For the last few weeks that Stella was travelling with him, The Doctor made sure they only went to places where there was fun to be had and nothing remotely dangerous that would spoil the time they had to share. He enjoyed himself. He knew she did. He felt, as the days went by, a deep sense of regret that their companionship was coming to an end. He didn’t want to take her home to Earth, to Llanfairfach and her A’levels. He didn’t want to go on alone, with nobody to talk to.

But that was how it had to be. He knew that. She belonged on Earth in the 21st Century. She needed to do ordinary things now – go to college, get her qualifications, go to university, study for her future. Maybe meet a nice man, fall in love, the way she dreamt it.

And he had to go on his way, in the TARDIS. That was how it worked.

“We’ll be there in about half an hour,” The Doctor said to her. “Have you got everything you need to take with you? Your brother, Rhys, is meeting us, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” she answered to both questions. Then she smiled. “Rhys is ok. I like him. So is his wife. It’ll be ok staying with them.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go to stay with your mum and dad and Wyn in South Africa? Ten minute detour, and I’m sure Rhys wouldn’t mind one little bit.”

“No,” she said. “There’s nothing for me to do there. I want to study photography. Fashion photography. That’s what I’ve decided. You know when we met Polly Jackson. It was fantastic to be a model for her, but I really got interested in the cameras and how the pictures were made.”

The Doctor smiled. The teenage girl had grown up in the year with him. From being full of vague ambitions about modelling or acting or being a pop star, she had settled on a reachable ambition and was prepared to put in the work to achieve it. He thought he actually could take credit for some of that. At the least, introducing her to Polly and the world of fashion photography. But also teaching her to reach for what she wanted and not expect it on a plate.

“I’m sorry you never met a prince you could marry,” he said.

“Oh, that doesn’t matter,” she replied. “It was just a silly dream. Besides, I met you. Prince of the Universe.”

She came from where she was sitting, having put the last of her belongings into a suitcase, and hugged him. He reciprocated gladly.

“It’s been great, Doctor,” she told him. “But… I should go home now. I’ll expect you to visit plenty of times, though.”

“Oh, count on it,” he assured her. “Count on it.”

Funny that in the past he had been so bad at going back and seeing people. Sarah Jane, who he could so easily have dropped in on, his own granddaughter. He knew perfectly well where she was. He just felt nervous about the idea of going to see her. But he managed to find himself in Llanfairfach easily enough. There was something about the simple, unconditional welcome he had there that made it easy.

Still, he was going to miss her.

They were only half an hour away by time vortex, though still many hundred light years off in real distance, when something happened that he could not have contrived in a million years. A mauve alert. He ran around the console to the communications panel to trace the signal.

“Ship in distress,” he said.

“Oh…” Stella looked as if her next word might have been good, but realised how bad that would sound. Still, a detour, a few more hours with The Doctor, a bit of an adventure, that was fine by her. She hoped the distress wasn’t too terrible.

“Grab a handhold,” The Doctor added. “We’re going to drop out of the vortex.”

Stella grabbed and held on tight. An emergency drop from the vortex was like falling a hundred floors in a failing lift but without the bone-crunching death at the end. It would have made a good white knuckle ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

They both kept their feet, but Stella felt nauseous as she always did when that happened.

“There’s the ship,” The Doctor told her. “Looks like it’s taken a battering.”

“What? You mean something attacked it?” Stella asked as she looked at the ship on the viewscreen and noted blackened sections and an engine nacelle that had clearly been on fire recently. It was moving through space slowly using a solar sail to capture enough light from the stars to generate power for impulse engines and life support.

The Doctor looked at a schematic and noted that they had life support only in one small section of the ship. The rest was depressurised and airless.

He noted further that there were nine lifesigns in the section with life support.

That from a ship that should have been able to carry at least twenty-five people.

Either they set off shorthanded or they lost a lot of people in the disaster that befell them.

