In their sundresses and cardigans, with sunglasses over their eyes and cameras to snap pictures of the sights, Susan and Louise looked like regular tourists as they walked past the colourfully costumed Yeomen of the Guard and joined the crowd for the guided tour of the Tower of London.

“It takes an hour and a half,” The Doctor said. “If I’m not done, go to the café and order whatever takes your fancy.” He kissed Susan on the cheek and Louise on the lips and stepped back as they waved to him cheerfully. He slipped away from the tourist entrance and found a door marked ‘authorised personnel only.’

Many buildings had signs like that on doors. Generally The Doctor was happy to leave them alone. They were for authorised personnel. But in this case he considered himself to be ‘authorised’ even if he wasn’t prepared to be anyone’s ‘personnel’. His sonic screwdriver by-passed the security code panel and he stepped into a dimly lit stairwell. He followed it down more levels than the tourists above could possibly imagine there were underneath the ancient dungeons of the Tower. He knew there were security cameras watching, but he was using a low level perception filter. It didn’t make him invisible. But it meant that anyone who saw him, even on the monitors in the security centre, wouldn’t pay him any attention. At least not until he was ready to have them pay him attention.

He could have used psychic paper, but U.N.I.T personnel were trained to recognise it. And his actual ID card expired four faces back. This was easier.

At the bottom of the stairwell was a firedoor. He opened it and stepped out, then stepped back in and watched through a crack as a group of people passed by. It wasn’t that he was worried about meeting any of them – in fact the sight brought a comforting wave of nostalgia over him. Besides, he fully intended to make himself known to most of them very soon. But the one in the middle of the crowd he would be better staying clear of.

Brigadier Alasdair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart was coming up to his fifty-fifth birthday in the year 1980. He looked every inch the senior military man who had everything under his command and under his control. His moustache was as severe as it was when he first grew it in the 1960s. His uniform was a couple of sizes bigger now, thanks to one or two regimental dinners too many, but he was still a handsome man.

Warrant Officer Benton was at his side. The Doctor smiled as his memories stirred. He had bullied Benton rather a lot in the past, blaming him for military tactics that he considered bull-headed and wrong. But most of the time Benton was just following orders handed down from above – usually from the Brigadier. It wasn’t his fault. He was an honest soldier, doing what he had to do.

The third man in this group was a General with General Staff insignia. He was above U.N.I.T. The Brigadier deferred to him.

The fourth man didn’t defer to anyone in any circumstances. And that had been his downfall more than once, The Doctor wasn’t afraid to admit. He smiled as he looked at himself from another lifetime – six lifetimes ago. That outfit really was rather ridiculous. The scarf was an impediment to walking a lot of the time and the hat got in his eyes. But he wore it because he would never wear a uniform and that included the ‘uniform’ of contemporary fashion. He would defer to nobody, not even in his dress code.

“Thanks for your help,” The Brigadier was saying. “We’ve been trying for days to question that prisoner.”

“You should have called me earlier,” The Doctor replied. “After all, who else do you know who speaks Bellusian? Take it from me, he’s no trouble at all. He’s the equivalent of a student on a gap year hitchhiking around Europe. I did the same thing myself, when I got my first TARDIS. Now he understands what the words ‘Restricted Area’ mean you can just let him get on with his holiday on Earth. He’ll go home in time for the new semester.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” The Brigadier answered him. “It’s been good to see you without a major crisis on our hands. I hope you have a safe journey to… wherever… you plan to go next.”

“I’m planning to take Leela to meet the ancient Amazons,” The Doctor said. “She heard about their tests of strength and skill and reckons she’s the girl for a challenge.”

“God help the poor fragile creatures!” The Brigadier commented. “They don’t know what’s coming to them.”

“Send us a postcard,” Benton said. The Doctor in his fourth incarnation laughed softly at him as they passed out of earshot.

After seeing The Doctor safely out of U.N.I.T’s secure compound deep beneath the Tower of London, The Brigadier, accompanied by General Massey and Benton returned to his office. He was listening to the General as he opened the door. He had been listening to the General for several minutes.

“…Really don’t know why eccentric characters like that are tolerated,” the General was saying. “Damned undisciplined. Ridiculous clothes. Talks utter nonsense. And yet there is an entire archive given over to case files in which he has been involved.”

