Donna watched as The Doctor materialised the TARDIS in what looked like empty space at first, until it slowly revolved around to reveal a grey-blue ball of a planet that looked as if it had always been cold and uninhabitable, completely uninteresting. Around it, though, were hundreds of artificial satellites of different sizes. Some were no bigger than a camera, some as big as a mountain.

The one the TARDIS had materialised next to was the latter. Donna tried not to look impressed, because The Doctor had rather a smug grin on his face and she didn’t want him to think she was that easy to please. Just because he was a traveller in time and space and she was just a temp from Chiswick didn’t mean he could assume anything.

But the satellite was impressive, and it was beautiful. It looked not so much as if it was built, but grown, like a stalactite or a crystal formation. Donna had not really paid a lot of attention in science class, but she remembered an experiment where they grew crystals of some substance or other that was dissolved in water and then left to accrete. She wasn’t going to admit it to The Doctor, but she was quite proud that she remembered the word ‘accrete’. And she remembered the fantastic geometric shapes that the crystals formed after a couple of weeks in a cool cupboard. Hers had been the general shape of a carrot, wide at the top and tapering down, with lots of facets and edges that reflected light.

And this satellite was like her science class crystal only about ten thousand times bigger and reflecting the light of the artificial sun and moon that revolved around it.

An artificial sun and moon! Yes, ok, she was impressed.

But she still wasn’t telling him, that.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s the Calla-Callix-Cassifrun Hotel and Spa,” he answered. “C3 for short. The ultimate luxury leisure complex. Its got a casino, its own theatre, cinema, shops, restaurants, swimming pools, sauna, solarium, you name it, its got it.”

“Nice,” she said, still trying not to sound over-impressed. “Expensive?”

“Ooooh, very,” The Doctor replied with a sort of sucking in of air over his teeth before the long drawn out ‘oooh’. The tone of it sounded as if he was saying it was too expensive for him and she was disappointed. After being shown it from the outside, she had rather hoped they were going to spend a bit of time there.

“So… go on then,” he said after a long pause. “How long will it take you to pack a bag for a weekend in the C3 Hotel?”

It took her a little under half an hour. She only had to walk into that amazing cavern of a room he called ‘the Wardrobe’ and everything she thought she was need, from a swimming costume to a cocktail dress to die for was there, almost as if the TARDIS had read her mind. She wondered if it could actually do that. Then she wondered if that idea was absolutely wonderful or downright creepy.

“Too late now, girl,” she told herself as she put the cocktail dress into a polythene bag. “You signed up for the whole tour.”

The Doctor had packed a bag, too, though it seemed a lot smaller than hers, and all he had done to ‘smarten up’ for presenting themselves in the ultimate luxury hotel was change the crumpled brown pinstripe suit for a blue one that was made of a less crumpled fabric. He was fastening his tie using the reflective glass in one of the console’s monitors when she came through, carrying her case and a hatbox.

“Dashing enough?” he asked as he turned and saw her watching him.

“You’ll do,” she replied. “Just.” He grinned and grabbed the case and hatbox. “Come on, then. I’ve made reservations and materialised the TARDIS in the parking bay.”

“Just one thing,” he said as they stepped into the reception. “There’s a special weekend on. Second honeymoon couples only. I had to book us in as a married couple.”

At first Donna didn’t hear him. She was too busy looking around in awe at the reception. It seemed to be made entirely of white marble. It was circular, with a domed roof of frosted glass and a big light fitting shaped like an upturned tulip hanging down from the middle of it to give light to the whole room. There was a long, half-circular desk where the guests were checked in, and a row of lifts to the other floors. Everywhere there were cool, clear fountains tinkling away into pools of water and pieces of ornate marble abstract sculpture. In the centre of the room, directly below the dome, were a circle of marble pillars surrounding a raised platform. Donna wondered what that was for until she saw a bell boy carrying suitcases followed by a couple dressed in expensive clothes, step onto it. She was idly wondering if there was a cruelty free way of making fur coats in outer space or was the woman oblivious to animal rights when a shimmering white light enveloped all three people and the luggage and a moment later they had disappeared.