“It could be natural,” he told Stella. “They could have strayed into an asteroid belt or something. But… my first guess is some kind of attack. Anyway…”

He opened an audio communication channel and identified himself as The Doctor, Captain of the TARDIS, and gave an identification code that Stella knew, after a year with him, was a sort of intergalactic registration number.

“What is the nature of your emergency and how can I help?”

“Doctor?” said a voice. “A medical doctor?”

“Yes, certainly, if you need medical assistance,” he answered. “How many wounded do you have?”

“Thank the stars!” replied the voice. “We need to transfer a passenger who needs medical attention. Do you have a transmat shield?”

“I do,” he answered. “But your ship is in a bad state. I can take you all…”

“We’re all right,” the voice insisted. “We’ve been in contact with our homeworld. They’re sending a rescue ship. Another twenty-four hours. But this passenger needs immediate attention.”

In the background, The Doctor could hear voices. They seemed to be protesting about something. But the voice on the audio link was insisting that the only help they needed was for one passenger.

Passenger? The Doctor looked at the ship again. It was a small intergalactic freighter. They didn’t, as a rule, carry passengers. It was an odd word to use.

There was something odd about this whole thing.

“Stella,” he said quietly, putting the communication on mute for a moment. “Go into the inner corridor. Keep the door shut until I tell you.”

“You think there’s something dangerous…”

“I can’t refuse a request for assistance,” he said. “But something isn’t right. I want you safe…”

Stella did as he asked, though she didn’t like it. He turned the communication back on and reached to disable the anti-transmat shield for a window of no more than thirty seconds.

“That’s long enough,” the voice told him. “Stand by.”

The Doctor gripped his sonic screwdriver in one hand, on welding mode, and an old fashioned, heavy monkey wrench from his toolbox in the other. If this was trouble, he would meet it head on, despite his pacifist leanings.

A figure materialised by the gangway to the door. The Doctor quietly dropped the wrench and put away his sonic screwdriver as he stepped forward to greet him.

“Jamie…” he said. “Are you all right… What’s happened?”

“Doctor,” Jamie Gar Jass answered. “Doctor, get the rest of them. They’re in danger. Don’t let them die for me. They’re…….”

The Doctor looked at Jamie and a dozen things he could say filled his mind. But the urgency of his words overrode them. He turned back to the console as Stella ran in from the corridor and hugged her friend.

“Jamie!” she cried. “But… you’re… wow… how…”

“Doctor, please…” Jamie wasn’t ready for the other questions yet. He was concerned with the other lives that were at risk, still. So was The Doctor.

“They’re…. they’re trying to reach impulse speed. They must be… Oh, *&@#£&. They’re transferring life support power to the engines to make it go faster.” The Doctor’s face was pale as he watched, powerless to intervene.

“There’s another ship, isn’t there,” Jamie said as The Doctor stared at the viewscreen.

“It’s closing in on them,” he confirmed.

“Doctor, please…”

The Doctor said nothing more. He just moved around to the drive control and programmed a wide materialisation encompassing as many people as possible. He managed to bring a group of four into the TARDIS. The men looked around in astonishment and a little fear. Jamie went to speak to them.

“Stella,” The Doctor shouted. “Open the door, let the rest of them in.” Stella ran. But as she reached the door, the TARDIS was rocked violently. She gripped the handrail and reached out for the door mechanism. The Doctor called out to her, but it was too late.

“Ohh!” she cried out in horror as she saw the debris of the destroyed ship held in the TARDIS’s own gravitational field. Automatic shields prevented her from coming to any harm, but the sight of a blackened body, minus limbs, floating in front of her was too much. She screamed loudly.

Then she saw something even more terrifying. A thermic torpedo heading straight towards the TARDIS. She slammed the door and ran back up the gangway. The Doctor caught her in his arms and pushed her to the floor, calling out to everyone else to brace themselves. The TARDIS shuddered violently as the missile impacted on its exterior, but it was made of stronger stuff than that. As soon as the worst of the shaking was over The Doctor jumped up, lifting Stella. He left her on the command chair, nursing a couple of bruises and went to bring Jamie to sit next to her.

