The Doctor smiled and congratulated himself on a really neat temporal shift. The TARDIS hadn’t moved an inch of distance, but it had travelled back five years to when Stella was sixteen, Wyn was thirty-two and the old billy goat that tried to eat his coat was a young billy goat that looked up warily from his tethered place by the old water pump and thought twice about messing with The Doctor. When it came to billy goats, wisdom apparently didn’t come with age.

Apart from the goat, nothing much had changed, come to think of it, since he first set foot here in 1973. It was still an eccentric mish-mash of old farmyard and hippy commune and somehow it always felt like a place he could easily feel at home. People he cared about lived here, people who lived their lives to the full the way he always urged them to do.

Nobody was about. He crossed the yard in a few quick strides and opened the kitchen door quietly. He smiled as he stepped inside to see Jo sitting with her back to the door, shelling broad beans. He would know her at any time, any place. His own Jo, much older now than in 1973. His quick, keen eye took in the photographs on the Welsh dresser, and noted that several recent ones showed her holding a baby at a christening. One of her sons had made her a granny.

In his mind’s eye, even so, she was still that nineteen year old with her pixie-faced smile that made him forgive every clumsy and scatterbrained mistake she ever made.

“Hello, Jo,” he said. She turned and smiled that same lovely smile. She ran to his arms and kissed him fondly.

“Mum, does dad know you’re having an affair with a younger man?” asked a girl’s voice as the inner door opened and closed. “It’s disgusting, you know. Somebody YOUR age into lip suction.”

“This isn’t a younger man, Jo answered. “This is The Doctor. The other one of him, that is. He hasn’t been around since you were a baby. And it’s WONDERFUL to see him.”

“The other one?” Stella looked at him curiously. “Well, he’s better looking than the one that comes round for tea.” She appraised him again and then addressed him directly. “So you’re the one Wyn rabbits on about, then?”

“Unless there’s ANOTHER one of us, then yes,” The Doctor answered her with a grin. “Stella, you’ve really grown since I saw you last.”

“Well, DUH!” she responded. “I was a BABY when you saw me last.”

The dog flap rattled and K-9 Mk 4.5 hovered through.

“Master-Doctor, greetings,” he said. “Mistress Wyn will be in shortly. Shall I inform her of your arrival?”

He didn’t have to. The door crashed open, barely missing his metallic tail and Wyn rushed in. She stopped when she saw The Doctor and her smile widened.

“I saw the TARDIS and thought it was the other one. He visits a lot. It’s BRILLIANT to see you. But why didn’t you come more often?”

“Because I am appallingly bad at keeping promises,” he admitted. “Your mum can confirm that. But come here and give me a hug. If you DO hugs, that is.”

“For you, I do,” Wyn said, hugging him tightly. “Any other bloke, no thanks. I’m not into men.”

“She’s between girlfriends at the moment.” Stella added helpfully.

“I’m NOT between girlfriends,” Wyn corrected her. “It sounds like I have a waiting list. I WISH!”

“Come on to the dining room,” Jo said. “Tea’s ready. Wyn, call your dad.”

“The Doctor can sit next to me,” Stella declared, holding his arm as they went to the dining room that also didn’t seem to have changed much over the years. “He’s definitely better looking than the other one. And he wears cool clothes.”

“He’s too old for you,” Wyn told her. Jo gave an exasperated sigh and called her husband a second time. He turned up eventually and sat down, still making notes on a PDA as he ate with one hand. He was almost unaware of The Doctor’s presence among them. When they first met, Cliff had been a young genius, full of ideas and idealism. Now he was an old genius, still full of ideas and idealism.

All power to him, The Doctor thought.

“Mum,” Stella said. “Have you remembered you have to drive me to Cardiff tonight?”

“Cardiff?” Jo looked blank.

“Capital of Wales, big city, Millennium Stadium….” Wyn said helpfully.

“I know what Cardiff IS,” Jo answered her. “But why do I have to….”

“MUM!” Stella exclaimed. “DAD is supposed to be the nutty professor around here. You’re supposed to be the sensible one, the one who organises things, the one who REMEMBERS things.”

The Doctor thought that didn’t sound anything like Jo.

“You’re getting our mum mixed up with the one from the Famous Five,” Wyn told her younger sister. “Both our parents live on a different planet to us mentally.”

“What’s in Cardiff then?” The Doctor asked, amused by what passed for ‘domestic’ in the Nut-hutch. “Apart from the secret headquarters of Torchwood Wales, a rift in time and space that makes the San Andreas fault look tame and the Welsh National Opera, that is?”

“Robin Meyerson at the Millennium Centre,” Stella replied. “I’ve got a front seat TICKET. And I can’t miss it. My LIFE will be OVER if I miss this concert.”

“Ah,” The Doctor said. “So that’s where he comes into the picture,” he added to himself.

“But your father and I have to go to Aberystwyth,” Jo said. “We have to give a presentation about the Wholewheal International Aid Project.”

“Nuts to Wholewheal,” Stella answered. “MUM, it’s not FAIR. It’s your fault, Wyn. You should have learnt to drive a CAR.”

