“Ok, Doctor, just admit it,” Stella said in a teasing tone. “We’re lost.”

“We’re not lost,” he replied. “Just temporally and spatially compromised… temporarily.”


“How can we be lost in the TARDIS? It can go anywhere, anytime. Even if we are just a tad, a micron, an infinitesimally tiny bit off course, we can easily get back on track. After all, we did just use the TARDIS as a space windsurfer to ride an ion storm right across the Maenad cluster. A bit of… wobble… in the helmic regulator is only to be expected.” He grinned. “That was fun, wasn’t it?”

“It was fantastic,” Stella replied. “Best rush since… forever. These last couple of weeks, just the two of us… they’ve been great. All the amazing, fun things we’ve done. Zero gravity tennis, the first moon Olympiad… ice skating on the frozen lakes of… whatever that place was. I can never remember the name of it. I’ll never remember the names of most of them. But I will always remember what fun it was. The problem will be not remembering it when I’m supposed to be studying for my A-levels… when life is boring again.”

“Life is never boring,” The Doctor told her. “Life is one big opportunity. A huge adventure. Make the most of it. That’s the one thing I hope I’ve taught you this year.”

“Yeah.” She smiled widely. “Meanwhile… we’re still lost, despite you distracting me with other thoughts. And what are you going to do about it?”

“I’m going to materialise the TARDIS on that planet and take a dead reckoning bearing from there and then get us back on course again,” The Doctor replied. “Unless you have a better idea?”

“None, whatsoever,” Stella answered. “But I bet you any money we find something down there on that planet that gets us into trouble. It’s been TOO easy lately. Strange planet, unknown co-ordinates. We’re going to find SOMETHING.”

“Ah, but that’s where the real fun starts,” The Doctor said. “Facing an unknown challenge.” His grin widened once again as he programmed their materialisation on the said planet. As he viewed the terrain, though, a frown slowly replaced the grin. “This isn’t exactly a garden spot, I have to admit. Atmosphere barely breathable. So many toxic elements… lead, zinthanium, sulphur, monodium; a Human would die after a few hours exposed to that air. Not to mention no ozone layer of any sort and two suns beating down. This is definitely just a pit stop. No getting out and exploring.”

“Er… Doctor…” Stella looked at the lifesigns monitor on the panel next to the environmental display. “There’s somebody out there.”

“What?” The Doctor looked where she was pointing. A pale blue blip about seventy yards from the TARDIS was slowly fading. “Ok… Stella… stay here. Don’t even THINK about following me. I don’t want you breathing outside the TARDIS.”

“What about you?” she answered. “You need to breathe…”

“Not for the next fifteen minutes,” he answered, his voice sounding odd as he closed off his airways and prepared to recycle the air in his lungs. He reached for the door release. The automatic shields prevented the contaminated air outside from getting in. There was a distinct demarcation between outside and in. The TARDIS air was clear. The outside air was murky yellow.

He stepped out and was aware at once of the acrid smell of sulphur and several other unpleasant chemicals even though he wasn’t breathing them. He could feel the stuff on his skin, too. He wasn’t going to be out in it for long enough for it to give him skin cancer, but he knew that nothing with ordinary humanoid skin could live out here. Maybe some kind of adapted reptile or crustacean with a hard, resistant carapace, but nothing vulnerable to the elements.

The lifesigns monitor had indicated a humanoid, oxygen breathing, being. How long had he or she had been out here? And where had he or she come from?

Such questions could wait for now. The Doctor spotted a shadow through the yellow smog and ran towards it. It was a Human male, about thirty years of age. He was stumbling blindly, coughing and gasping in the foul atmosphere. He had a cloth around his head and part of his face like the keffiyeh worn by Arabs in Earth’s less hospitable desert places, but it was caked in yellow dust from the air, as was the exposed part of his face and he was obviously in trouble.

“All right,” The Doctor said. “I’ve got you. Come on. I’ve got a safe place, clean air and water and medicines. Let me help you.”

The man tried to speak in reply. He shied away from The Doctor, and his eyes looked frightened.

“It’s ok,” he said. “I’m The Doctor. Come on…”

Again the man shied away. The Doctor reached out to touch him on the shoulder and he cried out hoarsely.

