Doctor Who

It was morning according to her watch. Rose slid out of her cabin bed and looked around the console room. There was a very conspicuous absence. She couldn’t recall waking up before and not seeing The Doctor around the console or sitting amongst piles of wiring that he had suddenly decided needed re-routing. Still in her pyjamas and bare feet she slipped up to the console and smiled at the post-it note left for her.

“Don’t touch anything. Our course is preset. I’m in the dojo.” Beneath the note the lifesigns monitor showed a schematic of the TARDIS’s current layout. She could see his unique pattern in one of the rooms the TARDIS created for their needs.

She remembered – it WAS only yesterday – The Doctor commenting that he USED to make more effort at keeping fit. Having created the dojo in place of the armoury he obviously intended to keep his promise to himself.

She opened the door quietly and watched him working out. She was slightly surprised at first, though it seemed obvious really, that he was wearing different clothes. And yet, the black karate outfit tied at his waist with a black belt only looked a little different to the all black ensemble with leather jacket she was used to. It was still him.

But WOW, this was a side of him she hardly knew. Even though she had been grateful for examples of his martial arts skills when they were in a tight corner, she had never really thought about it until she saw him now, performing a complicated series of moves against a hologram that seemed determined to trip him up. She held her breath as she saw him leap into the air. With his long legs split gracefully and his body as sharp as a knife he kicked the hologram in the head, landing without a wobble with his feet placed exactly on a narrow line that ran across the floor of the dojo. As he did so he looked up and saw her standing there. The smile she loved so dearly lit his face as she moved towards him.

“What was that?” she asked. “Karate?”

“Karate is a very good discipline,” he said. “But that was Malvorian Sun Ko Du.”

“And the difference is?”

“The Malvorian monks train would be masters of the art by having them fight on six inch wide plank bridges over mountain valleys.” As he spoke he checked his feet were on the line and closed his eyes momentarily. The next moment, Rose screamed as she felt the floor disappear and a deep mountain valley appeared below her. Before she fell to her death The Doctor reached out one hand and plucked her to safety. The rest of his body had not moved, only the one arm that held her. He smiled and closed his eyes again and the room became normal. She breathed out.

“And you’re good at that?” she asked, though it was a silly question. Of course he was.

“Well, I don’t want to brag….”

“Yes you do. Modesty is NOT something you ever suffered from.”

“….but I am the only non-Malvorian Master of the Discipline.”

“Show off. Besides, you said you were out of practice.”

“Amazing how it comes back.”

Rose looked around thoughtfully. “Could you teach me?” she asked. “Not the.. not THAT stuff, obviously. But… something easier.”

“I suppose so. But….”

“Because I’m fed up of being left out when the fight is on,” she said, pre-empting his question. “You’re right, I’m useless. I couldn’t fire a gun if I tried. If I had a sword like that Bo girl I’d cut my own head off. I can’t do anything to help you if it comes to it. All I am is in the way.”

“Hey,” The Doctor put his arms around her tenderly. “I NEVER said you’re useless. And you’re NEVER in the way. I love the fact that you want to be with me no matter what. And who was it that rescued me from the Nestene with some nifty gymnastics? You didn’t even really know me then, but you saw I was in trouble and came to my aid. I’ve never forgotten that.”

“But ever since it seems like I’ve been screaming and running away while you save me.”

“No, I think we’re about even. And you don’t scream as loud as some of my past harem. Victoria actually REPELLED monsters with the pitch of her scream. And Jo and Sarah, for all their bravado, did their fair share of it.”

“I bet Ace never screamed though,” Rose said. “She is SO cool.”

“Everyone screams sometimes,” The Doctor assured her. “You think I’m not SCARED?”

“I know you are. You were scared when those things had us trapped yesterday. And I know you’re scared of Daleks.”

“Yes,” he admitted. “I am. But then again they’re scared of me. They call me Ka Faraq Gatri – the Destroyer. Because every time I’ve tangled with them they came off worst.”


“Yeah.” He grinned. “Seriously, being scared isn’t wrong. Not about the sort of things we face up to. The thing is not to let it show, to stand your ground and fight your corner. Speaking of which – if you DO want to learn how to do that – pink bunny pyjamas are very sweet but you’ll find the proper outfit through there.” He sent her to the changing room. He took a deep breath and performed a few simple meditative moves to prepare himself. Teacher. That seemed to be his new role. He was teaching the boys every day, and they learnt it all so easily. In a few years they would know as much as he ever did. And now, teaching Rose. It WAS a good idea. He NEVER thought of her as a weakness. She had strengths he would never have. And he needed her maybe more than she needed him. But it was true that she had no real defence against the terrors they so often faced. If he couldn’t be on hand, he didn’t want her to be helpless.

She came back dressed in a white gi tied with a simple cord. No doubt she had seen enough of martial arts culture on TV not to get involved in the colours of ‘belts’. It was meaningless anyway. The highest scale of the Malvorian discipline was a colour that did not exist in the spectrum of most other worlds. He wore black because he liked black. He noticed she had sensibly taken out her usual dangling earrings. She WAS prepared to take this seriously.

“So… what are you going to teach me?” she asked.

“First of all, to be patient. There is no quick way to any of these disciplines. There is no one discipline that is easier or harder than the other. And for today, I might just teach you how to sit properly before breakfast.”

