The TARDIS was in low geo-stationary orbit over Earth – over one particular part of Earth. The Doctor opened the main door and brought Louise to look out.

“It is beautiful,” she said. “Absolutely beautiful. Mon Docteur…. Is this really where my own people… my mother’s people… came from?”

“It is,” he assured her. “Your ancestors were French. Below you right now is the capital of France. And I do want to show it to you.”

“It looks as big as New York,” she said. There was a trace of doubt in her voice. Her first visit to Earth had plunged her into a huge metropolis that was a far cry from her treetop village on Forêt. Now he was offering her another huge city with its teeming masses.

“You’ll love it, I promise you,” he assured her. “Louise…” He caught her in his arms and kissed her lips lightly. “I know this is all very new to you. But I promise I would never knowingly take you into danger. And if it seems as if I am trying to gift wrap a planet and give it to you as a token of my love… that’s… because it’s exactly what I am trying to do. I want you to love Earth as much as I do. We are both connected to it in so many ways. You, because it is the homeworld of your ancestors and me, because…. Because I, too, have ties of blood, and also because… because with my own planet gone, it is a kind of home to me… as well as Forêt. And… the people… they’re not so frightening once you understand them.”

“Then I will try to understand them,” Louise promised earnestly. The Doctor smiled warmly at her.

“The latest spring fashions will look beautiful on you. Go on to the Wardrobe while I pick a good spot to land the TARDIS, and then I will show you Paris.”

She smiled at him and went to change. Wearing clothes for anything more than practical necessity was something else she was still getting accustomed to. But it was also something she enjoyed. So did the TARDIS. The right clothes for the occasion always presented themselves readily when she went to the Wardrobe.

It didn’t disappoint this time. She returned to the console room twenty minutes later in a silver-grey silk blouse with matching chiffon scarf, slate grey slacks and a red jacket and matching hat. She had applied a little red lipstick but that was all. She didn’t need more. Her complexion was flawless and her almond coloured eyes needed no artificial enhancement. She did show him a pair of fashionable sunglasses that she said were in the jacket pocket. He put them on her and he thought she looked like a young film star, though he didn’t say so since she had no concept of what a film star was. They were reactive. He could still see her eyes inside the TARDIS, but they would be protected from the bright sunlight when they stepped out.

Not that there was any bright sunlight when they stepped out of the TARDIS. The Doctor had got everything right – the place was definitely Paris. It was spring. But it was almost sundown. From where they emerged on the open observation deck of the Eiffel Tower, Paris was bathed in gold and the sky was red-orange to the west, over the Bois de Bologne, and a darkening azure from the east where the Seinne curved around towards the Axe Historique.

“Oh,” The Doctor murmured. “Slight miscalculation. Never mind. It’s Friday. The Louvre opens until ten. Time enough to see the highlights. Then we can see the rest of it at our leisure tomorrow…”

Louise agreed with that idea, even though she wasn't entirely sure what the Louvre was or what its highlights might be. The Doctor took her, first, to the open deck of the tower, where they walked all around watching the sun set and Paris compensate for it by lighting up its streets and boulevards in orange and white lamps and technicolour neon.

“At night in the forest, it simply goes dark,” she commented.

“Yes, it does,” The Doctor noted. He understood what she meant by that. He recalled when he was a young student at the Prydonian Academy, in the heart of Gallifrey’s great capital city. He had come from the countryside of the Southern continent and had found the glow of the artificial lights that drowned out the stars above his head disconcerting.

“This is beautiful, though,” she added. “In a different way.”

“That’s what’s so wonderful about the universe,” The Doctor told her. “So much of it is beautiful in so many different ways. That’s why I want you to see it with me. I want you to see the beauty, too.”

That wasn’t completely true, of course. Mostly he wanted her to see it with him because after so many centuries roaming the universe he had stopped seeing the beauty. It had all started to look the same. He needed a new pair of eyes to see it through every so often.

That was one reason why, this time, when he had found love on Forêt, he had asked her to come away from there with him. Perhaps it was a selfish reason. Sometimes, lying in bed with her sleeping softly in his arms, he had analysed his own motives, and concluded that, yes, selfishness had a lot to do with it.