“Look,” he added. “I’m A Doctor as well as THE Doctor. Hippocratic Oath. I have to render assistance. Plus, Captain of the TARDIS. It’s my duty to try to rescue you, one way or another. So be a good chap and be rescued quietly.”

“Noooo!” he cried plaintively as The Doctor reached and touched the exposed part of his face, trying to radiate calm and peace and settle his tormented mind. But there was too much torment. The Doctor couldn’t get through mentally in any way.

“Ok, it’ll have to be this way, then,” he said and put his other hand on the distressed man’s neck, finding a nerve that some peace-loving monks had once taught him about, that rendered an attacker senseless. He caught the man as he fell and pulled him over his shoulder in a ‘fireman’s lift’ as he turned and headed back to the TARDIS.

“Stella, close the door for me,” he ordered as he stepped over the threshold and thankfully breathed the good air inside the TARDIS. “Then open the inner door. I’ll take him straight down to the medical room.”

Stella did as he asked quickly and without question or fuss. She ran ahead opening the doors that brought them to the medical room. He laid his patient on the examination table and told Stella to wash her hands and put on surgical gloves and a face mask. He was already doing the same himself.

“We’re going to operate on him?” Stella asked in astonishment.

“No, it’s to protect you,” he answered. “This man’s body is caked in toxic dust from the atmosphere. I need to get him out of these clothes and clean his skin.” The Doctor was already peeling away the Keffiyah that was stiff with the dust and cleansing the patient’s face with an anti-septic wipe. He noticed that there was a rash on his skin but whether it was a reaction to the dust or an infection he wasn’t sure just yet. He put an oxygen mask over his patient’s face and took a blood sample to test while Stella got his jacket, shirt and vest off and began to wash his torso as The Doctor instructed. She reported that he had the same rash.

“It’s German measles,” she added. “That’s what he’s got.”

The Doctor looked up from his microscope where he had just come to the same conclusion.

“Booster immunisation for you, later.” he said. “That’s the one that is very bad for pregnant ladies and I don’t want you passing it on at the next place we stop.”

“Ok,” Stella said as The Doctor took over the cleaning process. She turned her back while he removed the thick combat trousers and underwear and dealt with the lower half of the patient. When she looked again he was in a pair of pink and white striped pyjama bottoms that were a contrast to his pink and white spotted upper body. The Doctor did a chest x-ray next and was satisfied.

“His lungs are clear,” he concluded. “He wasn’t breathing the stuff for long enough to cause any long lasting damage. He was very lucky we found him, all the same.”

“If he wasn’t out there long,” Stella said. “Then where did he come from? Did you see any sign of a building out there? How did he get there?”

“Excellent questions.” The Doctor answered her. “Which I intend to ask him just as soon as he is awake. Meanwhile, let’s make him comfortable in the bed and tidy up.”

The Doctor carried the still unconscious man to the bed in the corner of the medical room, noting that he was much lighter than he ought to be. Out of the bulky clothing he was a thin, wiry man who looked as if he had lived on short rations for a long time. He set up a saline drip to keep up his fluids, and made a note to feed him properly later. He administered a broad spectrum anti-biotic to help him combat the Rubella. It was a disease with no actual specific cure. It was usually controlled by vaccination, and when it did occur, isolation, warmth, food and fluids until it had run its course was the treatment. With his patient receiving all of that now, The Doctor considered that he had upheld the Hippocratic Oath, anyway.

The patient began to stir. The Doctor watched him carefully as he struggled to open his eyes.

“What have you done?” he cried as he stared up at the ceiling of the medical room. “Why did you bring me here? I ws meant to die.. you have done great harm…”

“Meant to die?” The Doctor was puzzled. Was he some sort of sacrificial victim to appease some local gods? He had come across that kind of idea before and usually left well alone. But sacrifices were usually quick deaths. This was a nasty lingering one and he couldn’t have just walked away even if that was the case.

He touched the patient’s face again, reaching in as before to try to read his thoughts. Again there was torment and worry. But he didn’t get any sense that it was about religion. Willing victims were usually much more single minded and sure of their place at the side of their gods.