“I have SO much to learn?”

“Yes, Rose, you do.” He began by teaching her, literally, how to sit in the correct and disciplined way. He knew, to her, they seemed pointless exercises. But the Arts were not just means of self-defence, or even of offence – and he had used them as both often enough – but a way of living that kept the soul cleansed and the body primed.

It all began with being able to sit, stand, bow, even to breathe right. He was pleased to find that she did listen to him and tried her best. He had half expected her to be giggly about it and not take it seriously. Or to be impatient about the ‘boring’ basics and want to get on with the ‘good stuff’. He was wrong on both counts and realised he was judging her as if she was just a teenager from a council estate. He knew full well she was more than that and he chided himself for falling into the sort of stereotype impression he abhorred.

In fact, she did very well for one who was starting late to the discipline. The true masters of the Arts began when they were still children. But her determination made up for inexperience and he felt justly proud of the effort she put in.

They did get beyond learning to sit. When he had taught her the very basics of Judo, he showed her some of the easiest moves of Tai Chi, the meditative discipline, and once she had the idea, he set a hologram programme for her to follow.

He retreated to the edge of the dojo and sat in the legs crossed, straight-backed way he had learned as a youngster from the hermits of Mount Lœng. Of all the formal ways of sitting that was the one that came to him most naturally. He took a deep breath and let himself into the lightest level of his meditative trances while he made contact with the boys. Despite being separated by both space and time, he connected with them easily. He wasn’t sure if it was his own effort or theirs that made it so. He suspected it was THEIR powerful psychic force that met his halfway.

He smiled inwardly at their boyish chatter, the things they saved up to tell him in these times they shared. Some of it was trivial, some of it important. They WERE becoming more and more aware of how different they were to the other boys and they asked him why they could not use their powers to fight those who tried to bully them.

“Because it would be an unfair fight,” he told them. “And because it would only make things worse. Your differences would only be more obvious. And mostly, because you two are the most precious people in the world to me and you can’t be hurt. I don’t mean the bullying. I know it's horrible. But there is far worse that could happen. There are people who would hurt you very badly if they knew you were training to be Time Lords.” He reminded them again of SangC’lune. “Yes, I know. I was there to look after you. But I can’t always be there.”

“Why not?” They asked. “Why not come and live with us, Granddad, instead of in your box. And teach us every day.”

He smiled at the thought and didn’t dismiss it as quickly as he expected to do. It was a nice idea. “I’m too busy,” he told them. “The universe needs me. I’ve got to fight monsters and protect people.” He was showing off a little, making his life seem more glamorous and exciting and planned than it was, as if he DID have a mission to rid the universe of arachnoids and space vampyres and other such assorted evils. But the glimpse into his life he gave them impressed without shocking or frightening them too much.

“That’s what I do, when I’m not talking to you two,” he said. “Now, are you ready for your lessons for today?” They weren’t. They wanted to know more about the monsters he had defeated. “No,” he told them sternly. “You must have more disciplined minds than that. When it's time for lessons, you must be ready. I will tell you about monsters another time. Now, no more questions. I’m ready. You should be.”

He hated to reprimand them and he felt their disappointment, but it had to be that way. He felt them settle down and let himself drop into a deeper level of meditation as he ‘transmitted’ their lessons. When it was over he hugged them mentally and told them he loved them.

“I’m sorry I had to be cross with you. But these lessons are important. Yes, I will come to see you very soon. Yes, I will bring Rose. I’m glad you like her. She is very special to me. So are you, Chris, Davie.” He let his consciousness hug them again, a warm, pleasant feeling that he hung onto for as long as possible before bidding them farewell for now and cutting the connection.

When he opened his eyes Rose was sitting there, in the position he had taught her, watching him.

“That took longer than usual,” she said. Was there a problem?”

“Only that I didn’t want to say goodbye,” he admitted. “It's so nice being with them like that.” Then he glanced at her. “We should be getting where we’re going soon. We both need to shower and put on our walking shoes.”

“Where is this?” Rose asked as they walked in a pleasant meadow by a meandering river. “It looks like Kent. But… it's not, is it?” She looked up in the sky to a sun that didn’t look quite like the Earth one, though she could not have said why.

“Beta Delta IV,” The Doctor said. They came to a pleasant spot by a copse of trees that seemed, again, perfectly English to Rose. The Doctor sat down and began to open a bag he had brought with them and laid out a picnic ‘breakfast’ of fruit and cheese, bread and orange juice. Rose joined him happily.

“So... what’s special about Beta Delta IV?” she asked.

“Julia lived here before we were married.”

“She came from here?”

“Not came… She was born on Earth, but she lived here for a while as a colonist.”

“So why did we come here?”

“To see if I could.”

“Ah!” Rose ate quietly and looked at the river flowing by.

“I haven’t been here for about seven hundred years.”

“You’re a soppy article,” Rose told him.

“Yeah, I know I am.” He smiled at her. “It doesn’t feel as strange as I thought.”

“Well, it has been seven hundred years.”

“Not here it hasn’t. Only about a hundred and fifty years have passed. I’ve spent most of my life outside of linear time. I got through seven centuries, going back and forwards and round in circles while everyone else only moved a quarter of that time in a straight line.”

