The TARDIS was behaving strangely. The Doctor wasn’t happy about it at all. His companions watched his face and recognised something that very nearly might be panic in his expression. He pressed buttons, pulled levers and wound things frenetically as he circled the console glancing anxiously at the Time Rotor.

“What is it, Doctor?” Wyn asked him.

“It’s the guidance systems,” he answered. “The bit that stops us bumping into other things as we travel in the vortex. I’m having to slow her right down in case of any sort of space debris.”

“I thought the TARDIS was impregnable?” Jamie queried.

“It IS,” The Doctor replied. “But the vortex is the temporal equivalent of a formula one race track. Even a tiny bit of rubbish on the track can have disastrous consequences. We could deflect a piece of debris out of the vortex and into a newly developing planet and halt its development or WE could get deflected out into the heart of a sun…”

“Or on the bright side, we could end up spending two weeks somewhere sunny with little drinks with umbrellas?” Wyn suggested hopefully. The Doctor flashed her a smile. “Yeah, I know, sods law. It would be a desert asteroid a million light years from a cocktail cherry.”

“Can you fix it?” Stella dared to ask. “Doctor, what are you going to do?”

“I’m not going to panic,” he answered. “And don’t you panic, either. I’m in control. It’s just a mechanical problem. I felt something go ‘clunk’ under the navigation panel. It’s just…”

He yelped as an electrical current arced all the way up his arm making it look like an x-ray for a stunned second or two. Then everyone yelped and grabbed whatever or whoever was closest as the TARDIS dropped out of the vortex with the downward sensation of a falling lift. Wyn tried not to think of the scene from an old 1970s disaster film where they showed a glass covered in splattered blood to demonstrate what happened at the bottom of the lift shaft. She failed. Every time the TARDIS did that she got that same image in her head.

But they didn’t splatter. They stopped suddenly, but without any injury more serious than a painfully jarred funny bone. Wyn nursed her elbow as The Doctor scanned the area of space they were in.

“It’s ok,” he said. “There’s a space station. We’ll hop aboard and see if I can scrounge some spare parts.”

“A space station with TARDIS spare parts?” Jamie queried.

“No,” The Doctor admitted. “Apart from a few very specialist bits that ought to be indestructible, the console is mostly built from generic parts, these days. She’s had a few repairs over the years.”

“Yeah, you’ve got an account at Maplins,” Wyn kidded him.

“This is a very strange place to find a space station,” Jamie commented. “Usually they orbit planets or asteroids. Or at least, the outer marker of a solar system. But we’re in deep space, at least a hundred light years from anywhere.”

“It’s a beacon station,” The Doctor answered as he initiated their materialisation. “Have you never heard of them?”

Jamie shook his head. Despite coming from Haollstrom and travelling around a good bit before settling down on Earth he hadn’t done much deep space travel. Mostly the well-known freight routes.

“It’s like a lighthouse in space. They’re always very well equipped, well stocked. We’ll be ok. As long as they don’t mind us dropping in unexpectedly.”

The TARDIS materialised in what looked like a storage cupboard. The Doctor stepped out first, followed by the others. K9 hovered by his side.

“This is odd, Doctor,” Jamie said, looking at his wristlet. “I mean, a beacon station… sounds like a place that wouldn’t have a huge crew. Not sure I’d fancy the life. But I’m not reading any lifeforms at all.”

“That’s not good,” The Doctor answered him. “There should be a skeleton staff at any rate.”

They stepped through the door into what was obviously a crew lounge and mess hall and The Doctor immediately regretted using the phrase “Skeleton staff.”

“How long do you think they’ve been dead?” Wyn asked as she and Stella stood back near the TARDIS and looked at the terrible scene from there. The Doctor and Jamie stepped closer and examined one of the bodies. It wasn’t a skeleton of course. But it was dead. Rigor had set in and the body was cold despite the room being at an ambient temperature. It was a female of the species, still wearing a brown all in one lycra uniform of the one size fits all, unisex sort.

