It was Friday night, and Julia had permission to stay overnight with Chrístõ. He couldn’t help wondering why it was that when he lived here in this house on his own Julia wasn’t allowed to sleep over. But now that Garrick was staying with him it was all right. Should he have wished to forget his honour in any way, surely a four year old boy wasn’t much of a deterrent? But somehow Julia’s aunt and uncle thought it a suitable arrangement.

They weren’t alone tonight, anyway. Cal was there, along with Glenda Ross, one of his Chrysalids. She and Cal had become friendly in recent weeks. Now that he wasn’t carrying a lot of bitterness around inside him and his circumstances had been explained to the class, Cal’s life had been much easier. He came to the school every day but received a separate private curriculum from Chrístõ alongside Garrick. He joined in with the class for the meditation and tai chi lessons and with some of the discussion groups. He was a lot happier, and since he was an attractive young man, had quickly become of interest to the girls. Glenda was the one who had won that particular jackpot and coming to dinner here with Chrístõ and Julia was their idea of a nice way to spend their Friday evening.

The two girls were sitting on the sofa together, talking as girls do. Chrístõ was teaching Cal to play multi-dimensional chess. Garrick was sitting at the table, too, watching the game and calculating the possible outcomes in his head.

Chrístõ beat Cal in the first two games then conceded a very hard fought third game before sitting back and relaxing mentally and physically. Cal looked exhausted. Chrístõ poured him a glass of milk and passed a bowl of salted peanuts.

“Replaces the lost proteins and salts,” he said. “People don’t always realise that mental effort is as exhausting as physical exercise.”

He looked at the two girls and tuned into their conversation. They were actually talking seriously about their future plans. Glenda was aiming for Nova Castria university like most of the Chrysalids. And she would almost certainly get in. Her academic record was splendid.

“Aunt Marianna wants me to go there,” Julia said. “But I don’t think my academic grades will be good enough. I hope she won’t be disappointed.”

“It’s not up to Marianna, anyway,” Chrístõ pointed out. “By the time you leave New Canberra High School next year, you’ll be seventeen. You’ll be formally betrothed to me and I’ll be financially and legally responsible for you.”

Julia looked at him and then at Glenda, who was startled by that comment. Of course, she had known since she was eleven years old that she was going to be properly engaged to Chrístõ on her seventeenth birthday. She looked forward to it. But the way Chrístõ had talked about financial and legal responsibility had disturbed her. Boyfriends were just not supposed to talk that way.

“Anyway,” Chrístõ added. “I’ve been thinking about what you should do after you leave High School. I’ve been looking at LaCouvre Academy.”

“What?” Julia and Glenda exchanged glances. They both knew about LaCouvre Academy. It was on the other side of New Canberra, right out in the countryside. It was a beautiful building set in its own grounds which included tennis courts, an indoor swimming pool and all sorts of other luxuries that weren’t readily available in the public education system.

“It’s what used to be called a ‘finishing school’,” Chrístõ added. “I checked it out. They have lessons in deportment and etiquette, fashion, ballroom dancing, art appreciation, music, as well as intergalactic diplomacy and political…”

He stopped talking. The two girls were giving him very odd looks.

“What would I do at a place like that?” Julia asked.

“Learn to be a diplomat’s wife,” he answered. “It’s pretty much certain that’s what I’ll do after we’re married. And you’ll be expected to play your part… as a hostess at diplomatic balls, all of that sort of thing.”

“And after the twenty minutes maximum it would take to learn everything I haven’t learnt already spending time with Princess Cirena on Adano-Ambrado, or with Valena at her Gallifreyan ladies luncheons, what would I do with the rest of my week? I would be bored rigid at a place like that. And I wouldn’t know anybody. All the girls who go to that school are daughters of diplomats and government ministers. If you wanted me to mix with that sort, why did you arrange for me to have a ‘normal’ life living with my aunt and uncle and going to an ORDINARY school in the first place?”

Her voice had a cold edge when she spoke and Chrístõ knew he had put his foot in it big time.

“I was thinking of your future,” he answered, defending a position he knew he had already lost.

“I don’t want to go to LaCouvre Academy,” Julia told him. “So get that sorted out right now. I’ll be a diplomat’s wife when I’m good and ready. In the meantime, you and Aunt Marianna, and Uncle Herrick can all get used to listening to me. I am going to the Beta Deltan Sports Excellence Institute in New Brisbane.”

