For Anneke

The young woman looked around as a strange noise filled the air, accompanied by a wind that blew up from nowhere. She blinked several times as something began to appear out of nowhere and solidify in front of her. A blue box, bigger than an ordinary telephone box, but telephones definitely had something to do with it. As it became more solid, she read the words ‘police public call box’ along the top of the door and figured she was right. But since when did telephone boxes suddenly appear out of thin air?

She looked around. Princes Street Gardens were at one and the same time an oasis of peace – which was what she had sought out this summer evening – and a busy place as tourists, mini-golfers, old folk, teenagers with carrier bags of beer, dossers, lovers, loungers, all made use of the green space bounded by a railway and a main road.

But she seemed to be the only one who realised that something new had just been added to the park’s amenities. Everyone else just carried on as usual.

She stood up and stepped towards the box. She reached out and touched it. It was solid. It seemed to be vibrating slightly, but it was solid.

She looked at the panel next to the door handle and read the words. “Police Telephone. Free For Use Of Public. Advice and Assistance Available Immediately. Officers and Cars Respond to All Calls. Pull To Open.”

Advice and Assistance was just what she needed right now. She pulled the little door and saw an old fashioned telephone inside. She lifted the cup-shaped mouth piece and spoke into it.

“Help me. My business partner has been taken over by an alien.”

There was no answer. The phone didn’t work. How could it? The box had appeared out of nowhere. It couldn’t have been connected to anything. Unless this was the biggest mobile phone in the world.

The door next to the phone opened. A woman looked out.

“The Doctor says come in and have a cup of tea,” she said.


“Come on.” The woman reached out her hand. She reached back. She didn’t understand what was happening. She was half convinced that she had fallen asleep on the bench in the sunshine and was going to wake up in a minute with her handbag stolen.

When she stepped inside the box she was even more certain she was dreaming. But if she was, where did her imagination conjure up this room?

“It’s…. it was a box. How can this…” she stammered.

“It’s relatively transcendental,” answered a thin man in a badly pressed brown pinstripe suit and plimsolls who reached to take her hand. “But don’t worry about that. I never do. Come and sit down on this sofa over here.”

“Who ARE you?” she asked.

“I’m The Doctor. That’s Wyn who invited you in. That’s her sister Stella closing the door. And that’s Jamie, her girlfriend, coming from the kitchen with a tray of tea.” All three women said hello to her and the one with the tray passed her a cup of tea. She tasted it and found it had exactly one level teaspoon of sugar. The amount she had always taken in beverages. She hated sugar substitutes and couldn’t bear tea and coffee unsweetened, but she was conscious of her figure and never over-indulged.

“I’m… I’m Polly,” she said, knowing she had to introduce herself now that they had all done so. “Polly Jackson.”

“Pleased to meet you, Polly,” said The Doctor. Then his face seemed to light up. “Polly? I knew a Polly once. Very pretty girl. Wyn, don’t roll your eyes like that. Her name wasn’t Jackson though. That was her boyfriend’s name. Oh….” He looked at her closely. That was all right. She knew she would pass any close inspection. At twenty-six she had a perfect 10 figure, flawless complexion, her long black hair was fastened back from her face with a navy blue velvet headband. If any man wanted to look at her she had no objection.

Although she wasn’t sure he was appraising her beauty. It seemed more like he was measuring her features and doing some kind of calculation.

“Wait a minute…” he said. “What year is this?”

“2008,” she answered. “You don’t know that? We’ve had five whole months to get used to the year already. And how is somebody who doesn’t even know that going to give ME Advice and Assistance?”

“2008 – and you must be about twenty-six. So you were born in 1982? That would make her about 37. That’s feasible. You must be MY Polly’s daughter. That would explain why you’re wearing a TADIS key.”

“I’m… what….”

“Your mum and dad… Ben and Polly? Your dad was a sailor?”

“Yes,” she answered. “But how… And what’s a… TAR…DIS… key…”

“This is the TARDIS,” The Doctor answered. “My space and time travelling ship. That is a TARDIS key.” He touched the medallion on a chain around her neck. It didn’t look like a key, but the raised geometric cross-cuts on it did, in fact, operate the lock on the TARDIS door before he changed it to what looked like an ordinary Yale key for purely aesthetic reasons. A few, a very few people on this planet still had one of the old keys. People who had once travelled with him.

Or their daughters.

“Mum gave me this ages ago,” she said. “She told me to wear it always, and if I was ever in trouble it would help me. I thought she was being daft. I never really believed in good luck charms, and it’s not exactly the most desirable fashion accessory. But I kept it because it means a lot to mum. And just now I’m in about the worst trouble ever, and I was just sitting there, in the park, and I was holding the… key… if that’s what it really is… and then your box appeared.”

