“So,” The Doctor said as he powered up the TARDIS and left Llanfairfach behind them. “Manchester?”

“I suppose so,” Alec sighed. “Time we faced up to reality.”

“Time to get on with our degrees. I’ve got five years of learning to be a doctor to go back to,” Jasmin said.

“You’re already the best doctor I’ve ever had look after me,” The Doctor told her with a fond smile. “But you’d probably better get the paper to prove it.” He moved around the console, talking under his breath, pressing buttons apparently at random. “University of Manchester, Induction Day, 2025. Two students to drop off…”

Alec and Jasmin watched the TARDIS console quietly. The time rotor moved up and down slowly and emitted that familiar half-organic, half-mechanical sound. It had become so much a part of their lives that it was hard to believe that it was over. Tonight they would be sleeping in the halls of residence of the university with all the other Freshmen students.

“The adventure of life begins,” The Doctor told them. “Embrace it with both hands. Love every minute of it.”

“We’ll try,” Alec promised for them both. He looked at the viewscreen. They had just dropped out of the vortex and were heading towards Earth in real time. He watched as the view closed in on the northern hemisphere, on Europe, Britain, the North-West of Britain. “Hang on,” he said. “That doesn’t seem right. We should be seeing more infrastructure. Where’s the M60? Where’s the Ship Canal? Where’s MANCHESTER?”

“Er….” The Doctor drawled slowly as he looked at the time/space co-ordinate.

“Doctor!” Jasmin said. “We’re lost, aren’t we?” She was half worried, half delighted. They weren’t going to leave this TARDIS life yet, after all.

“We’re not LOST,” he said. “We’re exactly where we should be. In a couple of hundred years anyway, this will be your campus on Oxford Road.”

“So we’re a bit EARLY!” Alec laughed.

“JUST a bit,” The Doctor admitted.

“You got the time wrong?” Jasmin asked him. “And you a Time Lord.”

“I’ve not been well,” he told her. “And neither was the TARDIS. Although…. Actually… Ah….”

“Ah, what? Alec and Jasmin BOTH asked as the silence lengthened and The Doctor seemed engrossed in one of the environmental monitors.

“Wasn’t my fault OR the TARDIS. Something pulled us off course. There’s an energy reading from here. Something that has absolutely NO business being here. Something…. Alien.”

“You mean like the TARDIS?” Alec pointed out. “You sure she’s not picking up her own signal?”

“The TARDIS doesn’t see herself AS alien,” The Doctor said. “She’s like me, practically a naturalised citizen of Earth. This is something else.” He looked around at his friends. “I could skip forward and drop you off in 2025 and then come back and deal with it.”

“Are you kidding?” Alec answered for them both. “One more adventure, Doctor. Then we’ll be ready to leave. Come on.”

The Doctor’s smile widened. He hadn’t done this deliberately. He HAD fully intended to take them straight back to where they belonged. But Fate had stuck her foot out and tripped them up.

“Wardrobe,” he said. “Early 17th century clothing. Manchester was strongly Parliamentarian, so we need to dress like Cromwellian supporters.”

“I never liked Cromwell,” Alec said as they stepped out of the TARDIS. He and The Doctor were dressed as solid merchant citizens of a northern market town of the early seventeenth century. Jasmin was dressed as a merchant’s wife, in a long dress with a waistline somewhere just under the bosom. Her head was covered by a prim white lace collar and a bonnet edged in the same lace. The Doctor had the sword they bought him for Christmas under his cloak. The leather scabbard stuck out as he walked.

“Me neither,” The Doctor said. “He was a megalomaniac. And he was very unpleasant to the Irish. But a lot of his followers – the sort you’ll meet around here – were just people who thought it was time England was a bit more democratic and less of the taxes went on paying for a frivolous monarchy.”

“Will the TARDIS be all right?” Jasmin asked. It had parked itself in a dark, narrow slit of space between two buildings. From the street it was hard to see unless you were REALLY looking, but a blue police box in an era before the word ‘police’ was even coined, was surely going to scare people.

“They still believe in witchcraft in these days don’t they?” Alec said.

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “But they can’t do anything with the TARDIS even if it is spotted. They can’t get in and I’ve put the gravity brake on. It weighs about 20 times more than a box that size should weigh. Even a sub-atomic blast wouldn’t shake it.”

“And as long as nobody saw us come out of it why would they accuse us of anything?” Jasmin added.

Reassured slightly they walked through the narrow streets that bore no resemblance to the city they were born in. Most of this part of the city was Victorian, fruits of the industrial revolution that made it an important city.

It was late evening and they were beginning to realise just how much they took street lighting for granted. The town was starting to become a very shadowy place now.

“Manchester is only a small market town now,” The Doctor explained. “Salford, next door, was the CITY.”

