Michael, Jenny, Leanne and Thomas piled out of the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose exiting after them. The Doctor pulled the door shut behind them and took in his surroundings.
"Oh, this is brilliant!" the Doctor exclaimed.
"Yeah...Theta, where are we?" Rose asked, not convinced by her husband's enthusiasm.
The Doctor waved a hand at their surroundings. "Rose, this is the 1920's Wild West! How cool is that?!" the Doctor enthused. Leanne and Thomas glanced at each other, giggling at the Doctor's enthusiasm. Jenny and Michael, however, seemed to share their father's excitement, gazing around the barren landscape in awe and pointing out the ramshackle buildings situated on the horizon. The Doctor then clapped his hands together. "Ok, now, seeing as we are in the Wild West, I suggest we all get back inside the TARDIS." The Doctor announced.
"Why are we going back inside? I wanna explore!" Jenny protested.
The Doctor laughed. "No, no. We're gonna get changed. We've gotta look the part!" he explained, laughing as he unlocked the TARDIS and ushered his family back inside.
When the Sigmas next stepped out of the TARDIS, they were all dressed in plaid shirts, dark blue jeans and cowboy boots. Michael, Thomas and the Doctor wore Stetsons on their heads while Rose, Jenny and Leanne all had their hair in a plait. Thomas was sulking as Leanne had likened him to the Milky Bar Kid in his Wild West outfit, and even the Doctor and Rose had to admit if only he had a pair of small round glasses, Thomas would look remarkably close to the cartoon boy. He had then spent the next five minutes grumbling and complaining about how he had to be the twin with blonde hair whilst Leanne's was chestnut brown. Michael had then found his hair being attacked by Rose wielding a hairbrush, something, Rose complained, that his hair had probably never seen before if Michael's messy brown hair was anything to go by. Reluctantly, Michael agreed to at least slick his floppy fringe back and out of his eyes before donning his Stetson.
"Right, I suggest we head towards those buildings on the horizon; it's probably some sort of Ranch." The Doctor announced, pointing at the buildings Jenny and Michael had spotted earlier. He then reached down and took Rose's hand as Thomas and Leanne ran off ahead, closely followed by Jenny and Michael. The Sigma family was an odd one; both Jenny and Michael were force grown Generated Anomalies. They had been created when the Doctor and Rose had been dragged to Messaline and their hands had been forced into machines, extrapolating their DNA and creating Jenny and Michael, who both stepped out as teenagers ready to fight in the war. Because of this, the Doctor and Rose were effectively Michael and Jenny's parents as both children had Time Lord DNA just like the Doctor and Rose. Thomas and Leanne were twins that the Doctor and Rose had adopted last time they had been on Earth; Thomas and Leanne had lived in a Children's home and had helped the Doctor and Rose track down an escaped Hoix. They had bonded so well, that after detailed discussions with Jenny and Michael, the Doctor and Rose decided to adopt them. Although Michael and Jenny appeared to be about 16-17 Earth years old, they were in fact only about 7 months old. This meant that Leanne and Thomas were actually the older siblings at 8 Earth years old. However, as the Doctor and Rose found it complicated to explain the whole way Jenny and Michael were created and how they appeared to be older than the twins, Michael and Jenny always referred to the twins as their younger siblings.
The sun was setting by the time the family reached the buildings. They found that the Doctor had been right and the small cluster of buildings made up a spacious Ranch. By now, Leanne and Thomas were being carried by the Doctor and Michael; despite the TARDIS changing their physiology to Time Lords, both the twins were exhausted from walking the vast distance from the TARDIS to the Ranch in the prickling heat. As they neared the largest building on the Ranch, a broad-shouldered man of about 50 years old stepped out. He was dressed in jeans, boots, a shirt and braces. He had grey, short hair and stubble and was roughly the same height as the Doctor. Rose carefully eased the dozing Thomas from Michael's arms, shushing him and resting his head against her shoulder as he stirred.
"Hullo," the Doctor announced "I'm the Doctor, this is my wife Rose and our four children Jenny, Michael, Leanne and Thomas. We saw your Ranch from the distance and were wondering whether you could spare a room or two for us to sleep in tonight. We've nowhere else to stay and we won't be able to make it to the nearest town until tomorrow, what with the children being so tired and nightfall fast approaching."
The man regarded the family suspiciously. But after he regarded the young children in their parents' arms, he seemed to come to a reluctant decision.
"I can arrange for one of my skinners to take you in to the nearest town using our carriage." The man announced.
"But a big Ranch like this, there must be some rooms you're not using. The kids can share a bed, and we can sleep in chairs or something." Rose suggested, nodding towards herself and her husband.
