What treason has gone on here?” he demanded as The Doctor stepped towards the nearest of the clone tanks and examined the body within. He shook his head. It was no use. The tank had been smashed. The amniotic fluid was drained away. The adult female was blue like a stillborn baby, having asphyxiated with the severed umbilical cord still attached to the back of her neck. The Doctor noted that it had been cut with a knife to doubly ensure that the clone didn’t survive.

He looked around. There were three other tanks, back ups, in case the transfer was unsuccessful, of course. Every one of them had been smashed in the same way.

“Doctor!” Donna gripped his arm as she looked around. “This is horrible. Who would have….”

“Traitors,” The Torch repeated. “Traitors who mean to destroy me.”

“I am inclined to agree,” The Doctor said. “This is sabotage. I take it these are the only fully grown clones available?”

“Four mature specimens are always kept in suspended animation, ready for transfer,” he said. “Genetic material is available, of course. But it takes time to mature. More time than this temporary host has to spare.”

“I told you, his name is Ben,” The Doctor reminded The Torch.

“Whatever name he has, if I do not transfer within a standard day, he will be nothing. His consciousness will be crushed.”

“What!” Donna exclaimed angrily. “You said Ben was safe. You said…”

“This was never meant to be more than a temporary solution,” The Torch answered. “It is regrettable. But…”

“Get out of him, now,” Donna demanded. “Get out of him. I don’t care where you go. But get out of Ben. Give him back to us.”

“She can’t,” The Doctor said calmly, putting his arm around her shoulder comfortingly. “Without a clone host, she would die. And she is too important to the people of this planet.”

“I don’t care about this planet,” Donna replied. “I care about Ben. I want him back.” She pulled away from The Doctor and ran at Ben, grasping his shoulders and shaking him. “Get out, now. Get out.”

“Stop!” cried a commanding voice as the preparation room filled with guards. “Take your hands off the Sacred Torch, woman, or you will face the severest judgement.”

“Get your Torch out of Ben,” Donna replied defiantly even when the sharp end of a javelin was pointed at her. “Doctor! Please don’t let Ben die.”

“I don’t intend to let anyone die,” The Doctor answered. He turned to the guards. “What happened here, exactly? Have the perpetrators been caught?”

The guards looked at Ben for guidance. He nodded and told them to give The Doctor all co-operation. The Doctor told them to take the bodies of the murdered clones away and treat them with dignity. While that was being done he questioned the guard captain further. He learnt that the assassination on the far off planet of the Torch’s host body had happened in conjunction with the destruction of the new host clones. The deed had been done by a group of aliens who resented the Torch’s peace efforts in their own quadrant. All had been arrested at the space port attempting to leave the planet. But they had done their worst by then.

“Then it was not treason,” The Doctor commented, knowing it was a small straw to clutch at. “It wasn’t any attempt by your own people to usurp you.”

“That is a precious little comfort,” the Torch replied. “I am all but undone by this destruction. I cannot live except at the expense of this individual called Ben.”

“And that’s not going to happen,” Donna insisted. “Why can’t she go into another body, anyway? And let Ben alone. One of those guys…”

“The Torch can only be passed on a limited number of times without exhausting itself,” The Doctor explained. “Transferring to Ben, and then transferring to a properly prepared cloned host is one thing. But jumping from one temporary host to another would be dangerous. We must have a new clone, and it must be within the next five hours. Otherwise Ben as we know him is dead or The Torch must leave his body and die.”

“And… it takes how long to make a cloned body from… did he say they have genetic material…”

“It takes eight months to grow a clone to maturity,” The Torch said. “Even a force grown clone needs forty-eight hours.”

“What’s a…”

“Force grown…” The Doctor shook his head. “It’s something most societies consider unacceptable. Force grown clones are accelerated from DNA to adulthood in a very short time. Forty-eight hours by the method they have here. But they are flawed. Their bodies break down too quickly. They live a year at the most.”

“Long enough for them to grow a proper clone, the ordinary way?” Donna suggested. “But… it still wouldn’t help Ben. He doesn’t have forty-eight hours.”

The Doctor bit his lip unhappily. Donna saw the expression in his eyes.

“What?” she asked. “Doctor… what are you thinking?”

“Cloning… is disapproved of in at least eighty per cent of the cultures of this galaxy. My own people discouraged it actively. I was taught to regard it as unnatural.”

“Yes,” Donna said. “Most people on Earth in my time feel the same way. But… what does that have to do with…”

“Even though I hate the idea… I know how to do it. I’ve done it before. If what’s left of this equipment was brought to my TARDIS, I could create a clone body… one that would last… in about four hours.”

The Torch stared at The Doctor through Ben’s eyes. Donna grasped his hand.

“Doctor… you’re saying that you CAN save both of them. But… it goes against your moral values…”

“Yes,” he said. “That is it.”