“I make it no more than fifteen hours,” Jamie said, looking at his wristlet. “Doctor…”

“The same,” he replied examining his sonic screwdriver. He looked at Jamie, then turned to look at Wyn and Stella. He bit his lip thoughtfully. There couldn’t be any radiation or any kind of viral or bacterial contamination, or the TARDIS would not have opened its doors to let them out.

Unless that part of the console was faulty as well as the guidance systems that had been playing up in the vortex?

“I should have checked. Before we left the TARDIS,” The Doctor said. His memory swirled and dug up a long buried memory of the first time he set foot on the planet Skaro. Ten seconds more attention to the radiation monitor would have saved them all a lot of distress. Had he made the same mistake?

He turned the sonic screwdriver on Jamie and examined him for any kind of contamination. The only thing it registered was the usual over-abundance of pheromones that made standing in close proximity to a Haollstromnian an interesting experience.

Jamie did the same to him.

“We’re not affected by whatever it was,” he concluded at last. “But what happened here?”

“Everyone died,” Jamie replied, even though it was a rhetorical question. “They died suddenly. They didn’t even have chance to stand up from their chairs.

“Yes.” The Doctor breathed in deeply and made a close examination of another body, lying across a sofa as if relaxing. There was a large video screen and a coffee table. The table had a bowl on it that contained fruit. A cup was half full of something like coffee.

There had been no crisis, no alert. They literally had not known what hit them.

He studied the body with an eye practiced in observing species other than his own. She was humanoid, though probably not Human. She was about five foot tall, smaller than an average Human woman. He looked at another body, male this time, and reckoned he was about an inch taller. They were a small race, wiry body frames with arms very slightly longer than Human by proportion. None of them had any hair, neither on their scalp nor eyelashes or eyebrows. Their skin was a mottled pale blue and pink.

That narrowed it down to maybe a dozen humanoid races. He would know more when he looked at their computer records.

“If there’s no airborne contamination,” he said. “Then it could be in the food or drink. Nobody touch anything like that.”

“The thought of eating something that belonged to these people…” Wyn responded.

“I know, but I thought I should say it,” The Doctor told her.

“I still get no lifesigns,” Jamie added, looking at his wristlet again. “But I am picking up organic matter… bodies… in other parts of the station. This place is one huge morgue!”

The Doctor nodded sadly.

“Can we get the parts you need and leave?” Stella asked. “It’s horrible here. Let’s just get away.”

“We can get the parts,” The Doctor answered. “But no, we’re not going anywhere. We owe it to these people to do what’s right by them. We’re responsible for them.”

“I knew you’d say that,” Wyn told him. “What do you want us to do?”

The Doctor told them to wait a minute. He disappeared into the TARDIS and emerged exactly a minute later with a piece of paper. A list of the parts he needed to mend the TARDIS’s guidance system according to the diagnostic he had run. It was in neat copperplate handwriting, Wyn noted as he gave it to her. The Doctor didn’t do rough notes!

“Wyn, you and Stella go to the engineering stores. It’s marked on a plan of the station over by the door. Jamie and I are going to make these bodies decent. We’ll take them all to the transporter bay. That’s ALSO marked on the plan. Meet us there in an hour.”

Stella was relieved she didn’t have to have anything to do with the bodies. She went with Wyn to do The Doctor’s errand. Jamie looked at The Doctor once they were alone.

“You’re no stranger to death?” he said.

“Nor you?”

“I’ve… seen worse. The massacre at K-Si-Lo?”

“I’ve heard of it,” The Doctor answered. Jamie probably didn’t need reminding of what was said about that tragedy. That the agents who went in there could smell the blood from five hundred yards away. “Come on. We have a job to do here.”

They did the job quietly and efficiently. Jamie scanned each body with his ‘gismo’ which recorded what information it was possible to glean. He also scanned the biometric tags each one of them had on their wrist, that told him who they were in life. They carried the bodies, one by one, to the teleport bay. When they had done that for all of the bodies in the lounge, they sought out the other signs of organic matter in other rooms. They worked efficiently, professionally, but both had tears in their eyes. Efficiency and professionalism didn’t exclude compassion and empathy.

