Sammie came up out of the water close to the wall. He found a handhold in the brickwork and pulled himself even closer. He heard one of the assailants shout and heard Bo scream again as somebody said that he had drowned. Then he heard the scuffles as his friends were bundled into the cars. There were the sounds of three engines revving and then silence.

He gave it a few minutes more. Leaving somebody behind to be sure the escapee was dead was an OLD trick. When he was sure he wouldn't be shot at he dropped back into the water and swam to the steps leading up to the promenade. The place was still deserted. It was the morning after the Carnival. Everyone was asleep. A shoeless man in a soaking wet suit caused no stir as he ran back to the TARDIS. He inserted the key and turned it the correct way as instructed by Chrístõ when he first gave him his own duplicate key. It was the first time he'd actually had chance to use it. They always left the TARDIS as a group and it was silently acknowledged that it was Chrístõ's privilege to open the door usually. But Chrístõ was not here now. Chrístõ was not able to help himself or anybody. It was all up to him. He looked around to make sure he hadn't been followed and slipped inside.

He closed the door and crossed to the sofa where he sank down wearily. He was far from fit to mount a rescue operation. He hadn't slept since this time yesterday. He had gone through a torturous ordeal in the Race of Fortitude, and then partied until dawn. He pulled off his sodden socks. His feet were still blistered and raw and now they stung from being in salt water AGAIN. How many times had he been in that damn sea now? If he never saw it again it would be too soon.

Think, he told himself. Think. How COULD he mount a rescue? He didn't know where they had been taken. Let alone why. Though he hazarded a guess! Epsilon, the one the others all talked of in tones of disgust. Chrístõ had more or less unofficially appointed him CPO to the rest of them with the express object of protecting them from Epsilon, and he had to do that.

He went to the TARDIS console. He couldn't pilot the ship. None of them could. Chrístõ was the only person it would fly for. It was symbiotic with him, he said, and there was no reason not to believe that. But they all of them knew a little about the other functions. He knew how to pull up a schematic of their immediate area and scan for different life-forms. He knew that took a while, especially if it was a large area, so he left the TARDIS to its own devices and headed to the shower first, to soothe away the aches in his body, and to wash salt water from his skin. Then to the wardrobe, where he found, to no surprise at all, because he knew the wardrobe was psychic in some way and ALWAYS had what any of them wanted, the very clothes he needed.

He emerged from the wardrobe looking like a special operative again. He was in black combat fatigues with his full webbing over it. His feet at last were protected by a strong pair of army boots and thick wool socks. His face was hidden behind camouflage blacking and a balaclava pulled down so that only his eyes could be seen.

He backed up to the wall as something loomed in front of him and began screaming shrilly. It was a heartbeat later when he realised it was just Humphrey, the Boggart, or whatever it was supposed to be. And IT was more scared of him looking like this than he was of it.

"Humphrey! Stop screaming. It's ME! Sammie. You know me." Humphrey paused and deflated from his defensive expanded size to his normal cartwheel size. "That's a neat trick. I wish I could get bigger when I need to."

"Sam…mie," Humphrey said in his odd voice. "Where are the others? Where are nice la..dies and good Chrí…stõ and friend Te…rry?"

"Good question," Sammie said. "I'm going to find out."

I… lonely."

"So am I," Sammie told him as he headed back to the console room, Humphrey following like a pet dog. "So am I. They're not here. They're…" he paused, slightly stunned to realise the only person he could talk to was not a person but an entity made of darkness.

He sighed and turned the lighting to night vision so that he could at least SEE it - him.

"They've been kidnapped," he said. Humphrey made a strange sound that might have been expressed as "!?" "They have been captured by very bad people who might hurt them." He wasn't accustomed to dumbing down his speech. But then he had never had a conversation with a Boggart before. Humphrey seemed to have understood this time. He began to make a sound which Sammie realised was CRYING. It was a plaintive, sad sound and it caught his own feelings exactly.

"My…" Humphrey drawled sadly. Sammie knew that Bo and Cassie had both spent a lot more time in the darker reaches of the TARDIS talking to Humphrey than he, Terry or even Chrístõ. He and Terry tended to regard him as an irritation, popping up in the corridors when you least expect. Chrístõ was kind to him, as he was with all innocent things, but generally left him alone. But the girls seemed to love the strange creature. And he clearly loved them.

How did he give comfort to an entity made of darkness that sounded like a heart it didn't HAVE was breaking? Especially when his OWN heart was breaking.

The sound of Humphrey's crying did what years of special forces training had steeled him against. Sammie's eyes began to fill with tears of sorrow for his friends and especially for Bo, his own precious Bo who last night had clung to him and declared her love for him. He really had felt as if he was in Heaven when he danced with her. Despite the pain in his feet, despite his tiredness, he had been happier than he had ever been. And now his heart was breaking.

If he was still with the Regiment he would never have allowed himself to love her. He knew that. Love was a weakness, a risk, a weapon that could be used against him.

But he wasn't an SAS soldier any more. That part of his life was over. And for all the wonders he had seen, the greatest compensation this life had was her.

Until he got her back, he WAS a soldier again. He blinked back the tears and forced himself to focus. Forced himself to concentrate.

