The Doctor sighed as he looked up from his desk and saw a girl with her hand raised.

“Yes, Linda,” he said to her.

“Do you have a girlfriend, Doctor Smith?” she asked. Heads that were down over schoolwork shook with suppressed laughter all around the classroom. A few dared to look up to see if he had an answer to the question.

“Does that have any relevance at all to quadratic equations?” was his reply. The girl next to Linda raised her hand. “Yes, Donna?”

“Do you have a BOYfriend, Doctor Smith,” she said and the laughter was much more obvious.

“Do you want a demerit?” he asked her.

“We just wondered why a bloke would want to teach maths in a girls’ boarding school,” she added.

“A question I often ask myself,” he replied. “Seeing as none of you seem to want to LEARN maths. Demerits for both of you, Linda and Donna for giving cheek. That makes three this week for you, Donna. That means you’ll be in detention when Top of The Pops is on.”

Donna didn’t shrug that off so easily. The Doctor thought about the corporal punishments that would have been dealt in English schools even ten or fifteen years before now. He thought of the creative disciplines his own tutors at the Prydonian Academy used to employ on slackers. Nobody in those classes would have been so downright rude to a teacher as Donna and Linda just were. They had more respect for authority than that. But then again he recalled the sort of pain Lord Ellixian inflicted on him for appearing not to be paying attention in Astrophysics. On Earth it would be called cruel and unusual punishment and banned under the Geneva Convention.

In the two weeks that he had been posing as a maths teacher, he had discovered something that surprised him about the nature of punishments. In the spring of 1979, on Earth, in England, putting a fifteen year old girl in detention on Top Of The Pops night was a punishment nearly as terrible as anything Lord Ellixian had ever inflicted on a would-be Time Lord.

He had wondered about that and decided it was nothing to do with the music, some of which he would have regarded AS a punishment to have to listen to. It was about being one of the crowd. Individuality was not encouraged in this school, either by the lessons or the microcosm of a society among the girls. If you didn’t watch the same programmes on TV, listen to the same music, like the same pop stars and movie stars and sports heroes, then you were shunned. If you weren’t in the common room at 7pm on a Thursday night you ran the risk of being one of the shunned ones.

He had hated his years as a student of the Prydonian Academy. He remembered it as a cruel, cold place where he often sought places where he could cry alone, because his ability TO cry marked him out from the crowd in the same way as not knowing what was Number One in the charts marked you out here.

But right now he had fond feelings for the Prydonian Academy compared to Whiteacres Independent School For Girls.

He glanced at Stella, sitting in the back of the class. She was working through the equations written on the blackboard, but she wasn’t happy about it. At seventeen, she had done the fourth year of secondary school before. She was FAR from thrilled about having to do it all again. But “student” was the only undercover role she could play. He and Wyn had got in as maths and science teachers, the two vacancies at the start of this summer term. Jamie had got the easy part. They put her up in the hotel in the nearby village and told her to keep an eye out for UFOs on her wrist gismo while Wyn snuck off in the evenings to spend a few quiet hours with her.

Apart from disciplining silly girls like Linda and Donna he quite enjoyed being a teacher. It had a satisfaction of its own. The two weeks had been pleasant enough. The only thing that marred the experience was knowing that he wasn’t JUST there to prepare teenage girls for the cruel job market out there when their school days ended. The TARDIS had brought him here, tracking some very wrong signals. The sort of wrong that he habitually got involved with. The sort of wrong that could ruin those young lives before they had begun, and even annoying girls like Donna and Linda deserved his protection.

He had at least established that it was nothing like the LAST time he had to pretend to be a teacher! These children were not being turned into super-intelligent Human tools of an alien race who wanted universal domination. They were all more or less average for their age and mostly had as little love for quadratic equations as he did for telekinesis class.

A blonde girl in the front row put up her hand. He steeled himself for more embarrassing silliness. He was relieved to find she was genuinely stuck and called her up to his desk. He went through the mathematical formula with her and slowly she grasped what she was meant to be doing.

“I just don’t get what it’s FOR,” she told him. “WHY do we need to do sums like this? There seems no point to them.”

“Computers do calculations like this in seconds,” The Doctor told her. “Microseconds. And computers are the future. Elaine Crosby, by the time you’re twenty-five you’ll have a computer in your home. Everyone will. By the time your own children are in high school, classrooms like this will be FULL of computers. They’ll start to learn how to use them in junior school. You learn to do quadratic equations so that the Human brain remains the cleverest computer on Earth, no matter what they teach machines to do.”

Elaine looked at him. Her classmates who heard him speaking also looked. Even Linda and Donna. They all had an expression on their faces as if they had just learnt something very important in this double maths period after all.

