Chrístõ looked around the TARDIS and allowed himself a smile. The reason for this reunion was a troublesome one. But for now it was wonderful to have all of his friends together with him. Sammie and Bo, Terry and Cassie, Kohb and Camilla, of course Even Penne and Cirena. They had chosen to travel with him by TARDIS and sent their royal retinue ahead by conventional hyperspace ship to meet them..

And Julia. In a TARDIS full of couples, most of whom he had helped become couples, he was not alone. The girl of his hearts smiled back at him as she caught his eye. Her aunt Marianna looked at him, still dubious about the TARDIS as a means of transport. But when he had explained the need for this unscheduled trip, she had decided Julia needed to be accompanied.

And she had a point. Julia, in common with the rest of his friends, was travelling to Gallifrey in order to give evidence in a criminal trial that might see his cousin, Epsilon, sentenced to death. Yes, he could understand why Marianna thought that she shouldn’t do that alone. He accepted that.

The siren disturbed the peaceful scene. Everyone looked around anxiously. But it was only the proximity warning telling him, as if he needed to be told, that he was approaching the Transduction Barrier. He turned off the annoying sound and contacted Traffic Control. He informed them of the number of non-Gallifreyans aboard and reminded them that he and two of his passengers had diplomatic credentials and that two others were the King-Emperor and Queen of Adano-Ambrado, one of Gallifrey’s strongest business partners. He made it clear that he was not landing in Immigration Control no matter what any civil servant had to say about it and stated his destination as his family home on the Southern Continent.

Permission to pass through the Transduction Barrier was given. The voice that told him so seemed petulant. Chrístõ didn’t care. He wanted to go home. He wanted to see his father. He even wanted to see Valena and Garrick, for that matter. He didn’t want to spend hours getting everyone’s credentials established at Immigration.

“We’ll be there soon,” Chrístõ promised. The response to that was cheerful. Everyone except Marianna was an experienced TARDIS traveller, but dinner in Chrístõ’s family home and sleeping in beds that didn’t faintly vibrate was a welcome thought. He smiled and began the standard manoeuvre through the Barrier before materialisation at his preset co-ordinates.

He did nothing wrong. He knew that. His manoeuvre was text book accurate. But it felt as if the TARDIS had been thrown against a brick wall. The console sparked and fuses and diodes blew and as he struggled to regain control they seemed to be in freefall. The screams of his friends, Humphrey’s wail, were a harmony to his own screaming nerves as he fought against his own TARDIS to land safely. The engines screamed in sympathy with the living passengers and he was sure they were going to blow. If not that, then the impact of the crash would kill them. Even a TARDIS could not survive being slammed into the surface of a planet.

Their only hope was an emergency dematerialisation. He reached for the switch. An electric shock burnt his hand and seared through his body. But he kept holding on. He had to. It was their only chance of survival. Tears pricked his eyes as he fought back the pain, willing his hearts to keep beating.

And just when he thought it was all over, he felt the TARDIS respond, just for a few seconds, just long enough.

“Chrístõ!” The sudden silence was broken by Julia’s scream and he felt her reaching out to touch him. His body ached and his vision was blurred, and he felt somebody else, he thought it was Camilla, lifting his hands away from the TARDIS controls. He heard Humphrey’s strange wail and felt his presence near him.

“I’ll be all right in a moment,” he said. And it was true. He felt his fingers tingling with pins and needles as the burns repaired. His sight slowly cleared. The ache remained but that was just a reminder that even a Time Lord body could only take so much without feeling the consequences. “Is everyone else….”

Everyone else was starting to realise that they WERE, after all, alive and they reported minor injuries. Sammie assured him that Bo was unhurt. Chrístõ slowly moved away from the console and came to her side, the one member of the TARDIS’s temporary crew who needed him most. He examined her quickly and carefully. Yes, the baby was fine. They had that much to be thankful for.


“Chrístõ,” Cassie’s voice said, her tone one of dread and fear. “The TARDIS….”

“I know,” he whispered hoarsely. “I know. It’s….”

The only word for it was DEAD. The console was dark. Not a single LED light functioned. The time rotor was cracked and a piece of it broken away. There were no lights anywhere in the room except the sunlight coming through the open door.

“Who opened the door?” he asked as his senses finally cleared and he began to take stock of the situation.

“Nobody did,” Terry answered him. “It must have been damaged when we landed. Just as well, really. Or we’d be trapped in here.”

“No,” Chrístõ assured him. “There’s a manual override. But…”

The floor was at a slight tilt. He noticed that as he stepped towards the door. One side had broken off completely and lay on the ground outside. The other was hanging on a damaged hinge.