“Is the baby all right?” Stella asked anxiously. The Doctor was already finding out. He produced a stethoscope from his pocket and put it against Jamie’s obviously extended stomach. He smiled and nodded and it seemed as if everyone in the room sighed with relief. He gave Stella the sonic screwdriver in tissue repair mode and told her to use it on the minor injuries she and everyone else had sustained. He himself went to the console. He saw the ship that had fired on him and noted the information the TARDIS was automatically recording about it, including where it was from and the fact that it was powering up its torpedoes again. He turned to the navigation panel and programmed in a new course. The TARDIS dematerialised as the second torpedo launched. With the TARDIS safely moving through the vortex he turned to look at his extra passengers as they picked themselves up from the floor, finally coming to terms with being alive when they expected to be dead.

“You lot were prepared to buy him time with your own lives,” The Doctor said. “You put everything into trying to draw that gunship away from us. I’m sorry I couldn’t save the others. Very sorry. But welcome aboard the TARDIS. I’m taking us somewhere safe, where you can draw breath and, hopefully, explain what this is all about. Meanwhile, take a seat wherever you can. Stella, I’ll finish off the first aid, You go put the kettle on and make us all a nice cup of tea.”

Stella was on the point of telling him to make the tea himself, but she realised that would leave her alone with four men that she didn’t know and Jamie, who was not in a position to defend her.

Besides, making the tea was just the sort of ordinary thing she needed to do to take away the horrible visions of what she saw outside the TARDIS door. The Doctor was just like her mum for that. Any trouble, make a cup of tea.

And they were both right. Making the tea helped her. Drinking it helped the people they had just rescued from a nasty death. And by the time it was drunk they had reached the safe place The Doctor said he was taking them to.

“Home?” Stella looked at the viewscreen and saw the backyard of the farm they still called the Nuthutch even though it was no longer the hippie commune it was when her mum first came here. “Yes, I suppose this is safe. Nothing happens here.” She smiled as her brother came out of the back door of the house to meet them. “You can explain to Rhys why we’ve got a collection of space refugees with us, Doctor.”

The Doctor did explain. Rhys responded to the crisis remarkably well. He had only one condition to letting everyone into his home. The four spacemen had to leave their weapons in the TARDIS.

The Doctor had been too concerned with torpedoes and pregnant men to realise they were carrying weapons. He looked, now, at what, in this time, were very futuristic laser heat pistols in their shoulder holsters. Of course, it was quite usual for freighter crews to be armed. The galaxy was full of pirates and worse that they needed to defend themselves against.

He wasn’t keen on guns in the TARDIS, either. But Rhys was their host. He allowed the four men to leave their weapons by the console before they were all invited into the Nuthutch.

They were brought through the kitchen and the corridor beyond to the big dining room with at least twenty chairs around a huge oak table. Rhys’s wife, Bronwen, brought a large pot of home made vegetarian stew. Even though there was no commune here, now, there was still an experimental farm, growing new types of wheat and other crops, and the workers always knew there would be a meal for them any time they came to the kitchen. Feeding the unexpected arrivals was no trouble, even if Stella was the only one of them who wasn’t an alien of some sort, and one of them was a pregnant man.

The spaceship crew were used to pre-packed, condensed rations. Food made of fresh organic vegetables was a welcome surprise. They were heartened by such hospitality after their ordeal. But now, with their bodies rested and fed, it was time for explanations.

“You were right, Doctor,” said the senior of the four, Lieutenant Doré, second in command on the Freight Ship Angullan of Sellanica II. “Yes, we did run in hope that the enemy would follow us and let you… with our passenger… escape. It was a last, desperate measure. It was important that he remained alive.”