“That was showing off,” Stella told him when she waited by his desk after class. She was annoyed by the ‘oooh’ noises made by the girl next to her when he had told her to wait, a sound loaded with accusations that she had done something wrong. She had stared at all the girls who walked past her with the studied indifference of a fifteen year old who pretended she didn’t care what they thought of her.

Well, she didn’t. Once The Doctor got to the bottom of all this she could leave the whole lot of them behind. But she would really like to get her own back on Donna Withers first. She hated that girl for more than just her disrespect for The Doctor.

She was still annoyed about the stupid fight last night in the dormitory after lights out. Donna had been talking on and on, telling a stupid, boring story about how the school was haunted because it was built on unhallowed ground where the bodies of unbaptised babies were once buried, hundreds of years ago when they weren’t allowed in the cemetery. All the other girls had been awestruck and frightened but Stella had scoffed at the idea and told Donna she was just getting it from the Poltergeist film. Linda had argued that it was totally true and anyway she had never heard of a film by that name. Stella had argued back and they had both been caught out of bed and shouting at each other and given demerits. Since it was the only one Stella had got this week she escaped detention, but she was still angry with Linda. And she was still angry and a bit embarrassed with herself since she Googled Poltergeist in the TARDIS this lunchtime and found out that Donna WAS right. The film wasn’t made until 1982.

“It’s true, though,” The Doctor said. “These girls are at the beginning of a world that is going to change unrecognisably in the next thirty years. They have no idea.”

“It’s not your job to drop hints, though,” Stella answered as she watched him mark the maths books so fast she thought the pen would set fire to the pages. He paused and looked at hers.

“You never got the hang of quadratic equations either, did you?” he told her.

“Nuts to quadratic equations,” she told him as Wyn came in with a pile of books as her excuse for visiting another teacher.

“So have we found out ANYTHING about what’s going on in this place?” she asked as she dropped the books on The Doctor’s desk. “Except that the headmistress is an alien.”

“She’s a right old BAG,” Stella confirmed. “But really? An alien?

“Yes,” The Doctor added. “I can smell her. I haven’t identified her species yet, but its one with a completely different chemical composition to any of us. Mind you, that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s up to anything sinister. She might just be an alien living in exile on Earth. Happens from time to time. I recall a pair of aliens who lived in a police box in a junk yard in east London…” He smiled wryly and looked at Wyn and Stella, and remembered how much trouble had once come out of two teachers talking in a classroom about one of their students. It was ironic that he was now the teacher.

“Well,” Wyn said. “I just hope we can sort it out soon. Like BEFORE next Thursday. I really don’t want to be on this planet next Thursday.”

“Why? What’s up with it?” Stella asked. “What’s going to happen? An earthquake, tsunami, plane crash…”

“Worse,” The Doctor answered. “It’s the General Election. Landslide for the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher.” He grinned at Wyn’s expression. “Not one of your favourite historical personalities?”

“I’m from a Welsh mining valley,” she replied. “What do you think?”

“Enough said,” The Doctor laughed gently. “Well, I’d better let you go. I’m sure you’ve got a pile of marking to catch up on, Wyn. And Stella I think you have ‘afternoon activities’ in the hall.”

“Oh, do I HAVE to?” she protested. “It’s chess club. And they all got snotty last week because I beat them. Can’t I go and play chess with K9 in the TARDIS. HE isn’t so much of a sore loser. And besides, he’s lonely in there.”

“Yeah, go on,” The Doctor conceded with a wink as she headed to the walk in supply cupboard in the corner of the classroom. “See you at supper.”

“Can we skip THAT, too?” Stella asked. “School dinners were bad enough. But here its school breakfast, dinner AND supper.

“They do a roll call at supper. You’d be missed. And I have to supervise detention after that. A teacher’s work is never done!”

“Mine is,” Wyn said. “It’s my official evening off. I’m going to get changed and then I’m meeting Jamie for an evening in town. Real food, a bit of dancing. Maybe a hotel room that isn’t next door to a bunch of nosy kids. One of the fourth year brats asked me this morning who stayed the night in my room Tuesday night.”

“Would that be Donna Withers?” The Doctor asked. “That girl has some very odd ideas in her head.”

“They ALL have odd ideas in their heads,” Wyn retorted. “And no wonder. It isn’t NATURAL to pack fifty odd girls into a building in the middle of nowhere and load up their days with education and meals and ‘activities’ and ‘prep’ – and by the way, what’s wrong with good old fashioned HOMEWORK? Every minute of every day of their LIVES, is ordered by a time table. They only leave the school premises for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon designated as ‘free time’. And even then they have to sign in and out in groups of no less than three and wear full school uniform at all times.”