“But you said you’ve done it before.”

“Yes. To save two lives, one who meant a lot to me. Yes, I did it before. There is a big snag, I have to say. One The Torch may not like…”

“Doctor,” Donna held both his hands in hers. “Doctor, I wouldn’t ask for myself. But for Ben… for his life… will you put aside your principles again, and do this thing? Please, Doctor.”

The Doctor looked at Donna for a long, long moment, then he made a soft sound that was almost a sob and hugged her.

“Of course I’ll do it,” he told her. “Even if you hadn’t asked, Ben’s life is at risk. I would have to do it.” He let her go and turned to the guards who waited for him to command them. He ordered a section of them to bring the TARDIS to the preparation room and sent others to bring the genetic material and what equipment hadn’t been smashed to pieces. As soon as the TARDIS was installed he brought everything down to the Cloister Room.

“Why in here?” Donna asked. “I thought this was kind of like a chapel sort of place, you know, sacred.”

“It’s a place of meditation,” The Doctor answered as he began preparing the genetic material inside an enclosed incubator which he accessed through special built in gloves. “It’s also the place where the energy I need is most concentrated. Artron energy… like we used to revive the Pangomissans. That’s what will allow me to build a clone body from scratch in a short time, one that won’t fail.”

“But with that ‘snag’ which Torchy isn’t too happy about by the look on Ben’s face.”

“She’ll have to come to terms with it.” The Doctor completed the first part of the process and then transferred the transparent petri disc to a bigger incubator, one that would contain the clone when it began to grow. That done, he turned and looked at Ben. He was sitting on the edge of the covered Well of Harmony looking despondent. The Doctor stepped closer.

“I know this isn’t ideal. But it’s your only chance,” he said.

“I know. And I am grateful. But… the host, Ben, needs to talk to you. He is agitated. I think he knows he is in peril. It is difficult for me, too, now. I feel weak. But… Doctor… you could read his thoughts.”

“Yes, I can,” he said. The Doctor came and sat next to him. He put his hand on Ben’s face, gently and reached inside mentally. He felt the two minds. The Torch was still the stronger one, but she let him find Ben’s thoughts.

“Guv’nor,” Ben said to him in his mind. “I don’t think I’m going to make it. I want to thank you, for… for believing in me. And… I want you… to tell Donna…that I…”

Ben paused. Even in his thoughts he couldn’t completely manage the words that so many men had trouble with. The Doctor recognised his dilemma. He had felt it himself and afterwards rued that he hadn’t been able to get the words out.

“I think that should come from you, Ben,” he said. “Don’t worry. You’re going to make it. You’ll have the chance.”

“I won’t,” he answered. “Please, tell her from me, Doctor. Do that for me.”

“Ben,” The Doctor said to him. “I’ll do anything you want. But hang on in there. Stay calm. This will be over, soon.”

The Doctor withdrew from Ben’s thoughts. He felt The Torch instead.

“He is a brave man,” she said.

“Yes, he is. You do your best to hold onto him. We want him back. I’m NOT going to give that message to Donna. He can, when this is over.”

“He’ll never do that,” The Torch told him. “He thinks he isn’t good enough for her. He’s afraid she would reject him.”

“Why does he think that?”

“Because she’s been teaching him to read. He feels that…”

“Ah, yes.” The Doctor understood. “Ok, you hang in there, and look after Ben for me. I’m going to see how things are going over there.”

He knew things would have moved rapidly while he was talking. Donna was staring in amazement at the clone body that was forming. It looked more or less a humanoid shape, now, with head, arms, legs, body, but there were no features yet.

“It’s… I can see why you find it disturbing,” Donna said to The Doctor. “Watching a body grow from… from a few cells to this in such a little time… it’s not quite right, is it?”

“It’s too easy to create life this way. It cheapens it, in so many ways. I wouldn’t have a hand in it if it were not necessary. For Ben, and for the Torch and the Ta-Rache people. They need their spiritual leader.”

“They’re welcome to her.”

“She’s not as bad as you think,” The Doctor said. “She rules them wisely. And she understands more than you think.”

“I don’t care what happens to her. I just want Ben back.”

“You care for him, don’t you,” The Doctor said to her.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with him,” she answered. “More than you have. His reading lessons and that sort of thing. I like his company. He’s a nice man, even though he came from such a bad sort of life.”

“I wonder what your mother would make of him.”

“I wasn’t planning to tell her that he used to be a Victorian house burglar,” she said.

“But you have thought about him as a boyfriend?”

Donna looked at The Doctor and thought carefully about her answer.

“I’ve thought about it. I mean… yeah, I think I’d like that. But I don’t think it could happen. It’s… I think he feels awkward about it… because I’ve been teaching him. He feels inferior to me… and it makes it hard for him to make the first move. If you know what I mean.”

“I think I do,” The Doctor answered. “What if you were to make the first move?”