“Don’t tell me, that’s called a transporter or something?” she said as The Doctor returned from the reception desk with a plastic card in his hand that was obviously the room key.

“Goes to any floor instantly,” The Doctor explained. “We’re going to use the lift. I hate transmats, and believe me, you will, too.”

He picked up the cases and headed for one of the lifts. She had half-expected a liveried man inside to press all the buttons. But this was outer space. The lifts were fully automatic, voice operated. The Doctor spoke to it and it thanked him politely for his custom and began to move.

It was then that his comment about the reservation sank in.

“Married couple…”

“Yes, sorry.”

“No way,” she protested. “No way, space man. You said you wanted a secretary. Not a…a… No WAY.”

“Donna… it’s not like that. I assure you…”

“Too right it isn’t. You’re sleeping in the bathroom, mate.”

“It’s a suite,” The Doctor pointed out. “There is a perfectly adequate sofa.”


The lift arrived at their floor. The Doctor picked up the cases again. Donna followed, still looking mutinous about the situation. She almost gave in when she saw the spacious lounge that was part of the suite. It was the sort of room she always dreamt of for the honeymoon she knew she would have when the man of her dreams finally came along and took her away from her humdrum life and gave her everything she wanted.

She looked at The Doctor. He wasn’t that man.

“You’re right. It is a good sofa,” she said.

“Donna,” The Doctor answered with a sigh. “You’ve probably guessed by now, I don’t really need a secretary. What I do need is a friend to keep me company, to share the splendour of the universe with. But I fully understand the meaning of ‘friend’ and I will be sleeping on the sofa. I promise.”

Donna sat on the sofa and looked at him. He stood with his hands in his pockets looking back at her. His mouth was set impassively, but his eyes seemed to be pleading with her for understanding.

“I knew you didn’t really want a secretary,” she admitted. “I came with you, though. Because I wanted… look… I don’t want you to think… I’m not a temp because I hope some executive will take a fancy to me and want to show me a good time. That’s what my mum thinks. But it’s not. I mean… it would be nice… to meet a man who… But then I met you. And… and I’ve already seen some great stuff. But it’s not like that. You’re not… I mean, I’m not saying you’re ugly or anything. But I don’t… we’re not… and I don’t expect…”

“Glad we got all that cleared up,” The Doctor replied. “Now, how about you unpack in the bedroom and freshen up and we’ll go for a nice, friendly stroll around the shopping mall floor. My credit card will happily be your friend, too.”

No, she told herself as she looked at the fur coats in a very exclusive boutique. It wasn’t the mention of a friendly credit card that won her over. It really wasn’t. It was that look in his eyes. If the rest of him was impossible to understand, his eyes weren’t. They seemed to be the entrance to his soul. And she knew he was telling her the truth.

“What’s a Lappett?” she asked him as she looked inside the coat at the label and noted that it was made of 100% Lappett fur.”

“It’s a bit like a rabbit, but bigger and without the ears and buck teeth.”

“Oh.” She stepped away from the coat. “I don’t think… I mean… no… I signed an anti-fur petition a while back… It’s cruel…”

“Not Lappett,” The Doctor answered. “They shed their fur every six months, like a snake shedding its skin. They have a new coat underneath. The Lappett farms are like big ranches, with thousands of them running free. When they’re near to shedding time they get corralled in a smaller field and vets get a chance to examine them and immunise them against any sickness they might get and ensure that they’re the right weight for their age, etc. Then when they’ve shed their furs they’re let free again. The discarded furs are treated and cleaned and they’re perfect for the fashion industry. This one… brown Lappett. That’s the most prized colour.”

“It’s gorgeous,” Donna agreed, returning to it now that she knew it was socially acceptable. “Ohhh…. £2,500 credits. What’s that in real money?”

“You don’t want to know,” The Doctor answered. “Do you want the coat?”

She wanted it. She told herself that maybe £2,500 credits worked out at about £100, like a thousand yen note from China was worth only about five pounds. The Doctor summoned the salesgirl and a few minutes later Donna walked out of the boutique in a fur that would make her friend Nerys’s jaw drop to the floor.

“Ok, but don’t think this entitles you to take liberties,” she said to The Doctor. “And you’re still paying me the going rate for a secretary, even if you don’t need one. That was the agreement.”