“Nobody is ‘meant’ to die,” The Doctor told him. “Especially not in my TARDIS. Just take it easy.”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “I was cast out… for the sake of the Vien. I had to die… to protect them…”

“Oh…” Stella tugged at The Doctor’s arm to attract his attention. “Doctor… I think he means that his people left him to die… because he had German Measles.”

“No!” The Doctor was appalled. “No way. That’s… Is that what happened?”

The man nodded miserably.

“Anyone who shows sign of illness is cast out to prevent infection of the whole Vien. They say it is a quick death. I would have welcomed it. For the sake of my children who will be safe…”

“You have children!” Stella exclaimed. “And you… you were prepared to die. But… Oh… Oh, Doctor… But it’s not a deadly disease…”

“It might be if his people have no resistance to it,” The Doctor answered. “The trouble is, Rubella is infectious before the rash appears. It’s already too late. Others will be presenting symptoms by now. His family and anyone who associates with them will have it.”

“No,” the man cried in anguish. “No, they will be cast out, too. My wife… my little ones. No… I thought I was saving them.”

“We’ll save them,” The Doctor answered. “You’re already under my care. I’ll make sure your family are looked after. But you have to tell me where they are. We saw no habitats. This planet is so inhospitable to humanoid life. Where are they?”

“In the Ty Vien,” he answered. “Underground. There is an access shaft near… where you found me.”

“Ty Vien?” Stella looked at The Doctor. “What does he mean by that?”

“It’s old Alterian,” he said. “Vien means ‘village’. ‘Ty’ is the name of the tribe or family of the village. Ty would be his surname as it were. What’s your given name, friend?”

“Gor,” the patient replied. “Gor Ty of Ty Vien.”

“And there are other Viens on the planet?” The Doctor asked.

“Yes,” he answered. “At least there were, before… But then the tribulation came. We have had no contact with other Viens for many tines. I don’t know…”

“All right,” The Doctor said. “You take it easy. I’m going to leave Stella to look after you while I see what I can find out.” He took Stella aside and spoke to her quietly. “I know it’s asking a lot of you, but I need you to keep an eye on him. If he gets any more ideas about having to die…”

“Nursing is an icky job. I never fancied it,” she told him. “But I don’t mind, just this once. As long as he behaves.”

“He’ll behave.” He turned back to the patient. “Gor, you will behave, won’t you? I’m going to help you and your family. But you have to help us.”

Gor nodded and laid his head back on the soft pillow. Stella sat next to him as The Doctor disappeared out of the medical room. Gor sighed. After a while he slipped into a more natural sleep than before. He would be all right, she thought. But it sounded like his family were in trouble. She hoped The Doctor could help them.


The Doctor frowned as he studied the environmental monitor carefully. There was absolutely no trace of a habitation, even underground. The TARDIS was telling him that this planet was completely uninhabited. Yet a Vien would have at least fifty or a hundred people if it was in good order. Maybe a little less if it was troubled enough to have to expel people with even minor illnesses. He ought to have been able to detect them. Even if the habitat was nuclear proof, he ought to have been able to detect the protective shell.

But Gor had said it was below ground. He said there was an access tunnel near where he was found. He had no reason to lie about that.

So something was causing a disruption to the TARDISes sensors. And it had to be something very strong to do that.

But not something that would defeat him. He took the automatic sensor offline and manually configured it, filtering out all the elements in the toxic atmosphere and anything else that could possibly be causing problems. The soil, of course, was made up of the same elements. That was where most of the dust came from. So if he could filter out the atmosphere he would probably be able to filter out the soil, too.

Yes! He smiled triumphantly as his manual configuration revealed the presence of the subterranean Vien. It was about forty feet below ground with an access tunnel that ran down to it. It was proofed against nuclear or biological attack. It looked like it was meant to house about a hundred people.

But he was picking up lifesigns of at least three times that.

He reached for the internal communications system and called the medical centre.

“Stella, I’ve got a lock onto the Vien. I’m taking the TARDIS in for a look around. Is our guest all right?”

“He’s fine. But I’d better not leave him. You’ll have to explore on your own.”

“I’ll take you somewhere nice after we’re done to make up for it, I promise,” he told her. He closed the communication and then set the co-ordinate for inside the access tunnel to the Ty Vien.

