"Something is wrong," Chrístõ said. But even before he said it his friends had all realised their re-entry into ordinary space from the time vortex was not as it should be. They all grabbed hold of whatever solid object they were closest to and hung on tight as they were pitched sideways and back and spun around dizzily. Terry put his arm around Cassie and held her close as he anchored them both by the navigation console. Sammie, who had been sitting on the sofa with Bo pulled her down onto the floor and covered her slight body with his own as he gripped onto the wall panelling. Chrístõ used the handholds on the console to move about, almost oblivious to the churning movement to check what each panel was telling him about their situation.

"Something has pulled us off course," he reported as the TARDIS finally settled down. "We've come out of the vortex in completely the wrong place and time."

"So London in the summer of 2012 is out?" Terry said.

"We're not going to get to the Olympics?" Cassie looked disappointed.

"This is a time machine. We can get to the Olympics any time. It's a preset anyway. My tutors in their wisdom thought it would be educational for me. But right now I'm worried about what could pull us out of the vortex that way."

"Where are we?" Sammie asked as he and Bo picked themselves up from the floor. "And WHEN?"

"We're in Wales," Chrístõ answered. "In February 1995." He flicked the viewscreen on. Bo gasped as she looked at the view outside of mountains lightly covered in snow.

"It looks like Songshan," she said. "Where my home is."

"It's Brecon," Chrístõ said, reading the data on his console. "About two hundred metres from the top of Corn Du - known in the past as Cadair Arthur, chair of Arthur."

"Arthur as in Camelot…"

"Yes, but I don't think he's likely to be around right now."

"Let's go take a walk anyway," Cassie said. "It looks beautiful."

"Yes, please," Bo added.

"Don't see any reason why not," Chrístõ said. "Wrap up warm though. We're at quite some altitude here and it'll be cold."

"He's right," Sammie said. "I've been up this way before."

"Now that's odd," Terry said as he turned and looked at the TARDIS. "Why has it disguised itself as an army tent?"

"Because this is OUR territory," Sammie replied as he stepped away at a brisk marching pace and the others followed. "The SAS train on these mountains. 40 miles of this territory in less than 20 hours with full kit. Makes a man of you, that does."

"Or a woman," Cassie said. Sammie looked at her scathingly.

"Women don't get into the SAS."

"Why not?" she demanded, her feminist hackles rising.

"Because they'd never get through the training," he replied. He looked around at his friends and slowed his pace so that they could catch up. That, as far as he was concerned, proved his point. But Cassie obviously didn't think so.

"Bo could. She's tough, and smart. She can beat you in the dojo."

"Yes, because martial arts level the playing field. A little thing like Bo can take on somebody my size. But out here…"

"Ok, stop bragging," Terry said. He liked Sammie, generally speaking, but sometimes his SAS macho stuff could get on his nerves. "Anyway, I bet Chrístõ would leave your lot standing."

"Well, yeah. But Chrístõ is different," he conceded. "The SAS are the toughest Regiment on Earth, Human endurance tested to the limit. But Chrístõ isn't from Earth and he's not Human."

"Don't say it like that," Cassie admonished him. "As if he's LESS than Human."

"I didn't mean that," he said. "Chrístõ, you know I didn't mean that."

"I know what you mean," Chrístõ said quietly.

Bo looked at him and wondered what was distracting him. Because something clearly was. It was more than just tuning out from the petty squabble of his companions. She took Sammie's hand and whispered in his ear. Sammie looked at Chrístõ and agreed he did seem a bit distracted.

"Hey," he said, moving closer to him as they trekked along a worn path that brought them to the summit of Corn Du. "Chrístõ, are you ok?"

"I'm not sure," he said. "Something feels odd around here. It feels… like there's static electricity all around me. Only… not quite that. That's the only way I can describe it to you, so that you'd understand. It's more like - if telepathy was like electricity - I feel as if there are telepathic waves hanging in the air around me, filling the air, but my brain can't take them all in and they're just piling up."

"We are kind of high up here," Sammie said. "Maybe it's that affecting you. Maybe telepathy gets screwed up the higher you are above sea level."

"No." Chrístõ shook his head and then stopped. He was seeing floaty silvery bits in front of his eyes when he moved his head like that. "No, I'm an experienced climber. Mount Lœng, the mountain my family take their name from is more than 1,000 metres high and I've climbed it loads of times. We're only 873 metres above sea level here."

Bo and Cassie both came to him as they caught hold of what Sammie was saying. "Are you sick, Christo?"

"Could be residual from that bloody drug Epsilon's mercenaries stuck him with," Terry said.

"I'm fine," he insisted. "Something is playing havoc with my telepathic functions, but I'm fine otherwise."

"Lets take a rest," Cassie suggested. "Forty miles in 20 hours is very clever, but we're not in the SAS and we can rest if we feel like it."