But then, so what? He had spent nearly a millennia being unselfish, self-sacrificing, giving his all for others, sometimes painfully, giving his lives for the sake of others, for countless millions who didn’t even know what he had done for them, and many who wouldn’t even care.

So wasn’t he entitled to one selfish need? Didn’t he deserve one comfort, didn’t he deserve her?

And none of the demons that might have shouted him down dared say a word of denial.

They completed three circuits of the upper deck, watching the sun set over Paris before descending to the lower covered deck once again.

“Oh, Docteur! Louise exclaimed softly. “The TARDIS!”

The TARDIS was exactly where he left it. But it was surrounded by a small group of tourists with mid-west American accents who were photographing it and commenting loudly about what an unusual exhibit it was – a British phone box at the top of the greatest French monument. The Doctor grinned as he listened to them and then turned to look at one of the tower security staff who was approaching with the look of somebody who was fully capable of clamping the TARDIS and having it towed away for being illegally parked.

He stepped in front of the man, halting him in his tracks. Under pretence of asking a question about the closing times for the observation deck he gently hypnotised him into believing that the TARDIS was a genuine Eiffel Tower Observation Deck attraction. The man nodded politely and assured him that it was perfectly all right to photograph the police box.

“I’ll do it later, when there aren’t as many crowds,” he said with a friendly smile. He took Louise by the arm and headed towards the lift.

“We are leaving the TARDIS here?” she asked.

“It’ll be safe enough here for the night. We’ll get a hotel later and come back tomorrow after we’ve seen all the sights.”

It would have been easy to use the TARDIS as a runabout around the city. But it was Paris, after all. It had to be savoured.

It was a beautiful evening. Walking through the wide, busy streets with Louise by his side was a perfect way to enjoy it. They strolled happily along the bank of the Seinne as far as the Ponte de la Concorde, then into the lamplit Jardin des Tuileries. Louise enjoyed the promenade through the lovely old gardens and around the fountains and ornamental pools, though she did hold on tight to The Doctor’s arm because such a wide open space was still unnerving to a girl who lived her whole life in a forest. Sometimes the sky above her head still seemed too big and wide.

But if the Tuileries awed her, the complex of buildings collectively known as The Louvre was stunning to her.

“Not bad,” The Doctor said with a grin. “It’s not half bad! Those French aristocrats really knew how to build their palaces.”

“It’s… so big!” Louise managed. “Why?”

The Doctor laughed.

“I don’t think anyone ever asked that before. They liked to build big houses.”

“Did the aristocrats build that, too?” she stared at the glass pyramid that was the modern entrance to the Louvre. In the dark, and lit from inside with warm light, it looked inviting.

“No, that was the brainchild of the Fifth French Republic!” The Doctor answered. “I like it. It reminds me of the President’s Residence on Byzantia III. Only that pyramid is something like a mile high and has ten million panes of glass in it. I’ll take you there some time. For now, let’s see the greatest art collection on Earth.”

He paid for their admission with an intergalactic credit card that had similar properties to the psychic paper. It looked like a local credit card on any planet he visited. He also purchased a souvenir guide book for Louise, though she hardly needed it. He told her everything she needed to know about the exhibits. His knowledge was inexhaustible and his enthusiasm for the works of art and their creators infectious. Louise, for whom art for the sake of art was an entirely new concept, found herself drawn into the paintings, fascinated by the colours, the clothes, the subjects of the pictures that were so much more varied than the painted silks that her own people created to decorate their homes.

She was enjoying herself. The Doctor smiled joyfully to see her face illuminated with pleasure at each room they passed through.

“This is the one I really wanted to show you,” he said as they entered the Salle Des Etats. “It was painted by an old friend of mine many years ago and considered the most famous painting in the world.”

It wasn't far off closing time now, and there were less crowds than during the day, so it was possible to walk in a relatively straight line across the room and get close to the waist high wooden barrier in front of the bullet proof glass screen that protected the most famous painting in the world from theft or attack.

Louise was puzzled.

“Why is this little picture so important? It’s just a woman. She looks a bit like my brother Emile’s wife, Eloise. Except Eloise has eyebrows.”

The Doctor laughed softly.

“Why do all the women I bring to the Louvre notice the eyebrows?” He looked at the Mona Lisa and smiled a smile that more aptly defined ‘enigmatic’ than the one the lady in the painting displayed. “Why is it so important? Well….”

