The dark green car was parked in a narrow lane under a row of trees so overgrown that they hung right over the crumbling wall marking the border of the property. The car was almost camouflaged by the greenery.

The slender young woman who climbed the wall under the cover of the same over-hanging trees wasn’t camouflaged at all, dressed as she was in a long white robe with a golden sunrise symbol on the front. It was testament to her youthful agility that she managed to scale the wall so easily in such an awkward costume. The careful way she adjusted the robe once she was standing on the pavement owed more to her father – a headmaster who always insisted on neat dress.

She got into the front passenger seat of the car. The driver offered her a cigarette.

“I don’t smoke,” Rani told her editor, Keith Longmire. “And if you’re going to, I think you ought to open the window while I’m talking to you. Quite apart from this car technically being a workplace for both of us, if they smell cigarettes on my clothes, they’ll know I’ve been out of bounds.”

“They’re that strict, huh?” Keith answered. “Looks like investigating this lot was a good idea, after all.”

“Not really, they just don’t approve of harmful substances in the body,” Rani told him. “Neither do I. that’s why I don’t smoke.”

Keith decided to put out his cigarette for now.

“So far there hasn’t been anything wrong,” Rani continued. “Yes, they’re a closeted order. But the Catholic church has those and nobody thinks they’re strange. The daily routine is meditation and chanting, mostly in the open air, and ascetic meals – wholesome things like rice and pulses that purify the body. No meat, no processed food with additives. In that respect it’s like a health farm.”

“But this pagan religion – the worship of Mithra, the child of Sol-Invictus, born as a man from a Virgin – it has Christians hot under the collar. At the very least the Virgin birth bit is plagiaristic.”

“If you look at it from their point of view, since paganism is far older than Christianity, they might have the high ground about plagiarism. There is some evidence that early Christians got the idea from them.”

Her editor looked scandalised by the idea that Jesus Christ was a copy of a pagan myth. Rani nodded in understanding. She had met many people within the Community of Mithra who had found it hard to let go of the western Chrístõ-Judeo teachings that were at the heart of British life.

“It’s really only strange if you ARE a Christian,” she explained patiently. “Which is why I was a good choice for this assignment. I think you’ve forgotten because I dress in western style, that my family are Indian.”

The editor had overlooked that point. He murmured an apology for his unconscious racism.

“Hinduism takes many gods for granted. In fact, there is a Vedic deity called Mitra, the household god of vegetable fertility – he makes plants grow. My mother has a small silver statue on a shelf in the shop. My grandmother gave it to her to ensure the flowers are always fresh. Mitra is also worshipped as a sun god, greeted with dawn prayers. It’s similar enough to this pagan Mithra - just another way of interpreting the same thing.”

“So what you’re saying is a cult set itself up in an old abbey in Ealing, gathered a hundred ordinary young people into its closeted life, and yet there’s nothing remotely strange about it? It’s all just saffron rice and alternative lifestyle?”

“You’re disappointed. What did you expect?”

“Something a bit more Dennis Wheatley, I suppose,” Keith answered. “Midnight sabbats, dancing skyclad….”

Skyclad was a romantic word for ‘naked’. Rani shot him a look that said it all. He changed tack.

“Maybe I ought to pull you out. It looks like there’s no story after all.”

“What’s wrong with a story about a minor religion that isn’t doing anyone any harm?” Rani argued. “Christians, Muslims, Hindus, even Buddhists, have their extremists who have caused problems in this world. But the followers of Mithra haven’t declared holy war on anyone. They have no suicide bombers. They haven’t set themselves alight in protest at anything. A religion that really is about what is good and pure in mankind could be a breath of fresh air.”

“It would make more of a story if naïve young people were being brainwashed,” Keith admitted. “But I’ll trust your judgement. When do you want to check in with me again?”

