The Doctor looked up as Susan emerged from behind the changing screen in the wardrobe and smiled appreciatively at the result of her preparations. When he first met her she had looked pretty and demure as a sixteen year old Goth girl. But that was three years ago in her personal time. Now she was a young woman and in the long deep red satin dress with fitted black lace-covered bodice and curve-hugging skirt she looked beautiful and alluring. He noted the pewter medallion of the Seal of Rassilon that she had found somewhere in the vast cavern of the wardrobe - strangely not out of keeping with the Goth penchant for vaguely religious symbols.

“Very fetching,” he said. “What about me? Will I pass muster among your old friends?”

Susan looked critically at The Doctor and noted how very startlingly different he was from the geek-chic mature student look she had become accustomed to. He was wearing straight-legged tight black denims with a silver chain for a belt and a long sleeved black t-shirt. A silver version of the same Seal hung around his neck. As she appraised him he slipped on an ankle length leather coat with a silver trim down both side panels and around the collar.

The whole ensemble seemed to take ten years off his age – his perceived age anyway which she always reckoned at about 35. Now he looked mid-20s.

He could pass as her boyfriend without anyone thinking he was too old for her. That at least would be an easy way to explain him to her friends.

“Come here,” she said. “You need more eyeliner.”

“I’m not wearing any eyeliner. You can’t have more than none.”

“Yes, you can,” she answered. “It’s easy to have more than none, as the Mad Hatter said.” She took a kohl pencil from her pocket and outlined his eyes in bold black.

“1,000 years old and I’ve never worn eyeliner before.”

“It suits you,” she told him. “You have beautiful eyes, for a man. Are they… when you change, everything changes… your eyes.…”

“Yes,” he said. “Though I WAS born with brown eyes. I’ve gone through all the colours and come back to the original.”

“My friends would find you fascinating if they knew what you really are - a man who can live forever, who never dies. Like The Crow.”

“I don’t live forever,” he told her. “I can die. If I look after myself I might manage another millennia.”

“Then look after yourself,” she answered. “And remember me when I’m dead and gone.”

He smiled warmly at her and hummed a tune before breaking into the lyrics.

"Don’t fade away/My brown-eyed girl/Come walk with me/I'll fill your heart with joy/And we'll dance through our isolation/Seeking solace in the wisdom we bestow/Turning thoughts to the here and everafter/Consuming fears in our fiery halos."

"Come walk with me…." She smiled. "You asked me to do that. To come with you…."

“Yes. I don’t often get to do that - choose who comes with me.”

“I don’t often choose to take people to meet my friends,” she replied.

“Come on,” he said, reaching out his hand to her.

The TARDIS had parked itself on the junction of two busy main roads. It looked only a little out of place thirty years after police call boxes ceased to be used by the public and nobody took any notice of it.

They DID glance suspiciously at The Doctor and Susan as they walked along the road.

“That’s why I stopped dressing in the style,” Susan sighed as a mother in a pastel cardigan steered her pushchair away from them as if they were somehow dangerous to the health of her child. “I got FED UP of being stared at. Like as if wearing different clothes and different make up means I come from another planet!”

“I DO come from another planet,” The Doctor said. “And I could hypnotise the starers into thinking their legs are fused together if you like.”

“Maybe another day,” she answered. “When I really need a laugh.” She stopped at the gate of an old Victorian town house. They walked up the path. She told The Doctor about Chas and Cally, the only married couple and the oldest of their group, at twenty-four years old. Cally inherited the old house from her parents and it had been the meeting place for the group of like-minded young people Susan – or Araminta as she was known to them - had been a part of.

“I’m almost afraid to go in,” she said as she approached the door. “What do I tell them about where I’ve been for the past months?”

“Tell them you were with me,” The Doctor said as he felt her grip his hand a little more tightly. He squeezed reassuringly as they stepped through the open door into the hallway and then into a spacious lounge authentically decorated and furnished in the late Victorian style of the house itself. There were a group of young Goths already gathered there, all talking quietly. Some of them turned as they entered and recognised her. The Doctor noticed that many of them, male and female both, were crying. He had only just begun to realise what sort of gathering this was when a young woman in a black satin dress with spider web lace over it approached.

“Araminta,” she said. “I’m so glad you could be here. Nobody knew where you were.” She hugged her tearfully. “It’s REALLY great to see you again. I just wish it was in different circumstances.”

“What circumstances?” Susan asked. “Cally, what’s happening? Why is everyone….”

“Who’s dead?” The Doctor asked and Susan gave a startled gasp as she stepped back from her friend, taking in the open expressions of grief around her.

“Oh no!” she cried. “Not… Oh no. What happened? Cally, it can’t be true. Tell me it’s not true.”