“This one’s different,” Jamie said as they opened the door to what the floor plan said was the medical room. “I’m not sure how it just feels different…”

“Because this man didn’t die the same way as the others,” The Doctor answered him as he knelt and looked at the body on the floor. It was dressed in a white lab coat and there was a surgical knife sticking in his heart. Deep red blood, darker than Human, much darker than his own, had bled from the wound very quickly. He died as quickly as the others but in a different way. The Doctor took in the position of the body, the hands clutching the knife, and drew a conclusion.

“He killed himself.”

“I think so,” Jamie answered. “Look.” He pointed to the desk next to the body. A message had been scratched into it with a knife. It was written in the native language of the dead man, but both of them could read it. The Doctor had learnt the language as one of the five billion he was fluent in. The TARDIS’s low level effect on Jamie’s mind allowed him to translate written or spoken languages instantly.

“It was my fault. File 78FO65.”

“I’ll deal with that, later,” The Doctor said. “First things first.” He looked at the face of the dead man. Blue eyes with pink rather than white stared sightlessly until he passed his hand over and closed them.

“I know what species you are now,” he whispered. “And I know what I have to do.”


It was a bit more than an hour before Wyn and Stella made it to the Transporter Bay. The Doctor didn’t take into account their ability to get lost on a space station with identical looking corridors on each floor.

When they did find it, they saw that The Doctor and Jamie had brought all of the bodies into the bay and they had wrapped them in tightly bound shrouds made of sheets and tablecloths. They had arranged them in groups. Wyn looked and gasped sadly.

They were family groups.

“We found the children’s dormitory,” Jamie said, swallowing hard as he reached for his lover’s hand and found it willingly given. “This must have happened late at night after they were all in bed. They…”

He couldn’t continue. Wyn looked at The Doctor. His eyes were red-rimmed but he was controlling his emotions now.

“They’re Callitians,” he said. “A deeply spiritual race. They had a special form of words for burying their dead.”

None of his companions found that surprising. All organic races had burial customs. What surprised them was that The Doctor knew the form of words for the Callitian burial service. He spoke them solemnly and then he recited all of the 38 names of the dead who lay before them and pronounced the blessing of their deity on their souls. Then he stepped up to the transporter control. A bright light enveloped the bodies and then they disappeared.

“Where have they gone?” Stella asked.

“Nowhere,” The Doctor answered. “I set the transporter to dematerialise them, but I intercepted their patterns, prevented them from being reassembled. Their molecules are scattered across space. Stardust.”

“They can’t be hurt any more,” Stella said.

“Nothing can hurt them.” The Doctor stood quietly for a long moment, looking at the empty space where they had all lain. Then he turned to his friends.

“Now we have to find out why this happened. Jamie, I want you to check that file in the medical centre. Wyn… will you please look at any internal security camera recordings. They must have them. See if there are any clues to what happened. Stella, you come with me to the TARDIS and help me with the repairs.”

“Me?” Stella was astonished. “Repairs? Tools and stuff?” She held up her well manicured hands. “Do I look like a tool girl?”

“You look like a girl I can trust to do as I ask,” The Doctor answered. “Come on.”

Stella looked at The Doctor. He said nothing more as he turned and walked away. She sighed loudly and theatrically and then followed him. Wyn and Jamie went to perform their own assignments.


“Y ou don’t really need my help, do you?” Stella asked as she knelt by the big toolbox and passed him variously shaped metal objects with mysterious names like thermic lance, neutron lance, rotary helix clamp… all of which looked like ordinary DIY tools as far as her limited knowledge of such things went.

“Yes, I do,” The Doctor replied from underneath the console. “I can’t reach the toolbox from here.”

“You could put it closer. You don’t need me. You just wanted to keep me away from seeing anything really nasty.”

The Doctor said nothing.

