The TARDIS materialised on a flat grassland that billowed in the breeze as if it was a sea being driven by the forces of the tide. The fact that the grass was a pale blue colour added to that effect.

“I could get seasick, looking at it,” Donna commented as she stepped out, followed by Ben.

“Seems a nice place for a walk,” Ben added. “Very quiet, peaceful.”

“Mmm,” Donna replied. “Let’s just quietly get back in the TARDIS, now. When anyone says its quiet and peaceful, that’s when the tentacled monsters turn up, sharpening their teeth.”

“Now when has THAT actually happened?” The Doctor asked as he closed the TARDIS door behind him. “Come on, it’s a beautiful day for a walk and there’s something very interesting… thataway.”

He turned and walked past the TARDIS. Ben and Donna followed and were suitably surprised when they saw what the bulk of the TARDIS had been concealing on the horizon.

“Wow. It looks like the Gherkin,” Donna said. “You know, that big glass building in London.”

“I know what you mean,” The Doctor assured her as he looked at the elongated cigar shaped structure that reflected back the pale blue sky of the quiet planet. The emptiness and the quietness of the place had excited his curiosity. This planet was a little smaller than the one he was born on and should have had a population of about three billion according to the last record of it in the TARDIS database. But the scan he did as they came into orbit was showing only isolated pockets of life. The densest one in the region where they had materialised was concentrated on the ‘Gherkin’ – which was as good a name for it as any.

His curiosity was peaked and he was heading out towards the unknown. How often had he done that in his life? How often had it led to trouble?

Every time, he found himself answering. Look at what happened when he played that stupid trick with the fluid link to get Ian and Barbara to agree to come down to the Dalek city with him? That was possibly the stupidest thing he had ever done in his life. He almost got them all killed just because he wanted to explore something new and interesting.

And for all he knew, he was leading Ben and Donna into something just as dangerous.

He turned and looked at them. They paused and looked back at him expectantly.

“This might be dangerous, you know,” he said. “If you’d rather not… we could…”

“Doctor!” Donna laughed. “Are you feeling all right? Since when did you care about that?”

“Mind you,” Ben commented as they drew closer to the huge structure. “If there is any danger here, we’re walking right into it. If there’s guards in there, they can see us coming.”

“They can put out the welcome mat, then,” The Doctor said cheerfully, although privately he had to concede that Ben had a point.

“We ought to have used those perception filter thingies,” Donna suggested. “Then we wouldn’t be seen until we’re ready.”

“I’m a bit wary about using those too often,” The Doctor replied. “I always had a suspicion that it might get to be permanent. Remember what happened to the Invisible Man.”

Since Donna and Ben had read that novel just recently they knew perfectly well what happened to him. If that was a serious reason not to use the perception filters then that was that.

“Besides,” The Doctor added. “Sneaking around isn’t really my thing. I’d rather go in the front door and introduce myself. You two can go back to the TARDIS if you prefer. I won’t make you do anything you’re unsure about.”

“And who’ll look after you if we do that?” Donna asked. “You’ll get yourself captured by cannibals and strung up over a barbecue or…”

Donna couldn’t think of a fate worse than that for a lone Doctor blundering into trouble. But her point was made. The Doctor secretly wondered what she thought she could do to stop him getting barbecued. Ben was handy with his fists, just like his earlier namesake, but he would have to be very desperate before he would need to depend on a woman like Donna to stand in the gap of danger for him.

Then he recalled how often women just like Donna had done exactly that for him, and imagined the names they would call him for that particular example of male chauvinism. If they all shouted at once, all of the women he had known in his wandering life, he would probably be deafened as well as chastised.

Going in through the front door and introducing himself proved problematic.

There was no front door.

“There’s no door at all,” Donna concluded when they had walked all the way around the building. That was a feat in itself, since the base had a circumference of a little short of three hundred metres – so The Doctor said when they came back round to the point where they started. Ben and Donna took his word for it that they HAD come back round. The wall made of diamond shaped opaque glass panels was exactly the same all the way around.

“I’ve come across a few odd buildings in my time,” The Doctor said. “There’s always a door. I remember on the planet Marinus the doors sort of flipped open and we fell inside… and on Skaro…”

He felt around the glass panes, as if looking for some hidden trigger. Doors stubbornly refused to manifest themselves in any way whatsoever.

“Doctor,” Donna said after nearly half an hour. “It is really hot standing around here. And the sunlight reflecting off this glass is blinding. It doesn’t look like we’re getting anywhere…”

Donna’s words dissolved into a scream. Ben tried to reach out to her, but her hand was becoming insubstantial. So was his own. His vision was blurring. He felt as if he was no longer standing on solid ground.

The Doctor groaned. He hated transmats.


Donna woke up in what looked like a department store changing room. Except there didn’t seem to be an obvious door.

“Doctor? Ben?” she called out.

“Donna?” She heard Ben’s voice from the other side of the partition, presumably in another cubicle. “Are you all right? Do you know… how did we get here?”

“It’s called a transmat,” she explained. “It’s… our bodies are sort of… dissolved and put back together again in a different place. Don’t think about it too much. Is The Doctor with you?”

“No,” Ben answered. “I don’t know where he is. I don’t really know where I am. What is this place?”

“I really don’t know,” Donna responded. “I think…”

An eerie yellow light came on above her head. She knew by his exclamation that the same had happened to Ben. Then they both heard the voice.

“Please stand with your arms raised for the ion decontamination. Do not be alarmed. The process is perfectly safe.”

“Er….” Donna stood and lifted her arms. The yellow light deepened to orange. It enveloped her and she could see it was a sort of stream a little like water in a shower except that it wasn't water.

Then she felt her clothes dissolving off her body. She yelped in shock as her cardigan, dress, underwear all disappeared. And then she felt a sort of heat on her bare flesh. It wasn’t painful in any way, but it was worrying. Ion decontamination sounded like a very serious thing. And if it could dissolve her clothes she was slightly worried about her skin!