“I’m sorry,” Cally said. “I thought… I left a message with your dad for when you called him. I thought….”

“I’ve been travelling – a long way out of range of mobiles. I.…”

The Doctor put one arm around Susan’s shoulders as her eyes welled up with tears. The other he reached out and touched the shoulder of the too young widow. He felt the deep grief of both in his soul.

“Come.…” Cally said, swallowing hard. “Come and see him.” Susan nodded without another word. She held The Doctor’s arm tightly as they followed Cally into the adjoining room where a black lacquered coffin rested on the funeral bier. The young man who lay there was dressed all in black and his pale face was made up in full Goth style. He looked like a young vampyre in his crypt.

Susan looked and dissolved into tears. She hugged her friend tightly as they both shared the pain of loss. The Doctor moved towards the coffin and looked closely at the body. There had been a certain amount of work done by the morticians at the funeral home but even so he could make a guess at what the autopsy report said.

He looked at the two young women. He knew that the common perception of their ‘culture’ was of emotionally disturbed and dysfunctional people with suicidal tendencies enhanced by the music they listened to and the clothes and trappings of macabre death with which they surrounded themselves.

But he knew there was more to it than that, and he knew that Susan’s friend Chas was not one of the suicide statistics that confirmed those preconceptions.

He looked carefully at the fresh cuts on the young man’s wrists that had been partially concealed by the leather wristlets on his arms. They were not the horizontal cuts normally associated with ‘cry for help’ suicide attempts, but deep vertical ones that would have slit the radial artery and caused massive, instant exsanguination.

BOTH wrists were done that way.

It was JUST possible that somebody very determined to die could do that to one of their own wrists. But it would be much harder to then put the knife into the other hand, with the artery of that wrist severed and bleeding out, and do the other one. Pain, shock, loss of feeling in the affected hand, would make the second cut less deep, less determined, less precise.

Both cuts were identical in pressure, depth and length.

It wasn’t suicide.

“Who did it?” he whispered to the corpse. “Who did this to you?”

It wasn’t really his job to find out, but as he looked around at Cally and Susan, both equally devastated by the death of this young man, he knew he WANTED to find out.

For them.

The funeral was a sorrowful affair. The sun shone down on the cemetery from a clear blue sky but it didn’t warm any of the young people who gathered at the graveside. They comforted each other as best they could, but boys and girls alike cried as the coffin was lowered into the grave.

The Doctor watched them with the deepest empathy for their pain. He understood grief and loss well enough. He was not SO alien as that. He envied them one thing - the solace of each other’s company. The last Time Lord, the only being who had witnessed the death of Gallifrey and lived with the memory seared on his soul like a burning brand, faced that grief alone and it was all the harder to bear for that. It had taken a Human hand holding his tightly to make those memories, that grief, bearable.

He heard a sharp intake of breath from the young widow and he turned to look where she had turned. A car was parked on the drive in front of the hearse. It was black like the funeral cars, but this one was a stretch limousine of somebody who liked luxury and liked to let people know he could afford it. The liveried driver got out of the front along with a heavy set man stuffed into a black suit who walked to the back of the car. The phrases ‘hired guns’ and ‘henchmen’ both crossed The Doctor’s mind as he watched the driver take up his position by the back door of the limo. He paid close attention to their employer as he stepped out of the car. He was dressed in a black robe not unlike that worn by the merchant classes of Gallifrey on ceremonial occasions. He wore a large and ornate silver cross that contrasted with the black. He stood there by his car, watching as the last words were said over the grave and Cally stepped forward to drop a single blood red rose tied with a black satin ribbon onto the coffin.

“Goodbye, my love,” she said and then stepped back again. Susan reached and took her hand. The Doctor, though he had only just met her, moved to the other side and put his arm around her shoulders as she did her best to bear herself with dignity.

He and Susan held her as she turned from the graveside. He felt her tense up as they had to pass the limousine and the mysterious robed man to reach the mourning car.

“Callista,” the man said in that strange hybrid accent called mid-Atlantic.

“Abba,” she replied in a dull voice. The Doctor could feel how she was holding her emotions back at that moment.

“I would, of course offer my condolences on your loss, but Charles was, I am afraid, bound to choose such a path of self destruction. He was weak of mind and spirit. He strayed from the True Path – if he was ever a true believer at all.”

“He was a good man and he did NOT kill himself,” Cally answered and walked on. The Doctor tightened his arm around her shoulders and Susan locked her arm around her back as they supported her on the last few steps to the car. He didn’t turn to look, but he was sure the man she had addressed as Abba was watching them still. He could feel the cold black eyes boring into his back.

Abba watched carefully. He watched the young widow and was satisfied that, despite her show of bravado her spirit was sufficiently broken for her to cause no more trouble.