The man shook his head. "With all due respect, I'm not comfortable with having four young children in the Ranch, what with what's been happening recently. You will be much better off in the nearest town." The man insisted.
"What's your name?" the Doctor asked the man.
"Carlson, sir. I own this Ranch." Carlson answered warily.
"Well, Carlson, thank you for your concern but there really is no need to be so concerned. And I assure you our children are very well behaved." The Doctor assured Carlson.
"No, sir. You misunderstand. Strange things have been happening, people going missing. It's not safe here!" Carlson protested. Jenny, Michael, the Doctor and Rose all glanced at each other.
"It's a good job we're here, then. Strange is our speciality!" the Doctor announced, grinning.
Rose settled herself down in the wooden chair at the dining room table, careful not to disturb Thomas who had now completely fallen asleep in her arms. Leanne, as stubborn as always, was fighting to stay awake, now cradled on Michael's lap as the Doctor was busy pacing the room and listening intently to what Carlson was telling him.
"Theta," Rose called "sit down. You'll wear a hole in the floor."
The Doctor stopped abruptly and stared at her. However, after a few seconds of simply staring at his wife, he stepped over to the table, pulled out a chair and sat down. Jenny and Michael smirked and the Doctor grinned back. However, Carlson cleared his throat purposefully and the Doctor fell back into a sombre mood, returning his attention to the man.
"So, you say strange things have been happening. Like what?" the Doctor prompted.
"Well, as I said before, people have been going missing. But not just any random people. There's a pattern; young children that are no more than 16 years of age. They vanish without a trace during the night. Come morning, they're long gone, but whatever takes them leaves no tracks, no way of tracing them." Carlson explained quietly.
"How many?" the Doctor asked.
"Pardon?" Carlson asked, confused
"How many children have gone missing?" the Doctor asked.
Carlson considered this for a few moments, muttering names under his breath and counting off on his fingers. Finally he came to a conclusion.
"12. 12 children have been taken." Carlson finally answered.
The Doctor and Rose glanced at each other.
"And how long's this been going on?" Rose asked.
"'Bout two weeks." Carlson replied.
"Two weeks?! 12 children have been snatched from their homes in two weeks?" Rose asked, shocked.
Carlson nodded gravely. The Doctor looked over at his wife and saw that she had unconsciously tightened her grip on the sleeping Thomas in her arms. He reached over and squeezed her shoulder gently. Rose flashed him a quick, nervous smile in thanks, but the Doctor could see she was still very concerned.
"That is why I didn't want you or your children staying here. It's not safe. We've had no children snatched from here. We ain't got no children to snatch, but there seems to be a radius in which the disappearances have happened. We're on the edge of the radius; I was going to send you on to the next town, 'bout 5 and a half miles away. You'd have been outta the radius by then, and your children would be safe." Carlson explained.
There was some noise going on outside and Carlson got up to go and see what it was, leaving the Sigma family alone.
Immediately, Michael, Jenny and Rose turned to the Doctor.
"Dad, what are we going to do?" Jenny asked, her voice trembling with fright, although she tried not to show it.
"Yeah, Theta, I must admit this is one adventure I'd rather we left alone. I'm not risking Michael and Jenny out here, and I'm certainly not risking Thomas and Leanne." Rose protested.
Michael quickly passed Leanne to Jenny and stood up to walk over to his mum. He crouched beside her and hugged her, careful of Thomas, as he saw tears beginning to fall from her eyes.
The Doctor buried his face in his hands, for once unsure what to do; like his wife, he didn't want to risk the children, yet he wanted to stop whatever was taking the children away from the locals. However, his thoughts were cut off as the air was filled with shouts from outside. Before the Doctor could stop him, Michael had leapt up and ran to the door, running outside. The Doctor went to follow, but Thomas and Leanne were both woken by the shouting, panicked and scared. As Rose pulled Thomas into a hug, rocking him to calm him down, the Doctor quickly relieved Jenny of the thrashing, sobbing Leanne. After a few moments, they settled down. There were still shouts from outside, and a few gunshots.
"Theta," Rose whispered worriedly "where's Michael?"
The Doctor looked over at his wife, frowning, then glanced around the room.
"Oh, he ran outside." The Doctor replied calmly.
Rose just gaped at him. After a few moments she began sobbing, panicking about what could have happened to her son.
At the same moment, what Michael had done had sunk in and the Doctor handed Leanne back to Jenny before bolting out the door. By now, Rose had stood up, Thomas slipping off her to stand beside her. The Doctor then wandered back in, his face ashen.
"Theta?" Rose prompted, terrified.
"We may have to stay a little longer. Michael's been taken." The Doctor whispered.