“I don’t. I signed up for a four week retreat. I’ll see you when I’m finished. All this cloak and dagger stuff just doesn’t feel right. I’m not a prisoner over that wall. It’s just that cutting ourselves off from the distractions of the outside world – television, internet, the false cults of celebrity and fashion – helps to be one with what is truly important.”

“Ourselves?” Keith looked at her curiously. “Rani, you’re not really one of them. You’re working undercover for a story. Don’t get too involved.”

“Don’t get paranoid,” Rani answered. She opened the car door and slipped out. Keith watched her climb back over the wall before he closed the windows and lit a cigarette. Moments later he drove away.

Rani walked casually around the extensive grounds of the old Abbey. Walking and meditating on the beauty of nature was encouraged. She took her time coming back to the formal gardens where the Mithrans were engaged in their morning activities. That wasn’t just because she wanted to be sure nobody saw her come back over the wall. She wanted to think about what her editor had said.

He didn’t understand, of course. Very few people did. For the most part it literally was because of the way Christianity had permeated British life. Even people who didn’t go to church, and who would probably put ‘atheist’ on any census form had, at the back of their minds, a hazy idea that Christianity was the ‘proper’ religion, and anything else cranky, culty, weird. They tolerated the faiths of the immigrant populations – Islam, Hinduism and the rest because if they didn’t they were perceived as racist, but those faiths were alien to their thinking and they would never really understand them.

They certainly didn’t understand Mithraism. They heard the word ‘pagan’ and put it on a par with the Druids who turned up twice a year at Stonehenge for the solstices.

Apart from that nugget of knowledge about Mitra who kept the flowers fresh in her mother’s shop, Rani hadn’t been much better informed two weeks ago when she came to the Abbey to investigate the ‘weird cult’ that had set up there.

Funnily enough, it wasn’t her first time investigating the Abbey. This was the very same place where the Sisters who worshipped the Gorgon had plotted world domination. Released from the evil creature’s thrall they had gone back to being ordinary nuns, but the memory of what had happened sat uncomfortably on them and they had abandoned the Abbey for other convents. It had been empty until the Mithrans had bought it and opened its doors to those seeking an alternative to the stresses of modern life.

She had been sceptical, expecting to find a money-making scam or some kind of sinister brain-washing cult that she could expose in the newspaper she worked for.

Instead, it had been an interesting experience. She liked the toxin free diet. She enjoyed the group meditation. She had found the lectures about the history of paganism and the mythology of Sol Invictus and Mithra interesting. She had spent extra time in the library studying the similarities between Mithraism and other religions.

She had even enjoyed getting up at dawn and taking part in the open air worship of the sun as it rose over Ealing.

And she had seen nothing that was in any way WRONG about it all.

“Rani, my sister in the light,” said a pleasant voice. She turned to see Sister Iris who was leader of the female acolytes. There was very little sense of ‘hierarchy’ in the Community, but Brother Peter, the founder, and Sister Iris who was his first convert, took a kind of parental role for the acolytes until they learnt their way around and found their purpose among the Community.

Iris was a very beautiful women in her mid-forties, with long golden hair, green eyes and very fair skin that didn’t seem to tan in any way despite the amount of time she spent meditating in the full sunlight.

“Hello,” she answered, not looking one little bit guilty about her truancy. “I was just walking around the gardens. They are lovely.”

“All part of Sol Invictus’s great bounty,” Iris answered.

“Yes, of course. Sunlight to make things grow.”

A stray thought crossed her mind. The parts of the world where the sun was hottest were the least fertile – the deserts and drought-torn plains of Africa, for instance, or the rural parts of India that so often featured in Oxfam adverts. But that was so contrary to all she had been learning here that she pushed it down again.

“We are lucky to be surrounded by such beauty,” Iris added. “Peter found us a magnificent home, here.”

“How did he afford it?” Rani asked. The question was one her journalist mind formed, but she tried to ask it in a nonchalant way. “I mean… I remember seeing the Abbey advertised in the property section of the Ealing Gazette. It was going for MILLIONS. Is he rich?”