“My sister would think so,” Stella said. “But what’s going on? And how come he’s pregnant? How come he was out there in space, anyway?”

“How long is it since you left the Time Agency?” The Doctor asked Jamie, reaching for his arm and rolling up the shirt sleeve. There was no more than a very faint mark now where his wristlet used to be. The flesh had almost returned to the proper colour and texture after being bone white and imprinted with the pattern of leather for all the years Jamie had been a Time Agent.

“Six months,” he answered. “There was a change of government, changes in the security agencies. We lost our independent charter and were brought under direct military command. And… Earth government became suspicious of aliens working within the agencies. I was dismissed, instantly. I barely had time to clear my desk. They took my vortex manipulator. I was stranded on Earth, in the fifty-first century. I couldn’t get back to Wyn. For the past four and a half years – since she stayed in Africa, I have been visiting her often, using the vortex manipulator. We talked on the videophone. But now I had no way to get to her. I called her and told her… I told her I had to… end it…”

“Oh, no,” Stella gasped. “Oh, poor Wyn.”

“I didn’t want to. I love her. I always planned to round off things at the Agency and then go back to her. But they took away my ability to travel in time. I… decided to go home. I was working my way back to Haollstrom…”

The Doctor nodded. A lot of things fell into place, now. He understood why, when he visited Wyn and Stella five years into their future from now, they had both been in Lllanfairfach and Wyn had not wanted to talk about relationships. He had told them not to talk about their year with him, since it hadn’t happened for him and he didn’t want to cause a paradox. So she hadn’t told him about Jamie.

All of that heartache still had to happen for Wyn, and there was nothing he could do about it.

“Whose baby is it?” The Doctor asked. Stella was puzzled by the question. She knew that Haollstromnians had babies by a process The Doctor would call parthenogenesis. They didn’t need anyone else. When they wanted to be a parent they fertilised an egg and had a baby.

So to ask Jamie ‘whose baby is it’ was strange.

“She is the heir to the Empire of Sellanica – an eight planet system in the Gemini sector. Do you know of it, Doctor?”

“I do,” he answered. “You were a long way from there when we found you.”

“The Empress was on a state visit to Gallian, in the Octavan Segment, when she was fatally injured by an assassin,” Jamie continued. “The surgeons could not save her. She was brain dead. But they knew they could save her unborn child if a surrogate could be found. I was at the space port, trying to arrange passage to the Haollstrom system when the call went out. They were offering a very large reward. A VERY large one. Enough to by a black market vortex manipulator…” Jamie caught The Doctor’s expression and smiled grimly. “Yes, I know. But I only wanted to use it for one trip… to get back to Wyn. After that, I would be happy to destroy it and never travel in time again.”

“So you got somebody else’s baby transplanted into you… and you set off to the planet where her family are?” Stella asked.

“Exactly that,” Jamie replied. “The departure was kept secret. We used a tramp freighter… though the crew are all Royal Guards. Good men. They have looked after me as if I was royal, myself. And I was proud of my part in all this. But somehow, the traitors found out what ship we were on and intercepted us. We escaped the first attack, but only just. And you found us… you know what happened after that.”

“You mean, somebody blew up a spaceship, killed people, because they wanted to kill the baby you are… carrying?” Bronwen Grant Jones, Rhys’s bewildered wife looked at Jamie in astonishment. “Who would do that?”

“I was going to ask that question,” Stella added.

“So was I,” The Doctor said. “Though I could hazard a guess. We’re in evil uncle, sinister grand vizier territory again. Aladdin, Hamlet etc.”

“Evil aunt, in this case,” Jamie explained. “The queen’s younger sister, Elissa Bellix. She resented the usurpation of her position as heir.”

“She has been arrested,” Doré confirmed. “Even before the queen’s life was ended, the plot unfolded. The king had her imprisoned, along with most of her co-conspirators. But there is a core that still do her bidding even as she languishes in a dark dungeon on Sellanica. It was they who attacked us.”