He went to the console and looked at the data on the screen. The TARDIS had continued to widen its search until it found the one unique signature it would always recognise. Chrístõ's two hearts and his distinctive DNA was easy to pinpoint. And where he was, so were the others. He pressed some more keys and overlaid a map of the area. He saw at once it was a long way outside the city, in the dense wooded hills beyond where few people were likely to venture. He keyed in closer and overlaid an aerial view which the TARDIS accessed from the weather satellite that served the planet. From that he knew what kind of territory he had to negotiate, and the sort of place he had to infiltrate.

And from the size of the compound he was looking at he could make a rough guess of how many hostiles he would have to kill before he got to his friends.

And he knew how much ammunition he had. When he stumbled, half-dead, into the TARDIS, he had four full magazines of ammunition for his M-16 among his kit. Now he had two. Their little war with gun-runners a few months back had taken its toll. And there was nowhere they had been since where it was possible to obtain M-16 ammunition. He knew Chrístõ hated his gun, and was uneasy about it being in the TARDIS, but if it was out of ammo it was just so much scrap metal. And even Chrístõ couldn't say there weren't times when it was needed.

He would just have to make every round count.


Terry woke slowly, his head heavy and confused. He wondered why he was feeling so ill and why his bed was so hard.

He heard Cassie's voice calling his name. And she was crying. He opened his eyes properly and saw her. She was sitting on the hard flagged floor of the cell holding Chrístõ in her arms and rocking him gently. Slowly he remembered what happened.

"Are you all right?" He wrapped his arms around her. "Cassie, sweetheart…"

"I'm scared, and I ache all over. But I'm all right. But… Chrístõ…. I can't wake him. He feels…. It's like when he does his meditation only I can't wake him. Whatever they drugged him with it's more than they gave us. It's different. He's…. oh God I think he is dying. And…." She looked at Bo who sat in the corner crying softly. Terry went to touch her but she screamed and backed away. "She's gone into shock. She thinks that she's with Marley again. I can't even get near her."

"Let me look at Chrístõ." Terry took him from her. He felt like a rag doll. His skin was dry. He lifted his eyelids and his pupils were fixed and dilated. Terry listened to his chest and he barely heard his hearts beating and he seemed only to be breathing slowly. But he was alive.

"Oh hell, Chrístõ, what have they done to you?" Terry hugged him tightly. He didn't care if it seemed strange that he was hugging another man. Chrístõ was special to them all. They all loved him. He feared for him. He feared for them all.

"Sammie…" Cassie said. "He ran… he left us. I thought he would…. he's supposed to be special forces, supposed to be so strong, so tough… and he ran out on us."

"I don't think he did," Terry said. "I… I've spent a lot of time with Sammie - talking to him. Guy stuff. He told me a lot about the things he did in the SAS. Not bragging or showing off or anything. But - he's six years older than us and he's had so many experiences of bad situations where he had to make quick decisions or risk death. He didn't run out on us, Cassie. He took himself out of the equation - that's what he'd call it. He couldn't stop us being taken, but he stopped himself being taken so that… so that he would be free… to help us."

"You really think that's it?"


"That makes more sense. I certainly never believed he was a coward. Bo doesn't. She loves him. Poor Bo. Last night she was so happy. And now…"

"This is Epsilon's doing," Terry said. "It has to be. Who else would do this? Who else hates us this much? Hates Chrístõ?" He stroked his friend's head, brushing his dark hair from his forehead. "Who else would know how to do this to him? It must be some sort of drug that only affects his kind."

"I hate him," Cassie said. "I know we're not supposed to hate. We believe in love and peace for all mankind, but Epsilon… I hate him. I really do."

"He hates us," Terry said. "And Chrístõ. And he's his own kind. If this is his doing, I don't know what he means to do to us."

"I know what he means to do to Bo," Cassie said with a shudder. "And me too, if he gets the chance."

"He'll have to come through me first," Terry said.

"Then he'll kill you first and THEN take me and Bo for his.. for…" Cassie cried again and came to his side. They hugged each other for comfort. They both held Chrístõ, willed him to wake up, but there was no use. He was still comatose - or worse.


Rõgæn Koschei Oakdaene smiled as he listened to the report from his operatives on Coronula VIII. The plan had worked perfectly.

And it had all been a pure fluke. He hadn't expected to find anything of interest at the 'Carnival'. He'd been there because there was somebody he wanted to discuss business with and the noise and bustle and the presence of so many different species had been a good cover for his kind of 'business'. He had been surprised to find the 'stars' of the night were his cousin Thete and one of his Earth friends. But he'd formulated a plan to make their lives a misery while making his own rather fun and profitable. Employing the mercenaries and establishing them at the camp outside the city meant breaking a couple of the 'Laws of Time' his people set such store by. But he wasn't bothered by that. He had slipped back a couple of weeks in time and hired them retrospectively, before Chrístõ and his pathetic friends even arrived on the scene. He hadn't interfered with anything else. He was tempted to sabotage the race and stop them from winning. But what would have been the point? Taking them out AFTER their little triumph was all the more satisfying. And so far it had gone to plan. They were in his power. He relished watching Chrístõ's misery as his Human friends were tortured and then killed. He planned to make him watch, especially what he intended to do to the two women. Especially the one Chrístõ was most attached to. The one who had humiliated him.

And then when Chrístõ was broken and alone, he wanted his father, the Great Patriarch of the Lœngbærrow family, to pay for his life. He was making a small fortune in his various illegal activities. It wasn't a matter of NEEDING the money. But it galled him that he had been made to beg for his own money all his life. He would make him suffer for that.

