“What’s that up ahead?” Penne asked. It was almost daylight. The sky was starting to lighten behind them. It was possible to see more than just shadows in the dark.

“It looks like…” Kohb hardly dared to hope. “Trees?”

“An oasis?”

“Oh, I hope so,” Sammie murmured. “I hope so.”

They were tired. They had walked all night. But the hope gave them impetus. As they got closer they could see it WAS trees. Not huge ones. Scrubby, low trees, but they WERE trees.

“There’s water,” Kohb cried out. “Look. You can see it.”

It’s a bloody miracle,” Sammie said. “But go carefully. This is where the lions come to drink, too, remember.”

There were no lions there, though. Only a deep pond of water. Clear water that must have come from a table far, far beneath the desert, breaking out in this point. Sammie knelt and tasted the water. It seemed ok. He scooped up a handful and drank it. After two days of lukewarm water from the camelbacks and the plastic reservoirs it was good to taste cold water. He washed his face and hands with it, too and that felt heavenly.

“We’ll rest an hour here,” he said. “Then fill our containers and I think we ought to try walking through the morning. We’ll camp when it really DOES get too hot.”

Penne and Kohb looked at him. The thought of maybe eight or nine hours more of walking, some of it in the heat of day, wasn’t a great prospect. But the further they could get, the closer they were to getting help for their loved ones. They all three of them thought of their women left behind for a brief moment. Then they all made up their minds. They would put as many miles as they could between them and their lovers before they gave in.

They took their hour and then they made a start. The full water containers seemed to add a weight to their load, but it was one they gladly accepted. It allowed them to carry on moving.

“Wow!” Kohb exclaimed suddenly. Penne gasped, too.


“I think we’re outside the ‘Dark Territory’,” Kohb said. “I felt, suddenly, as if…”

“As if a weight was taken off me,” Penne added. “We didn’t even realise it, until it was gone. The metal in the ground there… it did more than affect the TARDIS. It was affecting us, too.”

“I can reach you telepathically,” Kohb said to Penne, telepathically.

“Yes,” Penne answered. “I didn’t even realise we weren’t doing it.”

“Chrístõ hasn’t been able to use his telepathy for a while. I got used to not doing it.”

“Hey, you two,” Sammie called out loud. “See that.”

They both looked. On the horizon ahead of them, where it was still quite dark yet, they could see an orange glow. It was no more than a thin line, but they knew what it was.

“It’s the city,” Kohb said. “We’ve gone at least a hundred and sixty miles. More than half way. And we can SEE the city now.”

“We’re on schedule and we’re on course,” Sammie said. “We just need to keep going.”


Terry let everyone sleep long after dawn. He took a turn at the door, holding the heavy gun nervously but trying to look as if he knew what to do. As the sun got higher he knew they were less likely to be threatened by animals. He could be as good a watch as anyone who actually knew how to fire the gun.

He looked around at his friends. Julia was stretched beside Chrístõ. Marianna had lain down next to her, protecting and comforting her. Camilla and Bo, the two pregnant ladies kept close together. So did Cassie. They all looked after each other.

They all woke slowly around about nine o’clock by Gallifreyan time. Cassie and Bo prepared breakfast. Julia didn’t want to eat. Marianna made her. Camilla brought him some food and asked if he wanted her to relieve him.

“No,” he said. “I’ll stay here. For now. I feel like I’m doing something useful here.”

“They’ve been gone two nights. They’re only halfway. And even if… even WHEN they get there, somebody has to get back and find us.”

“Yes,” Terry said. “We could be here for days still.”

“It’s hard not to get discouraged. Especially now. Chrístõ… Can he wait it out?”

“I don’t know. We just have to hope. Chrístõ is special to you, isn’t he?”

“Might have been if he wasn’t already mad about Julia.”

“Go and sit with her. I don’t know if he can hear anything in that state. But try. Talk to him. The way people do for coma patients.”

“I’ll do that,” she said.