"We're nearly at the top anyway," Sammie told them. But as they reached the flat, table like summit he was in for a shock. It was already occupied. He felt something almost akin to homesickness as he realised that the men who turned their guns on him were from his old Regiment. Sammie raised his hands and interlocked them behind his head and nodded to his companions to do the same. Explanations could come later. Right now he wanted to make sure nobody was hurt. So he said nothing as their hands were plasicuffed behind their backs. The girls were separated from the three men and all of them made to kneel down. That was okay. Sammie knew that they were simply being contained while the situation was assessed. But then he felt his head pulled back and a sack forced over his face and tied with a rope around his neck. He heard Terry and Chrístõ both cry out in turn as they were treated the same. He wasn't sure if the girls were being hooded too. He heard them both cry out and hated the helplessness of his situation. And hated that he knew what was likely to come next. He knew what was going to come next because he had done it.

"This is a mistake," Terry said as the roughness of the sack brushed against his face. "We're civilians. We're nothing to do with your exercise."

"Terry, don't talk," Sammie called to him. "It'll only make it worse. This will be resolved soon enough."

"Shut up," he was told and he felt himself kicked in the back. He fell forwards from his kneeling position. With his hands plasicuffed behind his back he landed painfully and was unable to move.

"Don't be bloody stupid," Sammie groaned as he heard Terry's voice again. He hadn't listened to him and was still trying to argue with their captors. "Why would we have women with us if we were anything to do with you lot?"

"I said shut up." Sammie heard Terry cry out and the thud of a boot against his body. "We're asking the questions not you."

"So ask the damn questions," Sammie thought but did not say.

"So what are you doing up here?" Chrístõ felt a jab in his back as they turned their attention to him. "All the paths up this mountain have been sealed off for three days for our manoeuvres. What are you doing here?"

"We got lost," he said, knowing it was a pathetic answer but knowing also that "My time and space travelling ship was knocked out of the vortex by an unknown force that is playing havoc with my brain" was not a good answer either.

"You got LOST?" The answer seemed to anger his interrogator. "Maybe I should question the women instead." All three of the men protested ineffectively as they heard Cassie squealing in terror. Terry was nearly hysterical not knowing what was being done to her. The same question - how did you get here - was fired at her but Cassie was too scared to speak.

"Leave her alone," Chrístõ shouted. "What kind of men are you, hurting women. Is that how the British Army behaves?" He reeled as he was punched in the face but kept his balance and remained kneeling. His jaw ached from the punch but the hairline fracture repaired itself almost immediately.

"No!" they heard Bo yell as the interrogators turned to her. "No man touches me!" And then there were agonised sounds of more than one man finding out that even with her hands tied behind her back this mere slip of a girl was a force to be reckoned with. But they were not playing to the rules of Shaolin. The sound of a rifle butt hitting against a skull ended her resistance. Sammie stifled a cry as he heard Bo fall.

"The SAS I know is still party to the Queens Regulations," Sammie called out. "Not to mention the Geneva Convention."

"Who told you we were SAS?" He felt another kick in return for his protest.

"Oh for heaven sake," Chrístõ rejoined. "Everyone knows the SAS train in Brecon. It's the worst kept military secret in the universe."

"I think it's time we quietened these prisoners down," somebody said and the three men steeled themselves as best they could against a torrent of kicks and punches. Sammie and Chrístõ both knew how to handle it. Sammie had been trained to put up with any form of mental or physical torture. Chrístõ knew his body could heal quickly enough and simply blocked his pain receptors so that he didn't feel more than he needed to feel. But Terry had no training, and no alien physiology. He tried to roll with the punches like he had learnt in school boxing lessons, but he hurt, badly. And all the time they could hear Cassie crying with fear for herself and for them.

The worst for Sammie was not hearing any sound from Bo. How hard had they hit her? The thought that somebody of his own Regiment might have killed her hurt deeper than the physical pain being inflicted on him.

The downsweep of the helicopter coming in to land on the table-top summit of Corn Du was almost as frightening as the sound of its engines and the thump of the rotors to the hooded prisoners. None of them knew whether their situation just got worse or better. But even before it had touched down, they heard somebody jump from it and run towards them.

"What the bloody hell is going on here?" They all heard the voice that in those few words established itself as a voice of authority. "Who are these people?"

"Prisoners, sir. Taken within the exclusion zone."

"You bloody idiot. They're civilians. There'd better not be a mark on any of them or it'll be the worst for you. Get them out of those restraints."

Chrístõ allowed himself a deep breath as the sacking was taken from his head and he felt a knife cut through the plasicuffs that bound his hands. He stretched his arms and stood up, reaching to help Terry who was having trouble standing. Cassie ran to Terry, unhindered by any of the soldiers and embraced him, crying and fussing about the bruising left on his face by an army boot kicking out at him. Chrístõ went to where Bo lay unmoving. He took his sonic screwdriver from his pocket but immediately heard the click of a rifle behind him. He held it up in the least threatening way he knew.

