Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

The Doctor put the TARDIS into temporal orbit above Earth and left the viewscreen on so that they could all watch the slowly revolving view of planet, moon, and the solar system beyond. In the rare quiet moments on board the TARDIS they all found it a soothing sight. He went to the old patched and battered leather sofa that was propped against one of the TARDIS’s supporting pillars and lay down on it, face up. He wasn’t tired. But for what he wanted to do lying down helped his concentration.

Though separated by Space and Time, he found the minds of the boys easily enough. Of course, they were half ready for him anyway. He told them to expect him. They greeted him enthusiastically, but with an acceptable level of intensity.

“Hello, boys, where are you?” He listened to their answer. “Well, Earth history is important. You’d better listen to what your teacher says as well as to me…. Imagine you live in early 21st century London and write about your daily life…” He laughed at the essay topic given out to the class. “Well, don’t forget to mention Preston North End. But now let’s concentrate on the pioneers of Quantum Physics as applied to Time Travel Theory.”

He gathered their minds towards his as he prepared to relay the lesson to them. For ten minutes he lay there, unmoving, as he let the huge mass of information feed into their minds. It needed no longer than that – a few minutes each day - to impart the knowledge of the Time Lords.

“All right, boys,” he said when it was over. “That’s enough for today. Yes, I love you, too. Both of you. And give your mum a kiss from me when you get home from school. Goodbye for now, my boys.” And he sighed as he closed the connection, though not unhappily. He was, in fact, very pleased.

He was pleased how easy it was to keep contact with the boys no matter how far he was away from them. As much as he loved them, and their mother, the thought of being tied to even a weekly visit to continue their training had dismayed him. He knew he couldn’t promise such a commitment, even if he wanted to. Part of him chided the other part for NOT wanting to. The other part argued that the universe needed him twenty-four-seven and he COULDN’T make promises like that to ANYONE.

And anyone included the beautiful face that came into view as he brought his thoughts back to the present and looked up. He smiled at her and sat up to accept the cup of coffee she offered him.

“Thought you could use that after a long teaching session.” She sat beside him as he drank the coffee. Holding the telepathic link open for so long DID make his mouth dry and he appreciated her thoughtfulness. On an impulse he kissed her quickly on the lips, but at the same time slowing time so that the playful gesture stretched out into the kiss of an ardent lover.

“I wish you’d warn me when you’re going to do that,” she protested breathlessly a heartbeat later. But the smile in her eyes told him she had no complaint. EVEN the Dalek had sensed what was between them, he remembered. “What is the use of emotions if you cannot save the woman you love?”

How it knew, even he could not fathom. One thing he did know: Daleks, for all that they represented pure evil, had no concept of LYING. Anyone who had heard those words knew them to be the truth. But he could only express those true feelings in brief moments stolen from time by a method his masters at the Prydonian Academy would have scorned as a frivolous waste of his skills.

Jack watched the little intimacy between them longingly. It was lonely sometimes, being the third corner of this triangle.

“Don’t I get a kiss like that?”

“I don’t think so,” The Doctor said, glancing at Rose and both bursting out laughing.

Jack, trying not to look hurt, busied himself at the console. He noticed the light which he realised had been blinking for some time while they were otherwise occupied.

“Doctor,” he said with an urgent tone to his voice that put all other thoughts out of their minds. “We’re getting a sub-space distress call.” He looked at the panel again. “Wow! It’s coming from the White House!”

“Who do you know in the White House?” Rose asked as the Doctor jumped up and reached the console in one bound.

“Depending on which decade, any number of people,” he said. “Lincoln was a fun chap to be around. Woodrow Wilson… he was a bit too serious… FDR… fantastic chap… Jimmy Carter used to love listening to my travel stories. But….” He looked at the control panel and confirmed his first suspicion. “The only one of them who knows how to send a mauve alert to the TARDIS is a very old friend who I set on the road to success.” He smiled despite the fact that a mauve alert meant that his old friend was in big trouble.

The President was in urgent consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs when both heard a noise they had not heard for a very long time, but which could not have been more welcome at that moment. They both watched as the 1950s English police public call box materialised on top of the presidential seal in the centre of the Oval Office. The two settees that should have been there vanished. The president’s protection detail burst into the room and took up firing positions around the mysterious apparition. It was, without doubt, the strangest incursion they had seen, but they reacted to it by the book.

As the time travellers stepped out they were met by cocked guns and an order to ‘get down on the floor.’ The Doctor didn’t so much as flinch as he looked at the guns aimed at him. He looked past the security guards at the President who told the detail to stand down.