“Ben!” she called out. “Are you all right? Are you there?”

“I’m here,” he replied. “But… um… it’s… I’m….”

He sounded embarrassed. Donna decided not to make it worse by asking any questions.

“Please put on the hygienic clothing provided,” said the voice. “And then proceed to the medical bay.”

There was a soft sound and Donna saw a panel open in the side of the cubical. There was a pile of clothing. It included underwear and a skirt and blouse in a similar style to the ones she had been wearing, but they were all made of a thin white fabric that felt like tissue paper.

She put the clothes on, anyway. The alternative was being naked. And by the sounds from the other side of the cubicle Ben definitely thought tissue paper clothes were a better alternative.

Just as she finished dressing, there was another slight noise, a click, and one of the walls of the cubicle opened up like a door. She stepped out. Ben stepped through an identical door. The doors closed. They looked at each other uncertainly.

“We were told to proceed to the medical bay,” Donna said. “We’d better proceed. It looks like we need to go that way…”

There was a blank wall at one end of the corridor, so they proceeded the other way, past what might have been more of the cubicles. Donna tapped on them as they passed, calling out for The Doctor, but there was no reply. To say that she was worried was an understatement. Where was he?

A horrible possibility gripped her thoughts as they walked along a corridor with one wall made of those diamond shaped glass panels, but so darkly smoked that nothing could be seen through them.

What if the transmat went wrong and he wasn’t ‘re-assembled’ at the other end? What if he was still stuck in ‘nowhere’ in a million atoms.

She’d seen it happen on TV. People stuck in the transporter buffers had been the plot for at least two episodes of Star Trek that she could recall. It hadn’t really bothered her when it was fiction. But now, she was living a life even more fantastic than anything TV ever prepared her for, and she had to consider that it could happen.

It might have happened to The Doctor?

Her heart sank as she tried to imagine the universe without The Doctor in it. She tried to imagine her own life without him in it. She wasn’t completely worried about being stranded on a strange planet, because he had thought of that. There was still that emergency protocol that would get her home. But life without The Doctor… He was the most unique, special person she had ever met, and she couldn’t bear the thought of him being dead. It wasn’t that she was in love with him. It had never been that. Ben was the one she thought about in that way. But The Doctor was the reason she and Ben were together. He was the reason she wasn’t a bored temp in Chiswick. He was the reason her life meant something. And without him she wasn’t sure if it would keep on meaning something.

“Doctor!” she whispered. “Please don’t be dead.”

Ben looked at her and gripped her hand tightly. He must have been thinking the same thoughts as her. Well, apart from the one about not being in love with him, obviously, because that was never an issue with him. But he was worried, too.

“He’s the Guv’nor,” Ben whispered back. “He’s smart. I’m sure he’ll be all right.”

Donna nodded. Ben was trying to sound reassuring. She was grateful to him for that. But she knew he had no reason to believe The Doctor was all right, either. He had never seen Star Trek. He didn’t know about pattern buffers or whatever they called them. He wasn’t imagining The Doctor’s atoms scattered in space. But he was worried, and his words were a brave attempt not to show that he was, while trying to keep her from worrying, too.

They came to a door across the corridor. The word ‘bulkhead’ entered Donna’s mind. It had the look of a door that could close very tightly in an emergency and nobody would be getting through it afterwards.

The door slid open. Ben and Donna looked at each other and then stepped through. It wasn’t as if they had a whole lot of choice in the matter, after all.

They were met by a woman with a pale complexion and blonde hair under a wide headband who tried to smile reassuringly.

“I am Alla,” she said. “I am here to assist your assimilation into our community. Please lie down on the examination tables prepared for you. The medical examination will only take a few minutes and is quite painless.”

Her voice was soft and calm and was probably meant to be reassuring. Ben didn’t look reassured. Donna certainly wasn’t.

“Look…” she replied. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with either of us. And in any case, we need to find our friend… He was with us when you beamed us up. Is there another medical facility… was he taken somewhere else? If so, can you get a message to him, to tell him we’re ok. He’ll be worried…”

“Please don’t worry about anything. You are perfectly safe now. Your journey must have been difficult. But you made it. You’re at the Sanctuary. All your troubles are over.”

“But what about The Doctor?” Donna insisted. “Please…”

“Doctor?” Alla looked puzzled. “Oh, I think I know what you mean. It’s an old fashioned word for a medical practitioner – in the old days. But the robo-servos do all of that kind of thing here. Just lie down and try to relax.”

“No, I mean…” Donna began. But the woman seemed quite insistent. She lay down, reluctantly, and tried to relax on the padded examination table. Ben did the same. Something like an MRI scanner but not quite so claustrophobic passed over them both. Then the woman looked at the results of the scan on a screen.

“You’re in remarkably good health considering you crossed the badlands,” she said to Donna. “You both have low levels of carcinogens and other background poisons in your bloodstreams, and the male has some lesions on his lungs from prolonged exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. But we can soon sort that out.” She opened a panel next to the computer screen and took out something like a syringe without a needle. She applied it to Donna’s arm. There was a slight sting, and then she had a strange feeling as if her blood was fizzing. That was followed by a rather more common sensation but one that didn’t usually come on quite so quickly.

“You will need to pass water to complete the process,” Alla said, pointing to a door. Donna jumped up from the examination table and moved rapidly towards what proved to be the most sanitary and also the smallest toilet facility she had ever been in. As she was coming out, she saw Ben going into a second door. He emerged a few minutes later looking disturbed.

“That was… the colour of…” he tried to say with a faintly embarrassed expression.

“That is the contaminants flushed from your blood stream,” Alla explained. “They cause the greenish-red colour in the bodily fluids.”

“Er…” Donna hadn’t bothered to check the colour of her bodily fluids. But she thought she understood what had happened. “You mean a lifetime of breathing exhaust fumes and passive smoking from granddad’s pipe and everything… just got flushed away. And all the soot and grunge from when London had tons of smoking chimneys and coal fired steam trains that were slowly giving Ben lung cancer are gone from his body….”

