Julia was carefully watching the TARDIS drive control while Chrístõ sat on the sofa drinking lemonade. He had put her in charge of their return journey to the Beta Delta system after a weekend at Penne Dúre’s royal court. The route was one the TARDIS had made numerous times already and it should have been straightforward.

It WAS straightforward, but before they came out of the vortex an emergency signal lit up on the communications panel. Julia looked at it carefully, but the information on the screen was encrypted. She couldn’t do anything about it.

“It’s a Mauve Alert,” Chrístõ confirmed when he came to our side. “From Earth.”

“That means….”

“Somebody has activated an emergency crystal – somebody I gave a crystal to – or will give one. It might even be anachronistic in that way. But whoever it was, I gave him or her a crystal in case they needed me to come in an emergency. And I would only do that for a friend.”

“Somebody we know is in trouble,” Julia concluded. “So why are we talking about it? Reset the destination and let’s find out who needs our help.”

“I already did that,” Chrístõ assured her. “We’ll be there in ten minutes."

Ten minutes later the TARDIS materialised on Earth. Julia took note of the temperature and humidity outside and knew she was quite unsuitably dressed, having been ready for the temperate climes of Beta Delta Four in March. But it was an emergency – a mauve alert – and a friend was in trouble. She didn’t waste any time on her wardrobe.

“It’s India, isn’t it?” she said as she studied a Hindu shrine beside the TARDIS which had disguised as a very colourful and elaborate statue of Vishnu. The real shrine looked much more home-made - grey breeze blocks and a plank of wood making a rough archway around a statue of the same Hindu god. Chrístõ looked at it carefully, especially the wreaths of flowers placed around it.

“This marks the place where somebody died,” he said.

“You mean like a road accident?” Julia guessed. “How sad.”

“Very sad,” Chrístõ agreed. He stood straight and bowed his head in respect. “The shrine is Hindu, but we’re very definitely in the Punjab, which is predominately Sikh. They don’t go in for roadside shrines so much. Look there, beside the main shrine.”

Julia looked. There was a cross laid on the ground with a silver crucifix wrapped around it and a bunch of flowers withering in the heat. Beside that, a black cloth decorated with gold crescent moons with a star in their cusps – symbols of Islam – was carefully placed with small stones to hold it down.

“Lots of people have died,” Julia guessed. “People from all different religions.”


“A big road accident? A bus or something?” She looked around. The road wasn’t the sort a bus would be speeding along. It was more like a quiet suburb. The houses, arranged in a widely curving crescent, were all very nice ones with finely laid out gardens and expensive cars on the drives behind the individual gates. It didn’t quite ring true as the scene of that sort of road accident.

Chrístõ stood before the assorted shrines and bowed his head for a moment. His people didn’t build such memorials, either, but he knew how to respect the dead.

“Do you realise that we’re locked in here,” Julia added when he turned back to her. They both studied the high fence of gold and black painted iron railings with ornamental symbols on top. A pair of equally high and even more ornamental gates were strongly locked.

“Locked from the inside,” Chrístõ noted. “What can that signify, I wonder?”

Julia couldn’t answer that question. It was purely rhetorical. She watched quietly as he took a small gadget from his pocket and calibrated it. “That house, there, in the middle of the crescent – that’s where the crystal was activated. The resonance can still be measured, which means that I got here in good time, at least.”

Julia studied the houses with new interest having learned that one of them belonged to the friend with a Time Lord’s emergency crystal. They were all relatively new, with the gardens still bearing a ‘planned’ appearance. They were big enough for the middle-class term ‘villa’ to apply. They were an architectural style Julia was unaccustomed to in her very mock Tudor neighbourhood on Beta Delta, all at least three stories high with balconies on each level and balustrades around the flat roof so that people could safely sit or walk up there. The walls were either clean, pure white, or pale terra cotta and the woodwork blue or orange. The windows on all three floors were floor length French style and wide as possible to let as much natural light and air into the rooms as possible.

“Nobody is sitting on their balconies,” Julia noted. “And most of the windows are closed.”