“I’m right aren’t I? But I‘ve already seen loads of icky stuff. Those bodies with the brains sucked out, the slug people… And I saw the bodies here already. It wasn’t nice, but I can cope with it.”

“I don’t want things like that… people with their brains sucked out… to become commonplace for you, Stella. You shouldn’t be USED to that sort of thing. You’re seventeen…”

“I’m eighteen in a month,” she answered. That’s the same age Wyn was when she came with you. and mum was only a year older. And SHE saw the insides of a Dalek. Did you worry so much about them or is it just me? Do you think I’m just a fragile girl who can’t cope? Just because I do my hair and nails and I like nice clothes doesn’t mean I’m just a silly bimbo. I’m as good as Wyn is.”

The Doctor pushed himself out from under the console and sat up. He looked at her closely. She was a pretty girl with her hair shining and her face carefully cleansed and moisturised and lightly made up with lip gloss and eyeliner. She looked a lot like her mum. He was reminded of that every time he looked at her.

“You are as good as Wyn is. Don’t ever think otherwise. You’re fantastic, Stella. You both are.” He paused and looked at her. “Are you really eighteen in a month?”

“Wyn said you’d forget. She said eighteen isn’t anything special where you come from. A hundred and eighty is the special birthday.”

“Yes, it is. But it’s not that. I’m just terrible at dates. You’d think, being a Time Lord, I’d be good at remembering things like that. But I’m not. Nearly eight hundred years of not living life one day after another. But your birthday IS special. So remind me again nearer the time. You deserve a big celebration.”

“Ok,” she said. “And I’ll expect a mega present. But don’t change the subject, Doctor. You don’t have to protect me. I can handle it. Just like Wyn or mum, or any other girl you ever had travelling with you.”

“You’re better than your mum. She wouldn’t know a thermic lance from a temporal spanner, and she’d probably drop it, anyway.”

She laughed. He reached out his arms to her. She let him hug her. He closed his eyes and held her close. He remembered her unusual ‘birth’ by a method that he usually despised as a soulless abuse of the miracle of life. She had been the exception. He knew that the first time he held her. He had felt her soul and he had loved her. He had briefly thought of keeping her. He had thought about raising her as his own child, travelling with him in the TARDIS. He thought of teaching her all she needed to know, loving her, watching her grow to womanhood. And in the same brief moment that he considered the joy that life would bring, he thought of a million reasons why it wouldn’t work. She would be lonely, just as his granddaughter had been lonely all those years ago. She would, one day, ask who she was, why she didn’t have a mother, why she wasn’t the same as the man who called himself her father. Sooner or later, she would fall in love with another man and leave him, as Susan had left him, as Vicki, Jo, Leela, his other Susan, had all done. And his hearts could only take that so many times. So he had given her to Jo and Cliff to love and nurture instead. But it didn’t stop him loving her as if she was his own child, and he did want to protect her from all harm.

He especially wanted to protect her from what Wyn and Jamie were going to find out here on this death station.


Wyn sat at the security officer’s desk and watched the CCTV playback from a day ago when everyone was alive on the station. She saw that the people working there, the short, pale blue and pink, hairless people, were a happy, close-knit community. They were, essentially, a big family. The station commander, a man called Nojik, had two wives and five of the children were his. The chief engineer had only one wife, but she had borne him three children. Seven other children belonged to other couples who lived and worked on the station. The second wife of the commander, whose name was Lara, ran a school for them in the mornings. Wyn watched the children, aged from three to twelve, if Earth ages meant anything, learning their different lessons under her patient guidance. She switched between dozens of other cameras and saw other work going on. Different parts of the station were being used for experimental work. A huge hydroponics project was based on one level, growing plants for food and for enjoyment, too, judging by the abundance of bright and obviously sweet smelling flowers growing there. There was an observatory where careful measurements were made of the progress of a comet still too far away to look any brighter than the distant stars and other patient, detailed work that would add to the knowledge of their part of the galaxy.