“Doctor!” President Chang Lee ignored the protests of his chief security officer about the breach of procedure and stepped forward. “The Oval Office rugs are, by a long standing White House tradition, designed by the incoming First Lady. Trudy is going to be extremely angry with you.”

“Trudy is a kitten compared to Rose’s mum when I land on her kitchen lino,” the Doctor said. “Lee, good to see you. Simon! Long time no see…”

“Doctor!” General Simon Gray shook his hand warmly. “I owe you a great deal, Doctor. My LIFE, in fact, and I have not had a chance to tell you that for twenty years.”

“Has it been so long?” The Doctor asked. “Looking at you, it doesn’t seem more than ten.”

“Apparently keeping my youthful looks is a side effect of having an alien heart transplanted into me. It HAS been twenty years, I can assure you.”

Rose stepped out of the TARDIS. Jack was right behind her.

“Rose,” the Doctor said, taking her by the hand. “I’d like you to meet President Chang Lee of the USA.”

Although she had once helped blow up Ten Downing Street and another time avoided being seduced by the future Edward VII of England, it was still something of a thrill for her to shake hands with the President of the USA in the Oval Office.

For Jack, it was ranking as one of the biggest thrills of his life. The White House was a museum in his fifty-first century Earth, but people talked about the old administration with awe. From here, under the leadership of President Chang Lee III, America had become one of the leading powers in unifying Earth in peace and friendship between nations and allowing mankind to grow beyond the bounds of Earth and become colonisers of space.

This was President Chang Lee I, of course, the youngest ever President of the USA, and the second from an ‘ethnic’ background – not counting the Irish. His achievements were legendary, too. This must have been early in his first term as President, before any of that. But still, Jack was thrilled to meet him and wondered how The Doctor came to know him so well.

“Long story,” The Doctor said, uncannily reading his thoughts. “We might get around to telling it later. But we really ought to cut to the chase here. You guys didn’t send me a mauve alert just for old times sake.”

“We haven’t sent a mauve alert.” Chang Lee looked startled.

“Yet,” Simon added and explained that the meeting he had interrupted had been to decide if such intervention was needed.

“Actually,” Lee said with a smile, “I had just been telling the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs that I once met an alien who could help us out in this situation. HE told me that he and his wife both knew the SAME alien… and that HE was only alive today because the alien gave him one of his hearts. THAT’S when we realised we HAD to call in The Doctor. But I haven’t given Simon the protocols yet.”

“Well, I’m obviously here a little early. I suppose we could go away for an hour or two, or we can take advantage of the chance to get up to speed before things are bad enough to need to contact me. So anyway, who would like to tell me what’s happening.”

Chang Lee went to the window of the Oval Office and opened the heavy drapes that covered it. “You see them every few minutes passing over.” The Doctor stood next to Chang Lee. Rose came to him and instinctively he put his arm around her shoulder. There was a mauve level danger out there and his first unconscious action was a protective one.

When it came, he knew his instinct had been correct. The sky had been quiet at first. There weren’t even planes in the sky. Well, of course, there never were within a certain no-fly zone around the White House, but Dulles International and Washington National airports should have had traffic in and out.

Then even The Doctor jumped in surprise as the birds flew into vision. There were a dozen or so, nothing more than common seagulls, wheeling and banking in the air. But these had something like a twenty-foot wingspan. After the initial shock, the movement of the great birds looked graceful and beautiful. But they were also powerfully dangerous. As they watched, one of the birds suddenly swooped. Through double glazed bullet proof glass, nobody, not even The Doctor, could hear the scream of the guard who had been patrolling the south lawn. Nobody kept looking when another bird began fighting in mid air for a share of the meat. Rose turned and pressed her face into The Doctor’s chest and he tightened his hold on her as even he turned away from the ghastly scene. The President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Jack, all men who were no strangers to unpleasant sights, fought back feelings of nausea. The President went to his desk and made a phone call.

“Have everyone pulled back into the building…. No, call off the perimeter guards…. We’ll take our chance on terrorists coming over the fence while killer birds are circling the skies.”

“How long has it been going on?” The Doctor asked when he was done.

“We think it started about a month ago,” Simon said. “That was about when the Salvation Army reported a huge drop in the homeless around D.C. Then body parts started turning up. It was about a week ago that the first irrefutable sighting took place. A twenty foot bird swooped down in the middle of a Redskins game and plucked up the quarterback in front of eighty-four thousand people. After that… sightings daily, people taken….”

“And it’s just centred on Washington DC?”

“Yes. We evacuated as many people out as possible.”

“Including Trudy and Grace,” Simon added.