Iris looked at her curiously for a moment, as if the concept of money was anathema to her, before answering the question.

“Peter’s family were well-off. When he inherited the fortune he sought a way to glorify Mithra and provide a fitting sanctuary for those who shared his vision. He put everything he had into this place for our benefit.”

“That was kind of him,” Rani commented. Of course, that would be an easy matter to check up on. If she couldn’t trace that inheritance and the purchase of the Abbey through her newspaper contacts, Mr Smith could certainly find the information.

But she was thinking like a journalist, again. She really didn’t WANT to check up on them. Among all this beauty, safe within the walls of the Abbey, she really just wanted to enjoy the peace and serenity of it all.

“I shall leave you to your walk,” Iris said. “Mithra’s peace be upon you, my sister.”

“And you, sister.” They both made a gesture with their hands pressed together in front of their faces before parting. Iris walked toward the Abbey itself. Rani continued her walk.

She came presently to a sun-drenched lawn surrounded by clipped box hedges where some of her friends were performing a kind of meditation crossed with calisthenics.

She slipped quietly into the group and joined in the slow, graceful movements of the body and the mantra of health that went with it. The combination of physical exercise and mental concentration made her feel good. All the stresses of life fell away - every worry, every anxiety. She felt happy in a way she could not remember being happy in her life.

It was lunch time when the meditation was over. She followed the other acolytes into the dining room once used by the nuns, now filled with smiling, fresh-faced young people who had spent their morning in peaceful prayer or spiritually uplifting exercise. They chatted among themselves as they queued for their portion of delicately flavoured rice soup and unleavened bread and found places at the tables, but they fell silent when the Leader of the community entered the room.

Brother Peter was, as well as the benefactor who made it all possible, the true spiritual figure behind the Community. He was the author of five of the books that Rani had studied in her fortnight here. He was a gentle yet charismatic figure whose smile was in his eyes as well as on his lips. He put anyone who came in contact with him at ease with his calm manner. Within the Community he was looked upon with genuine love and affection as well as a desire to emulate his inner peace and outward grace.

Rani, when she was still thinking like a journalist, had expected a charlatan persuading people to give up their savings or the deeds to their houses. He was nothing of the sort. She thought he was the most remarkable man she had ever met.

Well, the most remarkable Human, anyway. She smiled to herself and thought of The Doctor. He was the exact opposite of Peter. He had no inner peace and was about as outwardly calm as a flock of birds getting ready to fly south for the winter. Even so, his desire for this planet wasn’t far different from Peter’s. They both wanted humans to stop hurting each other and value what they had in common instead of what they thought divided them.

She let her mind wander over the idea of Peter and The Doctor meeting as he introduced a new acolyte who was joining their community. He was already wearing the robe that made them all look pretty much alike. Rani didn’t even fully notice him at first.

Then she almost yelled out loud in surprise. It was Clyde Langer. What on Earth possessed him to join a community like this? He had no interest in religion, no desire for inner peace or the renewal of the soul.

He was there for her, of course. He had not been happy about her taking this assignment. He was convinced she was in danger, and now he had come to see for himself, perhaps to persuade her to leave.

She wasn’t angry. She breathed deeply and calmed her mind, reciting one of the mantras sotto voce. The irritation she had felt about being checked up on passed. She knew she could deal with Clyde in a manner becoming of Brother Peter’s philosophy.

She had her opportunity not long after lunch. She was sitting in the rose garden, studying one of Peter’s books comparing the rise of Mithraism in the twenty-first century with the rise of Christianity in the first when a shadow fell across the page. It was Clyde, his face full of all the anxiety and concern that the outside world imposed even upon the very youngest adults who ought to have been carefree.

“Rani, are you ok?” he asked. “We’ve all been worried about you.”

“All? Who’s ALL?” she replied. “I told mum and dad I’d be fine. They promised not to worry.”