But this time he didn’t have the answer. He certainly wasn’t going to attempt to explain about the use of contrapposto, sfumato, chiaroscuro and pyramidal composition, or anything else mentioned in the guide book. That wasn’t the question, anyway. It wasn’t about technique or style. It was something else, something indefinable, something subjective. To most Human beings it was the finest work of art in all of history. To a few, it was a very small, dull little painting with a lot of muddy browns in it. Perhaps it said something that Louise, who came to it with no pre-conceptions, thought it just looked like her sister-in-law.

Anyway, he knew he couldn’t explain to her why it was important.

It just was.

“I like THAT one,” Louise said, turning and walking to the other end of the Salle Des Etats to look more closely at the huge canvas that covered the wall opposite the Mona Lisa. The figures in it were richly painted in bold, bright hues and there was the sort of sky that meant a good warm-sun day on Forêt - deep blue with white clouds to give shade from the heat of the sun.

“The Wedding At Cana by Paolo Veronese,” The Doctor said. “Yes, it’s very impressive. I don’t think Dominic could reproduce it on a silk hanging.”

Dominic was the best silk artist in the village, having inherited from his mother a skill with the natural dyes and an eye for detail. He loved to produce complicated images. But this was certainly beyond him.

Louise was happy to look at that painting for a long time, finding new interest in each part of the canvas. But the curators were getting impatient now, asking visitors to head towards the exits as the museum was closing shortly.

“We’ll come back tomorrow,” The Doctor promised. “It won’t go away. Meanwhile, I’ve got in mind a nice hotel room with a late supper and breakfast in bed in the morning.”

All of those things were easily found in a fine old hotel with views over the Tuileries. Not that either The Doctor or Louise looked at the view. The late supper and the comfortable bed were all that mattered.

And in the morning, after their breakfast in bed, they were both ready for a day of sightseeing, beginning with a return visit to the Louvre.

But as they strolled through the Tuileries, enjoying the ‘Jardin’ anew in bright morning sunshine, they became aware that something was wrong. The sound of the emergency sirens screaming past on the Quai des Tuileries on one side and the Rue de Rivoli on the other startled Louise and made her raise her hands to her ears. The Doctor looked around to see just how many police cars there were and then began to run towards the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the portal from the Tuileries to the Louvre courtyard. He stopped when he realised that Louise was way behind. While he was waiting to catch up he let his mind reach out towards the police cordon that was forming in front of the pyramid, eavesdropping in the way only he could.

What he heard both filled him with dismay and fired him up with curiosity and yearning to tackle the mystery.

“The Mona Lisa has been stolen,” he said when Louise reached him and he let her catch her breath before moving on again, this time tempering his stride to allow her to keep by his side.

“The little painting that looks like Eloise?” she queried. “But… so many men… for such a small thing?”

The Doctor smiled. When the news got out, Louise would be the only one thinking of it in those terms. There wouldn’t be enough police in France for the investigation.

A crowd was gathering already. Some were ordinary Parisians, some tourists, some were Press, frustrated that this was the closest they could get to the biggest story of their careers. The Doctor stepped towards them, clutching Louise’s hand carefully. The crowd parted in an almost biblical way. Something unexplainable popped into their minds and they moved out of the way without further thought.

The Doctor stepped right up to the cordon. A grim faced policeman stopped him.

“I am sorry, Monsieur, Mademoiselle, but you cannot…”

“The Mademoiselle is a Madame,” The Doctor said. “She is my wife. And I am The Doctor.” He displayed his psychic paper as he said his name. The policeman – a two stripe gardien de la paix in the police nationale - looked at it curiously then spoke into his radio. A few minutes later a sous-brigadier rushed up to the cordon. He spoke quietly to his subordinate and then turned to The Doctor. He gave a nod of the head that was very nearly a bow and there was a note of awe in his voice as he asked The Doctor and Louise to come with him.

“I’ll need some equipment of mine,” he said as they passed through the cordon. “Can you send some of your men? It’s at the Eiffel Tower, but I think they’ll be open by now…”

“It will be done, monsieur,” he was promised. “But come quickly. There is need of urgency…”

Behind them, cameras flashed and clicked. The Press and the tourists as one understood that the man in the pinstripe suit, long coat and trainers on his feet was somebody important to the investigation. The Doctor glanced around and pressed a small button on the sonic screwdriver concealed in his hand. Later, they would all find that their pictures were out of focus and unusable.

