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

It was the quiet days that Rose loved most about her life in the TARDIS, the days when nothing especially exciting was happening, days in temporal orbit that only WERE days because she insisted on keeping to a certain time pattern, sleeping when her watch said it was night-time and waking when it said it was morning.

The day would begin, of course, with a workout in the dojo. She had moved on from Judo and was now becoming reasonably accomplished at Shaolin Gung Fu, though The Doctor said it was too much to expect that she could become a master of it. That took years of dedicated training. When she asked he disclosed that he had spent many years secluded in the monastery in the high mountains of Songshan in the Henan Province doing just that. He had dedicated his time to perfecting his knowledge of the Shaolin Way. Once he took her to China and showed her the very mountains where the art was practised.

The uniqueness of her life never ceased to be something she appreciated. Learning martial arts in the morning, exploring China or Rome, or the frozen world of Tromusa VIII in the afternoon, or just home to her mum’s for tea or to Susan’s to see how the boys were getting on with their experiments in temporal physics.

And then if the mood took them to be alone, they would spend the evening dancing in their own ballroom on the TARDIS. Or if they wanted company they would dress up and go to dinner and the opera in Milan or Turin or Sydney, or any one of their favourite opera houses, usually the debut night of the opera in question, because The Doctor said that they were NEVER as good after being performed for a hundred years and nothing beats seeing an opera performed the way its composer intended it to be played.

Of course, he always got the best seats. Being with a time travelling aristocrat had its definite advantages.

And afterwards they came home, to the TARDIS, and he always came and sat with her until she was asleep. He never stayed the night. She would always feel him slip away and go and spend the night in his own strange way, his body ‘switched off’ in deep meditation, or sometimes outside the TARDIS looking at the stars or listening to the wind, or piloting the TARDIS to a new destination, so that she would awake to find them under a new sky with a strange sun rising.

But they kissed a lot these days. Ever since the New Year, his reluctance to be intimate with her had dissipated. She suspected it was something to do with that encounter with his alternate reality self. She knew there had been something VERY wrong in that reality, though he would NEVER tell her what. But it had made him realise that, even for a Time Lord, time is short and even their platonic relationship needed something.

She wondered if he thought she might leave him if he didn’t demonstrate his love for her more obviously. She never would, of course. But she liked the new openness of his affection. She liked that he would just turn from his console with a smile in his eyes and take her in his arms. She liked that she could come to him and he would be hers for a blissful minute or two.

And for nearly four whole months nothing had tried to kill them or take over their minds or try to blow up the planet they were on. When she remarked upon that he said that the worst causes of trouble for the universe were done with. The Master was dead, the Daleks were no more – though his eyes always dimmed when he spoke of them.

And of course, Rassilon’s protection of Earth meant that they were no longer having to defend it from various malicious entities that wanted to cause trouble for it. As Rose noted when they went home, there was enough trouble going on without extra-terrestrial problems. But The Doctor said Earth just had to work that out for themselves.

Still, the longer they went without something going wrong SOMEWHERE in the universe, the more suspicious they both were that SOMETHING would spoil it sooner or later.

And Rose suspected that, as much as he enjoyed this quiet life, The Doctor would dearly love to have some trouble to get stuck into and would rise to the occasion spectacularly as ever.

But for this morning, the most dangerous thing was the new discipline he had decided to introduce to her.

“This is NOT a practice sword,” he said passing to her a long, thin-bladed weapon that gleamed in the light, and pulling a second one from the rack for himself. “I can’t be bothered with them. A sword that isn’t sharp is just a poker for the fire. These are Shaolin swords and they can take a man’s head off in the blink of an eye – so don’t do anything silly, because decapitation is one sure way to kill a Time Lord. But it is time you learnt to handle it.”

Rose looked at the sword in her hand doubtfully, but The Doctor showed her how to hold it properly, how to stand and how to make a simple attack and defence move with it. Then he challenged her to a fight. She was reluctant, but when he thrust the sword at her she had no choice but to respond by raising her sword and blocking him. Tentatively, she lunged towards him. He blocked her easily and thrust back quickly. She dropped her sword and bent to pick it up and his thrust missed her.

