The Doctor glared at the TARDIS console as it came to a stop. Then he ran out of the door without another word. Jamie, Wyn and Stella ran after him.

“Doctor, where is it?” Wyn called. “The spatial rift. I mean… this looks like an ordinary suburban street. It’s… just ordinary. Not a place where spatial rifts open.”

“Spatial rifts can open anywhere and everywhere,” The Doctor replied. “Even in an ordinary suburban three bedroom semi with gas central heating and garage.” He turned around and around, his sonic screwdriver held out like a divining rod. It was glowing at the end with an unusual and ominous red.

“There,” he said and pointed to an ordinary house identical to all the others. Almost immediately, though, a red light exactly like the one the sonic screwdriver was emitting lit up the front bedroom window and began to pulsate strangely. Somebody started screaming in the room. The Doctor sped off towards the house. His friends ran after him and watched as he hammered on the door. Inside there was more screaming and nobody was answering the door. He adjusted the sonic screwdriver and pointed it at the lock. The door burst open and he ran inside and up the stairs, straight past two very worried and startled people who must have had “mum and dad” written through them like the lettering in a stick of rock. The Doctor’s entrance into the middle of their crisis did nothing to improve their state of panic as they ran after him.

The companions looked at each other and followed. They didn’t know what else to do. Generally speaking, being near The Doctor was the best thing. It tended to put them in the front line of the trouble, but it also put them directly under his protection. It was like being in the eye of a storm.

The bedroom door at the top of the stairs was glowing red around the edges. It looked as if a very hot fire was burning behind it. A cheerful plaque with rabbits and butterflies and the words ‘Sandy’s Room’ seemed tragically at odds with the sounds that were emanating from the room - a child screaming and something that roared like an enraged animal.

“Sandy!” cried the mother fearfully. “What’s happening? Who’s in there with her? Oh, my God, what’s going on?”

“Stand back,” The Doctor ordered as he aimed his sonic screwdriver at the door, and when that failed, reverted to brute force, shoulder barging it open.

“Owww!” he complained as the momentum sent him flying into the room. Then he gasped in horror and so did everyone else.

“Get away from that child,” he yelled as he raised his sonic screwdriver like a weapon, even though it was still in lock-busting mode and no threat to anything other than a recalcitrant door.

The creatures he gave that ultimatum to were vaguely humanoid except they were the colour of mud and had tentacles coming out of the exposed spines of their hunched backs and sharp teeth in their elongated jaws. They waved their tentacles towards The Doctor as he grabbed the girl and tried to pull her away from them.

“Get back,” he repeated as they closed in around them both, snaking tentacles wrapping around his legs. “Get out of this world. Back to your cesspits and your slime. There is nothing here for you. In the name of the Fledgling Empires I forbid you to encroach on this world.”

The creatures snarled viciously and gripped even more tightly. Then they all screamed at once, the sound containing a fury that shattered the bedroom window. At the same moment the wall seemed to open up like a portal to hell, bright fiery red. The creatures vanished into it.

And so did The Doctor and Sandy.

“No!” It was Stella who ran first, beating her fists against the ordinary wall, papered with pink butterfly paper. Sandy’s mother was close behind her, screaming hysterically.

Her father had run downstairs to the hall. Jamie saw him dialling 999 and asking for the police as Wyn tried to console her sister.


“For the last time,” Wyn said to the police officer who went over their statements again. “The Doctor did not kidnap Sandy Walker. He was taken, too. By creatures from hell that pulled them both back through the tear in spatial dimensions that appeared in the child’s bedroom.”

The policeman looked at Wyn and sighed.

“This is not getting us anywhere,” he said. “And I don’t know who has kidnapped who, or who this Doctor is. But I’m on the point of arresting you for giving me a false identity. According to our records the only Blodwyn Grant-Jones from Llanfairfach is 20 years old. And as for the other two…”

Wyn gave an exasperated groan and searched her pockets for a pen and paper. She wrote quickly and gave the note to the officer. “Phone this number, and give that code. Then ask to speak to Harriet Jones immediately. Tell them it is a Code Nine Emergency. This is 2012, isn’t it? Harriet is still Prime Minister?”

The officer looked at her strangely and then dialled the number. He gave the code. A few moments later he was standing to attention as he addressed the Prime Minister.

“Yes Ma’am,” he said politely. “Er… She wants to speak to you.” He handed his radio phone to Wyn. She addressed the Prime Minister by her first name and didn’t stand to attention at all.