“I don’t know what London is, or a chimney or a steam train,” Alla responded. “But, yes, your bodies are now purified.”

“Well… ok… that’s a good thing, I think,” Donna said. “Thanks a lot. But now what? Will somebody explain where we are, and why? And will you please tell me what happened to…”

Alla was distracted by a bleeping light beside another computer monitor on the other side of the room. She turned away to deal with it. And when she did, Donna noticed something on a metal tray on the well-scrubbed and very hygienic table. She reached so quickly that Ben, who could proudly admit to being a pretty good sneak thief, couldn’t have done much better. She briefly showed it to him before slipping it inside the paper blouse that rather inconveniently didn’t have any pockets.

The Doctor had been here, she thought. And wherever he had gone, his sonic screwdriver had been left behind.

Which meant he hadn’t gone willingly, because he would never have left that tool where it could fall into the wrong hands.

“Please, come this way, now,” said Alla pleasantly. “Dominic will answer all your questions.”

“Will he now?” Donna responded a little sarcastically. “Well, he’d better be prepared. I’ve got a LOT of questions for him.”


The Doctor opened his eyes and groaned miserably. He hated transmats, and that was the second one in an hour.

He stood up and looked around and dismay was the word that best described his feelings. He was somewhere in the middle of that blue grassy plain. There was nothing to be seen in any direction at all. The ‘gherkin’ was nowhere in sight. Neither was the TARDIS. He could be hundreds of miles from either.

He was dressed in a papery white outfit that was styled to resemble his jacket, shirt and trousers. There were shoes in a slightly stronger kind of paper. They didn’t do much to keep him warm. There was a distinctly cold breeze blowing.

He regulated his own body temperature and didn’t worry too much. As long as it didn’t rain, anyway.

But if he didn’t find the TARDIS, or the Gherkin, or some kind of habitat before nightfall, he would be in trouble.

He closed his eyes and concentrated. He tried to feel the TARDIS telepathically.

And he did. He opened his eyes and ‘dismay’ was again the operative word. He knew which direction he should be walking, but it was at least eighty miles. Maybe more. And there was nothing for it but to walk.

He calculated his chances. If there really was nothing but this blue grass for mile upon mile, no watering holes, no food of any sort, not even the odd mushroom or patches of wild potato, then he was in trouble.

Food he could manage without for a while, if he absolutely had to. But even a Time Lord needed water. He would die without it.

He set off walking. He had no choice.


Dominic was an old man. Very old. He must have been getting on for a hundred. He still seemed quite active, though. He moved around his office easily. His eyes showed no sign of deterioration and his voice was strong. Only the lines on his face, the thinness of the flesh on his hands, betrayed his age.

“You are the first to make it across the badlands for nearly a decade,” he said. “We had supposed that there were no more perfect humans left outside, only the mutants.”

“Mutants?” Ben repeated the word. “What are…”

“We didn’t see any mutants,” Donna told him. “Look… we didn’t come across the badlands… whatever they are… we…”

“Well, of course you did,” Dominic replied. “Where else could you come from. You must had had a harrowing journey. But you look well now. You have been cleansed internally and externally. You are good stock. You will easily adapt to our lifestyle. It is a good one. Nobody has any hard labour to do. The servo-robots do all the maintenance of the Sanctuary. You can choose from any number of satisfying activities to take part in. Do you like music? We have a magnificent orchestra…”

“Do you mean you expect us to stay here?” Ben asked. “But… no, that isn’t…. we have to find the Guv’nor… The Doctor, I mean, and then we’ll be on our way.”

“Yes,” Donna insisted. Where is The Doctor? What have you done to him?”


“The man who was with us. Youngish, skinny, probably kicked up a fuss… but harmless really.”

“You mean the mutant?”

“No,” Donna protested. “The Doctor isn’t a mutant. He’s…”

“He was scanned immediately after transportation to the quarantine zone and found to have several anatomical aberrations. He was sanitised and disposed of.”

“What!” Ben was ahead of Donna in his protestation. “You mean… the Guv’nor… he’s…”

“He’s dead?” Donna’s voice went up several octaves and then broke altogether. She turned to Ben who reached out and held her as she cried. He was a Victorian man. They didn’t cry. At least, he had never been in a situation where tears would have helped. But he certainly felt like it right now. The Doctor was the first person in any kind of authority who had trusted him. He was the first person in authority Ben had given his trust to.

And now he was gone, and he felt like there was a hole in his soul.

“Where is his body?” Ben demanded. “I want to see…”

“There is no body. The mutant was disposed of by transmat.”

“Transmat… what do you mean? I don’t understand…”

“I do,” Donna cried out. “They murdered him. That’s what they did. They used the thing that brought us inside to kill him.” She stood up, pushing back the chair she was sitting on. “Let me out of this place right now. Let me out. Or I’ll… I’ll…”

Ben was on his feet, too, backing away from the only door into Dominic’s office. There were creatures closing in on them. Creatures in the image of man, but made of metal. They held weapons. Ben tried to put himself between them and Donna, but they fired their weapons at him. He gasped as he felt the energy pulse envelop him and slid to the ground, fighting for consciousness. He heard Donna cry out in rage as she was enveloped and before he lost his fight and blacked out he felt her body falling across his.


The Doctor was watching the clouds gathering above him. He wondered if there was some kind of malevolent god-like entity playing games with him. Because the one thing that would seriously destroy his chances of ever getting back to the TARDIS would be a thunderstorm.

There was a crash of thunder and a bolt of forked lightning that grounded itself a few miles away. Any other time he would have found it exhilarating to watch. He wouldn’t even have minded getting soaking wet if he had a hot shower and a change of clothes somewhere near by.

But as the first drops of rain began to dissolve his biodegradable clothes he knew he was in real trouble now.


Donna woke up groggily and noticed straight away that she was lying down on some kind of table, and that she was restrained by her arms and legs.

Ben woke up at nearly the same time and shouted as he struggled against the metal cuffs.