He watched the girl who walked with her and dismissed her from his mind immediately. Just another one of the waifs and strays that made such easy converts to his Ministry.

He watched the man who was with her and he was less sure. He looked like one of the waifs and strays, but he was older than most of them, and there was something in his eyes. Abba had glanced once at those eyes and then turned away. Something about them disturbed him.

“Michael,” he said quietly and a young man split off from a group of the mourners and approached him, bowing his head dutifully.

“Abba,” he said in a voice of awe quite different from Cally’s cold, barely civil pronunciation of the name.

“The two who are with the widow. Who are they?”

“The girl is Araminta – Susan Rawlings. The man… I don’t know. Moonshadow told me he was a doctor of some sort.”

“A doctor? A professional man dressed like that?”

“It’s what I heard, Abba. If my information is wrong, forgive me.”

“There is nothing to forgive, Michael. You are a true follower of my Path. But this “Doctor” interests me. Find out more about him. See if he would be interested in becoming one of us.”

“I will do so, Abba,” Michael answered with another bow of his head. That seemed to be all, but he waited for Abba to dismiss him before he returned to his friends.

“We could grab this ‘Doctor’ and bring him in,” his henchman said. “No problem.”

“No, Gabriel,” he answered. “I think he will come to me. There is something…. Yes, I think he WILL come. I believe he will find it impossible not to come. He will be drawn to us like a bee to the honeypot.”

Abba smiled coldly and got back into the car. He had reason to be content. His plans were going well enough. The only danger so far had been dealt with easily enough. Even if the widow had suspicions nobody would believe her. Nobody in any authority anyway.

Cally didn’t talk about anything as they travelled back to the house. That was understandable. Once there she sat quietly in a chair as the wake went on around her. The Doctor watched her for a little while and then went and sat by her. He didn’t say anything. He waited for her to speak.

“Chas didn’t commit suicide,” she said eventually.

“No,” The Doctor said. “He didn’t.” She looked at him and her face softened with relief.

“You believe me?”

“I believe my eyes,” he told her. “I believe my own instincts. Who killed him?”

“Who are you?” Cally asked. The softness disappeared as she remembered herself. “I know you’re with Araminta. But….”

“I’m The Doctor,” he told her.

“The Doctor?” She laughed softly. “Well, we’ve got a house full of people who don’t use their own names. But ‘The Doctor’? It sounds nearly as sinister as Abba.”

“Yes, but there’s a big difference. You TRUST me.”

She looked at him again and something close to a smile turned the corners of her mouth.

“I don’t know why,” she said. “But I do. I do trust you.”

“Then tell me what’s going on, Cally. Starting with who you think killed Chas.”

“I hardly dare say it aloud. Even to you.”

“Let me say it then,” he told her. “Abba?”

She nodded.

“Tell me about him,” The Doctor said.

“See that lot over there.” She pointed to a small group of her friends who stood together, talking quietly. “They all wear the same style of cross. A present from Abba. They’re followers of his. He calls them the Children of Ephraim. After.…”

“After one of the traditional lost tribes of Israel,” The Doctor finished. “He has a very fancy car for a religious leader.”

“Apparently he is a very wealthy man. I’ve seen his leaflets. He claims that his good fortune is a gift of God for doing His work!”

“You don’t believe that?”

“Chas didn’t believe it. He didn’t like what he was turning our friends into. And… Doctor… Chas wasn’t the first to die. There were four others. All suicides… all with their wrists slashed. Young Peri, I wasn’t surprised. A very neurotic girl. One of the self-harmers. I felt terrible for her, but I didn’t question it. But… then Raven and Shadow, and Tabitha… they were all strong-willed people. I couldn’t believe it of them. At least not until they joined the Children of Ephraim. They seemed to lose all their own will and become SHEEP, repeating the slogans about Abba’s greatness. Chas challenged him. He actually challenged him face to face. He banned him from our house. And then…. Chas disappeared for two days. Then I got a call from the police….”

“Oh, my dear,” The Doctor held her hand in his and caressed it gently. He recalled the cold eyes of the man who had spoken to her in the cemetery and the two henchmen that flanked him. Poor Chas didn’t stand a chance in their clutches.

“I can’t prove it,” Cally said. “And nobody would believe me. Abba has many friends in high places. He buys some of them, I am sure. But he also makes people think he’s good. He is patron of all sorts of charities, helping the homeless and funding holidays for poor children and that sort of thing. People think he’s a saint. But they don’t know… they don’t know what he’s doing to the people who join his cult.”

She looked towards the group of young people she had pointed out before. They didn’t look much different from the others, but that didn’t mean anything.

“Where’s Susan?” The Doctor asked looking around. He saw her talking to another of the Children of Ephraim in the hallway.