"I am a medic," he said calmly. "This is an instrument I mean to use to help that injured woman. Preventing me from doing so definitely DOES contravene the Geneva Convention. So back off."

To his relief the soldier did. He knelt by Bo and used the sonic screwdriver in analysis mode first and concluded that she was concussed but not otherwise injured. Then he turned it to a setting he rarely needed to use on himself that relieved minor injuries.

Bo woke slowly with the feeling that a cooling balm was being applied to her aching head and saw Chrístõ. He helped her to her feet and she hugged him before looking past him to Sammie. She ran to him as they pulled the sacking from his head and he blinked in the light.

"Good God! The officer from the helicopter exclaimed as he looked at Sammie. Sammie looked at him and his face froze. Whether in shock or surprise, even Bo, clutching him tight in her arms, was not sure.

 

"Ok," Terry said as he sat at the table in the mess tent at the base camp by Llyn Cwm Llwch, the glacial lake at the foot of Corn Du. "Ok, this is a lot better than before. But I'm still going to make an official complaint."

"No you're not," Sammie told him as he sipped hot tea and tried to persuade Bo to do the same. "Come on love," he begged her. "It's all right. We're safe now they know we're not terrorists or whatever the hell it was they thought."

"That… thing…." She cried.

"The helicopter."

"Y….yes…."

"Bo, precious," he said in as soothing a tone as he could muster. "How can you be frightened of a helicopter? You've travelled in Chrístõ's TARDIS more than I have."

"The TARDIS doesn't make sounds like that. It doesn't have great blades that tear into the air. The TARDIS doesn't fly down a mountain with the doors open…"

"I know, but it's perfectly normal," he told her. "I've flown in them hundreds of times." But she could not be comforted. For all the wonders the TARDIS had shown her, being up close and personal with the army helicopter was the most traumatic yet.

"WHY can't we make an official complaint," Terry demanded. "I know you're loyal to your old regiment, Sammie, but…."

"Because the official complaint form starts with your name - and there isn't room in the box for Chrístõ's. And the next box is ADDRESS. You and Cassie, your last known address was in 1969. Chrístõ's is on the other side of the universe. I'm DEAD and Bo's home village is smack in the middle of Communist China. That's why. So when Major Dolan comes back and issues an official apology to us, accept it gracefully and let's not hear any more about it."

"Sammie is right," Chrístõ said calmly. He stood and went to Bo, sitting on Sammie's knee, cuddled close to him but looking horribly frightened still. He put his hand on her forehead and spoke gently to her, radiating calming thoughts into her mind and steadying her racing heart. He felt her terror of the helicopter that had brought them down from the mountain top. He touched her fear with his own mind and slowly eased it with his mental reassurances. It worked. She stopped trembling and stammering and crying and she leaned her head on Sammie's chest and closed her eyes as if in sleep. Chrístõ smiled and stroked her cheek and stepped back away from them. As he did so he felt again the strange pressure on his psychic nerves. He clutched the table dizzily as he went back to his own seat. He hoped nobody had seen him, but they had.

"What IS it?" Cassie asked. "Because it seems to be affecting you badly."

"I don't know, but it's getting worse."

"Chrístõ… don't be going sick on us. We need you. We're just ordinary people. We can only manage extraordinary things happening if you're there to lead us. We need you, Chrístõ."

"Sammie can lead us," Chrístõ said. "He did last time… when I was out of it. Anyway, this is his territory." He looked around at the mess tent. They were not exactly being formally detained - their injuries had been treated and they had been given tea and sandwiches. They were being treated with all courtesy. But it was pretty clear from the presence of armed men by the exit that they were not leaving yet.

"It used to be my territory," Sammie said. "Now I'm a civilian like the rest of you." He looked around as Major Dolan came into the mess tent. He saw him send all of the guards outside and then come towards their table. Sammie's heart lurched as he remembered when Dolan was a Captain and he was a Lieutenant in the same company and they were good friends. Dolan's unit had been in another part of the desert that day when Sammie had led his men into what proved to be their doom. Luck of the draw. It could as easily have been the other way about.

Dolan looked at the five of them and took a deep breath before speaking.

"We have… technical problems…. That make it impossible for us to confirm the identities you gave us. But for the moment I have to assume you are telling me the truth and you are NOT hostiles. There was very good reason to believe that any stranger in this area WAS hostile. But in this instance…" He stopped and drew himself up. "I'm sorry, that sounds like we are making excuses. There are NO excuses for the injuries inflicted on you all. For that you have my unreserved apology. All of you."

Terry looked as if he was about to spit in the Major's eye over his apology but Chrístõ put a calming hand over his and on behalf of them all accepted it. That seemed to ease some of the tension.

"Are we free to leave?" Cassie asked. "If you know it was a mistake."