“1643,” Alec commented as they passed along a row of 17th century shops and workshops, all shuttered and closed up. “This is one year into the royalist siege of the city.”

“It looks it,” Jasmin said. She wasn’t sure what time the shops stayed open to. Late night shopping was surely a modern innovation, but there was a ‘locked up for the duration’ look to a lot of the shop fronts, as if they had nothing left to sell.

“Wait there a minute,” The Doctor said. “Just hang on…” He turned and ran back towards the TARDIS. Alec and Jasmin waited, wondering what he was doing. They also hoped he wouldn’t be too long. The shadows were lengthening by the minute and he was the only one with a weapon.

“What’s that?” Alec asked when he returned with a large Hessian bag that bulged at the seams.

“Bread,” he answered. “Cheese, butter, the sort of food that will get us a room in an inn,” he answered. “Let’s go find one.”

They found one. The Doctor told them it was roughly on the spot where the university library would be in a few centuries time. It had a pictorial sign which suggested it was called the Bulls Head.

It was closed. But The Doctor knocked loudly and after a few minutes it was cautiously opened a few inches by a woman who looked at them suspiciously.

“Bone fide travellers, seeking rooms for the night,” The Doctor said. “Mistress, won’t you let us in.”

“I have no room,” she said. “I am sorry.…”

The Doctor opened the sack and passed a barley loaf to her.

“There’s more where that came from,” he promised.

The woman took the loaf in shaking hands and opened the door a little further. She stood back and allowed them to come in.

They were surprised to find there were quite a lot more people in the closed inn already. A half a dozen of them, including children.

“Lock in?” The Doctor queried.

“It’s safe in here,” a man said standing up and stepping towards The Doctor and his friends. “You’re strangers. You have food… fresh food. How did you get here?”

“A long story,” The Doctor told him. He gave the bag of food to the woman who scurried off. He looked around at the people sitting about a single long table that once, perhaps, groaned under the weight of an all you can eat buffet and gallons of ale, but just now was bare and grey. The people looked grey, too. And hungry. When the woman returned with bread cut into chunks and the cheese and butter portioned out into rations, there was a collective sigh from them all.

“Come friends,” she said to The Doctor and his companions. “Join with us in this bounty which comes to us from God through your own intercession.”

The Doctor sat between a woman and a young child who made space for him. Alec and Jasmin found spaces around the bench. The woman of the inn distributed the bread and cheese. There was a share for each and after saying an appropriate prayer of thanks for the unexpected feast they ate slowly, chewing carefully, as if to make it last as long as they could. The Doctor looked at the child next to him. He still looked hungry after eating his share. The Doctor lifted him on his knee. He gave half of his own meal to the child. He felt another small body slide up next to him and hungry eyes turn on the remainder of the food on his plate. He pushed it towards the other child. Nobody seemed to have noticed that he didn’t eat any himself, other than the man who had asked him the questions earlier.

“We’ve all tried to make sure the children are fed even if we ourselves go hungry,” he said, introducing himself as Gabriel Mittelman, stonemason. “There’s no business of that kind here of late,” he added. “Nobody has work, nobody has food. But we have our pride and our freedom. The royalists have not brought us down.”

“Good for you,” The Doctor encouraged him. It was just THIS sort of people that the parliamentarians should have been fighting for. Ordinary citizens. But like a lot of revolutionary ideas it had lost the plot. These children, when they were grown, would welcome the end of Cromwell’s Commonwealth and the restoration of the monarchy. Only to find that their lot in life was little changed even then, of course.

“We never properly introduced ourselves, of course. I am known as The Doctor. This is my good friend Alec who comes from these parts but has been abroad in foreign places for some time, and his betrothed, Mistress Jasmin.”

“Did you find your mistress in one of the foreign places?” asked a young man who called himself Benedict Daye, Cobbler.

“It is strange,” said the mother of the two children, one Joanna Whyte. “I have seen woodcuts of peoples from afar with skin of such hues, but never in the clothes of gentlewomen. One would think you were of our own kind but for your face.”

“I….” Jasmin looked at The Doctor with pleading eyes, desperate to know how to respond to such a question. He saved her by changing the subject.

“Tell me, are there any other strangers in the town apart from ourselves?” he asked.

“Two,” Benedict Daye said. “A gentleman and a maiden the same age as Mistress Jasmin. They have been here some six weeks. The siege was not so well dug in at that point. It was still possible to get in and out of the city. Many sought refuge here from the countryside when the royalists burnt their farmlands. But of course that only added to the burden on food supplies. It has been a struggle.”

“But these two that came six weeks ago…” The Doctor said, trying to keep to the point.

“The man calls himself Magister,” Gabriel Mittelman said. “He is lodging at The Bear. It is another inn near the parish church.”