“Dinner at the palace! With the Queen and the President of France? That’s impressive. Sorry to spoil the party. But I’m afraid there’s a serious problem here. The Doctor has disappeared through a hole in reality along with a young girl called Sandy Walker, whose parents are going mental while the police keep talking nonsense and poking around looking for evidence of a break in.” Wyn listened for a few minutes then gave the phone back to the policeman. He listened and then thanked the Prime Minister for her time and ended the call.

“Apparently U.N.I.T. are going to be taking control of the situation. Meanwhile you’re in charge and I'm to give you all assistance.”

“Good,” Wyn said. “You can start by getting SOCO out of the bedroom. All you’re doing is messing up any chance of measuring the energy residue. Jamie, as soon as they’re gone go and see what you can pick up as a trace. Stella, you go and make a pot of tea. Mr and Mrs Walker…” She looked at the two parents. She fully sympathised. Their child was missing. That was terrible for them. But The Doctor was missing, too, and she was just as upset. She wanted him back.

“Has anything strange happened in this house before?” she asked them. “Are there any rumours about the neighbourhood? Did it ever feel unusually hot or cold in the room? Has Sandy ever had nightmares for no apparent reason?”

“She…” Mrs Walker began, overwhelmed by Wyn’s questioning which was even more intense than the police. “She’ll never go upstairs without the landing light on. And she won’t sleep without a nightlight. She says there are monsters in the wardrobe.”

“She’s ten,” Mr Walker said. “We thought she was too old for that kind of fancy. We made an appointment to see a child psychiatrist.”

Wyn smiled wryly. Ten years old and Sandy’s parents thought she was too old to believe in monsters.

At ten, Wyn knew that monsters were real. Her mother and The Doctor had fought plenty of them.

The sound of heavy vehicles outside alerted her to the arrival of U.N.I.T. She wondered if she was going to be in charge of them, too. And was she up to the job?

“Oh, Doctor!” she murmured.


The Doctor’s head span. It was worse than a transmat. He groaned and stood up, leaning against a convenient piece of concrete and waited for the lights to stop flashing in front of his eyes.

Then he looked around and wished he was still getting the flashing lights. They were much prettier than what he was looking at.

The phrase ‘blasted heath’ jumped into his mind as the best description of the place. The ground was dusty, dry, soil with not a scrap of moisture in it and not blade of grass. And it seemed to go on all way to the horizon. He turned slowly and saw that the view was the same all around except for a broken ruin of some kind of building to the south-west of where he was standing.

“Are you all right, mister?” asked a small voice nearby. He looked down and saw the little girl whose bedroom had been the focus of the dimensional anomaly.

“I’ve definitely been better,” he admitted. “What about you?”

“I’m cold, she answered. And he was hardly surprised. She was wearing nothing but a flannel nightie and a pair of rabbit slippers. He slipped off his overcoat and suit jacket and wrapped the jacket around her. In the few seconds he was in his shirtsleeves before putting his coat back on he noticed just how cold it was. He looked up at the red sky and saw a sun that was an even darker shade of red. It barely gave off heat and light enough to warm the planet, wherever it was.

“Something killed the sun,” the girl said.

“It looks like it,” The Doctor answered her. “Ok, first things first. I’m The Doctor. You are…”

“Sandy Walker,” she answered. “I’m ten and one month. You were in my bedroom when those things came.”


“And now we’re here.”


“Are the things here, too?”

The Doctor blinked and considered whether or not to lie. Based on her logical assessment of their situation so far, he decided he probably wouldn’t get away with it.

“I think they probably are,” he answered. “So perhaps we need to…”

He was just about to say that they needed to find shelter when a reassuringly Human voice called out to him.

“Run!” the voice said. “This way.” He turned and saw the man duck down behind the ruined walls that stood up so incongruously from the wasteland around them. The Doctor took his advice, lifting Sandy into his arms as he ran, surefooted, across the uneven rubble-strewn ground and around the broken wall. He saw the man more clearly now. He was definitely Human, though his shaggy hair and beard suggested that the facilities Humans tended to value, like razors and mirrors were in short supply here.

“Come on, quickly,” he said again and pushed them towards a manhole cover in the ground. The Doctor swung Sandy up piggy back style and told her to hold on tight as he descended the rusty iron ladder into a dark, musty place. Sandy whimpered in fear. She obviously didn’t like the dark. Neither did he, when he was ten, he remembered.

It got darker once the man closed the manhole cover. But The Doctor felt solid floor beneath his feet. He let Sandy down on the ground and they stepped away from the ladder as their rescuer joined them. He put on a torch that illuminated part of the corridor.

“We have only limited power,” he said. “Lights in unused areas are a waste.”