It was a murky looking place, he thought as he opened the door and stepped out. There were dim lights set in the ceiling every few feet that served to make the grey walls even greyer. The tunnel floor was a series of steps every few yards. He closed the door and set off to walk down, reckoning that the tunnel went on for about a quarter of a mile in length as it dropped the forty feet. A gentle stroll, and infinitely preferable to a ladder.

He was part way along the tunnel when he heard the sounds of reluctant footsteps and distressed voices ahead. He stopped and waited and was only slightly surprised when two woman and a group of four children of various ages from a toddler up to about eight years stumbled towards him. They were dressed in the same sort of outdoor clothing that Gor Ty had been wearing, including the headgear that hid almost every part of their faces. The Doctor saw as they drew close that one of the women was holding a wrapped bundle very carefully. With horror he realised it was a baby. They looked at him with frightened eyes. He looked at them steadily and noted that they had a red rash on the exposed parts of their faces.

“Are you the family of Gor Ty?” he asked.

“Yes,” answered the woman holding the baby. “He was… my husband. He must be dead now. He was sent up to the outside before… We… I begged for mercy… for the children. But there was no mercy to be had. The rules are absolute.”

“Gor is alive. He is safe. So are you. Keep on going up to the end of the tunnel. There is help for you as well as him. I promise.” He reached to touch the woman on the shoulder. She drew back, fearfully. “It’s all right,” he assured her. “You cannot contaminate me. And in my ship… up there… I have medicine for you all. Go, now. Quickly.”

They hesitated, looking back where they had come, where they had been banished from, then to the way that, as far as they knew, led to death on the surface. He had promised safety and relief instead. They looked as if they didn’t quite believe him, but they had no choice but to pass him by and carry on up through the tunnel. As he watched them go, he reached in his pocket for his mobile phone. Stella answered at once.

“There’s some more refugees coming to you,” he told her. “Gor’s family. Meet them at the door and bring them to him in the medical centre. Then get them food and drink. They need antibiotics, too, but I’ll deal with that. The baby, especially, may need special care. For now, keep them warm and fed. And don’t let me forget that booster vaccination for you, later.”

“Gor will be pleased when I tell him, at least. What are you going to do now?”

“I’m going to find the person who is ordering women and children out onto a poisonous planet and make him see sense,” The Doctor answered. “I don’t know how long it will take, but don’t worry about me. Look after Gor and his family.”

“Look after yourself, Doctor,” Stella told him before he closed the call and continued on down the slope. He was not surprised when he arrived at a bulkhead door that could only be opened from the other side.

Well, only opened by an ordinary mortal who didn’t have a sonic screwdriver! For The Doctor, it took about five minutes effort, but finally he heard the satisfying hiss as the hermetic seal gave way and the door opened towards him. He stepped through into a rather brighter corridor inside the Vien.

It looked as if it had been designed to be a pleasant, bright, airy environment, with alcoves where flowering plants grew, scenting the air and, of course, doing their bit for the oxygen/carbon dioxide/nitrogen levels within the artificial living space. There were ornamented signs pointing to leisure centre, arboretum, dining hall, sleeping quarters, and other amenities.

The Doctor decided to head towards the ‘council hall.’ It sounded like a place where he could get answers to any number of questions that he wanted to ask.

As he followed the directions he heard a shrill whistle that came from speaker grills near the ceiling of the corridor and a voice echoed around the space.

“Family units designated Alpha Kappa may proceed to the leisure areas for an hour’s use of facilities. Family units designated Psi Tau must now return to their living areas. Any holders of Psi Tau identity badges who are not confined to their living area within the ten minute grace period will be subjected to ration penalties.”

At that, there was a sound of footsteps in both directions. The Doctor watched as something like fifty people came from one direction. They were wearing clothes made of pale blue artificial fibres, thigh length jerkins and leggings that were completely unisex and identical. They had small badges on their jerkins with letters on them. Quite why the Alterians used an alphabet identical to the Greek alphabet on Earth, The Doctor wasn’t sure, but he recognised the letters Alpha and Kappa – ??. From the opposite direction a group wearing identical pale blue jerkins and leggings with a badge denoting them as Psi Tau – ?t. When they met, they went in single file past each other. The Doctor stood between them. They looked at him curiously but said nothing. With only ten minutes grace to get where they were going, they obviously had no time to wonder about somebody who stood out from the herd so much as he did.