And whether Lœngbærrow GOT his son back in one piece after he had paid - well that depended on how good a mood he was in. And that might depend on how much fun he got out of the two Earth women first.

"Let them fret for a few hours," Rõgæn said to the leader of his mercenaries, a hired gun named Bennett. "I'll be there just after nightfall on that pathetic planet. You make sure none of your thugs touches the women before then. They're mine."

"The one you gave special instructions about…." Bennett replied. "The one you supplied the drug for… He doesn't look too good. I don't think he'll make it to nightfall."

"It's a neural inhibitor. He won't wake until I'm ready for him to wake. And be thankful. He'd be a tricky customer if he was awake. As it is you just have a couple of pathetic Humans to keep control of. And they're so attached to our sleeping guest they'll be no trouble."


Sammie found the last pieces of equipment that he needed in the cupboard under the TARDIS console. The portable version of the life form scanner was not as sophisticated as the console one. It only had a few hundred metres range, but he knew it would do fine once he got up into the hills, and the ordinary route map he got a print out of would do until then.

"I'll get them back," he told Humphrey as he checked his equipment one more time and made ready to go. "I promise I will. You stay here and…. I don't know. I guess you're in charge here until we get back."

"Goo…d l..uuuck," Humphrey said. Sammie smiled grimly. He would need it.


"They even took our TARDIS keys," Cassie sighed. She didn't know why she had thought of that just then, out of the blue. Except that it seemed as if the ones that had kidnapped them knew what to expect. They took their keys, they took Chrístõ's sonic screwdriver. They took Chrístõ's wallet and the little plastic card holder with his psychic paper, and the bag of diamonds that Terry kept in his inside pocket as 'insurance' against them being separated from Chrístõ on strange planets. They even took the little clutch bags with lipsticks and perfume that she and Bo had been carrying at the ball, and the traditional metal haircomb from Bo's hair, lest that be used as a weapon she supposed. She looked at Bo again. She was still sitting in the corner, crying pitifully, talking as if she thought she was still with that beast, Marley, who Chrístõ had taken her from. Cassie guessed that being drugged again, after Chrístõ had cleared the opiates that kept her docile with from her system, had tripped something in her mind and sent her back into those terrible times.

She just hoped Terry was right about Sammie. He was their only hope.


Sammie had the first piece of good luck he needed just outside the TARDIS. Two motorbikes of a brand he had never seen before, but equivalent to a good 250cc off-road type from Earth were parked by the pier. He saw the probable owners out to sea on a yacht. Too far out to see him wrenching the handlebars to break the steering lock before shoving the screwdriver he had slipped into his webbing into the ignition and turning it until he saw the indicators on the steering column light up. He mounted the bike and pressed the starting button. The engine fired up and he kicked it into gear. The silent promenade was disturbed only for seconds as he tore down the road ignoring three sets of red traffic lights. He felt no guilt at all about that or about stealing the bike. He was a combatant in what was, for all intents and purposes, hostile territory. He made the best use he could of what was available to him.


Bennett didn't trust the shifty looking man who was paying him. Man? He didn't look more than twenty-five. A pup. And a cocky one at that. He'd as soon knock him on the head. But he certainly DID have the money. Enough to buy Bennett's services and that of his men. And they didn't come cheap. He wondered exactly who these people were he was being paid to hold onto. They didn't look like anything special. Just a bunch of youngsters. The one they had drugged so heavily he was still out of it looked nothing out of the ordinary. "He'd be a tricky customer if he was awake?" What was that supposed to mean? And "As it is you just have a couple of pathetic Humans to keep control of." Was he NOT Human? He looked it, although thirty years in space taught Bennett not to take anything for granted. He thought Humans were pathetic did he? Well, maybe the cocky son of a drab needed teaching a lesson. After he'd paid them off, though. For now he'd bite his tongue and play the hired gun. But the moment he was paid in full it'd be a different story.

He couldn't help wondering, all the same, remembering the shifty look in those hooded eyes, that cold sneer, whether he ought to find some sort of insurance against being double-crossed.


With the throttle fully open and taking no notice of speed limits Sammie took surprisingly little time to cover the eighty kilometres up into the hills. He turned off the main road as soon as it began to rise up through the woodland and followed off-road tracks in the direction he knew he had to be heading. When he was still three or four kilometres away, though, he stopped the bike and left it in the undergrowth. He would cover the rest of the distance on foot, going swiftly but cautiously, aware that there could be outlying guards at any point from here on or tripwires and defensive alerts.

As he approached the compound the wrist held portable scanner kicked in. He smiled. There was many an operation he could have used equipment like this for. He counted the hostiles and stopped smiling. There were more of them than he had bullets for. He'd have to be clever.

He WAS clever. You didn't get into the SAS if you were thick.

At a range of 150 metres from the perimeter fence he cammed-up. Make use of local foliage the instruction manual had said when he first learnt these things. Obvious really. As somebody had remarked in the class, what else would they do? Bring Kew Gardens with them? He allowed himself a smile at the memory of the laughter of old comrades as he covered himself with twigs, clumps of moss and leaves. One important point he had always remembered from his early training. There are no straight lines in nature. The hardest thing to camouflage is your rifle barrel. There was no solution to that. He just had to find an OP where he and his rifle could both be hidden.