“Save your torch battery, then,” The Doctor answered. He adjusted his sonic screwdriver to penlight mode. It was a small beam, but powerful and they saw much more of their surroundings than before. It looked like a corridor in the basement of some kind of large building with pipes and conduits all along the ceiling. There were doors leading off it, but most had a look of not having been opened for a long time.

“This way,” the man told them. They followed him along the corridor, turning left twice and then right and then down a set of concrete steps. Obviously this had once been a substantial building. There was nothing but ruins above ground, though. What sort of disaster had befallen this planet?

At the bottom of the steps they reached a set of double fire doors. The Doctor looked at the logo in the glass panes and his expression froze.

“Oh, it would be!” he murmured. But the man pushed open the doors and invited them in. There were lights inside and voices. And it seemed warmer. Sandy would be better off inside there, with other people, whatever his own feelings about them.

Despite the fact that it was underground, The Doctor was not surprised to find what had once been a state of the art, hi-tech office with computer banks, plasma screens on the walls and nicely designed office furniture for the comfort of the staff. Now all of the screens and computers were switched off except one, and there were only a few lights dimly illuminating the scene.

“You were right,” said a young woman who sat at the one working computer. She reached for a switch and one of the wall mounted plasma screens lit up. It showed a low resolution CCTV camera that must have been mounted on the remains of the building above. Everyone watched as the tentacled creatures swarmed across the ruins.

“They can’t find the entrance,” said one of the men. They’re not that clever. Dolan is wrong. There’s no intelligence there. They’re just animals.”

The Doctor watched the creatures on screen thoughtfully. He wondered if Dolan, whoever he was, was right. They were, as he observed before, vaguely humanoid. The skulls looked as if they could contain a large enough brain for sentience. But the behaviour pattern was that of scavenging animals. Locusts came to his mind. The barren wasteland they had materialised in certainly looked like something that had been thoroughly stripped of everything useful.

He was quite surprised, therefore, when he was handed a mug of what turned out to be hot coffee. Sandy was given a carton of orange juice which she drank gratefully. The Doctor tasted the coffee. It was powdered cream and aspartame rather than sugar, but it was hot. He drank it down gratefully and then studied the logo on the mug.

“We still have emergency supplies,” the woman at the computer said. “Enough for five more years of hell. After that, if we haven’t killed ourselves out of desperation, we starve or give ourselves up to those things.”

“Don’t talk like that, Monica,” one of the men told her. “We’ll get out of here. Don’t give up hope.”

“Hope?” She answered. “I gave up on that in the first fortnight. I’ve been living on yours, second hand, Lee.”

“They’ve gone,” somebody said, and a sense of relief swept over the people. The plasma screen was turned off and the computer put back into standby mode. That crisis over, all eyes turned on The Doctor and Sandy.

“Where have you come from?” asked the woman who had brought the coffee. “You can’t be a rescue party. Why would a child be here. You must have been caught up by the rift, too. I am so sorry. This is no place for a little girl.”

The Doctor had already taken in the details of the half dozen people. Two females and four men, all in their thirties or forties. They were of age to have families, but clearly this was not the sort of office that had an in-house crèche even before it suffered the catastrophe he was waiting to hear about.

“I have children,” said the computer operator woman. “Back on Earth. The youngest will be sixteen by now. I wonder sometimes what they told him about… about what happened to me…”

“What did happen to you?” The Doctor asked, taking a seat by one of the switched off computers and pulling another one up for Sandy to sit on. She had finished her orange juice and The Doctor examined the brand name on the carton.

“Kia-Ora?” he noted. “Too orangy for tentacled creatures from hell?”

The pun on the old advertising campaign for that brand of orange juice seemed to tug at the heart strings of those around him.

“You’re obviously from Earth,” he said. “In the early twenty-first century. These flatscreen computer monitors were the latest thing in about 2007?”

“That was when it happened,” said the older woman. “When we were lost.”

“Go on,” The Doctor prompted. “I’m just waiting to find out whose fault it all was.” Again he glanced at the logo on the mug. It was repeated on the mouse mats and the desk tidy full of paper clips. Corporate identity gone mad!

“We were conducting experiments in alternative energy sources.” The woman noted his credulous expression and the sarcastic laugh.

“Why do I get the feeling we’re not taking solar panels and wind farms?”

“We were tapping the energy of a sun in another dimension,” she said. “At least that’s what our scientists theorised. We were confident we could stabilise the conduit between the dimensions and actually draw off the energy. We could have provided electricity for the whole of Europe… Freedom from dependency on oil, and the whim of Middle East despots…”

The Doctor’s expression was inscrutable but he nodded to encourage her to continue.