Chrístõ’s eyes were the most Human part of him, with the tear ducts that gave away his mixed parentage. But even so his greater Gallifreyan DNA took over, shielding his vision so that he quickly adjusted to the bright sunlight and could see the landscape around him.

“We’re in the Red Desert,” he said as he looked across endless miles of red sand to a burnt yellow-orange horizon. Here, in the desert, far more than in the verdant part of the planet that he called home, amongst green-leaved trees and grass and rivers, that unusual tint to the sky seemed more obvious. Gallifrey WAS rare among oxygen rich planets in not having a blue sky. And he had been away from home long enough to find it distracting.

Red desert, orange sky. A few black outcrops of rock breaking up the landscape. He knew that close up they WEREN’T black, but a deep red. They were an ore bearing rock, rich in a metal called ferrous zirironite.

Which meant they were in the Dark Territory. The area of the desert that even their most advanced satellite technology could not map. Ferrous zirironite was the base rock beneath the sand, and it reflected back every form of tracking or surveillance. Even old-fashioned photographs ionised before they could be processed. Technology was useless. Anything electrical was neutralised. It had been explored on foot by a few adventurous types. It had claimed the lives of some of THEM.

He looked around at the dark, silent TARDIS. It wasn’t the zironite that had caused the crash. But it WAS the reason why the TARDIS had not even emergency power now. And it was the reason why, even if their emergency was monitored by traffic control, nobody would know where they had crashed.

“We are in big trouble,” Chrístõ thought to himself as he turned and let his eyes re-adjust to the strangely dark TARDIS interior.

“We’re in trouble, aren’t we,” Terry said to him, echoing his thoughts.

“No,” he said, but all of his friends KNEW he was lying. “I….” He looked around at them all. He sighed.

“It’ll be all right,” Julia said as she came to his side and took his hand in hers. “You’ll make it right.”

“I’m not sure I can, this time,” he said to her. “This is really bad. The TARDIS is completely out of action. We haven’t even got emergency power. We have no food, no water. And no protection from the heat of the desert when the sun gets any higher than it is right now. It’s mid-morning. At midday, and for several hours after it will be scorching out there. And there is no chance of anyone coming to rescue us.”

“But they know we’ve gone missing,” Terry said. “Surely they’ll TRY to find us? A search party.”

Chrístõ explained about dark territory and ferrous zirironite.

“So that’s why the TARDIS isn’t working?” Julia asked.


“Not at all? Nothing?” They all looked at him and asked the same question. “Not even a light?”

“Nothing works,” he said. “We can’t REACH the other rooms. Most of them don’t exist without power. The TARDIS creates them from energy. Without power they collapse.”

“What about….”

“Solar power.” Chrístõ looked around. It was Marianna who said it. “Our ordinary home is powered by solar storage cells on the roof. Don’t tell me this amazing machine that can travel in time and space, and get me and Julia home only two days after we left, no matter how long we are away, can’t do the same.”

“Technically it IS solar powered,” Chrístõ said. “The Eye of Harmony IS a piece of a star. It’s the same principle, except we bring our star with us. But…” He stopped. He smiled. “We could rig something. It won’t get us out of here. But it might get us life support. And maybe access to other rooms.” He dived under the TARDIS console and began pulling out wires and thick, rubber insulated conduits from the bowels of the stricken ship. “Yes,” he said. “I think I could get emergency power at least. Kohb, Terry, help me. Julia… Cassie… could you…” He looked around. There was a machine in the corner of the console room that was almost never used. The food synthesiser. It was as dead as any other component, but it was just possible. “In the cupboard there… the ordinary toolbox. Screwdriver. Open up the synthesiser. There are water reservoirs for rehydrating the food. In the heat that we’re going to have soon, it’ll only last a few hours, but it might be enough to last until we’ve charged up enough to reach the proper food supplies. Marianna… look after Bo. Lie her down fully. Make sure she rests. Do what you can to keep her cool. She’s the most vulnerable of us all. Sammie… I know you’ve got one of your handguns on you. The TARDIS registered an alarm when you came on board. You know that would have been trouble if we HAD been required to go to immigration control.”

“Trouble for THEM,” Sammie answered.

“Whatever,” Chrístõ said. “The desert is not completely empty. We have wild animals. Watch the door. Anything bigger than a Lapin, be prepared to shoot.”

“No problem,” Sammie said, moving to a shaded spot where he had a view outside. “What’s a Lapin?”

“Like a rabbit but with long fur and no buck teeth,” Chrístõ answered. “You probably WON’T see one of those. They prefer grassy areas. But there are some nasty varieties of snakes and I know Pazithi Lions live among the rocky outcrops.”