The exception to that rule was the house they were visiting. Chrístõ pushed open the gate and walked along the clean, tarmac covered driveway between pristine lawns. Two very good quality cars were parked in front of the garage, practical four door estates. It was possible that more impractical sports models bought for leisure were inside the garage.

The windows in the ground floor were wide open. Chrístõ could hear voices inside. He stood by the window and let his eyes accustom to the room within – a large, comfortably furnished drawing room. The two men whose voices he heard looked around to see who had blocked their sunlight.

“Chrístõ!” Both men rose and came to greet him. He noted tanned faces, full beards and the uncut hair fastened up in a turban of those who followed the Sikh religion faithfully. They both looked like middle-aged humans, but he knew them for something else entirely.

“My friends, the Malcannan brothers,” he said with a warm smile. “How long has it been?”

“Just a little over a century,” Axyl Malcannan answered. “It is the year 2022.”

“I fully intended to visit you again long before now,” Chrístõ assured them. “Have you been well?”

“We have been very well,” Diol said. “Come, sit, both of you. Julia, you look positively aglow.”

“That is because I am boiling inside this outfit,” she said. “I really should have changed before coming into the heat.”

“That can be rectified at once,” Diol said. He called out in Punjabi language and presently a woman came into the room. She was wearing a simple blue sari and a light silk shawl over her jet black hair. She looked like a Human woman in her late thirties, still beautiful, but in a more mature way than when Chrístõ last saw her as a young woman. She was the daughter of a Time Lord, though, and her appearance and her true age were very different.

“Amita, my dear,” Diol said to his wife. “You remember my former teacher, Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow of Gallifrey?”

“I do,” Amita answered. “The years have been kind to you, mestru.”

Chrístõ smiled at the term of respect meaning ‘teacher’. He looked so very much younger than his former students, now, that it was almost meaningless.

“You have not met my fiancée, Julia?” he said, bringing Julia by the hand and introducing her to Diol’s wife. “Will you let her have some clothing suitable to the climate while I talk with your husband and brother-in-law?”

This WAS the twenty-first century, and besides this was a Sikh household where a concept of equality of all under God was understood. Even so, there was still a sense of male and female ‘business’ and what the two brothers wished to talk about was for the men only.

“Is he with you, still?” Chrístõ asked. “Your father-in-law… Amar Deep Singh as he called himself.”

“He left in the 1930s. His daughters were happily married to us. He became restless to explore the stars again. He settled his fortune upon the four of us and left. I expect you will meet him again in the course of time. We have not expected to hear from him.”

“That’s why you contacted me rather than him when you had a crisis, then?”

“You landed your TARDIS within the gates, of course?” Axyl said, apparently not in connection with the question. “You must have, otherwise you would not have been able to get to us.”

“I did. Would you like to explain why you’re living within locked gates?”

“This is group housing complex – luxury homes, shops, medical, religious and leisure facilities all within a purpose built community – fully serviced, modern amenities… including private security to ensure the residents are safe from all possible harm.”

“Yes… I’ve heard of the sort of thing. But the gates usually open and close.”

“There is an epidemic in the nearby town of Jandiala,” Axyl explained. “As soon as the first casualties were reported the gates here were locked. We were told that we have food and medical supplies to last for as long as six months, clean water, all we need to sit out the danger.”

“The well off, safe behind the gates, the ordinary, working people of Jandiala dying outside,” Diol added with a tone and an expression of disgust on his face. As a Caretaker of Gallifrey and as a Sikh of the Punjab he was equally appalled by the idea.


“Dying,” Axyl insisted. “A few at first, but now dozens every day. I was lucky to be allowed back in before the gates were shut. We are both doctors, now. I was working a night shift at the hospital when the lock-in began. They were scared that I was infected. It was only by using a bit of old fashioned Power-of-Suggestion that I got through.”

Chrístõ half smiled. He had taught them both not only how to use that mental power, but the ethics of using it on non-telepathic races.

But there was something else that he queried.


“The private security guards,” Diol explained. “Employed by the Company. If residents were to start dying it would be very bad for business. No householders rates paid to cover the cost of our clean water and sewage, to pay for the broadband internet and cable television, to shop in the retail park or use the leisure centre, the golf club, the tennis courts.”