“We were just hanging around in temporal orbit wondering where we might go for a quiet afternoon,” The Doctor said. “And we picked up your distress signal.”

“Are you telling me, that because I touched this… when I was upset… you turn up… like the fairy godmother or… no… what is it… the genie from the lamp.”

The three women with him all giggled. Clearly they didn’t regard him as either a fairy godmother or a genie, but fully intended to make the most of that colourful image at a later time.

“Polly Jackson?” Stella said. “Like the famous fashion designer?”

Wyn rolled her eyes again, knowing her sister’s obsessions with such things. She liked nice clothes that fitted her figure, but generally the ‘famous’ fashion designers only made clothes for other people’s figures so she didn’t pay much attention to that sort of thing.

“Fashion designer, yes,” Polly answered. “But hardly famous. Up and Coming, designer of the future. That’s what one of the Versace people called me last year in Paris. Except…”

“Of course, it’s only 2008,” Stella remarked. “Ten years from now….” She stopped. The Doctor had given her a ‘don’t go there’ look. Fortunately Polly wasn’t listening. She was staring into her empty tea cup as if it might give her the answers to her problems. But they used tea bags on board the TARDIS, so reading the tea leaves wasn’t an option.

“It was all going fine. But now…. Now… I don’t know what to do…”

’That’s where I come in,” The Doctor said. “Though not to give career’s advice. I was thinking more like ‘My business partner has been taken over by an alien.’”

“You heard me?”

“Well, it’s my phone, after all.”

“Oh, yes, it is, isn’t it! So… you can help me?”

“We’re going to try,” he promised. “Tell me a little more…”

“Mal Gerrard,” she said. “He is a wonderful man… or he used to be. I’d been trying to get into the fashion world since I finished design college. But nobody wanted to know. Then I met Mal. He’s got the fashion taste of a prawn. He doesn’t CARE about that sort of thing at all. But he’s a brilliant businessman and he talked his way in where I wouldn’t know where to start. He MADE people sit up and look at what I could do. Now, I’m winning awards and orders are coming in and it should be wonderful. But it’s not. He’s… he’s so different. He’s…. I know the alien thing sounds bonkers. But it’s the only thing that explains why a really nice man has suddenly become a MONSTER who is destroying everything we built up.”

“How about we go and see him? Where exactly do you do business, by the way?”

“We’re doing a photo shoot in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle. He’ll be around there, probably shouting at people.” She sighed and stood as if heading to the door.

“Sit down and finish your tea,” The Doctor told her. “We’ll give you a lift.” He smiled and bounded towards the console as if he was on springs. He pressed what seemed to be random buttons and the time rotor rose and fell just three times before coming to rest again. “There we are,” he said. “Saves walking up all those steps.”

“Walking up the steps is half the point, I think, Doctor,” Wyn told him. “Too late, now, though. Unless, of course you pressed the wrong button and we’re on the wrong planet, now.”

They were on the right planet. Though as they stepped out the door they could have wished they weren’t. The Doctor and his companions listened to the way the angry voice echoed around the castle yard, bouncing off the walls. They noted how many times certain swear words not usually heard on television before the watershed were used and got the general gist of the words in between. Somebody had not been ready with a steam iron on demand.

The Doctor looked around and saw the person doing all the shouting. He was a tall, wiry man in a salmon-pink suit and a purple shirt and tie. He didn’t look like he had enough air in his lungs for the amount of shouting he was doing, but he got it from somewhere. A young woman with a large make up case in her hand was the subject of the tirade.

“If you can’t keep up, you’re no use here. You’re fired. Get out,” he finished at last. The woman dropped the make up case and turned away. She walked across the yard towards the exit.

“Wait a minute,” Polly protested, running towards her. “Wait, Glenda. You’re not fired. He CAN’T fire you.” She turned and looked at her business partner. “What do you think you’re doing, Mal? We’re not employing casual labour here. She’s got a contract.”

“&*%$# contracts,” replied Mal. “Dead wood needs cutting out.”

“You’re not fired, Glenda,” Polly repeated. “Ignore him. Go and get a cup of tea and I’ll sort this out.”

“No,” Glenda replied. “I’m not paid enough to be talked to like that. I’m going. As for the contract… Well, I’m sorry, Miss Jackson. Because I like you, and you don’t deserve the hassle. But I’ll get what I’m owed at an unfair dismissal tribunal against your company.”

And at that she walked away. As Wyn and Jamie caught up with her they heard Polly sigh miserably.

“He certainly got out of the bed on the wrong side,” Wyn observed. “Downright grumpy. But…”

“Who the hell are THEY?” Mal demanded, storming towards then. “We were supposed to have this part of the castle grounds private for the day. It’s costing us a &#$£ fortune to close it off to the public. What are these stragglers doing here?”