“Good. That’s two people we don’t have to worry about.” The Doctor, as always when he was thinking, moved about so much he made people dizzy.

“You know,” Lee said absently as he looked at the TARDIS parked on his Presidential Seal. “You shouldn’t have been able to do that. We have sensors and security to prevent ANY unauthorised approach to the White House.”

“Lee,” The Doctor answered with an indulgent smile. “I have been visiting this planet in my alien ship for around eight hundred years. I have NEVER shown up on any piece of radar, sonar, ultrasound, long range scanner, short-range scanner or burglar alarm. You have nothing that can track the TARDIS. By the way, you’d better send that mauve alert now; otherwise you’ll create a paradox.”

The President nodded and moved to his desk. He pressed a button and a panel slid back to reveal a button. The President’s desk was, in itself, an historical artefact. The Doctor actually felt a touch of pride that the hidden contact with himself, the last resort of the American President, had been incorporated into it. Lee pressed the button and the sub-space distress call went out. Nothing obvious happened, of course. He was already there.

The Doctor went to the window and looked out. The birds were gone again. For now. Or were they? His eye was drawn to a movement on the horizon. It wasn’t the birds, he quickly realised, but a large helicopter with two smaller ones as escort.

“Marine One… Presidential evacuation,” Simon said, coming beside The Doctor and watching their approach. “They would have been automatically summoned when we went into lockdown.”

“Call them back,” Lee shouted. “The birds are all around us. They won’t make it. Get them recalled.”

But it was too late. As Marine One and its escort approached the helipad on the South Lawn of the White House, the birds appeared again, this time in even greater numbers, attacking the three helicopters. The two Apache attack helicopters were doing their best. Two of the great birds fell in a hail of gunfire as they watched. But Marine One was in trouble. The birds were behaving like ‘kamikaze’ pilots, deliberately aiming at the rotors, which sliced through even giant bird flesh easily. But contact with a bird was enough to throw the movement of the helicopter out. It came down on the helipad hard and fast, a crash landing that meant its object of evacuating the president was ended before it began. As the two escorts landed next to it The Doctor opened the Oval Office doors and ran towards the stricken Marine One. Simon and Lee followed him, despite Simon’s injunction to the President to stay in the building.

The three man crew of the Sikorsky transport Helicopter that was Marine One had all suffered injuries on impact. The pilot was unconscious, the co-pilot’s leg was broken, and the navigator was bleeding from a cut on his head. Simon took the co-pilot, Lee the unconscious pilot, who would have been surprised, perhaps, at being rescued by the man HE was supposed to be escorting. The navigator could walk but was dizzy and disorientated. As The Doctor pulled him from the wreckage they were joined by two of the White House security staff who ran to help and two others who took up covering positions with rifles.

“Inside, as fast as you can,” The Doctor shouted to everyone, turning to the two Apaches, whose two man crews were climbing out of their cockpits. “RUN!!!” Looking up into the sky, he saw a dozen or more shadows against the blinding sun. They soon grew large enough for them all to recognise as danger. They ran for it, The Doctor taking up the rear having made sure everyone was clear.

He was only part way across the lawn when one of the Apache pilots a pace ahead of him was plucked into the sky. He didn’t see, but heard, another man grabbed to the left of him. He ducked and missed becoming bird food himself and dived on the man in front of him as a third set of claws swooped. As they went down they heard a cry as one of the guards took a swipe from a giant claw that left a blood red streak across his back. The Doctor reached out his hand and just made contact with the injured man. He could feel that he was alive still. He could hear the beating of great wings above him and could feel the downdraft they caused. He knew the three of them were in big trouble. Everyone else had made the safety of the Oval Office, but he and the two men were caught out in the open. As long as they lay still they were safe, but if they tried to make a run for it the birds would attack. The injured man could not lie there much longer unattended.

“Eat Tissue Compression Eliminator, you suckers!” It was possibly the most ridiculous and unlikely battle cry in the universe, but it was one The Doctor was very nearly thankful to hear. He yelled a warning to the men pinned down with him to keep their heads covered and turned slightly to see Jack running from the White House firing the alien weapon at the birds that hovered menacingly over him. The Tissue Compression Eliminator was an evil design of his arch-enemy, the Master. It killed by miniaturising the body.

In this instance it did not kill. The birds hit by the beam turned into ordinary birds again, looking distressed and puzzled but perfectly able to fly away. One, with a damaged wing, didn’t fly, but fell, close to him, and he reached out and grabbed it by the legs and beak. When the sky was clear, he ran with the struggling bird as Jack came to help the injured man.