Terry turned back to his watch. The sunlight was glaring. It made his eyes ache to keep focussing on the scene. And he was fairly sure the animals that posed a threat to them wouldn’t be around in the hot part of the day. But he stayed put and kept watch anyway. He was sure Chrístõ would do it if he could. And he was determined not to let him down.


Sammie kept his eyes focussed on the horizon. He was sure as the light grew and they kept on walking that he could actually see the city. A dark line on the horizon that wasn’t just more rock. He focussed on it and willed it to become more substantial, to actually look like something real, something more than a mirage. He knew they were still a hundred miles away and it would take another two nights of walking to get there. But if they could see their goal, it would help.

By an hour before midday, though, with the sun beating down directly, and the ground beneath their feet roasting, they had to stop. They put up the tent and got into its welcome shade. They ate a meal and drank water and prepared to sleep.

“We’re going to take one hour watches,” Sammie decided. “We’re going to get four hours sleep and then get going again.”

“When it’s still hot?”

“Yes,” he said. “The way we started out is too slow. We have to do more. We have to get on. For them. I don’t have telepathy like you guys do. But I feel… gut instinct. They can’t afford for us to wait out a whole day in here.”

“Ok,” Penne told him. “If YOU think you can do it. You’re Human. We’re Gallifreyan. We have better constitutions, more stamina anyway. You’re the weakest link here.”

“Like hell I am,” Sammie retorted. “I beat Chrístõ in the Coronula VIII Race of Fortitude. Chrístõ has the runners up medal in the TARDIS. Time Lord stamina against the SAS. You just watch me.”


They were singing. Terry turned and looked as the women all sat around where Chrístõ lay still and frozen, unchanged, with frost on his lips even though the rest of them were sweating with the midday heat. They were all taking it in turns to sing. Julia sang “When I’m 64.” Cassie sang “Across the Universe” again. Terry remembered Chrístõ’s expression when she sang it last night. If he could hear anything, maybe not with his ears, but with his soul, he would hear that. And he would hear when they all sang together “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

He turned back to the door and nearly had a heart attack as he saw a face looking back at him. He reached for the gun but he fumbled and dropped it.

“Stay back,” he said as the others stopped singing and stared. “Keep away from us. Whoever you are.”

It was a man. A tall, thin man, aged, maybe about fifty. Or at least in Earth years. He remembered that they were on Gallifrey and people could be thousands of years old and look middle aged.

He was tall, thin, and his head was shaved and tattooed. Terry thought his whole body might be tattooed with blue swirling symbols. He was wearing an animal skin loincloth like tarzan and had a sort of bag slung around his shoulder and that was all.

He put his finger to his lips. Terry watched his face in fascination.

“You look like you need help,” the man said in a flawless and educated accent. Terry had expected grunts and monosyllables. He pushed the barricade with, it seemed, almost no effort. Terry, perched on top of the chair, found himself pushed aside as the man forced himself in. He felt unable to do anything to stop him.

“You’re a… a…. Sheboogan?” Cassie remembered the word Chrístõ and Kohb had both used.

“I prefer Outlander. Sheboogan is a derisory term used by the city dwellers.”

“Whatever,” Terry answered. “We… Yes. We need help. Can you help us? You’re not… not cannibals or… you don’t want sacrifices…”

“Sweet mother of Chaos!” the man swore. “What do they TEACH children these days?”

“We’re not children,” Terry protested. “I’m…”

“You’re in trouble. Your TARDIS crashed in Dark Territory.”

“Not my TARDIS,” Terry said. “His…” He pointed to Chrístõ. “He’s hurt. He was bitten by a… What was it…” He looked at Cassie.

“A Red Scorpion Snake,” she said. “Do you… can you…”

“He’s in deep level trance now?” The man moved forward. He bent and examined Chrístõ, paying attention to the purple, poisoned bruise on his leg.

“Can you help him?” Julia asked. “Are you…”

“Are you one of those Time Lords who abandoned the city life?” Camilla asked.

“I am the leader of a tribe of nomadic people who make a simple living in the desert,” he answered. “That is all.”