“They’re with me,” Polly answered wearily. “Friends of… friends of my mother. I said they could visit. To see us do a fashion shoot.”

“What fashion shoot?” Mal replied. “There’s nobody here capable of doing a fashion shoot. They’re all incompetent. Fire the lot of them. And what the HELL is THAT monstrosity?” He pointed a long finger at the TARDIS. “Get rid of it.”

“I’m not…” Polly began. Then The Doctor stepped forward. He didn’t do anything obvious. He didn’t shine a light in anyone’s eyes or swing a watch or do anything with crystals. He just spoke very calmly and quietly and maintained eye contact until Mal felt as if his own eyes couldn’t turn away even if he wanted to.

“Let’s go and have a quiet chat,” he said. “In my portacabin.” And he put his hand on Mal’s shoulder and steered him towards the TARDIS. He went quietly.

“How did he do that? Mal hasn’t been this quiet for days.”

“He’s The Doctor,” Wyn answered. “He makes people better. But he’s probably right about it costing you money to hire this place, and maybe you’d better get on with the photo shoot? And if it’s all right, I think my sister and my girlfriend would LOVE to watch. I’m not really bothered myself. I think I DO have more fashion sense than a prawn, but I’m not really interested in how it’s done. I’ll go and see if The Doctor’s all right.”

Stella and Jamie were THRILLED to be able to watch the session. Wyn smiled at their enthusiastic faces, Stella most of all. Polly Jackson didn’t sound a very glamorous name next to Christian Dior or Versace or… Wyn ran out of names of fashion designers. But she WAS destined, in a few years, to be Britain’s answer to all those big European names.

And she designed nice dresses. At the TARDIS door, she looked back and saw the models getting into position for the photographers. They were obviously preparing the autumn range of clothes. Plaid was “in” – hence the Edinburgh background. And so were black hooded cloaks. The corporate image of a well known life insurance company forced its way into her mind, but she had to admit it looked good. And she remembered that cloaks DID come into fashion late in 2008. Even her mum had one, and she looked fantastic in it. Stella had worn it much later, when she was old enough to hunt in the attic for ‘retro’ clothes to make her own style with. It was strange to think that it started here, today, in this yard of Edinburgh Castle.

That was living with The Doctor for you, she thought as she pushed open the TARDIS door.

She stepped inside and was astonished to see The Doctor apparently trying to throttle Mal. He had him pinned down on the mesh floor, one of his knees jammed hard against Mal’s chest, stopping him from moving, while he squeezed his neck. He had his sonic screwdriver between his teeth and was muttering something incoherent.

“Doctor!” Wyn shrieked as she ran closer. “You’ll kill him.”

“T‘ag’s t g’g’al i’ea,” The Doctor replied. Wyn translated that as something like ‘That’s the general idea.”


She looked on in horror as Mal succumbed to the pressure on his neck. At once, The Doctor grabbed the sonic screwdriver in his hand and aimed it at a part of the floor a few inches from his victim’s head. There was a flash and a crackle, an animal screech and a pungent smell.

“Ugghh!” Wyn exclaimed as she looked at the dead creature that lay there. it was about a foot long, with a green-grey mottled body, long limbs with clawlike hands and feet and a head with one big staring eye in the middle of it and no other features. “What is…”

The Doctor didn’t answer her. He was too busy reviving Mal, performing a skilful heart massage followed by mouth to mouth resuscitation. She was relieved when Mal coughed and breathed in deeply and then amused when he looked up at The Doctor and pulled him down into some lip activity that had nothing to do with resuscitation.

“Hello, handsome,” Mal said in a soft voice that reminded Wyn of the phrase ‘camp as a row of tents’. “What did I do to deserve you?”

“Sorry, you can’t fancy me, I’m a grandfather,” The Doctor told him. “Welcome back to the land of the living and un-possessed.”

“He was possessed?” Wyn asked. “By that?”

“I was possessed?” The Doctor lifted Mal to his feet and he looked around at his strange surroundings, then down to the floor where the creature still lay, slightly smouldering and smelling worse by the minute. “By THAT?”

The Doctor picked the creature up by one straggling arm and carried it away through the inner door. Wyn heard the trash compactor noisily turning it into its constituent components, then he returned a few moments later without it, and his hands freshly washed.

“How are you feeling now, Mal?” he asked. “Do you think you can tell me all about it?”

He gently steered Mal to the sofa and sat with him, which seemed to be a thrill in itself for him.

“You’ve been feeling unwell for a few weeks,” The Doctor said as Mal struggled to find words to express himself. “A bit tired, a lot of headaches, stiff neck, and irritable with everyone, as if they’re all going out of their way to make problems for you?”