“Oww,” he cried as the bird pecked at his hand in panic, but he held on. Inside, he was able to hold it down on the presidential desk and ran his fingers over its head. The same effect he had always had on Humans, calming their brain with his touch, worked just as well on birds. It became docile, and he was able to look at it properly. He knew he must have looked like a man with strange priorities, examining a bird while a man lay bleeding on the Oval Office rug.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Rose go to tend to the man. Not so very long ago she had been with him at the Battle of the Somme and had helped nurse men with far worse injuries than that. He was proud to see the way she used those hastily learnt skills again now before a medical team reached them.

On paper, she was a shop assistant with no formal qualifications of any kind. But he had seen her do things without hesitation that people with recognised degrees and diplomas would blanch at.

What a CV the Doctor could write for her if anyone could believe it. One day he would have to find a way to make the world fully appreciate Rose Tyler as much as he did.

But there WAS method in his madness with the bird. The Tissue Compression Eliminator SHOULD have killed it, but it was perfectly healthy apart from a wing that had been in too close contact with Marine One. He mended that with one pass of the sonic screwdriver in tissue regeneration setting and took the bird to the door. He released it. As he watched it fly away he thought about what this new information added to his understanding of the situation and the plan he might form to resolve it.

And speaking of Tissue Compression Eliminator….

“Jack!” he said, rounding on him and pushing him into the TARDIS. He closed the door. “You were supposed to DESTROY that thing. Why did you ignore me? I told you how dangerous it was.”

“I thought it could be useful,” Jack said. “And it was. You’d be dead now if I’d destroyed it.”

“I know that. And that makes it all the harder to do this. But you went against a direct order….”

“Who are you to give me orders?” Jack protested. “We’re not an army. You’re NOT my superior officer. I could just as easily give YOU orders. I saw no reason to destroy the weapon. So I ignored you.”

“I’m in charge,” The Doctor insisted. “You do what I say… or you can leave. I’m not putting up with it. You play by my rules or go. You got that?” He snatched the Tissue Compression Eliminator and stormed out of the TARDIS.

“Doctor….” Simon caught his attention as he stepped out into the Oval Office. With your permission - if it should be necessary – may we designate the TARDIS as Air Force One and evacuate the President from the White House.”

“Only as a last resort,” Lee said. “I don’t give up till there is no other option.”

“Good man,” the Doctor told him. “And yes. The TARDIS can do that if it comes down to it. It can get us ALL away. But let’s do what we can to avoid it getting that bad. We should get out of this room. Pull everyone back to the Situation Room.”

“Doctor,” Lee said to him. “Can you remember that I AM the President.”

“Certainly,” The Doctor answered. “Can you remember I’m the one you called when you didn’t know what to do? And I’m the one with the plan thanks to Jack not listening to me the last time. So… situation room?” He set off at a purposeful stride leaving everyone else to catch up.

“How does he know where the situation room is?” Simon asked suspiciously as he and the President followed by Rose and Jack went after him.

“He was here during the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Lee said. “Don’t ask. But I get the impression he’s the reason we didn’t nuke each other back then. And I’m not going to rock the boat this time.”

Jack was still fuming. Rose could see that and asked him what was wrong.

“Him,” Jack said. “The big know it all – ‘I’m in charge.’ I’m right…”

“Well, he is.”

“I know,” Jack sighed. “That’s what makes it so....”

Rose touched Jack’s hand and then ran to catch up with The Doctor. He slowed his pace as she came beside him and reached out to take her hand.

“How are you doing?” he asked her.

“I’m ok,” she said. “But you scared me back there. I thought you were dead.”

“It’ll take more than an overgrown pigeon to kill me. You should know that by now. You did well. I saw you taking care of the guard.”

“He’s going to be ok,” she said. “But he’s out of the fight for now. What did you do to Jack?”

“I just told him some home truths.”

“Is now really the time for those?” Rose asked. “Ge DID save you. Or is that what bothers you? You don’t have to be the only hero on the team, you know.”

“Are you both going to nag me?” he snapped. “Because I really don’t have time….”

He knew he was being churlish and he hated himself for it. He excused himself by saying that they were too busy to let feelings get in the way. But he knew it WAS just an excuse. And he had hurt both of the people closest to him.

At the entrance to the Situation Room, a senior secret service agent nearly had a heart attack at the President’s intention to bring three complete strangers, one of whom didn’t even have a NAME, into the inner sanctum where wars could, and sometimes were, declared. Lee assured him that they were ALL vital to national security. Yes, even the girl. Rose wasn’t sure she WAS, but whether he was being nice to her or not, she refused to be parted from The Doctor. Nobody here was going to start torturing him like the last time they were in the USA, but she was staying with him, just in case.