“You’re not a fan of boarding schools, then?”

“Are you?”

“Not much,” he admitted. “But only because I went to one from the age of 20 to 180.”

Wyn paused to consider that for a long moment.

“And you consider that you came out of that completely sane?”

“I came out of it with a burning desire to leave my home planet without a backward glance and a fierce determination that I would never live by a time table ever again.”

Then he glanced at the time table on his desk that dictated where he had to be right now and sighed theatrically as he went off to supervise the after tea activities in the assembly hall. Donna Withers gave him the sort of look that could kill on the planet Vaexy Nonus where the people had the ability to transmit concentrated emotions at each other telepathically. He put on his most stern, teacher faces, one modelled on the expression Lord Ellixian, Master of Astrophysics, had whenever he looked at a student. He won the battle of expressions when Donna turned away.

He sat by the stage where the drama group were were practicing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. He looked around. Apart from the gym and ballet classes in their respective specialist rooms, most of the activities were here in the hall. Chess club was in one corner, Science club in another. The Outward Bound group were planning their next hike on a table full of Ordnance Survey maps. The book club were reading passages from John Steinbeck to each other. He reached out and gently and unobtrusively touched their minds and found nothing amiss. They were teenage girls with one half of their mind on their activities and the other on Top of the Pops, make up, clothes and boys. Or in one lonely and worried case, GIRLS.

But no, there was nothing to suggest that the students were being interfered with by any hostile influence such as the TARDIS was still picking up somewhere close to the school.

And the ONLY alien mind other than his own that he could pick up was Miss Celia Vickers, headmistress, who was in the staffroom next to the assembly hall just now, talking to the deputy head about ordinary school administration matters. All perfectly normal. Except that Miss Vickers was NOT Human.

His strongest clue yet about the origins of the Headmistress came quite accidentally at supper. He was sitting beside her at the staff table and when she asked for the pepper he accidentally passed the salt instead. She had poured a liberal amount on before she realised the mistake.

“Oh,” she cried. “Oh, that food is ruined.” She signalled to one of the serving staff who dutifully took away the plate and brought a new meal to her. “I know the waste is terrible,” she told her colleagues around the table. “But I cannot tolerate salt. It makes me quite ill.”

Interesting, The Doctor thought as she tucked into her salt-free meal. That rules out Raxacoricofallapatorians, Krillitanes and Plasmavores. The first always needed copious amounts of salt, and if they didn’t get it with their food, they had to take it separately. The other two species sought out victims who had plenty of salt in their blood and ingested enough for their needs second hand.

Salt intolerant species were another matter entirely. He delved into his memory for species with that peculiarity about them. There was the Miax of M’Ixaia III, of course. Throw salt on a Miax, and the result was exactly the same as doing it to a garden slug, except the suppurating nastiness weighed about twenty-five tons. But the Miax, even with the sort of compression technology the Raxacoricofallapatorians had, couldn’t disguise themselves as Human. Even if they could, they never left their floating rafts on their freshwater swamps.

The only salt intolerant AND humanlike species he could think of off the top of his head were the Mil’es’ians. But they were all over six foot tall, men and women alike, red haired and green eyed, with a code of honour in battle that would make a Samurai feel like an undisciplined slob.

Miss Vickers, a dumpy five foot two in her stockings, didn’t come from THEIR gene pool.

“Doctor Smith,” said the geography teacher, Miss Morgan, who probably COULD have traced her ancestry back to the Mil’es’ians. He realised that she had repeated his name twice already and everyone was looking to him for a comment about the general conversation around the table.

“I’m sorry,” he apologised. “My head was on another planet entirely for a moment, there.”

“Back on Earth,” Miss Morgan answered him with an indulgent smile. “I was wondering about your opinion of streaming within the comprehensive system as opposed to the eleven plus and separate schools based on academic ability.”

“Streaming, absolutely,” he replied. “The idea of pigeonholing a child at the age of eleven as an academic success or failure is abhorrent. There must be flexibility and opportunity for every child to grow and learn.”

“But you, yourself, were a product of selective education, were you not?” replied the art teacher, the only other man on the staff, Mr Porter. “Public school and then Oxbridge, wasn’t it? What college did you graduate from?”

“The Prydonian Academy,” The Doctor answered truthfully. But at the same time he projected a little Power of Suggestion over those listening and what they heard was “St. Cedd’s College, Cambridge.”