“Well, that was daft. When have your mum and dad not worried about you? Your mum worries if you leave your pudding at dinner time. But everyone else – Sarah Jane, Luke… they’re concerned, too. Sky is really missing having you around.”

“I’ll be back in a couple of weeks,” Rani told him. “There’s no need for ANYONE to be concerned. And you shouldn’t have come here to tell me that.”

“I didn’t. I’m here undercover, too. Sarah Jane sent me. I’ve got technology. Here, take hold of this.”

He put a small yellow stone in her hand. She looked at it curiously.

“It’s Alussian,” he explained. “It creates an aural perception field. Anyone close enough to overhear us will only hear us talking about the weather or the flowers. Also, I have these….”

He pointed to his own eyes. Rani looked and noted that he was wearing contact lenses, which was odd since he had perfect vision.

“Sarah Jane borrowed them from Jack Harkness at Torchwood. They’re contact lenses that transmit everything I see while I’m wearing them – like mini TV cameras. They even do sound. A sort of fine membrane coating acts as a microphone – but only when I’m directly looking at the speaker. There’s also a lip-reading decoder for when I’m too far away to hear. It’s all still experimental, but it means that Mr Smith is monitoring everything that happens here. Sarah Jane will know if either of us is in danger.”

“I’m not in danger,” Rani informed him. “Neither are you, though people will be upset if they find out you’re here to spy on them.”

“Same with you,” Clyde reminded her.

“I’m NOT spying on them. I like it here. I’m enjoying being a part of the Community. I don’t even want to write an article about them. It would be like a betrayal of their way of life.”

“Rani… you can’t be serious. These people are up to something. Mr Smith has….”

“Stop,” Rani insisted, her voice raising in tone despite her efforts to be calm. “Don’t tell me anything more. I don’t want to know about your suspicions. Stay if you want. Look around. Watch everyone, and see how wrong you are. But don’t tell me anything about it. Stay away from me, Clyde. Don’t talk to me. I mean it.”

“Rani!” Clyde was shocked by her reaction. He had expected her to be grateful to have help from the outside. “Rani, you’ve been sucked into it. I don’t believe it.”

“I’m not sucked into anything,” she replied. “I just like it here. I like the people. I like Sister Iris and Brother Peter. I am making friends among their followers. I don’t want to hear anything said against any of them.”

With that she stood and closed her book. She gave Clyde his stone back and walked away. He followed her, but she joined a group doing yoga on the west patio. He couldn’t speak to her even with the perception filter.

He went up to the room he had been assigned. It was small and sparsely furnished but comfortable enough. He sat on the bed, looked into the mirror on the dressing table and blinked. A message scrolled in front of his eyes. Sarah Jane was watching Mr Smith’s video monitor.

He spoke to himself, his mirror image mouthing the words that the lip-reading programme could decode.

“I’m worried about Rani. I think she’s being brain-washed already. She thinks everything here is fine. She LIKES being here. I think….”

“Did you tell her about the energy discharges from the Abbey?” Sarah Jane typed the reply and it appeared on the lenses in front of his eyes.

“I didn’t get a chance,” Clyde admitted. “She brushed me off. She wouldn’t hear a bad word about them. I’m telling you, she’s been totally sucked into this scam.”

“Do your best to get her to snap out of it,” Sarah Jane urged. “It could be dangerous there. If I need to get you both out in a hurry….”

“Understood,” Clyde answered. “I’ve got to get a good look around. I hope I can stay clear of that Peter. He’s an oily git if I ever saw one. Always smiling, talking in a low voice like nothing makes him angry, acting as if he’s my best friend. He’s up to no good. And that Iris one…. She’s so ‘NICE’ she’s unreal.”

“Keep your eyes open,” Sarah Jane told him. “I’ll be watching. And if I’m not, K9 will be.”