He walked very slowly another fifty yards, trying to not to leave any traces of his path through the undergrowth. For another twenty yards he crawled low, and finally he found the place to wait and observe, under a large bush with waxy looking leaves but no unpleasant thorns or spikes. He lay down on his stomach under its shade and prepared for a long haul with his eyes fixed on the compound which lay in a slight depression where a natural clearing formed in the otherwise dense woodlands.

He doubted any civilians would come up here. But if they did, they might not think much about the compound at first glance. It had the look of an old logging camp that had seen some hurried repairs in recent weeks. The high chain link fence looked new. And the ex-military vehicles parked on the hard-packed ground in front of the two main prefab buildings were obvious signs of re-occupation. As were the guards that patrolled the fence. And a more than casual glance dispelled the idea that they were civilian security around anything so benign as a logging camp. The guns they carried were not a type he recognised even when he looked close at them through the scope of his rifle, but they looked at least equal to his M-16 in firepower and range.

He glanced at his watch. It was an Earth watch that told him it was nine o'clock. But Chrístõ had told them this planet had a day of only 18 hours, so it was in fact about midday now. And six hours until nightfall. He couldn't do anything until then. He'd led daytime raids on compounds like this, but that was with a lot more men and firepower. On his own he needed the cover of darkness and the element of surprise.

He just hoped his friends HAD that long. If he saw any sign of things changing he would have to be ready to risk it. But for now, he was waiting for dark, watching the way the fence was patrolled, watching who went near the block where the scanner told him his friends were being held, watching the movements of the rest of the hostiles. Most of them seemed to be in the two other larger prefabs. The patterns of mobility the scanner showed suggested one was a dormitory, the other a mess hall. A smaller block was that necessity of any such compound, the latrine. But he was not going to think about that with a six hour wait to get through.


They heard footsteps outside the door, then the sound of keys in the lock. The door swung open and while the door was guarded by an armed man, one of their captors came in with a tray of food, mostly roughly cut bread of some sort that looked like dripping had been thinly spread on it, and some kind of dry looking meat. There was a bottle of water, too.

"Eat," they were told. "Orders so far are to keep you lot alive. Later they might change, but for now…." His eye fell upon Bo as she sat in the corner. He approached her and put his hand under her chin and made as if to kiss her. Bo screamed and lashed out, her fingernails catching the man across his face, leaving a deep scratch on his cheek. He roared with rage and grabbed her by the arm and she screamed in terror.

"Leave her alone," Terry and Cassie both screamed.

"She doesn't know where she is or who you are," Cassie said to him. "Leave her alone."

"Maybe you can amuse me instead then," the guard sneered turning his attention to her. Terry put his arms around her protectively.

"Leave her," he said. "Or I'll kill you."

"Neither of them are worth the effort." The guard at the door sneered. The one who had tried it on kicked at the food tray and the water bottle overbalanced and rolled away, coming to a stop beside Chrístõ as he lay still and unmoving, his head resting on Terry's dinner jacket that he rolled up under him for a pillow. The guard aimed a kick at his side but he didn't respond in any way. "I reckon he had too much of whatever it was went in that dart gun."

"You can leave him alone, too," Terry said in a low voice. "Or you may live to regret it."

The guard looked as if he was going to kick Terry, but changed his mind. He went out of the cell and locked it again. Terry looked at the food.

"I don't want to eat that," he said. "But I don't know how long they mean to keep us. Or how often they might bring food. I think we ought to…." He took the bread and swallowed some of it. "I think it's ok anyway. They wouldn't poison us if they want us as hostages." He offered some of the food to Cassie but she shook her head. "Go on, please," he said. "And…try to get Bo to eat, too." Cassie took the bread and split it into two. She went and sat next to Bo and touched her gently. She shrank from her touch but when she put the bread in her hands she ate it. Afterwards, though, she began crying again. It was obvious that in her mind Bo was suffering very terribly. And there was nothing she could do. Chrístõ might have if he was awake. Sammie if he was….


They say the waiting is the hardest part. One of Sammie's first trainers had told him that was a load of cobblers. The worst part was when you and your mates are being shot at. Waiting is nothing. All you have to do is keep still. Though it took a few more months of training for him to realise how hard it is to keep still - perfectly still - not to fall asleep, not to think about food and drink, or worse, needing the toilet, or minding when small animals decided to use you AS their toilet. Those were ALL trivialities, irrelevancies. The mission was all-important. You didn't blow it because of your own personal inconvenience and discomfort. Not when other people's lives were at stake - whether it was your comrades with you, or hostages depending on you to get to them. You held it in. You kept yourself focussed on the big picture.


The door opened again. It was the guard that had brought food for them. But he didn't bring food this time. He brought a friend and both had a look on their faces that Cassie knew right away. She screamed and ran to where Bo was sitting still, quieter now, but still clearly out of her mind. She hugged her defensively as the two men approached with rape on their minds. Terry ran at them but he was no fighter. Even one of them was able to throw him off. He landed heavily on the hard floor and a gunshot sparked off the flagstone by his hand as he tried to raise himself up.

"You just stay still and don't move and you'll live. But these two exotic beauties are going to give us a bit of entertainment. Call it a bonus on top of what we're being paid to hold onto you."