“That’s even more expensive than LaCouvre Academy,” Glenda pointed out.

“Money isn’t an issue,” Julia said. “Miss Thompson says I’m good enough at gymnastics to win a full scholarship. It wouldn’t cost anybody anything. And when I’m there I could be picked for the Beta Deltan team for the Olympiad. That’s never going to happen while I’m learning to walk backwards in high heels and a court gown at LaCouvre Academy.”

“You already know how to do that,” Chrístõ said in a quiet voice. “And as for the Institute… you don’t have to take a scholarship that could go to somebody who needs it, If you’re accepted… I’ll pay the bills. That’s no problem. And… I’m sorry I never thought to ask you before making plans for you.”

“That’s ok,” she replied with a bright smile. “Just… try to remember… you might have a legal document that says you’re legally and financially responsible for me, but I’m going to be your wife, not your concubine, and I’ll decide what’s best for me.”

Glenda nodded approvingly. Cal looked faintly puzzled.

“Chrístõ,” he said with a wry smile. “I thought you said Gallifrey was a patriarchal society.”

“I always thought it was,” he answered. “Perhaps I was wrong.” He looked at his half brother. Even he seemed to be enjoying his discomfort. “You just wait,” he said to Garrick. “One day, you’ll be old enough to court a woman, and you’ll find out how hard it can be to get things right.”

Garrick laughed out loud. He didn’t completely understand what Chrístõ was telling him. He was only four and hardly even knew any females other than his mother and Julia. But he responded to the tone of Chrístõ’s voice and laughed with him.

Then both of them, and Cal, too, felt something that stopped their laughter. Garrick cried out and Chrístõ automatically reached to pick him up and comfort him. Cal ran to the window and looked out. Glenda had felt it, too, though not quite so intensely. She clutched Julia’s hand as they sat on the sofa.

“There’s something happening,” Cal said. “It looks like a meteor shower. But…”

“There were no meteor showers predicted for tonight,” Chrístõ said. “And besides, it feels…”

He shivered and gripped Garrick even more tightly as he began to run.

“The TARDIS… everyone… quickly…” he said as he reached the hallway and mounted the stairs. He turned and saw that everyone was following him then kept going to his bedroom where the TARDIS was in its usual disguise as a wardrobe. The door was open. He always left it that way so that Humphrey could come out at night and have the freedom of his bedroom after nightfall. But Humphrey wasn’t in the bedroom now. As he stepped into the TARDIS he was aware of him cowering under the console making distressed noises. He put Garrick down on the command chair and knelt to look at his strange friend. Humphrey’s ‘face’ had only two expressions, an upturned curved line of a smile and a downturned one for a frown. He was frowning. But he was also radiating fear.

“I know,” Chrístõ said gently. “There’s something out there, isn’t there? Something we can all feel. But calm down, please. You’re frightening Garrick.”

He stroked the darkness creature and tried to radiate calming thoughts to him, but he was having trouble feeling calm himself. He turned and looked around. Glenda was the last one to step into the TARDIS.

“Close the door, please,” he said and she did so. At once, everyone felt the difference. Humphrey stopped making his distressed noises and came out of hiding to hug Garrick. Chrístõ stood and embraced the two girls comfortingly. He looked at Cal and reached out to him, too. Hugging was not something he had done very often in his life, but he allowed himself to be drawn into the group embrace before Chrístõ left him and Glenda by themselves. He brought Julia to the console and she helped him put the TARDIS into hover mode above the town.

“The TARDIS is protecting us from… whatever it was,” Chrístõ said to them all. “I presume everyone felt the same thing… the same sense of fear and despair that even affected Humphrey?”

“It was awful,” Glenda said. “I felt as if… as if I had been abandoned by everyone I ever loved in my life. My mum and dad, my sister, my nan… as if all of them had turned away from me and nobody loved me, and I was completely alone in the universe.”

Julia nodded.

“It felt… as if I was back on the ship again… alone, hiding from the vampyres.”

Cal just shuddered. Being alone in that way was something he had lived with for a decade since his mother died. He had only known any other way of life for a comparatively short time. Feeling that despair again, after being so briefly happy and content was a shock to him.

Chrístõ looked at Garrick. Both he and his brother had been overwhelmed at first by a sense of loneliness and distance from all they loved. When Chrístõ had picked him up, though, the physical contact between the two of them, with their near identical DNA, their tie of blood, had relieved it a little. They still felt cut off from home and family, but they had each other.