“Jamie, you should have asked for a lot more money,” The Doctor said. “This is above and beyond the call of duty.”

“I am being paid enough,” Jamie assured him. “Besides…the little one. She is… even though she is not of my own DNA… I have felt… this past month that I have been responsible for her… I have felt such a bond. She is worth it. I want her to live.”

“You’re a hero, Jamie,” Stella told him. “Isn’t he, Doctor?”

“He is,” The Doctor answered. “A truly selfless hero. And he hasn’t told us the whole of it. This pregnancy has been difficult. The child’s DNA is interfering with his gendermorphic ability. He’s stuck as a man until the child is born.”


“That’s… got to be awkward,” Rhys commented. “What happens when…”

“She will be delivered by caesarean,” Jamie answered. “Even so, I am happy to do my duty this way. And I will still be able to have children of my own when I am ready.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Bronwen said. “But… Are you sure you’re safe here, right now? Are we all safe? There won’t be… these traitors can’t follow you here?”

“Not in my TARDIS,” The Doctor assured her. “We picked them up in the fifty-first century. The Sellanicans don’t have time travel. Everyone is safe here. I would not have put your lives at risk otherwise. We just need a quiet night and time for me to say goodbye to Stella in the morning before we’re off again.”

“That’s all right, then,” Bronwen replied. “All the same, I’m glad the boys are at summer camp. I don’t want them writing about a houseful of assorted aliens, including a pregnant man when they go back to school in the autumn.”

The Doctor agreed with her on that point. On reflection, bringing these complications to their lives was unfair. But the Nuthutch was the safest place he knew, and Jamie and the unborn princess needed the respite. After they had eaten, The Doctor took him upstairs to one of the bedrooms and made a thorough and professional examination, pronouncing surrogate parent and child to be in good health.

“Not far off full term, either,” he added. “This little one won’t be a burden to you much longer.”

“She’s no burden,” Jamie replied. “I volunteered for the money… for a chance to be with Wyn. But I’ll miss her when I have to give her up to her father, the Emperor. It’s the first time I’ve really had the parental instinct. But I like the feeling. It comes to us all sooner or later… my kind. We reach a point where we’ve played around enough and we want emotional responsibility. I even let myself dream… of my own child… of being a family with Wyn.”

“That’s a good dream. But trying to achieve it with a dodgy black market time vortex… I don’t think so. You should have called me. I never would have let you down. You’re a proud people, Haollstromnians. To admit you needed my help… it just isn’t in you.”

Jamie nodded sheepishly.

“I was ashamed of the mess I had made of my life. I thought you would think I was a fool…”

“You know that’s not true,” The Doctor told him. “So swallow that Haollstromnian pride and trust in me. I’ll see you right. Meanwhile get some sleep for the sake of that precious child you’re looking after.” The Doctor reached and touched Jamie’s face and gently sent him into the restful sleep he and the child both needed. He crept away, closing the door, and joined the others in the big, communal room where four fifty-first century spacemen were being introduced to the concept of organic Elderberry Chardonnay.

Something like a peaceful evening was setting in. Rhys and Bronwen were enjoying being hosts even to such unusual guests. Stella slid back into ordinary life on planet Earth, putting her belongings in her room and settling down by the TV to watch a documentary about Polly Jackson’s autumn collection going on show in Paris. Polly was older, now, of course, and a huge success. Stella smiled as she remembered their part in her early years.

The Doctor sat on a very comfortable armchair and closed his eyes, allowing himself to relax in the certain knowledge that here and now, in this place, everyone was all right, and nobody needed his attention. He cleared his mind and sat still and quiet for a little while before letting his relaxed mind reach out beyond the room. He found the sleeping mind of Jamie and the unborn princess, the innocent of them all, and was content with his part in ensuring her safety. He drew in closer, and found Rhys and Bronwen, a happy young family just slightly bewildered by the arrival of The Doctor and his friends in their midst. Bronwen was very happy, in fact. Rhys didn’t yet know her own precious secret. The Doctor was happy to know that Jamie was not the only expectant parent in the house, and glad that the danger they had all escaped couldn’t reach them here.