“Oh no,” Cally whispered. “That’s Michael. He was the FIRST of our friends to join with Abba. He recruited most of the others. Chas tried to talk to him, persuade him to stop. But… Oh dear, I hope Araminta won’t be so silly.”

“Susan is all right,” The Doctor assured her. “She won’t get sucked into anything.”

“Don’t be too sure. Once Abba gets into their heads....”

“I think I’ll wander over and see what they’re talking about,” he said. “You take care of yourself, Cally. And don’t worry - The Doctor is in the house.”

“Hello,” he said brightly as he slid into the seat next to Susan. One of the Children of Ephraim was showing her a collection of pamphlets. The Doctor took one of them and flipped the pages quickly. He nodded. Abba was a self-proclaimed prophet, promising to save his followers from the hellfire and damnation that awaited non-believers.

“Have you seen this?” Susan asked, handing him another pamphlet. “It's all about how the Children of Ephraim refrain from all forms of broadcast media. Films, TV, newspapers and magazines.”

“We listen only to the word of Abba.”

The Doctor resisted the urge to make a fatuous remark about Swedish pop bands as the young man called Michael continued. “All else is lies and blasphemy.”

“My mum would never cope with that,” Susan said. “She needs her soaps.”

“Soap operas are the work of the devil.”

“Yeah, I did hear they rot the brain,” The Doctor agreed. “But on the other hand, you just can’t dismiss EVERYTHING on TV in one fell swoop. Even Eastenders occasionally has moments, flashes of inspiration that make the hearts glad to be beating. And what about the news? Don’t you keep up with current affairs?”

“Abba says that the affairs of the world are nothing to us.”

“Right,” The Doctor said. “So the next time a tsunami or hurricane or earthquake leaves thousands of vulnerable people with their homes and their lives in ruins, when atheists are packing their bags to go and help dig in the rubble for survivors alongside the Christians and Pagans and Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs and Buddhists and Shintoists, when even the Followers of the Jedi Knights of Luke Skywalker are collecting clothes and food and medicine and generally doing their bit, what will you lot be doing?”

“Abba says such misfortunes are God’s judgement on the people for straying from the true path,” the man said.

“Right,” The Doctor said again and then he said nothing more. He didn’t trust himself to comment any further. But his lips pressed together in a thin line and his usually liquid brown eyes hardened. He wasn’t Human. The internal politics and misfortunes of this world really WEREN’T anything to do with him. But he had done his share of digging in the rubble for survivors when that was all there was left to do. He would never subscribe to such an idea.

“So… apart from not watching the telly, what DO you all do?” The Doctor asked once he had his feelings in check.

“We meditate in preparation for the coming of the Light,” Michael said. “The Light of Revelation that will destroy non-believers and leave Abba and his true followers as absolute rulers of the Earth.”

The Doctor didn’t say anything about that. He just mentally filed Abba under ‘megalomaniac’ and his followers under ‘weak-minded and foolish’.

In his lifetime he had fought them all; Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Krillitanes and other assorted genocidal maniacs, as well as total loonies who want to destroy humanity and give the earth back to the dinosaurs/plants/birds/cats/fish/ - insert choice of lunacy.

But if there was one thing that really drove him nuts it was the ones who proclaimed themselves as gods and messiahs and prophets. And he was well aware when he said that, that there WERE planets where the people thought HE was a god. The difference was that HE never told them he was, he never demanded their loyalty and threatened his wrath if he didn’t get it. And if he could find a way to gently let them know he wasn’t a god without destroying the fabric of their society, he would.

Of course, there was another category involved. But when he thought of the two henchmen and of a man who had been killed for going against the “Children of Ephraim” he knew this wasn’t just the sort of financial scam this kind of thing usually turned out to be.

“You are sceptical,” Michael said.

“Just a bit, yeah,” The Doctor answered.

“I was, too,” he answered. “Until I came to see the light that Abba projects from his very soul. You should come to see us at the Sanctuary. Come to tonight’s meeting. Then you will know. You will see as we have seen.”

“I might just do that,” The Doctor answered as he took the card offered to him. It had a picture on it that confirmed Abba’s Messianic insanity. He was depicted in a Christlike pose, his hand extended as if in welcome and rays of light coming from him. Yes, that confirmed it. Abba was trouble.

His kind of trouble.

He reached for Susan’s hand and brought her back to Cally. She was still sitting quietly, watching her friends, talking occasionally to those who came to offer their personal condolences to her, but mostly sitting quietly.