“You mean this place is a prison?” Chrístõ was astonished. “A luxury prison for which you pay to be imprisoned.”

“In essence, yes.”

“A unique situation. Is that why you sent a mauve alert? Do you want me to get you out of here?”

“Not at all,” both men assured him. “We’re not such cowards as that. Besides, we HAVE been coming and going on a regular basis. We’re Gallifreyans, after all. Locked gates are hardly an impediment to us. We have both been going to the hospital every night, doing what we can for the patients, making sure they are not left without a doctor at all.”

“Ah.” Chrístõ nodded and smiled. He was proud of them on two levels – first for dealing with the minor inconvenience of fences and gates with style, and second for their courage and commitment to the people of their adopted community.

“The problem is, the epidemic is nothing I’ve ever seen,” Diol continued. “We have lived in the Punjab for a century. We have seen cholera outbreaks, diphtheria, smallpox. During the conflict humans call their Second World War we were both medics in the Indian Army. As well as bullet wounds we treated almost every ailment known to this planet, and when the war was over we were sent to Europe to deal with the influenza outbreak that made life still precarious among the ruins of once great cities and towns. But we have never seen a Human disease like the one we are dealing with here, and we need somebody whose experience of this race and its medical needs is greater than ours. THAT is why we called you.”

“I see,” Chrístõ answered.

“Now we hear that there have been outbreaks elsewhere – other townships, and even in the cities of the region – in Amritsar and Jalandhar. It is not so bad, yet, but it is clear that no quarantine can hold it back for long.”

“We’re talking about millions of people at risk of a painful death,” Axyl concluded. “Will you help, Chrístõ?”

“Of course he will.” The men looked around as three visions of utter femininity entered the room, making it almost impossible to believe they were talking about something so dark a moment ago. Chrístõ blinked and looked at his fiancée dressed in a soft yellow silk sari with a shawl over her head and a small amethyst set in gold hanging over her forehead. She looked even more beautiful than she had done in satin and voile covered in pearls when she attended a state ball in the palace of Adano Ambrado two nights ago.

"You look fantastic,” he told her.

“Yes, but this isn’t the time for dressing up in pretty clothes. Amita and Vela told me what is happening. Chrístõ, you ARE going to help, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered. “But you are going to stay right here with the ladies.”

Julia didn’t take kindly to that. Amita and Vela were both quite astonished by her feminist tirade. When she ran out of words they reminded her that a wife must be ladylike at all times.

“I’m not his wife, yet,” Julia responded. “And if ladylike means being nothing more than a dumb fashion plate and an ornament on his arm, then I’m getting my skirt and jumper back on and I don’t care if I melt in them.”

“Julia,” Chrístõ told her quietly. “This is nothing to do with chauvinism of any sort. There is a disease affecting humans. You are Human, my dear. You are the only fully Human in this company. I want to make sure this isn’t something that can affect you before you come to a hospital overflowing with sick people. So stay with the ladies until I know you’re safe. After that, you may help any way you can.”

Julia was partially placated.

“And keep the Sari on. It makes you look as if you belong here. If people within the gates are paranoid about infection, they might not like the idea of a stranger visiting. They’ll certainly want to know how we got in, and I have absolutely no intention of telling them. I’m going to go with the brothers, now, to have a look at the hospital and its patients. Please do as I ask, Julia, for your own safety.”

Julia accepted that grudgingly. Chrístõ kissed her on the cheek while the brothers kissed their own wives, then all three left. Julia watched until they reached the TARDIS and stepped inside. Presently it dematerialised.

She turned away and went to sit with the two sisters, daughters of a Time Lord who had settled on Earth, and who had married two Gallifreyan men themselves. Their domestic life was more closely fitted to life in the Punjab, of course. They brought refreshments and served their guest politely and made small talk at first as they had been taught to do as good wives and gracious hostesses.

Julia had learnt to do that, too. In the course of time, that would be her role when she became mistress of Mount Lœng House. Valena had carefully tutored her in the art of entertaining and being entertained in the drawing rooms of the ladies of her social circle.