“I’ll take her,” The Doctor said quietly and calmly. It was a moment or two before anyone noticed he had spoken.

“In the TARDIS?” Jo looked dubious. Stella looked excited. “She’ll end up going to see Mozart in Vienna in 1755.”

“Highly unlikely since Mozart wasn’t born until 1756,” The Doctor responded. “But I really just thought of borrowing your second car. If you trust me with it, that is.”

“I trust YOU,” Jo assured him. “It’s the other one who managed to destroy a Land Rover.”

“Can I come?” Wyn asked.

“You want to see Robin Reliant as well?” The Doctor asked. Wyn made a disgusted face.

“No, I don’t,” she answered. “And neither do YOU. You’ve got TASTE. He’s one of those teen boy singers that daft girls like Stella go all gooey about. When you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.”

“He is NOT!” Stella responded. “He has the voice of an angel and the face of Adonis.”

“Better tell him to give them back,” The Doctor joked. “Well, since you’re the one with the ticket, me and Wyn will just have a quiet dinner on the waterfront and talk about old times. We’ll meet you after the gig.”

“I’m sitting in front next to The Doctor,” Stella declared as they headed out after tea to drive to Cardiff. “He’s MY date for tonight.”

“No, he isn’t,” Wyn told her. “You’re just getting a lift. I’m having the date with him.”

Stella stuck her tongue out and jumped into the passenger seat. Wyn kept her dignity as she sat in the back and K-9 hovered in alongside her.

“You realise,” Wyn said to The Doctor as he fastened his seat belt. “She’s going to talk about Robin ALL the way to Cardiff.”

She did. Worse, she played his music. She had his two CDs with her in the hope of getting them autographed and she put one of them in the player so that The Doctor could truly appreciate his unique genius.

He wasn’t TRULY awful, The Doctor conceded. He could hold a tune. But the tune was just another manufactured pop tune with trite lyrics abut teenage love.

“He’s DIVINE!” Stella gushed.

“Whatever happened to the Backstreet Boys?” The Doctor asked, apparently casually.

“You really ARE old, Doctor,” she answered scornfully. “They’re twentieth CENTURY!” Coming from the twentieth century was obviously not cool.

Of course, the question WASN’T casual. He remembered when the alien entity called Stella had taken over Wyn’s body and declared that, among other things, AJ rocked her universe. Fourteen years on, he wondered if there WAS anything of that personality in the Human Stella who had grown from the clone baby he had created and Jo and Cliff had gladly adopted as their own child.

There wasn’t. Stella’s consciousness was that of a Human girl, Wyn’s sister, Jo and Cliff’s daughter. Her preference for bland pop music was perfectly normal for a girl her age in this quarter of the twenty-first century. She couldn’t remember being anything or anyone else.

And that was a good thing. Because he wouldn’t wish the grief the alien Stella had to cope with on anyone.

“Why did K-9 have to come?” Stella asked.

“Because I haven’t seen HIM for ages, either,” The Doctor answered. “How are you doing there, K-9, old pal? I hope you don’t get car sick.”

“I do not suffer from any sort of motion sickness or nausea,” K-9 replied. “You did not build me with such functions, Master Doctor.”

“Only kidding,” The Doctor said. “I met a relative of yours a while back. Another professor Marius design called Ric. He did the ‘Master-Doctor’ thing, too. You’d enjoy a chat with him.”

“I do not chat, Master-Doctor,” he replied. “I analyse and deduce.”

The car stopped to give way to oncoming traffic. The Doctor was aware of K9’s analytic probe whirring forward. He felt the sucker touch his hand as he rested it on the gear stick. He knew K-9 had taken a sample of his DNA.

“I have analysed the Master-Doctor and deduce that he is approximately thirty-five years older than he was when we last made his acquaintance and has been eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise while breathing air which contains none of the toxins contained in the Earth atmosphere in this decade of the twenty-first century.”

“Yep,” The Doctor said. “You’re analysing and deducing modes are working fine.” He half smiled at the bitter sweet memory of the healthy lifestyle and unpolluted atmosphere he had lived in for that time and then pushed it away as he gave his attention to driving towards Cardiff.

As he entered the city he wished he HAD taken them by TARDIS. It was considerably easier to PARK.

“There’s a no-car exclusion zone around the Millennium centre and the waterfront,” Wyn said. “Because the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cardiff are coming to see Robin. THEY have no musical taste EITHER.”

The Doctor checked his memory of the British line of succession. Charles III was monarch now, so the Prince of Wales was the future King William V. Traditionally the second son should be Duke of York, but as his uncle was still alive and well and occupying that title Harry was Duke of Cardiff.

And why not?

“I come from a meritocracy,” The Doctor said apropos of nothing as they walked towards Roald Dahl Plas and the Millennium Centre. “Royalty do nothing for me – except cause me a heap of trouble. We’ll stick to our plan for dinner, Wyn. Just as soon as we’ve seen Stella off to watch Robin Hood and his Merry backing singers.”