“It was late at night. There was only a skeleton staff on duty. Fifteen in all. The monitors started going crazy. The energy readings were off the scale. And then… it started to reverse, as if it was siphoning the power back into the alternative dimension. And… and…” The woman gave a sob. One of the men reached out a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“It’s ok, Phyllis. You don’t have to remember that bit.” He turned to The Doctor. “Her husband was one of those who didn’t make it. We found… parts… burnt parts…” He glanced at Sandy and obviously didn’t want to go into further details.

“You ended up here?” The Doctor said. “The whole building, or just the underground bunker?”

“The bunker,” said Phyllis. “We were all knocked senseless and when we woke, we were here… in this awful place. Cut off from our loved ones. We don’t even know where in the universe we are. I can’t imagine a more inhospitable place. And you’ve already seen… the only creatures that live here…”

“Phyllis?” The Doctor repeated her name. “Let me guess. Phyllis Collins?”

“Yes,” she answered. “How did you…”

“And one of you is Seamus Dolan?” He looked at the nameplate on the desk, again with the same logo. The man who had comforted Phyllis raised his hand. The others identified themselves as Monica Davies, Martin Reece, Lee Brooke and Graham Sissons.

“Yes, I recall the names in a list of the missing,” The Doctor said casually. He turned the mug in his hand again and half smiled as he again studied the logo. A ‘T’ made up of hexagons. “Well, well, well. So you’re what remains of the mysterious, disappearing Torchwood Four!”

The Doctor smiled just a little smugly at the astonished faces. They didn’t expect anyone to know who they were. He had worked it out as soon as he saw the logo for the first time. It all fell into place. Torchwood Four, disappeared in 2007. Not just the people, but the entire secret complex underneath an apparently derelict textile mill in Lancashire. The collapse of the mill had been put down to subsidence as far as the public were concerned, but The Doctor knew something much more sinister had happened. He had always intended to follow it up, just out of curiosity, but he never seemed to get around to it.

“Only Torchwood would mess with what they don’t know. Anyone else, they see a leak in the dyke, they stick their finger in it and call for help. Torchwood make the hole bigger and let the flood come through. Only this time, it backfired. The only reason I’m not laughing at your misfortune is that it really is a tragedy. Obviously people have died, and that’s not funny. Plus your dyke is leaking again. Into this child’s bedroom!”

“Who are you, anyway?” the man identified as Graham Sissons demanded. “How do you know so much about Torchwood. We’re a SECRET organisation.”

“You’re about as secret as Thunderbirds. The only difference is there are no five inch action figures of you,” The Doctor replied. “As for who I am? I thought you’d never ask.” He grinned widely. “I’m The Doctor.”

They all looked at each other, then at him.

“The Doctor… THE Doctor… the one who…”

“THE Doctor named in Queen Victoria’s charter of 1879 founding the Torchwood Institute.” Seamus Dolan said.

“That’s me,” The Doctor admitted proudly. “Enemy of Great Britain, banned forever from her blessed shores. You DID read the amendment that rescinds that piece of nonsense, didn’t you? There wouldn’t BE a Great Britain if I hadn’t been around. Queen Victoria was a bit short of a few marbles, it has to be said.”

“I’ve read about The Doctor,” Lee Brooke piped up. “If you’re really him. Then… then you can get us home?”

“I want to go home,” Sandy piped up. “I’m tired. And I don’t like it here. And I want my mum and dad.”

The Doctor looked at the little girl. He studiously avoided looking at the members of Torchwood Four.

“I’ll get you home, sweetheart,” he said. “I promise you’ll get back to your mum and dad.”

He couldn’t make the same promise to the others.

Because there was something about this that had been obvious to him from the moment he recognised who they were.

Torchwood Four belonged to a different Earth than the one he and Sandy had come from.

They came from the Earth he had started out from, before he had accidentally crossed over into Nine’s universe. The clue was in the terms of that Torchwood charter. In his own universe, he had been the one who accidentally brought Torchwood into being by getting on the wrong side of Queen Victoria – through no fault of his own he was always quick to add to anyone who questioned him about it. There, in that universe there had been four Torchwood bases. Torchwood One was Canary Wharf, a place that still haunted his nightmares from time to time. Torchwood Two was a man in Glasgow with a telescope and a post office box number. Torchwood Three was in Cardiff, and last he heard, being run a lot better than the other sections by his old friend Jack Harkness. Torchwood Four was officially missing, never seen or heard of until now.