But as she had already pointed out once this afternoon, she wasn’t married to Chrístõ, yet. She was still her own woman.

“Come on,” she said. “Let’s stop beating around the bush. You know perfectly well that I’m not here to talk about clothes and jewellery. Tell me what’s going on around here. Not that I mind wearing this. It’s cool in both senses of the word. But Chrístõ thinks I’ll be in danger if I don’t wear it. In danger from whom?”

“The guards,” Amita answered her. “They have been to every house, taking surveys of who is living here. They have sent people away – The house next door - Dakshayani Khosla had family visiting – her sister and brother-in-law. The guards made them pack their belongings and took them to the front gate in a truck. They were locked out and had to walk to Jalandhar before they could get a train.”

“By what right?” Julia demanded. “Security guards… surely YOU pay them to protect your home, not to make rules about how you live.”

“The Company pays the guards,” Vela said. “Dhawan Company. They built communities like this all over the Punjab. They are very desirable homes. We were both delighted when we moved here. This is the very nicest house we have ever had.”

“We have moved many times,” Amita explained. “We, none of us, age the way humans do. It has been necessary to make a new living every so often, so that suspicion would not be aroused. We thought living here would be pleasant. The facilities are excellent, and we were surrounded by good people. You have seen the shrines and offerings at the gate?”

“Yes,” Julia answered.

“They were placed when it was known that there had been deaths. Nobody could leave to attend funerals, so we mourned the dead from within our gates. Few here agree with this cowardly way. We would go to help outside if we could. Vela and I are proud that our husbands find a way to do so.”

“You should have gone, too. Your father was a Time Lord. You would be safe from the disease. You could have helped.”

“Our husbands are not from this world, but they have embraced the traditional ways. They think of us as precious blossoms to protect.”

“If Chrístõ treated me like a precious blossom I would kick him,” Julia answered. “Even in a sari. But why do you all put up with this? I mean… it IS false imprisonment. This company… they can’t just lock you all in. Isn’t there somebody in charge?”

“Shekhar Dhawan is the manager here – Dhawan Jandiala. He is the second son of Sunil Dhawan, the owner of the Company. He built Dhawan Jandiala first, six years ago, then many more. His other sons manage the other Dhawani.”

“Where are they?” Julia asked. “The others… what cities or towns are they near?”

“There is Dhawan Amritsar, Dhawan Patiala, Dhawan Jalandhar, Dhawan Bathinda, Dhawan Nawanshahr,” Amita said. “Dhawan Mohali is still being built. There are advertisements for it in all the magazines, and Dhawan Tarn Taran is to begin next year.”

“Some of those are near places where the epidemic has spread,” Julia noted. “Are they all locked down like this?”

“I don’t know,” Amita admitted. She looked slightly ashamed, as if she knew she ought to have asked that question herself.

“And what about this Shekhar Dhawan? Is he locked in with you all?”

“He has a house,” Vela said. “I don’t know if he is there.”

“Why don’t we find out,” Julia suggested. “What’s the point of having all this social etiquette if we don’t use it? Let’s pay a social call to Mr Dhawan.”

“But what if….” Vela began.

“Let’s go,” Amita contradicted her. “Julia is right. We have sat and waited for long enough. We ARE the daughters of a Time Lord. We shall have no fear.”

The hospital in Jandiala reminded Chrístõ of the Free Hospital in Charing Cross where he first practiced medicine in the 1870s. Not because it wasn’t fully modern and cleaned to the very highest standard, but because it was drastically overcrowded with patients and dangerously understaffed. There were chronically sick people lying on trolleys in the corridors and some sitting on chairs still waiting to allocated a place to lie down. The wards were full to bursting. Extra beds had been squeezed in everywhere it was possible to put them. Sheets and blankets were in short supply.

“Some of the medical staff have succumbed to the disease,” Axyl explained. He had changed into a white coat with a name tag identifying him as Doctor Asa Malkit Singh. Diol was known as Doctor Dharam Malkit Singh. Chrístõ had provided his own coat and the name tag ‘Chrístõ de Leon’. By coincidence, Leon and Singh both meant ‘Lion’ in different languages.