"No," Cassie screamed and kicked out and clung to Bo who was screaming even more loudly. In the living nightmare she was in she had more idea even than Cassie of what these two men intended and she wasn't letting them take her without a fight.

"What the hell are you doing?" Bennett appeared at the door. "I told you, the one paying us wants those women unmolested."

"Only so he can molest them himself."

"Maybe so, but he's the one paying you to keep your hands to yourself. Get out of here or I'll break your necks."

The two guards obeyed sullenly. Bennett looked at the two terrified girls, at the man who struggled to stand up, the other one, still lying there unmoving, as if already dead.

"I don't know what the paying customer wants with you lot, and it's none of my business. I'm paid to keep you alive until he gets here." Then he turned and walked away and the door was locked again. Terry scrambled to where Cassie and Bo were crouched and put his arms about them both. Both were crying in shock now. Cassie looked nearly as terrified as Bo, but she at least still recognised him when he kissed her cheek comfortingly.


It was getting dark at last. And Sammie noted the guard change. He waited until the ones that had come off duty were in their billet. With luck, they'd have beer or possibly something stronger and would be relaxing. Too much to hope that they'd get drunk. But some music, noise, would be useful.

There was nothing like that, but he knew it was time to make his move. He still didn't know how long his friends had but he couldn't leave it much longer now. Slowly he moved forward at a crawl from his observation position, maintaining cover. He had already worked out the best place to penetrate the fence, the closest part of it to the building his friends were in. He watched the perimeter guard pass by and he knew he had two minutes at most to get the wire cut, to get inside and get out of sight. He cut as small a gap as he had to. If the guard wasn't paying too much attention it might even be missed, but he wasn't counting on that. He fully expected the alert to go up as soon as the guard came back that way.

He cut low in the fence and crawled through. He kept down near the ground and rolled and crawled to the edge of the building. He looked at the scanner. He could see the profiles clearer now. Chrístõ's distinctive DNA pattern and three others close to each other in the same room.

His heart jumped a beat. ANOTHER DNA pattern that matched Chrístõ's suddenly appeared near the main building. He knew at once what it meant. Epsilon. If he was here his friends were running out of time.

As he flattened himself against the side wall he saw the guard returning on his perimeter walk. He saw him spot the breach in the fence and start to look around. Sammie raised his gun and aimed at the head of the man and fired twice. Even with the silencer it sounded loud to him, but the noise would not have carried far. Nor the sound of the guard falling. He had bought a few more minutes before the guard on the other part of the fence missed his comrade and came to investigate.

He edged around to the front of the building, his gun ready. The door was slightly ajar. He crept up to it and looked. There were three guards in the outer room, playing cards in the lamplight. He crouched and raised his gun, safety catch off and pushed the door open. Six shots. Double tap to the head of each. The third had started to reach for his weapon but he was not fast enough. He slipped inside the room and closed the door behind him. There was nobody else in the room but he kept his gun ready all the same. He looked at the desk and saw a bunch of keys that had to unlock the cell beyond the guard room. He also saw, spread out on the desk, the familiar contents of his friend's pockets. Four TARDIS keys, Chrístõ's sonic screwdriver, lipsticks belonging to the girls and other bits and pieces. The velvet bag that Terry carried with a small fortune in diamonds was empty. So was the currency part of Chrístõ's wallet. Looting prisoners was the sort of dirty business he'd expect of mercenaries. He gathered up everything into his own pocket and glanced at the scanner. The second perimeter guard was moving around the fence. He'd spot the dead man soon. He moved quickly and unlocked the door to the cell.

Terry looked up as he heard the door unlocked again and immediately put himself in front of the girls. When he saw the dark clad figure in the door he nearly screamed himself. It hardly looked Human.

"It's me," Sammie whispered loudly. "We don't have much time." He looked at the scanner. It was already too late. He heard the sound outside of a whistle being blown and the banging, crashing of doors opening and the scanner showed a small army alerted to his presence. "We don't have ANY time!"

"TARDIS key!" Cassie said. "Do you have your TARDIS key?"

"Yes." He said. "I've got all the keys. But what use is…" Cassie jumped up and ran to him. He reached into his pocket and gave her one of the keys while he knelt by the sturdy cell door and kept a watch on the outer door.

Cassie took the key and knelt by Chrístõ's side. She didn't know if this was going to work. Did he need to be awake to summon the TARDIS remotely? If it didn't work, then she thought they were doomed. She shuddered as she heard Sammie fire his weapon four times. She knew that meant he had killed two people who were coming for them. But how long could he hold them back? How much ammunition did he have?

"Oh, please, Chrístõ," Cassie whispered as she put the key between his finger and thumb and pressed her hand around his. "Please."

She heard Sammie fire again. But she lost count of how many. Four - maybe six. But as he did she felt the air around her move. She heard the familiar, wonderful sound of the TARDIS engines and the dark cell was replaced by the bright interior of the console room.

Sammie was surprised at first, then wondered why he hadn't thought of that himself. He made his gun safe and turned to look at his friends. Cassie and Terry stood slowly, clutching at each other's hands and staring at him as if they couldn't quite believe it was him. He reached and pulled the balaclava from his head, but the camouflage paint around his eyes would, he knew, make him look odd still. Cassie laughed at the sight, but it was a short lived laugh. She looked at Chrístõ, and at Bo, who seemed unaware of the change in their circumstances. He quickly examined Chrístõ. He WAS alive, but he seemed so deeply unconscious he had no idea what to do for him. He went to Bo. She shrank from him in fright. And it had nothing to do with how he looked. Her eyes didn't even SEE him. He couldn't touch her. He looked at Terry. "What did they DO to her?" he demanded. "Those…. bastards out there. What did they do?"