Stella scowled at The Doctor’s refusal to take the love of her life seriously but forgave him when he gave her money to buy Robin posters in the foyer. She kissed his cheek and ran off to join the queues waiting to be let in. The Doctor watched until she was safely inside the building. Then his eyes wandered around the plaza. He remembered with a smile parking the TARDIS there once, and the Earth nearly ripping in two when the rift tried to open itself. It seemed a very long time ago, now.

He wondered if the secret headquarters of Torchwood Cardiff was under the paving here as it was in his own universe. Things were different in Nine’s world. Nine had never got on the wrong side of Queen Victoria. Rose had not been torn from him by cruel fate. The Sycorax and the Cybermen and the Racnoss never tried to invade Earth. He supposed other things were different too. All the same, it was probably just as well that the TARDIS was safely parked in Llanfairfach.

Over dinner, The Doctor did, indeed, talk about old times with Wyn. They started by reminiscing abut their shared adventures, before he related some of what had happened to him since they parted, leaving out his long stay on Forêt, since she didn’t know about that until five years from now. But his adventures with Susan led Wyn to open up about her own life, university, post-graduate studies, teaching in Manchester, the love affair that had ended badly and brought her back to South Wales for a rethink about her life.

“Sorry about that,” The Doctor told her. “Everyone deserves to be loved.”

“I’m ok,” she assured him. “I think I’ll lay off relationships altogether for a bit, though. Wish I could just take off with you in the TARDIS for a while. That would straighten my head out.”

“You could do that,” The Doctor told her. “What’s stopping you?”

“I’m in charge of Stella for the next twelve months,” she answered. “Mum and dad are going to South Africa to set up a Fair Trade Wholewheal food co-operative. Stella doesn’t want to go. She says South Africa would be cool, but not with Wholewheal and mum and dad with their hippy idealism. And none of my brothers can be bothered with her now they’re all married and got their own kids. So I’m stuck with her.”

Wyn didn’t sound as if she REALLY minded. There was obviously real affection between them, despite all.

“She could come, too,” he suggested. “If she misbehaves I could stick her in the airlock.”

Wyn laughed ironically.

“You don’t HAVE an airlock,” she told him.

“I can always GET one.” They laughed together at an old joke. The Doctor felt cheerful. Of course he knew it was a fait accompli. He WAS going to take both of them away for a year. They had told him about it five years in the future,

They told him something else, too.

“This Robin Goodfellow….” he began. Wyn laughed.

“You’re going to run out of names to call him. There aren’t that many famous Robins around. What about him?”

“He’s not what he seems. We’re not just here to escort Stella. I have my eye on the twittering songbird.”

“Fantastic,” Wyn said with grin. “Or is it? Stella is SAFE isn’t she? You wouldn’t let her.…”

“She’s safe,” The Doctor told her. “On stage, he’s just a bland pop singer who appeals to sixteen year old girls. More fool him. A thousand sixteen year old girls!” The Doctor sucked in air through his teeth and smiled wickedly. “I’d rather face a couple of squadrons of Judoon shock-troops head on. Even with the rhino horns on their faces they’re less dangerous than a massed horde of teenage girls!”

Wyn dared to ask what Judoon were and he told her. When she finished laughing she became serious again.

“What DO you know about Robin Meyerson then?” she asked. “What’s the story?”

“Very little,” he answered. “Except he’s not what he seems, and he ‘dies’ in a couple of days from now.”

He knew he shouldn’t have done it, but The Doctor DID indulge in a little research into the mysterious Robin after the older Stella and Wyn had mentioned him. He died in a helicopter accident over the Severn Estuary. Or at least he was presumed to have died. His body was never recovered and there were several websites where fans theorised about whether he might be alive after all. The romantic among them believed he lost his memory in the accident, washed up in Ireland and was presently being looked after by kindly nuns. The fantastical among them favoured aliens taking him away at the last minute.

The Doctor had wondered if there was anything in the last bit. Possibly HE was the alien who would rescue him. But he doubted it. Because he knew already that Robin Meyerson wasn’t Human himself and that was the key to it.

This was one reason why foreknowledge was dangerous - because it caused more questions than it answered. It forced him into doing things he wouldn’t have done otherwise just to prevent a bloody paradox if he didn’t do them.

“The concert should be over soon,” Wyn said, looking at her watch.

“Yes. We’ll go meet Stella in the foyer. I have a little surprise for her.”

Stella was so high on emotion as she came into the foyer of the Millennium Centre that she almost didn’t see Wyn and The Doctor at first. He pre-empted her gushing review of how DIVINE Robin Meyerson was, though, by taking her towards a pair of doors marked “Stage entrance, authorised access only.” A smartly dressed man who looked fully capable of breaking the arm of anyone who didn’t have the right credentials studied The Doctor’s psychic paper carefully before giving it back to him and opening the door for them to enter.

“WOW!” Stella exclaimed, and The Doctor felt exclaim was too mild a word. There needed a whole new set of adjectives for the emotional level she was now reaching. “I’m actually going to MEET Robin.”