“Well it's not in the instruction manual,” he laughed. “But that’s one way of not getting your head chopped off. Shall we go again?” He stood ready and she faced him again. He swung his sword in front of her in a complicated way and she looked at him for a moment before raising her sword and getting ready for the attack that would come when he stopped showing off.

This time she actually felt as if she HAD defended herself from him. She felt his strength against hers as she forced his sword back away from her and she felt her muscles working as she turned the defence into an attack. Again he blocked her and came straight back at her and, feeling confident that she could do it, she showed off a little herself as she parried him and then span on her heels and came back quickly into a thrusting attack.

And she beat his defence. To her horror her sword glanced off his and slid straight into his shoulder. He was as shocked as she was to feel the blade go straight through flesh, muscle and bone. She let go of the sword straight away and stood with her hands over her face in horror. He dropped his own weapon and slowly pulled hers out of himself. He let that drop too, and then with his good arm he reached for her. He pulled her to him and hugged her close. She was shaking with fear and horror at having hurt him and it was all he could do to stop her running away from him.

“Rose,” he whispered. “It’s all right. You know me. You know I can mend.” The wound was already repairing. It was easy. His shoulder would ache for an hour or two, that was all. But she didn’t seem to realise that at first. Even though she knew of his regenerative capabilities she was convinced she had done him real harm.

“No harm done at all,” he said at last bringing his repaired arm around to hold her the more tightly. “Just a rip in the gi that you can darn later.”

“I stabbed you,” she said, still shaking with the realisation of what she had done.

“You beat a Shaolin master and wounded a little more than his pride, is what you did. And next time we practice I’d like to find out if it was a fluke.”

“I’m never touching that thing again,” Rose vowed.

“Yes, you are. Because it’s an important part of the discipline; because you ARE good at it for a beginner; and because you can’t give up just because you had a fright. And… if you’re up against something horrible like an Arachnoid, I don’t expect you to hesitate about taking its head off.”

He looked down at the sword on the floor by his feet. “First rule is you NEVER leave a sword with blood on it – no matter what colour it is. Clean it – carefully, don’t put your fingers near the blade - and put it into the rack. Now.…” He stepped back from her and made the formal bow that indicated the end of a Shaolin practice. It took her a moment to remember what he had taught her and do the same. He picked up his own sword and replaced it in the rack and watched her go to the table and begin to clean hers as he instructed.

One day, he thought, she might have to fight somebody – or some thing - whose body didn’t repair itself, and she could not be afraid to do it.

He showered and dressed and went back to the console room. They were still in temporal orbit around the last planet they had visited. There were still a million more he wanted to take her to. He deeply regretted that Gallifrey wasn’t one of them. Aside from the devastating sense of loss that surfaced every time he thought of his home, he knew that Gallifrey was the one place where his – and her – dearest wish could be fulfilled. They could be married there.

One day, he told himself. Yes, one day they would find a way. The same hope kept her going, too. And she never wavered in her belief in him..

She joined him a few minutes later dressed in one of those skimpy outfits that would have sorely tested a man who didn’t believe so firmly in the sanctity of marriage. She still looked a little shocked but she would get over it.

“Doctor,” she began, but then decided against whatever else she was going to say. He reflected, as he looked at her, that “Doctor” was a strange thing for her to call him given the acknowledged intimacy of their relationship. But he could not bear to have her call him ‘Chrístõ.’ That name belonged to another life, long ago. He acknowledged that it WAS his own name, but to be called it, by her, would not ring true. And he certainly wouldn’t have her call him Thete, his boyhood nickname, short for Theta Sigma, the rather more dignified alias that he used as a signature for his student experiments. Thete was only ever used by those who wanted to deride him. Doctor would HAVE to do for now.

Besides, from her lips, it WAS a term of endearment. He reflected on that with a ghost of a smile that disappeared when the intergalactic alert suddenly blinked mauve on the communications panel.

“The universe still needs us after all,” he said with a grim laugh as he darted around the hexagonal console and brought the information up on the screen.

“Oh… &*$*£%.”