“Magister?” The Doctor’s face seemed to freeze. Jasmin and Alec both looked at him closely, wondering what about such an innocuous word had made him react that way.

“It is Latin for Master,” The Doctor told them. But that meant nothing to them. Wyn would have known, he thought. She knew her mother’s stories of how often The Master had been the cause of trouble for the people of this planet, a thorn in his side preventing him from unravelling the very universe.

It could be a coincidence, of course. It could be somebody else using that name.

But in his hearts he knew it wasn’t.

He should be dead. The Master should be dead. He shouldn’t be bothering him any more.

But The Master was a Time Lord. He had run all over the universe for centuries making trouble. Sooner or later it seemed inevitable that their time lines would cross back on themselves and he would come across one of his schemes.

But what was it all about?

“Take the children upstairs, Joanna,” Mistress Goode, the innkeeper said. “This is not for their ears, and besides, it is past their bedtime.”

“Yes, mother,” she said and did as she was bidden. Mistress Goode sat in her place.

“We have no reason to trust you,” she said. “You are strangers. The woman among you is a foreigner from a heathen place where God’s light does not shine. But you brought food… and I feel…” She paused. “I feel that we can trust you sir. If I am wrong, then God help us all.”

You CAN trust me, Mistress Goode,” The Doctor told her. “Something is wrong here, over and above the siege and the shortage of food and the war going on throughout this land. Something is wrong that lies beyond your understanding.”

“People have died,” Gabriel said. “We have found….” He stopped. He looked around and crossed himself. “We found… terrible abominations.”

“What sort of… abominations?” Jasmin asked.

“Don’t ask, child,” Mistress Goode said. Even if she believed Jasmin to be from a heathen place, she at least saw that she was young and to be protected from harmful influences.

“I think I know,” The Doctor said in a voice so quiet it silenced everyone else. They looked at him. “Bodies reduced in size till they look like dolls – like effigies such as are used in witchcraft.”

“Ugghh.” Jasmin shivered. But that was nothing to the expressions of horror around the table.

“You’ve seen these things haven’t you,” The Doctor said gently.

“Joanna’s husband was one,” Mistress Goode said, turning her eyes to the ceiling. “He was found… The minister of the church will not even give what was found Christian burial. He says… it is not Human.”

“It is Human,” The Doctor told her. “The minister should perform the necessary rites. Meanwhile… the one who did these things… I know of him. He is….”

“He must be a witch,” Mittelman said. “And you a witchfinder. That explains why you have visited so many strange places.”

“I’ve chased this one for a very long time. Though I wonder just what his game is here. What could he want with the people in this town?”

“Well, there’s little he can do now,” Mistress Goode said. “There is a curfew in the night hours, and even a witch will not be allowed to wander the streets. Let me conduct the three of you to a room for the night.”

“An excellent idea,” The Doctor said, and the others took their cue from him. The time was only about ten o’clock by Alec’s watch which he surreptitiously looked at as they followed Mistress Goode up the narrow stairs to the master bedroom. But it was dark and The Doctor said that candles and lamp oil would be short as well as food and they shouldn’t impose on the people any more than necessary.

“Wow!” Jasmin breathed excitedly. “A four poster bed! An actual four poster bed!”

“Enjoy,” The Doctor said with a smile as he checked out the ordinary bedstead in the smaller sideroom. A big bed for the merchant and his wife staying the night here and a small one for their servant travelling with them. That would be the way of it.

“Well…” Alec looked at The Doctor. “I mean really you are….”

“What?” he smiled. “The oldest of the party? The senior citizen?”

“Well, you WERE not so very long ago,” Jasmin pointed out. “You were DYING of old age.”

“I’m all right now,” he assured her. “And I have no need of a comfy bed. You and Alec snuggle up there. Don’t forget to put out all the candles thoroughly. A couple of old friends of mine accidentally cause the Great Fire of London in another twenty-three years time. We don’t want to start the Great Fire of Manchester, first.”

“Where are you going?” Alec asked as he saw The Doctor fasten his 17th century cloak tight around him.

“I’m going up on the roof,” he answered.

“The roof?”

“Don’t worry about it,” he assured them. “You two both sleep well. Goodnight.”

He closed the door softly on them both and by the penlight of his sonic screwdriver he found his way up the stairs, tiptoeing up past the attic rooms where his psychic senses told him that Joanna and her children were sleeping, up to the skylight that opened out onto the roof of the inn. He propped himself against the chimney breast and looked out across the dark town.

He closed his eyes first and tried to imagine Manchester as it was in Jasmin and Alec’s day, in 2025, as a bustling metropolitan city stretching for miles and home to half a million people. He opened his eyes again and briefly he could see two Manchester’s at the same time. He could see the darkened market town under siege by royalist forces in the English Civil War, and at the same time he could see the bright, vibrant, strangely beautiful 21st century city with its teeming life.