“Successful cases,” The Brigadier reminded him. “Without The Doctor this planet would have been a smouldering rock several times over by now. We owe him a great deal. His ‘eccentricities’ are nothing to worry about. If you knew him like I know him…”

“I don’t have time for his sort,” The General replied. “Scruffy, undisciplined, loose canon in our midst. We don’t need him. If he must be here, restrict his access for heaven sake. I don’t want him wandering around here like he owns the place. As for that prisoner... he can stay locked up until his ‘semester’ begins. I’m not having things with purple heads and five eyes disguised as French exchange students wandering around London.”

With that, General Massey turned and left. Warrant Officer Benton snapped to attention with a smart salute. The Brigadier remained in his seat. He sighed deeply as the door closed behind his superior officer.

“What shall I do about the prisoner?” Benton asked.

“Give him a cup of tea and wait until the General is well out of way... then let him go.”

“And The Doctor... Do you want me to restrict his access?”

“Certainly not,” The Brigadier answered. “If you can find a way to restrict General Massey’s access I’d be happy. But The Doctor… not at all.”

“I should hope not,” The Doctor said as he stepped towards the desk. The Brigadier looked at him in shocked surprise. Warrant Officer Benton pulled his sidearm from his holster and ordered him to stand still and put his hands up.

“It’s all right, Benton,” The Doctor told him. “It’s me.”

“Me who?” Benton demanded. “And stay where you are. Don’t move until I say…”

“The Doctor, obviously. Who else could have been standing here all this time without being noticed. That perception filter works perfectly. Good to see you, Benton, old chap. Brigadier, you’re looking well, might I say.”

“The Doctor?” Benton was a reasonably intelligent man. He was doing his best to work it out. It wasn’t his fault that it took so long for the penny to drop. “Oh, you mean, you’re another of him. We’re not going to have a whole group of you arguing amongst yourself like that time with the Omega thing, are we?”

“No arguments, no groups of me,” The Doctor promised as he took a seat in front of the Brigadier’s desk. “I wouldn’t say no to a cup of tea, if it can be arranged. And you might want to ask a level one cleared stenographer to pop in here and take notes. You know I hate doing paperwork and you’ll want to put another file in that archive General Massey was so disparaging about.”

“A file about what?” The Brigadier asked, giving a barely perceptible nod to Benton who went in search of both tea and stenographers.

“About what happened down at Kew Gardens, this morning,” The Doctor answered. “You must have been wondering what was going on.”

“I did get a rather odd report,” the Brigadier answered. “Something about man eating plants…”

“Just the one plant, actually,” The Doctor said. “But it was some plant. You should have been there!”

“Yes, I think I probably should,” The Brigadier answered. “Along with company strength and flamethrowers.”

“Now that would have been typical U.N.I.T overkill,” The Doctor told him. “Shoot first, ask questions later. That’s why I didn’t call you. This way it’ll only take a day or two before Kew can open up to the public again.”

“You know, I did have a very, very small doubt in the back of my mind,” The Brigadier said. “About whether it really was you. After all, you could be a really good impostor. Or your friend The Master playing his games. But that comment about overkill does it for me. It’s definitely you, Doctor. And since I’ve met all the versions of you up to the one I just had morning tea with, you must be a later one. It’s damned confusing at times.”

“I’m sorry about that, and it would be better if I didn’t tell you which one I am, because I don’t want you to have to lie to him when you see him again and I don’t need any prior knowledge of these events causing paradoxes. When we’re done, this file gets triple encoded and buried. I don’t ever want to stumble across it and cause myself problems.”

“Then why tell me anything at all?”

“Because I’m not always going to be here to help you out, Brigadier. I can’t be at the beck and call of this planet. And you need to know what you’re up against. You need to be aware of threats to the safety of the Human race so that you can act when they arise in the future.”

“You’re not always going to be here…” The Brigadier looked at The Doctor curiously. “Where are you going?”

“Where can’t I go?” The Doctor answered. “There’s a whole universe out there. Earth is just one planet. And it isn’t even MY planet. You’ve got to be able to look after yourselves. But just this once, I’m giving you a heads up on what to expect.”