“Yes…” he answered. “But… Worse than that. I felt… What did you do? My head feels so much lighter. I feel as if I’ve been living in a nightmare. That wasn’t me? I would never… I think… I need to…” Mal’s eyes almost crossed as memories crowded in on him. “Ohhh! Did I really… really act like that? I never used such words in my life. My mother would have washed my mouth out with soap. I’ve never…. Oh, I think I’d better go and apologise to a lot of people.”

“You do that,” The Doctor said. “But first I need to find out how you were infected. You’re not a spelunker by any chance, are you?”

“Yes,” he answered. “Do it all the time. I was up at Wemyss caves a month ago. Fascinating place. They’d just opened up a section that had been closed to the public for about a century…”

“New, deep cave, not visited by humans for a long time. That would do it,” The Doctor said. “There would probably only be the one of them. You just happened to have the bad luck of being the one it fastened onto. But it’s over now. Don’t worry about it.”

Mal was relieved. He practically bounded to the door. The Doctor and Wyn watched him on the viewscreen as he ran to where Polly was standing, watching the photographers get the best out of her fashion designs. They saw him put his arms around her waist and kiss her cheek and say something apologetic to her. Then they both turned and looked at the TARDIS. Mal walked back to it. The Doctor and Wyn laughed as he did the usual walking around it slowly and touching it to see if it was real routine. But then he beckoned to one of the photographers and used a lot of wide, sweeping hand waves and gestures to suggest an idea to him. Then he and Polly and the photographer went into a huddle and Stella came running in.

“Doctor,” she said. “Mal says the TARDIS would be a fantastic prop for the shoot. And he says me and Jamie would both make great models and we can be in the pictures. And… can we?”

“See, completely cured. He thought the TARDIS was a monstrosity before!”

“It wouldn’t do any harm, would it, Doctor?” Wyn asked. “After all, the TARDIS on the outside just looks like a slightly unusual antique.”

“Slightly unusual?” The Doctor feigned hurt. “Take no notice, old girl.” He looked at Polly and Mal and smiled. “Yes, tell them it’s ok. And you two have fun dressing up. Wyn and I have some real work to do.”

“Fashion modelling IS real work,” Stella answered. “It’s fabulous work. I wish…”

They didn’t hear her wish. The TARDIS door closed behind her and she was gone. Wyn laughed.

“Putting on clothes and getting your photograph taken! That’s work?” She turned and smiled wryly at The Doctor. “Are you sure she has my DNA?”

“Quite certain,” The Doctor answered. “But her soul is her own. And it’s unique and wonderful. And so is yours. Let her have her fun. If I’m right, we’re all going to be busy later.”

“Why?” Wyn asked. “What WAS that thing? And why did it make him act so…”

“It’s an Elemental,” The Doctor answered as he ducked down under the console and began pulling wires and reconnecting them in what always looked like a completely haphazard way to anyone who watched him. Wyn looked blank. “As in the four elements once believed to be the basic components of everthing – Earth, Fire, Air and Water. That was an Earth Elemental. Paracelsus called them Gnomus, which is a good enough name for them. By the way, can you open up the top of the environmental console and find a row of dipswitches. Reverse every other one of them for me.”

“Gnomus? Like gnomes? Paracelsus… 15th century loony who couldn’t tell science from fantasy?”

“As one scientist to another, that’s a succinct description of him. The man was a menace. He held back REAL science on this planet for at least a generation. And he wouldn’t listen to ANYTHING I told him. Talk about know-it-all.” The Doctor grinned as he stood up and started to take apart another section of the console. For once he himself put a stop to one of his own rambles. “But to get back to Gnomus. Obviously the scientific world dismissed such ideas. And occultism is a minor interest in your modern world. But unfortunately that left the Human race unaware of the danger. Paracelsus accidentally got one thing right. These things do exist. They’re evolutionary cul-de-sacs. Should have been extinct millennia ago, but every so often they break out.”

“They’re not alien?”

“No. Polly was wrong about that bit. They’re from Earth. Literally OF the earth, the soil. But she was right about what it was doing. It had got a tight hold of Mal. It was draining him. He would have got worse and worse until the pressure gave him an aneurism or he wound up sectioned. The only way I could kill the Gnomus was by ‘killing him’ – stopping his heart long enough for it to die, then resuscitating him.”

“That was risky. What if you couldn’t get him back?” The Doctor didn’t answer. But his face told her the answer. If he couldn’t get him back, he would have killed a man, deliberately and with some considerable force. It was something he didn’t want to have to think about. She moved on. “You called it an infection. Does that mean… An infection can be passed on…”

“That’s why we have work to do,” he answered. “Mal may not be the only one. I’m fine tuning the TARDIS to be able to scan for Elementals. Normally it wouldn’t be able to recognise them.”