Even with the psychic paper, Stella had to wait to actually get up close with Robin. The Doctor didn’t even DARE try to use his influence on the CPOs trained to look after the two Princes and their dates for the night. They were allowed to watch the royal photo opportunity, though. The Doctor was faintly amused as the titled young women, one of whom was destined to become queen alongside the heir to the throne, nearly wet themselves with excitement to be meeting Robin Meyerson. What WAS it about pop singers that sent people gaga, he wondered. Was it a special aftershave or was there a pop star pheromone that some people had. Was it injectable like botox, making otherwise perfectly bland young men into ‘gods’?

He reminded himself of what he knew about Robin Meyerson already and watched the conversation between pop prince and real princes closely. He noticed something that explained a LOT.

The royals were done and The Doctor stepped aside, Wyn and Stella doing likewise, as they headed for the door. Then Prince Harry looked him in the eye and reached out his hand to shake.

“Doctor!” he said. “Good to see you. How are you, old chap? It’s been YEARS. Are you a fan of Meyerson? We’re having a reception at Highgrove tomorrow night. He’s going to perform. Why not come along?” He waved to one of his secretaries and he handed the prince a card. He wrote on it and handed it to The Doctor before they continued on their way. Stella had her opportunity then. The Doctor glanced at the card from the prince and noted what was written on it as he stepped forward along with her to get a closer look at Meyerson.

The audience with him lasted no more than three minutes, Stella did most of the talking in a rush of frantic words she had obviously rehearsed and meant to be cool and calm about, and would have been if her hormones hadn’t taken over her other senses. Meyerson indulged her dearest fantasy by kissing her on the cheek, autographing her CDs and giving her a t-shirt passed to him by one of his roadies. Then they were done. The Doctor steered her out through the side door and through the cool night streets of Cardiff to where they had left the car.

Stella got into the back seat without a word of protest and proceeded to tell K-9 all about her wonderful night. The Doctor gave her five minutes before deciding K-9 didn’t deserve that much sensory overload and passed Wyn the sonic screwdriver in sleep mode. She turned and applied the beam to her unsuspecting sister and she fell asleep mid sentence, held safely in place by her seat belt. K-9 gave the robot equivalent of a sigh of relief.

“Bit naughty of us to do that,” The Doctor admitted. “But we need to talk about stuff here, and she doesn’t need to hear. What did you notice about Meyerson when we were talking to him?”

“His eyes went weird for a few seconds. They sort of glowed as if he was trying to hypnotise us. He did it to the royals, too. Judging by the way Harry was yapping, I think it worked on them. I mean, he’s a bloke and he’s older than me. He should have known better!”

“Didn’t work on you?”

“I’m not into men,” Wyn reminded him. “Then again, neither is Prince Harry, surely? Unless there’s something the press haven’t told us!”

“It IS hormone-based,” The Doctor told her. “But the wrong tap was turned on for you. You were meant to go gaga like Stella, but the male-female attraction doesn’t work on you. Obviously I’m immune because I’m an alien. Surprised the royals were as easily susceptible actually. There is some alien DNA in the family. The twentieth century lot were less inbred than in the past, though. It must be watered down by now.”

Wyn had heard The Doctor hint that the British Royal Family had more than just German and Greek in their ancestry before. She didn’t pay much attention to that part of his ramble. But she did watch carefully when they stopped at the next set of lights and he took the sonic screwdriver back off her. He adjusted the setting and turned to where K9 poked his head between the seats. He flipped open a panel just behind his ears and inserted the end of the screwdriver into him. “I was analysing the lifesigns in the room. I must have looked a bit funny with my hand in my pocket like that. Half expected a line from Meyerson like ‘Is that a sonic screwdriver or are you just pleased to see me.’ But anyway, K-9 should be able to analyse and deduce the results.

K-9 did. As they drove through the night, back towards Llanfairfach he reported that the room had contained one Time Lord, fourteen pure humans, two humans with 0.5% traces of Izocian ancestry and one artificial lifeform.

“Izocian?” Wyn queried as she retrieved the sonic screwdriver, closed the panel and tickled K-9’s ears fondly.

“Planet in the Ganymede quadrant,” The Doctor replied. “One of Prince Albert’s antecedents came from there. I said it would be watered down. But it was enough to provide a partial shield. Here, read this.”

He passed her the card Prince Harry had given him. It was a rather nice business card with the words ‘Compliments of his Royal Highness the Duke of Cardiff’ in an elegant script. On the back, in equally elegant handwriting considering how quickly he wrote, were the words, “Something is wrong here. Please help. H.”

“Wow,” Wyn said admiringly. “Royal command.”

“Yep,” The Doctor said. “Of course I’m not a British subject so I’m not bothered about the royal bit. But it was a plea for help, and I intend to act on it. But you’re still missing something from K-9’s analysis.”

Wyn reached and touched one of K-9’s ears and he replayed his words again. She HAD missed something. She had been trying to recall how many people were in the room between Meyerson’s roadies and the royal retinue and work out which were the fourteen humans. Then she fixed on the Izocian bit and had missed the last category.

“No!” she gasped. “Really? No! He can’t be!” She looked at The Doctor who was concentrating on his driving in the dark. She turned and looked at her sleeping sister. She addressed her words to K-9. “Stella is going to be really upset when she finds out.”