Stella was having a bittersweet time, of course. Glad to be home, but sorry her adventure in the TARDIS was over. But that couldn’t be helped.

The rescued crew had their anxieties, of course. As safe as this place was, it was also alien to them and they would only really be completely happy when they reached their own planet. The Lieutenant was concerned about having to assume command after the death of their captain aboard the doomed freighter. He didn’t feel himself completely ready for that.

The communications officer, Alik, was worried because his girlfriend was one of the late queen’s retinue and was still on the planet they had left. She would have heard by now of the destruction of the freighter and would be distraught.

The Doctor made a mental note. Tomorrow when they were in the vortex and no communication could be traced by the enemy, Alik needed to make a personal videophone call. So did Mallia, the navigator, who had a wife on the home planet who would also be worrying.

Elik, the last of the four survivors was an interesting case, The Doctor thought as he focussed his mind on him. He wondered if the others knew that he was a cyborg? He must have had a very bad accident at some time in his life. Both legs, an arm, one lung, part of the stomach, even a section of his brain was artificial. The brain prosthetic was a remarkable piece of technology. The Doctor knew it had been developed on many planets and was used for patients with brain damage. He wasn’t sure how he felt about the idea. He thought about Cybermen. They had taken cybernetic prosthetics to the extreme and lost their very souls. If they could replace the organic brain at their centre, what would that make them? The ethics of it all bewildered even his mind.

Elik was a case in point. His organic brain had been damaged in whatever accident befell him. The prosthetic gave him full mental capability, but he essentially had two minds. The prosthetic one was a closed door to The Doctor’s mental powers. He could only hope that it always worked in conjunction with the organic part, or the psychological consequences could be huge.

But that, at least, was somebody else’s problem. His was getting everyone safely home to Sellenica and making sure Jamie was able to safely give birth to the new princess. He had made up his mind to stay until the birth. Even a Haollstromnian needed a hand to hold at that time. And afterwards, they needed a long talk about the future.

The immediate future contained a glass of Elderberry Chardonnay offered to him by Rhys and a light-hearted discussion about whether Elderberry Chardonnay was a contradiction. Two or three more glasses of it and a good home-cooked supper brought them to bedtime.

The Doctor made sure that he had a bed next door to Jamie where he could keep an eye on him. The bed had a home made patchwork quilt and a soft pillow filled with something organic and cruelty free but just as comfortable as feather pillows. He laid himself in that soft warmth and allowed himself to fall into a dreamless sleep.

He was woken a few hours later, not by a noise, but by an uneasy feeling. He slipped through to Jamie’s room and assured himself that all was well there. Then he looked out of the window and saw Elik standing near the TARDIS in the farm yard.

He opened the window wide and looked down. By good fortune, there were some bales of hay below for feeding the obstreperous goat that generally thought the yard was his. If he did this right, he would get down there much faster than running through the house. If he did it wrong, it would be painful and draw Elik’s attention to him.

He did it right, landing almost soundlessly. He moved quickly in the shadow of the house until he could see what Elik was doing.

He was communicating with somebody, using a communicator on his arm. Or, to be more precise – a communicator in his arm. A piece of his cyborg flesh was opened up and he was speaking into it. He was telling someone that he was with the surrogate parent, but that they had crossed time and were out of reach of the ship.

“If the child is out of our reach, then you must do what is necessary,” he was told by a cold voice.

“I understand,” he answered. “I will obey.”

“Of course, you will,” replied the voice even more coldly. “You have no choice. You are under our control.”