"Nothing," Terry assured him. "She's been like that since they drugged us. They had orders to…. Keep the girls until HE got here."


"We figured. Yes."

"Humphrey?" Cassie gave a sudden exclamation as she felt the presence of the creature in the room. She went to the console and turned down the lights. Humphrey seemed to solidify in the darkened room. And he came to her with a sort of purring sound. "Oh I missed you, too," she said to the creature. Then he turned and went towards Chrístõ. Humphrey made a sad sound and then turned again towards Bo. Sammie drew back as the entity he called a Boggart enveloped her. It was still making the purring sound and he felt it was doing no harm. It seemed to be hugging her, and he thought he saw her skin glisten as if the poisons that were affecting her thoughts were drawn out of her. Finally, Humphrey withdrew from around her and Sammie reached and grabbed her in his arms. She had fallen asleep. Ordinary, peaceful sleep, and as the creature moved back she slowly opened her eyes.

"My Sammie," she whispered and reached her hand to rub the blacking from his eyes.

"Yes, Bo, my precious, it's me. I'll wash this stuff off later. But for now…" He kissed her on the lips. He looked at Humphrey. "Thanks," he said. Humphrey purred in response.

"Sammie," Terry said as he looked at the scanner on the console. "I think we need you as a soldier still." Cassie went to Bo's side as Sammie came to look at what had caught Terry's attention. The mercenaries were closing in on the building outside. So was the DNA profile that indicated Epsilon, the Time Lord.

"He's HERE," Sammie said. "He's heading this way to find out what's gone wrong with his plan."

"Can he get in here?" Cassie asked.

"I don't think so. Even another Time Lord would need a key. I've got those. From what Chrístõ has said, a TARDIS is more or less an impregnable fortress. We're safe in here. There's nothing anybody can do to harm us. But… we need Chrístõ to get us out of here. None of us can fly the TARDIS."

As he spoke, they heard the sound of machine gun fire outside the TARDIS. Sammie flicked on the viewscreen and they saw outside the building the TARDIS had materialised in - or rather AS. It seemed to have disguised itself AS the cell block. And now it was under attack. The TARDIS rocked as grenades were launched at it. They seemed to be pouring an arsenal at it.

"Can it take that much pounding?" Cassie asked, looking frightened.

"It took the Traactine ship exploding around it," Terry reminded her. Cassie nodded.

"I'm not sure I can take it though. We can't just sit here until they run out of ammo. And what if Epsilon CAN get in."

Humphrey drifted past them again and stood - or whatever a sphere of darkness did rather than stand - by the door. His purr seemed to raise a notch and as they all turned and looked at him they heard him speak.

"De…fend…" he said. "De…fend my la…adies, my good Chr…is…to…"

"He wants to help," Cassie exclaimed.

"What can he do?" Terry asked.

"Scare the living daylights out of them?" Sammie shrugged. He looked at the scanner. There was a small army right outside. He picked up his rifle and took up a prone firing position opposite it. He was aiming right through Humphrey, but he knew bullets couldn't harm him. "You girls, take Chrístõ and get over there out of the line of fire. Terry, open the door, but be ready to shut it again when I say." The girls lifted Chrístõ and moved to the sofa. They placed him on it and sat on the floor, holding hands and hugging each other. Terry nodded and got into position at the console. He pressed the switch that opened the doors and then ducked down behind the console. They slid open and Humphrey moved forward. Sammie took careful aim and fired a couple of grenades straight through him. That took care of several more of the mercenaries.

Humphrey's purr turned into a hiss of anger as he moved outside, and to the astonishment of all inside the TARDIS they saw him grow. It was dark outside, of course, and Humphrey was MADE of darkness, but they had not realised he could draw upon it in that way. He enveloped the TARDIS itself. On the viewscreen they looked at the scene outside as if through a black fog. A few of the mercenaries drew near but Humphrey seemed to be radiating a force of some kind. They dropped to the ground unconscious. Others opened fire with their guns and dived for cover as the bullets reversed their trajectory and came back at them. They saw one of the men finger the trigger of a grenade launcher and then realise what would happen if the grenade came back at him.

"He's acting as a shield around us," Terry exclaimed as he stood up. "He's protecting us.

"He's bought us time," Sammie said. "But we do need to get out of here. We need Chrístõ awake."

"We need help." Cassie said. "Maybe we should call his father."

"If we call him AGAIN he'll make Chrístõ go home with him and we're all finished," Terry said. "Is there ANYONE else?"

"Li Tuo," Bo said out of the blue. "Master Li Tuo will know." She stepped to the console. They all looked at her. It was as if nothing had happened to her at all. She truly WAS back from the nightmare. She began to put a call through to Earth.

"It's HIM," Cassie said with a gasp. They all looked at the viewscreen as they saw the man they knew as Epsilon screaming at the mercenaries angrily, apparently telling them to fire at the apparition before them. From the gesticulations and body language they guessed that some of them were arguing with him. He turned and struck at one of them and came forward towards Humphrey's defensive shield. He was not knocked unconscious by it, but he did reel back, surprised by the force exuded.