“You’re a Time Lord. You have the skills…” Bo said to him. “You could go into his body with your mind and force the poison out. Like… Like he did for me once.”

“I need to bring him up from this deep trance first,” the stranger said. He knelt by Chrístõ’s side and put his hands on his forehead. Camilla stood and took Julia by the hand and brought her away. Bo stood with her. The three of them all loved Chrístõ in different ways. They let themselves hope that he was going to be all right as the stranger closed his eyes and concentrated. They watched as Chrístõ’s body began to look less cold. But he did still look terribly ill. As his blood flowed again, so did the paralysing venom.

But the stranger was reaching in and finding the poison and fighting it. They saw beads of sweat on his tattooed face as he concentrated. Then they saw Chrístõ’s body take on a strange texture like purple chalk. They knew what it meant. The poison was coming out of him.

“A lot of damage has been done already,” the stranger said. “He’s still sick. Do you have medicines?”

“We’ve got these,” Cassie said, showing him the medical kit. The stranger looked at the proprietary names on the drugs and laughed derisorily. Then he opened the bag he carried and took out a handful of what looked like pieces of tree bark and leaves.

“Boil these in water. Give him some of it to drink. Soak a cloth and wash his body with the rest. Then wait. He’ll either recover or he’ll die.”

The stranger stood and turned away to leave. Terry approached him.

“Thank you,” he said. “For what you have done for our friend. What… you never told us your name.”

“You don’t need to know my name,” he answered. “I’m a Sheboogan. I hope your friend lives. I hope the city people come for you in time. My people are camped on the ridge behind your ‘cave’. When the sun goes down we will move on. We won’t be around when the rescuers come.”

“We don’t know if there will be rescuers,” Terry said.

“We don’t have videophones,” the stranger said. “But we have ways of communicating. Your other friends are closer to the city than they think they are.”

Terry would have liked to have asked him about that cryptic comment. But the stranger leapt over their barricade in one single, athletic bound and was gone. He went back to his guard duty while Cassie set to work boiling the leaves, making a pungent liquid that they managed to get Chrístõ to swallow a little of. Then they bathed him. That is to say Cassie and Camilla bathed him. Marianna made Julia sit well away as they stripped his clothes and rubbed the liquid all over his body before putting fresh, clean clothes on him and wrapping him tight in blankets. Only then was she allowed to return to her vigil by his side.


The travellers struck camp and got ready to set off again. As they did so, they discovered something strange. Sitting in the middle of the path they were about to take was a large earthenware pot, the same colour as the sand. Sammie approached it carefully. It was an indication that somebody had been there. In the Kuwaiti desert he would have assumed it was a trap by hostiles. Maybe a concealed bomb. But here…

“It’s water,” he reported. “Somebody left water.”

“For us?” Penne asked. “Who, and why?”

“The Sheboogans,” Kohb said. “Because they think we need it.”

“Well…” Sammie looked around cautiously. He thought he saw a movement, for a microsecond, that might have been somebody darting behind a rock outcrop. “Well, it’s clean water. And we need it. Fill your reservoirs. Then let’s go.”


The afternoon turned to evening. Camilla finally persuaded Terry to come and rest and she took up the duty for a while. He told her to wake him in a few hours, but she didn’t. As night fell Cirena took over the watch from her and she went and lay down to sleep. A few hours after that Cassie took over from her.

“We haven’t had any animals come close tonight,” Cirena told her. “I wonder…”

“He said they would be moving off at sundown.”

“He might have lied. I thought I heard a sound like a longbow arrow in the air a while ago. I think they’re out there still, protecting us.”

“I guess Sheboogans are nice people, after all.”

“It seems so.”


The city lights were becoming more and more distinct. They could see that it WAS a city ahead of them, now. They could make out the tops of the tallest towers by the lights on them. But distinct though it was, it refused to get any closer. It still lurked on the horizon, and in many ways the sight of it still so far away was more disheartening than when they had no clear idea of where they were.

“Keep going,” Penne said. “We have to keep going.”