“Why not?” Wyn asked. The Doctor smiled faintly an again she thought a little and worked it out. “You said they are ‘Of the earth – you mean like – made from earth – soil – that kind of thing. So… so the TARDIS can’t tell them from the soil of the planet. They’re camouflaged.”

“Exactly. But since there was a dead one lying on the console room floor for several minutes the TARDIS now has a chemical analysis of the creature. So a bit of fine tuning and….”

“Yes!” Wyn shared his moment of triumph as they both saw the blips appear on the environmental console indicating the location of the no longer camouflaged Elementals. Then she realised what that meant. “Oh…no. Nearly everyone out there is infected. The only ones not are Mal, and Stella and Jamie. Mal because you cleared him already and Stella and Jamie because we’ve just got here.”

“It’s possible that travelling in the TARDIS gives you all a bit of immunity. But don’t quote me on that.”

“What are we going to do?” Wyn asked. “You can’t strangle ALL of them.”

“Shouldn’t have to. Mal was the carrier of the full grown creature. These are spawnlings. Not mature. They’ve not dug in as far. They’re only a few hours old. Polly… she was a bit fed up and worried. But she wasn’t going off the rails emotionally like Mal. And everyone else out there is fairly even tempered. And they’re in a small, contained group so it should be a relatively easy matter….”

He reached for a dial on the TARDIS console and told Wyn to match his actions on an identical dial on the other side of the console. It looked as if they were both trying to crack a safe.

“What are we doing?” Wyn asked.

“We’re freezing the personal time of everyone in the yard. The humans, anyway. I’ve fine-tuned the temporal resonance to affect only humans. They will be frozen in time, between breaths, between heart-beats, completely unaware that anything is happening. But the Elementals will be panicking because they need the life-force that will be cut off. And we can pick them off.”

“Nobody will be harmed?”

“They won’t even know anything has happened,” The Doctor answered. “It won’t take more than ten minutes. They won’t even notice the passage of time. Human body clocks are so inaccurate. You lose track of time so easily.”

“But not you. Time obeys you.”

“I’m a Time Lord. Of course it does.”

“You’re incredible.” Wyn smiled. “There you are, in that geeky suit and plimsolls and those goggly eyes and your big grin. And you look like… somebody that people would pass in the street without a second glance. But you’re so much more than all of us. You’re….” She laughed. “I’m just glad to know you, Doctor.”

He didn’t say anything. He just smiled and then told her to push the button next to the dial. She looked at the viewscreen and even though she expected what was happening out there it was still a surprise. Everyone was standing still, frozen in the moment, the photographers, models, make up girls, dressers, Mal and Polly.

All except for Stella and Jamie.

“Jamie isn’t Human of course,” Wyn noted. “But…”

“Stella is a time traveller. She’s immune from time freezes. Come on. Get your sonic pen out.”

Wyn reached in her pocket and found he own sonic device. She used it for all kinds of odd jobs, from putting up a shelf in her room to a quick way to heat up a cup of cocoa. And at times like this, it came in for more important jobs.

“Setting XP45,” The Doctor added. “Aim just above their heads.”

They opened the TARDIS door, and caught a frozen model who had been leaning against it. The Doctor propped her against the telephone cupboard and applied the sonic screwdriver to the air just above her head. Stella and Jamie were surprised when a five inch long Elemental became visible, clinging to her immaculate hair. It looked at The Doctor with its one eye and screeched angrily before falling to the ground. A moment later it dissolved before their eyes into an unpleasant smelling muddy mess.

“The immature ones are not so far from the earth they are made of. The sonic pulse dislodges their molecules and turns them back into earth and water – mud in other words. So… Wyn, go to it. Stella, you, too. Set your sonic eye pencil and start zapping these little demons. Jamie, you take my sonic screwdriver and I’ll monitor the situation. We’re lucky, I think. The mature one that got hold of Mal must only have spawned today. We can stop the infection right here.”

It took only ten minutes. The three of them went around everyone in the yard and dislodged the elementals from their heads. The Doctor watched on the screen and was satisfied that the whole of Polly’s fashion modelling crew were free of the menace of Elementals. He came out of the TARDIS and closed the door. He put the model back where she was standing and told Jamie and Stella to get back in position. He and Wyn went and stood beside Polly and Mal. The Doctor looked at his watch and winked. A few moments later the time freeze collapsed and everyone carried on what they were doing without noticing anything was different. Polly was in the middle of a conversation with Mal and carried on mid-sentence. Everyone was perfectly fine.