Even Humphrey had been hit by the fact that he was the last of his kind, overwhelmed by loneliness and grief until the door was closed and he was able to control himself again.

“Is everyone all right?” he asked as he turned back to the console and looked at the readings on the environmental monitor. There was nothing obvious wrong. He was picking up traces of the unexpected meteor shower, and he noted the mineral elements in the falling space debris, but none of the pieces were large enough to be a danger to the town. And he couldn’t understand how it was connected to the emotional shock they had all shared.

“Yes,” Cal said. “Yes, we’re all right. For a while, I felt so… but it’s gone now.”

“Did everyone feel it?” Julia asked. “Or just people with psychic abilities?”

“Must be everyone,” Chrístõ said. “You don’t actually have psychic abilities, sweetheart. Your brooch picks up other people’s telepathy and allows you to tap into it.”

“In that case, then…” Glenda reached in her pocket for her mobile phone. The others watched and listened as she contacted her mother and spoke to her for several minutes.

“Mum’s ok,” she reported at last. “She said she had a strange turn… like she wanted to cry. And then she went out and looked at the meteor shower and it was really beautiful. She said she found a piece of meteorite in the garden and it’s really pretty. She wants me to see it when I get home.”

Julia pulled out her own mobile and called her cousin, Michal. He told her all about finding a meteorite in the back garden.

“But everyone is all right?” she asked. “Aunt Marianna and Uncle Herrick, are they all right? Are you two…”

Michal’s answer was vague. Cordell, his younger brother, was making a lot of noise in the background. She cut the call and dialled Carrie and Tina, her two classmates. They both told her that they and their families were fine, now, but they had all felt very strange a little while ago. Tina also mentioned finding a meteorite in the garden.

Chrístõ closed his eyes and reached out mentally. He reached past Cal and Glenda, and Garrick near him and found the minds of some of his Chrysalids. He managed to reach Geoffrey Walker and Lara Nuttino. They were together, walking in Earth Park. When he asked them, they reported feeling a strong wave of sadness, despair and loneliness. It gripped them for several minutes while the meteor shower was going on. Then the feeling passed. They were actually quite excited now. They told Chrístõ they had found a piece of meteorite and they would bring it into school on Monday to show him.

“Another one?” Cal commented. “Isn’t that unusual? Most meteorites falling through an oxygen rich atmosphere burn up completely. Strange that so many people should have found fragments.”

“But not impossible,” Chrístõ answered. “What worries me is this episode we all seem to have experienced. Is it connected with the meteor shower and why did it happen? Is it over now? Is it harmless? How far does it extend? Did the whole town feel it? The whole planet?”

“I feel all right now,” Glenda said. “We all do. Even Humphrey seems happy.”

Humphrey was making a trilling noise as he hunkered under the command chair beneath Garrick’s dangling feet. Garrick was imitating the sound almost as if he was trying to communicate with the darkness creature in his own language.

Chrístõ materialised the TARDIS in the middle of Earth Park, the largest open ground in New Canberra. He stepped out and looked around. It was quiet where he had landed, though there were distant voices that told him people were still walking in the park after dark. Julia came out and joined him. Cal and Glenda stayed inside with Garrick.

“Everything seems to be all right now,” Julia said as she put her hand in his. “We can go home, can’t we?”

Chrístõ didn’t answer her. She looked at him. His eyes were unfocussed. He was in a trance, concentrating deeply. She had seen him do that before, but usually in his meditation room, kneeling or lying. This time he was standing upright, his hands by his side, his head and back straight as they almost always were. Time Lords didn’t slouch, after all. But his mind was elsewhere.

He came back to her slowly, his fingers tightening around her hand as he took a deep breath and turned his head to look at her.

“Something odd happened to every living being in this city, but it’s over now. There’s nothing else I can do. We might as well go home.”

He kept hold of her hand as they stepped back into the TARDIS.

“I still don’t understand it,” he said. “But I can’t figure it out at all. I think… I think I’ll take the TARDIS for a slow orbit around the planet and we’ll watch with the doors open and drink double chocolate cocoa with marshmallows and sprinkles and you two girls can worry about the calories in that tomorrow.”

It was a nice, gentle way to relax and forget the disturbance. Chrístõ did have another agenda, though. He set the TARDIS computer to monitor the planet and its atmosphere as they orbited to see if there was anything unusual.