“If there’s another gun, I can help,” Camilla reminded him. “I’m a sharp shooter.”

“That you are. Sammie, let Camilla take shifts with you. Then you can rest your eyes.”

“What about us?” Penne asked. “It seems like everyone here is doing their bit. Cirena and I… well, being royalty doesn’t count for much right now. We’re willing hands.”

“Cirena… the best thing I could ask you to do right now is sit with Bo and take care of her along with Marianna. Penne…” He looked at his blood brother and doppelganger. Penne had Time Lord blood in him. He had most of the skills and abilities and natural advantages. “Penne, step outside for a few minutes. Tell me what the territory is like all around. I’ve only looked out from the door yet. All this might be needless if there’s an oasis right behind us.”

“Oh, I hope so,” Julia said with a laugh as she and Cassie tackled the food synthesiser. “That would be ok, wouldn’t it. An oasis with water, trees. Maybe fruit.”

“As long as there isn’t a Sheboogan tribe there,” Chrístõ replied to her.

“A what?”

“Sheboogan is a derogatory term,” he admitted. “Basically, Outlanders, outsiders. Some of them, allegedly, Time Lords who grew disillusioned with our technological life and went into the wilderness.”

“What, you have beatniks on Gallifrey?” Terry laughed. “Dropouts.”

“Kind of,” Chrístõ answered. “But the Outlanders aren’t just new age farmers. It’s said that they regressed mentally until they’re just savages. Some say cannibals. Though I don’t believe that. Even so, they might not be overjoyed to see us.”

“Or if they ARE cannibals they could be thrilled to bits,” Cassie said glancing at Sammie as he watched the door with the practiced eye of a special forces man.

“Let’s not think of such things,” Cirena suggested. She looked relieved when Penne came back into the TARDIS, wiping his perspiring brow. But the news he brought was disheartening. There was no sign of an oasis or anything for what he estimated to be 100 miles or more.

“The TARDIS managed to disguise itself as a cave before power went down,” Penne reported. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”

“Well, nobody is going to be doing a fly over to look for us,” Chrístõ said. “So it makes no difference that way. It makes it MORE likely that animals would come near looking for shelter. I think on the whole I’d rather it was something less inviting.”

“So it’s bad then?” Penne reflected.

“It probably doesn’t make much difference to our situation,” he answered.

“We’ve got the water,” Cassie reported as she pulled a clear plastic reservoir from out of the back of the synthesiser. “There looks to be about a gallon altogether. What is this other container?”

“Dried Cúl nut,” he answered. “It’s a high protein food substance. The synthesiser makes it into anything you programme into the machine. If you mix the dry powder with water it makes a sort of edible paste. It’s not bad. If we have enough water it would do for lunch. Give Bo a drink of water now, will you. And Sammie. He’s closer to the heat where he is. And Penne. The rest of us can manage for a while longer.”

The three of them were grateful for the water, even though it was not very cool and tasted as if it had been in the reservoir for a long time. It probably had. Chrístõ never used it. He preferred real food, even if it did mean stopping off at hypermalls every now and again to stock up.

He took food and drink for granted. He took his TARDIS for granted. And now he had neither.

He wondered if his father knew yet. Had he been informed that the TARDIS disappeared off the traffic control scanners? Would he think they were all dead? Would a search begin?

“Chrístõ.” He looked up from his work to see Sammie, taking a break while Camilla watched the door with his pistol at the ready. Sammie crouched beside him and spoke in a low voice so that none of the women could possibly hear. “What do you think caused us to crash?”

“I don’t know, he replied. “Except I am sure it wasn’t anything I’ve done. And I don’t think it was a fault in the TARDIS. I don’t know. I felt an electric shock as if the console had gone live. All I remember is hurting like hell and knowing I had to stop us crashing. You see, we have to materialise in orbit and pass through the Quantum Force Field and the Transduction Barrier in ordinary flight mode. But then it is normal to dematerialise and rematerialise at the set co-ordinate. But something stopped the dematerialisation and sent us falling through the atmosphere. We had seconds to spare when the drive finally accepted the emergency dematerialisation/rematerialisation. I had no chance of picking any co-ordinate. But I am surprised it brought us to the Dark Territory. This shouldn’t even BE a co-ordinate. It should have rejected it just as it would the core of a planet or the centre of a volcano.”

“So you don’t remember anything just prior to the freefall?”

“No,” Chrístõ said. “Nothing.”

“It felt as if we’d been sideswiped,” Sammie said. “As if something hit us and knocked us off course. Do you know anything that could do that?”