“You’re going to GO to that place?” Cally was astonished when The Doctor outlined his plans to her and to Susan. “Oh, please. Doctor. No! That’s…. that’s how they got Chas. He thought he could find out about them. But they knew he was ‘investigating’ them and they…. I buried my husband today. I made a new friend who I could trust, and that is the tiniest consolation. But if I should lose you, too.…”

“Chas was a very brave man,” The Doctor said. “And we owe it to him to get to the bottom of all of this. Don’t you worry about me. I’m a lot smarter than I look.”

“He is,” Susan assured her. “MUCH smarter than he looks.”

“Hey!” The Doctor protested. “That’s starting to sound like an insult.” But his mock indignation at least put a slight smile on the face of the grieving woman. He reached and took her hand and held it tightly. He could feel her thoughts. She was grieving for her husband, and angry at the way he died, at the fact that his killer went unpunished. But she was also concerned for others - for her friends who were prey to the same evil, even those such as Michael who were propagating Abba’s false witness. She believed they were still good souls who had been led astray and wished for their release from the malevolent thrall.

A selfless wish and one The Doctor shared with her.

I promise you,” he said. “Abba’s ministry ends today. Before midnight. I will bring him down.”

“I believe you will,” she answered. “I… I didn’t see it before, but it’s there, in your eyes. The POWER. I believe… Oh Doctor…. Abba should be afraid of YOU.”

“That’s right.” He smiled widely. He looked around and saw that the Children of Ephraim were preparing to leave. They had several potential converts with them. He looked at the card. Abba addressed his Children nightly at 8pm. Yes, he’d definitely pop along there tonight.

Meanwhile, he and Susan kept Cally company as her friends went to their own homes and the house grew quiet. The two young women managed to forget their troubles for whole moments at a time as they told The Doctor stories of their old gang and the companionship they shared. Only when the tales turned on those no longer with them, Raven, Peri, Shadow and Tabitha, real names Greg, Rachel, Steven and Patricia, and Chas, who called himself Toxic Angel, did the sadness grip them again. But they were doing the right thing. They were thinking of them, talking about them, remembering the good times, mourning them quietly. The process of healing was beginning for them.

The Doctor’s Gallifreyan hearing picked up a sound outside in the garden. He moved to the window and looked outside. From the lamplit room the dusky, rainswept garden was hard to see, but beyond his own reflection he saw a shadowy figure. In the glow of the sudden flame he thought he saw the face of Michael, Abba’s would-be archangel. He took a deep breath and folded time. The bottle full of petrol with a lit rag stuck into it crashed through the window in slow time, the shards of glass almost suspended in the air as The Doctor reached out, grabbing the bottle and snatching the burning rag from it. He smothered the rag in his fist, hardly feeling it burn his palm and threw the whole lot back out of the broken window before he let time snap back into place.

“Doctor!” Susan and Cally both screamed out to him as he was showered with broken glass. He turned, keeping his burnt hand held behind him as it slowly mended.

“My hair is full of glass,” he complained.

“Never mind the glass,” Susan told him. “What about you?”

“I’m fine,” he said. “I think that was a little friendly warning from Abba.”

Cally could say nothing. The Doctor could understand her feelings. Her husband was murdered and even their home was no longer safe.

Ok, it was showing off, but he thought Cally could use a little something to wonder about right now. He turned back and looked at the window. He focussed his mind on it and willed it to remember. If he really put his mind to it he could will it to become its constituent sand again. But not only would that half kill him, but it was more than he needed right now. All he needed was to remind the glass of being a whole pane. Slowly the shards reassembled like a video played backwards.

“Oh my!” Cally whispered in awe as she looked at the window. “Doctor… what ARE you?”

“I’m a Time Lord,” he said, knowing that was not much of an answer to her question. He stepped back and sat down on the sofa, before he fell down from exhaustion. “A knackered Time Lord. I could really use a cup of tea.”

Making the tea was just the ordinary, mundane function Cally needed to help stop her world spinning once more. She watched The Doctor drink the tea and recover before her eyes from the mental effort he had expended. When he was done he stood up and began to button up the leather coat.

“Susan, you take care of Cally. I don’t think there will be any more trouble tonight. But if you hear the slightest sound outside call the police.”

“You’re going there….”

“It’s time to find out what’s going on.”

“Doctor.…” Susan stood up and put her arms around his shoulders. “Take care. This man… he’s.…”

“Whatever else he is,” The Doctor told her. “He’s JUST a man. I’m more than that.”

He hugged her gently and smiled broadly at both women before he turned and walked away.

Abba looked through the two way mirror at the crowd assembling in the Meditation Hall. Two hundred of them now, his acolytes, all young people who were drawn to the promise of something more than the world they lived in offered. The rebellious ones, like those who called themselves ‘Goths’, the new age ones who believed in crystals and karmas and the like, dropouts from the mainstream religions who sought something more spiritual.