There was nothing, and by the time they had done a complete orbit of Beta Delta IV and returned to Chrístõ’s living room even he was willing to say that the crisis was over. It still worried him that he couldn’t work out what it was and why it had happened, but it was over and nobody was harmed. He let himself relax.

“Ok, Glenda,” he said. “It’s getting late. Why don’t I ring your mum and tell her I’m putting you up with Julia overnight and… tomorrow, how about a day at Butterfield Lake? I think what everyone needs – Humphrey excepted, of course – is a day out in the fresh air.”

Mrs Ross had no objection to the plan. Julia and Glenda went off to bed together. Cal went to the other guest room. Chrístõ got Garrick ready for bed and wasn’t entirely surprise when his half brother insisted that he wanted to sleep in his bed in the master bedroom. Whenever anything had disturbed him during the day, Garrick was reluctant to sleep alone. It went back to the war, when he and his mother were in hiding in The Tower and his father was missing. Garrick felt the need to keep close to the people he loved.

For that matter, Chrístõ was glad to keep him near. He turned down the lights and slid into the bed and held his half brother close. He heard his soft breathing and his two young hearts beating evenly and ruffled his soft hair as he fell asleep knowing that the people he loved most in the universe were safe and well under the same roof.

Their day at the lake was peaceful and uneventful enough to put all of the concerns they had the day before behind them. They returned to enjoy an evening meal and another game of multi-dimensional chess before Chrístõ put Cal and Glenda into a taxi to return them to their respective homes before he and Julia and Garrick enjoyed the rest of the evening in a scene quite domestic and ordinary apart from the fact that Humphrey crept downstairs and hid behind the cushions of the armchair where he made his most contented snoring noises and established himself as an extraordinary part of the domesticity.

It was Sunday lunchtime, in fact, before any echo of the anxiety from Friday night disturbed the tranquillity of the weekend. It began with the arrival of Michal and Cordell on their bicycles, flushed and out of breath and barely holding back unmanly tears. Chrístõ had barely had time to let them into the house and direct them to the cold drinks in the fridge when a taxi arrived. He was surprised when Glenda ran to ask him if he could pay the fare and when he went to put his credit card into the driver’s automatic billing unit, Cal was struggling out of the cab with two youngsters of about Garrick’s age and a baby bundled up in a blanket.

“What is all this?” he asked as he stuffed his credit card back in his pocket and reached to take the baby from Cal’s arms. It was a boy aged about six months and he was crying as if in pain. “Who is he?” he added as he turned and ran into the house, Cal following.

“He’s called Donny,” Cal answered as Chrístõ began to unfold the blankets to reveal a baby in a state of neglect. His clothes were soaked. His nappy obviously hadn’t been changed for a day and he didn’t seem to have been fed in that time, either. “He’s the youngest of… of my foster family… the children Mrs Richards is looking after right now. Except…”

Chrístõ took a bag of assorted baby accessories from Glenda and looked around at the suddenly enlarged household. Garrick was sitting with the two little girls, looking as distressed as they were as his telepathic nerves picked up their fear and confusion. Cordell and Michal hovered uncertainly.

“None of you have eaten since yesterday?” he asked, picking up one clear message from all of their thoughts. He reached into his pocket and passed Cordell his credit card. “Pizza delivery. Enough for everyone. Julia, there’s a big tub of ice cream in the freezer for afters… and can you put the kettle on, please.”

That done, he turned back to the baby. He quickly cleaned him and put on a fresh nappy and a babygro that was among the bits and pieces that Glenda or Cal had thrown together in a hurry. He did a quick medical examination and determined that he wasn’t injured in any way.

“I brought bottles and baby formula,” Cal said. “We can feed him, can’t we?”

“Not yet,” Chrístõ answered. “He’s dehydrated. The food will make him sick.” Chrístõ gave the baby to Glenda to hold while he went to the kitchen with two of the bottles. In one he made up the vitamin enriched baby milk with freshly boiled water and set it aside to cool. The other he put boiled water and a measure of sugar and salt. He screwed on the top and shook it. Julia, having retrieved the ice cream from the deep freeze, paused in her search for serving bowls to watch as Chrístõ gently blew on the bottle and cooled the boiling water to hand hot and then tepid in only half a minute. He returned to the drawing room and gave the bottle of water to Glenda who fed it to the baby while he turned to question Cal about the strange circumstances.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” he said. “If I’d taken the baby to hospital, Mrs Richards would get into trouble. And the girls… Hanna and Bella... They were crying and I… I’m not used to having kids around me… there was just me and my mother… I didn’t know what to do for them. I thought you might be able to help.”