Rani made a special point of avoiding Clyde for most of the afternoon, spending her time in the meditation groups and theology classes. At four o’clock a small meal of wholemeal bread and fruit was available in the dining room, but it was more informal than other meals. Many of the acolytes took what they wanted and ate in the garden or in the common room while reading or taking part in ad hoc discussion groups about the teachings of Mithraism. Rani wasn’t sure where Clyde went, but it wasn’t near her.

Clyde wished he COULD have been near Rani. He was desperate to know that she was all right, both physically and mentally. Everything he saw, from the group chanting in honour of this pseudo-god ‘Mithra’, to the books that the sinister Brother Peter had written was just blatant brain-washing. All the smiling and niceness had to be a cover for something sinister, even if it was just getting their hands on the bank accounts of those gullible enough to sign away their lives.

But Mr Smith had detected meisson resonances coming from the Abbey. It happened twice a day, at sunrise and sunset, and it had to be something alien and wrong.

There were no official complaints, of course. But over a hundred people had left their normal lives to come on retreat to the Abbey and many of them had stayed. Most of them were single people with no ties, so nobody was kicking up a fuss, but Mr Smith had the goods on all of the so-called acolytes. They had abandoned their jobs, their homes. Their bank accounts were untouched. They had ceased attending night classes or swimming clubs, tennis tournaments or any other activity in the outside world.

They were either abducted or murdered by aliens who took them in these dawn and dusk bursts of energy or so thoroughly brain-washed they had just never left the ‘Community’.

And Clyde wasn’t sure which he thought most likely, or which the worse fate for the victims.

But he knew that Rani wasn’t going to share that fate. He would make sure of that, even if she didn’t want him to.

Sunset was a little after half-past eight at this early spring time of year. The evening was warm. The Community came out into the garden and faced west. Despite being in the middle of a city they could see a long way, if not quite to the horizon. As the sun set they raised their arms in unison and thanked Sol Invictus and his son, Mithra, for warming the Earth and making it fertile and abundant.

Rani loved this ceremony. It was simple and beautiful and she found it inspiring. Her mind was filled with quiet thoughts as she took part and afterwards as they made their way back into the Abbey she was calm and untroubled.

That was until Clyde caught up with her.

“What now, then, for the sun-worshippers? Do they worry all night about whether it will come up again in the morning? They DO know that the Earth is round and that it revolves around the sun, don’t they?”

“Yes, we do,” Rani answered. “That doesn’t make the glory of a sunset or sunrise any less wonderful.”

“We?” Clyde’s eyes narrowed. “Rani, you’re not one of these cranks. You don’t belong here.”

“YOU don’t belong here, Clyde, with your scepticism and your silly comments. Go home. There’s nothing to worry about here. And for your information, we have supper now, then we go to bed.”

“It’s not even nine o’clock.”

“We get up at four to prepare for the dawn. We sleep now.”

She walked faster and joined a small group of girls she had spent a meditation session with earlier. She sat with them in the refectory. Clyde had to find a seat elsewhere.

The way Rani was acting worried him more than anything else about this place. It convinced him that he was right. Something was very wrong.

That was why he put his alarm on for three o’clock. He wanted time to snoop around the place before all that dawn-worshipping kicked off.

He wasn’t a good morning person, and this was more like the middle of the night to him. He knew people at college – who didn’t live with their mum – who wouldn’t even have gone to bed by that time on a weekend. Even so, he managed to be alert enough when his alarm sounded. He dressed by moonlight, having left a set of black jeans, black t-shirt and shoes by the bedside, ready. He put the contact lenses in his eyes and brought a penlight torch and the perception filter stone with him, as well as another gadget loaned by Torchwood that opened locks quickly and soundlessly. He was tooled up for a spot of alien investigation – or possibly burglary.

He went to the bathroom at the end of the corridor, first. In the mirror he spoke carefully.

“Sarah Jane, are you there?”

“No, Master Clyde, Mistress Sarah Jane is asleep. I am monitoring.”


“Affirmative, Master Clyde.”

“You’ll do, I guess. Look, I’m going to have a big poke about this place. If anything happens, like I get caught and locked in the dungeon, tell Sarah Jane to come and get me.”