And the reason for the station being there in the first place was the communications centre. That took up two whole levels. There messages were received and passed on through subspace channels from one end of the galaxy to the other. The beacon station was exactly that, one of a series of relay stations that kept distant planets in communication with each other, just as the bonfire on top of Llanfairfach mountain had warned of danger in the times of the Viking invasions of Wales. Except that more detailed and more sophisticated messages were sent, like the prices of stocks and shares and commodities on the home planet compared to the price on the colonies, political news, and sometimes, just people’s messages home to their loved ones. It all went through this station.

It was still going through automatically. The computers didn’t even notice that nobody was sitting at the terminals, monitoring them. Nobody would notice anything was wrong for weeks or months, perhaps. The Doctor had said to leave it alone for now. When they knew more about what happened, he would contact the Callitian home world and tell them the whole story.

She turned back to the residential level, and for a long time she forgot about gathering evidence. She watched as the children of the beacon enjoyed themselves. It was the birthday of the commander’s eldest son and they were having a party. Birthday parties for Callitans were much like Human ones, except that they didn’t have cakes with candles. They had plenty of cake along with the rest of the feast. And they had candles. But not together. Instead, after the food had been eaten the birthday child stood in the middle of a ring of children. Everyone had a candle. The birthday child’s candle was lit, and everyone else, one by one, lit their candle from his, until there was a ring of light around him and they danced and sang a special song that was far more melodic and pleasing to listen to than ‘Happy Birthday to You.’ Then the candles were placed in a special holder and placed safely on a high shelf while the games and fun continued.

Wyn watched the party for a long time, smiling as she saw the children so happy. Then she remembered that there was no future for these children. Later that day, after they had been put to bed by their mothers, kissed goodnight by their fathers, something terrible was going to happen. The children had been among the corpses that The Doctor and Jamie had so carefully and gently wrapped and prepared for their last journey into oblivion.

She leaned her head on her hands, her arms propped against the video display desk and cried tears of grief and sympathy for those wonderful people whose lives had been so senselessly ended. She knew she was supposed to go on. She had to watch what happened right up to the last minute. And she would do it. Because it was important. The Doctor had trusted her to do that important job. But first she cried. Because she was Human and that was what Humans did at times like this.

“And that’s why I travel with humans,” The Doctor thought as he watched Wyn on the TARDIS monitor. He had tuned into the same CCTV that was still recording as she watched the playback from yesterday. “Because they see things like this and they cry.”

His own people wouldn’t have cried. They couldn’t anyway, because they didn’t have tear ducts. But they wouldn’t even if they could. They would investigate, discover what had happened, make lots of notes about it for the great Time Lord database of the universe. But they wouldn’t mourn for these people. They had taken stoicism to such a level that they barely mourned for themselves when they knew their doom was inevitable.

He was part Human. He had tear ducts. He had cried as he wrapped those poor, fragile bodies. When he was a student, he had tried so hard to overcome the handicap of his Human emotiveness. He had learnt to be a self-assured, logically thinking, stoical Time Lord. And his tutors had praised him for his effort. They told him he was as good a Time Lord as any other of his peers. But then he had travelled away from Gallifrey. He had met Humans. He had met other races. He had seen tragedies unfold before his eyes and he had cried. And he had not been ashamed to do so, because he had learnt that his Humanity wasn’t a character flaw. It wasn’t a handicap. It was the better part of him. And he was glad that he could cry.

He was glad Wyn could cry. When her tears dried up she would continue the work he asked her to do with a greater zeal. She would do her best to find out what happened here because she cared about them.

Stella watched The Doctor watching Wyn, watching the last hours of the people of the Beacon. She realised what it was that he had wanted to protect her from. It wasn’t the gruesomeness. It was the sadness of it all.

“Thanks, Doctor,” she whispered, then she cleared her throat and announced her presence in the console room. He quickly switched off the monitor and turned to her. She had coffee and sandwiches for everyone. “Shall I go find Wyn and Jamie?”