And this city was the first, just the first. When he was done here, when he was stronger than ever, he would move on. There were bigger cities, with teeming populations.

Abba shivered as he saw him. The one he had seen earlier. He walked towards the mirror and looked directly into it. For a brief moment, Abba wondered if he knew, if he could SEE through from the other side. There was something in his eyes as if he really was looking at him.

Those EYES. They looked quite ordinary at a glance, but look closer and they were like deep pools of knowledge and understanding. And….


Abba shivered again as he looked at somebody who might really prove dangerous to him.

“Abba,” Gabriel the henchman approached cautiously, knowing his master did not like to be interrupted. “It is time.”

“It is time when I say it is time,” he answered. Gabriel stepped back nervously as he saw the cold look in his eyes. “It IS in fact, time, but in future do not be so presumptuous.”

The new acolytes were told to sit at the front on the floor. The Doctor sat. He noticed that the initiated Children of Ephraim sat in a very formal way, similar to the kneeling position he himself adopted when he performed certain Time Lord rites. But on this occasion he just sat with his legs crossed under him and tried to look as if he was just another eager newbie.

Abba appeared in a theatrical display of dry ice, smoke and lights that The Doctor thought more in keeping with the 70s pop group of the same name than a religious leader. He struck the same pose as in the picture on his calling cards and rays of light did, indeed, come from him.

Just theatrics, The Doctor thought. Smoke and mirrors and laser lights sewn into the robe.

“I am Abba,” he said. “Your spiritual Father. I am the embodiment of God come to show you the True Path. Those who do my will shall have glory and fortune here on Earth and in Heaven. Those who stray from the Path will be brought to their knees, for I am a loving God to my Children, but my vengeance shall be brought on unbelievers and liars.”

That’s telling them, The Doctor thought. Oh, but he had seen it all before. It was almost boring. He listened as Abba proclaimed himself in various ways and his followers murmured prayers of homage to him. Then individuals from the crowd came up to him and knelt before him and they seemed to be making requests of him. Some of them were heartfelt and tragic. They asked him to cure people who were ill, somebody’s mother, sister, child. What was even more tragic was that Abba promised them it would be done. Others asked for promotion at work, a new car, a holiday, and that old perennial, winning the lottery.

“Please,” one of the new recruits, a girl about Susan’s age, dressed in a tight bodice and straight skirt, and with rings through her nose, eyebrows and tongue, put her hand up hesitantly. “Please, sir….”

“You will address the great one as Abba or My Lord,” Gabriel the henchman snarled.

“Please, My Lord,” she continued. “I believe in you. I want to join the Children of Ephraim. But please… if I do… will you bring my sister back to life. She was killed last month by a hit and run driver. She was a good girl. If you do this, I am sure she would worship you, too.”

“Follow me on the true path and it will be done,” he replied. “For those who pledge themselves to me with all their being and all their means, their desires will be fulfilled on Earth in token of the greater joy to come on the Day of Revelation when the righteous shall see Heaven and the unrighteous shall burn in Hell.”

Boring, but tragic, especially that last request. Of all the cruel lies to tell, the promise to restore the dead was the worst. Nobody could do that. Even he couldn’t give life back. He had seen it happen. Once, just once, his TARDIS had done it - when The Master murdered Grace and Chang Lee within the Cloister Room, with Artron energy spilling out of the open Eye of Harmony and lifeforce abounding. Yes, it had been done. And again, something, he wasn’t sure what, had happened on the Gamestation when Rose was in control of that same energy and lifeforce.

But HE had never brought the dead back to life, and as far as he knew, nobody else had on this planet – at least not counting that One Man nearly 2,000 years ago who Abba was seeking to emulate.

There were several possibilities, The Doctor thought as he tuned out of the claims and boasts and promises that kept everyone else around him thoroughly rapt. He could be a complete fake, with some clever theatricals, and his renta-mob henchmen to keep order. The operative word then was ‘means’ - “For those who pledge themselves to me with all their being and all their means” he had said. Somewhere in the initiation there would be something about signing over all property and inheritances and so on for the glory of Abba.

That was the most obvious and likely explanation of it all.

There was also the possibility that this WAS all for real and Abba was, indeed, the embodiment of God.

The Doctor dismissed that straight away. The Christian God Abba proclaimed himself to represent didn’t slit the wrists of innocent people and let them bleed to death. Granted, people had done worst things in His NAME in the history of this planet. But that was humanity for you. They did stupid things.

The other possibility was that Abba was either an alien with some motive for using these people, or he was a Human under the influence of an alien entity. Both were variations on a theme The Doctor had encountered before many times.

If it WAS the second, of course, it was possible that Abba himself was as much the victim here. There could be a tortured soul behind those cold eyes, needing his help as much as Cally or any of the other victims of this charade.