He smiled. That was one of the perks of being a Time Lord, being able to see things from such a unique perspective. He could go further if he wanted. He could go back to when this was just a little hamlet of houses clustered together, or far, far, further, the 51st century or so, to when Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Preston, and everything between, were all one great city, covered by an environment dome that cleaned the air and kept it at the right ambient temperature. But as magnificent as it was he had always rather preferred the way it was in that first part of the 21st century.

But that wasn’t really what he came up here for. He let his mind snap back to the present. He adjusted his position so that the chimney breast was taking the weight off his legs and he could relax. He let his mind reach out across the town, gently feeling for the minds of the people. He first practiced doing this in 19th century London. He had loved to rest up on the roof of his lodgings in Charing Cross and reach out and touch the lives of the people. He loved humanity, the touch of humanity, of the Human race when it was like this. He didn’t actually read their minds. He read their emotions. He saw, as he expected, in the political climate, fear and uncertainty among most of the people, sadness, grief. Many lives had been lost, many families torn apart. Here and there he found people who had some small thing to be happy about, a new baby born in one place and the hope of the parents for the future. In another corner two people were falling in love and he felt their thrill as they discovered how it was possible to forget all of their troubles in the comfort of each other’s nearness.

“Good luck to you both,” he whispered as he passed them by.

He couldn’t see what he was looking for in the emotions. The mind he was seeking was probably not going to let its emotions be read so easily. It was much more controlled than that. Much stronger.

He changed tack. He looked instead at the kind of minds they were, what sort of people they were. And he saw a wide variety. Most were best described by that peculiar expression ‘god-fearing’ and in these days of Puritanism and reliance on the God of vengeance found in the Old Testament of the Christian texts it was probably about right. There were darker minds out there, too. There was one that worried him greatly. It was so overwhelmed by lust and envy. Somebody was going to suffer when that lust and envy was unleashed on them. But it wasn’t for him to intervene. He had a more vital mission.

“Who is that?” He was surprised when a mind reached out to him and connected. He had almost passed it by and when he heard the question he reached back for it.

“I’m The Doctor,” he answered. “Who are you?” It was a young mind. A girl, a teenager, though that term had not been coined at this time. Maybe sixteen, seventeen in Earth years. It was a gentle, innocent mind, but one that was troubled by things she should not have seen.

“My name is Jennet Ashworth.”

“Jennet,” The Doctor said. “A pretty name. You’re not from around here, are you, Jennet?”

“I am from Pendle,” she said. “It’s some few miles from here. I was brought here. By The Magister.”

“You’re the maiden who travelled with him?” The Doctor said. “What does he want with you?”

“He wants to use my mind. I can understand people without them speaking. As I understand you, sir. But… usually people can’t understand me. Your mind is.…”

“My mind is different,” he said. “But don’t be frightened. The Magister took you from your home?”

“He said he knew what I was, and that he would tell the village elders, and I would be taken as a witch unless I did as he said. But I am not a witch. I go to church. I say my prayers to God. I worship no Devils and…. Oh, help me. I think The Magister IS the devil. The things he does to people.”

“I know what he does,” The Doctor told her. “I have seen his evil before. But he is not the Devil. He is nothing so important as that. He is a powerful man, and he uses his power to hurt people and to try to gain more power for himself. But he IS a man. And so am I. But I am a better man than him and I WILL deal with him. That is my promise to you, Jennet. I will free you from him and release the people of this place from the fear of him.”

“Oh, please do,” she said. “Even if my life is forfeit I would die happy knowing that his evil was finished. You don’t know… what he has done here. The infernal thing…”

“Jennet…” He was about to speak again when something else overwhelmed his senses. An alarm that was ‘wired’ directly to his brain painfully told him that somebody was attempting to interfere with the TARDIS.

“What was that?” she asked fearfully as he shut it off.

“Something I have to attend to,” he answered. “Jennet, I want you to clear your mind of this conversation, of having contact with me. I don’t want him to hurt you because of me. So bury this memory deep. And don’t think of me until I find you again. Can you do that?” He heard her reply. “Ok, good girl. I’ll be back. I promise.”

He broke the mental connection. He looked around and got his bearings then he began to make his way across the rooftops, towards the place where they left the TARDIS. It couldn’t be damaged, of course. But he wanted to make sure, just in case, just to be certain.

After all, he had no desire to live out his life in 17th century Manchester. Nor did Jasmin and Alec.

There was no continuous route along the roofs, but the streets were narrow and it was possible for him to jump across the gaps. He came presently to the alleyway where the TARDIS was parked. He knelt on the roof above and looked down on the scene.

It was two of the town militia who patrolled the streets to ensure the curfew was enforced. They must have spotted the TARDIS and come to investigate. Good beat coppers centuries before they were invented.