Benton returned followed by a female sergeant with a tea tray, proving that sexual equality in the armed forces still had a long way to go in 1980. The stenographer was female, too. She brought a portable machine and sat down quietly at the side of the Brigadier’s desk. After the tea was poured, The Doctor cleared his throat and began to speak. The stenographer began to type rapidly.

“I really wanted a quiet afternoon,” The Doctor said. “Just a quiet afternoon in the sunshine with my wife and my granddaughter.” He noted the Brigadier’s raised eyebrows at that point, but made no further comment. “Susan actually lives not far from Kew, but it’s all a bit different in the 23rd century. She wanted to visit in a more ‘classic’ era. I was actually aiming for 2008, when they opened the treetop walkway, but the temporal accelerator was sticking a bit and we overshot. We decided to make the best of it, anyway.”

He hadn’t mentioned the walkway, so Louise wasn’t disappointed. She loved the botanical gardens anyway. She walked in the arboretum marvelling at the exotic trees. She was especially impressed by the giant American redwoods that grew as tall as the trees in her forest home, but she also delighted in the more decorative trees like the delicate willows or the Japanese flowering cherry trees. Susan enjoyed the rose gardens. David, her husband, grew some very fine roses in their garden in the twenty-third century, but she was in her element among the countless varieties growing here.

“You get that from the women of our family,” The Doctor told her. “Your grandmother loved roses. So did my mother.”

“All of this doesn’t need to be in the file,” the Brigadier said to the stenographer. “Doctor… as pleasing as your morning in the gardens must have been, do you think we ought to get to the point?”

“Yes,” The Doctor agreed. “Yes, you’re right. We were near the rose gardens when I first felt there was something wrong. Actually, it was Susan who alerted me, first.”

“Your granddaughter, Susan?” Benton said, as if he was doing his best to keep up.

“My granddaughter,” he confirmed as he went on with his story.

“Grandfather,” she said. “Did you hear that?”

“It’s a chaffinch,” The Doctor answered her. “Lovely song. Almost as beautiful as the Copperwinged Hapwing on the Southern Plains of Gallifrey....”

“No, not that,” Susan insisted. “Something else. Grandfather... don’t do this again. It’s like when we were in Canada. Open your mind up. There’s something there. On the edge of ordinary hearing... Louise wouldn’t be able to...”

“Yes, I can,” Louise contradicted her. “I can hear it... a voice... a frightened voice. Something needs help.”


“It’s not Human,” Susan confirmed. “But it’s got a voice, still. It’s like...”

“It’s like the wind in the trees at home on Forêt,” Louise said. “It’s the voice of the leaves...”

The Doctor looked at his wife and granddaughter. Yes, Susan was sensitive to certain psychic resonances. But Louise was Human. How could she....

“She’s pregnant,” Susan reminded him. “She has you... your DNA... your genetic code... mixing with her own. You’d better get used to her being a little bit telepathic for the time being. But you didn’t listen to what I said. It’s NOT a telepathic voice. It’s something on the edge of ordinary hearing. If dogs were allowed in the gardens they’d probably be howling right now. Open your ears, grandfather. Listen. Listen... listen.”

The Doctor listened. Then he exclaimed loudly and began to run. Louise and Susan looked at each other and then ran after him.

They found him crouching down beside a heap of garden waste piled up beside a wall. He was speaking in a low, gentle, crooning voice as if trying to encourage something small and nervous to trust him.

Susan and Louise were both surprised to see that the something small and nervous was a plant. It was a strange looking plant, about two foot tall, with long, dusty roots that clung to the loose soil of the rubbish heap and one stem about an inch thick. At the top of the stem were two wide leaves and an oval shaped mass of purple-yellow cellulose growth that, to those prone to anthropomorphising inanimate objects, might look like a head.

The Doctor was trying to stroke its leaves, but it was cringing away and actually shivering from fear.

“Louise,” he said. “You try.”


“Come on, sweetheart,” he repeated. “Just come down here and talk to it. You heard its voice before I did. You’ve already empathised. That’s what it needs right now.”

She came forward nervously and crouched by his side. She reached out her hand carefully. The plant shivered, but it let her touch its leaves with one finger. She spoke gently and reassuringly. The Doctor stood back and let her carry on.

“Grandfather,” Susan whispered. “I presume you have read Day of the Triffids.”