Elik turned, folding down the skin over the communicator, which merged seamlessly. He saw The Doctor standing nearby and his face was hostile. He reached for his weapon before remembering that it was inside the locked TARDIS. The Doctor said nothing. He simply raised the sonic screwdriver and pressed a button. Elik cried out in pain and clutched his head for a few moments. When he looked up again his expression was no longer hostile. Rather it was despairing. A tear fell down his cheek.

“Doctor!” he gasped. “You shut down my prosthetic brain implant.”

“Your brain works perfectly well without it. It was put there to control you, I think. You were a convenient dupe for them…”

“Yes…” he said. “I...Oh…” Elik’s face turned pale.

“What is it they told you to do?”

“Kill the surrogate and the child princess.” He pulled his shirt aside and a section of his flesh beneath. “This is how,” he said as he revealed the prosthetic stomach section. Within it was what was unmistakeably a bomb. A time bomb. Even though it was made to be hidden inside a prosthetic body part, the bomb actually had a counter that was counting down. The universe was a strange place!

“Run, Doctor,” Elik said. “I will… the fields… I will be the only victim.”

“No,” The Doctor said and he reached and grasped the bomb from within Elik’s body. He ran with it to the TARDIS. He kept on running through the console and the inner corridor. He noticed that the counter was running very low. If it came to it, he could throw the bomb into any of the rooms he passed by. The TARDIS would contain the blast within that room. But he didn’t want to damage any part of his ship if there was another way. If he could get there in time.

He had only seconds left as he ran into the Cloister Room. He pulled at the mooring staff and the Eye of Harmony started to open. Five seconds were left. Four, three….

He threw the bomb into the partially opened eye with the precision of one who once played a lot of cricket – a long time ago, in another life. It sank into the pool of concentrated Artron energy. The explosion was completely contained. A bubble rose up and broke the surface and some concentric ripples spread out as The Doctor closed the Eye again and turned away.

He was surprised to find Elik in the console room, holding one of the energy weapons he and his comrades had been forced to leave in there. He was holding it to his own head.

“No, please don’t,” The Doctor said to him. “It’s over, now.”

“No, it’s not,” he answered. “I will be punished for my part in this…for being a collaborator. And even if I wasn’t… how could I face my comrades… I wish I had been one of those who died. Your saving me was… one of the others deserved to live more than I do.”

“Everyone deserves to live,” The Doctor told him. “And there have been enough deaths already. Let me help. I will speak on your behalf. I am a doctor. When I tell them that you were controlled by your prosthetic brain, they will believe me. I promise.”

“I believe you, Doctor,” Elik said with a pitiful sob. “But how can I live with myself? How can I forgive myself?”

“You…” The Doctor began, then he screamed as Elik pulled the trigger. His scream merged with The Doctor’s as his head was enveloped in the heat ray. The Doctor caught his body as it fell and laid him on the floor, gently. He sat beside him and cried in frustration. Too many people HAD died. The Sellenican queen, five people on the ship. Now Elik. Too many for a man who valued all life.

When his own tears were done he lifted Elik’s body and carried it through to the Cloister Room, laying him down beside the Eye of Harmony. He closed his eyes and straightened his limbs and left him there in peace. He walked back through the TARDIS, out into the night air where he took a deep breath before letting himself into the house and going to his bed. He laid his head back down on that wonderfully soft pillow and the warm patchwork quilt and waited for morning. It would fall to him to tell everyone what had happened. A responsibility he would have to bear. The consolation was that those who gave the order would believe he had carried it out. When his organic body died the prosthetics switched off. That might just make them incautious enough to give themselves away to the authorities trying to root out the last of the rebels.

That much was a small consolation to Elik’s shocked friends when The Doctor told them. They mourned the loss of one more comrade and regretted that the danger had, after all, come to this quiet, safe place.

“That’s another good reason to leave now,” The Doctor said. “We’ll be on Sellenica by teatime, with Jamie and the baby under the protection of the loyal palace guard.”

He saw them all into the TARDIS and then thanked Rhys and Bronwen for their kindness. Then he had a last word for Stella.