Above all else, the one thing he hated was a false god.

“But there is a TRAITOR here,” Abba boomed out suddenly. The Doctor was not the only one who was startled. Around him people who had begun to feel hypnotised by his voice as he continued to speak were jerked awake and as his eyes scanned the room, focussing on each of them in turn, there were a few, even among the initiated, who were finding it hard to look anything but guilty. The Doctor carefully composed himself to give nothing away. He wasn’t sure if it was himself who had been detected somehow.

It wasn’t. He felt relief, then he felt guilty for feeling relieved, because that meant that another man was being dragged from among the Children of Ephraim. As the so-called traitor protested his innocence and cried and begged The Doctor knew he was not the only one who had gone through those same emotions. Many other faces in the crowd, even among the initiated and the loyal, betrayed the same relief, guilt, and sympathy for the one who had been singled out.

“You are a spy,” Abba said with his eyes almost spinning with rage. “A journalist come to write about us in his pathetic newspaper.”

The two henchmen pushed the hapless man down on his knees. Nothing had been done to him yet, but fear was proving torture enough for the moment. His imagination was working overtime on what MIGHT happen to him.

“I’m not a journalist,” he protested. “I’m not. Please, believe me. I’m not. I’m faithful, Abba. I give you my word, Abba. I am a true follower of your Path.”

“You are a traitor and you will be punished.”

“It’s NOT him,” The Doctor cried out suddenly. “Abba, please, you have the wrong man. I am the spy. I am the journalist. I work for the Guardian. Here… look… my Press credentials.” He stood and stepped forward, waving his psychic paper. “This man is innocent. I am the one who came here to write a story about you.”

Abba looked at him uncertainly for a moment then he nodded to his henchmen. They dragged the other man up and pushed him back into the crowd as The Doctor moved forward, his hands up in surrender. The two henchmen grabbed him by the arms. He knew he could throw them both off easily, but pretending to be taken prisoner gave the other man a chance to slip into the crowd and be forgotten by Abba and his thugs.

“On your knees, traitor,” Abba told him, and The Doctor felt the henchmen pressing him down. He allowed himself to be forced down into a kneeling position. The two men held his arms tightly as Abba approached him. He reached and put his hands on The Doctor’s face and he only just managed to put up a mental wall before he felt a strong, invasive force trying to reach inside him and read his mind.

That clinched it, he thought. Abba was under the influence of an alien entity. He could feel it as it probed and searched for a way into his own mind. But he couldn’t probe it in return while he was defending himself.

“What ARE you?” Abba whispered as he tried to force his will upon The Doctor. “What are you? How strong are you?”

“Stronger than you, Abba, or whatever your name is. Stronger than whatever it is that is controlling you.”

Abba stepped back. The Doctor felt his mind retreat just as his body drew back from him. He saw the fear and uncertainty on his face for a moment at least before he rallied.

“Hold him!” Abba ordered and he reached inside his robe and took out a dagger. The two henchmen grasped The Doctor’s arms even more tightly and turned his wrists so that the vulnerable inner sides were exposed. He felt the sharp pain as the dagger was plunged into his flesh and dragged along the place where the radial artery should be. The same deep wound was inflicted on the other wrist.

The wounds bled. Of course they did. They hurt while they did so. But Abba, in common with all but a precious few people on planet Earth didn’t know one thing. The radial artery in Gallifreyan anatomy was in a different position to Humans. It was deeper. That’s why his pulse had to be taken in the neck not the wrist, and why Abba’s dagger missed its mark.

The wounds mended in a few minutes, in front of everybody. The effect on the crowd watching was nearly as impressive as the effect it had on Abba. He actually looked SCARED.

“It’s a miracle,” somebody shouted. “Abba has performed a miracle.”

“No,” somebody else said. “Abba tried to kill him. The real miracle came from God who saved him. Abba is a demon, not a prophet.”

“Abba is God. The devil mended his wounds.”

“Abba, father, Lord, kill this demon and prove your worth.”

“Abba is the demon. This stranger is the proof of that. God has saved him before our eyes to expose Abba as the demon.”

Before his eyes, Abba saw his hold on his acolytes crumbling. Some still held that he was the embodiment of God and cried out for him to kill the demon, but others held that The Doctor’s wounds mending were proof of HIS divinity and Abba’s damnation.

“I’ll kill him for you, Abba,” a voice cried and the young man called Michael sprang towards the almost frozen tableaux of The Doctor still held by the two henchmen while Abba stood above him. The Doctor stifled a groan as he felt another knife plunged into his back, missing his spine by a fraction of an inch.