"Trespassing into a military area IS serious. But I would be prepared to let it go. Yes, essentially you ARE free to leave. But I would ask you to remain here for the time being. There is a situation….. and for your own safety…"

"Tom, what's going on here?" Sammie asked. The Major turned to Sammie. His eyes seemed to betray emotions that hardened members of elite army units were not supposed to have.

"It is you, isn't it?" The Major looked questioningly at him as if he couldn't quite believe his eyes. "Sammie…. Sammie Thomlinson."

"Yes." He said. "It's me." Sammie moved Bo gently aside and stood and faced his old friend. If they were not hardened SAS men they might have hugged. As it was, they simply looked at each other. Dolan reached out and touched Sammie on the shoulder. He sat again and the Major sat beside him. Bo worldlessly resumed her seat on Sammie's knee and looked with interest at the stranger her lover seemed to know as a friend.

"You were listed as dead. We had your last location but it was well behind the enemy lines. It was a month before we reached the bodies. There are wild dogs in the area and all we found were… parts. We had to use dental records to match what we found with the dog tags. And even then we weren't sure. We never found your tags but we had to assume…." He stopped. He didn't have to go on. Sammie understood. His hand went to the tags he still wore. His only connection to his old life.

"It WAS friendly fire, wasn't it?" Dolan nodded.

"Bad intel…. breakdown in communications…. an American unit in the same area…." Again Dolan didn't have to go on. Sammie nodded with his lips pressed together tightly. "A bloody waste of good men."

"Yes," Sammie said and Chrístõ noticed him blinking rapidly to hold back tears. He was the only one among them who recognised that method of hiding his emotions, because he did it often enough himself.

"You were all awarded the DSC," Dolan said. "Posthumously. I was asked to take yours to your mother. But…"

"She's dead."

"Yes. I still have it with me in my office. Do you want…"

"Do I want a medal awarded to me for being killed by people who were supposed to be on our side?" Sammie's eyes glittered angrily. "Tom… I may be the first and last posthumous medal recipient to get to voice my opinion." He paused and looked at his former comrade, and his friends who had been with him since. "STUFF THE BLOODY MEDAL."

"I hear you," Tom Dolan said. "But… Sammie… where HAVE you been since…. How ARE you alive when the others....?"

"I didn't desert, Tom. Please don't imagine for one moment I did anything that lets down the Regiment. I…." He looked at Chrístõ who met his eyes and knew what he was going to ask.

"Tell him," Chrístõ said quietly. "As long as it's off the record and goes no further than him."

Sammie told him. Tom Dolan looked with disbelieving eyes.

"Sammie… you can't be serious. He…." He looked at Chrístõ. "He's an alien?"

"Show him," Sammie said to Chrístõ. Chrístõ went to the serving counter and came back with a knife. He sat down and calmly sliced his own wrist with it. Orange blood poured from the wound for maybe half a minute before it repaired itself in front of their eyes.

"Good God!" Dolan swore. But Chrístõ was not done. He reached in his pocket for his TARDIS key and pressed the centre. A drinks dispenser materialised in the middle of the mess tent. One with a brand name of along with the usual tinned products. Chrístõ stepped up to it and inserted his key in the lock above the coin return slot and opened the door. The usual dimensionally relative interior of the TARDIS could be seen within.

"My friends and I were planning to go to the Olympics in 2012," he said as he held the door open. "We're only here because some outside force knocked us off our intended course. Terry and Cassie will, I am sure, come with me. Sammie…. You are "home" now. And Bo… belongs with you... It's not how I meant to say goodbye to either of you but…."

Bo clung to Sammie but she was looking at Chrístõ as if her heart was torn between them both. The idea that their friendship could end so suddenly as that startled Cassie and Terry, too. Though they had no doubt that their place was with Chrístõ. And if he was ready to leave, so were they.

"Chrístõ…" Sammie began, but did not know how to continue.

"I don't think it matters who wants to leave," Tom Dolan said. "I doubt if you can. You said some outside force was responsible for you landing here…"

"Yes," Chrístõ said. "But…"

Dolan looked at Chrístõ as if weighing him up.

"This is all going to be very highly classified when it's over. But until then, I'm the highest ranking officer here and at my discretion I'm going to tell you this. Because… well, it looks as if you are a victim of the same situation and…" Dolan looked at the interior of the TARDIS. "Well, I suppose in a way you're the highest ranking man of YOUR team. And maybe you have some knowledge that could help."

"I don't know anything yet, except that my ship, which should be impervious to just about anything, was forced off course and pulled into this situation. But please… tell me what you know. And I will try to be of help."

"We don't owe them anything," Terry protested. "After the way they treated us." He hugged Cassie close to him as he spoke.

"I know," Chrístõ said. "But if he's right and we CAN'T leave then pooling our resources makes sense. As long as it's quite clear we ARE on the same side."