“Doctor!” Polly turned and saw him there. “Where did you pop up from? I thought you were in the TARDIS.”

“I was. Now I’m here. I’m light on my feet. But how are you? Any headaches or…”

Before she could reply, one of the photographers approached with something The Doctor hadn’t reckoned on.

The Doctor knew about a lot of things. But fashion photography wasn’t one of them. He didn’t know that video as well as still photography was involved. He did now as he looked at the digital video playback that showed everyone in the yard frozen in time, looking like waxworks of themselves, while Jamie, Wyn and Stella ran around pointing what looked like magic wands at their heads before strange looking creatures materialised and then fell to the ground and disintegrated.

“It’s NOT something you’re going to send to You’ve Been Framed,” The Doctor answered.

“Too right!” the video photographer said. “They’d never believe it. I don’t believe it.”

He still didn’t quite believe it when The Doctor explained. But Polly fixed on one salient point.

“Ten minutes is ten minutes with the sun setting and the light going fast. Let’s get back to work. The Doctor can explain it all properly at supper. Mal is taking me for a meal at his favourite restaurant, to say sorry for being a bad tempered misery all week. You and your friends are perfectly welcome to join us, Doctor. We have plenty to talk about.”

“Sounds like a wonderful way to spend the evening. Slap up supper paid for by somebody else. Who could turn that down?”

“Cheapskate!” Wyn teased him. “You’re not part Scottish are you?”

The Doctor didn’t answer that question. He just smiled and looked forward to a pleasant evening with friends. He had mastery over time itself, but he used so little of it just doing simple things like enjoying a meal with people he liked to be with.

And it WAS everything he could have hoped. Polly, of course, wanted to know about how exactly her mother and father had known The Doctor, and he told them all about the adventures he shared with Ben and Polly. Young Polly was astonished to know what her parents did before she was born. Wyn and Stella were surprised she knew so little about it. THEIR mum had always told them stories about The Doctor.

“Daleks?” Polly said with wide eyes at possibly the most terrifying story ever to be heard over after dinner coffee. “They sound terrifying.”

“They are,” The Doctor answered. “But they’re gone now. Every last one of them. Nobody need fear them ever again. I promise you that.”

“We don’t need to fear… what did you call them? Elementals… either,” Mal said. “Thanks to you, Doc.”

“All in a day’s work,” The Doctor answered. “But don’t call me Doc.”

“Sorry, Doctor!” Mal answered with a grin and a suggestive wink that made The Doctor look away, blushing.

“It’s good to have you back, Mal,” Polly said. “The real you.”

“Nice to be back. I wish there was a way of making up for all the bad stuff. Especially… Oh dear, young Glenda… How can I make it right with her? I hope she’ll forgive me.”

“Oh…” Wyn remembered. “Glenda… Is that the girl who said she was going to sue for wrongful dismissal. DOCTOR! She had already left when you found the Elementals. We forgot about her. What if she was infected, too?”

“Ohhhh!” The Doctor groaned. “Oh, I am an idiot! I am a total, blundering idiot!”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” Wyn answered. “Anyway, her address must be in Polly’s employee records. Can’t we just go and visit her?”

“It’s not as easy as that,” he replied. “If she is infected, then the problem isn’t contained as I thought. She’s been out in the city for hours. Everyone she might have bumped into in the street… If she went to a pub or a café to drown her sorrows… everyone she has had PHYSICAL contact with in any way… and anyone THEY have contact with…”

“It’s a good job I didn’t have any physical contact with anyone in the park,” Polly said. “But I thought you said that Mal’s one was mature. How come the immature ones can also spawn?”

“They’re born in air and have people to infect and feed on right away. Think how emotional Glenda was… feeding frenzy for the creature. It would have spawned by now.”

As one their eyes turned to the street outside the restaurant. A police van came to a halt, its blue light flashing but the siren inaudible through the double glazed window. The police officers broke up a fight between several people and hauled the most persistent into the van.

“Well, that’s just a warm summer night on Princes Street,” Polly pointed out. “It has nothing to do with... it can’t… surely?”

“Not yet,” The Doctor answered. “But if this went unchecked, in a week or so that sort of thing would be happening everywhere. I’ve got to…”

He stood up and headed for the restaurant door. His companions stood to follow him.

“What’s he going to do?” Polly asked.

“I don’t know,” Wyn answered. “But whatever it is, we’re going to help him.”

“Hang on,” Mal said. “Let me get the bill, and we’ll join you. We owe The Doctor that much, I think.”

“You’d best hurry, then,” Wyn said. “The Doctor doesn’t look like he plans to wait for anyone.”