“Some of them,” Diol echoed darkly. “The rest… just haven’t turned up. I think they’re scared. Not that I entirely blame them. You’ve seen how it is. The only way the beds become available is when the occupants die. And they’re doing that at the rate of one an hour, now.”

“Everyone in the hospital is suffering the same disease?” Chrístõ asked.

“Everyone,” Axyl answered. “We sent home as many as we could from the surgical wards, and the geriatric and maternity department. But a lot of them have come back, infected. The very old and the very young have suffered disproportionally. Babies in their mother’s arms….”

Chrístõ shook his head sadly and with full understanding of the tragedy. He had dealt with such things before. There had been two major outbreaks of cholera and one of typhoid fever in the East End of London during his time as a Victorian doctor.

“You have, I assume, considered all the obvious things like contaminated water….”

The brothers smiled wryly as they felt the thoughts in their former teacher’s mind.

“This IS 2022,” Diol reminded him. “The communal wells that caused outbreaks of disease in the 1920s are long gone. Jandiala has mains water and sewage. Some of the poorer houses may still have outside toilets and a single tap in the kitchen, but the water comes from the same place as our water within the favoured enclave and the waste goes to the same place.”

“The waterworks of this region at least are run on the caste free principles of Sikhism even if the distribution of wealth is as unequal as anywhere else,” Axyl added for good measure.

“Forgive my presumption,” Chrístõ told them sincerely. “Even so, Jandiala is, I suppose, as crowded as any Indian township – houses built close together, large, extended families under one roof. It’s easy to see how an epidemic might take hold even with modern utilities.”

“Yes,” the brothers again agreed. “That is indeed how it spread. But how the epidemic began, and just what exactly it is, we cannot establish.”

“Let me look at some of the patients,” Chrístõ said.

“Take your pick,” Axyl told him. “They’re all much the same – young, old, male, female.”

He went to the closest trolley and examined the young woman lying there, delirious, murmuring the names of her children and husband. Chrístõ wondered if any of them were still alive.

But the nature of her illness concerned him more than anything else. He pressed gently on the reddish patches that covered her body and noted the way they turned black where his fingers had touched, as if he was bruising her by that very slight pressure. He looked at the chart that had been completed by one of the few conscientious nurses who had measured the patient’s temperature hourly. It was one hundred and five degrees Fahrenheit. One more degree and the threshold for brain death was reached.

He gently opened her mouth and saw the ulcers on the gums and the inside of the cheeks, as well as the swollen tonsils.

“This shouldn’t be happening on this planet,” he said when he had concluded his examination. “This is not a Human disease.”

“You know it?” Diol asked.

“I know it,” he answered. “It’s Gyron virus.”

His former students looked at him blankly. The term meant little to them.

“It devastated the Chozo-Praell system in the 34th century. A fantastically advanced, superbly peaceful people with the most advanced medical knowledge outside of the 40th century Human Federation. Ninety percent of the population died. The rest were brain-damaged wrecks incapable of independent living.”

“We have a thirty per cent death rate here,” Axyl said. “Do you mean to say it’s going to get worse?”

“Not now I’m here,” Chrístõ answered. It could have sounded arrogant, but he didn’t mean it to be. “There IS a vaccination. It came too late for the Chozons. It doesn’t have to be too late this time. I can save them.”

“That was what we hoped,” Diol told him. “But….”

“I can save them by going to the Klatos Beta research station in the Gemini sector. They hold the stockpile of vaccinations. I’ll need blood samples, as many as you have, so that they can engineer the serum specifically for Human biology. I’ll be back as soon as I can. Meanwhile, a saline solution with soluble aspirin will bring down the fever. It might help some of them hold on until then.”

“Saline and aspirin?” The brothers looked sceptical. It seemed too simple an idea.

“Sometimes simple medicines are the best we have. Just don’t use it yourselves. Aspirin is deadly to our species. Show me where I can get the blood samples and I’ll get going as soon as I can.”

Shekhar Dhawan’s house was only a little bigger than all the others within Dhawan Jandiala. The difference was the high fence and the bolted gate around it.

“That is no problem,” Amita said, looking at the fence. “Julia, hold our hands.”