“Susan said that about you. She said you’ve been knocking about for four hundred years while she only lived forty. Don’t you ever feel confused?”

“No. Mostly I feel free. I can go where I want, when I want.”

“But you couldn’t go back to when Julia lived here…”

“No. That would be against the Laws of Time. Interfering with my own past. And I wouldn’t if I could.”


“No. She loved a slightly older version of Drop Dead Gorgeous. Not me. If I turned up in her life she’d just think I was a middle aged nutter trying it on.”

“Yeah, like my mum thought you were with me.”

“Something like that.” He sighed. “Even for me, life moves on. This place used to feel like a second home to me when I was here with Julia. But now it’s just a rather nice planet with topography not unlike Earth. And I really don’t feel anything for it.”

“You still feel a lot for Julia, though?”

He looked at her a long time before he answered that. Rose knew it was not a fair question to ask him. But after all, they were here on this planet because he had questions he wanted to ask himself that were just as difficult.

“How can I answer that to you?” he said after a while. “You know I care at least as much for you. That’s why I gave you that necklace.” He touched the silver pendant hanging around her neck. She always wore it, just as Julia always did except when she was performing her gymnastics. “You are the one who holds that special place in my hearts now.”

“I know that,” Rose told him. She put her hand over his and held it over her throat for a moment. It was nice to feel his touch like that. “But she WAS your wife. I don’t expect you to forget her for me.”

“I haven’t,” he said. “There has never been a day when I haven’t thought of her, if only briefly. You know that stupid expression – “'Tis better to have loved and lost ….”

“Than never to have loved at all…”

“It comes from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. One day I shall set the TARDIS to hunt him down and make him eat those words.”

“Anyone who thinks that just has to take a look at you in basket case mode to know it's not true.” Rose smiled as she tried to suppress the vision of the Doctor stalking through nineteenth century England with a vengeance against Romantic poets.

“Basket case mode?” He smiled wryly. It did rather accurately sum up his more depressed moments when it all got too much. He didn’t realise how often he’d let her see him that way, though.

“Not all my memories are sad,” he assured her. “Some are sweet, nice ones. I like to remember her when she was young - before we were married - when she was a gymnastics champion. She was so beautiful when she performed her routines. The sight of her nearly flying on the asymmetric bars, or doing the splits on the balance beam… She was fantastic.” His eyes were bright as he remembered. Then he looked at Rose. “Ok, enough of that. I’m a crummy kind of date, aren’t I. Talking about her to you.…”

“I don’t mind,” Rose told him gently. “You looked so happy there, remembering the good times. She sounds like a nice woman. I’d have loved to have known her.”

“I think you would have been friends. You are a lot alike. You’re both fantastic.”

“Anyway,” Rose added. “You know, you DID have more than sixty years together. Ask my mum about it. My dad died when they’d only been two years married. She’d tell you she’d give anything for what you had.”

“I never thought of it that way,” he said. “My perspective is so different. Sixty years is hardly enough. And the time you and I have been together seems like no more than a beautiful, fantastic moment.”

“It's more than three years,” she said. “You’ll owe me another birthday present soon.”

“Thanks for reminding me,” he said. “I’ll look out for a perfect present.”

To Rose, it seemed as if the perfect present was the present they were living in right now, sitting in the sunshine together with nobody else around. She’d give a lot to have time stand still right there and then and let them be there forever, peaceful and quiet, and untroubled.

After breakfast they walked to the nearest town. The colonists had, Rose thought, decided to build their new community in the style of southern England in the late twentieth century. Most of the houses looked like the sort of mock Tudor villas that tended to get built in the suburbs of towns. They were the sort of houses her mum had always aspired to, with a conservatory and patio out back and a nice lawn at the front. It was the life she had wanted her daughter to have - an escape from the council estate. But Rose had made her own escape and now as she looked at those houses she actually felt a bit like The Doctor when he said he didn’t DO domestic. She really didn’t aspire to such an identikit life.

But still, it was clean and nice. There was no litter or graffiti and the people they passed in the streets looked ok.

The Doctor was not convinced. He frowned and stared at almost everyone they passed as if trying to psyche them out.

They came presently to a large square in the centre of the town, a place with shops and a cinema and banks around the edge and flower beds and benches. It looked all perfectly normal – normal in the way Rose defined normal.

“This place is NOT normal,” The Doctor said darkly. “The people here have no souls.”

“What?” Rose looked at him in astonishment. “How can they….. Well… What IS a soul? I thought that was just something you believed in if you believed in religion. And I know you don’t.”

“I believe in souls. I can feel them. I feel them when they die - especially when they die violently. I don’t know exactly where they go. I don’t think there is a heaven or hell as Earth people define them, and I don’t believe in divine judgement of the worth of souls. But they exist. They are the core of us all. No matter what species we are. It is the part of us that isn’t just mobile meat - the part of us that feels things like love or hate or fear or desire. These people have none of those things.” He concentrated his mind on a woman who walked past them. He could sense her thoughts. She was going to the shop to buy groceries. He could hear the memorised shopping list. But there was nothing behind it. No ambitions or hopes, no worries, no joy either - just a shopping list.