“Please do,” The Doctor told her. He watched her head for the door as he turned back to the console and made a few more adjustments to the repaired guidance system. The parts were far better than the ones that had failed. They’d do for another hundred years. He tried not to think what would happen if something broke that didn’t have an easy, generic replacement. There were parts that had been made on Gallifrey from materials that could only be found on Gallifrey. One day, he and his TARDIS would have to stop travelling because both of them would be too worn out to go on.

“But not yet, old girl,” he whispered, patting the ceramic part of the console lovingly.

“Doctor!” Stella ran back into the console room. Wyn followed. Both were agitated. “We can’t find Jamie.”


The Doctor turned to the monitor and tuned into the medical room security camera. The last time he looked, Jamie was there. he had been devastated by what he found in file 78FO65. His emotional reaction to the tragedy was to lose control of his morphic field and waver erratically from male to female. Like Wyn, the moment had passed and he had brought himself back under control and continued to work as The Doctor had asked him to do, for the sake of those poor souls.

But he wasn’t there now. And there was no other lifesign on the space station, Human, Callitian or Haollstromian.


The Doctor felt it in his very bones. Wyn and Stella just saw the lights brighten and then dim and then brighten again as the TARDIS felt it in what passed for its own bones.

“What was that?” Wyn asked.

“A time ripple,” The Doctor answered. “Something or someone has caused a change in the continuum. It was only a minor one, but…”

“Doctor… the lifesigns monitor…” Stella called out. The Doctor turned and looked. There was a lifesign. TWO lifesigns. One of them was Haollstromnian. They were in a small space across the corridor from the medical room.

“That’s an airlock,” The Doctor exclaimed and ran off, though not as fast as Wyn. Stella followed behind and was there in time to see The Doctor open the sealed door. She heard Wyn scream and saw The Doctor rolling both bodies into the recovery position. He began CPR on the Callitian while Wyn did the same for Jamie. Stella could see that Jamie’s lips were blue from oxygen deprivation. She supposed the Callitian was the same, but since his lips were blue already it was hard to tell.

Both began to recover as oxygen circulated through their bodies. The Callitian opened his eyes and stared up at The Doctor and began to fight him. The Doctor pressed him down firmly but gently.

“I just saved your life,” he said. “Be grateful and lie quiet for a minute.” He looked around at Jamie. He – she – was again wavering between genders. “Make your mind up, girl or boy. I don’t think Wyn minds kissing you either way, but it does make her eyes water a bit.”

“Doctor!” Jamie gasped as Wyn leaned back. “Doctor, hold onto him. Don’t let him get away. And don’t let him harm himself.”

The Doctor looked at the man he was pinning down.

“Are you likely to either?”

“I….” the Callitian began. He sighed. “It is too late. It is done. I have to die with them. Do not try to stop me.”

“I have to stop you. I’m The Doctor. I’m A Doctor, and doctors have this thing called the Hippocratic oath that says we should seek to preserve life.”

“HE is a doctor, too, but I don’t think he’s read the Hippocratic oath,” Jamie answered. “He…”

“Let’s go back to the TARDIS,” The Doctor suggested. “Stella made tea, and it would be churlish not to drink it after she went to the effort.” He stood, pulling the Callitian up with him. They were incredibly light people. He had noted that as he carried all the bodies. This one was easy to manhandle. He struggled once, but a carefully applied pinch to the neck, taught to The Doctor by some peaceful monks who were surprisingly skilled at unarmed combat rendered him docile for the duration of the walk back to the TARDIS.

Stella did, indeed, pour tea. It wasn’t as hot as it should be, but it was appreciated. The Doctor even persuaded the Callitian to drink some before he allowed Jamie to explain herself.

“You used you vortex manipulator to go back to when this all started?” he asked Jamie. “I’m guessing you used up your power cells and didn’t have enough to get back again. How long were you and him in the airlock?”

“At least fifteen hours,” she answered. “It was the only thing I could do. The poison was already circulating through the station.”

“Poison?” Wyn exclaimed. “That’s what killed everyone. But how?”

“HE did it,” Jamie answered. “He killed them all. He flooded the station with poison gas. It only needed seconds to kill them, but it took fifteen hours to clear. That’s why I had to get into the airlock. It was the only place…”

“But why did he kill them? Who is he?” Stella asked.