“Another TARDIS in the same lane through the Transduction Barrier,” he said. “Or a missile. But the TARDIS should have alerted me if there was any such thing. It makes a racket just to announce we’ve reached Traffic Control. It’s not going to let us collide with anything without a protest.”

“Well, I think it did,” Sammie told him. “And that raises a question.”

“Was it an accident…” Terry said, looking at them both.

“Or deliberate,” Kohb finished. They all looked at each other.

“The last time I was home, somebody had a go at me,” Chrístõ said. “And…” He stopped. The others didn’t know about the attempt on their lives by the Castellan. Their memories had been wiped. Only he and Julia knew about that. “And there are still people who support the Oakdaene family. They might have…”

“Oh,” Terry groaned. “Let it just be an accident. Somebody careless in the Traffic Control.”

“I agree,” Chrístõ said. But he looked at Sammie. Of them all, he had the most experience of being under enemy attack.

“When we get out of here, we can find out what happened,” he said. “I’m going to talk to my wife.”

“You do that,” Chrístõ said. “Give her my love.

The hottest part of the day was unpleasant even for the three of them who had Gallifreyan blood and the ability to adjust their body temperature at will. The open door gave no cooling breeze, only searing heat. They were all suffering from it. They sipped the little water they had slowly. They made sure Bo had as much as she needed and were sparing for themselves. Marianna and Cassie mixed up some of the Cúl nut powder into a paste and they ate some of it. It had a pleasant enough taste, and Sammie persuaded Bo to eat as much of it as she could, because it WAS high in protein. But it made them ALL feel thirsty after and the water was VERY low now.

“I think I’ve got it,” Chrístõ said. “Just let me…” He turned a lever on the console and a diode lit up faintly. “Yes. It’s working. We just need a couple of hours to store enough energy. Then we’ll be able to open the inner doors and get food and water and supplies.”

“And weapons,” Sammie told him.

“And weapons.”

Until it worked they could do nothing but sit as quietly as possible, conserving their energy, conserving the water supplies. It WAS easier for the three Gallifreyans. But the hottest hours of the afternoon still caused them distress as much as their human and Haollstromnian friends. Chrístõ carefully watched the energy storage levels. He switched off those systems he knew they wouldn’t need, like drive, navigation. Even with full power he knew he couldn’t pilot the TARDIS out of Dark Territory. What they needed was life support, and more importantly, access to the rest of the TARDIS.

“Yes,” he said at last. “Kohb, Penne, I need you two with me. You can work fastest and carry the most. I can maintain full power through the TARDIS for maybe fifteen minutes. We have to get food, drink, blankets, and whatever we have in the way of weapons in that time.”

“Don’t dismiss us non-Gallifreyans,” Terry protested. “I can run. So can Sammie.”

“So can I,” Camilla said. “And I don’t think any animal is going to come near us while the sun is as hot as this.”

“All right,” Chrístõ said. “We don’t have time to mess about. Terry, Camilla, blankets. Sammie, weapons. Kohb, Penne, you’re with me, for food provisions. Quick.”

“Get clothes as well as blankets,” Sammie said. “Cool clothes for the hot day, and warm things for later. Deserts get cold at night. Even alien ones.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ agreed, wondering why he hadn’t thought of that.

The women left behind looked at each other and wondered what to say.

“Do I understand it right?” Marianna asked. “The ship, when it has no power… the rooms beyond this one… don’t exist.”

“Chrístõ explained it to me once,” Cassie said. “They sort of fold in on themselves dimensionally. They exist, but they don’t.”

“What would happen if they’re in a room when it folds in?” Julia asked.

“I never dared to ask him that,” Cassie answered.

The women all looked away from each other. None of them wanted to look each other in the eye right then, knowing what was in their minds.

“They’ll be all right,” Cirena said. “They have to be. They can’t die here. They just can’t. Oh, Penne. Why do you have to be so brave?”

“He gets it from Chrístõ,” Cassie told her. “He used to be a coward. But then Chrístõ took him in hand. I don’t think you’d have loved him before then, though. We didn’t really like him then. Chrístõ was the only one who had faith in him.”

“Then I suppose I shall have to love him as a hero. But it is so frightening.”

“I know,” Julia told her. “I worry about Chrístõ so much. But I am always proud of him.”

“You shouldn’t have to worry about such things,” Marianna told Julia. “This is EXACTLY what bothers your uncle and myself. You should have nothing to worry about except your homework and your gym club. I sometimes wonder if knowing Chrístõ is entirely the best thing.”

“Don’t say that,” Julia protested. “Don’t take him away from me. There are so many things that could do that. The work he does. The people who want to hurt him. If you try to come between us, I will never forgive you.”