“But those two are holding hands” Rose pointed to a young couple who, if she was asked her opinion, she would say were in love with each other. The Doctor focussed on them and shook his head.

“No. They ARE holding hands. They LOOK as if they are a couple in love. But NEITHER feel anything.”

“Well… what….”

“I have no idea. I don’t know how long it's been like this, either. I mean, who would notice?”


“Well, obviously, me. But if I hadn’t been feeling nostalgic I never would have come here. It's not as if the place is flowing with history or architecture. It's like planet suburbia.”

“Well it can’t ALWAYS have been like this. Your Julia wasn’t a Stepford Wife without any feelings.”

“No, she most certainly wasn’t.” The Doctor was on his feet again, having sat on the bench just long enough to observe the anomalies. Rose always felt footsore and weary after an hour or two out with him. He strode across the square apparently purposefully. Rose followed. He went into the bank.

There was nothing unusual about the bank. It was a bank. The Doctor waited in line until it was his turn and went to the window. He pulled a bank deposit book from his wallet and asked to check his interest. The bored looking teller inserted the deposit book into the automatic reader and it calculated the interest to be added to the account from the last time he presented it. Her face did not even change when a very large sum of money appeared on the screen. She just pressed the button to add the amount to the deposit book and handed it back to him with a stock pleasantry such as bank tellers and shop assistants the world over adopt after the first dozen customers.

“Was there anything odd about that?” The Doctor asked as they emerged into the sunshine.

“No. Not really.”

“You don’t think that woman was a bit zombie-like?”

“Doctor, you have never worked in retail,” Rose said with feeling and, for once, the voice of experience. “It turns you into a zombie. You keep one eye on closing time and run like hell for the door. ‘Cept that one time I didn’t run fast enough and found YOU,” she added.

“Mmm. Could be right there,” he conceded. “But, if there IS something controlling people they know I’m here now. I’m in their SYSTEM. It should start to get interesting.”

“You know,” Rose sighed. “I thought the nice picnic by the river was INTERESTING. One day, do you think we could visit a planet that ISN’T in trouble?”

“I’ll try,” he promised. But there was an animated look on his face that suggested he was just itching for something to mix it with him. And when she thought of how her day would be if she hadn’t met him, Rose figured maybe she had the better deal really.

“Ten minutes, maximum,” the Doctor said.

“Ten minutes to what?” Rose knew he expected her to ask.

“Until somebody tries to arrest us or ask us to step into the car for a moment.…” He grinned. “Or possibly just tries to kill us.”


They walked a little further along the high street. A hover police car went by and they turned and saw it stop at the bank they had just been in. The Doctor checked his watch.

“Seven minutes.”

“Show off.” But he wasn’t smiling any more. He may have baited the hook himself, but he didn’t want to be reeled in and he wasn’t sure what his next move ought to be.

“Oi… you!” The Doctor turned towards the voice that called out and saw half a face peeping from behind the half open door of a café. “If you’re not a brain-dead, come in here, now.” He looked back down the road, where the police had finished with the bank and were getting back in their car, and decided a café was the very place he wanted to be right now. He steered Rose towards the door.

“Brain dead?” he asked the short, dark haired woman who had called them in.

“You know what I mean,” she said. “I could see you two all the way up the road. You walked differently. Like, you were CHOOSING which way to go. You don’t have your route programmed into you. “

“But why are they…?” The Doctor looked out of the window. The police car went by. It KEPT going by. With a relieved sigh hurned and looked around him. The café was half full of people who, even at an ordinary glance were not brain dead. He looked at them telepathically and saw all the normal human thought processes that were missing from the other people. Above all of the emotions he picked up was a deep fear that they might become like the empty-minded people outside.

“Hello,” he said brightly to them all. “I’m the Doctor. This is Rose. Who are all you lot then?”

“Milly Daniels.” A young woman with a baby in her arms was the first to answer him. The Doctor shook her hand and smiled at her. She looked harassed and worried, but as he touched her hand, she smiled. He put a gentle hand on the baby’s face and asked about it. “He’s mine, she said. “He’s six months old. He was born just before all this….” She waved her hand towards the café window, indicating the world beyond.

The girl who had called them in brought coffee to Rose and The Doctor. “If they come in, you’re customers,” she said. He took the coffee and sat beside Milly. Rose went to talk to a young man with darting eyes that never stopped moving.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Rose. Who are you?”

“Gr..Greg Martyn,” he answered with a nervous stammer. “Yo… You’re not fr..from…here.”

“No. We’re not.”



“D... Do you have a ship?” Greg asked. “Ho… How di…did you get here?”

“We…. Yes we have a ship,” Rose said. She had glanced at The Doctor who nodded slightly to show that she COULD give that much information.

“Could you take us away with you?” the girl who had let them in came to The Doctor. “I’m Sally Thomson, and I want to live as a human, not as a sheep. Please…. If you have a means of escape…. You yourselves should take it, before it's too late. But if you have any pity, take some of us with you. Take Milly and the baby at least.”

The Doctor looked at Sally and was touched by her unselfishness in nominating the most vulnerable among their small group. If she had begged for her own life, it would have been understandable. He had seen enough of this soulless place to understand the desire to leave. But she had asked not for herself, but for her friend with a baby. There were reasons why he loved humanity. People like Sally were one of them. He took her by the hand and caressed it gently.