Another shrill whistle ten minutes later came with the announcement that the grace period was over, and The Doctor was not entirely surprised when he turned a corner and found a pair of what he immediately christened ‘hall monitors’ in darker blue jerkins. They seemed to be armed with nothing more dangerous than a clipboard and pen, but then again, The Doctor came from a world whose civil service was twenty times bigger than its army and police force combined and was well aware of how the pen could easily be mightier than the sword in the hands of a particularly malignant jobsworth.

“What is your designation?” he was asked. “Why are you in non-standard apparel?”

“My designation is Theta Sigma,” The Doctor answered with a sense of historical irony and a firm gaze that might be called hypnotic if anyone meeting his gaze gave it a second thought. They didn’t. They were too busy being hypnotised. It was a trick he didn’t used often, just when it helped to get past people who asked silly questions like ‘why are you in non-standard apparel.’ He wished he had a photograph of himself in his sixth incarnation when he seemed to have regenerated without a taste gene. That would have shown them what ‘non-standard’ meant. But he was content to carry on where he was heading before the short term effect of his power of suggestion wore off and they remembered he had given a ‘non-standard’ answer to their questions.

He came to the council hall, a large space with a raised podium where a council that he just knew were going to be called ‘elders’ sat. They were all white haired old men in black versions of the jerkin and leggings outfit. On ordinary chairs on the main floor a dozen or so people in the standard pale blue sat and there were clipboard carrying dark blue people standing as if on guard.

There was a debate going on. Or a hearing, a tribunal, trial. Those latter words seemed more appropriate as The Doctor took in the whole scene and noted a group of people sitting behind a glass panel, all looking desperately worried. He needed only a quick glance to know what they were worried about and what the trial or tribunal was about. Then he paid attention to the man in dark blue with another clipboard, who presently had the floor.

“These,” he said, indicating the sorry looking crowd behind the glass. “Must be cast out. They are all infected. But I would draw the learned Elders attention to the fact that they are the fifth group to be found in this state. I would urge the learned Elders to order a scourge of the Ty Vien. I believe there are many more infected who have not reported to me at the infirmary. I believe that they are being hidden by their families, fearing the banishment rule. This folly will spread the plague through the whole Ty Vien. Those who have harboured the infected must be cast out with them, as examples. For the greater good we must be firm. We must prevent the devastation that our predecessors knew at the time of tribulation.

“It will be done,” said one of the elders. “For the greater good of all, these must be sacrificed.”

“Over my dead body,” The Doctor said. Until then he had been so quiet and unobtrusive he might easily have been using a perception filter. He wasn’t. He had simply waited for the right moment for them to notice him. When they did, the expressions on the faces of the Elders were fascinating. The Doctor was aware of dark blue uniforms closing in behind his back and the click of pens on clipboards, but he stood his ground.

“You are…” One of the elders rose and pointed a long, pale, elderly finger at him. “You are…”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m in non-standard apparel. I know. That’s me. I’m very non standard. A complete individual. You really should have seen me in my multi-coloured era. Or when I had a thing for jumpers with question marks all over them. Or long scarves… silk-lined cloaks and frilly shirts. Oh, and if you want to see non-standard, you would have LOVED the cricket whites with celery accessory.” He was well aware as he deliberately blathered on, that the clipboards were closing in. “Oh, don’t bother,” he said to them without moving an inch from the spot. “I don’t have a designation. I’m a stranger here.”

“A stranger?” The words rippled up and down the Elder table. “You are not of the Ty Vien?”


“You are of another Vien?”

“You could say that,” he conceded. “But never mind that for now. What you’re doing here in this Vien has to stop. I can see that you’re overcrowded. And I’m going to be asking questions about that later. But your methods of population control are unacceptable. You cannot condemn those people to a horrible death on the surface just because they’re ill. What’s that all about?”

“You question our precautions against the plague?”

“I question a lot of things. First of all, I question your physician.” He turned to the man who had urged the banishments. “How did you come to that diagnosis?”