“Please be calm,” said a voice, and Donna’s view of a ceiling made up of diamond shaped glass was blocked by a woman wearing white paper clothes. At first she thought it was Alla, the one she had met already, but then she took in the darker hair and different eyes and nose. This was another of the people of the Sanctuary.

“Why should I be calm?” Donna demanded. “You’ve killed my friend. And kidnapped me and Ben. What should I be calm about?”

“Kidnapped?” the woman frowned. “I don’t understand that word. You are not our prisoners. You are restrained only for your own safety while your induction is completed. Please try not to struggle. There is no pain involved in the process, but it will take so much longer if you are not open minded about it.”

“Let me go,” Ben demanded. “Or I shall…”

But his threat was difficult to follow through. Even if he could get free of the restraints, what could he do? He couldn’t fight a woman. He continued to struggle, but futilely.

“Ama,” said a voice over some kind of intercom. Donna thought it belonged to Dominic. “Use the truth serum on these two if they will not co-operate. They cannot be allowed to join the population until they have been fully inducted.”

“Yes, Leader,” Ama replied and reached for a syringe of the sort Donna had seen before. She tried to pull away from it, but the arm restraints prevented her moving very far. She felt the serum enter her bloodstream and then everything began to feel and look blurry like it did when she’d had one gin and orange too many when she was out with her friends on a Friday night. Except she didn’t feel happy like she did on those nights out.

The two tables tipped forward so that they could see the wall in front of them. Again it was made up of the diamond shaped panes. Ama pressed something and the panes changed colour, from black to white, and then transparent. Donna and Ben both watched the terrible storm going on outside. Not only thunder and lightning and driving rain, but balls of fire screaming down through the rain, ploughing into the battle-scarred ground.

“This is the world outside, beyond the safety of these precious walls,” said the voice of Dominic, but possibly in a recording, not live. This is what I saved everyone from when I sealed the Sanctuary. The badlands outside stretch for five hundred miles, constantly bombarded with fireballs from the sky, blasted by hurricane winds and great storms. Only once in a while do the winds relent enough for a few survivors to make it across the badlands to the Sanctuary. But those who make it are welcomed with open arms. They become a part of our community here. They are happy.”

The view in the windows changed. Above and around the storm continued. But there were a dozen or so panes in which different parts of the Sanctuary appeared. People were happily enjoying peaceful leisure pursuits like indoor ball games or painting, dancing, or simply relaxing in what looked like a huge indoor garden where servo-robots hovered attentively, serving drinks and snacks to the humans.

“Outside, is certain death. Inside the Sanctuary, a perfect society. You, who braved the badlands to reach us will find happiness and contentment here. Your worries are over.”

Donna watched the images in the windows. The contrast between the terrible badlands outside and the peaceful community within was stark. She tried to remember how they had arrived. It must have been one of the quiet times when the fireballs weren’t coming down. They had made it across the badlands and now they were safe.

Safe, happy and content inside the Sanctuary. She watched the images and sighed with relief that she was here, in the Sanctuary, safe.

“Your worries are over,” said the voice of Dominic again.

“Our… worries… are over…” Ben murmured.

“Happiness and contentment…” Donna added. “Yes, we are happy.”


The Doctor was struggling. It was getting dark. He wasn’t sure it was night coming down or just the storm getting worse. He was cold and wet. And he was going to be naked in a few minutes. The paper clothes were falling to bits in the driving rain. Even the shoes were turning to wet mulch.

He slipped and felt his ankle twist painfully. As he pulled himself upright and tried to go on, he laughed ironically and thought of his granddaughter, who could manage to sprain her ankle on perfectly flat and well-cut lawns. He felt quite a lot of sympathy with her right now. But considering he was now almost completely naked, with nothing but a lot of mud and some fragments of paper clothing between him and immodesty, he was rather glad Susan wasn’t around right now.

He fell again. He picked himself up. He stumbled a few more yards and slithered to the ground. He tried to stand up and couldn’t.

“Pull yourself together,” he told himself. “You’ll die if you don’t keep moving. Come on, Doctor. You’ve been in worse situations than this.”

But he couldn’t think of very many. He tried again to stand up, but his ankle was hurting. It ought to be mending itself, but the cold and the sheer exhaustion was inhibiting the repair.

He felt very Human and very mortal as he succumbed to the cold and wet and slipped into oblivion.


Ben and Donna were released from their restraints. Ama told them they were free to go where they pleased within the Sanctuary now that they had been inducted.

“Thank you,” Ben said and took hold of Donna’s hand. She came with him, unprotesting. He walked with her down a flight of steps and into the big, beautiful relaxation room. He sat her down on a comfortable sofa under what looked like a peach tree. He sat next to her, clinging to her hand. A robo-servo hovered towards them with food and drink on a tray. Ben looked at it critically. He wasn’t completely sure what it was. But he didn’t like it.

“Go away,” he snapped.

The servo robot went away. Ben turned back to Donna.

“We have to get out of here,” he said to her. “We have to get back to the TARDIS. Even if the Guv’nor is… even without him… we can get back to Earth. Where we belong.”

“Get out of here?” Donna looked at him in confusion. “Why would we want to? We’re safe here. Out there… dangerous…”

“Donna!” Ben sighed. She was much deeper under the influence than he thought.

He wasn’t sure why it hadn’t worked on him. He had seen the pictures and heard the voice speaking. But it hadn’t made him forget that he came here by TARDIS, or that there were no fireballs or storms outside.

It didn’t make him forget that The Doctor had been murdered on the orders of Dominic, the leader of these people.

“Donna,” he said again. “You must try to remember.”

One of the servo-robos hovered near him again. It had a basket of fruit on its back. Ben looked at the thing again and wondered if it could understand him. If so, perhaps it was spying on them. It could tell Dominic that he wasn’t hypnotised or whatever it had done to Donna.