Everyone except the Doctor took a seat around the big conference table. The President sat at the head of the table - IN CHARGE – except nobody actually believed that now. All eyes, including Chang Lee’s were on The Doctor.

The Doctor was looking at the computer visualisations of Washington DC under attack, pressing buttons and examining data in his usual way. Then he began to input some data of his own into one of the computer terminals. Everyone watched in astonishment as he typed at least four times faster than the best touch typist in the building.

“Doctor… Please slow down to Human thinking speed at LEAST,” Lee begged him. “I’m not sure our systems can take your speed.” The Doctor laughed and said the system could take a lot more than they thought. But he was finished anyway. He hit the ‘send’ and the schematic he was working on appeared on each monitor around the table and on a large wall-mounted screen.

“There was a perfectly good reason…” he said, putting the Tissue Compression Eliminator on the desk in front of him, “…Why I asked Jack to destroy this several weeks ago.” He glanced at Jack as he spoke but his expression was hard to gauge. “The reason is that things like this left lying around fall into the wrong hands. Remember Van Staten in Utah?”

As Rose was the only one who did, that comment fell flat.

“My point is; there is always some idiot who wants to find out how things like this work. And somebody HAS. What you have out there is the Tissue Compression Eliminator or something very like it, working in reverse, enlarging ordinary birds, and possibly sending them a little mad in the process, because seagulls are not vicious man eaters normally. Somebody got hold of ‘alien’ technology and reverse engineered it for his own ends. I’m not sure what those ends are, right now, but if it turns out to be a nutter who wants to come back as a bird in the next life I might just help him on his way.”

“Ok, so we know WHY we’re dealing with this thing. Do you have a plan, Doctor?” Simon asked.

“Lots of them. First, THIS can be useful to us one more time before I DO destroy it. I think I can fit it to one of those Apaches easy enough. We get up there and zap any birds that get in the way of us. They won’t be killed.” He looked at Rose who seemed distressed at the idea of bird zapping. “It just reverses what has already been done to them.”

“One snag, Doctor,” Lee said. “Somebody has to get UNDER the Apache to fit the gun.”

“That would be me,” The Doctor said. “I wouldn’t put anyone else at risk. And I will be operating it. This is a very dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. And I AM the only right hands for it on this planet.”

“I’ll get a pilot briefed,” Simon said.

“I’m a pilot,” Jack said. “It’s what I did before I was The Doctor’s spare wheel on the TARDIS. I’ll fly it.” He looked at The Doctor who looked back at him and nodded.

“Ok, but we’ll have the regular crew in the other Apache as back up,” Simon conceded. “They’re good men. You can rely on them.”

“I’m sure I can,” The Doctor said. That said he picked up the Tissue Compression Eliminator and walked out. Jack followed him a moment later, catching up with him by the empty press office. He touched him on the arm and he stopped and looked at him.

“No matter how insufferable and arrogant you are, I wouldn’t leave,” Jack said. “I stay for the same reason Rose does - because I LOVE you.”

“Jack…” The Doctor looked stunned by that comment. “I… it’s not… I’m…I’m not…”

“Yeah., I know. Go figure. All those billions of life-forms out there and I fall for the last remaining member of the race that defined the word STRAIGHT. But you still rocked my universe, Doctor. You made me a bit less of a coward and a lot more honest. And.…” Whatever else he was going to say, The Doctor suddenly stopped it by embracing him and kissing him on the cheek. “Well, maybe not that straight,” Jack added, overwhelmed.

“I AM the renegade Time Lord,” The Doctor whispered with a smile that Jack could have interpreted any way he chose. Then he released his hold and his face was suddenly serious again. “We’ve got to go out there – with those birds around us - and get this fitted.” He waved the Tissue Compression Eliminator casually. “We need to do that as friends, not enemies. Are you with me?”

“You don’t have to ask,” Jack assured him. “Come on. What are we waiting for?”

They weren’t alone. Lee had ordered a guard to cover them as they crossed the lawn to where the two apaches were still waiting next to the stricken Marine One. The Doctor and Jack ducked under the nearest one and worked quickly. The air having been cleared between them emotionally they were almost symbiotic as they removed the machine gun from the Apache’s gun placement and fixed the Tissue Compression Eliminator in its place. The standard firing mechanism was no use but The Doctor easily rigged a substitute running up into the navigator’s flight panel.

“Ok, that does it,” he said. “I hope. We don’t have time for a test flight.” He slid into the navigator’s seat and turned on the radio, tuning it in to the situation room. “Awaiting the order to go, Mr. President,” he said.