Miss Morgan laughed and made a remark about St. Cedd’s being beaten on University Challenge last year by Lancashire Polytechnic and put forward the belief that there was no merit in ivory tower universities. The Doctor thought of the Prydonian Academy, which really WAS a glittering white tower, if not actually made of ivory, and let a new academic argument continue around him. He couldn’t help noticing, though, that Miss Vickers was looking at him with rather more than a passing interest. He wondered if St. Cedd’s meant anything to her. Of course, it was the only Oxbridge College to have employed a Renegade Time Lord. He smiled and thought of Professor Chronotis, a man with an even more complicated background than his own. He remembered that, in 1979, the old man was still at St. Cedds. It was another year before his fourth incarnation had caught up with him there and the universe had convulsed as they fought evil together. But even more so since the death of Gallifrey, crossing into such timelines was not allowed, and he was officially the only Time Lord left in the universe.

But even if she wasn’t from Earth, either, he doubted Miss Vickers knew about The Professor. Perhaps it was just coincidence. Perhaps she was looking at him for another reason. Perhaps he had a coffee moustache from his drink or cabbage in his teeth. Anyway, as soon as she realised he knew she was looking at him she turned away.

But after the meal, after the roll call, when the students were dismissed and the other teachers going their separate ways, she put her hand on his arm and quietly asked if she might have a private word with him.

He followed her into the empty staff room. She closed the door. He felt slightly apprehensive. For a brief moment he imagined he was a student again about to be punished for an infraction. But then her expression changed as she turned and faced him.

“You’re here for me, aren’t you?” she said. “After all this time.”

“I’m sorry?” He was genuinely startled, not only by her words, but the resigned tone with which she said them and the reversal of fortunes. He wasn’t the one expecting punishment. She was.

“The thing about the Prydonian Academy clinched it. I know everyone else heard you say something else. But to me it was clear. You’re a Time Agent, come to take me back.”

“Take you back where?” The Doctor asked. WAS it going to be so easy? Was this really what it was all about?

“To 5023. I ran. I didn’t know what else to do. I took his wallet and his vortex manipulator and I just pressed the button. I didn’t know where it would take me, or when. I ended up here in the 1940s. I was mistaken for a teacher who had come up from London with the evacuees. They gave me a place to live and a job teaching in the school. Ration cards, identity papers… His psychic paper helped me get those. And I stayed here. I made a sort of a life. After the war the school got back on its feet again and I stayed and became head of department, then deputy head, and finally Headmistress. I had stopped looking over my shoulder. Stopped expecting anyone to come after me…”

The Doctor claimed to be a genius with good reason. He put together the story behind her rambling narrative.

“I had a good life here. I suppose I should be grateful. Nearly forty years this school has been my home. My species age a bit more slowly than humans and I changed my date of birth on the records so they didn’t realise I should have retired by now. But….” She sighed and looked at him. His face was impassive but his eyes watched her intently. “I’m not going to make any trouble. Just… do it quickly. Do it now. Don’t let the girls or any of the staff see you arresting me.”

“What was his name?” The Doctor asked. “The Time Agent.”

“Sol Mannis,” she answered. “I told him no. But he was stronger than me and…” She paused. “Why do you need to ask? It must be on your warrant. I killed him…”

The Doctor said nothing. He just put his hand in his jacket pocket and brought out his mobile phone. He speed dialled a number. Miss Celia Vickers, he noted, wasn’t at all surprised by the technology that only belonged about thirty years into the future from 1979. If she was from the FAR future, then what was cutting edge in the Carphone Warehouse New Year Sale of 2009 was an antique by her reckoning. Thirty-five years in a pre-computer age! She deserved points for the effort.

“Jamie, sorry to interrupt your romantic dinner for two,” he said when the call was answered. “But does the name Sol Mannis mean anything to you?” He listened carefully for several minutes as Jamie responded. “Ok, thanks. Have a good evening, both of you.”

He closed the phone and looked at Miss Celia Vickers.

“Sol Mannis, the Time Agent who disgraced the badge twenty years before my friend Jamie joined the Agency. He was spoken of in hushed tones among the rookies. The one who used his power as an Agent to misuse young women. He didn’t die right away from his injuries. He lived long enough to confess to at least three cases. And a dozen more women came forward once he was dead and told their story.”

Miss Vickers looked at The Doctor silently.

“There were no charges laid against you, or anyone,” he continued. “He never named the woman who had fought back and the investigation drew a blank. Even if there had been evidence, it was obviously self-defence, manslaughter at the worst. The statute of limitations is well passed.”

Miss Vickers clutched at the back of a chair. The Doctor pulled it out and gently pushed her down into it.

“You said yourself, you’ve had a good life here. Carry on doing that with a clear conscience. And… twenty odd years from now, I suggest you don’t go and see a film called Thelma and Louise. You might find the plot just a bit too familiar.”

“So… you WEREN’T here for me?” she managed to say.