The sous-brigadier and two gardien de la paix escorted them through the pyramid entrance and up the lift then down several corridors at a cracking pace. They were anxious to bring him to the scene of the crime. He, for his part, was anxious to get to it. Louise kept pace with him valiantly, but she was quite out of breath by the time they reached the Salle d’Etats and at first she wasn’t paying much attention to the problem that gripped everyone else, including her husband.

When she looked around, she realised it wasn't just the little picture of the lady who looked like her sister-in-law that was missing. There had been dozens of canvases on the wall yesterday, all richly coloured with images that The Doctor told her were mostly over five hundred years old and each worth millions of pounds. He had then had to explain that something worth millions of pounds was something prized very highly in a society where money was an overriding pre-occupation. She had been aware of money and its function ever since she left Forêt with The Doctor, but she still had trouble understanding why it was so important.

But she did understand that the loss of those beautiful paintings was terrible.

She turned around and looked at the wall behind her and couldn’t help crying out in shock. The huge painting that she had liked so much – The Doctor called it ‘The Wedding At Cana’ – was gone, too.

She stepped closer to the wall and reached out to touch the huge white piece of stiffened fabric that was left behind.

“Louise!” The Doctor dashed to her side and stayed her hand. He pointed to something on the floor. “Step back, chéri,” he said. “Away from the walls. Everyone needs to stay away from the walls. This is… it’s not an ordinary theft. It’s….”

He put his arms around her shoulders as he looked at the canvas and then looked down at the floor. Just by Louise’s feet was a multicoloured streak, a stain, the length of the canvas. The same kind of stains were on the floor under each of the ‘missing’ paintings, including the Mona Lisa, whose bullet proof protective glass screen had vanished without a trace.

He held his sonic screwdriver up to the canvas, and then down at the stain on the floor. He said nothing, but he turned and walked back across the room to where the much smaller but infinitely more valuable painting should be. He adjusted the sonic screwdriver and shone an ultra-violet light on the piece of wood that was still fixed to the wall.

“Mon Dieu!” exclaimed a man with an identity tag on his breast proclaiming him to be Gustave Dubois, senior art historian. He stared at the poplar wood base upon which the Mona Lisa had been painted. Right across the middle, the words ‘This is a fake’ were picked out by the ultra-violet light. “What does this mean… Is the Mona Lisa… is she…”

“She is gone,” The Doctor said. “So are all of the paintings in this room. But they’re not stolen. They’re… they’ve been… removed…” He looked up and around. Of course, there were security cameras, covering every angle of the room. “I need to see the playback from those.”

“Yes, Monsieur Docteur,” Monsieur Dubois said. “I have been told to offer you every assistance. Please… come with me.”

The Doctor followed him. Louise came as well, of course. She had no intention of letting him out of her sight. She wasn’t entirely sure what was happening, but it was something that mattered to The Doctor, so it mattered to her.

The officer who was giving orders in the Louvre security centre was a capitaine – Capitaine Andre Michel, in point of fact. He introduced himself to The Doctor with a neat click of the heels and a salute which was not reciprocated. The Doctor didn’t like being saluted. His reasons were many and went back a long way, and even if he had the time right now he couldn’t be bothered to explain. He stepped past the police officer and spoke to the two very harassed and worried Louvre security officers.

“You have it all recorded?” he asked them simply. The officers nodded glumly. One reached for a switch. On the video screen in front of him four images appeared. It was the Salle Des Etats from each of the cameras that gave a complete one hundred and eighty degree view. It looked perfectly normal. The Mona Lisa, the Wedding at Cana, and all the other great works of Renaissance Italy hung there in all their glory.

Then in an eyeblink the Mona Lisa was gone. On another screen the huge Veronese canvas was stripped bare. Everything vanished.

“Slow it down,” The Doctor said.

“Monsieur,” the security officer replied in a plaintive voice. “That was slow motion. Look at the counter…”

He looked. The officer was right. The frames had been running at a quarter speed.

“Slower, then,” he answered.