“As medical officer, it is my duty to root out plague carriers,” the physician answered. “I must protect the Ty Vien. In any case, the quick death above ground is more merciful than the slow death the plague brings.”

“A moot point,” The Doctor told him. “It would depend what sort of plague and what the symptoms are. But the question is irrelevant seeing as they don’t HAVE plague. All they have is a minor illness that they’ll be over in a few days.”

“You lie,” argued the physician. “It is the plague. They are covered in the rash. We all know that’s how it begins. Then the rash becomes massive boils that erupt… bleeding of the eyes and mouth… the lungs breaking down… internal organs suppurating… death… and all the while the putrid, infected body spreads the plague to others.”

“That sounds like any number of different plagues, yes,” The Doctor said. “But these people do not have that. They have a mild virus. Most of the adults just need a couple of days in bed with a hot water bottle and an unlimited supply of warm, milky drinks. The children… I’m a bit worried about them. They’re going to need some special care. But I can help them. I can help you all.”

“Why would we need your help, whoever you are?” asked the physician.

“Because I’m The Doctor, and it’s what I do,” he answered. “Besides, you ALL do need my help. You DO realise everyone in this room except me is infected? You all have it. You, Mr Physician… you, Learned Elders. You’ve ALL got it. so, which one of you wants to be the first to volunteer to go outside and breathe poisoned air for the greater good of Ty Vien?” He looked at the physician. He turned his face away, unable to look The Doctor in the eye. The Elders didn’t look him in the eye, either. But they looked at each other and saw the telltale rash beginning to show up on their pale skin.

“Are you ready to do it your way then?” he asked as the Elders shuffled in their seats but made no effort to condemn themselves. “Thought not. The operative word is hypocrite, by the way. And later, you might reflect on how many innocent people have died because of your banishment policy. But right now, I suggest we concentrate on looking after the sick – MY WAY.”

“It isn’t the plague?” one of the Elders, who had developed quite a pretty collection of red spots on his face in the few moments they were listening to The Doctor, clutched at that one crumb of comfort. “You… can cure us… that is the truth.”

“No,” the physician protested. “No, the stranger is wrong. It IS the plague. And… and…” The physician stared at the back of his own hands. “I am doomed… I have the plague… I am infected.” He wailed in what The Doctor thought was rather unmanly and hysterical way.

“You don’t have the plague,” The Doctor told him. “You have German Measles. You’ll be fine. Pull yourself together.” He turned to the Elders. “So… are we going to do it my way or not?”


They agreed to do it The Doctor’s way. Over the public address system throughout the Vien, the people, regardless of designation, were told to gather in the leisure hall, the council hall or the dining hall, bringing their bedrolls and blankets. No exceptions would be made. Everyone was to come. A census would be taken. A few, of course, were fearful of what was happening. The blue-dressed officials had to bring some of them by force. But when they reached the places where they were gathered together, they found that they had been converted into field hospitals. Those who were already sick were put to bed. Those still well enough to help were given vaccinations to help them avoid becoming sick, and were set to work making sure warmth and food and plenty of fluids were given to all, from the oldest to the youngest, from the Elders to the ancillary workers. The Doctor brought the TARDIS to the infirmary, where he gathered the most frail of the oldest people and the most vulnerable of the children. The adults and older children just needed TLC. These needed his special expertise, the anti-biotics, and careful watching in case they became too ill to fight the virus.

Among these vulnerable ones was Gor Ty’s youngest, a little girl called Gem, the three month old child who had been sentenced to be cast out onto the poisoned planet above. The Doctor gave her his very special attention during the long hours he toiled ensuring that everyone in the Vien was being looked after. He held her in his arms late in the evening of that day as her exhausted mother and her brothers and sisters slept nearby. He fed her a solution of salt and sugar in sterilized water that kept up her fluids and prevented dehydration as her temperature soared and her body became so flushed the rash seemed to merge into one solid colour. That was what would kill her if he didn’t look after her. It was what might leave her blind or brain damaged even if she did live. He hoped not. He didn’t have a lot of confidence in the ability of the Ty Vien to cope with a disabled child. But he had promised that nobody would die, and the thought that this little child might be the life he would lose distressed him.

Stella crept quietly into the infirmary, reporting that most of the people were asleep in the three halls, and that most of them did have signs of rubella now.