“Yes, it was.”

All the same, she let him hold her arm as they walked through the busy mall. She didn’t buy anything else. Even though he said it was no problem, she didn’t want to take advantage. But it was nice to look.

They were passing by one of those marble circles where the transporters – transmats, The Doctor had called them – were. There was a shimmer of white light. She looked, because that sort of thing was new enough to her to be worth looking at. Most people passed on by without noticing. These things were as commonplace as a lift to them.

So she was the first to scream at what materialised on the platform. There was the top half of a uniformed bellboy, cut off at the waist and bleeding out all over the platform. And beside him, what looked like a whole Human body turned inside out. There was red, raw flesh with veins running across the top and a heart that stopped pumping as she watched.

“Don’t look,” The Doctor said, spinning her around. He hugged her briefly, comfortingly, then he pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and moved towards the transmat, examining the air around the bodies, and the pillars, as if trying to trace some source of a malfunction. The hotel security staff were running to the spot, though, and they clearly didn’t want him interfering. He turned back to Donna, who was doing her best not to cry. She was obviously affected by the horrible sight, though. He put his arm around her trembling shoulders and steered her out of the shopping mall and up a set of ordinary, if luxuriously carpeted stairs to the restaurant level. A small buttery provided a pot of English tea that helped steady her nerves and allowed her to speak coherently.

“Is that… you said you didn’t like those things. Is that why?”

“No,” he answered. “They give me a headache. My Time Lord brain is not quite compatible with the system. Usually they’re perfectly safe. There are about a dozen safety measures that happen in the seconds before the transmat operates. All of them should prevent what happened there.”

“Where did the other half of the body go?” She felt she had to ask that question. She didn’t want to, but it practically asked itself.

“I’m not sure…” The Doctor began. Then they both heard a scream somewhere outside the restaurant and a security guard ran past the door. “Oh, dear. I think…” He poured another cup of tea. “It’s nasty. But just an accident. They happen. Don’t let it spoil things for you.”

“I’ll try not to. But I’m definitely using the lift to anywhere I want to go in this place.”

“I quite agree. What do you feel like doing next?”

“I think I’d like to check out the swimming pools,” she answered. “They sound good.”

“Sounds fine by me,” The Doctor replied. “The lift will take you there. I might have a bit of a nosy at that transmat first and join you in a bit.”

“You’re going to find out what happened?”

“I’ll try. Most likely it was just an accident. One that shouldn’t have happened. Really there are so many fail safes. But it’s possible.”

Except he was almost sure it wasn’t an accident.

He saw Donna off in one lift and then stepped into another.

“Transmat maintenance,” he said to the lift.

“That area is off limits to guests,” the lift replied.

“I’m not a guest,” The Doctor answered. “I’m the intergalactic buildings inspector. There has been a fatal accident involving the transmat. I am here to investigate. Transmat maintenance, now, if you please.”

“You are registering as a guest – John Smith. Please show identification to prove change of designation.”

The Doctor pulled out his psychic paper and held it in the air, hoping it didn’t decide he was the king of Belgium today.

It didn’t. The lift started to move. It travelled at least thirty floors down and then stopped. The doors didn’t open. The Doctor knew he was not at the floor he was meant to be on. He probably wasn’t at any floor at all.

“Hey, lift, it’s not cool to break down with a building inspector on board,” The Doctor said aloud. “I think you really ought to start moving again.”

The lift stayed silent. It obviously had nothing to say to him.

But it did decide that he didn’t need air. He heard the hiss as the oxygen began to be siphoned out of the lift. He felt the atmosphere become thinner.

He took a deep breath of what was left then closed off his lungs and recycled his breathing. That gave him fifteen minutes to get himself out of there.

He didn’t need anywhere near that long. His sonic screwdriver made short work of the access panel in the roof and he hitched himself up. The lift shaft was lit at intervals by low level spots. He could see an access ladder fixed to the side. He put the sonic screwdriver in his mouth and began to climb. He had reached the floor above where the lift had jammed when he heard the sound of lift brakes disengaging and saw it beginning to rise towards him. He aimed the sonic screwdriver at the door mechanism and it opened. He hauled himself out into the corridor beyond just seconds before the lift closed the gap where his body had been.