"Well done, Humphrey," Cassie said.

"I have him," Bo exclaimed and the viewscreen flickered and changed to a videophone connection. The Time Lord known as Mai Li Tuo looked gravely at them and asked what trouble they were in. Sammie identified himself and explained. Terry and Cassie, and Bo, all added their stories.

"Can you come to us?" Cassie asked when they had finished. "We really need help."

"I'm sorry, my dear," Li Tuo told her. "I can't. I can't leave Earth."

"Why not?" Terry asked.

"Because the Time Lords will kill him if he does," Bo said. Everyone looked at her. She looked at Li Tuo. "I had all your memories for a time. They faded, but… I know. I know why you are a renegade, an exile. I know… that if you leave Earth the Time Lords will detect your TARDIS and…. And they will blow it up. They have warned you…"

"Oh my!" Terry gasped.

"Then you ARE a criminal?" Cassie said. "Chrístõ said you weren't."

"Dear friends, will you promise me that this conversation does not get repeated in Chrístõ's hearing." Li Tuo pleaded with his words and with his eyes.

"Yes, we promise," Sammie said for them all.

"Bo… precious. You know. You know that what I am accused of I did not do. But it was, in any case, a mere excuse for banishing me. I was an inconvenience, an embarrassment." He looked at Sammie. "Young man, you are, I understand, what they call a 'special operative?'

"Yes Sir," Sammie said, wondering how this man could have known that.

"Then YOU understand what I mean about working in the grey areas."

"Yes Sir," Sammie said again and did not elaborate.

"For the sake of Gallifrey I worked in those grey areas. In much the same way, I imagine, as you worked for Queen and country."

"I understand," Sammie told him. "Believe me." Again he did not elaborate, but Sammie's eyes seemed to meet Li Tuo's and something passed between them as between men who have known and seen too much they would rather not know and see.

"But I became a liability to them," Li Tuo said. "And now they call me a criminal. Chrístõ, is young, idealistic. He does not understand about the grey. He sees only black and white, good and evil, truth and lies. He does not understand that bad things can be done for good reasons. He WILL know. In his time he will do such things himself. But for now he would be appalled at the idea. If it were explicitly told to him that I am a banished criminal…. He believes I am a good man. But he also believes that the government of our world is good. If he knew this, then either he would stop trusting me, or he would stop trusting our people. Either would change him so much he would not be the man you all love. So for his sake keep my secret from him."

"We will." Sammie again spoke on their behalf. "But… Chrístõ… How can we help him?"

"Precious Bo Juan," Li Tuo said. "You must bring him back to us. You love him." Sammie and Bo looked at each other then at Li Tuo, who seemed to read in their expressions all of the complex circumstances of their relationship. "Yes, yes I understand THAT. But you loved Chrístõ first. And you still love him even though your destiny and happiness is elsewhere. That pure love for him and the fact that you DO still have vestiges of my memory, is what will bring him back to us. If you have the courage, my dear child."

"For Chrístõ I would endure much," she said. "He is my saviour. I owe him my life. If I can save his I would gladly suffer any pain."

"There is no pain, only patience and love required," Li Tuo said. "Take his hands. Hold him. And now clear your mind. The way you learnt in the Temples of The Shaolin, when they taught you the skill of meditation." Bo knelt by Chrístõ's side and took his hands and she did as Li Tuo told her. "Now, child, feel his aura. It is faint, it is weak, but so long as he is alive his aura is there and you can find it."

"I have it," she said. "I can feel him. Oh… oh he is so very weak. He doesn't even know I am here by him. He doesn't feel me at all. Oh, my Chrístõ!"

"Don't distress yourself," Li Tuo said. "Calm. Let him feel your calm. Let his aura touch yours. Let it feel only your love."

Bo pressed her lips firmly together as she reached out in her mind and touched Chrístõ's weak, faint presence. She mentally hugged him and tried to radiate her love to him. Li Tuo was right. She DID still love him, even though she had given herself to Sammie. He was still very dear to her and she poured all of the love she had for him into connecting her aura with his.

"It's working," Cassie whispered and clutched at Terry's arm. They watched as Chrístõ's skin seemed to turn silver. He was expelling the poison that had kept him deeply unconscious. It evaporated almost immediately and they saw the difference in him at once. His chest rose and fell as he breathed and in the tense silence Cassie swore she heard his double heart beats quicken.

Bo held him mentally as she held him physically, and she guided him to consciousness. He opened his eyes and looked up at her. He smiled at her and she almost forgot that he was no longer her man. She kissed him on the lips and he put his arms around her and held her for a long time. Then he sat up and looked around. He looked at Sammie, dressed as he was, his M-16 held in his hands as he watched the still open door and the scene beyond Humphrey's shield. He looked at the viewscreen and saw Li Tuo. He stood and went towards the screen. He put his hand to it and the old man did so too.

"I owe you thanks," he said.

"You owe it more to your friends there," Li Tuo told him. "Especially to precious Bo Juan whose love for you has prevailed again. And to that brave young man there."

"I know," Chrístõ told him. "What are we to do? This is Epsilon's doing. And he can pursue us anywhere in time and space. We will never have peace from him."

"The Challenge of the Oldbloods," Li Tuo said.