“Yep,” he answered. “And I was at the Broadway opening of Little Shop of Horrors. I took a girl called Susan. She travelled with me a couple of years back. Lovely girl. It was nice to have a Susan in the TARDIS again. She moved to Ireland and got married.”

“My point is...” Susan began.

“I know,” he said. “The thought did cross my mind. But I don’t think this little fellow is the problem.”

Louise stood up slowly. She turned around. Susan gasped in surprise. The plant was perched on her arm, its roots clinging the way a well-trained bird might cling to its handler’s glove. Its leaves were folded back and the bulbous head was leaning against Louise’s shoulder. She stroked it gently with her free hand and it trilled softly.

“It trusts me,” she said. “It’s calm now. But it’s hungry and thirsty and the bright light out here bothers it.”

The Doctor looked around and spotted a small wooden potting shed. They were all around the Gardens, small places where seeds were grown in compost trays then re-potted until they were ready to be planted out. He used his sonic screwdriver to open the locked door. Inside was everything a hungry and thirsty plant needed and the window could be shaded to cut out the light.

Everything it needed assuming that baby-bio would fulfil its needs and Louise didn’t have to open a vein to provide the alien plant sustenance.

The Doctor and Susan watched as Louise held the plant next to a prepared terra-cotta pot. It slid from her arm and buried its roots in the compost. She poured water and a measure of plant food into a small plastic watering can and then sprinkled it over the plant. It shivered and trilled as if it was enjoying itself at last.

“I’ll stay here and look after this one,” Louise said to The Doctor. “You and Susan get into that building and find its brothers and sisters. They need help, too.”

“What?” The Doctor was surprised by her remarks. “You mean there are more of them...”

“It told me. It managed to escape by falling over and looking dead. The man in charge threw it out with the rubbish. That’s when we found it. But there are others... and they’re scared.... scared of the Other One... about its intention.... its purpose... Help them, Doctor. Free them... Save them and... and the Human race...”

“You got all that from a little chat with a plant... while I was gabbing about Little Shop of Horrors?”

“I felt it all... in my head... while I was holding it... I felt its thoughts. Now, it feels safe here with me. But it’s worried about the others.”

“In that building... the brick one with no windows?” Susan asked.

“In there,” Louise insisted. “Mon docteur à moi... s’il vous plait.. Please, help them. Please... they’re children... and they’re frightened.”


“Yes, children,” Louise insisted. “Enfants...”

“Stay here, Louise,” The Doctor decided. “Look after... it... him... Susan... you come with me.”

Louise sat on a large upturned terracotta planter and made herself comfortable. She smiled and waved as The Doctor closed the door.

“That building is not marked on the official guide map,” Susan pointed out as they approached the place where they had found the plant. They had not even realised it was a building. The white painted brick wall was only an inch or two higher than Susan’s shoulders and then there was a roof of red tiles. It had been built to blend into the gardens and be more or less unnoticed by the visitors.

“It’s there,” The Doctor pointed out. “It’s just not labelled. It isn’t open to the public.”

“But we’re going in, of course?” Susan followed her grandfather around the windowless walls until they found a door. The Doctor immediately set about unlocking it with his sonic screwdriver.

“We’re not public.”

The lock snicked open. The Doctor pushed the door. He was unsurprised to see steps leading down. The low wall was only the tip of the iceberg.

Susan followed behind him, closing the door after her. There was electric light all the way down the long stairwell that turned on three landings before reaching the bottom. There was another locked door. This one was a bit tricky. It was deadlock sealed. Not double deadlocked. That would be impossible without the command code. But a single deadlock. The sonic screwdriver could handle those, but it took a while.

Who on planet Earth in the early 1980s knew about deadlock seals?

“It’s warm,” he commented as he worked on the lock. “Humid. Like a hothouse. This is an experimental growing facility.”

“It’s a prison,” Susan replied. “They’re trapped inside.”

The Doctor knew that. He could hear the whispering voices on the edge of his perception. He could also feel the emotions of the entities behind the door. He wasn’t even trying. But so many minds with the same emotion were easy to pick up.

They were scared. They were sad. They were resigned to a terrible fate. The Doctor’s two hearts trembled with them as he worked on the door, almost dreading what he was going to find beyond.