“No. But, indulge my curiosity. What species ARE you? The salt intolerance was a big clue, but that only narrowed it down to about 5,000 possibilities.”

“Buov'Geyal,” she answered.

“Oh!” The Doctor was surprised. “But they’re not salt intolerant?”

“It’s a birth defect,” Miss Celia Vickers replied. “Happens in one in a thousand of my kind. Just like some people on this planet are diabetic.”

“Ah!” The Doctor smiled and reminded himself he wasn’t as clever as he thought he was. “Still,” he added. “Celia… may I call you that? I think I know you too well for “Miss Vickers” now. Celia, if you’re not the reason I’m here….”

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“Because something is wrong here. Something that may be dangerous to your students. And I was looking the wrong way, because I had convinced myself it was you I should be looking at. And since you’re not, I still have no idea why I’m here. So…” He pulled up a chair and sat opposite her. “I’m supposed to be taking the detention class, but they’ll just have to detain themselves for now. “Celia, tell me, is there anything or anyone around here that worries you, apart from me?”

Celia looked at him and bit her lip thoughtfully for a moment. Then she began to speak. The Doctor listened.


Stella wasn’t remotely interested in Top of The Pops. The bands that were on it were all has-beens by her time. She knew a few of the songs as ‘classics’ and ‘oldies’ but she didn’t care enough about them to sit through the programme in the crowded common room.

She took advantage of the peace and quiet in the dormitory to have an uninterrupted bath with scented bath salts and a cucumber face mask and a hot wax hair treatment. More than ten minutes in the bath without interruption was a luxury she had learnt to cherish since she had been living this dormitory life at Whiteacres.

She enjoyed her bath and enjoyed even more being able to dry her hair without fighting for the hair dryers and a corner of a mirror by the hand-basins. Then she put on her nightdress, dressing gown and slippers and headed downstairs. By now, Top of The Pops would be finishing and the cocoa and biscuits would have been sent up from the kitchens. That was the one part of the day she LOVED. A hot cocoa and biscuits in bed before lights out.


The Doctor walked from the staff room to the form room where he was meant to be supervising the detention. He had a lot to think about after his chat with Celia, and was mulling over the most salient points as he stepped into the room.

He almost didn’t realise anything was wrong at first. Then he looked around at the silent, empty room. Somebody HAD been there recently. There was an apple on one of the desks that was only just starting to go brown and the chairs were askew as if everyone had got up at once and gone out of the room.

He was annoyed, rather than worried. Rebel though he was, blatant walking out of detention just because the teacher wasn’t there was downright rude. He turned on his heel and headed towards the common rooms, determined to hand out double detentions to all the miscreants.


The number one song was playing on the TV as Stella slipped into the common room. Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes, one of the ones she considered ‘classic’ rather than just ‘old’. But she didn’t look at the TV. And she wasn’t the only one. She quickly took in the fact that something unusual was going on. All the girls sitting on the chairs around the room were looking at Miss Morgan, the tall geography teacher. She was in the middle of the room, wearing a long robe of deep red with sinister symbols all over it. She had one hand raised in the air and the other holding out a sort of globe that pulsated with a glowing white light that seemed quite hypnotic. She was chanting something in a low voice, too, and although the TV was louder it was hard not to hear the intonation and be captivated by it.

Hard, but not impossible. Stella turned her head and looked at the TV, forcing her eyes and ears to concentrate on the presenter talking about next week’s show and the credits rolling. She made herself listen to the Top if The Pops theme tune and read every name in the credits as she broke the spell and cleared her mind of the fog that threatened to envelop it.

Miss Morgan started to move towards the window of the common room. It was a floor length one that led out onto the fire escape and down to the playing fields behind the school. She opened it and went outside. The girls all followed her. Stella ran and watched them winding their way down the building, blindly following Miss Morgan. She thought she could see some people already standing on the field in the moonlight. One of them might have been Donna Withers.

She thought of following, then thought against it. She turned and ran out of the common room and collided with The Doctor.

“Miss Morgan is a witch!” she gasped as he steadied her.

“Wiccan,” he answered. “Morgan is a Wiccan name. Also a perfectly normal Welsh name. But used by Wiccans because of its mythological connection with Morgana le Fey.”

“Whatever,” Stella told him. “Anyway, she’s hypnotised all the girls and taken them outside.”

“All right,” The Doctor told her. “Don’t panic. Let’s go quietly and find out what’s going on.” He reached once again for his mobile phone to tell Wyn and Jamie that the thing they were here to stop was happening. He was surprised to find that there was no signal. “She’s very powerful if she can cut off a Universal Roaming signal. I’ll bet none of the ordinary phones work, either. We’re on our own.”