But in Nine’s universe, where he had made his home since the hole between the two dimensions had closed, it was different. Torchwood had been founded in 1879. There was something about parallel universes that made things like that happen. But The Doctor got on very well with Queen Victoria, and he had been named as Amicus Humani Generis – A friend of Humanity. And Torchwood had mostly confined itself to research work in a much more organised and less troublesome way. Torchwood Four never existed in that reality. So it could never have gone missing.

“I’ll get you home, Sandy,” he said again. “I promise.”


Wyn and Jamie had taken command of U.N.I.T. The Doctor’s security code and the endorsement of the Prime Minister had ensured that they had absolute co-operation. They had used their new found power to evacuate the entire housing estate. Every man, woman, child, dog, cat, budgie and goldfish had been taken in army lorries to a multiplex cinema complex four miles away and fed popcorn and hot dogs while U.N.I.T. told them that there were at least three unexploded V-2 rockets from WWII in their back gardens.

The only civilians who wouldn’t leave were Mr and Mrs Walker, who obviously didn’t believe the V-2 story. They stayed put in their drawing room, surrounded by soldiers with strange pieces of portable computer equipment that beeped and pinged like sonar and radar and goodness knows what. Stella tried to keep them calm with cups of tea from their own kitchen and as much sympathy as she could muster.

“What is THAT?” Mr Walker demanded as the front window was blocked by a blue box hauled into place by a group of well-muscled soldiers.

“It belongs to The Doctor,” Stella answered. “It’s a sort of… workshop… with equipment. It might help to find Sandy.”

“It’s on my lawn,” Mr Walker said. “Do you know how much time I spend on that lawn…”

He remembered that his daughter was missing, that strange, tentacled creatures had appeared in her bedroom, and that The Doctor had disappeared with her. His lawn seemed very unimportant.

A lot of the U.N.I.T. equipment was useless in this instance. All it told them was that an unknown energy source had manifested itself in the child’s bedroom and had now dissipated.

“Not completely,” Jamie confirmed, looking at the readout on her wristlet. “I’m picking up some powerful residual energy. It’s not the usual thing, though. Nothing like a transmat. It’s something more than that. And I think… Oh, Wyn, I am sorry. But The Doctor is in a lot more trouble than he has ever been in.”


The Doctor was causing anxiety among the personnel of Torchwood Four. He had turned on two computers and four VDU screens and was typing so fast the CPU’s should have exploded by now. Nobody could even look at his fingers as he worked or the screens where data scrolled so fast it made them dizzy.

“Please!” Phyllis protested. “We do have limited power. We have a solar generator, but there is so little energy from the sun that it barely produces enough for our needs. We try to keep the computers in stand-by as much as possible.”

“There’s more than enough power,” The Doctor answered. “Do you ever wonder what happened to the sun?”

“It was like that when we got here,” Phyllis answered. “We had never seen anything like it.”

“I have,” The Doctor answered her. “Do you have any idea what it would take to use up the energy in a sun?”


“I thought not. Do you suppose, for example, trying to tap its energy through a trans-dimensional rift might do it?”

“What?” Phyllis looked at him in horror. “No… you mean… you think this is our fault?”

“I don’t think it’s your fault. I KNOW it is,” he answered. “You lot, with your half ideas, running before you can walk with technology you never should have had, that you have no idea how to use. You destroyed this planet. And…” he turned to the VDU. “It says here that you trapped one of the creatures… killed it… you did an autopsy.”

“To find out what they were, their weaknesses. So we could be ready if they attacked us in force. We had to. Those creatures… They’re vicious. Three of our people were dismembered by them. It was awful.”

“I don’t doubt it,” The Doctor told her. “But… this DNA. Have you looked at it closely?”

“I'm not the biologist. You would need to talk to Graham.”

“Ok.” The Doctor put his fingers to his lips and whistled shrilly. “Graham, here, now.”

Graham Sissons looked affronted, but he came anyway.

“Doctor, we are not at your beck and call,” he protested.

“Yes, you are,” he answered. “Look at this DNA result from the creature you examined.”


“Look at this…” The Doctor typed rapidly again and the DNA model on the screen changed very slightly. “Do you know what that is?”

“Human DNA,” Graham answered. “But…”

“Do you realise what you have done?” he said. “This isn’t just another planet. This is planet Earth in an alternative universe to your own. It used to have a population just like your Earth. But you killed the sun, and you caused the DNA of the Human population to change, turning them into those creatures.”

“What?” Phyllis looked positively green. “But… Oh, God. We were talking the other day about catching them for food – when our supplies ran out.”

“That would mean…” Graham began. “No, you’re lying. It can’t be.”