“Well, of course I can. But what’s going on? Is Mrs Richards ill? How could she have forgotten to change and feed a baby for a whole day?”

“It’s the same with mum,” Michal Sommers piped up as his brother went to the door to get the pizzas. “She hasn’t cooked anything all day yesterday or today. We raided the fridge for leftovers, but there’s nothing left now.”

“My mum, too,” Glenda added. “My dad was so angry with her this morning that he took my sister and drove off to my nan’s. I went over to see Cal. He was trying to get his foster mum to listen to him while the little kids were crying and the baby was screaming until it would break your heart. Then I said we should come to you. I thought you’d know what to do.”

“I know how to look after a hungry and dehydrated baby,” Chrístõ admitted as he cooled the bottle of formula and gave it to her to follow the life-saving sugar-salt solution. “And I can order pizzas for everyone else. But what in Creation is going on? Why have three women who usually spend their lives in the kitchen providing for their children suddenly forgotten about them? Mrs Richards… she’s the most caring woman I have ever met. She loves children so much, at an age when most women are glad to see their kids off to college and take a rest she starts again with a baby like Donny. It’s just not possible.”

Cordell paused in the consumption of his favourite pizza and gave in to the tears that had been threatening all along. He was a teenage boy. Tears were soft. Admitting that he was missing his mum was soft. But he couldn’t help himself. And the best Chrístõ could do to help him was pass him a cold can of fizzy pop to swallow down the pizza that seemed to have lost its taste for him.

“Julia, sweetheart,” he said making a decision. “You and Glenda hold the fort here. The baby should sleep now he’s clean and fed. The little girls could probably do with an afternoon nap, too. See if Garrick will do the same. Try to settle them all down a bit. Let your cousins play with the computer. That should amuse them. Cal… come on with me.”

Cal didn’t ask where they were going. It sounded like Chrístõ was going to get pro-active and that was enough for him. He followed him into the TARDIS. Humphrey slipped in with them and took his accustomed place under the console.

“Mrs Richards first,” he said as he set the co-ordinates. “She’s worrying me the most. I just can’t believe it of her.”

He materialised the TARDIS in Cal’s bedroom. They slipped down the stairs of the unusually quiet house and found Mrs Richards in the living room. She was sitting on the sofa, very still and quiet. Chrístõ approached her carefully, not wanting to frighten her.

“What’s she doing?” Cal asked as Chrístõ knelt by her side and checked her pulse. “What’s she holding?”

“Some sort of ornament.” It looked like a crystal glass flower with petals of translucent pale pink and veins of blue. It was a pretty thing, but he wasn’t really interested in that. What bothered him was the near catatonic state of Mrs Richards. Her pulse was slow. She didn’t even react when he pinched hard on the back of her hand. Her pupils were fixed even when he shone the light of the sonic screwdriver directly into her eyes.

“She wasn’t like this when I left her,” Cal said. “She was just really distant as if she didn’t realise any of us were around. I wouldn’t have left her alone if… I had to look after the little ones. But I wouldn’t have…”

Chrístõ lifted her carefully. As he did so, the crystal ornament fell from her hands. It crashed down onto the glass coffee table. The table cracked badly, and the ornament shattered into fragments. He gasped as he felt a sudden, brief but distressing sensation of grief. Then he pulled himself together. Mrs Richards was his first concern. He carried her up to the bedroom and into the TARDIS, where he laid her down on the sofa before programming the next destination.

The TARDIS materialised in the familiar kitchen of the Sommers house. As Chrístõ and Cal both stepped out they almost collided with Herrick. He looked frantic.

“Chrístõ!” he exclaimed. “Help me. My boys are missing and my wife…”

“Your sons are at my house,” Chrístõ assured him. “They’re fine. But… Marianna… what’s wrong with her.”

Herrick pointed to the living room. Chrístõ ran past him and was astonished to find Marianna lying on the sofa in a near catatonic state so similar to Mrs Richards that he didn’t even bother to examine her. He just lifted her in his arms and carried her through to the kitchen.

“In the TARDIS,” he said to her husband. “Come on. I want to check Glenda’s mother, too. There’s a pattern here. And I am seriously worried.”