“Doctor,” Lee responded. “Since when did I have the authority to order you to do anything? But there is somebody who wants to talk to you before you go.” The Doctor smiled as he heard Rose’s voice.

“Just come back to me, whole and safe,” she said. “I love you. I forgive you for being grumpy before - and for making this one more adventure where I have to sit and wait and worry.”

“I always come back,” he said. Jack was in position and about to power up the Apache. “Wait. Any noise attracts the birds, so wait until the other crew are aboard.” The backup crew were just coming out, crouching low as they moved towards the other Apache. Both of them breathed a sigh of relief as the two men made it safely into the helicopter.

He heard them give their call sign over the radio. “Liberty Bird One, A-ok,” then The Doctor flipped the switch and gave theirs. “Theta Sigma A-ok - taking off now.”

Jack powered up the Apache. It rose smoothly, and once in clear air he turned it skilfully. The Doctor remembered the way the birds had banked and swooped in the sky and felt as if they were as organically agile themselves. Despite travelling in space and time, he had FLOWN in this sense of the word very few times. After nearly a thousand years of experiences, enjoying a new one was something he would have appreciated if they had not had such an urgent mission.

As they came out of a rather showy turn that suggested that Jack was also enjoying himself, they encountered the first bird attack. The Doctor gripped the firing mechanism as Jack brought the helicopter around to get a good shot at it.

He fired. To his relief it worked perfectly. A giant bird was hit square in the chest and moments later a very puzzled ordinary sized bird dropped slightly before its body came to terms with its normal wingspan and then flew away. They turned and there was another.

The other Apache was equipped only with an ordinary machine gun, and it had to kill or be killed. The air filled with blood and feathers and The Doctor did his best to hit as many as he could with his more merciful weapon.

“Good God!!” He heard the oath over the radio from the other Apache. “Look at it!” He looked down as they hovered over Washington DC. The whole city, every rooftop, every mobile phone tower, every flat surface, was covered in giant birds. Most of them were quiet, sitting there brooding. Some flew up in angry circles when they heard the helicopters.

“Return to the White House,” The Doctor ordered. “Jack, turn us around. Get us back on the ground. This isn’t going to work. There are too many of them.”

Jack was already turning the helicopter. The other crew did the same. But they had drawn too much attention to themselves. They soon realised they were being pursued. At least a dozen of the birds were rising up and surrounding them. Jack banked to the right and then pulled the helicopter nose up to climb higher than the circling birds before turning sharply nose down. As they went into the controlled dive The Doctor reduced four of the birds to normal size. But the others had seen the manoeuvre and three began to climb towards them as the rest harried the other Apache below.

Jack banked the helicopter again and The Doctor hit another squarely and sent it off on its happy way as a normal bird. Then he yelled in shock as Jack did something with the helicopter he was sure they weren’t supposed to do – a full forward banking roll. Vertigo was not something Time Lords suffered from so the sudden confusion of Earth and sky did not affect his aim as he took out the two remaining birds on their tail, but he would not remember it as his most happy experience of flying.

“Stop showing off and let’s get down there,” he said. “The other guys are in trouble.”

He was right. Liberty Bird One was unable to manoeuvre. It was all it could do to hover as the birds closed in. Again they saw the kamikaze tactic of flying into the rotors. They heard the distress of the crew through the radio connection. “Get us closer. I can’t risk a shot from here. It might hit them.”

Jack did as he asked, turning the helicopter nose down and descending rapidly until they were twenty feet below Liberty Bird One and banking around to take a shot. The Doctor fired twice, taking two more birds out of the equation. But it was too late. One of the remaining birds slammed into the main rotor housing of Liberty Bird One. All four blades were sheered off along with a sickening flurry of blood, bone and feather. Liberty Bird One dropped like a stone, and Jack yelled a very rude 51st century swear word as the still spinning blades cut through the side fuselage inches from him. Every control on his flight panel blinked crazily and it was a full ten seconds before he could work out which were giving him a true reading. By that time they were in a dive that he did not initiate and could not control. And they were heading straight for the White House.

The Situation Room was reinforced against missile attacks, The Doctor remembered. SHE would be all right. He wondered what his chances were of regeneration though, with his body minced into small burning particles in the debris of the White House. Time Lords had no gods to pray to. If they did, he wasn’t even sure he would believe in them. His saddest thought in the dreadful seconds in which they were free-falling was that, without him, after all, the Time Lords would be at an end, because there would be nobody to teach the children.