“Affirmative, mistress,” he replied. The Doctor nodded imperceptibly and kept his eyes on the road. Wyn had slightly missed the point. He didn’t blame her for thinking of Stella first and foremost. He was pleased that she had enough affection for her sister to care how she was going to feel when all this fell together. But there was more to this than duping teenage pop fans.

“I think we’ll take the TARDIS to Highgrove tomorrow,” was all he said. “Stella will enjoy looking for a posh enough frock in the wardrobe.”

Stella had a whale of a time choosing a party dress for a royal reception in the cavern that The Doctor called ‘The Wardrobe’. Wyn, too, found herself something that suited her - a deep green silk dress and matching jacket that didn’t make her hips look too big. The Doctor was in the blue version of his usual suit. Granted, he had a silver tie pin and matching cufflinks instead of the old pink hairslide and he had a pair of black leather shoes instead of those old plimsolls he loved, but he still looked more or less the same as usual.

“Don’t you have a smart Armani suit in there?” Stella asked him. “Something snappy and ‘Royal’?”

“I told you, I come from a meritocracy. Royalty take me as they find me. And those that don’t want to clap me in irons or banish me from their Empire tend to take me ok no matter what I wear.” He turned to the console and programmed their landing in the garden of Highgrove House. Wyn and Stella both wondered why the sudden appearance of the TARDIS in the gardens of a royal palace didn’t bring armed guards down on them. Apparently The Doctor was expected, and the security had been told he would not be arriving by the main gate.

To Stella’s disappointment, there was no sign of Robin Meyerson in the formal garden where pre-dinner drinks were being served under a sun canopy.

“Apparently he has been opening a leisure centre in Kent this afternoon,” Wyn reported as The Doctor steered her sister away from the champagne and towards some non-alcoholic orange juice. She had been mingling with the guests and asking the sort of questions The Doctor would usually have asked himself. “He’s coming in by helicopter in about ten minutes. There’s a helipad over there that the Princes use sometimes.”

Some ten minutes later many of the female guests rushed to get a view as a helicopter with “Meyerson On Tour” and a toothy image of the man himself emblazoned on it landed. Meyerson got out, flanked by his entourage and waved to his VIP fans.

“Bet you can guess the word I’m thinking of,” The Doctor said to Wyn. “It begins with a P.”

“I can think of two,” she answered. “Pretentious Prat.”

“Yep. Something like that.”

Stella scowled at them both and joined the gaggle of Honourable ladies as they flocked around Robin Meyerson. She was delighted to find that he remembered her from yesterday and invited her to sit down next to him when they went in to dinner.

“Is that ok?” Wyn asked as she and The Doctor took their seats just slightly further down the pecking order. “Stella sitting with HIM.”

“He can’t do much to her at the dinner table. But just keep an eye on him. Watch how much he EATS.”

It was a delicious seven course meal, and Wyn enjoyed her food like anyone else. But while she ate she did as The Doctor said and watched Meyerson. As far as she could tell he didn’t actually eat anything. He made a pretence of lifting a soup spoon or salad fork to his mouth, but would turn away distracted by something that was said and put it down again. Stella seemed good for that. He would apparently become very interested in her chatter every time he prepared to put food in his mouth.

“Probably why he got her to sit with him,” The Doctor said as he and Wyn talked together after the meal as the preparations for Meyerson’s performance went on. “So she could be a distraction.”

“He can’t eat?”

“Some artificial lifeforms can,” The Doctor continued. “They process the food and convert it to energy in a sort of simulacrum of Human digestion. But Meyerson isn’t as sophisticated as that. They put the effort into making him sing and hypnotise people.”

“Is he alien then?” Wyn asked. “Or is he some sort of secret project? Maybe that Torchwood lot you mentioned.”

“Not them. Not their style at all. Alien? Maybe.”

“Is it to do with the Royals? Doctor, what if he has a bomb built into him?” Wyn paused. “Is that possible or am I talking daft?”

“No, you’re not talking daft. But don’t mention things like bombs too loudly around here. We don’t want a major security alert. It’s not that, by the way. I’ve still got the sonic screwdriver in my pocket. It would vibrate if there was anything like that going on.”

“What then?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” The Doctor said. “Oh, think! What would be the point of all this? Blackmail, espionage, kidnapping? Getting their pictures in Hello magazine? I JUST don’t KNOW and it’s driving me nuts.”

Meyerson was getting ready to sing. Stella was still hanging close to him. He found her a place right next to the stage.

“He’s going to dedicate the first song to me,” Stella told Wyn and The Doctor. “You’re My Star! – Stella, star, you see.”

“I see,” The Doctor said.

“Stella, be careful,” Wyn told her. “He’s not… Please…” She stopped. She didn’t know what to say right now. “Look, Stella, whatever happens, The Doctor and me… we’re on your side. You know that, don’t you?”

“Yeah, sure,” she answered vaguely and turned to watch Meyerson as he stepped up to the microphone and pouted boyishly at the adoring women in front of him. Wyn turned and went back to The Doctor. She was biting her lip anxiously. So was he.