“There is no slower setting on this equipment. I am sorry, monsieur…”

The Doctor leaned past him and jammed the sonic screwdriver into the security camera control panel. He kept it there as the digital recording of the camera overlooking the Mona Lisa played back at one eighth and then one sixteenth speed.

Gustave Dubois swore colourfully in French. Louise blushed. She knew what the words meant, but men on Forêt didn’t use them in the presence of women.

“There!” Capitaine Michel exclaimed.

“Oh, Mon Docteur…” Louise added. “Did you see?”

“I saw… but… it’s still not clear… just a flicker… a shadow…”

He adjusted the playback still further, until the screen was displaying only one frame at a time.

Everyone stared.

“It’s…” Dubois managed.

“They’re…” Capitaine Michel stammered.

“They’re the Dulique,” The Doctor said. “Also known as The Analysts. They… they analyse…”

“Analyse what?” asked Dubois. “And… what… they’re…. they’re…”

“They’re alien,” he said. “That’s got to be patently obvious, so don’t anybody waste my time arguing about that. You can see…”

Everyone could quite plainly see that the creatures were alien. They were exactly what humans had begun to imagine aliens to be thanks to conspiracy theories and science fiction television – gangly limbed, large headed grey humanoids. Except these ones seemed strangely transparent, as if they weren’t exactly there.

“What… do they have to do with…” Capitaine Michel drew breath as he watched, frame by frame, the creatures raising ray guns – at least what he assumed to be ray guns. They fired, and the paintings slowly disintegrated, the paint flying away from the canvases.

“They analyse,” The Doctor repeated. “They try to work out why things ARE. The last time I came across them they were trying to take apart a mountain to find out how it got there.”

“What are they doing here?” Dubois asked. “And why have they…”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor replied. “But if I had to guess… I mean… what’s the question everyone asks when they come to the Louvre?”

“Which way is it to the Mona Lisa?”

“Ok, second question… even my darling wife asked it yesterday. Louise… what was your question again. About the Mona Lisa?”

“I asked…. why that little picture was so important,” Louise answered him hesitantly. “Was that wrong?” She glanced around at the policemen and museum staff and bit her lip fearfully.

“No,” The Doctor assured her. “It’s the very question everyone has asked for the past five hundred years. It’s the eternal question. And it’s JUST what would attract the Analysts. They were looking for the answer…. by taking the picture apart and analysing its chemical make up. The other paintings would have been done as ‘control’ subjects to find out what made the Mona Lisa different.”

“But…” Louise looked at him curiously. “But it isn’t about the paint… paint is just… paint. Dominic uses paint to make pretty pictures on silk. But there is nothing about the paint that makes his pictures special. It is his skill in making the pictures…”

“C'est précisément cela!” Dubois added. “The beauty of La Joconde cannot be measured in the weight of the pigments used in her making…. She is… undefinable.”

“Yes, I know,” The Doctor agreed. “Stupid isn’t it! As stupid as dissecting a man to find his soul. But that’s the trouble. They’re stupid. Thick as two short planks.”

“They destroyed the Mona Lisa to find out WHY it is the greatest work of art in the world?” Capitaine Michel was astounded. This was so far outside of his usual terms of reference he was starting to doubt the evidence of his own eyes. “But…”

The Capitaine was going to ask another question, but the radio on his tunic crackled just as one of his subordinates crashed through the door. Both had the same message.

“Sir… The Musée d'Orsay… Arrangement in Grey and Black has disintegrated… along with…”

The officer’s face was as white as one of the empty canvases in the Salle des Etats. The Doctor took one look at him and turned to run, calling to the Capitaine to order a car, quickly.

“Actually, forget the car,” he said as he stepped out of the security office and saw the TARDIS standing in the corridor, flanked by four breathless Gardienne de la paix who had hauled it into the Louvre. The Doctor sincerely hoped they hadn’t carried it all the way from the Eiffel Tower. Despite his deeply held feelings about such gestures he saluted the four men and then opened the TARDIS door. Louise followed him in, of course. But so did Capitaine Michel and Monsieur Dubois. The Doctor looked around at them and reached to close the door.

“You invited yourselves in, so don’t start,” he said. “Yes, it’s bigger on the inside. Yes, it’s alien. Yes, so am I. But I’m one of the good guys, like ET and the Starman, and Mork from Ork….”