"Yes," Chrístõ nodded. "My old friend, keep me in your thoughts. If I prevail, I will speak to you soon. If I fail… contact my father and ask him to come and get my friends and help them return to Earth." He bowed to Li Tuo, who returned the gesture. Then he turned the viewscreen back to the scene outside. It seemed to be getting ugly for Epsilon. He had clearly been arguing with the mercenaries again and now three of them had their guns trained on him. Chrístõ smiled grimly and slipped away into the corridor beyond the console room. He returned a few minutes later with a sword from the dojo. He glanced at the scene outside again. More guns were trained on Epsilon now.

He stepped towards the door. Bo and Cassie both shrieked in terror.

"You can't," Cassie screamed. "They'll kill you."

"We'll see," he said calmly. And he went to the doorway. "Humphrey, let me through." The shield seemed to shimmer for a moment and Chrístõ stepped through unhindered. Sammie ran to follow, and as they stepped out of the protective field he took up a defensive position.

"Ok," Chrístõ said, looking around and seeing him there. "But don't shoot unless it's absolutely necessary. The balance of power here is uncertain and if I get this right nobody else needs to die today."

Those left inside watched as he walked across the compound to where Epsilon was standing, surrounded by guns trained on him. Some of those guns turned on Chrístõ but he walked on as if oblivious to them.

"I demand satisfaction of the Oldblood challenge," Chrístõ said as he approached. Epsilon looked at him and laughed hollowly.

"How can I meet that challenge now?" he asked. "This lot want to tear me to pieces."

Chrístõ looked past him momentarily to the man who appeared to be in charge of the mercenaries. "Is this man not your employer?" he asked. "Did he not hire you to do me and my friends harm?"

"We were employed to take you and hold you," Bennett said. "We've done that, and this pup can pay us now."

"So you've no interest in stopping me and my friends from leaving?"

"We want what's owed to us," Bennett said. "And if necessary we'll take it from HIS hide."

"Eps, it appears you've miscalculated the loyalty of your hired guns," Chrístõ said as he stepped towards his cousin.

"Apparently so."

"So… the challenge…"

"I…." Epsilon went pale as Chrístõ pointed the sword at his neck. He sank to his knees. "I cannot meet your challenge," he said. "I… I concede to the House of Lœngbærrow. I throw myself at your mercy and beg for my life."

"You can live," Chrístõ told him. "As far as I'm concerned, anyway. I don't know about these guys. They seem to want to use you for target practice." He looked at the mercenaries. Their guns were ALL now pointed at Epsilon again. "Give me your TARDIS key."

"My…" Epsilon stared and then reached in his pocket, slowly, and held out the key. Chrístõ took it and stepped out of the circle of guns. He looked around and then headed for the small breeze block building beside the mess hall. His instinct told him that was Epsilon's disguised TARDIS. He inserted the key and turned it 45 degrees counter clockwise then 180 degrees clockwise, the standard for Type-40 locks. He stepped into the TARDIS and leaving the door open he went to the console. He knelt beside it and used his sonic screwdriver to open a panel. He found a small component and pulled it out. The console above gave a small grinding sound but otherwise nothing happened. He quickly returned to the door. He stepped outside and closed it, then opened it again. He looked inside and grinned and tossed the dimension circuit in the air and caught it before pocketing it. He looked again at the interior of Epsilon's TARDIS. Without the dimension circuit it was no longer bigger on the inside than the outside. Its entire interior was fitted into a space no bigger than a small garden shed. The console room was just about the size of a room in a doll's house.

He walked back to where Epsilon was still being held by his former employees and gave the key back to him and then walked back to his own TARDIS. He stopped just in front of the huge dark sphere. He heard a murmur of consternation behind him as two big, soulful eyes and a mouth appeared. The eyes looked down at Chrístõ.

"Time to go, Humphrey," he said, and the eyes blinked - even though they had no eyelids - and the mouth formed a smile, then the sphere reduced itself down in size and followed Chrístõ into the TARDIS. Sammie, walking backwards with his gun trained on the group of stunned mercenaries, brought up the rear. The door closed and moments later the TARDIS dematerialised leaving a concrete foundation behind where there had been a cell block before.

"Sammie," Chrístõ said as he took on the relieved hugs of both girls at once. "Thanks. I won't ask. I don't want to know. I don't need to know how many people you had to kill to save our lives…. But…. Thank you."

"Sammie is a hero," Cassie said. "He saved us."

"I did what I had to do," Sammie answered quietly.

"Humphrey is one, too," Terry told him.

"Yes, I know." Chrístõ smiled as they turned to watch Humphrey sidle across the room, purring happily and disappear back up the corridor. He went to the console and resumed the contact with Li Tuo.

"We're safe," he said. "And Eps is going nowhere until he can persuade somebody to give him a spare dimension circuit."

"Ah!" Li Tuo smiled at a joke between two Time Lords. "Finely done."

"My thanks to you for your part in this," he said. "We will visit you soon, I think. If you will permit."

"Li Shang Hui and his friends are always welcome at the home of Mai Li Tuo," the old man said, bowing formally. Chrístõ responded and said goodbye to his old friend. He turned to his new friends.

"Eps is out of our hair for the foreseeable future," he said. "No doubt he is resourceful enough to figure it out eventually, but for now the universe is ours. Where do you want to go next?"

The friends all looked at each other and they all remembered a conversation that took place not much more than a day ago, though it seemed longer, and almost in unison they responded to him.