“He’s…” Jamie looked at the man. “No, you tell them. Tell them who you ARE. Tell them what I read in file 78FO65.”

“I… am Doctor Kitanna. I was responsible for the health of everyone on this station. You see… the reason they were all here… They all… every man woman and child… suffer from a disease called Asticalas Syndrome. It… attacks the immune system. Among the teeming millions on our planet they would have died in months. Here, protected, and with the medicines that slow down the disease, they are able to live a normal life. The adults are able to work. The children look normal, healthy. They play, they learn. They grow. They’re happy. My job was to keep them stable, keep them healthy, while I sought a cure. I thought I’d found one. I gave them all the treatment. Then I found I’d made a mistake. The ‘cure’ would have the opposite effect. They would die, in a few weeks, agonisingly. So I…”

He stopped. The Doctor looked at him coldly. He thought he knew what was coming next, and it dismayed him. It went against every precept about the sanctity of life that he believed in.

“I decided a quick end…. While the children were asleep, the adults at their leisure. Nobody would suffer. They would die quietly and peacefully. I set up the life support systems to spread the gas. Then I realised what I had done. And I knew… I knew I couldn’t live with it. I was going to kill myself, too. Only I knew I didn’t deserve a quick, gentle death. I was about to stab myself when… When a man appeared out of nowhere. He fought me. Grabbed the knife from me… He said I wasn’t going to get away with it. He said I was a murderer and I had to pay for what I did. And then he tried to do something, but it wasn’t working. The gas was seeping into the medical room. I’d sealed it, but the seal was breaking. He put his hand over my mouth and dragged me to the airlock… He said we would wait for… for The Doctor, he said. Only there wasn’t enough air…”

“He passed out first,” Jamie said. “I tried to hang on. I knew you’d find us…

“We found you,” Wyn told her. “But what do you mean to do with him now?”

“I’m going to hand him over to his own people,” Jamie answered. “He can stand trial for medical malpractice and murder. I wanted to get there sooner, and save them. But he had already released the poison. It was too late.”

“It’s what he deserves,” Wyn said, glaring at the pathetic man.

“But they were going to die anyway,” Stella pointed out. “He was wrong to kill them. But he sort of did it for the right reasons. To save them all from pain and suffering.”

“No,” The Doctor cried out loudly and firmly. “No. he did the WRONG thing for WRONG reasons. For a doctor to take life is always wrong. And I… I say that… knowing just how wrong it is. Because sometimes… sometimes I had to… When there was no hope… Sally Phelan… her life was gone. The cybermen took it. All I could do for her was make an end of it. Others… when there was no other hope. And every one of them is seared on my soul. I knew it was wrong. I didn’t try to pretend it was justified. I have to live with the memory of when I had no choice…”

His friends looked at him. So did Kitanna.

“YOU had a choice,” he continued. “You weren’t out of options. You had the choice… NO, you had the DUTY… to do all you could for them until the last minute, and then some. You should have tried everything, just so long as there was a single spark of life…” The Doctor paused again, breathing hard. His friends looked at his face and wondered how he held so much emotion inside him. None of them had ever seen him so passionate or so angry.

“Asticalas Syndrome…That’s the Callitian name for it. In the Klatos sector, they call it D.A.O.S. Don’t worry what the acronym stands for. It doesn’t directly translate. But the point is…”

Nobody saw him move, but a moment later he had the Callitian by the lapels of his white doctor’s coat and was pushing him against one of the coral pillars, lifting him off the ground so that they were eye to eye as he spoke again.


“Oh, no!” Stella murmured and burst into tears. Wyn and Jamie held back their emotions. They had cried already. “Oh, no. That is so unfair.”