“Why would I lie?” The Doctor asked. “Your actions made this hell out of a living planet. You destroyed this Earth. You destroyed the Human race in this reality. What Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Krillitane, Slitheen, the whole lot put together, couldn’t do, you lot managed to do. You, a bunch of brainless, stupid, interfering humans biting off more than you could chew. You did it. Damn you all! The rest of Creation would be better off without you messing it up. Damn you.”

As he ran out of words his anger seethed still. He breathed heavily and his knuckles whitened as he gripped the desk in front of him. He had meant every word. Damnation wasn’t something he usually heaped on anyone, not even his worst enemies. But the sheer scale of what had happened here seared his soul. The monumental stupidity of it all overwhelmed him.

The last time he had seen a planet as devastated as this one, it had been in the middle of an intergalactic war, seared by the weapons of mass destruction of three different antagonists, the sun destroyed by neutron weapons.

That had been easier to understand. War was something that almost every race in the universe seemed unable to avoid at some time in their evolution. It seemed almost natural.

Curiosity, the impulse to push and probe and tear holes in the fabric of reality to find out what was on the other side, was a Human trait. Humans did this sort of thing by mistake, out of blind ignorance of the consequences of their actions.

Only Humans could do this by accident!

“Doctor!” Sandy came to him. She put her child hand over his. He looked around at her. She was scared. And he was the one who had scared her. He had been the one person here that she trusted. And his rage had frightened her. But still she came to him with a soft hand on his and her big, trusting eyes that looked into his and reminded him that stupidity wasn’t the only thing Humans were good at.

“It’s all right,” he assured her. “I'm going to get you home. And… and we’ll take these people with us.”

“How?” Phyllis asked. “You may be some kind of legend, but right now you’re just a man with a fancy torch.”

“Sonic screwdriver,” he replied, brandishing it airily.

“Jamie and His Magic Torch,” Sandy said out of the blue.

“What?” The Doctor looked at her curiously.

“It’s a children’s television programme,” Phyllis explained. “My children used to watch it. It’s about a boy who used to be able to get from his bedroom into a magical alternative world using a magic torch that opened a hole for him to go through.”

“Down the helter skelter,” Sandy added.

“This isn’t exactly the magical world,” Phyllis added. “It’s like the nightmare post-watershed version.”

“I’ve got a friend called Jamie,” The Doctor said to Sandy. “He doesn’t have a torch, but he’s got something else that might be useful.”

He stood up and went to the computer server unit that hummed in low power mode in one corner of the room. He opened the panel and began to pull out circuit boards and memory chips and wires. The Torchwood team watched him in horror. Sandy went and sat next to him. He smiled and called her his helper. He gave her things to hold while he soldered parts onto the circuit board with the sonic screwdriver. Some of the parts were from the computer. Some of them came from inside his coat pocket, and everyone was amazed when he slotted the circuit board back in and the server unit hummed and whirred and powered itself up again.

He went back to the computer terminal and turned it on again. He sat Sandy on his knee as he positioned the webcam on top of the monitor and opened the net-conferencing programme.

“How can that work?” Lee Brooke demanded. “There’s nobody to communicate with. We’ve tried. There’s no internet, no phones, nothing.”

“I’m using up a bit more of your solar power reserves,” The Doctor admitted. “To force a message through the dimensions to my friend, Jamie. He’s got some technology that you lot would probably kill for, and wouldn’t know what to do with if you had it.” He smiled as Jamie’s surprised face appeared on the computer screen. It was flickering and inconsistent, but it was there. And he knew that Jamie would be able to see them.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“In the girl’s bedroom,” Jamie answered.

“We don’t have much time,” The Doctor told him. “But run downstairs and show this to the parents.” He waited as Jamie did so. A moment later the faces of Mr and Mrs Walker crowded onto the screen. They cried with relief to see their daughter.

“She’s perfectly safe here,” The Doctor told them. “She’s had some orange juice and been a real help to me. And we’ll be home very soon as long as Jamie can do something for me.”

Jamie came back into view. The Doctor told him what he had to do. Jamie understood clearly. The Torchwood people around him tried to follow his instructions but quickly lost the plot.

“Twenty minutes,” Jamie said. “Be ready. I don’t think we’ll be able to keep the portal open for long without causing devastation on this side. As it is, it’s a good thing U.N.I.T. evacuated the neighbourhood.”

“Get U.N.I.T. out of there, too,” The Doctor told him. “I don’t know how bad it might be. We should minimise the risk.”

He was about to say something else, but his makeshift trans-dimensional wireless broadband router exploded inside the server unit with a disturbing bang and crackle of electricity. The computer went dead. The few lights in the room flickered and went off. The Doctor turned the sonic screwdriver to penlight mode as the others reached for their torches.