“Don’t blame Chrístõ,” Bo said, looking at them both with her soft, almond eyes. “All of us are alive because of him. Every one of us.”

“That is true,” Cirena added. “The universe is not a safe, easy place. It has many dangers. But we are all much safer with Chrístõ in it.”

“You all have such faith in him,” Marianna said. “But…”

“There is no but,” Cassie insisted. “He is the best. The only thing wrong with Chrístõ is he still hasn’t mastered the idea of sexual equality. You notice that the men went to get the supplies while we waited behind.”

“Camilla went with them,” Marianna pointed out.

“Camilla isn’t exactly…” Julia began, then stopped. Marianna didn’t KNOW about Camilla’s unique ability. She thought Camilla was a respectable lady ambassador for her planet, and a suitable chaperone for when she was travelling with Chrístõ. She wasn’t sure what her aunt would say if she knew about Cam.

Or rather she knew exactly what she would say. Because her aunt came from Earth and lived on an Earth colony and really didn’t know much about other species, and she would never understand that when Camilla was Camilla, she was a magnificent woman and she WAS a suitable chaperone. And Kohb was deliriously in love with her. And when Cam was Cam he was a nice man who Kohb was still deliriously in love with.

No. Marianna would never understand that.

“Camilla isn’t exactly the sort of woman even Chrístõ can say no to,” Cirena finished. “She is a powerful lady. Chrístõ is a gentleman. His instinct is to protect us. And I am grateful. Equality is very well. But we are already equally in danger. Penne and I… what use is it to be a king and queen here and now? We are equal with all of you. Camilla and Chrístõ have no use of diplomatic credentials here. And men or women we must all do what we must with the skills we have.”

“Friend Chris…to… is coming,” intoned Humphrey, interrupting the philosophical discussion. At once they all became alert and ready. Julia held open the inner door as Chrístõ and Kohb came through pulling a huge sack of foodstuffs along with them. Penne followed with a large crate that he deposited on the console room floor before Cirena insisted on him sitting down. Terry and Camilla were not too far behind with bundles of blankets to make up beds. Then Sammie appeared. Even Chrístõ was startled by the sight of him laden with three P-90 automatic rifles and ammunition pouches slung over his shoulder.

“Where were THEY?” Chrístõ demanded. “I didn’t think I had anything more than a couple of French duelling pistols aboard the TARDIS. When I said weapons, I thought you were going to go to the dojo and pick up some swords.”

“I didn’t bring the pistols,” Sammie answered. “They’re antiques. I left these in the storeroom near the engine room ages ago. I knew they might be useful one of these days.”

“Maybe. But you should have told me. I’ve been making declarations at all kinds of borders and frontiers since you left, to say this is an unarmed ship. And you left an arsenal behind.”

“Hardly that,” Sammie countered. “But come on, Chrístõ. You said yourself we might need to protect ourselves. And battling desert lions with a sword is NOT what I’m trained for.”

“Ok, never mind,” Chrístõ conceded. “Come on. Let’s get a decent meal and a drink and then think about what’s next.”

He closed the door and went to the console. The solar energy was holding out, but it would be better to conserve it. He switched off the life support in the interior part of the TARDIS and let it collapse the dimension fields so that, effectively, the rooms beyond the door were not there, not using energy.

They made a picnic meal of bread and butter and cheese and fruit and drank as much as they could of fresh, cool orange juice. They would have to ration the food again later, but for now they revived their spirits with a picnic.

Afterwards another difficulty raised itself.

“Chrístõ,” Cassie said, electing herself to broach the subject. “Do you think you could squeeze another fifteen minutes of life support out of the solar panels so that we could all go and use the bathroom?”

“While we’re still in full daylight, yes,” he said. “The batteries will have recharged enough. But you might as well know, I don’t think we can store enough power for after the sun goes down. We have to be prepared for a cold, dark night with no bathroom facilities.”

“Just give us this one chance to go to the toilet in comfort and dignity,” Camilla told him. “Then we’ll figure out what we’re going to do for the night.”

Chrístõ agreed with that. He watched the energy levels and as soon as he thought there was enough to sustain them again for a short time he re-booted the life support. The TARDIS internal schematic told him that the rooms they were familiar with existed again.

They went in threes, as quickly as possible. Chrístõ was the last. As a Time Lord he COULD control such bodily functions just as he could control his breathing and his body temperature, but even he took advantage of the chance while he could.

When he got back to the console room and closed the inner door once more, he noticed Kohb and Sammie talking together. Sammie was examining a small hand compass.