He stood up and dusted himself off theatrically, smiling nonchalantly at the startled chambermaid who was waiting for a lift with her trolley full of cleaning equipment. He turned and used his sonic screwdriver to fuse the door closed again.

“That one is out of order,” he said. “Which floor is maintenance?”

“Second,” she answered. “Down…”

“That’s what I figured,” The Doctor said as he noted that this was floor 186. He sighed and stepped into another lift. He took out his psychic paper and sonic screwdriver and held them both up menacingly. “Maintenance, now, and no funny business.”

The lift moved down rapidly. It had got the message.

Of course, he realised, the lift was simply a machine with a basic AI system that responded to commands from guests and staff. It wasn’t in any way threatened by him. The previous lift was not responsible for two attempts to kill him.

The lift reached the second floor. The Doctor stepped out. Nobody on the busy maintenance level noticed him. Those not engaged in the ordinary running of the Calla-Callix-Cassifrun Hotel and Spa, from ensuring that the ambient temperature was correct for every species of guest to checking that no light bulbs needed changing, were concerned with the several unusual incidences that had apparently occurred all at once.

“We’ve got eight guests suffocating in a lift on floor 754,” said a man who seemed to be the maintenance floor manager. “Two people electrocuted by the fruit machines in the Casino… that’s on top of the deaths in the transmat. It’s getting worse.”

“How many have there been before today?” The Doctor asked.

The manager turned and looked at him, wondering how long he had been standing there, who he was, and whether he should answer the question.

The Doctor raised his psychic paper.

“John Smith, Galactic building inspector,” he said. “You can call me Doctor. How many have their been before today?”

“At first nobody was hurt,” the manager replied. “It was just minor problems like all the lights going out on a guest floor, or a walk in fridge breaking down and a lot of food being wasted. Then there was an upturn in the number of accidents… mostly staff, a few guests, but nothing that they could sue about.”

“That’s not quite right, sir,” said a technician who looked around from his bank of computers. “There was one fatality.... Godsic Feye.”

“That was a suicide,” the manager answered him.

“It was right before all this began.”

“Who was Godsic Feye?” The Doctor asked.

“He was… the previous maintenance manager. I’m… new to the job. They promoted me after… Godsic killed himself. He walked into the Ion generator that powers the whole satellite. Right into the core. There was… no chance of even retrieving the body. But it was nothing to do with this. Yes, it was just before all the accidents started to happen. But it was nothing to do with anything. He was a suicide. The others…”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “Back to the others. How many fatalities before today?”

“Up until three standard weeks ago, none. This is a premier leisure complex. Safety is paramount for guests and staff. But then…”

“A chambermaid was sucked out into space when an exoglass window failed,” said the technician as the manager found himself unable to go on. “Two electrocutions in different parts of the complex. A bellboy who stepped into the lift – only to find there was no lift there. A laundress drowned in her own washing machine… and Mr Blackwood…. The entertainments manager. That…”

Both the technician and the manager shuddered as they remembered.

“What happened to Mr Blackwood?” The Doctor asked slowly, wondering if he really wanted to know.

“We’re not… entirely sure,” answered the manager. “His office… was… covered in him… bits of him… blood… organs… flesh… we found his legs under the desk. But the rest of him… he was like soup… flung all over the walls.”

“Ooooh. Very nasty,” The Doctor agreed as he temporarily shut down his imagination. The picture was just a bit too colourful. Only two things he could think of could cause that to happen to a humanoid body. One was eating a very dangerous form of blowfish found on the planet Turuo. The other was unusually high compression followed by rapid decompression. The first was either a very elaborate and expensive suicide or an equally elaborate and expensive murder, and The Doctor ruled both out. An entertainments manager wasn’t likely to have the money to purchase Turuoan blowfish or attract the sort of enemies that would consider it worthwhile.

And certainly any room on board a satellite like this was capable of being made airtight and subject to compression and decompression.

A lot of accidents, all affecting different functions of the satellite.

Accidents or sabotage?

Accident or murder?