“We’re getting out of here anyway,” he said. “Don’t need the power.”

“You’d better be right, Doctor,” Graham Sissons responded. “Otherwise you might have killed us all.”

“We’re getting out,” he insisted. “There is a problem…” He took a deep breath and began to explain to them about alternative realities and parallel Earths, and how they weren’t going to their own Earth. Phyllis took it hard. She was the one with children she would never see again. The others weren’t happy about becoming refugees in a world they never existed in.

“I’m sorry,” The Doctor told them. “But there is no other way. The door to your world slammed shut when you came through. It can’t be opened without destroying that world as surely as you destroyed this one. Even if it could be opened, I wouldn’t. We have one chance at this. And I’m taking Sandy home to the world we belong to.”

Of course there wasn’t an alternative. Sandy’s world was the only one where Jamie was getting ready to open the door from his side. But he still felt a little selfish about it. Of course he had to take Sandy home. But he had also thought of all the people he cared about on that side. Wyn, Jamie, Stella, Jo and Cliff, Susan and Miche, his own children on Forêt. Even Rose. He got to see her sometimes in that universe. In the one Torchwood Four came from she wasn’t there. She was behind another closed portal between realities.

Perhaps it was a good thing that there wasn’t a choice. Because he knew it would have been hard not to choose the selfish option.

“Twenty minutes and we have a chance to get away from this dead world, to one where you can make a new life. So get what you need to take with you. And get any weapons you have.”


“Because the portal my friend is creating will open in the same place we came through – up above on the surface. That’s where the weakness between this reality and ours is. Right in Sandy’s bedroom where it’s been giving her nightmares for years. That wasn’t your fault, by the way. Sometimes there are weak spots between realities. Like holes in the dyke. Except in this case its better nobody does put their finger in them. Left alone, without Humans getting curious, they close up by themselves. If we’re lucky, this one will close up once we’re through. And it will all be over.”

“Then let’s go,” Graham said. “Here, take this.”

The Doctor looked at the gun that was offered to him and shook his head.

“I don’t use guns,” he said.

“You told us to have weapons.”

“Yes,” he answered. “But I don’t use them. And I don’t destroy planets out of stupidity, either. And I’m looking after Sandy. I’m certainly not doing that with a gun in my hand.”

Graham shrugged and put the gun in his own pocket. He and his colleagues were ready. They had very little they wanted to take with them. The Doctor reached out his hand to Sandy and she walked beside him as they made their way back up the steps and along the corridor to the iron ladder. Seamus and Graham went first. Then The Doctor with Sandy riding piggy back again. He was disturbed to hear gunshots up above and waited below the rim of the manhole cover until he was told it was safe.

Two of the creatures were lying on the ground, bleeding from bullet wounds.

“They’re not dead,” The Doctor said as he saw the tentacles writhing still. He adjusted the sonic screwdriver and aimed it at the heads of the two dying creatures. They became still.

“I interrupted their brain patterns,” he said. “Ended it mercifully. Next time, shoot straight. Don’t let them suffer any more than they have to.”

Sandy was distressed by the sight of the dead creatures. He felt her hand tremble as she walked beside him under the dying red sun on the barren surface of the planet. The Torchwood team looked around them as if the sight of it was new to them.

And it was in one way. It was new to them that they had caused the desolation, and worse, the mutation of the population into animals that they were forced to kill to save their own lives.

“It won’t be long now,” The Doctor promised. It had been nearly twenty minutes. He hoped Jamie’s estimate was correct. He couldn’t keep them all out here, exposed, for long. And there was nothing for them to go back to. He had destroyed their power supply.

Jamie had to come through for them.

“They’re coming again!” somebody cried and The Doctor clutched Sandy close to him as he saw the herd of creatures racing towards them across the desert plain. A shot rang out, but the range was too short and it did nothing to stop the twenty, thirty or more creatures approaching. Then a volley of shots rang out and a few of them fell. But more kept coming.

“Make every bullet count,” Seamus Dolan ordered. “Doctor, your friend needs to get here in the next twenty seconds or we’re all finished.”

“He won’t let us down,” The Doctor answered. “I trust him. I trust all my friends.”

The creatures were falling to the bullets, but some were still coming. Twenty seconds was an over-estimate. They had less than that when The Doctor heard a sound that gladdened his heart. It wasn’t quite the TARDIS’s familiar thrum. It sounded distorted. as he fully expected it would be. The TARDIS couldn’t really enter this dimension. It didn’t belong here. Even if Jamie had the skill to make a cross-dimensional materialisation, the TARDIS would be a powerless, dead box here.