“Ok,” Stella said, accepting that with surprising calm. “As long as you have a plan, I’m ok.”

“I don’t have a plan. This wasn’t what I was expecting. Teachers with zippers in their heads, or bat wings was what I was expecting. And I know how to fight that sort of thing. Aliens, trying to do something funny to Humans I can handle. Wiccan spells, humans doing stuff to humans… It never ceases to amaze me how your race has such a capacity for messing each other up.”

“Ok, then as long as you’re winging it as usual, I’m ok.”

The Doctor grinned and took her hand as they went back to the common room and he looked out at the strange scene on the playing field. The moonlight was enough for his Gallifreyan eyes to see things clearly. “She’s making them perform some kind of ceremony. But we’ll have to get closer.” He stepped through the door and down the iron fire escape, surefooted and calmly until he reached the ground. Stella followed him. He glanced back halfway and realised that she was in a dressing gown and slippers, but it was too late to send her back to change, now, and it was a quite warm night. He caught her hand as they used the shadow of the school building to conceal themselves.

“All the teachers are there, too,” Stella whispered. “Look. There’s Miss Lee and Mrs Grey. And…” All of the students and most of the teachers were standing in a wide ring, silent, their hypnotised eyes unseeing. The only missing one was Miss Vickers, the headmistress. Her non-Human mind must have been impervious to the mesmerism that brought everyone else out here to whatever sinister rite Miss Morgan thought she was performing.

Miss Morgan’s Wiccan activities WERE the only unusual thing that was happening in the school. Miss Vickers had found out only recently that her geography teacher followed such an unusual ‘religion’ but had felt powerless to do anything about it. There WAS nothing in the school rules about it, and she had not openly tried to involve any of the students. And Miss Vickers felt that she was in no position to criticise anyone else when she had so much to hide. But when The Doctor said there was something wrong in the school, she had told him.

Wicca WAS a religion of sorts and in itself it was no harm to anyone. Religion of any sort was fine as long as it wasn’t used as a weapon of oppression against others. As long as all participants were willing. The Doctor’s mind flashed back momentarily to the time when he had to persuade his friend Barbara that even the Human sacrifices of the Aztecs were acceptable as long as it was a WILLING sacrifice.

But whatever was going on here, it was NOT willing. These people were hypnotised into acting against their will. And that was where a religion turned into something else. And that was where he had to put a stop to it.

“What IS she doing, anyway?” Stella asked.

“A ritual for raising the spirits of the dead,” The Doctor answered as he listened to the Latin words of the chant that Miss Morgan was repeating over and over. “For… Oh &@”$%.” His last comment was not Latin and it was never translated by the TARDIS, no matter how long anyone had been soaking up the background radiation. It was a very rude word in Low Gallifreyan that would have made his mother blush, and which was very appropriate right now. “It’s… It’s a rite for raising spirits and infusing them with the spirits of the living. The children… the teachers… are going to be used as hosts for...”

“The dead babies,” Stella gasped. “The school was built on the site where unbaptised babies were buried. That’s what Donna said.”

“No,” The Doctor whispered, almost to himself. “No, that’s not what’s happening here. That would be bad enough. But it’s NOT. I know what it is now. And Miss Morgan has it completely wrong.”

“She looks like she knows what she’s doing,” Stella pointed out.

“But she doesn’t. She’s in over her head. Because she’s NOT raising Human souls. She’s….”

Miss Morgan turned around, pointing, and where she pointed girls stepped forward from the ring and approached the light. They didn’t do so of their own volition, though. They moved as if they were puppets, controlled by invisible strings. Their eyes were open but glazed and unseeing.

Donna Withers was one of them. Four others that The Doctor had tried to teach mathematics to were chosen. None of them seemed to know what was happening to them. Which was a blessing, he thought. They weren’t frightened. They weren’t in pain. They weren’t yet harmed. And if he could put a stop to it now, none of them WOULD be harmed.

“Doctor?” He looked around as his name was called from two places at once by three voices. Wyn and Jamie were running across the field from one direction and Miss Vickers from the other.

“Jamie’s gismos started going crazy,” Wyn explained, slightly out of breath as they reached him. “We figured it was something to do with the school, so we came back…”

“What’s she DOING?” Miss Vickers asked. “What’s she doing to the girls?”

“Nothing, so long as I’ve got breath in my body,” The Doctor answered. “I’m going to stop it. Wyn, do you have your sonic pen? Turn it to setting eight. Jamie, you take mine…” He passed her his sonic screwdriver. “Once I have her attention, start getting this lot woken up out of the trance. Celia, Stella, get everyone back indoors. Start with the adults then they can look after the girls.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to stop her.” He smiled warmly at all his companions and then he stepped between the hypnotised students and moved towards Miss Morgan. At first she didn’t see him. She was too busy chanting and invoking spirits.