Julia did as they said. She saw the two women either side of her close their eyes as if in meditation, then she felt her feet rise off the floor. They were levitating and carrying her with them. It was a strange sensation. She was used to defying gravity in her own way on the asymmetric bars and the vault, but that was different. The speed and momentum of her body carried her and she was always aware of the forces pushing her back towards the ground. This felt so light and gentle as if gravity didn’t exist for the three of them.

They landed inside Shekhar Dhawan’s garden and made their way towards the open window of the drawing room. There was a woman sitting there, dressed in a pastel coloured sari and drinking something with fruit and ice from a long glass.

“Sirita,” Amita said. “Where is your husband?”

“Amita… Vela….” the woman answered. “How did you get in here? The gate is closed. And… who is this with you?”

“Never mind that,” Vela answered. “Where is Shekhar?”

“He is in his study. He is busy. You cannot….”

“Yes we can,” Amita told her. “You just sit there and enjoy your cold drink and don’t worry about anything or anyone, just like you’ve always done – just like we all did, safe behind the gates. We should all be ashamed of ourselves, but you more than any.”

“Outside the gates are just lower castes,” Sirita answered. “Everybody worthwhile lives within a community like this. Why should I care about those who are beneath me?”

“Because you were lower caste yourself before Shekhar married you,” Vela responded. “Everyone knows about your marriage of passion that went beyond the bounds of tradition. But that is beside the point. All men and women are valued by the one God, even you… even your husband, despite what he might have done.”

With that the two Sikh-Time Lord women swept past the puzzled Hindu wife. Julia glanced at her and then followed her friends through to the cool entrance hall where a colourful shrine to Vishnu had fresh flowers and an indoor fountain tinkling away beside it. They guessed where the study was from the male voice they heard within.

“Is there somebody with him?” Julia whispered.

“No, he’s on the telephone,” Amita answered. “Wait, let’s listen.”

The two sisters had inherited superior hearing from their Time Lord father. They needed only to stand near the door. Julia pressed her head against it to listen to the conversation between Shekhar Dhawan and somebody he called ‘Pitaa ji’.

“His father,” Vela explained. “Sunil Dhawan – the man who built the housing complex.”

“Shh,” Julia told her. “Listen to what he’s saying.”

They listened, and what they heard astonished and appalled them as much as it explained everything that had been happening.

“I don’t believe it,” Vela murmured. “I don’t believe anyone could be so cruel, so….”

“Unholy,” Amita added. “Life is sacred. Nobody has the right to take it away like that.”

“We’ve got to stop it,” Julia said. She reached for the door handle and pushed. She stepped into the study on light feet. The man of the house didn’t hear her. He wasn’t even aware that she had been joined by Amita and Vela until he finished his phone call and turned in his chair.

“I thought it was just an act of cowardice that closed the gates and confined us all in this place,” Amita said in a quiet voice that was seething with controlled anger. “None of us imagined for a moment that there was more to it than that.”

“You caused the epidemic in the town to deliberately kill people,” Vela added.

“Why?” Julia asked.

Shekhar Dhawan looked at the three women in saris and shawls, women who looked as if their roles in life was to keep house for men. But there was something in their eyes – all three of them – that prevented him from dismissing them so easily. He didn’t know that two of them were children of an extra-terrestrial whose mental powers they had inherited. He only knew that he couldn’t turn away from their cold gaze.

“This country is over-populated,” he said. “There are too many people. Too many mouths to feed, too many demanding resources... too many of no worth. When they have been culled, when only the strongest and fittest remain to do the manual work, then this country will be fit for the best people to live in.”

“The best people?” Vela repeated the phrase scornfully. “You mean the richest.”

“Yes, the richest. Of course. That is why my father began building the Dhawan complexes in the first place. So that those who could afford to pay would live in safety away from the under classes.”

“That’s disgusting,” Julia said.

“It is worse than disgusting Amita added. “It is….” She searched for another word, but settled on the one she had used already. “Unholy. Utterly unholy. How dare you count yourself, or any other man, woman or child above another. We are all equal under God.”