But it could make a hole in the dyke – he remembered the metaphor he had used earlier – and then plug the hole with itself. He looked at the TARDIS door with its phone cupboard, its illuminated police public call box sign, and the flashing blue light on top. Around it was an eerie red glow that pulsated and licked around it like fire. It was still technically on the other side and the portal was trying to close.

He saw the TARDIS door open. He could see his friends inside. He took hold of Sandy’s hand and raced towards it. The others backed towards it, firing their weapons at the creatures as they closed in. He pushed Sandy through the door and turned to see one of the creatures bearing down on Seamus Dolan as his gun jammed. He raised his sonic screwdriver and seared the brain of the creature, killing it instantly. He salved his conscience with the thought that these sad, mutated things were better off dead, and that his sonic screwdriver did it far more mercifully than a gun did.

“Get in, all of you,” he yelled. He saw the red glow increase. The TARDIS was being forced back out of this reality. The Torchwood Four survivors turned and ran for it, through the door and into the safety of the relative dimensions within. The Doctor counted them all in before he turned and hurled his body over the threshold. As he did so, a tentacle whipped towards him, grabbing him by the ankles while another curled around his waist. He clung to the door frame as it tried to pull him back. He heard Stella shouting from the console that the energy build up was increasing and they had to close the door and dematerialise.

Three gunshots rang out in quick succession and he felt the tentacles slacken. The creature that held him fell back, its head blasted open by the shots. He fell forwards, kicking the door shut behind him. Jamie ran to the console and pressed the fast return switch as The Doctor pulled himself up by the handrail and looked at Wyn, still holding the smoking gun.

“Good shot,” he said. “But give it back to whoever it belongs to. Your dad wouldn’t be best pleased to see you with it.”

She dropped the gun on the floor and hugged The Doctor tightly.

“It’s just wonderful to see you again,” she said. “I was worried.”

“So was I,” he admitted. He looked around at the unusually crowded TARDIS. The Torchwood people were all standing around looking dazed. But he was also surprised to see Mr and Mrs Walker hugging their little girl.

“They insisted,” Wyn explained. “They wouldn’t go anywhere without their daughter. So we had to put them in the TARDIS.”

“Doctor, you need to look at this,” Jamie called to him in a tone of voice that made him run to his side. He looked at the critical energy readings and bit his lip anxiously.

“There’s going to be a big bang,” he said. “Not THE big bang. But pretty bad. You’re sure you got everybody out of the area? Because there might not be much of the area left.”

“Everyone,” Jamie answered. “U.N.I.T. pulled all their people right back.”

“Ok, just us at ground zero then.” He grabbed a handrail on the console. “Jamie, you hold on with one hand and grab the helmic regulator with the other. Everyone else lie on the floor. Stella, you stick with Mr and Mrs Walker and Sandy. Show them the drill. Everyone stay down until I say so.”

The problem was that the hole they had made wasn’t closing fast enough and there was going to be energy escaping through. He was using the TARDIS as a sort of sponge to soak up as much of it as he could, but at the best there was going to be a big hole where the Walker home used to be.

In fact, it took out the Walker home and four houses either side, and shattered every window in the streets behind and in front of them.

The TARDIS rode the shockwave and set down three miles away with the passengers suffering no more than a few bruises.


The next day the news reports said that one of the V-2 rockets had exploded despite the attempts to defuse it, and they showed archive footage of the same kind of damage done to houses in the Second World War.

The Doctor and companions watched the bulletin on the TARDIS viewscreen. They smiled at the easy way the truth had been covered up.

“One day that unexploded bomb excuse will really wear thin,” The Doctor told Wyn. “U.N.I.T. have been using it since before your mum and I worked with them. And Torchwood are always covering up their own mess.”

“The Walkers seem to be ok,” Wyn noted. “They’re a bit shocked about their home being turned into a smoking hole. But Harriet said she’d ensure they got a brand new house and compensation. And the others…”

“The Torchwood in this reality have taken responsibility for them,” The Doctor said. He laughed ironically. “I never thought I’d ever use the words ‘Torchwood’ and ‘responsibility’ in the same sentence. Maybe there’s hope for the Human race, yet.”

“Of course there is,” Wyn answered. “You know there is. Or you’d have given up on us long ago.”

“Some of you, anyway,” he conceded. “I promised to say goodbye to Sandy. Then I think I’ll take you three to a really good orbital restaurant I know, in the Vishan system. Fantastic food. Wonderful views of the Vishan IV cascades. Waterfalls so vast they can be seen from orbit, with fantastic rainbows in a twenty-eight colour spectrum arcing around the whole planet. Then we should plan what we’re going to do for Stella’s birthday."