ET was the only one of those cultural references that had ever been translated to French, so the point was slightly lost. The Doctor turned from them and concentrated on bringing his TARDIS to the room in the Musée d'Orsay where Whistler’s Mother should have been one of the star attractions.

“The museum was closed,” Captaine Michel said as he stepped out behind The Doctor and Louise. “I ordered it to be so after seeing what had happened at the Louvre. I had my men guarding the building. One of them…”

He stopped and looked down at a wide stain beneath the fifty-six inch by sixty-three inch canvas that was once the painting listed in the museum guide as Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother and known colloquially as Whistler's Mother.

The Doctor didn’t have to use his sonic screwdriver to know that not all of the colours in that stain came from the combination of grey, black, white and blue that James Whistler had used to create his iconic picture.

“There was a man standing there?” he said. “One of your officers?”

“Sous-Brigadier Desmarais is missing,” the Capitaine replied. “He…”

“All right,” The Doctor decided. “This has gone far enough. Everyone back in the TARDIS.” He turned and stepped through the door, striding to the console where he started to press buttons frenetically. “Close the door, Capitaine. You don’t want to be out there in a half a minute’s time.

“Why?” Capitaine Michel asked.

“Because I’m going to try something,” The Doctor answered. “It’s risky. It might not work. And if it was just for the sake of art, I wouldn’t even try. But a man’s life is at stake…”

“What are you doing, Docteur?” Louise asked as she stepped close to him.

“I’m… playing God,” he answered. “You see… what the analysts do… they use molecular deconstructors… like a transmat beam… to break down and analyse the material they are interested in… unlike a transmat which sends the molecules somewhere else, their deconstructors just abandon the material… the molecules… that’s why the stains… the disassembled molecules of the Mona Lisa, of Wedding at Cana, Whistler’s Mother… of Sous-Brigadier Desmarais….”

“Errkkk….” remarked Dubois. He seemed to sum it all up for them all. None of them completely understood about ‘deconstructors’ and ‘transmats’, least of all Louise, who had lived her whole life without even the simplest of technology. But they all understood about the stains. It was a nasty idea, but they understood it.

“Basically,” The Doctor continued. “The molecules are all there, still… only not in the right order. But if I’m clever… really, really, really clever… more clever than I usually am… and if I make my TARDIS do something really, really, really clever, that it has never done before… even though it really is an incredible semi-sentient, semi-organic, relatively dimensional machine….”

He seemed to be talking nonsense. He was, for that matter. He was distracting his audience like a sleight of hand magician while he worked to make the TARDIS turn the room outside into one huge transmat reception centre where he hoped the molecules could be reassembled.

The TARDIS never had a transmat facility. Some of the later models came with that kind of extra feature. But after all, the dematerialisation of the TARDIS itself was a very similar process.

“It’s working,” Dubois called out as he watched the viewscreen intently.

“It’s working for the painting,” Capitaine Michel pointed out as shades of grey and black began to form on the canvas, slowly resolving into what might eventually be Whistler’s Mother. “What about my man?”

“Ohhh!” Louise groaned and turned her face away from the screen. The others kept looking in fascinated horror, as if they wanted to look away but couldn’t. The Doctor wished he could. But what was happening to the sous-Brigadier was his doing and he owed him that much.

“It’s too slow,” he said as he watched the bones and internal organs begin to cover with sinew and then flesh – raw, bloody flesh. “It’s too slow. It’s going to… Oh, I am sorry. I am so sorry.”

The sous-Brigadier was alive. He was breathing. His heart was beating. But he still had no skin and the endless scream he let out was a clue to just how painful that was.

“I am so sorry,” he said again as he slowly turned a dial on the console that speeded up the process a little. He didn’t dare make it happen too fast. The shock might kill the man. But if he could relieve this agony a little sooner…

“All right,” The Doctor said at last. “Louise, go and get a blanket, chéri. Better than waiting for his clothes to form. Let’s get him in here, where he’s safe.”

He ran for the door himself, followed by Capitaine Michel and Gustave Dubois who stared at the newly restored Arrangement in Grey and Black while The Doctor and the Capitaine helped to lift the half-fainting, naked, sobbing man back into the TARDIS. Louise came with a blanket and wrapped it around him as they helped him to the sofa. The Doctor turned his sonic screwdriver to medical analysis mode and confirmed that sous-Brigadier Desmarais was whole, with all of his organs in the right place and fully functioning. Then he adjusted it again and sent the poor man into a peaceful sleep.