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen next,” the manager said. “I recommended closing the hotel and running full diagnostics, but… but the owners… they wouldn’t have it. They said…”

“Don’t tell me, profits… the reputation of the hotel… guests getting scared.”


“And what reputation do they think they’ll have if any more guests are killed?” The Doctor asked as the technician received a report from one of his colleagues confirming that the guests trapped in the lift had now suffocated. “Does the cinema here do vintage films? Get them to show a 20th century Earth one called Jaws. Pay particular attention to the attitude of the city fathers of Amity to their profit margins…”

He stopped. Nobody on board this satellite some eight hundred million light years from planet Earth understood a word he was saying. Besides, there was a shout from one of the other maintenance technicians. The Doctor sprinted across the floor to his computer terminal several seconds before the maintenance manager. He glanced at the data on his screen.

“Turn off the water,” he ordered. “Stop all the taps… showers, baths, toilets… ornamental fountains… the swimming pools…” The Doctor’s face froze. “Swimming pools… Oh, no. Quick…. I need to get to the swimming pool level. What’s the fastest way?”

The manager pointed. The Doctor groaned. The transmat, of course.

He was going to have to risk it. He stepped onto the platform and stated his destination and hoped that all of him would get there.

“Ohhh!” he groaned as he materialised, apparently all in one piece, on the floor he wanted. As his vision cleared he saw a room the size of four football pitches with a crystal roof and hologram windows giving the allusion of being on a sunny planet. There were three full size swimming pools, one chlorinated, one with the salt content of a tropical lagoon and the other with the high salt content of the Dead Sea on Earth. There were also several fragrant whirlpools and hot tubs and a whole row of steam rooms and saunas.

He detected the smell as soon as his senses cleared from the transmat. He ran to the woman in a bright red bathing suit who was one of the designated life guards.

“Get everyone out of the pools,” he said. “Now. It’s an emergency. Get them out. Now.”

The life guard looked blankly at him for a fraction of a moment. Then the expression in his eyes convinced her that the urgency was real. She blew her whistle and started calling to the guests to evacuate the pools. All around the room, her colleagues began to do the same.

Where was Donna? The Doctor looked around as frightened guests slipped and slid on the marble tiled floors and forgot about being orderly and calm as they tried to get out of the pool room.

He spotted her. She was at the far end, by the steam rooms. She obviously hadn’t realised there was a problem. She probably thought this was just the end of a session like at her local swimming baths. The Doctor ran, thankful that his rubber soled trainers gave him rather better grip on the wet tiles. He reached Donna as her hand was on the door.

“Doctor!” she exclaimed. “What is it? What’s wrong? I was having a nice time. The whirlpool bath is to DIE for.”

“Somebody just did,” The Doctor noted as he looked around and saw the lifeguards pulling a body out. “Stand back. Don’t breathe the fumes.” He, himself, stood well away from the door, opening it with the very tip of his sonic screwdriver at the end of his outstretched arm pushing down the handle while he kept his face turned away. A noxious steam escaped from the steam room. As it dispersed The Doctor looked inside. He didn’t let Donna look. She had seen enough horrors already today without the sight of the four bodies with their flesh red and suppurating and their faces twisted in agony as they died.

“Doctor… What happened?” Donna asked as she looked around at the evacuated pool room where emergency medical staff were covering three bodies that had been dragged from the pools.

“The water has been infused with hydrochloric acid,” The Doctor answered. “Every bit of water in the entire Hotel.”

“Deliberately?” Donna asked in a shaky voice. “Oh, my God! If you hadn’t… If I’d opened the door…”

“You might not have died. You wouldn’t have been exposed so completely. But you would have been burnt by the corrosive acid, and your throat and lungs…”

“You don’t dress up the bad news, do you? So… was it deliberate?” The Doctor brought her out through the changing room. She didn’t bother to dress fully. She put her new fur coat over her bathing costume and jammed a pair of plastic flip flops on her feet.

“Yes,” he said as he summoned another lift. “I would say deliberate. The number of ‘accidents’ on this satellite recently go beyond coincidence. Somebody is deliberately causing these accidents. The question is who, and why?”