“Yes, that’s what your kind think,” Shekhar Dhawan responded with a sneer. “But it’s not true. Some people are born better than others, and they’re the ones who will be saved.”

“Everyone will be saved,” Julia told him. “Chrístõ will save them.”

Shekhar Dhawan looked at her oddly. He may have thought she had said something else, something that sounded out of place in the home of a Hindu. But his accidental confusion was distraction enough for Amita and Vela. Julia, standing between them, felt the telepathic energy as a shiver through her body. Shekhar Dhawan felt it as something far more dramatic. He collapsed from his chair to the carpeted floor, grasping the luxurious deep pile in hands that clenched and unclenched while his face screwed up in horror and tears pricked his eyes.

“What are you doing to me?” he demanded through gritted teeth. “What is this… this…. Are you demons?”

“It doesn’t matter how they’re doing it,” Julia said, realising that her friends were using a very advanced Power of Suggestion to make Shekhar Dhawan feel as if he was in real pain. “They can do it. They can keep on doing it every day of your miserable life if they choose, and nobody is likely to believe you if you try to complain. The only thing that will save you is your absolute unconditional remorse for what you have done.”

“All right, I’m sorry,” Shekhar Dhawan answered. “I’m sorry for it all. I’ll tell you where the antidote is if you stop doing those things to me.”

Julia felt them stop doing it just like the change in air pressure when she stepped over the threshold of the TARDIS. Shekhar Dhawan stood up slowly, fearfully keeping his eyes on the women.

“Show us this antidote,” Julia said. “Right now.”

Chrístõ had not yet returned from Klatos Beta. The brothers had no way of knowing how long he would be, even in a TARDIS. His advice had gone some way to relieving the raging fevers the patients were all suffering from, but saline solution and aspirin would start to run short if he didn’t get back, soon.

They were both surprised when they saw their two wives and Julia rushing towards them pushing a large crate on a spare trolley. The fact that there WAS a spare trolley was surprising in itself. Then the fact that Shekhar Dhawan was with them completed their astonishment.

“This is the antidote,” Julia said breathlessly. “You can save your patients with this.”

Diol was already breaking open the crate and examining the vials of medicine within. He couldn’t help noticing the labels on them, but for now he didn’t worry about that. He called for all the nurses he had at his command and began distributing the medicine.

“He did it,” Vela explained. “He put the disease into the reservoir that supplies this whole area.”

“We ruled out the water,” Axyl argued. “Because it’s the same water that we have inside Dhawan Jandiala.”

“He put the antidote into the filtration tanks for OUR water supply,” Amita told him. “So everyone behind the gates was safe. We’ve all been drinking the same water, but it only killed the people in the town.”

“Why?” Axyl asked. The three women explained. He glared at Shekhar Dhawan in disgust.

“Yes, I know,” Julia sighed. “Never mind that now. Just lock him in a room somewhere and call the police. He’s going to make a full confession, as well as naming those who are doing the same in Amritsar and Jalandhar. The plan was meant to go much further than this one town. It was meant to kill almost everyone in the Punjab who couldn’t afford to live in a Dhawan housing complex.”

Shekhar Dhawan was about to go quietly when a TARDIS materialised in the corridor, immediately disguising itself as a linen cupboard. The door opened and Chrístõ pushed a large crate outside, identical to the one that had already been brought to the hospital.

He was surprised to discover that the patients were already being treated, and even more so to know where the medicine had come from.

“This batch can be used to start a vaccination programme for the rest of the population,” he said. “There is more on its way, but it will take another forty hours. Meanwhile, let me have Shekhar Dawhan for a little while. There’s something else he needs to see before the police come for him.”

Dhawan was puzzled to be brought into the TARDIS. He looked around the interior curiously.

“This is a space ship,” Chrístõ told him. “I come from another planet. But that shouldn’t surprise you. I know you’ve seen aliens before. They gave you the bacteria and the antidote. Don’t bother to deny it. The antidote came from a research laboratory in the Gemini galaxy. I’ve just got back from the same place. They told me that a quantity of the bacteria used for testing the vaccine was stolen three months ago. They also told me who paid for a consignment of antidote. I have the batch numbers and I just know that they’ll correspond to the medicine my friends are distributing right now.”