“Damn right, we keep going,” Sammie responded. “I’m not giving up. Bo needs me to do this. Our baby needs me to do it.”

They kept going. There was nothing else they COULD do. They kept going towards the orange glow of the city where rescue could be sent to the ones they had left behind.


Chrístõ woke slowly. It was nearly daylight.

“I fell asleep?” he asked. “I didn’t mean to do that. Is it my turn to keep watch?”

“It’s not your turn to do anything,” Camilla told him. “You’re sick. It’s official. I took your temperature before. You’re way above normal for a Human, let alone a Time Lord.”

“Where’s Julia?” he asked. “What happened?”

“Julia is right beside you, asleep. Don’t wake her. She sat by you nearly all night but it was too much. She flaked right out an hour ago. What happened was you nearly died and scared the hell out of us for twenty-six hours.” Camilla told him what his mind had blanked out. He was stunned to discover he had a day missing in his memory. He checked his body clock and yes, he could feel the discrepancy.

“I lost a day. That means Sammie and the others are further than I thought. It might not be so long now.”

“It’s long enough. So just you lie there and be quiet. Terry is in charge. And he’s doing fine.”

“Terry?” Chrístõ thought about that and smiled. Yes, he could trust Terry. It was all right. He could afford to go back to sleep. He felt he wanted to very much.


“Oh my!” Sammie murmured as the dawn lightened. They had been aware of the lights of the city growing more distinct in the latter part of the night. But now for the first time as he looked at it properly he felt hopeful.

“It can’t be more than fifty miles,” Penne said.

“We could walk that,” Kohb added. “Let’s not stop. Keep going. We can make it.”

They all agreed. Fifty miles would take them all day. It would take them right through the hottest part of the day, and they had already walked all night.

But for the sake of their loved ones, they would do it.


For their loved ones it was another long, slow day. Terry, when he woke, risked a walk outside. He found the place where the Outlanders had camped. It was VERY close to them. He found the remains of several animals, stripped of flesh, bones gnawed, and wooden arrows near by. The tribe HAD kept the wildlife at bay last night. They didn’t want to be associated with them except in respect of saving Chrístõ’s life. But they protected them. He walked back to the TARDIS and told his friends.

“But they’re gone now?” Cassie asked him.


“We can’t thank them.”

“I don’t think they asked for thanks. They just did what they could to stop us dying out here.”

“Chrístõ is still quite weak. He needs better food, and a proper bed. Medicines.”

“We don’t have any of those things. Chrístõ just has to hang on like the rest of us.”

For how long? He still expected it to be days yet. Long days of waiting. Even if Sammie reached the city tomorrow morning, as he estimated, it was still going to be a long time. And how WOULD they be rescued from a place where technology didn’t work?


They pushed on, and on. The sun rose higher. It got hotter. Their feet were burning. They were thirsty and hot. They drank all the water they had. They kept walking, hour after hour, towards the city. The sun reflected off the white buildings and blinded them but they kept focussed on it. They kept walking through the hottest part of the day in a daze. Half-sleep-walking from tiredness, the heat making it all the harder. But they kept going.

“What’s that?” Penne asked. “Something ahead.”

“Looks like a tank,” Sammie murmured.

“Transporter,” Kohb answered. “For Chancellery Guard. When they’re outside the city.”

“They coming for us?” Sammie asked.

“Yes,” Penne said as the strange vehicle stopped and armed men in the ridiculous looking uniform of the Gallifreyan police poured out. The sunlight dazzled off their shiny helmets and breastplates. But Penne walked towards them. “You’ve done your job, Sammie. You got us across the desert. Now it’s mine.” And he drew himself up tall and proud and spoke to the Guard.

“I am Penne Dúre, First Patriarch of the House of Dúre, Time Lord of Gallifrey, King-Emperor of Adano-Ambrado,” he managed in a commanding voice of authority before he wobbled dizzily. Kohb and Sammie reached him before he fainted from exhaustion. But the Chancellery Guard, as stupid looking as they were, had understood the situation. They were reaching to help, opening up the cool, air conditioned personnel carrier and lifting Penne into it.