Herrick was worried when he saw Mrs Richards already lying on the sofa inside the TARDIS. And when, at the next location, Chrístõ carried Mrs Ross in as well and laid her on the console room floor next to his wife, ‘worried’ was too mild a word for it.

“Cal, you take us home,” he said as he adjusted the sonic screwdriver and shone a pulsating light into Marianna’s eyes. He saw Herrick watching him anxiously. “They’re all under some sort of hypnotic influence,” he explained. “The frequency of this light should…”

But it didn’t. He tried it on Mrs Ross and Mrs Richards, too, but there was no response. He was puzzled as well as concerned. It should have worked. He knew that hypnosis, no matter how it is caused, affected certain parts of the Human brain and that frequency should have corrected it.

He felt Humphrey slip past him and envelop Marianna. He made a purring noise and his strange, big eyes looked at Chrístõ. He used the light on Marianna again while Humphrey gave her one of his empathic hugs. Chrístõ heard Herrick behind him give a long sigh of relief as Marianna stirred. She gave a soft cry and complained of a headache. He let her husband look after her while he turned to Mrs Richards and Mrs Ross and brought them around aided by Humphrey. By the time they were fully awake the TARDIS had materialised. Chrístõ was pleased to see that Cal had brought them to the hallway of his house rather than the bedroom. The three women were reunited with their families that little bit faster. Cordell and Michal completely forgot they were teenage boys and cried as they hugged their mother. Glenda and her mother had a tearful time, too. Mrs Richards just hugged baby Donny and the two little girls and sobbed as she realised what she had done.

“All my years looking after children… and now this. What happened to me? How could I have just forgotten him like that? What would have happened if Cal hadn’t…” She reached out to Cal and hugged him, too. “You’re a good boy. Thank you.”

“Mrs Richards, I don’t know what happened, yet,” Chrístõ told him. But I don’t believe it was your fault. You’ve all been affected by some kind of outside influence. You’re all right now. And there’s no need for you to fret or blame yourself in any way. You’re a great foster mother. And Marianna and Mrs Ross couldn’t love their children more if they tried. You’re all victims of something terrible. And I mean to find out what.”

“Chrístõ…” Marianna extricated herself from the embraces of her two sons. “It was the meteorite… that’s what did it.”


“From Friday night. The meteorite I found. It… sort of grew… it was beautiful, like a glass flower. And it made me feel… as if I had to protect it, nurture it… I felt like I did when the boys were newborn… as if nothing was more important, as if I lived only to look after it.”

“Yes,” Mrs Ross said. “Yes, that’s it. I had one, too. I… was looking after it. I had such a row with Tony about it. He said I was mad. He took my little girl away with him. But I didn’t care. I had my crystal, and I cared about it more than anything in the universe.”

Chrístõ listened to the three women telling their similar stories. Then he nodded to Cal. The two of them slipped back to the TARDIS and retraced their steps. They found Marianna’s crystal nestled in the cushions on the sofa. Mrs Ross had put hers into a box surrounded by cotton wool.

The one at Mrs Richards’ house was broken, of course. Chrístõ picked up the pieces carefully. Cal wondered why until he returned to the TARDIS and set the two whole ones alongside the broken crystal.

“Look at the difference… the whole ones sparkle and when you touch them… try it, very carefully…”

Cal reached out and touched one of the crystals. He gasped in astonishment. His dark eyes glistened.

“It’s like… it feels… I’m not sure… what I feel…”

Chrístõ nodded. Cal was probably the most emotionally remote person he knew. His only loving relationship had been with his mother, and she was dead now. Even though he was starting to develop friendships, nobody else touched him so deeply. He didn’t have any terms of reference to describe the feelings evoked by contact with the crystal.

“When I touch it, I feel like I do when I’m looking after Garrick,” Chrístõ said. “Especially when he gets scared to be alone at night and he comes to me for warmth and protection. That’s what the women all felt. All three of them are mothers. The instinct to protect something helpless and in need… the crystals fed on that, I think. That’s why they all forgot their own children, their own responsibilities. The crystals are like children… helpless children… reaching out for love and comfort. Which is all right in its way, of course. Everything, everyone, needs to be loved. But they’re greedy. They take too much.”

“Chrístõ, do you mean that they’re alive?” Cal was puzzled. His definitions of life were a lot more restricted than Chrístõ’s.