He grabbed some of the grape like fruits and gave one to Donna while he ate one himself. Then he turned his back on the servo-robo and pulled Donna into his arms. He kissed her on the lips, tasting cool grape juice in her mouth. He kept on kissing her until he felt that the servo-robo had gone.

“Wow!” Donna exclaimed as he leaned back, releasing her from his clinch. “Did you… wow. You kissed me…”

It wasn’t the first time. They had kissed many times. He was her boyfriend, sort of, in a way, though she had never actually used that word. But usually she started the kissing and he happily went along with it. He always seemed too shy and unsure to instigate the kiss.

“Are you back?” he asked. “Donna… my Donna…”

“Yes, I think I am. I feel like I just woke up…”

Ben glanced around. Ama and Dominic were circulating around the room.

“You’d better pretend you’re still asleep.”

He gave her some of the fruit and pretended to be interested in the flowers and a tinkling fountain near where they were sitting. Donna quickly did the same. Dominic stopped and looked at them for a while and then walked on.

“I think we fooled him.” Ben said. “But we can’t stay here. We have to get away.”

“Yeah… but how?” Donna asked. “I don’t think they’re going to just let us out through the front door. There isn’t one, remember.”

“I don’t know how,” Ben answered her. “But we’re going to do it, somehow.” He glanced around and then wrapped his arms around her neck and kissed her again. When the woman called Ama had passed them he stood up. Donna stood with him. They walked side by side out of the refectory. That brought them to a corridor with a sloping floor. One wall was the diamond shaped glass panels and they noticed that there was a violent storm going on outside.

“It isn’t really,” Ben said. “It’s… pretend… an…” He searched for the word. It wasn’t very long since he learnt to read and write. His vocabulary sometimes needed exploring. “An illusion. We know what it’s really like outside. It’s just grass.”

“Yes.” Donna shook her head as if she needed to get the images of a devastated world out of her head. “Yes, of course it is. But why do they do this? What is the point of it?”

“To stop people wondering about the outside,” Ben suggested. “Don’t look at it.”

“It’s hard not to look,” Donna said. “It’s kind of…. Anyway, where are we going?”

“Down. This corridor… it goes around and down. Like a… a spiral. It must go to the bottom of the tower. We might find a way out. If nothing else, I’ll break the glass. I’m… good at breaking windows. I’ve done it before…. when picking a lock wouldn’t be any good.”

“We’re hundreds of floors up,” Donna pointed out. “We might not get to the bottom without them trying to stop us.”

“You’ve got The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. Does it work as a weapon?”

“No, it doesn’t,” Donna answered. “Hey… you… you called him Doctor… not… You always called him Guv’nor…”

“It always seemed to fit him. Good name. But now… he’s gone and…”

“I don’t want to just get away,” Donna said. “I want to make them pay for what they did to him… I want them to suffer.”

“Most of them don’t know,” Ben told her. “At least I don’t think they do. Dominic and his few cronies… they keep the truth from the others. They’re too stupid to question him.”

“Then I want them to suffer for their ignorance,” Donna snapped. “For sitting around like lemons while he… while The Doctor was…”

“He wouldn’t want you to feel that way,” Ben told her. “He didn’t believe in revenge. He was… he was a good man. Donna… Don’t let him down.”

“Ben…” Donna clutched his hand tightly. She appreciated his words. She appreciated, too, his attempt to look after her. A streak of independence argued that she didn’t need looking after. But a tired, worried part of her wanted all the help it could get.

“Ben, thank you,” she managed. “I’ll try.”


The Doctor woke up and found that he wasn’t wet, cold and naked anymore. He was warm, nestling among some kind of soft furs. He was wearing some sort of woollen robe that covered his body and somebody had washed the mud away and dried him first. He opened his eyes and looked at the roof of the sort of structure that Earth people in places like Mongolia called a yurt. There was a faint smell of tanned animal skins and of candles made of animal fat rather than wax. There was also a scent of meat cooking. He was in the care of people who lived nomadically, hunting animals that provided food, shelter and light for them.

“Hello?” he managed to say. There was movement by the cooking place and a woman wearing soft leather and homespun wool clothing approached with a rough-hewn bowl containing some kind of milk. The Doctor tested the first sip to ensure there was nothing dangerous in it and then drank it gratefully.

“There is meat to strengthen you when you are ready,” the woman said. “You were almost dead when we found you on the path of our caravan.”

“Almost…” The Doctor raised his hands to his face. It felt like the features he was used to. Had he been close enough to death to begin regeneration? “What do I look like to you?”

“A man who has suffered at the hands of the hidden ones,” she replied. “My name is Annat. I am of the Outlanders. My husband, Garth bid me care for your needs. He is speaking with the elders of our people about you.”

“I don’t wish to be any trouble to your people,” The Doctor told her as he pulled himself upright. “But I am grateful for your kindness.”

Annat pressed another bowl and a roughly made spoon into his hands. The meat stew was not something that would win Michelin stars, but it was nourishing. And he needed it. He ate.

“You talked about ‘the hidden ones’,” he ventured. “And Outlanders… I think I understand. In my own society there were people who lived beyond technology, preferring the simple life of the land…. But you know of the glass tower… you know that there are people within it?”

“Garth and I were both born there. We were cast out ten years ago…. Transported many miles away with nothing but the clothes that would last but one day. We were found by the Outlanders and taken in by them. We were lucky. As you were. Often we only find bodies of those who have died of exposure.”

“So… Dominic regularly casts people out. Why?”

“Dominic? He is still alive?”

“A very old man. I saw him briefly. He looked at me and said I was unfit to join the Sanctuary and ordered me ‘disposed of’. Somebody called Doma carried out his instructions. I don’t quite know why I’m alive, to be honest. Dominic wanted me dead. My molecules were supposed to be scattered by the transmat. But Doma programmed a rematerialisation in a random location.”

“That was not an accident,” said a male voice as the tent flap opened and cold air briefly reached into the warm interior. “I am Garth. My wife has tended to your needs?”

“She has,” The Doctor answered. “You were saying….”