What he found when he stepped through the door at last was a room in semi-darkness, lit only by low level infra-red lights. As his eyes adjusted he saw that the roof was a long way up – at least the height of two ordinary rooms.

And up the full height of the two long walls in the rectangular room and in stacks that rose up from the floor, were the botanical equivalent of battery hens. Thousands of plants were growing in small, individual pots separated by wire cages. As he looked around in horror he felt Susan’s arm slip around his waist. He hugged her close to him, aware of her grief as she felt the terrible sadness all around them.

“Look,” she said. “They’re trying to touch each other through the mesh.” She pointed to one of the plants. Its leaves stretched out towards the wire. On the other side, another plant did the same. The mesh was too fine for them to get through, but the very tips of their leaves made contact.

All around them, the plants did the same, reaching out to each other for comfort, separated by cruel wire mesh.

“Why are they like this?” Susan asked. “Grandfather, what’s going on?”

“I’m not entirely sure, yet,” The Doctor answered. “Except... this is monstrous. These plants... they’re not just plants as we know it. They’re at least a semi-sentient lifeform. They have feelings. And their whole existence is a torture. Born in darkness, alone in these cages... and WHY? I still don’t understand the purpose of this cruelty.”

“I think we might find out,” Susan told him. The sound of the entrance door opening again echoed around the cavernous room. The whispering plants squealed unhappily as if they recognised the sound of the heavy footsteps on the concrete floor and feared them.

The Doctor held Susan close to him as the footsteps passed along the next aisle. They followed the footsteps, moving far more quietly. Even so, they were sure they would have been heard except that the plants, as they moved past them, whispered loudly and rattled their cages. The noise covered them. Once, the man walking on the other side stopped. He hit the cages with something metallic.

“Shut up, damn you,” he yelled. The effect was the opposite. The plant creatures whispered even more loudly all around him. He screamed in rage and frustration. And then there was another sound that silenced him and the plants. The Doctor stopped still, pressing his hand against Susan’s mouth as an involuntary scream almost escaped from her lips.

The sound was a voice, but one that was barely Human. It was like a whisper amplified.

“Do not shout within these walls, Frazer,” it said. “You know I cannot bear loud noises. Come forward, quietly.”

Frazer began to move again, picking his steps quickly but carefully. Again, the plants sussurated as he passed them by. Again it gave The Doctor and Susan cover for their own progress down the long aisle.

“They’re scared of him, but they trust us,” Susan said telepathically.

“Yes,” The Doctor replied. “But they’re even more scared of whatever we’re walking towards.”

Susan noted her grandfather’s choice of words. He was a man who defined the simple word ‘people’ far broadly than anyone else. He had no trouble seeing the plant creature they found outside or its siblings here in this horrendous place as sentient life. But he had not said ‘whoever’ about the source of the commanding voice. He had said ‘whatever’. That was significant.

And it was frightening. She would have trembled as much as the plant creatures did if she was on her own. His arm around her shoulders was the only thing maintaining her courage.

They came to the end of the aisle. They pressed against the stack and watched as the man called Frazer, wearing a Kew Gardens staff jumper, operated a key-coded lock. A wide section of the wall slid back. Susan put her own hands over her mouth this time to suppress any sound, because her first instinct had been to scream.

“Hold that thought,” The Doctor said to her telepathically as they watched from the shadow of the stacks. The thing that made Susan want to scream was basically a plant. It had thick roots planted in a layer of loose sandy soil on the floor and it had a long stem and two leaves much as the plant creatures in the stack had. But this one was eight foot tall and where the small plants had the yellow and purple bulb-shaped ‘head’ this had an actual head. It was the same yellow and purple with veins of a lighter purple running through it, but it was a head. It had no eyes, only indentations where eyes might have been. But it had Human ears, a nose with flared nostrils and a mouth that opened revealing a yellow tongue that flicked in and out as it spoke.

And apart from being bald and yellow-purple with veins on top of the flesh, the face resembled Frazer. The Doctor was puzzled by that for a few seconds. Then he remembered the stage musical he had flippantly mentioned a little while ago and an explanation presented itself. Frazer, in his insane zeal to grow a new specimen of plant, had fed the thing with his own blood. It had built its semi-Human face from his DNA!