But Jack had not given up. He fought the controls manfully, and at least twenty seconds after it should have been too late he felt them respond slightly. He actually screamed with the effort it took to level out the helicopter and slow its descent just in time to bring it into a hard, fast, but not fatal crash landing on the South Lawn. For a few seconds they remained upright, but then the Apache, its rotors still spinning, keeled over onto its side. The rotors were ripped off as they made contact with the ground and span away. Jack triggered the emergency cockpit release and he and The Doctor scrambled out in time to see a rotor blade smash through the oval office window. They heard a strange secondary thud and The Doctor had a sudden premonition of what was going to happen next and dived onto Jack, pressing them both flat down on the grass as the rotor spun back out, shattering more of the Oval Office’s picture window before it embedded itself in the cockpit they had just escaped from.

“If the TARDIS’s paintwork is scratched I’m sending the bill to Lee.” There was still the danger of bird attack, and they ran for the broken doorway. As they reached the safety of the Oval Office the helicopter blew up.

“That’s one Tissue Compression Eliminator I don’t need to worry about now.” He glanced sharply at Jack who had the sense to say nothing.

“Doctor!” When they entered the Situation Room Rose practically flew to him. “We heard it all on the radio. I thought….”

“So did I for a bit,” he said, enjoying her embrace so much more for the brief anxious moments when he thought he would never hold her in his arms again. “But I promised I’d be back. You owe Jack a hug too. He did some fantastic flying there.” Rose went and hugged Jack, who made the most of it. Meanwhile, The Doctor was back in action. He found a computer terminal and called up satellite pictures of Washington DC.

“Simon, Simon, Simon,” he said. “Have I taught you nothing? It was there all along. Look at that energy reading.”

Simon and Lee both joined him looking at the image on the large wall mounted screen.

“That’s…” Simon began.

“The Jefferson memorial, in West Potomac Park.” Lee said.

“It’s a prominent building – high above others - By the river?” The Doctor asked.


“And what’s under the ground around there?”

“There’s a cold war bunker beneath the museum,” Simon told him. The George Washington University use it sometimes for science experiments.”

“Somebody has been using it for a very big experiment,” The Doctor said. He looked around. “You evacuated the whole city? The only people left in DC are here in the White House? How many here?”

“Just us, the Helicopter crews and security. All the staff were evacuated,” Lee said. “Fifty people in all.”

“Been a long time since the TARDIS had that many people in it,” The Doctor said. “I don’t want you all cluttering up the control room. So go where I say and don’t argue.”

“Sorry?” Lee said, puzzled.

“Air Force One,” The Doctor explained. “Evacuate the President - and everyone else here. We don’t leave anyone behind. Get the wounded airmen from the medical section, get the secret service men – make sure they’re armed. They’ve got work to do.”

Rose knew there were any number of rooms in the TARDIS other than the console room where she, The Doctor and Jack spent most of their time, but it was still strange bringing so many people into the TARDIS. It was stranger still watching the Doctor briefing the secret service men who sat on the two sofas that had materialised inside the console room when they landed in the Oval Office.

Rose wondered, in a moment of distraction from their more serious purpose, if they could keep the sofas. They were a lot better than the ones they had.

“Ok,” The Doctor said. “This is going to be a surprise attack to end them all. Whoever is making this happen, they aren’t expecting ME and my TARDIS that can materialise anywhere. But I want no unnecessary killing. You lot secure the area, that’s all. UNDERSTOOD? Good. Be ready. We’re landing any second now.” He went to the console and pushed the buttons that started the TARDIS to rematerialise in the bunker under the Jefferson memorial.

The Secret Service men went ahead, but they encountered nobody in the silent concrete corridors of the bunker. Even The Doctor thought that odd. He had expected resistance of some sort. He had even suspected some kind of alien entity. He was ready for anything except – nothing.

“Halt, Freeze!” the peremptory call from the armed Service men told him that at last there was something to be reckoned with. He darted ahead and saw the only occupant of the bunker taken in charge by them.

He was a small man, only a little taller than Rose, and thin as a rake, aged maybe fifty, dressed in a white lab coat.

“I’m the Doctor,” The Doctor said. “You must be the mad scientist responsible for the deaths of so many people in this city.”

“I am Professor Norman Reece, department of science and technology, George Washington University.”

“Mad scientist,” the Doctor repeated. “So go on, what is this all about.”

“A new world order. A world that belongs to birds… the most noble creatures on Earth.”

“See!” The Doctor laughed, looking at his companions. “What did I say? Some nutter who wants to come back as a bird!”

“Didn’t you say you would help him to get his wish,” Jack reminded him.

“That I did. So stay right where you are, Sonny Jim, until I find out just how much damage you’ve done.”