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered. “Yes, alive in a sense. Not organic life. I’m getting a readout here of the composition of the crystals. It’s mostly silicon dioxide... quartz crystals. Slight traces of cadmium and manganese. I can’t quite understand how something with that chemical make up can have sentient characteristics….” He paused and smiled enigmatically.

“What?” Cal looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“I was just thinking about what I just said then. Imagine a silicon lifeform puzzling over how lumps of meat like us could possibly have sentience! We’ve got to redefine our understanding of ‘life’. It’s much wider than our usual terms. Yes, these crystals are a form of life. Which means…” He touched the broken fragments. He felt nothing. It was just cold pieces of crystal. “I killed this one. I didn’t mean to. If I’d known it was more than just a pretty ornament… I’m very sorry about that.”

“Why?” Cal asked. “Look what it did. Little Donny and the girls, forgotten and abandoned because that thing demanded so much from Mrs Richards. Look at what it did to her. She thinks she’s failed as a foster parent because of what that thing did. If it is life… it’s evil. It should be destroyed.”

“No,” Chrístõ answered him quietly but firmly. “No, Cal. If there is just one lesson I can teach you, it’s that life… life of any kind is precious. Destroying it is something we do as the absolute last resort. And we do so with heavy hearts, knowing we have no other choice.”


“We… Time Lords… the most powerful beings in this universe. We could so easily destroy almost anything that gets in our way. That’s why we must not. We must treasure life in its every form. And try to preserve it…”

“But we can’t let them... Chrístõ, there were more than three of them that fell on Friday night. How many more women are there out there with crying children and desperate husbands… we can’t just…”

“No, I know that,” he said. “We also have to ensure that lifeforms exist in harmony with each other. And the crystals aren’t doing that, right now. They’re acting like cuckoos…” Cal looked puzzled again. “A bird from planet Earth,” he explained. “The female cuckoo lays her eggs in the nests of other birds, alongside the true offspring. When it hatches, bigger and more aggressive than the others it takes the larger share of food. Very often the mother bird’s real babies starve and die. That’s exactly what these have done. Not so much taking the food… but the love and affection that the parents give to their children.”

“So how do we stop them?” Cal asked.

“I think I know,” Chrístõ answered. He put the TARDIS into a parked orbit directly above New Canberra and opened the doors. He carried one of the crystals to the door and held it as he let his mind reach out. He needed to know, first, just how many of the crystalline cuckoos there were in the town, how many people affected by them. He felt the minds of the people below him. He touched each of them momentarily and he saw the affected ones easily. They felt so detached from their surroundings, lost in their anxiety to look after the alien life form that demanded so much from them.

Cal watched him. He could feel what he was doing and was amazed. Chrístõ had made mental contact with nearly a quarter of a million people in a few minutes. His own telepathic powers were nowhere near that strong.

“Your telepathic powers are untrained. But your presence will help. You’re my anchor in reality. Stay there by the console and don’t worry. I am fairly sure I know what I’m doing.”

Cal looked a little bit worried about the ‘fairly sure’ but he trusted Chrístõ’s judgement even when he saw him stand right on the edge of the threshold.

Chrístõ put his trust in his own sense of balance, honed by the monks of Malvoria who trained him in the martial arts of Sun Ko Du on six inch wide spars across deep mountain chasms. His toes were actually outside the force field that prevented him from falling. He held the crystal in his hands and extended them out, too. He felt the coldness of open, empty space as he concentrated again. This time his mind was on the crystals scattered around New Canberra. He reached to them, showed himself to them. He showed them their brother – or sister – which he held in such a precarious way. He could let it die. All he had to do was let it go. Floating in empty space, alone, it would die miserably.

He felt the lifeforms pause and pay attention to him.

“I’ll kill this one, unless you all join it here. Leave those innocent people who you’ve forced into taking care of you. Leave them. Let them have their lives back. I’ll give you what you want. All of you.”

He didn’t think it had worked at first. Then he almost fell out of the TARDIS as the wave of emotions enveloped him. He heard Humphrey trilling fearfully behind him and backing away.

“No, Humphrey,” he said. “Come closer. Come and join me.”

Humphrey was nervous. His trill wobbled. But he came closer. Chrístõ let him envelop him. He needed Humphrey’s moral support. He could feel the consciousnesses. They were coming closer. They weren’t using their crystals. Those were merely the physical shells they used to disperse themselves among the Human population. He realised that as he felt them gathering around the crystal he was holding onto. He could feel the confusion and momentary grief of the Humans who had been released from the hypnotic hold.