“Doma’s purpose is to dispose of those Dominic decides are surplus to the Tower population. Usually it is the very old or the sick. In that case, he does as Dominic instructs. It is the merciful thing. But when he simply culls fit and healthy people to keep the population steady Doma gives them a slim chance. He sends them to a random location on the plain. If they can find us, or one of the other tribes of Outlanders, then they live. If they fail…” Garth shook his head. “It’s a gamble. Many are lost. But there are many of us now who were cast out.”

“Why did he seal the tower in the first place?” The Doctor asked.

“I was not born,” Garth admitted. “But the story goes that our world was facing a great danger. One of our moons was unstable. It broke apart. The debris made the sky dark and sent fire falling to the ground. There was great devastation. Dominic sealed the Tower and preserved a select few within who would come out into the world again when the devastation was over. But three generations have been born since, and he insists it is not safe. He shows the people images of the land as it was during the devastation and claims it is still happening. The plain is a hostile place, with severe weather and dangerous animals roaming it, but it is habitable. We Outlanders prove as much. But Dominic lets nobody out once they are in… except as walking dead such as you.”

“I have two friends in the Tower,” The Doctor said. “At least I hope they are. You found nobody else on the plain?”

“Only you.”

“Then I must hope they are alive and safe inside there… for now. But I must get to them. If I could get to my TARDIS…”

“You mean to try to get into the Tower again… after escaping it once…” Garth was astounded. Annat gasped in fear and tried to beg him not to throw away his life.

“I must,” The Doctor insisted. “I have to find my friends.”

“We had friends in the Tower,” Annat told him sadly. “But I am dead to them, now. And they to me. There is no going back.”

“I must try. Alone if I must. It is night… of course I cannot go anywhere until sun up. But then I will continue my journey and try to reach….”

“It will be dawn in an hour,” Garth said. “We eat now and then strike camp. We will be near the Tower by nightfall. You may travel safely with us that far. But it is folly to attempt any attack on the Tower.”

“If you can get me close to it,” The Doctor told him. “I have a way I can get in and find my friends before Dominic or anyone else knows anything about it.”

“Then I wish you luck,” Garth said. “You would be the first to succeed in generations. But there is nothing to be done yet. You may rest through the day in our wagon and gather your strength for what you plan to do.”

“Thank you,” The Doctor replied. He was genuinely grateful for the kindness given to him already by two strangers. And they offered him a way to reach his friends for which he couldn’t begin to thank them.


Donna had to stop walking. The corridor did, indeed, slope downwards. But it did so at such a ridiculously low gradient that they got almost nowhere. And even though they knew it was fake, even though they tried not to look at it, the terrible storm going on in the window panes was dispiriting.

“Let’s see what’s through here,” Ben said. He would welcome a respite, too. He opened a door on the inner part of the corridor. They were both surprised to find it was a mixed sauna and solarium with a wide, airy rest area where people could lie on deckchairs and cool down. A servo-robo hovered towards them with towels and bathing suits – all made of white, papery, disposable fabric. Another had cold drinks.

“Please relax and enjoy,” said the computerised voice of the one with the cold drinks.

“We can rest for a while,” Donna said, grabbing a drink with a straw and heading towards the changing area. She put The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver down carefully as she took off the paper skirt and blouse and put on the bathing suit. When she looked around, a servo robo was taking away the discarded clothes. It reached a robot arm towards the sonic screwdriver but Donna was faster. She stuffed it down the front of her bathing suit. It looked strange, but she didn’t care. She would hang onto it forever if she had to. It was her last connection to The Doctor.

Thinking of him reminded her that this was just a respite. She was determined not to fall into the ways of the Tower people. Those enjoying the sauna seemed just as indolent as the ones in the refectory. Their conversation mostly consisted of exchanging details of their day’s leisure activities and since most of them did the same things – sport, art, crafts, eating, but in different orders and combinations, there was nothing new.

“How do we know how far we’ve come or how long we’ve been walking?” Donna asked Ben as she stretched out on a lounger and let herself relax a little. “There are no clocks. We certainly won’t see the sun through those windows.”

“I don’t know,” Ben admitted. “How long have we even been here? We must have been asleep for a long while to start with. Then… I don’t know how long we were being ‘inducted’. It could have been an hour. It might have been a few minutes.”

“Let’s not take longer than an hour, here.” Donna said. “Just enough to rest ourselves and gather our strength. We can take some of the fruit and stuff with us when we go. That will help. But don’t let me fall asleep. Just lie here and…”

She fell asleep. Ben leaned over and kissed her cheek. He knew she was right. They shouldn’t stay here too long. But she needed the rest. He would stay awake and watch her, and wake her when it was time to move on.

He managed five minutes before his eyes got heavy. He fought his own tiredness valiantly, but it was a losing battle. He laid his head down against the back of a chair and closed his eyes just for a moment. And very soon after he was snoring gently.


The Doctor slept most of the morning. He didn’t mean to. But the effort of the day before had taken more out of him than he thought it had. He sat up on the wagon at first, watching the strong-sinewed horse-like creatures that pulled it. But as they moved forward in a long caravan of similar wagons across the unending and unchanging blue grass plain he went inside under the stretched skin cover and laid down on the makeshift bed among Annat and Garth’s worldly possessions, and before he had even attempted to clear his mind and put himself into a meditative trance he had simply fallen asleep in the ordinary Human way.

When he woke, he knew that at least eight hours had passed. He felt it instinctively. A Time Lord was always aware of the passage of time and could tell what time of day it was, even on an unknown planet, by the same innate sense that allowed birds to find their winter roosts and fish to swim upriver to their spawning grounds.

He reached out mentally and felt something else that was second nature to him. His TARDIS was much closer now. A few miles at the most.

He moved out to where Garth and Annat were sitting behind their horses – or whatever they were. They greeted him kindly and Annat passed him a chunk of barley bread and some cheese that smelt as if it came from the same animal as the milk he had drunk earlier. The food was welcome. He thanked them for it and ate quietly as he looked out across the plain. The Tower was visible on the horizon, its glass panes glinting in the sunlight. He used that as a bearing to try to see where he felt the TARDIS was. He couldn’t see it. Then again it was a relatively small blue box sitting on a plain of blue grass. He almost didn’t expect to find it.