He wondered if a sign inviting people to ‘pull to open’ was actually a good idea sometimes. Clearly they had been trying. They had got the little cupboard with the faux telephone open and were very puzzled by what they found there, but their attempts to open the main door by trying to smash the little windows and slide the tips of their swords down the crack between the two sides were all proving unsuccessful.

“Devilry!” One of them said.

“Is this fiendish cabinet what has been killing our citizens?”

“It is,” a voice said and the militia turned to look. The Doctor looked too, and his hearts thudded. “It is the source of all the evil that has overcome the people of this fair town. You should burn it and burn those that brought it into your midst.”

“And who might you be, stranger?” one of the militiamen said, turning his sword on the black clad man. The Doctor watched him carefully. He didn’t recognise the face, of course. This wasn’t The Master’s original body. The mind WAS his, but the body – some unfortunate man who was about the right age and roughly the right appearance. His identity cast out and replaced by The Master’s essence.

His essence. Could anything kill that? How had he escaped the last time? When he and Nine fought him together? Had he found some way of his molecules hitchhiking back to Earth with one of them before looking for an easy mind to take over. Had he found some other way of getting here.

He didn’t know, and he didn’t care. What mattered was that The Master was here. He had a Human body and he was up to evil with it.

He could have positively identified him by looking at his psychic signature. All Time Lords had one. They recognised each other not by their faces, but by that unique signature. But it was a two way thing. If he looked at The Master’s signature he would give himself away.

Of course, The Master knew he was here anyway, now. He had seen the TARDIS. But he didn’t know how close he was. He didn’t know he was on to him.

“Who am I?” The Master smiled with a smile like a snake. “I am your master.”

The Doctor knew what was happening. He was hypnotising the two men, making them his slaves, to do his dirty work.

Well, he was half right. One of the men stepped forward and knelt in supplication to him. The other looked at him suspiciously.

“Witchcraft!” he cried out. “The evil influence. You’ll not get me, fiend.”

“A strong mind!” The Master answered, still smiling. “Yes, it happens now and again. One resists me. But not for long.”

The Doctor was on the point of shouting a warning. But even if he had it would only have given him away and it would not have saved the man. He stifled a scream instead as he watched the man enveloped by the beam from the Tissue Compression Eliminator. A cry of agony died away as the man was reduced to the size of a doll, his internal organs crushed and pulped in the process. A gruesome death. The weapon was The Master’s own fiendish design based somewhere in its genesis on the dimension circuits of the TARDIS design.

“Now,” The Master said, turning to the other man. “You have seen what has happened. Your comrade was killed even at the doorway to Hell itself. Let us raise the rest of the militia and hunt down the stranger who brings death to this place.”

With that The Master departed, his hypnotised dupe following.

“Jennet!” The Doctor made contact with the woman again. She greeted him joyfully. “Can you tell me where you are? I know you are at an inn called The Bear, but I don’t know where that is exactly. If you can get to a window and look out, and show me what you see.…”

She did so. He saw the shadowy outline of a church and casting about from his vantage point he saw the same outline in the distance.

“All right, Jennet,” he said. “I’m coming to get you. I’m going to take you away from him to where you are safe.”

“You must destroy the machine he is making. The devilish engine.”

“What machine?” he asked. But he could make an educated guess. And it didn’t please him.

Again he travelled by the roofs. He reached The Bear very quickly, and he saw a young woman who could only be Jennet at the attic window. As she stood back to let him in he saw her face clearly. Elfin was the word for it, with a slightly pointed chin and a small mouth and eyes that looked red from crying. She was chained to the wall by two hand manacles. She could walk around the room and even reach the window to look out but no further.

The Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver.

“Don’t worry,” he told her. “This is not a tool of the devil. It will free you.” He applied the welding mode to the manacles carefully, cutting the metal but not her flesh. When she was free she knelt at his feet, her eyes downcast.

“My lord,” she said. “My saviour.”

“Come on,” he answered. “None of that. We have to work quickly.” He looked at the door. Of course it was locked. But the sonic screwdriver made short work of that. “The machine you spoke of. Show me…”

She was fearful, but she did as he asked, making her way down the stairs and into the cellar of the inn.

“Where are the people who own the inn?” he asked her.

“He killed them,” she replied. “They… he turned them into…” She shuddered and couldn’t go on, but he knew what she meant to say.

More victims of the Tissue Compression Eliminator.

As for the machine….

His educated guess was the correct guess. The energy that the TARDIS had honed in on was very distinctive. He had recognised the pattern straight away, but it wasn’t until he put it together with The Master’s presence in the town that he understood fully.

He was trying to build a time machine from scratch to get away from this era.