“I think I’d scare him to death,” Donna replied. “I mean… women didn’t do that in his time. He wouldn’t know what to do, would he? Anyway, what’s the point if…” She looked at the clone again, then at Ben, still sitting by the Well. “If he dies…”

“He won’t die,” The Doctor promised her. “Trust me. I’m going to save them both.”

Donna smiled and nodded. She believed he would do his best, anyway. And that was good enough for now.

It was a long four hours though, and as the time crept on, Ben started to look physically ill. The Doctor was starting to get anxious for both of them. He talked to The Torch, but he couldn’t reach Ben, even though The Torch assured him that he was still there. His consciousness, his personality still existed. He just didn’t have the strength to respond to The Doctor when he tried to reach him.

“I will protect him,” The Torch said. “I regret that my existence threatens his. “Please understand that. I would not have chosen this course if any other lay open to me.”

“If you’d chosen to take The Doctor’s body,” Donna said. “We’d all be in trouble. You’d be killing him, and we’d have no hope at all.”

“That is so.”

“Ben’s life isn’t expendable, though,” The Doctor insisted. “Hold on, both of you. A few more minutes.”

He checked the clone. It was almost ready. Almost as mature as he could make it in the short time they had. At last he called to The Torch. Ben stepped forward. He looked pale, but it was almost over.

“Do what you have to do,” The Doctor said. “Make the transfer.”

“This body is so small,” The Torch complained. “How will I command the respect of my people with such an appearance, let alone those who know me throughout the galaxy.”

“With your fine, superior mind,” The Doctor answered. “It doesn’t matter what you look like. Your mind will be the same.”

“I hope you are right, Doctor. There is no other choice. I must accept this compromise.”

The Torch brought Ben’s body right up to the tank where the clone was lying. It was still attached to the umbilical cord at the back of its neck, yet. It had not, properly, been born. But it made no difference. The clone material created an empty shell without a mind, without a soul. The Torch reached out and touched the clone and Ben’s hands began to glow. The glow intensified. It enveloped Ben and the clone. Then the light became too intense even for The Doctor to look directly at it.

Then all the lights went out except for the faint glow beneath the Well cover. The Doctor reached for his sonic screwdriver and used it to put them back on again. Then he leapt forward and caught Ben as he collapsed.

“Donna, you know CPR? Look after Ben. I need to take care of The Torch.”

Donna took Ben and laid him down on the Cloister Room floor before beginning the life saving process. The Doctor carefully cut the umbilical cord and lifted the clone from the tank. He wrapped a cloth around the naked form. It was, proportionally, a fully adult woman, but the rushed cloning process meant that she was no taller than an eight year old Human child. That was the snag in the process. The alternative was for The Torch to occupy the body of a two year old baby. That was the most mature he could make a normal sized humanoid clone that had stable DNA. But that would mean The Torch would revert to childhood and lose all the wisdom of her countless years. This form, at least, could encompass her great mind.

She needed some help, too. The Doctor bent and gave CPR very carefully, aware that the newborn clone was delicate and he could easily crush her barely formed bones. He was relieved when he felt her breath by herself. He knelt back and looked around at Donna. She, took, had drawn back. Ben was coming round. He reached out his hand and she grasped it gratefully. The Doctor sighed with relief. Both of them were fine. His work was done.


They stayed, of course, to be guests of honour at a great banquet to celebrate the renewal of The Torch. The spiritual leader of Ta-Rache had to sit on several cushions to reach the table, and afterwards when she addressed her people, a step was put in place. Such adaptations would have to be made in the future. But she was pleased to find no lack of respect and devotion to her. She thanked The Doctor and his friends for their timely help and made it known that her efforts to bring peace, stability and prosperity to those corners of the galaxy that most needed it would go on. That news was well received.

Finally, the three companions took their leave. The Doctor programmed their course for that coronation they had planned to see. Donna and Ben sat on the sofa as usual. The Doctor watched as Ben picked up the discarded copy of The Time Machine and turned to the page that he had been on the last time they read together. Donna was surprised when he read steadily and easily and with understanding of most of the more difficult words. She looked at The Doctor. He was surprised, too.

“It was The Torch,” Ben explained. “She… left me a gift… as thanks for… what I had to do. I can read. Not fast, like you and she can, Doctor. But at the ordinary speed of a Human. I can enjoy this book, and any other book.”

“That’s brilliant,” Donna told him. “But… I’ll miss reading with you.”

“We can do that, still,” Ben answered. “I’d like to do that. If you want to. We can read all the books in the TARDIS together.”

“I would like that,” Donna said with a wide smile. She grasped Ben’s hand in hers as they looked at each other. What happened after that, The Doctor didn’t notice. He decided just then that there was something he needed to find in the crawl space beneath the floor panel and he was out of sight for the time it took for them not to say the things that could as easily be expressed in actions.