"The force that affected your… ship… we have been aware of it for some 15 hours now. We… none of us…. Can get off the mountain. We can't communicate with anyone beyond the mountain. We lost a helicopter this morning. The pilot just managed to report a total systems failure before he went down. The jeep that we sent out to the crash site - its engines died in the same spot. And when the men tried to continue on foot they reported something like an invisible brick wall that repelled them. And on top of that we've had men disappearing."

"But the TARDIS isn't just a helicopter or a jeep," Cassie said. "Surely it can get through…"

"The force brought us down," Chrístõ admitted. "If it's preventing anyone from leaving then it's possible we are trapped too." He went into the TARDIS leaving the door open. His friends followed and so did Major Dolan. He looked at his navigation console for a few minutes and then beckoned the Major to his side. "A brick wall is about right. There is a forcefield right around the whole area of Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Crybin. The lake here - Llyn Cwm Llwch - is more or less at the centre of it. You can't get any communications out?"

"None."

"The men who are missing…."

"Well, for a start there should have been a five man team from 3rd Parachute regiment up the mountain as part of the exercise. The group that captured you were expecting THEM. We have had no contact from the paras. I've also got eight men of my own missing. Including the helicopter crew."

"The helicopter that went down?" Chrístõ asked.

"Aren't they dead?"

"There were no bodies at the crash site. The helicopter went down empty. I don't know if that's good news or not. It may mean that they are alive. But if they are, I don't know WHERE they are."

"Chrístõ," Cassie's face looked pale. "Chrístõ… Traactines…"

"What?" Dolan looked at her.

"No," Chrístõ said quietly. "They don't have this kind of power. They could not have stopped the TARDIS."

"Traactines?" Dolan repeated.

"They are flesh-eating space ghouls," Chrístõ explained. "But it's NOT them. It's something else."

"Chrístõ," Sammie had just caught on to what was being said here. "You're saying this is an alien thing?"

"Yes." He looked at Dolan. "And yes, I AM an alien. But I'm not the alien causing you trouble. Just get that straight now."

"I have been trying to avoid the conclusion that this is an extra-terrestrial attack on Earth. It seemed insane. But I'm telling this TO an alien, standing in his alien craft. You tell me. What is my next move?"

"The alien ship is underneath the lake," Chrístõ said.

"What?"

"It's in the lake. That's where the force-field is being radiated from." He looked up and around. "Cassie, go shut the door, will you. They might be stopping us getting out of the area but I can move the TARDIS within it. Let's go say hello to the neighbours."

Cassie ran to do his bidding and Terry moved into position at the console to help Chrístõ pilot the TARDIS. Major Dolan looked startled as the central column of the console began to move and the familiar sound of the dematerialisation filled the air. He was even more startled when Chrístõ flipped on the viewscreen to show the inside of the alien ship.

"Will they know we're here?" Dolan asked as Chrístõ went to the door.

"Hopefully not yet," Chrístõ said. "Element of surprise."

The TARDIS had disguised itself simply and neatly as a bulkhead door with the symbol inscribed on it. The aliens who owned this ship would not know anything unusual was there.

"Do you know what sort of ship this is, Chrístõ?" Terry asked him as they moved along a corridor.

"A VERY strange one," he said. "Have you noticed how rudimentary this corridor is. The floor is just a series of mesh grills, the walls are bare metal. You can see the studding where panels were welded together. And all the wires and conduits running along the ceiling and under the floor. It's as if it's unfinished. And have you noticed that the lights only come on when we pass sensors. As if it doesn't need to keep lights on otherwise."

"Maybe these aliens aren't interested in aesthetics," Cassie reasoned.

"Wait…" Sammie whispered. "I hear something." He and Dolan both flattened themselves against the wall. Everyone else tried to do the same. Ahead a small robotic unit turned into the corridor. The two soldiers reached for their side arms and kept them trained on the thing as it came down the corridor. It passed them by completely oblivious to their presence and stopped a few metres away. Robotic 'arms' emerged and lifted a floor panel and began repairing one of the conduitsl. Chrístõ stepped towards it and scanned it with his trusty sonic screwdriver.

"It's a repair drone," he said. "Nothing to worry about. It has simple diagnostic functions, that's all. Does the job it's told to do." The drone finished its work and turned around. Chrístõ skipped out of its way and it continued on. So did they. Several more times they observed the same kind of drones doing basic maintenance but nothing in the way of security or any higher intelligence of any kind.

"Maybe…"Cassie began and then stopped. "No, that's silly."

"Go on…" Chrístõ encouraged her. "It might not be."

"Well, I just thought - is it possible this ship is remote control in some way. That there isn't anyone on board?"

"Well why not," Terry said, backing her up. "We sent out unmanned satellites in the 60s."

"We still do," Dolan said. "The European Space Agency is only just starting to catch up with NASA and the Soviets in sending up deep space probes to gather information."

"They're a damn nuisance," Chrístõ said. "There are hundreds of bits of Earth-origin junk in space. They're a class 14 hazard to navigators."