How he had got here without a TARDIS, The Doctor neither knew nor cared.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked Jennet.

“No,” she answered. “Only that it is a dreadful thing. It eats men’s souls. The people he killed. They were brought down here. He put an influence on them and they came down here with him. And this machine took their souls, and then he used his dreadful weapon to reduce their bodies and then throw them into the street like refuse.”

“It’ a Neural Transducer,” The Doctor murmured to himself. “An organic machine – it is powered by Human life. He would need the essences of dozen’s of people’s minds – their very souls.” He turned to Jennet. “How did you fit into his plan? Did he say?”

“He said I would be his nav.. navi…g…” she stumbled over a word that was unfamiliar to her.

“Navigator?” The Doctor’s face darkened. He understood now. “He will use your brain as the central processor to make this travel in time and space. Your latent telepathy – that’s what he needs to make this work. He could use his OWN, of course. But it would exhaust him. He wants to use you to preserve himself.”

“I would live?” she said, “I wouldn’t be robbed of my soul?”

“You’d live… for maybe two, three journeys. But then your brain would be empty, a void. You’d be as near to dead as it’s possible to be and you wouldn’t even know it.”

“I would die in an unholy way,” she said, mortified.

“Unholy.” The Doctor thought about it. “Yes. That’s about the right word for it. But it’s not going to happen. I promise you.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Doctor!” He span around as the sonorous voice echoed around the cellar.

“You!” he said with an acid tone in his voice. “How DO you keep cheating death? Whose body is that?”

“This?” he laughed. “Somebody I happened upon. I don’t know. His memory was destroyed when I took over his body. He had a bag of gold that came in very handy.” He looked at The Doctor as if he was looking right into his soul. “Yes, you guessed right. The last time you ‘killed’ me my ‘essence’ was released before my body died. I got into your TARDIS before you left. You went to 21st century Earth and I escaped and occupied a body. I built the neural transducer. But the first time I used it, it nearly killed me and threw me into this time. I found another body, this one, transferred to it, and began to look for a telepath to navigate for me.”

“You won’t use her,” The Doctor snarled. “She won’t be your ‘battery’. She is under my protection.”

“She is mine and I will be taking her now. I hadn’t intended to go as soon as this. A few more ‘victims’ added to the transducer would make the machine more powerful. But as it is it should allow me to move forward in time. I’ll go back to the 21st century. With a half a million people in the city that will be here in place of this pathetic town I should find enough of them to power the machine fully. I might even find a better telepath.”

“You’re going nowhere,” The Doctor said, drawing his sword from beneath his cloak. “And she is not going to be used by you.”

“Always so sentimental about these puny Humans, Doctor. It IS your undoing. I have told you many times.”

“It’s not my undoing,” he replied. “It’s the making of me. It makes me better than you. You…. FIEND.” The Doctor lunged towards The Master, but the militia man stepped in front of him, his own sword at the ready. “Get out of the way. I don’t want to hurt you. It’s HIM I want.”

But the man wouldn’t move. The Master had him fully under his control. He was prepared to kill for him. The Doctor squared up to him with his sword at the ready.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said again as he fought against the man, keeping one eye on The Master and keeping Jennet within his sight. He and the militiaman were between her and The Master and between The Master and his machine for the moment. He couldn’t get past either of them.

But he didn’t have to. He had the Tissue Compression Eliminator still. The Doctor saw him pull the weapon out of the corner of his eye. He still didn’t want to harm an innocent man under the influence of The Master, but he had no choice. He had to get through him to reach The Master.

“Jennet, get down,” he yelled as he moved quickly, changing hands and lunging with his left instead of his right arm. He penetrated the man in the shoulder. He pulled his sword out swiftly and pushed him to the ground, diving himself to avoid the deadly beam. He heard Jennet squeal in horror as The Master aimed again.

“No, don’t hurt him,” Jennet screamed and ran to cover him with her own body.

“No!” The Doctor cried out. “No, don’t…. get out of the way.”

But the Tissue Compression Eliminator failed. It had already been fired once and needed to recharge. The Master snarled and pocketed the weapon. He moved faster than The Doctor expected and snatched the sword from the wounded man’s hand. In the same movement, he grabbed Jennet and backed away towards the organic time machine that still needed a telepath to navigate with.

“One move, and I slit her throat,” The Master growled at him. “You know I would do it in a heartsbeat. I’m NOT sentimental about these puny Humans.”

“You will NOT! The Doctor replied, gripping the handle of his sword tightly and bringing it up. He breathed deeply. He needed split second timing and he couldn’t risk LITERALLY splitting it by a time fold. He lunged forward, the point of the blade sticking into The Master’s shoulder, the one attached to the arm that was holding the sword against Jennet’s neck. Even a Time Lord hurt when a sword was run through him, and he caught the muscle precisely. The Master lost all feeling in that arm, all control. The sword fell from his hand. The Doctor pushed him back as he pulled his sword out. The Master fell against his machine as Jennet ran from his grasp to The Doctor’s protective arm.