“Yes, as a last resort, I could take you all. Are you all there is?” Sally looked around and nodded.

“As far as we know,” Milly added. “There were more of us, but unless we act very carefully we are easily spotted.”

“As a last resort,” The Doctor said again. “But I’ve never been one to run from danger. How about you?” He looked at Greg, who looked as if he was about to run any moment.

“W…We… have no w….way to stop it. W…W…We’re powerless.”

“Not any more,” Rose said. “The Doctor is here.” She smiled proudly. “You can trust him. He always has a plan.”

“The vote of confidence is appreciated,” The Doctor said. “But I don’t have a plan yet. I still don’t know what we’re up against. Can anyone enlighten me?”

“It started like Milly said,” another of the café patrons said. “About six months or so.…” The man broke off. Everyone in the café suddenly became very intent on their coffee. There was a figure outside the window, indistinct because of the thick lace curtains across it, but apparently in some sort of military tunic and cap. He pasted a notice to the window and marched on. Sally was the first to move. She went outside and looked at the notice. She looked around her, ensuring the coast was clear, then took the still wet poster down off the window.

“They know you are here,” Sally said giving the poster to The Doctor. He looked at it and saw a grainy cctv picture of himself and Rose at the bank. Underneath, in a large banner heading, the words “NON-CONFORMISTS” and below that in smaller letters, “Danger to all while such as these roam free. If sighted call….”

“Non-Conformist?” The Doctor queried.

“That’s what they call those of us who resist,” Milly said.

The young man who had been telling the story, continued his explanation. The Doctor noticed he wore a name tag from the same bank they had been in. But he looked like he hadn’t been into work that day.

“One day, we woke up and the streets were full of military. Our town leaders were summoned to meet with the military council. They were told that there had been an attempted revolution on Earth, and that all colonies were placed under martial law to prevent rebels spreading dissidence.”

“Somebody lacks a fundamental understanding of the Human capacity to resist tyranny,” The Doctor said. “Putting any place under martial law is only guaranteed to SPEED the dissidence.”

“I would agree, Sir,” said an elderly man in the corner seat. “I am a former military man, and I have seen just such resistance in many corners of the galaxy. But here.…”

“We didn’t know what the truth was,” Peter said. “Video phone contact with Earth was cut. All we had was the official bulletins, and the statements from our town leaders. They urged us to co-operate, to observe the curfews and to go up to the Town Hall, in groups, as called up by the census, to be ‘processed.”

“Processed?” The Doctor frowned. That could mean anything from form filling to a way of preserving peas, and a million things between that were probably less pleasant than being boiled and sealed in a can.

“We were told it was to issue identity passes,” Milly said. “I was sick that day. My husband went up – to get passes for both of us. He took the baby.…” Tears welled in her eyes then and The Doctor gently took the baby from her arms as Sally came and comforted her. He looked at it carefully. It looked healthy enough. But something about the eyes did not ring true. He had been a father, he had been a grandfather. He knew what six month old baby eyes should look like. They were full of life, full of curiosity about the world it was just beginning to be able to focus on. This one’s eyes just looked dully up at him. He put his index and forefinger on the tiny forehead and looked into the baby’s mind. It was empty. It had some pre-programmed ideas about crying and food, and nappy changes but that was all. He remembered when Christopher was that age. He had loved to look into his baby mind. Julia was always scared in case he might do some harm, but he did it when she was not looking. His mind had been a soft, sweet cloud of half-formed understandings and emotions. There were the recognitions of the strongest outside influences, especially of him and more especially of Julia. There was the beginning of something that would later be called love for both of them. There was a feeling that could be described as hope – or the beginnings of it, and an expectation that there was more than this, more to be learned. He had loved to feel the mind of his child on the edge of discovering the world about him and becoming self-aware. But this baby had none of those things. It was like a very functional doll that did all of the things a real baby did, except LOVE you. Milly obviously knew that. As he put the baby back in her arms, he could see that she knew HE knew.

“Where is your husband?” The Doctor asked.

“He’s a police officer,” she said. “He works for them. It's probably him out there patrolling, looking for you.” She paused and then looked at him pleadingly. “Whatever you do… don’t hurt him, please. He is… he WAS a good man.”

“Milly,” The Doctor said kindly. “I have never knowingly hurt any innocent person. I even try not to hurt the guilty any more than they deserve. Just for the record I don’t much like the fact that the universe sets me up so often as judge of which is which. But when it does, I do my best. And Rose here will tell you, my best is better than most people’s best.”

He flashed her a smile and she called him a show off, but agreed with his self-assessment.

“IF there is any vestige of what these people were, stored or trapped somewhere and if there is a way of restoring them, I will do what I can.”

Milly hugged her baby and looked at him. Her eyes said it all. She believed him. Rose looked at all the other people around the room. They were all looking at him. And they ALL believed that he would do his best for them. They didn’t even know him half an hour ago, and now they were all prepared to trust him with their future, possibly their lives. She was so proud of him. He radiated such trust and confidence that it enveloped even those with no reason to trust and no cause for confidence.

“The Town Hall sounds like it would be the place to start.”