The Doctor wasn’t waiting. He ran out of the restaurant and dodged around another street brawl that the police were trying to deal with. He was worried. It was perfectly true that any high street in Britain had these sort of problems after sundown, but it wasn’t even all that late. Not even close to the close of the pubs and clubs when such problems might arise. In the pit of his stomach as he ran to where he had parked the TARDIS he had a horrible, dreadful feeling it was his fault.

“Don’t let anyone DIE!” he whispered. He was a Time Lord. He didn’t have any gods he prayed to. But if he had, he would have addressed that plea to that deity. As it was, he just hoped.

“Doctor, hang on!” yelled Jamie, catching up with him before anyone else. He was at the TARDIS door and looked almost surprised to see anyone else there. “Doctor… wait for us. We’ll help. I’m not sure how, but we’ll help. You don’t have to do this alone.”

“Thanks,” he said and held the door as Wyn and Stella caught up, and Polly and Mal came after them. When everyone was inside he slammed the door shut and ran to the console.

“Wyn, Jamie, Stella,” he said, and gave them instructions. Wyn took the environmental control as The Doctor dematerialised the TARDIS and, to her surprise, rematerialised in the air above Edinburgh. The viewscreen showed the lights of the city from the sort of height a helicopter might hover at. On the screen in front of her was a schematic which she didn’t understand at first when she looked at it. then she began to understand. The patches of pale blue represented humans in the city. The green ones were Elementals.

There were a lot of them, all within one small part of the city centre. It seemed as if Glenda had gone for a drink like The Doctor suggested.


“I know,” he said glumly. “Glenda’s elemental has started to infect people already.”

“How come?” Wyn asked. “Mal’s took weeks to mature.”

“They thrive on emotions. Glenda was very angry and upset. Hers must have matured enough to start spawning already. I don’t know… Elementals are rare. I don’t know a lot about them… And… I don’t know how to stop this.”

They all looked at him, old friends and new. His old friends were astonished to hear him say he didn’t know how to do something. That in itself was unusual. His new ones clutched hands in despair.

“Everyone in the city could end up like I was? Or worse?” Mal said.

“Beyond the city,” Stella pointed out. “There are buses and trains, a motorway…”

“There’s an airport…”

“That at least we don’t have to worry about. Earth elementals can’t survive at altitude. Anyone travelling by plane will be cleansed automatically.”

“Can’t you do what you did before?” Polly asked. “Only… I don’t know… widening the field?”

“No,” The Doctor answered. “I daren’t risk that on this scale. I could see all you lot. I knew you weren’t going to come to any harm. But I can’t freeze time on a whole city… people driving cars, cooking, lighting fires, operating machinery…” He didn’t have to go on. They all managed to imagine the possible scenarios.

“So far I don’t think we’ve got any fatalities. I want to keep it that way. But I don’t… unless… No… that wouldn’t work. Or… No…. No… Think, think…”

He moved around the TARDIS console like a man possessed, looking at different readouts and sensors and pressing buttons.

“Can’t the TARDIS broadcast the sonic wave we used to kill them?”

“Not while they’re still ‘attached’ to humans. We have to get them to let go first. It would cause them irreparable brain damage.”

“Doctor…” Polly said. “Before… you froze us in time… and the creatures had to let go…”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “But I can’t do that.”

“What if you freeze the creatures…” she suggested. “If you could do it before to Humans… can’t you adjust something… one of those knobs or switches… to make it freeze those horrible things. What would happen if….”

“The Humans they’re attached to would move on and they’d be stuck, wouldn’t they?” Stella said. “It would break their ‘connection’?”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered her. “Yes, it would. It might make them visible to Humans for a few seconds but we’ll just have to live with that. Wyn, grab that switch. Stella, you take the environmental console. Jamie, you’re monitoring air traffic control. Look out for police helicopters or light aircraft in case we’re in their flight path.”

“What can we do?” Polly asked. “What did my mum do when she travelled with you?”

The Doctor thought about the answer to that question. Polly made a lot of tea and sandwiches in her time on board the TARDIS. But he didn’t want either right now, and he knew better these days than to assign domestic roles to women!

“Just… both of you cross your fingers and toes and think really positive thoughts,” he answered. “Pray if you do that. We need all the help we can get.”

The time rotor dimmed and brightened as The Doctor pulled several levers at once and then slowly turned the dial, matched by Wyn, as they had done before.

“Polly, stop crossing your fingers and come and press a button for me, please,” he said. “I need to keep both hands on these levers and my foot doesn’t reach.”

She went to his side and pressed the button he indicated. Stella gave a cry of excitement and reported that the Elementals WERE being wiped out. They had broken the connection between them and the Humans with the time freeze and now they were being killed off by the sonic pulse broadcast across the whole city. She reported the figures out loud as the census of Elementals went down rapidly.