“She’s ok for now. And HE’S busy. Come on.”

They walked out through the formal garden where quite a few people were doing what couples tended to do in the moonlight on warm summer evenings in nice gardens. Wyn and The Doctor did their best not to disturb them as they slipped through the gate to the lawn where the helicopter had landed. It was still there. There only seemed to be one of the roadies leaning against the front of it in the bored way of people who are told to wait around while exciting things are happening elsewhere. The Doctor got close enough to touch the underside of the helicopter before he was challenged.

“It’s quite all right,” he said. “I’m allowed to be here.” He reached for his psychic paper to back him up.

“I don’t care if you’re the bloody king of Belgium,” the roadie answered him. “Get lost.”

The Doctor looked at his psychic paper and grinned. According to it he WAS the King of the Belgians. One day he ought to find out why a semi-sentient piece of paper had a thing about Belgium, but he didn’t need to wait around and discuss the roadie’s lack of respect to his royal personage. He only needed the briefest contact to plant the listening device that would tell him what was going on inside the helicopter, as well as acting as a homing beacon should he have to follow it later.

“Are you sure the psychic paper didn’t say you were James Bond?” Wyn teased him as they closed the TARDIS door behind them and he bounded towards the console. “This is a bit cloak and dagger.”

“James Bond? Me?” The Doctor laughed. “Nah, I’d rather be a villain. Doctor Kiev. I’d stroke a chicken while laughing maniacally and threatening to infect the world with bird flu!”

“Yeah,” Wyn laughed. “I could just see that. NOT. Meanwhile, back to the serious business.”

Serious indeed, The Doctor thought as he tuned in the frequency and picked up the voices inside the helicopter. The roadie with no respect for the Belgian monarchy was talking to another man whose voice The Doctor recognised as Meyerson’s manager. He had been in the dressing room last night, doing as much talking to the royal party as Meyerson himself but he had not got out of the helicopter with Meyerson and he hadn’t been at the dinner. The Doctor searched his memory and thought the man’s name was McClay.

“Why are we bothering with the extraction tonight? The British royal family have no executive power. There’s nothing the princes know worth collecting.”

“There are five cabinet ministers present at this insipid party,” McClay answered. “And a couple of senior military men. It’s not the big one. We need the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet. But this will do to test the system.”

“I still think we should wait until we’ve got more of the important people in the room. Why not wait till he gets an actual Command Performance at Buckingham Palace? Or why bother with Britain at all. What about The White House?”

“We’ll get to that,” McClay said. “Britain first. Then the other western governments. The information we can extract from the brain patterns will give me POWER.”

“Oh dear, another bloody lunatic who wants to take over the world,” The Doctor said to Wyn. “But what does he mean by extracting… Wyn….?”

“Mistress Wyn has left the TARDIS,” K-9 reported.

“So I see,” The Doctor replied. “Hold the fort. I need to get after her.”

“I do not see a fort, and I have no hands to hold it with,” K-9 answered. The Doctor was too worried about Wyn to think of a smart answer. He raced after her, back to the house. He could hear the music as she wrenched open the French doors from the formal garden. It didn’t quite sound like the stuff on the CD now. It had an insistent drumbeat and a throbbing sound that combined to make the musical equivalent of a migraine headache.

There was another sound, too. Screaming. Just one scream. Stella’s. She was standing by the stage looking at Robin Meyerson and screaming.

And no wonder. Meyerson was standing there, his arms outstretched. His eyes were glowing bright blue and his body was vibrating to the same insistent rhythm. Around the room, so were all the invited guests, including five members of the cabinet and some important military people. But not, The Doctor noted, the princes. They were clearly in some distress, holding their heads to try to block out the sound and struggling to reach the stage through the press of vibrating people whose brain patterns were being extracted into the artificial body of Robin Meyerson. He was almost glowing now as he acted as the local receptor for the brain patterns.

Wyn reached the stage first. The Doctor was surprised how fast she could move in a pencil skirt, and he was PROUD of the way she jumped up on the stage and socked Meyerson in the face with a Gung Fu punch he had taught her YEARS ago. Meyerson swayed for a moment and then fell back like a tree, smashing into one of the amplifiers that was emitting the hypnotic tune.

The victims of the brain extraction all screamed out loud at once and collapsed. The Doctor paused and examined the nearest ones. He was relieved to note that they were alive. The feedback as the amplifier smashed had given them all blackouts akin to minor epileptic fits. They would be extremely ill when they woke up, but a stiff drink and a night’s sleep would see them right.

Stella was still screaming and sobbing and bending over Robin Meyerson.

“He’s DEAD!” she cried. “He’s dead. You killed him.”

“He was never alive,” Wyn responded. “Come on. This is totally wrong. We need to get away from here.”

“Get away from ME!” Stella answered her, pushing her away as she cradled Meyerson’s body.

Suddenly Meyerson jerked awake and reached out. He grabbed Stella by the neck and as he rose to his feet he held her around the shoulders with his other arm, her feet barely touching the ground as he used her as a shield. At the same time, McClay and the roadie appeared at the French door. They were both armed.