“No!” Sally cried out. “You can’t go there. You can’t leave here. You’re POSTED. They’re AFTER you. As soon as you step into the street you’ll be taken.” She stood in front of him, as if meaning to prevent him from going out of the café.

“I wasn’t planning on going in through the door,” The Doctor said. He looked around at the anxious faces around him. “I know you’re all scared. You’ve seen your world turned upside down. And I’m sorry. A few hours ago I said this planet meant nothing to me. I lied about that. It means a lot to me. This is the planet my late wife came from. She grew from a child to a beautiful young woman here – in this town. And then came to me, to be my wife and the mother of my son. This planet will always mean something to me. And I WILL save it or die trying. But….” He looked at Rose. “I know you’ll stand by me. You always do. Does anyone else here feel they have the courage to try? I know that’s a quality that’s easily knocked down when people feel beat, but if any of you still have it in you, come with me and we’ll TRY to make your world whole again.”

They all looked at each other. Milly raised her hand, but The Doctor kissed her cheek and told her she had worries enough with the baby to look after. Then Greg stood up and Peter, the man from the bank. The Doctor nodded at them both and told them to get ready. Then he took his TARDIS key from his pocket and pressed it, the signal for it to come on autopilot to wherever he was. There was a familiar sound, presaged by a disturbance in the air that blew everyone’s hair and knocked paper napkins from the counter. Mouths dropped open all around as the TARDIS materialised in the middle of the café.

“This is our way into the town hall,” he said. “Everyone who’s coming.…”

Of course, Rose was right behind him as he stepped inside. The two who had volunteered followed hesitantly. The Doctor came back outside again and looked at the others. “If we fail, I’ll try not to fail so badly I can’t get back and get you all out of here,” he said. “But I don’t fail often. Count on that.” Then he went back inside and closed the door.

“Ok, first things first.” He called up a map of the town in the TARDIS’s navigation panel. “This must be the town hall?”

“Yes,” Peter said, and The Doctor began keying in the co-ordinates to bring them inside the building. Greg, the other of the Beta Deltan’s was looking around the TARDIS in amazement.

“It's a shock at first,” Rose said to him. “But you get used to it. The TARDIS is like home to me now.”

“T…T…TARDIS?” Greg stammered. “I know that word. It…. This.… It's a time and space ship.”

“Yes. That’s right,” Rose said. “How did you know?”

“We…. In my family. There is a story…. About a great, great aunt I suppose she’d be.... who married a Time Lord.… These guys who are practically Gods of the universe and travel in machines called TARDIS.”

The Doctor looked up from his calculations and studied Greg closely. “What did you say your surname was?”

“M…M…. Martyn,” he said. “B… but… my mothers name was Sommers… It's her side the story comes from.”

“I think we might be related by marriage, Greg,” The Doctor said. And he smiled. “So this REALLY is personal. We’ve got FAMILY ties.” He punched more buttons and stood off as the central column rose and fell and they began the relatively short journey to the Town Hall. “What did they say about this Time Lord in the family legends, then?”

“N... Not a lot really. N…Nothing I ever believed. Stuff about him being rich, h…handsome, really clever… All s…sounded a bit too good to be true….”

“Keep going. You’re on the right track so far.” The Doctor grinned at Rose who was laughing silently.

“That was THEN, Doctor,” she told him. “Now you’re just middle aged and losing your hair.”

“I am not,” he protested. “I like it short.” But their banter was short-lived as the TARDIS signalled that it was re-materialising.

“Spot on,” he said as he looked out of the door at the supply cupboard they had materialised in. Then he bounded back to the console and studied a closer plan of the town hall, a large, rambling building with several floors. “Then again, a little fine tuning….” He keyed in a new co-ordinate and the next moment they re-materialised several floors below, in the basement, where, according to the scanner, several thousand human lifesigns could be detected.

He opened the doors again and everyone in the TARDIS felt their own souls cry out in pity. The cavernous room was empty as far as the eye could see, but that meant nothing, because the reason the eye COULD see was the blue ethereal crackling light that filled the room like trapped lightning. And even those among the TARDIS travellers who WEREN’T psychic knew what was causing it.

“I can feel them,” Greg said as he stepped out into the room. “I can FEEL friends around me… people I know.”

“Me too,” Peter said, and both of them were pale with the shock of feeling the trapped and disembodied souls all around them. Rose felt it and she turned to The Doctor as she always did when she felt the need for emotional support, but HE was in no state to help her. She looked at him in astonishment. His eyes were wide and wet with tears and he looked as if he was frozen. She touched him and he flinched. His lips were moving as if he was speaking to somebody, but she could not hear the words.

“YES!” he shouted suddenly. “YES! Yes I can do that.” He turned and ran into the TARDIS, and it felt to the others as if the souls followed him. The light that had been randomly streaking and spitting around the room now began to be directed towards the TARDIS door. They felt a rush of air as if the souls leaving their prison were creating a physical disturbance.

“Come on! Everyone,” The Doctor said, coming to the TARDIS door and beckoning them. His companions needed no second bidding but the rush of non-corporeal souls was so thick it FELT quite corporeal. They were pushing through treacle as they fought through to the TARDIS. The Doctor was standing by the console and Rose looked in wonder at the way the console was behaving. They were not moving, but it was glowing bright as it did when they were. The souls were all being absorbed by it.