“I am a Punjabi Indian. I have never been to… the Gemini galaxy. You cannot link me with anything.”

“No, I can’t. That’s why you’re going to be left in the hands of the police. You stick to a version of the story that they’ll believe. But first I want to show you something.”

He had brought the TARDIS to the outer edge of the solar system while he was talking. He opened the door and took Shekhar Dhawan to the threshold.

“Look at that,” he said, pointing to the debris floating in the weakest edge of the Sol system’s field of magnetic influence. It was nowhere near enough to ever form a planet, or even a small moon. Soon enough it would break up into dust and drift away harmlessly.

“It used to be a Galarthian mothership,” Chrístõ explained. “It was destroyed by the Galactic police as punishment for the theft from Klatos Beta.”

“Galarthian?” Shekhar Dhawan queried.

“Sentient vermin, basically. If I were to show you what they look like you’d feel sick. They look repulsive and their habits are worse. They feed on decaying flesh, as rotten as possible. That was why they wanted thousands, millions of people dead – so many that the bodies would lie in the streets uncremated. They must have appeared in some kind of Human form when they did their deal. Even you wouldn’t have been so stupid if you’d seen them in their real form. But make no mistake – they wanted the whole population of the Punjabi, of India, over the border to Pakistan, eventually, the whole Human race regardless of creed or colour – DEAD. Don’t think for one minute your gates and fences would have saved you. They would have come for your bodies, too. That part – about saving the ‘better’ people - was a big fat lie.”

“I didn’t know,” Shekhar Dhawan managed to say.

“But you knew that people would die, and you were happy enough for that to happen. You’re already responsible for countless deaths. I imagine the authorities will call it murder. There was certainly malice aforethought. A full confession might save you from the death penalty. I hope so, because I personally oppose the death penalty, but that remains to be seen.”

Shekhar Dhawan looked at Chrístõ, perhaps hoping for some sign of empathy or compassion in his expression.

There was none.

He looked at the velvet starfield outside and lunged forward.

Chrístõ grabbed him and threw him back into the TARDIS before slamming the door shut.

“You’re not going to get off that easily. You WILL pay for your Human crimes in a Human court and receive the punishment due to you. Now sit down there and be quiet until we’re back in Jandiala.”

He could have used Power of Suggestion to break Shekhar Dhawan’s will. He didn’t have to. His failed suicide attempt completed his defeat. He sat still and quietly on the TARDIS floor until it arrived back in the hospital. By that time the police were there, waiting to arrest a mass murderer.

“Unholy,” Amita Malkit Kaur said again when she and her sister and their two husbands finally returned to their home, by TARDIS, along with their friends, Chrístõ and Julia. It was early morning and still cool with the sun just risen. The drawing room of their comfortable, spacious home was pleasant to sit in drinking lemon tea and reflecting on the events of the past day. “The idea that any of us deserved to live more than anyone else is unholy. Even if he is not a Sikh, he should not have wished such a terrible death on so many people.”

“It shouldn’t matter about religion, or caste and all of that,” Julia agreed. “Life is precious. Even among poor families in an over-crowded town it is still precious.”

“Unholy,” Amita said again.

“Yes, it was,” Chrístõ agreed “And Shekhar Dhawan will live with that knowledge.”

“He WILL live?” Axyl asked.

“I touched him long enough to see his timeline. He will have the death sentence commuted, on the strength of his confession and remorse. He is going to live a long time, behind gates and fences a lot less ornate than his father built here, regretting what he has done every day of that life.”

“Did we do that?” Vela asked. “We used some Power of Suggestion on him. Did we do too much?”

“If you did, it was no more than he deserved,” Chrístõ told her. “Don’t lose any sleep over him. Drink your tea and then get some sleep. Later I will be returning to the hospital with your men. There is still work to be done. You can show Julia the facilities of Dhawan Jandiala.”

“It’s not going to be called Dhawan Jandiala any more,” Vela said. “It will be Shanti Jandiala. It means solace and tranquillity. I hope that is what we shall have in future.”

“I hope so, too,” Chrístõ told her. “I hope so very much.”