“Get back,” McClay ordered The Doctor and Wyn. “Get out of his path. Nobody try anything or he’ll break her neck. That goes for you, as well,” he added as the two princes looked as if they were prepared to take Meyerson on.

“Do what he says,” The Doctor said. “Wyn, come here to me. Your Highnesses, stay where you are. There’s nothing you can do.”

“This is a royal palace,” Harry pointed out. “You can’t seriously think you can get away… Oh….” The prince uttered a very rude word as he remembered the helicopter. Meyerson was at the door, with Stella still clutched in his vice-like grip.

“Doctor!” Wyn protested as Meyerson threw Stella over his shoulder and ran with her. McClay and the roadie followed. “Doctor, stop them….”

“The TARDIS,” he said. “Come on.” He looked at the two princes, the only people still standing. “Sorry about the mess,” was the only thing he could think of to say to them.

They heard the helicopter taking off as they reached the TARDIS. The Doctor didn’t even break his stride as he raced up the gangway to the console. Wyn closed the door behind her and ran to his side.

“We could materialise around the helicopter, couldn’t we?”

“Er… no,” The Doctor answered. “The console room would be sliced to pieces by the rotors, and us with it, more than likely.”

“So what….”

“They’re heading north-westerly,” The Doctor said. “Towards the river Severn. They must be trying to get back to Swansea.”

“We’re following?” Wyn asked in surprise. “The TARDIS can just follow it, like a helicopter?”

“Yes. Come here and hold this down a minute.” Wyn came and took over holding down the switch as The Doctor darted back to the door and opened up both sides. Wyn looked around and saw the helicopter some fifty yards away. Its lights were bright against the night sky. He ran back to the console and took over the control again. Wyn thought the TARDIS had increased speed. It looked like it. They were closing in on the helicopter. She ran to the door and watched as the TARDIS climbed towards it. She could see the figures inside it now. She could see Stella struggling as Meyerson held her.

“Doctor, what ARE we going to do?” she asked, turning back. She could see him searching in the storage space under the floor panel. He took out something that looked like a ray gun. “What’s that?” she asked.

“Something I confiscated from a bad guy a while back,” he said. “I was going to stick it in the trash compactor, but I thought it might come in useful.” He had a ball of string in his hands, too. Wyn watched in amazement as he tied up the TARDIS controls with it and paid several strings out as he came to the door again. The console looked like a puppet under his control. He pulled one string and it rose up a bit more. Another one made it move closer to the helicopter.

“Take these,” he said, giving her the strings in both hands and putting the gun like thing in his pocket. Wyn gave a scream of fright as she saw him jump from the TARDIS to the landing skids of the helicopter. It was not as neat a jump as he would have liked. He clung on by one leg and one arm for several heart stopping moments before he got a better hold. He looked around at Wyn and signalled to her to pull the two left hand strings. As she did so the TARDIS dropped away. She looked down and saw the Severn estuary widening out below. It was dark against the lights of the towns and cities of south Wales and South Western England either side. A deep, navigable estuary with soft, heavily silted bottom. If he fell into that, Time Lord or no Time Lord, he would be lost forever. They would be lucky to find his body.

She looked up. He was trying to pull himself into the helicopter. She saw him struggling with a man, the roadie, she thought it was, who was trying to push him off. She saw somebody fall with a Doppler scream.

“It was not The Doctor,” K-9 reported to her relief.

It wasn’t The Doctor. It was the roadie who fell from the helicopter as it pitched sideways, the pilot, McClay, trying to throw The Doctor off. Instead his own partner in crime had plunged to his death and The Doctor pulled himself into the helicopter.

“Doctor, help me!” Stella cried out as he knelt up and saw her still struggling to escape Meyerson’s grasp. “Doctor… please.…”

“I’m here to help,” he said. “Don’t worry. This won’t hurt you. You’re flesh and blood.” He pulled the localised EMP gun from his pocket. The same weapon had killed his friend, Marius, creator of K-9 and Ric – or the artificial lifeform Marius’s mind had been transferred into. Turning it on another lifeform felt wrong to The Doctor. He had always respected life, even the most extreme definitions of it. Pulling that trigger cost him a part of his soul.

But he pulled it. He had to. For two reasons. One, to stop him from squeezing the life out of Stella, and two, to destroy the secret information stolen from the people back at the house that was stored in Meyerson’s electronic brain.

Meyerson jerked slightly as the beam went straight through Stella’s flesh and blood body and caught him square on. The Electro-Magnetic-pulse fried his brain and short-circuited all of his electronic parts. Stella fell forwards towards The Doctor as Meyerson fell back. He caught her in his arms.

“It’s ok,” he said. “I’ve got you, Stella.”

“Who’s got YOU?” she screamed as the helicopter engines cut out. Too late, The Doctor realised that the beam hadn’t been localised enough. It had killed some of the vital systems that kept the helicopter moving.

“You bloody fool!” McClay screamed as he turned from the pilot’s seat and charged towards him. The Doctor pushed Stella down on the floor and aimed a punch that was not quite as neat as the one Wyn had used. He was a bit out of practice. The healthy exercise K-9 reported that he had been taking in the past couple of decades was more climbing rope ladders and running through forests than martial arts. But it did the job. McClay went down cold.