“What’s it doing?” Greg asked.

“It's… looking after the souls,” Rose said, understanding. It… the TARDIS has a soul of its own, sort of, and it's taking in all the lost ones, looking after them.” She looked at The Doctor. He smiled and nodded. She knew she had read the situation right.

They could feel it when the last soul had been absorbed. There was a change in the atmosphere, a sort of equalising. Without even being told, Peter ran and closed the TARDIS door. The Doctor flashed him a smile, too.

“Peter, you’re official doorman. We’re going back to the café. When we get there – you open that door, and the café door. Got that?”

“Yes… Yes, sir,” he said. “But.…”

“Sir?” The Doctor said. “Doctor will do fine. Peter, sometimes we have to fight to save the day, sometimes we just have to hold a door open. You do that, you’ll save the day.” Then he hit the button and they felt the TARDIS dematerialise and rematerialise almost instantly.

“It's much faster when it's been somewhere before,” Rose explained to Peter and Greg. Again, The Doctor smiled at her. She had learnt so much in her time with him. She might learn to fly the TARDIS one day, if it would let her.

“Ok, Peter,” he said. “This is your moment. Save your planet.”

Peter was already by the door. He wrenched it open and ran straight through the café, past a surprised Sally who stood looking at the blue box and wondering if they had failed already. He opened the door of the café wide and stood back, holding it. The next moment, they all felt it. Not sad this time, but happy, hopeful, the freed souls streamed out through the TARDIS door, out into the street.

It went on for a long, long time. There were thousands of souls seeking their true place in the hearts of the people they had been ripped from. The Doctor, standing by the TARDIS door with his arm around Rose’s waist and his other hand clasped in Greg’s suddenly trembling hand, saw one small silvery thread skew off from the stream. He smiled in satisfaction as he saw it find its proper home.

When the stream finally ended and the TARDIS softly closed its door behind them, The Doctor went to where Milly was sitting and took the baby from her. He again put his fingers on the tiny forehead and felt the baby mind. His expression became one even Rose had never seen as his senses were enveloped in the sweet warmth of an innocent soul that was just learning to be cognitive. It did not seem to have been harmed by its experience. He felt no fear in it, only a sense that it was being held by somebody it could trust, and that it was loved. All as it should be.

Almost reluctantly he withdrew from that warm, pleasant, safe little mind and looked around at the café. Everyone seemed frozen where they were minutes before: Peter still holding the door, Rose and Greg by the TARDIS, Sally halfway between, Milly anxious to hold her baby again. He kissed the little cheek and passed the child back to her. His smile told her all she needed to know. She cried with joy and thanked him profusely.

Sally’s soft scream cut into the sweet moment. Everyone turned as the police car screeched to a halt outside the café. The officer jumped out and ran inside. For a heartbeat everyone thought the worst. Then the man dropped to his knees beside Milly and embraced her and the baby.

“Everyone is right again?” Rose asked The Doctor. “It's over?”

“Everyone is right, but it's not over,” he replied. “We still have to deal with those who did this in the first place. Peter, holding the door is NOT quite the only thing you need to do to save the planet – by the way, you CAN let go now. We need to go back to the town hall. You.…” He addressed Milly’s husband. “You’re one of the real authorities here. You can help.” He bent and spoke quietly to the man for a long time, then he turned and headed back to the TARDIS. “Come on, anyone who is coming. Everyone else… we’ll see you later. That’s a promise. You might want to head up towards the town hall. Things are going to get interesting there.”

They materialised in the supply cupboard he had first chosen as a rendezvous point. The Doctor stepped out first and opened the cupboard door with the sonic screwdriver. He looked outside and indicated to the others to follow him.

“The Mayor’s office is this way.” Greg said. “My sister works here.”

“Lead the way.” The Doctor noted that Greg’s stammer was clearing right up now that they had a fighting chance of ridding his world of the horror they had suffered.

He led the way, though the Doctor kept pace with him. Several times they were confronted by guards in the same grey military uniform they had seen pasting the ‘wanted’ poster for The Doctor and Rose earlier. All of them were quickly rendered immobile by The Doctor, performing his usual lightning fast unarmed combat. He examined some of the soldiers as they lay unconscious and realised that they, too, seemed to be victims of the soul theft. They were equally empty of anything but basic programming as soldiers. He left them where they were. He had brought them down with precision blows that did no permanent harm to their bodies but kept them unconscious for hours.

When they reached the Mayor’s office suite, The Doctor walked straight in. He was slightly startled to find the outer office full of confused civilians, some of them crying. One man stood up as he entered and demanded to know who he was.

“I’m The Doctor,” he said. “Who are you?” Rose smiled as the man identified himself in much less imperious tones as the mayor of the town and said that the people around him were his staff. The Doctor understood at once. They had been kept as a ‘front’ by those who were pulling the strings. Now that their souls had been returned they were as confused as any of the people in the town.

“Who did this?” he asked. And he was told that the “Commander” was in charge.

“And he’s through there is he?” He nodded towards the double doors to the Mayor’s chamber. “Well,” he turned to a young woman who looked as if she was acting as a secretary. “I don’t have an appointment, but I think I’m going in there anyway. Any problems there?”