“You should sleep, too,” The Doctor told her.

“I’m ok,” she assured him. “I’ve had my booster. I’m not sick. That’s only the two of us in this whole place who aren’t. I’ll help you as much as I can.”

One of the other babies he was keeping an eye on stirred and cried. Stella reached to pick him up in her arms. The Doctor passed her a bottle of baby milk and she fed him.

“They were prepared to send these babies out to die,” she noted as she held the little one in her arms. “I can’t believe that. It’s horrible. And do you know, they’re all more or less related to each other. They’re all called ‘Ty’ because they’re a big, extended family. And yet they were prepared to do that.”

“They were afraid of the plague. It made them do foolish things,” The Doctor said. It wasn’t an excuse for them. He was still angry about that. But he accepted that as an explanation of their behaviour.

“I was talking to Gor,” Stella added. “He’s feeling a lot better now, because you helped him first and he had all that rest and medicine. He told me all about this place. It’s been here for about eighty years. The Elders were young when they came here as colonists with their parents. Ty Vien is one of a dozen of them… or it was. They built these communities underground because apparently that’s how they live on their original planet, too. They live underground and farm the land above. They’re like… rabbits in a warren… this was sort of like a Watership Down for people. The place where it was all going to be wonderful and new and happy. Only about ten years after they got here there was some sort of huge accident – the Tribulation. Apparently one of the moons exploded, or something. Anyway, it turned what was a lovely fertile planet into the mess we saw up there. The people just stayed down here. They had the technology to survive. They grow their food in huge hydroponic chambers below the living quarters. That’s really clever. And they have some way to recycle air and water a bit like we do on the TARDIS. So they had no problem keeping going, living down here. Except they were cut off from all the other Viens, of course. This thing about the plague… I think that’s a myth. Gor told me that the Ty Vien has always had loads of people in it. If there had been a plague there would have been less. So I think maybe that was a rumour that got started long before he was born. I think somebody got it into their heads that there had been a plague in the other Viens and that’s why they lost contact.”

“That’s a perfectly logical explanation,” The Doctor told her. “Well thought out. Remind me to look into that tomorrow. The fear was real enough, though. They became totally paranoid about any kind of illness. And being so overcrowded communicable illness was inevitable. It could just as easily have been something more serious. Though it’s serious enough for these little ones.” He put his hand on the forehead of baby Gem Ty. “She’s burning up. If I don’t get her temperature down she won’t make it through the night. Her little body won’t stand up to the punishment.”

“Can’t you do something… I mean something more Time Lordy, not just giving her water?”

“I’ve been trying to stick to ordinary methods… the things that they can do for themselves. It’s sort of…unwritten rule… don’t do Time Lordy things if ordinary methods will work…”

“Break the rule,” Stella told him. “She’s a baby. She doesn’t deserve to die because all the grown ups around here are stupid.”

The Doctor smiled. She was right. He pressed his hand more firmly against the baby’s face and concentrated. He drew out the heat from her body in the Time Lord way. Stella watched as the baby’s body began to look a more normal colour – apart from the rash – and The Doctor’s face flushed momentarily.

“You took the fever into yourself?”

“Yes,” he said. “Didn’t hurt me at all. Don’t worry.”

Once, it might not have done. But in the hour that Stella sat up with him before he made her go and sleep, he did it twice more for Gem Ty and for three other babies whose fevers were reaching worrying levels. He assured her that his own body could regulate its temperature easily and he wouldn’t be affected. And that was possibly true, Stella thought. But it was brave of him, all the same, to take on such a thing. Even when she went to lie down under blankets on a bedroll alongside the patients, she watched him for a little longer as he literally gave his own strength to his most vulnerable charges.

Stella woke several hours later and looked up to see The Doctor sitting in the same place as before, still cradling one of the babies in his arms. But even from where she was lying she could see there was a difference. She stood up and drew closer. It was Gem Ty that he was holding, and she was looking much better. Her skin was the proper pale pink colour it ought to be and even the rash seemed lighter. She was awake and looking up at The Doctor with bright, knowing eyes as he fed her milk from a bottle.

“The fever broke,” he said. “She’s on the mend, now. They all are. We made it through the night.”