“That won’t work,” Chrístõ told him. “The ferrous zirironite interferes with magnetic fields.”

“So I notice,” Sammie answered as he showed him the needle spinning around crazily. “But this is only one part of the desert. Beyond it, is just ordinary baking hot sand?”

“Yes,” Chrístõ conceded.

“Kohb tells me he is familiar with the constellations as they appear in the sky of the northern continent,” Sammie continued. “And I know how to work out directions using the sun. EVEN on a planet where the sun rises in the West and sets in the EAST.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ said again. “But I don’t see…”

“We can’t stay here indefinitely,” Sammie told him. “Nobody knows we’re here. They may think we’re dead. Me and Kohb, we carry what we can in the way of supplies, and a tent for shelter. We set off just before the sun goes down. We walk through the night. Forced march we can do seventy, maybe eighty miles. Rest up in the day. Set off again as soon as the evening is cool enough. You talked about oases. We’ll find those on the way. We get to civilisation…. Get help.”

“Count me in,” Penne said. “I’ve done desert trekking with Maestro. He STILL has this thing about me and endurance sports.”

“I should come,” Chrístõ said. “If we’re going to do this at all.”

“No,” Sammie insisted. “I’m the best qualified in desert survival. Kohb is going to navigate. Penne has Gallifreyan blood, too, and he can handle a weapon. YOU are staying here to look after the others.”

“Terry can…”

“I CAN’T handle weapons, and Camilla can’t guard all day and night,” Terry told them. Besides, let’s have ONE person who is native to this planet with us.”

“Apart from anything else,” Sammie added. “I need a man with medical experience to take care of my wife.”

“And mine,” Kohb said quietly.

All right,” Chrístõ conceded. “But all of you rest now. Especially you, Sammie. Even an SAS man is STILL only Human. Conserve your strength.”

There was sense in that. They rested while Chrístõ, with Camilla helping him, prepared the packs they would need. Food, water, warm clothes, tent, bedrolls. He checked two of the P-90s and divided the ammunition, keeping enough for his own use with the third one. As the sun was beginning to go lower and the hot, burning heat relented just a little, he woke them.

“Dark Territory is roughly here,” he said, showing them a rough map he had drawn while they slept. “Approximately two hundred and fifty miles east of here is the Capitol. Something like a hundred and fifty miles south-west is a small town, Capcorian. But we don’t know EXACTLY our position. It might be more like south-south-west and you could miss it and get lost. Besides, it is just a mining town in the desert. They couldn’t do much to help. If you go east, by the second night you ought to be able to see the glow of lights at night from the city. You can correct your course.”

“We’ll go east,” Sammie decided. “That’s going to take maybe three nights. And it’s going to be tough. Worse for you all here, maybe.”

“I wouldn’t want to choose. I’m sorry there isn’t a better map. We rely too much on computers. Sometimes a big piece of paper you can hold in your hand is a much better idea.”

“As long as Kohb is as good as he says he is, we can manage,” Sammie assured him. “We’d better get going soon.”

Sammie turned from their conference and went to his wife. They hugged and kissed for a long time. Penne did the same. So did Kohb. Camilla looked as if she might cling on and never let him go, but when she did, she smiled bravely at him. All three put on their packs and stepped out of the TARDIS. They waved once and then set off east, walking into the sunset. Chrístõ watched them for a long time from the door, his eyes protecting themselves from the red glow of the setting sun. Then he turned and looked at those he was left to look after. Marianna and Cirena were sitting with Bo as she lay quietly on the sofa. Camilla and Cassie were dividing the food stores into rations for a long wait. Three or four days for them to reach help. How long before rescuers came? HOW would they come if technology was neutralised in the Dark Territory?

“Tomorrow when the solar batteries are charged again I can get more food and water from within the TARDIS,” Chrístõ told them. We won’t starve or die of thirst.”

“We might freeze or bake or become lion lunch, though,” Cassie reminded him. “But it is good to know we have provisions. The TARDIS is still doing her best for us. Even though she’s wounded.”

“What will happen to the TARDIS when we’re rescued?” Cirena asked him. “Is it broken completely?”

“I hope not,” Chrístõ answered. “Oh, I do hope not.” He wished she hadn’t asked that question. He had tried not to ask it himself. He pushed it away to the back of his mind. He turned and looked at Julia. She was sitting by herself. No, not quite by herself. Humphrey was hovering by her like a pet dog. She was writing. He saw that she had the diary and pen set that Natalie gave her for her birthday.

“I’m putting everything in here,” she said. “I do everyday. Even if it’s just my scores at the ten pin bowling or a new ballet step. But now… If I write it all down… If we don’t make it, and we’re found… a long time after…. People will know what happened.”