"Class 14?" Sammie queried.

"Take a ding out of the paintwork if you hit one but otherwise harmless," Chrístõ added. "But don't let me put mankind off its efforts at reaching out. When you DO get there it will be worth it. Earth will become the most successful coloniser of the galaxies of all species. By the 25th century there will be people out there among the stars who will think of Earth as the place where granddad comes from and take nostalgia trips to 'the old home'."

Dolan looked at him.

"Is he for real?" he asked Sammie.

"I've never met anyone MORE 'for real' than Chrístõ is," he said.

The corridor opened out suddenly into a cavernous area. They all stopped moving and looked around with awe, amazement and even fear.

"Oh!" Bo was the first to find a voice to express her feelings about the sight that was so difficult to take in at once.

"It's…." Dolan began to speak and stopped He wasn't sure WHAT it was. But he knew it gave him the creeps. And he was not a man who got the creeps easily.

"A giant morgue?" Sammie questioned.

"No," Chrístõ said as he approached one of the long lines of coffin-sized containers that lined the walls row upon row up to the cathedral high ceiling as well as filling the floor except for a space between that the maintenance drones ran up and down constantly. "No, they are suspended animation chambers." He looked at a panel of buttons and pressed one. The container was illuminated and they all stared at the Human inside. He was encased in some kind of clear solid mass that may once have been liquid and was unmoving, but otherwise he seemed unharmed. He was dressed in a British Army uniform.

"It's one of my men," Dolan said. "Sergeant Dan Marshall. He was one of the men who disappeared when this first started."

"These look like your paras," Sammie said moving down the line. "And your helicopter crew."

"They're alive?" Cassie asked. Bo said nothing but ran to Sammie who put his arm around her protectively. This was too much for her. There were more people in this room than she had ever seen in one place in her entire life and they ALL looked dead to her. Suspended animation was a phrase that meant nothing to her. She had never seen the kind of television where such terms might have been used. Everyone else had at least a vague inkling of what he was talking about.

"They're alive. They're live cargo," Chrístõ said. "But why?"

"Never mind why," Dolan said. "Get them out."

"This is international," Sammie said as he moved further down the line. "Look. GS-G9 - German special forces - US Navy Seals, Green Berets, Soviet Spetsnaz - those guys there are IRISH Rangers. I've trained with them. It looks like they've grabbed men from just about every elite unit on Earth."

"Not just Earth," Chrístõ said as he used his telescopic vision to look around at the tiers of suspended animation containers high above. "They've scoured the universe. There are all sorts of races and species here. All soldiers of their worlds. And different times too. THOSE are 22nd Space Corps. They're what you lot will be by the 25th century, an elite fighting force behind enemy lines drawn across galaxies."

"This ship can time travel?"

"Yes," Chrístõ said. "Not as effectively as the TARDIS. It's probably using rudimentary warp-shunt technology. But yes, it can get about."

"So… the same thing that happened on Brecon has been happening all over Earth?" Cassie reasoned. "So how come none of the other countries told the others what to expect so they could try to stop it?"

"You are a paranoid race. You don't trust each other," Chrístõ said. "All these incidents will have been buried in national security clampdowns and secrecy. Wouldn't they, Major Dolan. You said yourself this would be a classified incident." But Major Dolan wasn't listening. He was standing by the chambers where his own men were trapped.

"Get them out," he said again, pulling at the toughened glass front of a container in which one of his own men was encased. "Get them out."

"Don't do that," Chrístõ warned "Once they're in suspended animation you can't break into the chamber without killing them. They need to be released properly. There must be a control room somewhere. I need to look at its databanks anyway and find out what this is all about."

"Up there…" Cassie pointed. And they all looked up at the high ceiling. There was, indeed, a room above it, accessed by an elevator rising up the side of a thick central column that looked as if it might have been the load-bearing support of the whole ceiling. Chrístõ looked at it. It was big enough for the six of them to get on, but it was open sided, intended for the drones to use.

"Anyone who feels they'd rather not…." He said looking at them.

"I'd rather be up there than down here with all these…." Cassie swept her arm around to indicate the thousands of captured souls. "They might not be dead but…. Uggh."

"I think 'uggh' sums it up for us all," Sammie told him as Bo clung tightly to him and tried not to look at all. They stepped onto the platform first. It was not that either of them were scared of heights. Sammie had his parachute wings, and Bo came from a mountainous region of China and was used to deep chasms. But something about this place made them both feel uncomfortable. Bo was still traditional enough to have fixed ideas about the souls of men and Sammie felt sick knowing these were comrades in arms, men like him. Everyone held onto each other as the lift began to ascend. Terry and Sammie both hugged their two women, but Chrístõ and even Major Dolan both stood close and put an arm out to the shoulder of their nearest friend. A head for heights or not, few wanted to look around.