“Garth,” he said as he kept the mental connection with the TARDIS and knew he was at least getting closer to it. “You have friends inside the Tower? What if… if I could open it up. Would you and your people be ready to help them? They might be frightened and confused and some might be hostile… though I hope not. I wouldn’t want bloodshed on either side. But if you could be ready to help them…”

“What about Dominic?” Garth asked.

“I’ll deal with Dominic,” The Doctor replied. “I could just get my friends and go. In the past, my people would say I should. That this is a problem you should solve for yourselves. But I’m an interfering busybody and I think… if you’re prepared to make an effort for yourselves, I’ll do my bit.”

Garth looked at The Doctor then he nodded. He gave the reins of the wagon to Annat and jumped down. He ran alongside the train of wagons to the front. The lead driver halted his wagon and the others followed suit. Then the men all gathered to talk. The Doctor watched and waited to see if they would agree to listen to him. While they decided, he thought it through and actually made a plan. He had a feeling he would need to have something definite to tell these Outlanders rather than his usual seat of his pants style of doing things.

Which reminded him of something else he wanted to do before he put any plan into action.

Garth and a man with a leathery, weather-beaten face of one who had lived long years on these plains, approached. The leathery one nodded politely to The Doctor and asked him what his plan was. The Doctor outlined it to him.

Donna woke up with a start and dislodged Ben’s arm from across her shoulders. He woke, too.

“How long have we been asleep?” he asked.

“Ages,” Donna answered. “I’m hungry.”

“Me, too,” Ben admitted. He looked around and grabbed some food from one of the robo-servos and gave some to Donna. They ate the food and drank some water. They went to the changing rooms and found that fresh paper-tissue clothes were available from a dispenser. They dressed and then took some more food and some water in a bottle before slipping out into the corridor again. The raging storm ‘outside’ was an uninviting prospect, but they knew they had to keep going. The only possible way they were going to get out of this place was at the bottom.

“We should be all right now,” Ben said. “We’ve had a very long rest. We just have to keep going. When we reach the bottom, we’ll break out and run back to the TARDIS. It wasn’t that far. We could see the tower from the TARDIS. We’ll be able to see the TARDIS from the tower. And when we get there…”

“How will we get into the TARDIS?” Donna asked. “My key is gone. Along with everything else. My wristwatch, everything I had. Even that big, clunky old ring I had. They took everything and gave us these stupid clothes.”

“Do you still have the sonic screwdriver?” Ben asked. “I think if we use that, the TARDIS will open for us. If not… find me a piece of metal and I can open any lock.”

“Do you think the TARDIS will know… that he’s not…”

Ben nodded. He didn’t entirely understand the TARDIS. But he certainly understood enough to know that it and The Doctor were part of one big package. And yes, he thought it would know that he was gone. It would mourn his loss with them as it took them away from the place where he was so callously and pointlessly murdered.

They walked on for an hour, or what felt like an hour. They calculated that they must have circled the tower two or three times in that hour. They tried to guess how far down they had come. But the spatial geometry was beyond either of them.

They walked another hour then stopped to drink something and have a little of the food. Then they walked on again.

They had been walking for twenty minutes or so when Donna gave a cry of despair. She bent down and picked something up from the floor. It was the wrapper from the food they had eaten before.

“We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “This corridor isn’t going down at all. It just looks like it is. It’s… an optical illusion. Like that Escher bloke’s paintings. We’ve been going in circles, Ben. We’re never going to get out of here.”

“Why would you want to go out of here?” asked a voice. They both turned to see Alla, the one who had attended to them in the medical room. “Why would you want to go out into THAT!” She pointed to the window where a fireball streaked down from the sky, narrowly missing the tower. In its fiery wake the driving rain steamed slightly but continued to pour relentlessly, while lightning forks split on the horizon.

“That’s not real,” Donna said “It’s an illusion put there by Dominic so that you won’t try to leave. We SAW the outside world. It’s not much, but it’s ok. It’s nothing like that at all.”

“You are confused,” Alla said. “You should come back with me to see Dominic. You need to be shown the truth again. Your induction obviously failed…”

“They were always going to fail,” said Dominic, stepping out of an alcove. “They should have been disposed of with the mutant who accompanied them. I knew they would be trouble. Take them. Doma will finish the job.”

He said the last part to four men in white paper overalls who stepped into the corridor. Donna got ready to fight. So did Ben. His fists clenched as he backed away and prepared to spring at the first man to touch him.

The fight never happened. Everyone at once heard a noise that had never been heard in the Tower – that had never been heard anywhere on this planet before. Donna guessed what it was before anyone else.

“Get against the inner wall,” she shouted, turning and pressing herself against a doorframe. “Cover your eyes. Keep still.”

Ben quickly did as she said. Alla and two of the men under Dominic’s command recognised something of the urgency in her voice and did the same. Dominic and the other two stood in the middle of the corridor. Dominic was shouting something, but his voice was drowned by the ear-splitting noise of hundreds of thousands of panes of glass shattering in succession as a chain reaction begun at the top of the Tower carried on down the length of it. Those who saw it from the outside would later describe it as being like watching a flower blooming and then dying at once as the fragments of glass fell away.

Most of the glass fell outside. But enough of it was blown inside to make it dangerous for anyone standing in the corridor. Donna resisted the urge to look around as both of the henchmen screamed in horror and pain. One of the screams took on an eerie Doppler sound and she guessed that he had fallen over the side of what was now an external balcony as the glass walls disintegrated.

At last, they risked looking around. One of the henchmen was gone. The other, and Dominic were still standing, but possibly only out of stubbornness. One side of their bodies, from their heads to their feet was reduced to bloody pulp by flying shards of glass. The henchman had a huge chunk of it lodged in his neck. Donna saw him reach to pull it out.