“None at all,” the young woman said, and felt herself at the receiving end of one of The Doctor’s most mischievous and utterly disarming smiles. He swept past them all and into the chamber.

The “Commander” was Human – or humanoid anyway. He looked up in surprise when The Doctor walked in. He began to reach for a buzzer that would summon help, but before he could do so he found his hand restrained by The Doctor, who had crossed the floor in an eyeblink.

“Just you and me here, Sonny Jim,” he said. “And you’re going to tell me what’s been going on, and then you and your whole clan are going to leave this planet and never come back.”

“Where is your army?” the Commander sneered. “Granted you have found your way in here. But you won’t get out again alive – or with your own thoughts in your head, anyway.

“I don’t need an army.” The Doctor said. “I’m the Doctor. DALEKS are scared of me.” There was a flicker of doubt in the Commander’s mind then. The Doctor felt it. “Yes, you’ve heard of me. I know there are rumours in spaceports around the galaxy - the occasional bad poem, maybe a song or two. Maybe my reputation is undeserved. Maybe I’m not as powerful or smart as they make me out to be - Or maybe they UNDER-estimate me. I don’t know. I don’t hang around spaceports. What do you think? On second thoughts, I don’t CARE what you think. I want to know what you are doing on this planet.”

“Harvesting souls,” the Commander said.

“WHY?” The Doctor asked.

“Because our people are empty. We lost our souls in a catastrophic accident – a foolish scientific experiment that was felt right around our world. Millions left as empty shells, functioning, but not feeling. The only thing we can do is find new souls….”

“No,” The Doctor said. “The only thing you should have done was find a way to reverse the damage. If you have technology capable of stealing souls from these people, you could have used it to search for those you’ve lost. You might even have had my sympathy. You might have had my HELP. But instead you come to small colonies like this and hurt innocent people. You’re beneath contempt.”

“As I said… How will you stop us?” the Commander demanded. “Where is your army?”

“Actually, I think its right outside now,” The Doctor answered, his hearing catching the sounds a little sooner than anyone else did. He took hold of the Commander, pinned his arms behind his back, and frog-marched him to the window. Outside, on the road leading up to the town hall, most of the citizens were moving forward, led by their civilian police force, as The Doctor had instructed.

The soldiers who came out of the gate to defend the position were disarmed and overcome by the sheer numbers of people who no longer believed the lies told and had every reason to want revenge on those who had harmed them. The building was soon surrounded and they quickly heard the sound of the mob moving through the corridors, flushing out the grey-uniformed soldiers.

“You’ve lost, Sonny Jim,” The Doctor said. He pulled the “Commander” around and marched him to the ante-room. He spoke to the mayor, asking him if they had a prison on the colony. They never used to, he thought. They still didn’t. But the town hall had a basement that was very secure. “Yes, seen that. That’ll do until the galactic police get here. You need to contact them. There will be an investigation, no doubt.”

As he spoke, the outer doors swung open and several soldiers were pushed inside, followed by the advanced guard of the ‘people’s army.’ The Doctor smiled as he recognised the crowd from the café, including Milly and her husband, and Sally. Petite as she was, she had manhandled one of the soldiers herself. “Told you I’d see you all again,” he said. “Well done, all of you. A very well executed and bloodless people’s coup. Your planet belongs to you again. Look after it carefully. I may want to visit again.”

“You’re not going to stick around?” Greg asked.

“My work is done, and I promised Rose a picnic without mysteries to solve.” Rose came to his side as he handed the Commander over to the Mayor’s custody. “But we might drop by again some time. Seeing as I have in-laws here.”

“I thought you were joking about that.” Greg said.

“No, Greg. I AM the Time Lord of your family legends. Your great, great, great aunt was a beautiful, special woman. I remember her every day of my life. I’m glad to know some of her kin still live here. What is it you said? Handsome, rich, clever…. Hold that thought.” He smiled and shook Greg by the hand, and then Peter. “You really did just have to open the door to save your world, after all, Peter. Perhaps there is a lesson there.”

Then he summoned the TARDIS to him, considerably easier than trying to find the supply cupboard in corridors now teaming with townspeople as they searched for any more of the army that had kept them subjugated. He waved to the rest of the valiant café crowd who had stood out against the soul stealers, and especially Milly and her husband, who stood together. That was what he called job satisfaction. Then they went into the TARDIS and closed the door.

“Just the two of us again,” Rose said.

“Three,” The Doctor said, patting the TARDIS console. He remembered what he had thought before. “Come here. There’s something else you might be able to learn around here as well as martial arts.” He took her by the hand and showed her the controls that would dematerialise the TARDIS and put it into temporal orbit. “Ordinarily they only respond to me, but the TARDIS created so many rooms to your liking. I wonder if it might be in tune with you. Try it.”

He stood back from the console. Rose looked at him in alarm for a moment, then followed the instructions he gave her. She put her hand on the dematerialisation switch and took a deep breath before she turned it. To her astonishment, the TARDIS responded. The central column moved and the sound of the dematerialisation filled the room. She smiled as she flipped on the viewscreen to see them in temporal orbit above Beta Delta IV. The Doctor came forward only then, when the manoeuvre was complete.

“Well done.” He patted the console. “And thank YOU, old girl,” he said to the TARDIS. He couldn’t say for sure if it had heard him or not.