He stepped up to the control console Reece had been forced away from and began tapping the keys.

“You’re not even original. Do you have any idea how many crackpot ideas like this I’ve seen. Just the ones initiated by Humans themselves, let alone the Nestene, Daleks, Cybermen, Slitheen and all the rest who want a piece of the Earth for their own use. THEY I get. But I never get the Humans. What was it now? Oh yes, there was the one who wanted to sterilise the Earth and begin again by having prehistoric reptiles invade London. Then there was the other nutter who wanted plants to rule the world. He got accidentally fed to his own compost maker - which was fair enough since he tried to feed me to it first. You’re not the first, and I KNOW you won’t be the last. It’s so pathetic.” He looked at the console and smiled. “AH! Here we are. Just tell me one thing. Where did you get the Tissue Compression technology?”

“On Ebay.”

“You have got to be kidding.” The Doctor groaned. “Lee, for heaven sake, when you get everyone back on the Hill, see what you can do to reign in THAT insanity, will you. I am fed up of sorting this planet out, only for some idiot like this to mess things up with a Meccano set and some bit of space junk that accidentally got left on Earth.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Lee promised. “But what can you do to sort this situation out?”

“I’ve already done it,” the Doctor said, standing up from the console. “Mad scientist reverses the polarity of a Tissue Compression Eliminator and feeds it into a transmitter. I’ve reversed it back. In exactly ten minutes it’s going to send a signal that will turn all those monster birds back into slightly confused but otherwise normal birds. I’ve engaged a safety so it only affects those creatures enlarged in the first place - AND a self-destruct for five minutes after that.” He glanced scathingly at Reece. “This technology won’t be left lying around for some other idiot to have a go at rebuilding. Ok, back to the TARDIS everyone.”

“What about him?” One of the secret service men asked pointing at Reece.

“Well he’ll have to come with us, obviously. I’m hardly going to leave him to die, even if he DOES deserve it. Got a real treat for you, Reece, before you spend the rest of your life in a padded cell eating your food with a plastic spoon. You get to see what REAL alien technology can do when it BELONGS to the alien. You’ll love it.”

The White House banquet hall looked beautiful. Rose looked around as she walked arm in arm with The Doctor, behind the President and First Lady. Simon and Grace came after them in the line. Jack was accompanied by a secret service agent he had got friendly with in the days they had remained helping Lee re-establish order in the stricken capital city. Now, with normality restored, this slightly abnormal banquet took place - not for a foreign head of state or a celebrity, but in honour of The Doctor and Captain Jack Harkness, the unsung heroes of the recent crisis. This private banquet had been Trudy’s idea when she heard what their old friend had done for them. The Doctor had agreed to it because he had seen the look in Rose’s eyes when it was suggested. But when it came to it, he DID find himself enjoying the moment for once.

“Ladies and Gentleman,” Lee said when everyone was seated. “Before we eat, I want to make two presentations. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America's highest civilian honour, the equivalent of the military Medal of Honour in times of war. It was instituted by my predecessor, Harry S. Truman, to recognise civilians who contributed to the freedom of the United States of America. It is the highest honour I am empowered to give to any man. On behalf of the freedom of this EARTH, which he has defended without thanks or recognition more times than I know, I award The Presidential Medal of Freedom to The Doctor.”

There was a tremendous round of applause as The Doctor, slightly embarrassed by the fuss, stood to receive the medal, on a blue ribbon with a silver American Eagle pin above it.

“I want to recognise, also,” Lee went on, “The courage and the remarkable flying skills of Captain Jack Harkness, not strictly a civilian, but as he is not listed in any force I have command over, I award him the same honour.”

Jack also seemed slightly embarrassed at the presentation, but he was smiling broadly.

“Jack Harkness, Flying Ace!” He laughed as they sat down and Lee waved to the waiters to begin serving the meal. “You know, I was a coward until the Doctor got me on his team.”

“We’ve all learned a lot about ourselves through knowing The Doctor,” Lee said. “I was a street hood making a living boosting cars.”

“Seriously?” Jack’s eyes widened in astonishment.

“Seriously.” President Chang Lee looked at The Doctor and smiled. “A very forgiving man, too. I DID try to kill him, while under the influence of his enemy.”

“There really is a long story there, isn’t there.” Jack said.

“Oh, yes.”

The Doctor rolled his eyes. Hearing stories about his heroic deeds was nearly as embarrassing as being given a medal for them. It wasn’t him.

“Just this once it is,” Rose told him, putting her hand over his. “I’m proud of you. Everyone who knows you is. And we have a chance to prove it. So enjoy it. You’re dancing with me later, by the way.”