He sounded relieved. He hadn’t been sure they would all make it. But they had, and his actions had meant that the fever hadn’t caused any long-lasting harm to them. He placed the baby in the arms of her mother with a joyful smile on his face.

That smile was wiped off his face in an instant as Gor Ty came running, shouting for The Doctor.

“What is it?” he asked. “Why are you racing about? You’re still officially sick, too. Sit down. Calm yourself…”

“They’re going to cast out the Physician,” he said.

“Who are?” The Doctor replied. “The Elders?”

“No,” Got answered. “Most of the Elders are too ill to form a council. Some of the others… mostly Psi Tau designation… they’re angry at him for wrongly casting out some of their people. They’re calling it murder.”

“They’re calling it right,” The Doctor said. “But they can’t condemn him. I won’t let them.” He set off running. Stella looked around the infirmary and then turned and followed him, teenage stamina not quite measuring up to Time Lord anxiety to prevent an injustice as he headed for the access tunnel.

“Stop this,” he yelled as he ran towards the crowd that were shouting and yelling in the tunnel as they pushed the physician along ahead of them. “Stop, all of you.”

“He killed five of our people for nothing,” said one of the Psi Tau people. “He murdered them.”

“You ALL murdered them,” The Doctor answered. “You all accepted this method of preventing plague. You didn’t object to their banishment. This whole community is guilty of gross stupidity. That only five people have died is small mercies. That as many as five people died is a disgrace that you will ALL have to live with. But nobody will be punished by anyone else. Not one of you has the right to condemn this man unless you all want to banish each other.”

Again his bluff about self-banishment was effective. They stopped trying to force the physician towards the outer airlock and looked somewhat ashamed of themselves.

“Right, then,” The Doctor said. “I suggest you get back down there and make yourselves useful. There are still people too sick to fend for themselves depending on those of you still fit enough to look after them. And bear in mind, they’ll be the ones looking after you when you go down sick and they’re getting better.”

They traipsed away, ready to do as he told them. The physician was last of all. He looked at The Doctor and sighed deeply.

“Thank you,” he said. “You saved my life.”

“Yes, I did,” The Doctor replied. “Actually, I quite understand their point of view. You deserved to be punished for your part in this. But I don’t think it would achieve anything. You all need to learn from this experience and move on from it. There’s something else I might be able to help you all with before I go. But believe me, I’m not doing it for your benefit, or for the clipboard and pen holders, or for your Elders. I’m doing it for the children. So they have a better future than they were facing before this.”

Now that his patients didn’t need his constant attention he had time to find out about that history Stella had told him. He looked at the computerised birth and death records that went back those eighty years. Stella had guessed correctly that no plague took place here. The population had grown steadily, with several generations now living together in the Vien, and illness had never acted as any bar on that growth.

But what he also needed to explore was why they had lost contact with the other Viens. He didn’t believe for one minute that it had anything to do with plague.

He spent a full day working on the Ty Vien communications system with some of the technicians who were recovering from their non-terminal illness. He used what he knew from his calibration of the TARDISes sensors to block out the interference from the planet’s poisoned atmosphere and fine tuned it. And he was thoroughly gratified when he made contact with a surprised communications officer at his desk in a place called Kt Vien.


“So…. All this time, Ty Vien thought they were alone, and all the time, the other Viens thought they were all dead and gone and were known as the ‘lost Vien’?” As The Doctor got ready to take her somewhere that he could reward her for her help with the people of Ty Vien, Stella summed up the outcome of the adventure. “And now they know they’re here, they’re going to arrange for proper contact between the Ty Vien and the rest of them?”

“They’ve developed a quite impressive site to site static transmat. It connects all the other Viens. They’ll establish a transmat point in the Ty Vien and they’ll be able to come and go. Some of them will probably go. They are badly overcrowded and some of them will be able to start up new Viens. The technology is there to build new habitats.”

“New rabbit warrens. Still seems like Watership Down.”

“It’s how they have always lived. It’s right for them. Ty Vien will be a happier warren from now on. And I think we can consider that a job well done.”

“So do I,” Stella said. “So where next?”

The Doctor smiled and promised it was a surprise. Stella got ready to be surprised in ways only The Doctor could possibly surprise her.