“You, Rhys and Bronwen,” he said. “You must not tell Wyn about what happened here, especially about Jamie’s part in it. None of this HAS happened yet in their timeline. Wyn is still enjoying a long distance romance with her. The heartbreak is to come, but it must come. I intend to do what I can to make it right. But events have to play out, first. Stella, look after your sister. Look after all your family. Look after yourself until I see you again. It might be a while, but I promise I WILL be back.”

“Just you stay out of trouble,” she told him.

“As if I could,” he responded with a laugh. He hugged her tight and kissed her on the cheek, then she went to stand with her brother and sister-in-law by the kitchen door while he stepped into the TARDIS and programmed the dematerialisation. He watched her until the view of the farm yard dissolved into vortex.


The Doctor was hailed as a hero almost as much as Jamie was when they arrived on Sellenica II. He had brought the surrogate and the unborn princess safely home. In amongst the celebrations he was gratified to learn that the last of the conspirators were in prison now. Apart from anything else, that meant that Elik’s part in it all didn’t need to be mentioned. His three colleagues agreed with The Doctor that it was a secret they could keep. Elik’s body was brought home with honour, as one who had died in service of the Emperor. His family were promised a war hero’s pension and they were able to hold up their heads in pride rather than bear the shame that would otherwise have fallen on them.

And only ten days after the homecoming, The Doctor came with Jamie to the hospital where he was to give birth to the princess. He held his hand as the local anaesthetic was administered and was as pleased as he was when he held the newborn child in his arms before giving her over to her father, the Emperor.

“I am sorry to leave her,” Jamie admitted to The Doctor a few days later when she – now able to morph between genders fully – had been guest of honour at Princess Alisha’s naming ceremony. A bag of jewels and gold that were hard currency in any part of the universe was one of the possessions she was bringing with her to the TARDIS. The Doctor had promised to take her anywhere she wanted to go.

There was only one place Jamie wanted to go, of course.


The TARDIS materialised in the same spot in the yard of the Nuthutch farm. It was a little more than five years since he had left it. The goat was much older but still cross with him. Unless he had badly miscalculated, it was a few days after the visit he made over a year ago in his personal time, before going back to catch up on that year. The twists of time the way he lived it sometimes boggled even him.

The kitchen door opened. Stella, older then she was when he last saw her, but still lovely, looking the very image of her mother in the days when he first knew her, stepped out and then ran to embrace him.

“Are you all right?” she asked. “You don’t usually come back so quickly. It’s only been a week.”

“Is Wyn here?” he replied. “There’s somebody who needs to talk to her.”

Stella looked around as Jamie stepped out of the TARDIS and her face lit.

“Oh… Doctor… This is what you meant five years ago… when…”

Then Wyn came to the kitchen door. There was a moment when time seemed to stand still, then Wyn and Jamie both ran. It was like one of those old-fashioned films where two people run into each other’s arms. The Doctor put his arm around Stella and held her as the world became one with only two people in it for Wyn and Jamie.

“I think they’ll want to go back to South Africa, now,” Stella said. “Wyn only came back because she felt lonely after Jamie told her she couldn’t visit any more. But this is what she wanted. Jamie staying with her forever. They’ll be great together over there, running the factory. They can both take over from dad and he can REALLY retire, like he should.”

“I’ll give them a lift in the TARDIS tomorrow,” The Doctor promised. “I’d better sort out Jamie some kind of birth certificate and visa to live there, too. Make it official. And what about you, Stella? What does your future hold?”

“I’m fine,” she answered. “I’ve got a letter from Polly Jackson. She wants me to be a photographer on their next fashion promotion. It’s in Monaco. Pretty tame by your standards, but exotic and glamorous enough for Earth.”

“Brilliant,” The Doctor said to her, his smile widening as he saw the happy, contented future stretched before both sisters. Just as he wanted it to be for them.