Finally the lift passed through a gap in the roof and came out into the control centre above. They stepped off onto another mesh floor through which, unnervingly, they could see the suspended animation cavern below. The lift began to descend again as Chrístõ went to interface with the computer databank. Terry and Sammie both looked at what appeared to be an empty suspended animation chamber.

"Well, I know WHY it's being done," Chrístõ said as he read the information on the computer console. "Though the scale of the plan is unbelievable." He took a deep breath before going on. "The men in the chambers below, have been taken from special forces units from all over the universe by this automated collection ship. Its software reads the brainwaves of the beings on populated planets and zones in wherever it finds a concentration of the kind of people it wants - soldiers."

"Why?"

"Because it belongs to a race who have been at war so long they have run out of soldiers. These captives are to be taken back to the home planet and 'processed'."

"Processed?" Everyone looked at each other and tinned vegetables seemed to come to the minds of each of them.

"Tinned vegetables is about right," Chrístõ said with a look of distaste on his face. Their skills and experiences of being soldiers will be saved while personalities, memories, will be wiped, and instructions making them into unthinking, obedient super-soldiers programmed to them. Then they will be sent to fight."

"Fight who? For who?" Dolan asked.

"Fight the Viziks of Vorlia III on behalf of the Vaerzax of Vorlia II," he said. "It's in the Andromeda sector." He smiled at the blank looks all around. "It's a long way from here, and its wars are nothing to do with Earth - or any of the other planets this ship has visited. This is outrageously wrong."

"So stop it," Cassie told him.

"I'm trying. I need to find out how to reverse the programming and….."

Chrístõ froze as a blue light enveloped him and they all heard a computerised voice speaking.

"Advanced intellect detected. Enhanced warrior skills. Superior strength. Subject will be processed."

"Why is it English?" Dolan asked.

"It's not," Sammie told him. "You've travelled in the TARDIS. So you have its psychic matrix in your head and hear all languages in English."

"Never mind that," Cassie yelled. "Chrístõ…." They all turned as Chrístõ's body slowly disappeared in the blue light. They turned again as they heard him cry out. He was in the suspended animation chamber and a glass cover was sliding down over him. He struck out against it ineffectively as the chamber began to fill with a strange thick liquid. They saw him screaming in terror but could not hear him.

"He said it was dangerous once they were in suspense But he isn't yet. Is that glass bullet proof?" Dolan pulled his sidearm out. Sammie did the same.

"Lets find out."

"No!" Cassie shrieked. You'll kill him." But they both took aim either side of his head. Chrístõ saw what they were doing and became very still inside the chamber.

The glass was not bullet proof. It shattered as the rounds hit it and embedded themselves in the back wall of the chamber. One shot each was enough. The suspension liquid flooded out and Chrístõ fell forward, gasping for breath. Sammie reached him first, holding him upright as he found his feet.

"That was… that was horrible," he said. "I felt as if I was dying. Those… those people down there… all of them…. must have felt the same. I've got to…"

"You've got to help them." It was Terry who said it, even though the same phrase was on all their lips. Major Dolan, though, was the only one who wondered why he thought "YOU'VE got to help them." He looked at Chrístõ. He stood on his own two feet and almost visibly shook off the shock of his experience of the chamber as he stepped back to the computer console. He looked as young as a raw recruit in basic training. Yet he acted like a commander of armies. Sammie Thomlinson, an able commander of men, himself, looked to him as his leader. And they ALL looked to him to liberate the army of men trapped in this strange place. And they did so with absolute confidence that he could.

Chrístõ moved his fingers rapidly over the alien keyboard with alien characters and filled the monitor with information. As he finished he smiled broadly.

"Well?" they all asked.

"I can get everyone back where they came from," he said. "Even the non-terrestrial ones. I've programmed the computer to take the ship on a reverse journey starting here, and putting the men back where it took them from. They will all have absolute blank memories of where they have been but no doubt their respective national security agencies will debrief them and find a way of covering up what has happened. When its sent everyone home, I have set it to head back to its own quadrant empty and self destruct just before it reaches its own solar system."

"Wow!" Terry said. "All that from a bit of typing."

"It's all automated. It's just a matter of reprogramming. But just so we know its working ok, we're going to stick with it while it takes the Earth people back." He flicked a switch and a large viewscreen came on. They all turned and looked at the view of the bottom of Llyn Cwm Llwch, then gasped as the ship began to rise up to the surface.

"It's cloaked," Chrístõ told them. "If anyone was looking at the lake they'd be a bit puzzled by the disturbances in the water. But they won't know we're here."

"What the hell is happening down there?" Terry asked as he looked down over the balcony to the floor below.

"It's the maintenance drones," Sammie said as he saw the robots converging on the central column. The lift that brought them up to the control centre began to descend.

"I think I set off some kind of automated alarm," Chrístõ said with a groan. "Not so clever as I think I am. They're coming up here to stop the new programming."

"Can't you stop them?" Sammie asked him.