“We made it,” Sammie thought as he let somebody sit him on a soft, padded seat and fasten a seatbelt around him.


It was late evening. The sun was going down and it would be dark in another hour. Terry was on watch again. The women were taking turns to look after Chrístõ. Apart from that one lucid moment that Camilla reported earlier in the day he had slept most of the time. They had managed to wake him long enough to eat and drink, but mostly he had slept. They had to hope that the sleep was a sign of him getting better, his body fixing itself slowly as he rested.

Then something distracted him outside. He stared. He called out and brought Cassie to his side.

“Do you see that, too? Or have I started hallucinating?”

“I think so,” she answered. “What do you see?”

“It looks like a silver flying saucer,” he answered.

“That’s what I saw, too.” He began to pull the barricade aside and the two of them ran outside, looking up at the saucer. It had come from the East, where the city was. It HAD to be help.

It circled around and hovered over them. It wasn’t big. There could only be one person inside.

It made almost no engine noise. Just a low, electric hum.

“It works by solar power,” Terry guessed. “That’s why it can get here, across the Dark Territory.”

“Look,” Cassie cried out and they turned and saw something coming across the desert. It, too, was silver with solar panels on every surface. And as it got closer they could see that it was a large vehicle. The size of lorry. And they could hear only a hum as it hovered a few feet above the surface.

It stopped and three men in the sort of clothes paramedics might wear got out. A fourth man climbed out. They knew him at once. Chrístõ’s father. They both ran to him, Cassie reaching him first and hugging him as if he was her own father. She was just so glad to see him.


Chrístõ was oblivious to anything for a long time. He woke finally and stared up at the ceiling of his own bedroom. He thought he was dreaming. He had thought of home so often, longed to see it again. And now he was dreaming about it.

“Hey.” He turned his head and looked at Penne, sitting in an easy chair next to him. “Do you know what time is it?”

“No,” he admitted. “What time is it?”

“It’s time you were awake, sleepy-head. You were brought home hours ago. You’ve had medicine to shift the last of the neurotoxin from your body. They said you’d be fine now.”

“How… were we rescued?” he asked. “And… where’s Julia? Is she…”

Julia is fine. Everyone is fine. Sammie has some blisters where he didn’t think it was possible to have blisters and everyone is tired and a bit malnourished. But we’re all fine. Julia is not far away. But her aunt said that now we’re in civilised company she can’t be in the room where you’re sleeping.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s right,” he admitted. “But I want to see her soon. Whether her aunt likes it or not. You didn’t answer my other question.”

“Oh,” Penne said. “Apparently your people are a lot smarter than we gave them credit for. They’ve been developing solar powered transport in order to get into the Dark Territory. Not so they can rescue you, I might add. They see the financial advantage of mining ferrous zirironite. I think I’m probably going to be meeting with the Treasury Ministers at some point to see if I want to make a trade agreement for the stuff.”

“Do you?” Chrístõ asked.

“Not bloody likely,” he answered. “I’ve seen enough of it. Your TARDIS is in the repair depot, by the way. They used one of their experimental mining vehicles to transport it. Your father told them they weren’t to mess with anything that wasn’t broken. You want it back the way it was. And you’re not interested in any upgrades.”

“Ok,” he said. “Did they… do you know what caused us to crash. WAS it a missile?”

“No,” Penne answered. “A pure accident. There’s a Transduction Barrier traffic controller with a serious reprimand and a suspension from duty. He let another TARDIS OUT as WE were coming in. Head on collision. The other one landed safely a mile away from the city. We disappeared off the radar. They didn’t know where to start looking. Nobody even THOUGHT of the Dark Territory.”

“Good,” Chrístõ said. “I am so tired of people TRYING to bloody well kill me. An accident. I can live with that. Just so long as it doesn’t affect my no claims bonus.”

He was about to say something else about that. But the door opened and Julia ran into the room, chaperoned by Marianna and Valena.

Penne left them to it.