“Do you really think it’s as bad as that?” he asked her.

“No,” she admitted. “I know you’ll do your best. And so will Penne and Kohb and Sammie. But… just in case. Anyway, if we are all right, in years to come, this will be interesting to read back. About how we managed.”

“That’s more like it,” Chrístõ told her. “Keep thinking that way.”

The picture of their future she had first outlined was all too real. Death coming to them little by little from exposure to cold and baking heat alternatively, their bodies simply carrion for those wild animals he feared more and more as the sun went down. He had to hope they could hold out for as long as it took.

He went to look at Bo. She worried him more than any of them. This was not good for her. But she seemed to be managing well, so far. When he asked her if she wanted any more orange juice she shook her head.

“I don’t need all this extra looking after,” she assured him. “You and Sammie are the same. You treat me as a delicate flower. I come from Henang Province. There the summers are hot and the winters freezing. And women have babies all the time.”

“Maybe so, but you are precious to us all. And so is your child. Let us protect you as far as we can.”

“All right,” she conceded. “But really there is no need.”

“Then let us do it because we love you,” Chrístõ told her, kissing her hand. “Our precious Bo.”

Julia watched him with her and smiled. She had no need to be jealous because he loved Bo as a precious friend. There was enough of his love to go around.

“Camilla?” Chrístõ turned from Bo and looked at her. “Why did Kohb think YOU needed my medical attention? I never gave it a thought when he said it. There were so many other things to think about. But…”

“I am incubating,” she admitted. “It is early. No more than six weeks.”

“What!” It was Mariana who reacted to the news first. “Oh, my dear. You mean you are pregnant, too?”

Camilla, the beautiful temptress who could throw any man into confusion with her seductive smile and her natural pheromones, blushed.

“Congratulations,” Cassie told her. “Kohb must be happy.”

“Yes,” she replied. “He’s thrilled.

Chrístõ looked at Camilla and knew there was a question he had to ask her. But not now.


It was Penne who asked Kohb the question. As they walked steadily they talked, and he gladly shared Camilla’s news with his friends.

“That’s terrific,” Sammie told him. “Thrilled for the both of you.”

“Same here,” Penne told him. “But… Kohb… Are you sure… I know about Gendermorphs. There’s a Haollstromnian consulate in Ambrado city. I thought…”

“It’s not my baby, biologically,” Kohb admitted. “I know that. I understand that. But… We decided between us that we WANTED a child. And that we would both be its parents.”

“That’s unusual for Camilla’s species, too,” Penne said. “Monogamy. And I say that as somebody who also found the concept difficult at first.”

“But you love Cirena,” Kohb told him. “As I love Camilla.”

“Here’s to love,” Sammie said. “Button up tight. It’ll be sundown in another half hour and it gets cold fast in the desert.”


It got cold fast in the TARDIS, too. And it got dark. Chrístõ was prepared for that. He turned on one of the battery lamps kept in the storage cupboard under the console. He found something else, too. A box of heat pillows; small packets of raw wheat and aromatic herbs sewn into soft fabric pillows. They were meant to be placed in a microwave oven and heated up to be used for the relief of aches and pains. They didn’t have a microwave, but he did have his sonic screwdriver. And because it was sonic, and didn’t need a battery, it still worked. They all put the pillows in their pockets and under their clothes and felt comforted by them. The sonic screwdriver worked to heat up a pan of soup, too, to give everyone a warming drink. Things could have been worse, they all reflected.

“We’ll have to conserve the lights,” he said as he made sure everyone was tucked in under warm blankets. “Best thing is for everyone to get to sleep as soon as possible.”

“Are you going to sleep, Chrístõ?” Julia asked.

“I’m taking first watch at the door,” he answered and in the lamplight they all saw him check the magazine in the P-90 and look down the night sight. He took up a position by the door and made himself comfortable. After a while, it went quiet inside the TARDIS and it got noisy outside. He heard the roars of desert lions, and in the night air he couldn’t start to guess how far away they were.

He looked around. There was just enough light for him to see the silhouettes of his sleeping friends. Julia was snuggled next to Marianna and Cirena. Bo and Camilla had fallen asleep together talking about babies and Terry had covered them both up before he and Cassie settled down. Everyone was all right.

He heard a roar that really WAS closer. He stood up and went to the door frame. There were stars, and the moon was up. Pazithi Gallifreya. The big, beautiful moon of Gallifrey. It made it brighter outside than it was inside the TARDIS. And he could see shapes moving. The lions were hunting. He held the gun ready. It felt strange to have such a weapon in his hands. It was heavy, cold metal. It felt, as it should, like something deadly. He felt the responsibility that went with such a weapon.