“That’s two questions,” Donna pointed out as they stepped into the lift shaft. “Not one. Grammar… important for a secretary, you know. Would have thought Time Lords needed it, too.” She wondered why he held his sonic screwdriver against the voice grill in such a threatening way as he told the lift to take them to floor two.

“Two questions,” The Doctor corrected himself. “To start with. I’ll have more later.”

“How many casualties?” The Doctor asked as he stepped out of the lift on the maintenance deck. “Is it under control now?”

“Three guests using private Jacuzzis in their suite,” the manager said. “We’ve purged the water pipes into space, but it will take three hours before enough fresh, uncontaminated water is created in the recycling vats to restore even the kitchen supply. There’s no water aboard the satellite in the meantime.”

“Let them drink lemonade,” The Doctor replied. “So… next question. Why is it happening?”

Nobody could answer The Doctor’s question.

“Stephen King,” Donna said as the silence became embarrassing for them.

“What?” The manager and his technicians who had no other answer to offer, all stared at Donna, wondering why she was on their supposedly secure floor wearing what appeared to be nothing but plastic shoes and a very expensive fur coat. The Doctor looked at her, too, but with a rather kinder expression.

“Stephen King,” she repeated. “I read a book of his once… two years ago. I was in hospital having my tonsils out… couldn’t talk… stop grinning, space boy, that’s not funny… Anyway the day room only had a few books in it. I read that one. And it’s all about things being possessed by demons. Cars, trucks, machinery, turning on humans and killing them. And I know demons aren’t true, but this is a lot like it. The machinery is all acting crazy for no reason and…”

The stares of the manager and his staff glazed over as she stopped talking.

“Ok, forget it. Donna Noble talking rubbish, pretend I’m not here. Go do something technical….”

“Well,” The Doctor said looking at them all. “Do any of you have a better idea?”

“A better idea than demons in the machinery killing people?” The Manager sounded sarcastic, then he had to admit he didn’t have any ideas at all.

“Right then,” The Doctor continued. “The manager who committed suicide… where’s his office? Did you move into it?”

“No,” the manager answered. “I kept my own office. His… it’s down here… It’s locked. Head Office said to leave it until a next of kin came to claim his personal….”

“Show me,” The Doctor said.

“Of course. But… what do you expect to find there?”

“Just show me.”

If truth be told, he wasn’t sure what he expected to find. But Donna’s idea was the only one anyone had come up with and it wasn’t as stupid as everyone thought it was, including herself. Demons did exist, manifesting themselves in various forms around the universe, as did a great many other things that could cause mayhem. And it did all seem to start with the death of Godsic Feye.

Feye’s office looked like every manager’s office Donna had ever seen. She recalled that the ideal was meant to be a paperless office, but even in this advanced century, whatever it was, people still seemed to need box files full of receipts and invoices and personnel records. She walked along the shelf looking at everything. The Doctor left her to it. He was never an office person. This was her domain. If there was a clue to the manager’s suicide in the papers in his office, she was more likely to find it than anyone else. He wandered to the window at the back of the desk and looked out. It was exo-glass, of course, with all kinds of shielding. So the fact that it overlooked the planet below wasn’t as frightening as it might be.

“He had one hell of a view,” The Doctor commented.

“He’s the only one who did,” the manager answered. “Nobody else can stand to have the shields down for more than a few minutes. The vastness of it is too much. He used to enjoy looking out of the window. Most of us prefer video-windows of gardens, an illusion of not being in space. He loved it…”

“He was right,” The Doctor said. “What’s the point of being here if you’re going to pretend that you’re not. This is the first real window I’ve seen on the whole satellite. You people really do have a case of denial.”

“That’s the river in Egypt,” Donna quipped. “De-Nile.”

The Doctor smiled. Nobody else did. She opened another box file, marked miscellaneous and was surprised when she found a leather bound diary inside it. She showed it to The Doctor.

“He wrote things down in a paper diary,” The Doctor noted. “His job was with technology, computers, machines. He trusted his private thoughts to a pen and paper.”

He set it down on the desk and opened it. He flicked through the pages and his pupils dilated rapidly as he took in every word in about thirty seconds. Donna watched his eyes and felt her own water in sympathy.