“You need love,” he said to the consciousnesses gathered before him. “You need comfort and protection. But you can’t get those things from the humans below. They can’t give it to you without hurting themselves and I won’t let that happen. If you carry on doing that, I’ll destroy you all. I can smash all of your crystals. Without them you can’t manipulate the Humans.”

He felt that they had got the message. The emotions he got back from them were like chastised children who knew they had done wrong, and worse, been caught doing it.

“All right,” he continued in a softer voice as he drew back his arms, bringing the crystal safely back into the TARDIS. He took a step back himself onto more solid ground before he started to speak again. Humphrey was still surrounding him. He felt the darkness creature’s empathy increase.

“I understand your need. Everything needs love. The universe would grind to a halt without it. Or so I’ve always believed. Some of my tutors would disagree. But it is certainly my philosophy. So… I’ll do you a deal… all of you condense yourselves into this one crystal. I know you can. Spreading yourselves out like that was just selfishness. So… go on… get in there.”

He felt it telepathically. So did Humphrey. So did Cal. The consciousnesses converged on the crystal in his hands. It felt no heavier. The consciousnesses had no physical weight. But there was, possibly, a brighter sparkle to it. He glanced around and noted that the other crystal now had a duller appearance. The consciousness within it had joined with the others.

“All right,” Chrístõ said to them. He held the crystal close to his chest, next to his two hearts, and he stroked it gently. He thought of that feeling he had described to Cal, earlier. The feeling he had when Garrick snuggled up with him in bed, wanting love and warmth and protection from him. He gave the crystal consciousnesses the same love, the same warmth, the same protection.

And he felt an emotional response that was as warm as Garrick’s love when it was returned to him. Chrístõ understood perfectly why those who had picked up the meteorites had been so firmly attached to them, why they had felt the need to give their love to them. The love that came back to them in return was as real as the love their own children gave back to them. Yes, he understood how they had become compulsive to the point of utter distraction.

“You can’t do that any more,” he said. “But I can’t look after you, either. I am a busy man. I already have at least four official jobs. Foster parent isn’t one I can take up right, now.”

He felt the despair, the fear of being abandoned. He calmed them again.

“But I know somebody who can take on that role,” he said. And he turned and stepped towards Cal. To the boy’s surprise he placed the crystal in his hands. “Cal… you know what it is to be alone and unloved. You’ve felt that despair. That’s their problem. They’re children, infants, abandoned by their mother… because they’re the space equivalent of cuckoos and that’s what they do. You can be their foster parent. You can give them your love.”

“Me?” Cal looked at him sceptically. “How?”

“The way Mrs Richards gives you and Donny and Hanna and Belle her love. Unconditionally. Try it. Just… reassure them that you’ll take care of them, that you won’t let them down. They’re a lot easier than a baby. They don’t need feeding or changing. They won’t wake you up in the night crying. But you give them love, and they’ll give it back to you.”

“What if I end up like the women… taken over by them completely.”

“You’re not Human. Your will is stronger. You can temper their enthusiasm, stop them from getting greedy.”

“I’m… a parent…” Cal murmured. “Of….” His hooded eyes narrowed even further as he mentally counted the individual consciousnesses within the crystal. “Of two hundred and fifteen children.” He laughed softly. “Even Mrs Richards couldn’t cope with that many at once.” He laughed again, with an ironic edge this time. “I’m a single parent, at that.”

“Well, maybe you can talk to Glenda about that,” Chrístõ told him. “I’m sure she’d love to babysit with you, sometimes. Anyway, lets get back to my rather crowded house now. Bring your babies with you.”

Cal smiled. He slipped off his own jacket. He wrapped the crystal carefully in it and cradled it gently. Chrístõ watched him as he programmed the simple return journey. It was working, both ways. Cal had not received a lot of love or compassion in his life. What little he did have, though, he was giving to the cuckoos within the crystal, and from the look on his face he was already receiving it back with interest. It was a perfect solution for both sides. He felt quite pleased with himself as he landed the TARDIS in his hallway again and went to greet the noisy company in his drawing room. Garrick ran to greet him enthusiastically. Chrístõ smiled as he gathered him in his arms and felt that unconditional love from the boy. Everyone in the room right now, including Cal, understood that feeling, and knew how precious it was, and that wasn’t a bad return on his effort. He nodded happily and asked if there was any pizza left for him and Cal.