“Affirmative, Master.”

“Ok, wish me luck.”

“Luck is a random chance of fortune or misfortune. What is the purpose of ‘wishing’ it on anyone?” K9 asked.

“Never mind. Just keep your eyes peeled.”

K9 launched into an explanation of why his electronic eyes could not be peeled that scrolled across his vision as he put out the light and left the bathroom. He made his way downstairs and found the administration office. That was where he intended to start. That was where he expected to uncover evidence of a financial scam at least.

He was disappointed. Even with every filing cabinet opened with a swipe of the Torchwood device he could find nothing out of order. There was, as far as he could tell, nobody unaccounted for among the community.

And there was no scam. The financial records showed that Peter – real name Peter Haverford, son of a major London stockbroker - was pouring his own money into the Retreat, paying for food, clothing, heat and light, every expense, and making no profit whatsoever out of it.

Unless there were some other books hidden away somewhere, this place really was on the level.

But it couldn’t be. NOBODY was that honest.

He was ready to leave the office when he heard footsteps outside in the hall. They passed the office door, thankfully, but it was still too early for anyone to be up and about. Was this, finally, something untoward for him to get stuck into?

He slipped out of the office, letting the door lock automatically behind him and followed the group of figures in white, keeping to the shadows where his own clothes made him virtually invisible.

They were heading for the old chapel. The Mithrans didn’t use it, partly because it was too much associated with the Christian worship that used to go on here and partly because they preferred to be outdoors when they performed their rituals.

Clyde wondered if it was as enchanting worshipping the sunrise on a rainy morning? What did the ‘faithful’ do then?

He hid in the back pew and watched Iris and four young women standing at the front of the chapel, silhouetted against the grey light of pre-dawn coming through the big east window before them. From outside he could hear the rest of the Community chanting their homage to Sol Invictus as they gathered. Inside, these five chanted, too, but not in English, and not in any language heard on Earth.

Iris was the alien, and she had selected four victims. Clyde stared in fascination as the light in the window got stronger. He could see more now. He could tell that all of the young women were fair-haired like Iris. They had obviously been selected for that reason.

For a completely irrational moment he felt angry that the aliens only wanted fair-haired white girls. It was racist, sexist….

Then it occurred to him that Rani was safe in that case. She didn’t fit the profile. Neither did he, for that matter. That was a cause for relief.

But what of these women? What could he do? He contemplated a charge forward, wrenching them away from the alien and her evil plan. But he knew that would be extremely stupid. There were four women. How could he rescue them all at once? He had no idea what powers Iris might have. She might be able to burn a hole in his head with x-ray eyes or sprout tentacles that would crush him to death. He had seen what had appeared to be normal Human beings do all sorts of things like that.

He felt like a coward, hunkered there while these four women drew closer to their doom, but what else could he do? At the least, he was gathering evidence. Mr Smith was recording everything he could see. K9 was monitoring – for what use that was. About all he could do was record their deaths so that the authorities – some authority – Torchwood, U.N.I.T., maybe - could make up a lie about it for their families.

The sun was coming up fully now. It shone through the east window brightly. Indeed, the light was being concentrated and augmented as if there was something in the glass, a refracting effect… Clyde wasn’t exactly sure if that was the right terminology. He had drawn felt tip pen pictures of rainbows instead of listening to the properties of light in science class. But somehow the light was brighter, stronger, and a beam of it enveloped the five women. It was ordinary sunlight, from the sun that warmed planet Earth every day, but it was so concentrated Clyde thought it might be possible to melt anything in its path.

It was melting the five women. He was sure of it. Their bodies were glowing like the scenes Clyde had seen in films that imagined the effects of a nuclear strike in the middle of a city.

Then everything went black. At first he panicked, thinking he had been blinded by the intensity of the light. Then he realised that the contact lenses had shorted out. Either way, he couldn’t see a thing, but he heard his own voice screaming, and he heard the surprised voices of the women just before he fainted.