“No!” The Master screamed as the time machine whirred ominously. “No, I’m not ready. I haven’t programmed…”

But his voice was fading along with his machine. Soon they were alone in the cellar.

“Where has he gone?” Jennet asked.

“Don’t know. He didn’t programme the machine and he wasn’t wired up to the navigation. Could be anywhere in time and space. I don’t suppose I’m lucky enough for it to be a place without a breathable atmosphere.” He took her by the shoulders and led her away. He looked down at the wounded militia man. He looked as if he was coming out of The Master’s influence now. “You get yourself home, get your wife to put a poultice on the wound. You should live.” And he stepped over him and out into the street.

“What’s happening?” Jennet asked as they both heard the sounds of people shouting somewhere nearby. A lot of people. A mob sized lot of people. They hurried towards the sound.

“Oh no!” The Doctor groaned as he saw the commotion outside of The Bull’s Head. He saw Alec and Jasmin being dragged from the inn and he heard enough words like ‘witchcraft’ and ‘burning’ to recognise a lynch gang mentality. The Master must have riled the crowd and sent them after him and his friends before he returned to The Bear.

“This way,” he said, turning and running. He was still clasping Jennet’s hand and she ran all the faster just to keep up with him.

“But are they not your friends?” she asked. “They will be burnt in the town square… Will you not help them?”

“I am helping them,” The Doctor said as he turned down the alley where the TARDIS was hidden. He pulled out his key and opened the door, pushing Jennet inside before she could get a glimpse at the interior and panic.

“I know this is frightening to you,” he told her. “But please don’t struggle or cry. I need to be able to concentrate on reaching my friends.”

The lifesigns monitor found them. He programmed the co-ordinate. Jennet shrieked as the time rotor began to move up and down and the console glowed a brighter green than in parked mode.

The TARDIS re-materialised in the middle of the town square, in front of a stake with faggots of wood placed around the base. The citizens who were dragging the two victims forward stopped and stared as the blue box appeared in front of them. As The Doctor opened the door and stepped out he again heard certain words coming from the loudest voices in the crowd. “Witch” and “devil” were the most prominent.

“Let them go,” he said, wielding his sword again. This time he REALLY didn’t want to have to kill anyone. He was well aware that he could cause serious fractures in the space time continuum if he did. But he was not going to let his friends die.

“They’re witches. They caused the evil that has taken so many of our people,” a voice called out.

“Who told you that?” The Doctor demanded. “The one who calls himself The Magister. HE is the evil one. Or he WAS. He is gone now. I have defeated him.”

There was a murmur of confusion and doubt, then Mistress Goode stepped forward. She unfastened the ropes that Jasmin and Alec had been tied with as they were dragged through the streets. When somebody tried to intervene she spoke sharply to them.

“No,” she said. “These people are newly arrived here. The evil began when the other one came. If he has destroyed that evil then we owe him our THANKS.”

Jasmin and Alec ran from their captors to The Doctor. He said nothing, just pointed to the TARDIS. They ran into it and closed the door.

“Two devils have fought each other,” a cry went up. “This box is witchcraft. And he controls it.”

“Burn him and the box, too.”

He could just have stepped back into the TARDIS and gone. But he didn’t want to leave it that way. It was mere stubbornness on his part, perhaps. And he would have got into trouble for it when he was a student travelling in space and time with a bunch of Prydonian Academy regulations about not introducing new ideas into primitive societies. But he felt he had to say something.

“No, not witchcraft,” he said in a voice just loud enough to silence them all and make them listen to him. “Not magic. There is no such thing as magic and even witches are just people who are following a different kind of religion to you. What The Magister did was use SCIENCE in an evil way. I use SCIENCE in a good way, to fight such as him who prey on people like you. My two friends are good people who come from many years in your future when this town you live in is a great city, bigger even than London is in this time. This very ground you stand on is part of a great university where SCIENCE is studied for the benefit of all mankind. But it is centuries away because you still let foolish ideas about magic hold you back. Your generation, your children’s generation, will never understand. You don’t even understand what I am saying now. I can see it in your faces. But one day… one day… yes, you will. Humans… you WILL get it right one day. And I’ll be there to watch you get it right. But until then, just… just do the best you can and stop trying to burn each other to death.”

With that he turned and went into the TARDIS. Alec and Jasmin were trying their best to convince Jennet that what she was seeing wasn’t some kind of Devil’s work, but she was reaching the point of hysteria.