“No!” she yelled. “Don’t!”

But it was too late. Removing the chunk of glass severed the artery. Blood spurted. The henchman fell to his knees and then sprawled, twitching briefly before becoming still.

“Get inside,” Ben called out, reaching for Donna’s hand and pulling her towards an inner door. “This floor is going to give.”

He was right. Donna could feel it sagging now that the external wall wasn’t supporting it fully. She reached out her other hand and grabbed Alla. She, in turn, reached for one of the remaining henchmen, but he was too terrified to stretch out his hand.

“No!” Dominic shrieked, his mouth opening strangely. One half of it was bloody and tattered. Above it, one eye was ripped by the glass shards. “No, you’ll none of you escape. You’ll….”

He grabbed at Alla’s hand and tried to pull her towards the edge. Donna yelled and held on tight. Ben wedged his foot against the doorframe and held onto her, but Dominic had jumped. He was dragging Alla. If she fell, then Donna had to make a terrible choice – risk falling, too, or save herself by letting go.

Then Alla let go of her hand. Donna screamed in horror at first, thinking the woman had sacrificed herself. Then she heard Ben’s gasp of relief and dared to look around. Alla was standing on the threshold of the TARDIS as it hovered in mid air. The Doctor, dressed in his spare suit, the less crumpled blue one, gently pulled her further in then reached out his hands to Donna. She sprinted forward into his arms. He hugged her briefly before she stepped out of the way for Ben and the two remaining henchmen, who, scared as they were, recognised that the impossible looking box was their best chance of living longer.

“Doctor!” Donna managed to say as he turned from the open door and ran to his console. “You’re alive.”

“Yes, I am,” he replied happily. “Long story. I’ll explain later. Do you know, this TARDIS will open for me without a key. I just put my hand on the door and asked it nicely. I think it missed me while I was gone.”

“Well done,” Donna told him. “Did you break the glass?”

“Sonic impulse from the TARDIS hovering over the tower,” he replied. “I didn’t reckon on people being in that much danger, though. I saw two fall…”

“One of them was Dominic. He deserved it,” Donna said. “No… he didn’t, really. It would have been better if you’d got hold of him and showed him that he was wrong. He could have been straightened out. But it wasn’t your fault, Doctor.”

The Doctor nodded and seemed to accept that from her. He set the TARDIS down on the plain fifty yards or so away from the destroyed tower. Donna and Ben clutched hands as they stepped out. Alla and the henchmen followed and stared up, first, at the ruin of the tower, then around at the blue grass plain, and up at a sky that was the same shade of blue. The late afternoon breeze that ruffled the grass was cool and refreshing.

The Outlanders, including Garth and Annat were putting up a temporary village of yurts and preparing food over a communal fire, ready to receive the people of the tower. The Doctor send Alla and the two men to them. He sent Donna with them.

“Ben, you come along with me and help. There are still hundreds of people up there in the tower and we need to get them down.”

Ben saw the sense in that when the TARDIS hovered near the Tower. Even if there had been a door on the ground floor, nobody could have got out through it. There were mounds of broken glass as tall as he was. The TARDIS was their only hope of rescue.

It took hours. There were some stubborn few who refused to believe that their easy life in the Tower was over. Some refused to believe their own eyes when they looked out of the inner doors and saw blue skies and the sun setting towards a beautiful horizon. A few were so wrapped up in the delusion that they did the same as Dominic, despite The Doctor’s frantic efforts to persuade them not to.

But as night fell, the people of the Tower had become people of the Yurt. They were fed roast meat, cheese and milk by the Outlanders. Some were joyfully or tearfully, or more often both, reunited with friends and relatives they thought long dead. All of them wondered how they had lived so long without realising that they had been lied to by Dominic and a few who were party to the secret.

Those few were almost in trouble. The Doctor recognised the beginnings of a mob well enough. He stood in front of Alla and Ama and Doma, and held up his hands.

“No,” he said. “Not while I have breath in my body. I won’t have any retribution taken against these people. They were prisoners of Dominic’s insane plan, too. They are free, as you all are, now. You may repair the tower. The technology is there. The servo-robos are whizzing around like headless chickens, looking for somebody to serve. If you choose to live in it, then do so. It’s a self-sufficient habitat with very little labour required. Or if you prefer, you can join the Outlanders and learn a harder, rougher way of life, but one I think some of you might take to. It’s your choice. But you do so in a spirit of kinship. You will put behind you all enmities and resentments. Alla and Ama and others who did unsavoury work before will join you in your new life. Or you will have me to reckon with.”

There was an uneasy silence, then the angry mob died down. There was a collective sigh of relief.

“All right,” The Doctor said. “That’s fine, now. I suggest that you organise a party to bury those poor souls who didn’t make it out. Their bodies shouldn’t be left to lie in the open. Then get some sleep. The Outlanders have made room for everyone. And in the morning, look around your big wide world and decide your future for yourself. I wish you all the very best.”

Then he turned and reached out to his friends. Donna and Ben were ready. They walked back to the TARDIS together. They stood back and watched as The Doctor put his hand on the TARDIS door and spoke quietly. It opened wide for him. They all stepped inside.

“They’ll be all right, won’t they?” Donna asked as they looked at the camp on the viewscreen before dematerialising.

“If they’re not, they’ve only themselves to blame,” The Doctor answered. “I think they’ll be all right. Some of them are going to be entering a wide world of blisters and calluses and manual labour for the first time in their lives. But that won’t hurt them one little bit.”

“Ok, then,” Donna said. “I’m going to get a hot bath and put on some proper clothes. I’ll see you both in a bit.” She reached inside her paper blouse and passed The Doctor his sonic screwdriver. “You’d better have that back.”

The Doctor slipped the screwdriver into his inside pocket and watched as Donna went off for her bath. Ben watched her go, too, then turned back to The Doctor.

“I’m glad you’re alive, after all, Guv’nor,” he said.

“So am I,” The Doctor told him with a grin.