The lions WERE coming closer. Whether they had the scent of their presence here, or they were in their usual hunting place, he didn’t know. But they WERE coming closer. He tightened his grip on the gun. He prepared himself to have to use it.

He was startled to hear the sound of another gun, far off. Maybe several miles away. The sound had carried on the night air.

It was another P90, he was sure. That meant that Sammie must have had reason to shoot. They were at risk from the wildlife, too, of course.

He saw the first lion starting to approach. It was coming slowly, crouching low, stalking its prey.

HE was its prey. It had HIS scent.

He fired the gun in the air, and the lion bolted. So did the pack behind it. He was relieved. He didn’t have to kill anything. The sound of the weapon was enough.

“Chrístõ?” Terry spoke his name. When he looked around, though, everyone was sitting up, watching him.

“It’s all right,” he assured them, and he told them what he had done. “Go back to sleep. It’s all right.”

“You expect us to SLEEP after THAT?” Marianna exclaimed. “Knowing there are wild animals THAT close to us!”

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered. “Sleep. You will feel the cold less. Don’t worry. I’m here. I won’t let anything happen to any of you.”


“That was a good shot,” Penne told Sammie as they walked on. Behind them, they could still hear the growls and tearing of flesh as the lion pack they had run into fought over the meat of the one Sammie had shot.

“They’ll feed on the dead one. We have time to get clear of their hunting ground. Are we still going in the right direction, Kohb?”

“Yes,” he answered. “As long as that bright star is ahead of us we’re going due east. It’s the Eastern Star. The Lord Protector of Gallifrey, it is called in legends.”

“I hope it’ll protect us,” Penne said. Then he looked around, startled, as another gunshot rang out, behind them.

“They’re in trouble,” he said, and looked as if he was about to run back.

“We keep going,” Sammie told him, staying his arm. “Chrístõ has the same problem we do with animals. He was probably scaring them off.”

“My wife is back there,” he said. “I shouldn’t have left her.”

“MY wife is there, too,” Sammie reminded him. “And Kohb’s. The best we can do for them is keep going.”

“Yes,” Penne conceded. “You’re right.” He turned and looked towards the East. “How long before we have a chance of seeing any lights ahead?”

“Not tonight,” Sammie told him. “Keep walking. Kohb, what about these Outlanders Chrístõ mentioned?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “They might even be a myth. Tribes living beyond the cities? And the idea of Time Lords abandoning their life of technology to live with them in this nothingness seems… unlikely.”

“Mmm.” Sammie thought about it for a while as they walked at a pace he would have called forced march. He was setting the pace. He wanted to put as many miles behind them as possible this first night, when they were reasonably fresh. It stood to reason that they would be slower the more they endured the desert conditions. If they made at least seventy miles this night then they would have made a good start.

“On Adano,” Penne said after a while. “We have technology. But nobody had any desire to abandon it.”

“Do you have tribes who live in the wilderness?”

“No,” Penne said. “Everyone shares the bounty of our prosperity.”

“We have desert tribes on Earth. In the Sahara, the biggest desert in North Africa, people live in tents and travel from oasis to oasis with their camels. They don’t use technology. They have a lifestyle of their own. They use guns only for the same reasons we have them now. To protect themselves. They seem to be pretty much ok. Leave them alone they leave you alone. But the people with the technology and the degrees in anthropology are interested in them. They make TV programmes about them and write books. They don’t pretend they are mythological.”

“You don’t understand Time Lords,” Kohb answered.

“Granted,” Sammie answered with a note of sarcasm. “Does anyone?”

“Not me,” Penne admitted. “And I AM one.”

“Time Lords believe in themselves. They believe in their own greatness and superiority over everything else in the universe,” Kohb said. “So if one of them decided he would rather live in a desert and hunt for meat and draw water from a well he dug with his own bare hands, and wear clothes he wove himself from naturally growing hemp, he is saying, “No, you’re not the greatest and your way of life is not the best.” It is admitting that something may not be completely right about their society, that the core of it isn’t rotten with corruption and elitism.”

“Who’d be a Time Lord?” Sammie said in reply to that.

“I always thought I wanted to be,” Kohb said. “I ached with the longing to rise above my status and be one of them. A Prince of the Universe.”

“Chrístõ could help you do that,” Penne told him. “He could mentor you. He did it for me.”

“No,” Kohb answered. “I think… I think I know where my destiny lies now.”

His companions said nothing. But they both understood. Time Lord society had no attraction for him now because he had Camilla.