He woke up on a sofa in Peter’s office. He could see now, and what he saw worried him. Peter was there, as well as Iris. So was Sarah Jane and Rani. Everyone was drinking herbal tea and talking quietly.

It didn’t look as if Sarah Jane was threatening to call U.N.I.T. to arrest everybody.

“What’s going on?” he demanded. “Sarah Jane, that woman is an alien. Her skin melts in the sun. She melted four girls to renew her body.”

“Clyde, you’re letting your imagination run riot,” Rani told him. “Nothing of the sort happened.”

“You weren’t there,” he answered her. “You didn’t see.”

“I saw it,” Sarah Jane told him. “K9 alerted me and I looked at the playback. Mr Smith was able to filter the image so that I could see what was happening in the augmented sunlight. That’s when I knew I had to get down here.”

“With U.N.I.T.? Are they coming?”

“There’s no need for U.N.I.T.,” Sarah Jane assured him. “There’s nothing wrong here.”

“Sarah Jane!” Clyde exclaimed in horror. “No. They’ve got you, as well.”

“Clyde, wake up, for goodness sake, and look around,” Rani told him impatiently. “There is NOTHING bad happening here. This is a sanctuary for everyone. Even you, if you’d LET it. Iris is….”

“Iris and her sisters are Helions,” Sarah Jane explained. “I realised when I saw their renewal ritual on screen. You see, on their planet, all their nutrients… their food… came from their sun. They don’t need to eat or drink. But their planet was hit by an asteroid – the sort of thing that killed the dinosaurs on Earth. Their sun was blocked out. The survivors sought new worlds with strong yellow suns. These five made Earth their home, and they met Peter, who was starting his own sun-worshipping religion. They confided in him and he had the windows in the chapel made so that they would concentrate the sunlight. They only need to renew themselves once a month or a little more often before winter when the sunshine can’t be relied on. The rest of the time they live in peace and safety among Peter’s Human community of sun-worshippers.”

“No!” Clyde protested. But now he wasn’t so sure. “Really? I mean… nobody was melted?”

“That’s one of the reasons I don’t allow television here,” Peter remarked. “The extraordinary ideas some of the late night films put into people’s heads.”

“You have no idea, mate,” Clyde responded. “Some of the things I’ve seen. But you’re telling me these aliens are ok?”

“Some of them ARE, after all,” Rani told him. “I mean, there’s The Doctor, and lots of others we’ve met. I’m not even sure Captain Jack Harkness is a hundred per cent Human. Iris and her sisters are good ones, too.”

“Ok, then. That’s… all right. But still… Rani… this place… you’re turning into some kind of cultist….”

“No I’m not,” she assured him. “I’m just having a very wonderful time finding out things about myself I didn’t know, and learning a different way to look at the world. I know I came here under false pretences, too. I explained it all to Peter. He’s forgiven me for the lie, and I am going to stay until the four weeks are up. Then I’m going to write an article about how amazing this all is - without any mention of Hellions, of course. If my editor thinks it’s too tame without financial scams and brain-washing, then tough.”

Peter said nothing about that, but he smiled serenely. Clyde looked at him and realised he had been looking at the smile wrong. It was in his eyes as well as on his lips. He was for real.

“You are welcome to stay, too, Clyde,” he told him. “Now that all misunderstandings are cleared up.”

“No thanks,” he answered. “I don’t like rice that much, especially not for breakfast, and all this going to bed at nine and getting up at four just doesn’t seem natural to me. I think I’ll give up being a sun-worshipper, at least until I get to a beach with my sunglasses and a long drink with an umbrella in it.”

“Perhaps that’s for the best,” Rani told him. She smiled warmly at him, too. All was forgiven.

“Come on, then,” Sarah Jane told him. “I’ll drive you back to my house and make you the sort of breakfast you prefer. Absolutely no rice involved.”