“When he wakes again, you might be able to convince him it was all a bad dream,” The Doctor told Capitaine Michel. “A couple of days sick leave won’t hurt him, either.”

“That will be done,” Michel promised. “Thank you, Docteur. It was a miracle… a… terrible miracle, trés épouvantable. But… he is alive. I thank you.”

“All in a day’s work,” The Doctor replied. “We can go back to the Louvre now and see if we can sort out the Mona Lisa and her friends. Might take a bit longer. So many canvases… Lisa might end up as a guest at the Wedding at Cana if I’m not careful. But it’s worth a try…”

“Docteur!” Louise’s cry distracted him. She was standing at the TARDIS door. Gustave Dubois was still examining Whistler’s Mother for traces of damage and murmuring about how even the discolouring and dirt of decades of public display was restored.

But there was something there with him. A shadow. Three shadows. The Doctor vaguely wondered why the analysts re-appeared in real time, instead of the temporal phase they had used before. But their intention was clear. He saw them raise their deconstructor rays and aim at Whistler’s Variations en Violet et Vert – and Gustave Dubois, who stood directly in the way of the landscape.

The Doctor launched himself forward, pushing Dubois out of the way. Louise screamed as The Doctor was caught in the deconstructor ray instead. Her voice was the last thing he heard before his aural nerves dissolved along with his head.

The Doctor woke with a start to find himself lying on the TARDIS floor wrapped in his own long overcoat. Louise was cradling his head in her lap and stroking his face. There were worse ways to wake.

Far worse. The agony of feeling his body reconstructing itself layer by layer was falling away from his immediate memory as she caressed him.

“I turned the switch,” she said. “The one you used before… You came back to me, chéri.”

“Yes, I did,” he answered with a broad grin. He sat up, pulling the overcoat on over his naked body. “Did my clothes come back?” he asked.

“Yes, but Capitaine Michel and Monsieur Michel pulled you inside before then. They also…”

The Doctor looked around. Michel was brandishing his standard issue pistol at three sorry looking characters who he had handcuffed to the gangway railing. They were grey humamoids with gangly limbs and large heads. Their expressions were glum. Their deconstructor weapons were lying on the environmental control console.

“You left the reverse field on after me and my clothes came back – and they were forced to fully materialise!” The Doctor guessed.

“And now they are under arrest,” Michel said gleefully. “For wilful destruction of the national treasures of France.”

“A good collar, as your English counterparts would say,” The Doctor told him in a congratulatory tone. “But perhaps after we’ve gone back to the Louvre and restored the contents of the Salle Des Etats, you’d better let me handle them. There’s a penal colony on Pluto in the 29th century that they can analyse to their hearts content.”

Capitaine Michel looked torn between the satisfaction of having arrested the culprits and having them taken off his hands by somebody better qualified to deal with them. The thought of handing over three aliens to the contemporary French prison system swayed him towards letting The Doctor sort it all out.

Mona Lisa didn’t join the Wedding at Cana. Even though the molecules had all been loose in the Salle Des Etats for so long, everything eventually sorted itself out. Finally, The Doctor and Louise took a private look at the most famous painting on Earth with the grateful thanks of Monsieur Dubois.

“I still think she looks like Eloise,” Louise said.

“She is something different to everyone who looks at her,” The Doctor replied. “That’s why nobody can put their finger on what is so special about her. And that’s how it should be.”

“What I still don’t understand,” Monsieur Dubois said absently as he stood beside his two guests and gazed at the elusive mystery. “The words ‘This is a fake’ under the paint… on the wood itself. Written in English… not Italian…”

“Just another part of her enigma,” The Doctor assured him. “Don’t let it trouble you. Trust me. Nobody else will ever know.”

His mind cast back momentarily to the time when he marked the prepared panels that way and left a note for his old pal to just paint over them. A private joke lost in history, now.

He looked at Louise and decided that having her portrait painted in the Florentine studio of the great artistic genius in history would be a good compensation for having to cut short their Parisian interlude to deliver the three Analysts to the Plutonian Penal Colony.