“We’ve cleaned the city,” The Doctor said triumphantly. But just let me widen the field. Just in case anyone infected already got on a long distance bus or train.

He pushed a lever forward and there was a slight sensation of the TARDIS rising up, while the viewscreen showed an increasingly wider aerial view of Scotland, northern Britain and then the whole British Isles.

“Oh no, there’s still ONE,” Stella reported as the counter jumped back up from zero. “Doctor, there’s one left, one we missed. It’s moving…”

The Doctor pulled the lever back and homed in on the blip. The night view of Edinburgh and its environs came into close view again.

Mal stepped close to Stella and traced the movement.

“It’s going west, at about fifty miles an hour. I’m thinking a car on the M8.”

“Ok,” The Doctor answered him. “Jamie, any air traffic in between us and the M8?”

“No, Doctor. But there IS a police traffic helicopter over the motorway near a place called Livingston. Whatever you’re going to do, you want to do it before then.”

“I’ll do it,” he said. Everyone looked up at the viewscreen as The Doctor piloted the TARDIS like a helicopter, flying across the city towards the motorway. He homed in on the car that was speeding away from Edinburgh with the last Elemental still holding onto a Human host. He was catching up to it fast.

“It’s a Fiat Panda,” Jamie reported. “One occupant. Just the driver. Nobody else affected.”

“Fiat Panda?” Polly repeated. “Glenda drives one of those. Could it be…”

“Yes, it might well be,” The Doctor answered. “That’s a strong life-force reading from the creature. She must have been one of the first infected. It’s got a firm hold on her. That’s probably why she was so angry with you, Polly. Her mood was already being strongly affected by the Elemental when she had the bust up with Mal.” He turned to Jamie. “What’s the traffic like around her?”

“It’s clear,” Jamie reported. “Both sides. The eastern carriageway is jammed up around Livingston. There’s some kind of accident with a lorry. That’s why the helicopter. But she’s clear at the moment. Why? What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to do the TARDIS equivalent of a rolling road block,” he answered. “Keep an eye on that helicopter. I don’t want it getting involved.”

Wyn helped him to manoeuvre the TARDIS. The others watched in astonishment as the police box slipped in front of the Fiat Panda, matching it for speed at first, then gradually slowing, forcing the car to slow down to avoid crashing into it. If she tried to overtake, they would be in trouble. But she didn’t. She slowed. Perhaps it was the fact that the box said POLICE on it. She might have thought it was some kind of new style of traffic calming system. But slowly, safely, the car slowed and pulled up onto the hard shoulder. As soon as it was stopped The Doctor froze the personal time of the car driver and ran for the door.

It WAS Glenda. She was frozen with her one hand reaching to her handbag to find her driving licence, perhaps, clearly expecting to talk to a policeman of some sort. The Doctor aimed his sonic screwdriver above her head. The Elemental became visible. He grasped it by the neck as it screeched at him and threw it down on the ground outside the car. It began to disintegrate into the same foul-smelling mess as the others had done.

He could have left quietly. Time would have snapped back again for Glenda in a few minutes. She wouldn’t have known anything about it.

He waited. Time snapped back. Glenda looked around at the stranger standing by her open car door.

“Don’t be scared,” he said in a calm voice. And she WASN’T scared. She should have been. She knew about car jackings and all sorts of strange things. But she felt quite certain that this man wasn’t going to do her any harm. He reached out his hand to her and she unfastened her seatbelt and climbed out. She walked with him to the strange box that had FLOWN in front of her car. “Don’t worry about what this looks like inside,” The Doctor told her. “But I owe you an explanation and there’s a couple of people who really need to talk to you. One who needs to apologise to you, big time. And… I hope you will feel like forgiving him now.”

Glenda was appropriately stunned by what the TARDIS looked like inside. She let herself be guided to a seat where Wyn brought her a cup of tea and The Doctor quickly explained why he had to stop her car on the motorway, and why Mal had not meant any of the dreadful things he had said to her. Mal apologised. Glenda burst into tears. Mal burst into tears. They hugged. The Doctor smiled. Job done.

“Doctor,” Jamie warned him. “That traffic helicopter is on its way. Do you want me to turn up the perception filter so that it doesn’t notice the TARDIS or Glenda’s car.”

“Good idea,” he answered. “I think we’re going to need a bit more therapeutic tea before Glenda is ready to get back to her journey.”

“I’ll make it,” Polly said. “If you can tell me where the kitchen is.”

“I’LL make it,” The Doctor told her. “You’re my guest. Talk to Stella about fashion. She’s DYING to have a good old chat with you.”

Polly smoothed the collar of his suit jacket and smiled. “I would have thought you needed a chat about fashion much more.”