“Come here, child,” The Doctor said gently. “Alec, you know how to take us into temporal orbit. Let’s have some breathing space.” Alec nodded and went to the control. The Doctor took hold of Jennet firmly. He put his hand on her forehead first and radiated calming thoughts to her. She stopped shaking and crying and looked at him with wide eyes.

“All right, Jennet,” he said. “I want you to listen to me. I’m saying the same to you as I said to them out there. This is not magic. It is not witchcraft, and the Devil would be afraid to put a foot over the threshold. I defeated HIM once and I’ll do it again if I have to. YOU are not evil. You are not a witch. You DO have a gift that sets you apart from other Humans. You have a natural telepathic ability. That’s what it is called. Telepathy. And… I can give you two choices, Jennet. I can take you away from here, from 1643, and take you into the far future where people don’t fear witches and where you could use those gifts safely. Or I can take you home to your own people and you can try to live your life as best you can, taking care only to use your telepathy when you are absolutely sure it is safe to do so without rousing fear and suspicion.”

“The future?” She looked at him and gasped as she read the pictures he had filled his mind with – pictures of the future, of cars, planes, cities of skyscrapers, computers. She shook her head.

“No. I cannot live in such a world. So many people. So much noise. Even the air… I could not breathe such air. Let me go home to my village, to my own people.”

“That will be done, Jennet. Let me…” He touched the side of her head one more time. She came from a time when maps were rudimentary, and she herself had probably never even seen one anyway. Postcodes were unheard of. She could not have told him WHERE exactly she lived. But he could read her body, and it told him EXACTLY where she was born. It was connected to the place of her birth almost as if there was an invisible cord tethering her to it. And with that knowledge he could programme the TARDIS to take them there.

“Oh!” she cried when he next opened the TARDIS doors. “Oh… it is Mitton Wood. My home is only down there. Look. You can see the smoke from the chimney.”

“Run home, child,” The Doctor told her. “Don’t look back. We’ll be gone in a moment and you need not trouble your head with thoughts about a blue box or the people who travel in it.”

She nodded and turned and ran. The Doctor closed the door and went to the console.

“University of Manchester, September, 2025?”

“Yes, PLEASE!” Both Alec and Jasmin said together. He grinned and set the co-ordinate.

Jasmin and Alec felt nervous as they stepped into the hall and were assailed by the sound of thousands of other new students trying to find where they were supposed to be. The first day of their new life, their real life. The one they had run away from for so long with The Doctor. He had been as good as his word. He had brought them back to this, their first day of term.

“I remember my first day at university,” he said to them with an impish smile. “Oh, such a LONG time ago. I hated every minute of every day. One Hundred and Sixty years of hell.” They looked at him and smiled. “You lot have it easy. Three years as undergraduates, a couple more getting your post-graduate degrees, then the world is your oyster… or any other shellfish you prefer.”

“Hello, you two!” Jasmin and Alec both turned to the sound of a voice that seemed hauntingly familiar and looked at a pleasant looking woman of about thirty years of age. She was dressed in a neat skirt suit and had a name tag with the university logo on it. And at her feet was a familiar robot dog who was causing a sensation among the new students.

“Professor Blodwyn Grant-Jones, Department of Science and Technology,” The Doctor read her nametag and smiled widely. “Wyn, how ARE you?”

“I’m fine,” she told him. “Though I really HATE orientation week. All these new students wandering around, not knowing where they ought to be.”

“You’ll get them in order,” The Doctor assured her. “Here’s another pair of them for you to sort out, by the way. I think you might have Alec for some of your classes.”

“I do,” she said. “And don’t think you’ll get an easy ride for old times’ sake.”

“Don’t expect it,” Alec said. “But since you’re not my teacher yet….” He stepped up to her and hugged her. “It’s good to see you.” Jasmin hugged her too. Then they all looked around at The Doctor. He stood there grinning, his hands in his pockets.

“Well, you’re all together again,” he said. “So you don’t need me any more.”

“Oh, Doctor!” Wyn ran to him and hugged him tightly. “I owe it all to you. I’d never have even passed my a-levels without you. You made me feel like I could do anything and be anyone.”

“I’m glad. I’m really glad of that. You… have a fantastic life now, won’t you. All three of you.”

“We won’t ever see you again?” Jasmin asked.

“Not for a year or two. I thought I might drop in and see your graduation. I’ve got it in my diary already. But meanwhile you’ve got your ordinary lives to lead. I will miss you all. But you’ve got each other and… Oh, hell! I’m no good at goodbyes. The number of times I’ve said it, I should be used to it. But I’m not. So… come here all of you, give me a kiss and I’ll be gone.” Jasmin and Wyn kissed him willingly. Alec grinned and shook his hand warmly. Then he turned and walked away. He knew they were still watching as he left the room. He knew they’d stop missing him after a while and get on with their lives.

He sighed and blinked back a tear and prepared to get on with his.