"I'm trying to disable them," he said, pulling the keyboard right off the console and rerouting wires directly beneath. "But it would be handy if you two soldiers could hold them off from getting up the lift."

"On it right away," Sammie said and he and Dolan drew their service pistols again. The watched as four of the drones got onto the lift and it began to ascend.

"Not sure bullets will do it," Dolan said. "Let's try something with more of a kick. And he reached into his webbing and pulled out two hand grenades. He threw one to Sammie who caught it easily. They pulled the pins together and dropped them down onto the lift while it was still only halfway up the column. They both ducked behind the balcony as the grenades exploded and as the smoke cleared looked back at a lift that no maintenance drone in the universe was going to be able to repair, especially not the four that had been caught in the blast.

"Got it," Chrístõ said triumphantly. And below the remaining drones ground to a halt, their systems immobilised.

"Just one question," Dolan said. "How do we get back to the TARDIS now."

"Don't worry about that," Sammie said. "The TARDIS will come to us." He turned his attention to the viewscreen where by the lake shore Dolan's missing men and the five men of the 3rd Parachute Regiment had all just materialised looking dazed and confused but unharmed. Then they felt the ship rising up into the air. Unlike when the TARDIS went into orbit there was far more of a sensation of g-forces at work as they broke the atmosphere, but soon they were looking at a view that was familiar to all but Major Dolan - Earth from orbit.

They landed next in Germany, in the middle of the Black Forest and left a confused group of GS-G9 special forces men in a huddle, then Soviet Russia and a camp site in the Tundra, Israel, Japan, the USA and Canada and right back across the Atlantic again to drop the Irish Rangers in the middle of the Wicklow hills. It took only a few hours. Chrístõ said the abductions had probably happened over a period of weeks, but returning the men was a lot faster.

"We get off here, though," he said as the ship took off into orbit again. "We don't want to be stuck for months going back through deep space visiting other planets." He told everyone to move closer together and took out his key. He summoned the TARDIS to materialise around them before programming a return to the campsite at Llyn Cwm Llwch.

When they emerged from a TARDIS disguised as a supply tent Major Dolan took the news of the return of their missing men with alacrity and set about seeing that the necessary classification of all that had occurred was put in place. No word of what had happened was ever going to be whispered when they struck camp and left Brecon.

"That's how it should be," Chrístõ said. "Earth is not ready to cope with the truth yet."

"What about the war that's still going on there in the Andromeda quadrant?" Cassie asked as they walked together by the now peaceful lake. "The Vickies of Vortex III and the Viziers of whatever it was."

"The Viziks of Vorlia III and the Vaerzax of Vorlia II," Chrístõ said with a wry smile.

"Yeah, them."

"I'm going to call my father later," he said. "Peace treaties between races that have fought for generations are his speciality. He'll do what he can."

"Ok," Terry said. "Then I guess we're done here. "Next stop the Olympics of 2012."

They all turned and looked at Sammie, who was walking with his arm around Bo while talking to his old friend Major Dolan.

"Sammie," Terry said to him. "Is this goodbye then?"

"We'll miss you," Cassie told him. "I'll miss you both."

Bo looked at Sammie and then at Chrístõ and again the indecision was in her face. She loved Sammie. That much was obvious. She wanted to be with him. But she was not ready to leave behind the life they had on board the TARDIS.

Chrístõ wasn't ready to part with her either. He had become used, the past days, to the emptiness of the console room at night, now that she slept beside Sammie in his room. But he had counted on them both being around for a little while longer. He wanted to be able to see her, to know she was happy and that he had done the right thing in letting her go to Sammie.

Sammie looked at Chrístõ, at Terry and Cassie as they held each other tightly. He looked at Bo as she pressed herself close to him and looked back at him with sad, sweet eyes. He knew she was his. He knew she would come with him wherever he went.

He looked at Tom Dolan and remembered the life that was his until that fateful day.

"Chrístõ," he said quietly. "I'm still dead. This is NOT my home. I have no place here. If you still want me around…. Me and Bo…"

"You will always have a place with me," Chrístõ told him. "Both of you. You know that."

Bo's expression made it clear how she felt about it. Sammie smiled.

"I've had a word with Tom," he continued. "He's sorting out me some equipment from the quartermaster stores. He's going to square the paperwork."

"Equipment?" Terry questioned. "You mean you want some more bullets for that bloody great gun of yours."

"Just wait 20 minutes before you rush off to 2012." Sammie took Bo by the hand and left her with Chrístõ as he turned and went with his friend. She looked a little uncertain as she saw him go.

"This IS his life - the one he used to have," she said fretfully. "Do you think he might…."

"Not a chance," Terry assured her. "He might be a macho SAS man, but he likes you way more than he likes being a soldier."

"If he brings anything that doesn't fit in the TARDIS door it's not coming on board," Chrístõ said. "I don't want an armoury on my ship."

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