“The time is close, Frazer,” it said in that amplified whisper. “It is very close. The first batch of seedlings are almost ready to be transplanted.”

“Good,” Frazer answered in a low voice that, even so, caused the plant head to draw back as if that much sound bothered it. “They give me the creeps, the way they whisper. As if they hate me.”

“They do hate you, Frazer,” the plant head replied. “As much as you hate them. They hate me, too, even though they were born of my seed. They hate their own parent because I am what they will become when the transplantation process is complete. They fear it. They fear going out into the light, born as they were in darkness. They fear the change that will come upon them when they receive the Human DNA that will change them from helpless cellulose life, tied to their soil, dependent on the carbon life for existence, to mobile creatures, masters of everything, superior to both Human and plant life.”

“Yes... sir...” Frazer managed to say when the plant head paused in its exposition. “When do you want me to find a Human to extract DNA from?”

The Doctor thought that was an incredibly naïve question. He wasn’t entirely surprised by what happened next. Frazer didn’t even have time to scream before the plant creature’s thick leaves lashed him around the head, knocking him out cold. He fell to the floor in front of the creature. One huge, heavy root of strong, woody fibre stirred and lifted before coming down on his chest. The tap root bored down into his chest and The Doctor and Susan could both see the blood being sucked up into the roots. It was the same process by which plants drew moisture from soil, except this was Human blood. They saw the stem begin to bulge part way up and form a thin walled receptacle where the blood was mixed with chlorophyll to become a reddish-green liquid. It was Human-plant DNA ready to be transferred to the young plants that shivered and whispered in fear of what was happening.

The Doctor watched in horror, wondering why he didn’t act faster and save Frazer’s miserable life. The answer to the question was simple. He had no idea what to do. How could he fight an eight foot plant that was capable of knocking him down flat and adding Time Lord DNA to the mixture?

And if he could fight it, should he? As monstrous as it was, this creature, half alien plant grown from a seed that must have fallen to Earth by the sort of billion to one chance that happened nine times out of ten on this planet, and half Human, was a unique life form, and he had rules about unique life forms. He had been one, himself, for a while, after all.

“Grandfather...” Susan’s voice, even telepathically, came as a whisper. But it was one loaded with emotion. “If you don’t do something... if that thing... becomes the master of this world... in 1980... then you WILL be the last of your kind. Because there will be no place in the twenty-third century for me and my children. Besides... you can’t let it do this. Even THEY don’t want it. Listen to them... the seedlings. They don’t want to be mutated into unnatural monsters, neither plant nor animal. You must... you must do something.”

“But... what?” he asked. “I don’t know...”

“Oh, you can be so thick, sometimes, grandfather,” Susan told him. Then she began to scream. The sound startled him, especially since he was standing so close to her. But the effect it had on the plant creature was dramatic. It actually seemed to be cringing back from the sound. When the seedlings around her began to copy her scream, the effect was even more profound.

“No, you don’t!” The Doctor cried as he saw the long roots reaching out to close the sliding door. He grabbed his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and aimed it at the door control. In a few sparks it fused open then he pressed his advantage. He fingered the sonic screwdriver and selected laser mode. The beam could cut through steel. The thick stem of the plant should be easy enough.

Except with the plant creature rendered helpless by the shrill noise that filled the air, hurting its sensitive, half plant-half Human ears, it still felt like murder. He hesitated for a few precious seconds, struggling with his conscience, and that gave the creature, despite its obvious agony, a chance to fight back. He felt the roots curling around his legs and yanking him off his feet. He lost his grip on the sonic screwdriver as he fell across the drained corpse of Frazer. And he saw the tap root bearing down towards his chest, ready to take his blood.

Then the root quivered. There was a soft explosion and he was covered in something wet and unpleasant. Susan stopped screaming. So did the seedlings, though their worried trill continued in the background. He wiped the stuff off his face and swallowed bile as he realised that he was covered in a mixture of cellulose and Human brain tissue. He scrambled to his feet and saw the plant stem wobbling, the two big leaves dangling limply. There was nothing left of the head but a few pounds of gruesome mush.

Susan ran a few steps towards him, smiling with relief. She looked as if she was going to hug him, then changed her mind.