“No,” Kitanna gasped. “No, it can’t be. I never…”

“It can be, and it IS,” The Doctor replied. “You killed them when you should have been looking after them, holding on for the very last hope. When we landed the next day… I could have helped. I could have told you where to find the cure. If you’d waited a few more hours…”

“No,” Kitanna cried again. “No…”

The Doctor made a mistake. He admitted that fully. He relaxed his hold on the Callitian, thinking that he was too disturbed by the realisation of his mistake to be any more trouble. He forgot that this was a man who had already committed suicide once. He cried out in horror as Kitanna lunged towards the toolbox The Doctor hadn’t yet put away. He grabbed what was called a reverberating auger, and was in fact a four inch long spike with a brilliant blue plastic handle. Kitanna plunged it straight into his own heart.

“No!” The Doctor cried as he reached the dying man and cradled him in his arms. “Oh, you fool. You fool. Didn’t you hear what I said? Life is precious. All life. Even yours.”

“Make it right,” Kitanna begged him with his last ounce of strength. “Doctor, make it right…”

“I can’t.”

“Please make it right. It… is… my dying wish. A Callitian’s last wish is… geis. You must…”

He was dead. The Doctor held him for a moment. Then he pulled the tool from his chest and cast it aside. He lifted him up and carried him out of the TARDIS. The others followed. They watched silently as The Doctor bound the body in a shroud as he had done for the others – as he had, in fact, already done once before for Kitanna. He brought the body to the transporter room and again said the solemn words of the Callitian death rite before transporting his molecules out into deep space.

Then he turned and headed back to the TARDIS without another word. His companions followed him. They watched as he dematerialised the TARDIS and put it into what Wyn recognised as manual temporal drive. He was taking the TARDIS back through time, two, three days.

“You can’t do that,” Jamie said. “The Laws of Time… I know I broke them. I was stupid. I acted on my emotions – and it only caused that man twice as much pain and suffering. YOU… of all people can’t….”

“I, of all people CAN. I’m a Time Lord. A Lord of Time. My people wrote those Laws. They made them as if they were cast in stone. But they knew people would break them. A Callitian put me under geis… It means obligation. I have to try to fulfil that obligation. I would have anyway. But the geis means that I don’t have to feel as guilty about it. I am only obeying his request.”

He stopped the manual drive. The TARDIS hung in space near the Beacon Station. The Doctor looked at the lifesigns monitor. He saw thirty eight people, men, woman and children, aboard the station. Then he moved over to the communications panel and put a videophone call through.

“Klatos Research, Sales department,” said a woman with a ‘phone voice’ that was like someone running a wet finger around a glass. “May I take your order?”

“Yes, you may,” The Doctor answered and recited from memory the medical supplies he wanted. “Can you send them to this co-ordinate by Super-Swift Delivery?”

“That will still take up to thirty-eight hours, sir,” the woman told him. “And it will cost…”

“I have an account,” The Doctor said, and recited what sounded like the credit card number from hell, at least 100 characters long. The woman typed it on the keypad in front of her. The Doctor’s credit was obviously good as she went on to finalise arrangements for the delivery.

He closed the call and moved around to the manual drive again and turned it forward thirty-eight hours, in time to meet the Klatos Research delivery vessel. He gave them a co-ordinate and dropped the anti-transmat shield long enough to receive the medical supplies. He thanked the pilot who turned his ship and slipped back into hyperspace, then he materialised the TARDIS in the medical room of the Station.

“You’ve made one terrible mistake,” said The Doctor as he stepped out of the TARDIS and faced the startled man who sat at his desk. “The other terrible mistake that you are contemplating won’t happen.”

“Who are you?” Kitanna demanded. “What are you doing here? What mistake? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Yes, you have,” The Doctor continued. “You know you have. But I can help you put it right.” He leaned close and whispered four words that he knew would change the destiny of Doctor Kitanna and the Children of the Beacon.

“You can cure them.”

Wyn and Stella stood in the ring, holding their candles along with everyone else at the birthday celebration. They smiled widely as they stepped forward and lit them from the main candle held by the birthday boy. They joined in with the joyful song of life and future happiness.

The boy had a future. So did all his friends and family.

And that was the best thing to be joyful about.