“No!” Another man yelled and he felt Michael dragged away from him. He recognised the voice as the man who had been picked out as the traitor earlier. He felt the knife pulled from his back before it clattered to the floor. At the same moment he turned his wrists and adjusted his position and a simple judo throw landed both of the henchmen on the floor at the same time, their backs painfully jarred but not permanently damaged. The Doctor stood up and grabbed Abba, pushing him down onto his knees in a poetic reversal of fortune.

“Now, Abba,” The Doctor said as he pressed his hands either side of his face. “Let’s see just what is inside your head.”

What WAS inside was relatively easy to see. Abba had already opened himself when he tried to penetrate him and such openings were hard to close again without a lot of practice. The Doctor easily pressed his way into Abba’s thoughts.

And found two minds there.

The first belonged to a man called Reugene Pratt who had been dissatisfied with inheriting enough money to keep him comfortable for the rest of his life and never having to do a scrap of work and wanted power as well as wealth. He was had dabbled in the grey areas vaguely called the occult, but instead of raising the devil he had raised the Miridanna, a bodiless entity that roamed the universe seeking out host creatures. One of them had taken over his body.

“You’re the advanced guard,” he said as he connected with the alien mind. “Yes, that’s what it was about. Take over Reugene, make him do your bidding, gathering the ‘Children of Ephraim’ with promises of glory and wealth and eternal life, preparing them for the Day of Revelation. THAT would be the DAY that these people became hosts for the rest of your tribe, wouldn’t it? That would be the day when they ceased to be who they are and became Miridannans, their bodies merely USED as mobile units for an entity that would destroy everythinge. That was the plan wasn’t it?”

“Yes!” A malevolant voice replied from Reugene Pratt’s lips. “But who are you who has such strength? How did you know?”

“Never you mind who I am. You just stay right where you are, and shut up. I want to look at the host mind.”

The Doctor was aware of a scrap going on around him that closely resembled a traditional western barroom brawl. Those who still clung to the notion that Abba was who he said he was were fighting those who had come to their senses. He wasn’t sure which side had the upper hand, if any. It didn’t matter. The Mididannan was weakening under the power of his mind. It was shrivelling within the host’s brain and letting more of Reugene’s consciousness come through.

But what he found there was no innocent victim as he had imagined him to be.

“It took over your body, but NOT your mind,” The Doctor said coldly. “Not wholly. It SHARED your brain. It ‘advised’ you on how to control other people, how to gather the ‘Children’ around you, how to put on the show of being a demi-God. But the evil was ALL you. You’re not an innocent victim of the Miridannan. You killed all those people, the way you tried to kill me. YOU, Reugene Pratt, are a murderer, plain and simple. The Mirridannan was YOUR accomplice in that evil.”

He turned his attention back to the Miridannan. It had been weakened but it showed no signs of leaving Reugene’s brain.

But that was ok. The Doctor could hear police sirens coming closer outside. Somebody among the Children of Ephraim had called them. Reugene was going to jail for a very long time once they had all made statements. The Mirridannan could go to jail with him. He concentrated his mind on the alien entity again. He built a mental prison around it, a shell of mental energy that closed in around the entity and kept on closing, crushing it smaller and smaller until it was no more than a tiny, closed off, isolated place, a blank place in Reugene’s mind that he couldn’t access and the entity inside was too weak to break out of.

The Doctor stepped back as the man he had saved from a painful death at Reugene’s hands brought two policemen forward to arrest the former leader of the Children of Ephraim.

“You’re not really a journalist are you?” the man said to The Doctor as they watched Reugene’s departure in handcuffs.

“No, I’m not. Are you?”

“Yes,” he said. “I’m Tom Clay. Local paper… the Sentinel. ”

“Ah,” The Doctor smiled. “You must know Nancy then? Nancy Watling.”

“Yes,” Tom Clay answered. “Her desk is next to mine in the newsroom.”

“Say hello to her from The Doctor,” The Doctor told him and grinned as he turned and looked around. Most of the former Children of Ephraim were starting to come to their senses. Most were hugging and crying and laughing at the same time. They were looking after each other.

One wasn’t. The young man called Michael was sitting on the floor crying with grief.

“There’s nothing left for me,” he sobbed. “Abba was my only hope. Without him I am nobody.”

“You’re you,” The Doctor told him. “Which is more than you would have been if your brain had been taken over by an alien entity. Go home. Put this behind you. I’m not going to press charges about the knife in the back. There’s nothing there anyway now except a dull ache. Go home and count yourself lucky.”

“How did you do that? The knife… the blood… Are you a REAL God?”

“No,” he answered. “I’m not. I’m just The Doctor. And I’m prescribing you a dose of cold hard reality. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but you’ll feel better for it.”

He turned from him and reached for his mobile phone. “Susan, tell Cally that the man who murdered Chas is on his way to a police cell and it's all over, just as I promised.”