“I think there might be a hose pipe up the other end of the room,” she said. “We can sluice you down...”

“Good idea,” The Doctor replied.

“Well, that’s basically it,” The Doctor said as the stenographer tapped away the last few lines. “I had a proper shower back in the TARDIS and changed into my other suit. Susan likes this blue one. Louise prefers the brown pinstripe one, but I’ll have to get it properly dry cleaned before I can wear it again. There’s a place in the Fulham High Street that does a nice job. Or the Hydrax Space Mall....”

“Unless you intend to send the bill to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, it really doesn’t matter where you get your suit cleaned, Doctor,” The Brigadier told him. “The point is... you sealed the facility... with Frazer’s body and the remains of this creature in it. And... thousands of these semi-sentient plants in it, still.”

“Yes. And that’s why I came straight here, to you. The body will have to be dealt with in the proper way. He will have relatives who need to be informed, and U.N.I.T are second only to Torchwood for coming up with plausible causes of death that won’t distress them or affect tourist numbers at Kew. The plant creature... you’ll have scientific bods who’ll want to analyse it. That’s all right, I suppose. But the seedlings... now this is where I will want my exact instructions followed. This is where I outrank that bombastic general who left here earlier. Because, as a signatory of the Shaddow Proclamation, I hereby inform you of your duty in this matter. The seedlings are a protected lifeform under Section 78b paragraph 5.4 of the Proclamation. They were born here in the United Kingdom, on planet Earth. They are, essentially, British citizens, and you are responsible for their welfare.”

“Their welfare?” The Brigadier was astonished. “Doctor... do you mean that U.N.I.T have to find homes for a few thousand plants... orphaned plants...”



“They’re already at Kew Gardens. That’s the best place for rare plant species. But they need more space than they have already. And they need to be gradually introduced to light and air. The poor things have only ever known dark and cramped spaces. Work with the directors, there. See that some funds go their way for new facilities. Just make sure those creatures are happy, or the Shaddow Architects will have more than a few words to say about it.”

“The Shaddow Architects... they’re more important than you?”

“They like to think they are. And they have police... sort of... that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of. So it’s in your best interests to do as I say first time.”

“All right,” The Brigadier agreed. “It’ll be done. I can assure you, it will be.”

“Good.” The Doctor stood up and reached to shake hands with The Brigadier, and with Benton and the stenographer. “Goodbye, my dear fellows. I don’t expect we’ll meet again. Not this version of me, anyway. There’s a couple of adventures to come with my earlier incarnations. But this is it for me. So, goodbye. Give my best to Doris. Sergeant Benton, time you found a nice young lady, too. There’s more to life than the army. All the best to you both.”

With that he started to turn. As he did, The Brigadier stood and saluted him smartly. Benton, a half second behind him, did the same. The Doctor was on the point of telling them not to do that, then changed his mind. He nodded in acknowledgement of their mark of respect before he walked out of the room.

A few minutes later he found his wife and granddaughter in the café back in the public part of the Tower of London. He sat and enjoyed a pot of tea and cakes with them. They lingered over it, ordering a second pot and another round of cakes. Susan was a little bit quiet. The Doctor knew why. This had been, by mutual agreement, the last day of their holiday together. When they got back into the TARDIS it was to go back to her home in the Twenty-third century.

And after that...

It was a curious gathering in Susan’s drawing room in Richmond upon Thames in the early twenty-third century. Louise sat quietly by the window with her tame plant on her knee, trilling away and making her skirt a little dusty with the loose soil on its roots. David Campbell, a born gardener, was fascinated by it and was only sorry he couldn’t persuade her to part with it. She was determined that ‘Audrey’ as The Doctor had named it without explaining why, would be happy living with her on Forêt.

Susan’s daughter, Sukie, was there, along with Vicki, who looked the same age as her and was known as her cousin at school. Only a few people knew that Vicki, the daughter of The Doctor in his Ninth incarnation, was actually Sukie’s great-aunt, sister to her grandfather. They didn’t have a family tree, it was more like a mangrove swamp.

Sukie’s older brother, Davie, was there, too. And it was he who The Doctor really needed to talk to. He explained his idea to him and he agreed that it could be done.

“You’re leaving your TARDIS here?” Davie Campbell asked him. “You don’t want it any more?”