“No!” she cried as she turned and saw him. “You won’t stop me. I shall succeed. These girls don’t deserve life. Pampered, lazy brats who care about nothing but worthless pop stars and BOYS. I shall replace their wicked souls with the innocent souls of the dead who have been calling out to me to redeem them. The ones who DESERVE life.”

“They’re not wicked!” The Doctor replied, reaching out and grabbing the nearest girl in the inner circle of five. It was Donna, the one who had given him so much trouble. “She’s a teenager. She hasn’t lived long enough to be wicked. Rude, undisciplined, not much interested in maths. But not wicked. And even if she was, it’s not for YOU to judge her. It’s not for you to say she doesn’t deserve life, to steal it and give it to a creature that has no right to it.”

“Not a creature,” Miss Morgan protested. “A child. A dead child that never got to live. A pure, unsullied soul…”

“No,” The Doctor answered, clinging to Donna and willing her to wake from the trance she was under. He could feel the air around them becoming thick like treacle as the beings he spoke of seeped through the crack in reality her invocation had opened. They were around them now, looking for a way in. He heard the others scream and Donna gasp and convulse as the shades tried to invade her body.

“No, you won’t take this child,” he yelled. “You won’t have any of them.”

By the force of his own will he prevented them taking hold of the girl. But there were four other girls in the inner circle and he could not protect them all. He had to stop Miss Morgan.

“Give her to me,” said Miss Vickers and he turned to see her reaching out her arms towards him.

“Stay back. They’ll get you,” he said.

“They need Human bodies,” she reminded him. “I’m not Human. Let me…” She reached out and took Donna from him. She hugged the girl close to her as she backed away and The Doctor turned to face Miss Morgan. She was standing rigid, now, her body illuminated as if from within as she continued to chant. She was the channel, of course. The creatures were coming through her. They were using her consciousness.

Using her consciousness…. Then the answer was obvious. But he would have to do something he had never done before, something he thought he would never do. And certainly not in front of fifty children.

He would have to hit a woman.

He hit her hard, though not as hard as he could have done. Enough to knock her out cold. He caught her as she dropped and knelt with her. He saw the aura around her fading as her brain activity slowed. And he heard the rage of the creatures occupying the bodies of the four remaining children. He embraced her folded body under his own protectively. He knew he had broken the conduit now. No more of them could cross into this reality. But there were still four girls whose bodies had been taken over by them.

“You’re dying,” he said. “I closed the door too soon. You haven’t completed your possession of these bodies. You don’t have enough strength. You’re dying, and when you’re dead those children will be free and it will be over.”

“Open the conduit,” demanded a rasping, alien voice through the mouth of a fifteen year old girl. “Let us return. Do not let us die.”

“Is that a plea for mercy?” The Doctor asked. “From a creature of the dungeon dimensions who used a foolish, vulnerable woman and a group of innocent children to your own ends. If you’d asked me a hundred years ago, fifty, even five years ago, I might have considered it. But the quality of mercy CAN be stretched. And I’m all out. You’re going to die. And when you’re dead these children and this woman will be free of you.”

“Then we will kill YOU and take her body, and we will re-open the conduit and we will ALL be free.”

“See. I was right. No mercy. And no surrender. Kill me… if you CAN.”

He knew he was going to regret saying that.

The four girls closed in around him, moving puppet-like and involuntarily. Even so it hurt when they kicked him in the kidneys and punched and scratched at him, and as well as those real, physical blows the creatures controlling them pushed into his mind and made him feel even worst agonies. He felt as if his skin was being burned with brands and slashed with knives, his organs scooped out with a spoon. He tried not to scream, he tried to tell himself that most of it WAS just them playing with his head, but it still hurt.

And yet, at the same time, he knew he was winning. Their strength was failing. He began to be able to force them out of his head, and he had only the real, physical blows to withstand.

And then they, too, stopped. The Doctor raised his head and slowly uncurled his body. He lifted Miss Morgan to her feet as she slowly came around. The four girls stared at him with puzzled expressions.

“It’s all right, girls,” he said. “You can go inside again now. Everyone’s going to the assembly hall. There’s cocoa waiting.”

“But what happened, sir?” one of the girls asked. “How did we get here? I remember watching Top of The Pops…”

“Nothing to worry about now. A small problem with the gas heaters. Carbon monoxide. Some of you were overcome. But once we got you out in the fresh air you were as right as rain. Come on, now, lets all get into the warmth and don’t worry. If you’re lucky you might all get to stay up late tonight.”