“But we’re crashing,” Stella pointed out. The rotors had cut out and the helicopter was dropping fast. The Doctor glanced out. They WERE still above the estuary. He stood up, a little shakily. With one arm he embraced Stella firmly. With the other he grabbed McClay’s unconscious form by the trouser belt. He looked again. They were less than fifty feet and falling. He launched them all out into the air as they reached twenty feet.

Stella screamed as they dropped. He let go of McClay and put both arms around her, holding her tightly as they dropped into the water. It was no higher than a high dive into a swimming pool, but the water was freezing and dark and even he was disorientated as they plunged down into the water before beginning to rise up again. As his head broke the surface he saw the helicopter crash into the sea fifty yards or so away from them. He turned around, treading water and saw the blue flashing light of his TARDIS and the glow of the console room light. Wyn was pulling the strings that brought it down to hover a foot above the water. He swam towards the TARDIS door and passed Stella up to her. She was coughing and spluttering and gasping for breath and crying at the same time.

He left her in Wyn’s care as she turned and looked around for McClay. He bumped into his body and grasped it. He swam back to the TARDIS and hauled him in before beginning CPR.

“Stella, shut the door, there’s a good girl,” he said between breaths. “Wyn, can you remember how to get us into temporary orbit?” Stella, still crying from shock and grief and anger, did as he said. Wyn ran to the console. She DID remember and a moment later he felt the change in the sound of the engines - a smoother sound as the TARDIS performed its main function as a space ship rather than the ordinary flying its engines protested about doing. He went on with resuscitating McClay.

“Why didn’t you just let him go down with the helicopter?” Wyn asked him.

“He was alive. I couldn’t just leave him to die,” The Doctor answered. “I’m surprised you had to ask that. You know me. I don’t kill unless I have to.”

“You killed Robin!” Stella cried out hysterically. “With that gun thing.”

“Robin was never ALIVE,” The Doctor answered her. “He was a robot, an android. Artificial lifeform. Whatever word you want to use. He wasn’t flesh and blood. He was a tool in McClay’s insane power game. He planned to use Robin to take over the planet.”

“That’s insane,” Wyn said.

“Yes,” The Doctor replied. “People who want to take over the Earth tend to be insane.” McClay coughed and gagged and The Doctor rolled him over onto his side as he retched up quite a lot of the River Severn. “I’ve met a lot like him. There is a special wing in Broadmoor just for the Human megalomaniacs I’ve put a stop to. And believe me, Mr McClay, that’s a softer option than being tried for Treason, as you would be if I thought for one moment you planned all this with a SANE mind.”

McClay groaned and didn’t even try to struggle as The Doctor used what was left of his ball of twine to bind his hands behind his back. Unlike a lot of the other megalomaniacs, The Doctor noted, this one at least knew when he was beat.

Stella was inconsolable for days. She mourned the death of Robin Meyerson as if he really HAD died in a helicopter crash on the way back from his gig at Highgrove as reported in the press. She more or less convinced herself that was what had happened and stopped blaming The Doctor. She even told him that she was grateful for him saving her life. But her grief over Robin was a real and palpable thing. Her family were as patient with her as they could be. Even Wyn refrained from saying anything cutting to her. Finally, after nearly a week, she actually managed to sit through breakfast dry eyed, without the patterns in the milk of her rice crispies reminding her of Robin and setting off new floods of tears. She seemed to be over the worst. Which was just as well because the morning post brought official letters for The Doctor and for Wyn, telling them that they had been awarded special medals for their actions in preventing McClay’s treasonous plot.

“I don’t think I really want that,” Wyn said, dropping the letter on the table. “It feels nice to be OFFERED, to be recognised. But really, I don’t think I WANT a medal for doing what The Doctor does every day of his life without even a thank you most of the time.”

“Well, not EVERY day,” The Doctor conceded. He, too, dropped the letter on the table. He did, in fact, have a couple of medals, and a knighthood conferred on him by Queen Victoria. But he didn’t count those things of value either.

“I should hope NOT,” Jo answered. “Not if Stella is going to go with you while Cliff and I are away.”

“You’re still going to let her go?” Wyn was surprised. She was sure her mum would have put her foot down after Stella’s traumatic experience.

“I never came to any harm with The Doctor,” Jo admitted. “It was scary sometimes, but he always looked after me. And you were fine, Wyn. Stella.…” Jo paused and looked at her youngest child. She forgot for days at a time that Stella was not really her child, forgot her extraordinary ‘birth’. But now she remembered and smiled. How could she stop Stella going with The Doctor? By rights she belonged with him.

“She’ll phone you every week, without fail,” The Doctor promised. “No matter where or when we are.”

“I’ll make sure she does,” Wyn added. She smiled. Fourteen years ago she thought the year she spent with The Doctor was the most fantastic time of her life, but a one time only chance. Having a SECOND chance was more than she could have hoped for.

The Doctor smiled. He didn’t have to be alone for a year.