“I don’t need it. And... I think it could be put to better use here.” He glanced at the two teenage girls. “They’re growing up fast. I remember Vicki when she was a little thing who needed to sit on a cushion to reach the tea table. In a few years, she’ll be a Time Lord in her own right. I hear you’re a pretty good temporal mechanic. You can fix up my old box for her.”

Vicki’s eyes lit up at the idea. So did Sukie’s. the two girls looked at each other and dreamed of travelling among the stars together, the ultimate freedom. They saw David’s expression, and Susan’s, and even Davie’s. The adults were already mentally writing a long list of rules that would curtail that freedom. But even so, the dream was still intact.

“When will you go?” Susan asked.

“Tomorrow,” The Doctor replied. “One last family dinner, together? I’ll order in. You don’t want to cook when you’ve just arrived back from our trip. And if it’s ok with Davie, we’ll leave in the morning.”

It was fine with Davie. The next morning there were tearful farewells, then The Doctor and Louise, with a few suitcases full of personal belongings taken from their old TARDIS, were passengers in what was commonly known as the Chinese TARDIS because of the black and red lacquered walls of the console room and the Ying-Yang symbol surrounded by a Chinese fire dragon on the door. The Doctor had rarely been a passenger in a TARDIS and that, plus a certain trepidation about the future, made it a slightly anxious journey for him. But in a few short hours they arrived on the planet of Forêt. Despite this being his first visit, Davie Campbell landed his TARDIS perfectly on the platform beside the tree house where Louise’s parents, Marcas and Inès, lived. The elderly couple came out to greet their daughter and son-in-law. They were a little puzzled to greet ‘Audrey’ as well, and overjoyed to discover that there would be a more conventional addition to the family in the fullness of time.

The Doctor let Louise go inside with her parents while he waited on the platform with Davie. He was going soon, and there were a few more things to say.

“So this is it?” Davie said, breaking the awkward silence that stopped them saying those things. “You’re retired. You’re not a Time Lord any more? You’re an elder of this little village in the trees?”

“That’s right.”

“You can give it all up?”

“Yes. I can. I’m ready.”

Davie Campbell didn’t look convinced.

“When you get to 1,000 and you’ve died nine times already, you’ll understand why.”

“Maybe I do understand,” he conceded. “But you can’t just hide away here and forget us all. You’re still my great-granddad.”

“Of course I am. I’ll always be that. But you have the other one. Everything, anything I could tell you, he can. He’ll always be there for you.”

“And I’ll be there for you,” Davie replied. “Look… take this.” He thrust something into The Doctor’s hand. It was a purple crystal inside a clear glass cube. “If there’s any sort of threat to this planet, anything you can’t handle… this will send out a signal. You just press…”

“I know how it works,” The Doctor said with a wry smile. “I hope I never have to use it.”

“So do I. But in any case, I’m not going to wait for an emergency to come back here. I’ve got the co-ordinates locked into my nav-drive. I’ll be dropping in once in a while to enjoy the hospitality. I’ll be bringing mum. She’s not ready to let you go, whatever you think.”

The Doctor looked at the young man whose genetic code he shared. He was offering him a compromise. He could give up the universe, but the universe wasn’t quite giving up on him.

“What are you going to do with yourself now you’re here, anyway?” Davie asked when the silence threatened again.

“It’s the second warm-sun season of the year,” The Doctor answered. “Time to gather food and fuel and make sure the house is secure against the cold seasons to come. Lots to do.”

“Right. Well… better let you get on with that. Before you do… mum said to remind you of something you told her a long time ago.” Davie paused and smiled softly as he recited the phrase his mother made him learn. “No regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”

“Bit pompous, isn’t it!”

“Just a bit. But not a bad philosophy. I think I should try to live by it. So should you.”

“I will. Goodbye Davie. You’re The Doctor now. Bear that name with pride and honour.”

“I will. Goodbye, Doctor.”

He walked into his TARDIS. The door closed and it dematerialised noisily. The Doctor looked up into the sky above the tree canopy. He couldn’t see anything, of course. But he looked anyway, and he waved.

“Good journey, Doctor,” he said.

Louise came out of the house and took his arm. She looked up with him for a while, then they turned together and went inside.