Carbon Monoxide! It was possibly the lamest excuse since they blamed a gas explosion for the destruction of Ten Downing Street after the Slitheen attack, but the girls accepted it. He half carried Miss Morgan with him to the Assembly Hall where Miss Vickers was already doing a head count. Everyone was present and correct. Nobody was hurt. And apart from Miss Morgan, none of them knew very much about it.

She sat quietly, flanked by Wyn and Jamie as the students drank cocoa and talked excitedly about how they were all somehow knocked unconscious by Carbon Monoxide. A story was growing that Doctor Smith had been instrumental in getting them all outside. Fifty teenage girls were looking at him as if he was their hero, and not just a badly dressed maths teacher. He overheard Donna telling her friends how she had actually come around in his arms while he was carrying her down the fire escape.

“Lying ____,” Stella muttered when she heard that. But The Doctor smiled and told her it didn’t matter. Let her have her fantasy moment. He watched as the girls and most of the staff gradually took themselves off to their beds. Then he turned and looked at Miss Morgan. She looked like she was ready to say something about her actions.

“Twenty years I’ve been a teacher,” she said. “The children get worse and worse. Undisciplined, uninterested in what I’m teaching them. Brats! They don’t deserve to live. The innocent souls…”

“They WEREN’T the souls of dead babies calling out to you,” The Doctor said. “Get that straight from the start. They were creatures from a parallel but thoroughly unpleasant dimension. They’re called Cile. They’re related to another nasty lot called Carrionites. But they’re another story. Both use the power of words to break through from their nightmare world to ours. Once here, Cile need humans to inhabit. And they need foolish humans like you to do their bidding.”


“Incidentally,” The Doctor continued without letting her make any more excuses. “I had Jamie do a bit of research for me while she was kicking her heels in the village. The story about the dead babies is a hoax. There was NEVER any graveyard on the site of this house. It is a myth that was started up by a couple of evacuee kids during the war. They wanted a good reason to go home to London, and figured a haunted school would do it. Instead they created a legend that has been passed down from generation to generation.”

“See,” Stella said, triumphantly. “I was right. And you know something else, Miss Morgan, if you think the girls here are bad, just hope you retire before the 1980s are out. You have NO idea what undisciplined IS yet!”

“Miss Morgan WILL be retiring from teaching,” The Doctor said. “She is going to find herself a career that has nothing to do with children and live a quiet, unobtrusive life. She won’t be invoking any more spirits. Her Wiccan activities will be restricted to a few herbal remedies.

“You’re not going to call the police?”

“This school is going to have enough parents up in arms when they find out about a carbon monoxide incident. I think it can survive that. But a teacher arrested for trying to perform black magic with the students would be tabloid front page stuff. I don’t think anyone deserves that. Miss Morgan, you will pack your bags and leave quietly first thing in the morning. Jamie here will step in as a supply geography teacher and Wyn and I will stay on until you can get three new teachers in, Celia. Stella, don’t worry. We’ll get away before you have to sit your O’levels again. I promise.”

Stella gave him a half scowl and said she would get to bed now. Jamie and Wyn took Miss Morgan to her room. The Doctor told them to stay with her until the morning.

“How can I thank you, Doctor?” Miss Vickers asked as he escorted her to her own room. “You’ve given me peace of mind and you’ve saved my school from… from…” She sighed. “I’ve travelled. I come from a different world, a different time, as do you. but I never knew there were such horrible, horrible things in the universe. My school, the girls… they would only have been the start, wouldn’t they. This whole planet…”

“It didn’t happen. Be thankful for that. As for how to thank me… just… have a fantastic life, Celia. From here on. Have a wonderful, fantastic life, and don’t look back.”


It was double maths with the fourth form again. They were still on quadratic equations. The Doctor saw Donna’s hand raised. He nodded to her.

“Sir, is it true that you’re leaving at the Whitsun holiday?”

“Does this have anything to do with Quadratic equations?” he asked her.

“No, sir, but… I just want to say…” What she wanted to say troubled her for a moment. “Just to say that you’re a great teacher. And… thanks.”

“I’ll be a great teacher if you get those equations right before I go,” he answered.

“We’ll miss you, sir,” said Elaine Crosby.

He looked at Elaine, and Donna and Linda, and the other girls who had given up all pretence of caring about quadratic equations. He saw Stella at the back of the class watching him.

“I’ll miss you all,” he answered. “But I’ve got things to do, places to see. Just…” He tried to think of something he could say to them all, something that wouldn’t sound trite and crass to a group of fifteen year old girls. Something that would stay with them in the years ahead, some of which would be difficult for the Human race generally. There really was only one thing he could think of to say to them.

“Have a fantastic life, all of you,” he said.