“Everything is normal up until two days before his death,” The Doctor reported. “Then he starts making rather less sense. There’s something about a face in the window, a space ghost. He writes about it coming through the window and entering his soul, and that he knew what to do after that… He knew it had to be destroyed…”

“Coming through the window…”

“Sounds like he had a case of space fever,” the manager said. “Seeing things that aren’t there. He did look a bit tired the last few days. But he said nothing to anyone… we were all questioned after his suicide. I couldn’t swear to anything particularly out of the ordinary in his behaviour. Just… tiredness.”

“It was an Exoan entity,” The Doctor said. “I’ve come across them before. Never known one to cause this much trouble, though.”

“Ex…” Donna looked at The Doctor with a quizzical expression and waited for him to explain.

“You would call them gremlins,” he said. “You blame them for computer errors, coffee machines breaking down, photocopiers jamming. And you’re right. Except you think they’re not really there. Mostly they’re just a nuisance. But this one… it’s gone rogue. It’s killing people.”

“That’s your serious explanation for what’s happening here, Doctor?” the Manager turned from the window incredulously. “A gremlin…”

“An Exoan entity,” he replied. “Why do you dismiss it? How else would you explain this?”

“Industrial sabotage. Somebody is overriding failsafes, causing these ‘accidents’. It might be a rival company, trying to discredit, bring down the share prices… Maybe Feye was in on it… that’s why he killed himself. Maybe he was scared they were going to find out…”

“Maybe… if these things hadn’t begun after his death,” The Doctor replied. “But…”

Donna screamed. The Doctor was closest to her and got the full effect. The manager was merely startled as she pointed to the window he was standing in front of. There was a face in it. A Human face, screaming soundlessly. Then two arms reached out from the exo-glass. They grabbed the manager and pulled him. The exo-glass shattered as he was dragged through the window. For a brief few seconds his body blocked it before he was sucked out into space and the atmosphere in the room began to vent through the gaping hole left behind. The Doctor wedged his feet behind the heavy, solid desk and reached out for Donna as the vacuum sucked everything not nailed down towards the gap.

“Hold your breath and hold onto me,” he yelled above the noise of box files, staplers, desk ornaments flying through the air. He knew it would take about a minute for the air to be sucked out of the room and then the pressure would equalise. He could do nothing until then. “Hold on, Donna. Please hold on.” He closed off his own lungs once more and recycled his breathing. When everything stopped flying out, he would still be conscious and he could get Donna to safety. But she had to hold on in the meantime.

“No!” he screamed, almost forgetting about the recycling as a flying wastebin hit her on the forehead and he felt her grip on his hand slacken. She was alive, but knocked out and she wasn’t putting any effort of her own into it. He felt her slipping away from him. He screamed again as he lost his grip and she was pulled towards the window.

It was a million to one chance, he reckoned afterwards. Her arms were outstretched as she was dragged against the window, and her full length coat was billowing out. The thick fur and the silk lining covered the gap completely just like a blockage in a vacuum cleaner. It would have taken only seconds more for the pressure to build up and suck her through, but by then The Doctor had reached her. He held onto her while he used the sonic screwdriver to fuse the fur coat across the window. He pulled her arms from the sleeves and carried her across the almost airless room and through the door. He laid her on the floor while he turned and deadlock sealed the door then he gave his attention to her. The sonic screwdriver’s tissue repair mode dealt with the nasty gash across her forehead and the bruise that was starting to form. Slowly, she started to come around.

“What happened to me?” she asked. “Where’s my coat?”

“I’ll buy you a new coat,” he answered, pulling off his jacket and putting it around her shoulders. “But not just now. I think this satellite is in really big trouble.”

He helped Donna to her feet and kept hold of her hand as he sought out a computer terminal. He noticed one of the technicians passing her a lab coat to put on, and she draped his jacket over the back of the chair as he began typing rapidly. He brought up a schematic of the satellite, and overlaid it with a lifesigns monitor that showed all the guests and staff, thousands of souls in different parts of the satellite, at work or sleep or play. Then he altered the parameters.

“What’s that?” Donna asked as the schematic showed hundreds of lifesigns of a different sort, like ants crawling around the satellite.

“Exoan entities,” he said. “The satellite is infested with them. There are hundreds in the crystal outer skin. And that’s real trouble. They’ll destabilise the molecular structure. The satellite will fall apart.”

“Can’t you stop it?” asked one of the technicians.

“No, I can’t,” The Doctor answered. “Not while there are people aboard. Who do I see about an evacuation of the satellite? And which floor are they on?”


It turned out that the people who were in a position to order such an evacuation were not on the satellite at all, but on the planet, Calla-Callix-Cassifrun IV, which – obviously - was the fourth planet in the system. The cold grey ball was Calla-Callix-Cassifrun IX, the outermost and uninhabited planet of the system. The Doctor argued with them for nearly an hour by videophone, showing them the evidence of the infestation. Finally, they conceded that the damage to their reputation and to their profits from evacuating the satellite was considerably less than it would be when the satellite fell apart in something like two standard days as The Doctor predicted it would.

“So it’s just us, now,” Donna said nervously, as she stood in the empty reception room. Her voice echoed strangely. She looked around at The Doctor. He was on the roof of the TARDIS, fixing something that looked like a satellite TV receiver next to the blue light. “And what happens next, exactly?”

The Doctor slid down from the top of the TARDIS, landing nimbly on his feet and brushing his hands theatrically.

“Now, we get into the TARDIS and close the door. I send out a high level Reszon Wave, which will penetrate every corner of the satellite, every fibre of the structure, and neutralise the Exoan entities.”

“Neutralise… as in kill?”


He didn’t sound happy when he said that. Donna thought about it. The first day she met him, he had been kind to a creature almost as weird and mysterious as these Exoan entities. This time, he wasn’t hesitating to kill.

“I have to,” he said. “I don’t care about their profits, or their shareholders. I don’t care if they abandon this satellite and build a new one elsewhere and it hangs here like a useless rock. But I care about lives. I care about people dying. These Exoans… they’re like… a pack of rabid dogs, or a tiger that’s become a man eater and started taking children from a village. You have to… I have to… for the greater good… To stop this infection going deeper. Feye thought his own death would have done that. But it didn’t. It incubated the creatures… allowed them to multiply. And things got worse. Now I’ve got to put it right. I’ve got to…”

He stepped into the TARDIS. She followed, closing the door behind her.

“You’ve got to be the one to put the rabid dog down,” she said. “Even though you like dogs… even if it has really appealing eyes and it looks at you as you put the gun to its head…”


“You’re the only one who can?”


“Then…” She moved closer. She reached out and put her hand on his as he reached for the switch that would begin the process. “You don’t have to do it alone.”

He looked at her and smiled warmly. Then he put his other hand on top of hers and pulled the switch. The time rotor glowed a brighter green momentarily, then dimmed. On the viewscreen they watched the schematic of the satellite, with the hundreds of Exoan entities crawling around it. The Reszon wave radiated out from the reception where the TARDIS was, through the whole satellite, and where it went, the Exoans were ‘neutralised’. The Satellite was cleansed of them just like a kitchen being cleansed of cockroaches. She thought of that analogy rather than the dog one, because she liked dogs and it was easier to be philosophical about the death of cockroaches.

It took nearly twenty minutes. The Doctor said nothing at all during that time. Finally, he nodded and switched off the Reszon wave. He gave a deep sigh.

“You did what you had to do, Doctor,” she told him.

“Yes, I did,” he replied. “I always do.”

“You look like you need a cup of tea,” she said. “I’ll go put the kettle on, shall I? Don’t get used to it, mind. I’m a secretary, not a tea lady. But just this once.”

“Thanks,” he said with a wider smile. “Much appreciated. Meanwhile, I’ll get us on our way. I know a couple of nice hotels around the galaxy with steam rooms that won’t melt your skin. And I still owe you a new coat.”

“Can we make it a hotel that’s actually on a planet, with an atmosphere?” she asked. “I think I’ve had enough of space for a while.”

“I know the feeling,” The Doctor agreed as he selected a destination. He sighed deeply and then as the reception of the Calla-Callix-Cassifrun Hotel and Spa dissolved into the vortex he cast off the melancholy mood and got ready to face whatever adventure the future held in store for him.