“One day I’m going to get me a phrasebook of low Gallifreyan swearwords and find out what that means,” Rose said with a little of her usual spirit. He flashed a smile at her despite the fact that the mauve alert was important.

“Where is it coming from?” she asked.

“Paradise,” he said. “Wendy sent it.” He crossed to the drive control and set their co-ordinate then he returned to communications and patched through a video-phone call across the galaxy. “Jack,” he said as their old friend Jack Harkness appeared on screen. He was in the uniform of the twenty-second space corps and looked much more like a genuine officer than he had since they first met him.

In fact, he appeared to have been promoted. He had the insignia of major now.

“Congratulations,” The Doctor said to him. “I’m sending you a co-ordinate, Jack. If you don’t hear from me again within twenty-six hours, I would be very grateful if you would consider me in the hands of hostiles and mobilise a unit or two of the Space Corps.”

“You got it, Doc.” Jack said with a grin. “Sorry, DOCTOR.”

“You think it’s that bad?” Rose asked as he ended the communication and returned to the pilot console to prepare for a landing.

“Just a precaution,” he said. “I like that planet. I don’t want it messed with.”

“I liked Wendy. I thought the planet was kind of creepy. Or at least the way people lived on it. Worse than the Hall of Lost Souls.”

“It has similarities, in the way the people seek to avoid the harsh realities of life. On the whole, I prefer the way they did it on Paradise. It seems much more as if they made a definite choice. And they know how to change their lifestyle when they want to do that. The Lost Souls are so caught up in their fantasies they can never get out.”

“We did.”

“We had something worth coming back to.” He smiled at her. She really was his reason for living. He had pulled himself back from near death because of her love for him. Coming back from the illusions the Lost Souls offered was relatively easy.

“Why twenty-six hours?” Rose asked as they stepped out of the TARDIS parked by the river a short walk from the village of Paradise.


“You said to Jack ‘If you don’t hear from me again within twenty-six hours…’ Where me and Jack come from we’d say twenty-four hours.”

“Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it,” he told her. “Have you never looked closely at any of the TARDIS clocks? On Gallifrey we have… had… twenty-six hours in a day.”

She took his hand and looked at his watch. It was funny but she HADN’T looked at it closely in all the years they had travelled together and she never took any notice of the TARDIS clocks. They all seemed out of step with her personal body clock.

“It has thirteen numbers on it,” she said. So midday for you is thirteen o’clock?”

“Yes. I did get used to Earth time for a while when I spent a lot of time there, but I slipped back to Gallifreyan time when I was out in the universe on my own. Your days go by so quickly I hardly have time to get anything done.”

“Every so often I forget you’re a different species to me,” she said. “Then these little things come along.”

“But you love me still?”

“I’d still love you even if you were a green-blooded reptile in a Human-looking skin.”

“American science fiction TV has a lot to answer for,” The Doctor said with a smile. “But I shall take that as a compliment.”

“Take it how you like, you crazy alien,” she said laughing at him.

“I will. But you do realise, that anywhere other than Earth YOU are also an alien.”

“Not here – you said this was an Earth colony.”

“Good point.” He sighed. “The Time Lords were once called the Princes of the Universe. We were the most powerful race of them all. Yet it’s the puny Humans, the stupid apes, who prospered, who colonised worlds, who grew and expanded. We turned in on ourselves and shrivelled and died. I am an alien everywhere – except my adopted home on Earth. And even there I have to live a lie or risk being made into a scientific curiosity.”

“I never thought of it that way,” Rose said. And though the journey they were on was urgent she stopped a moment and turned to him. “You’re The Doctor. You are the most fantastic being in this universe. You are the one Daleks are scared of, who has poems and songs about him in every spaceport in the universe, whose NAME strikes fear and awe into those who try to bully and hurt the innocent. Never forget that.”

“Yeah. That’s me, all right.” He took her hand. “Come on, no time for chin-wagging. Our friend Wendy is in trouble.”

They knew as they approached that all was not well in the village. There were no children around, and a fence had been erected around the well – a fence of linked steel that was certainly not forged on Paradise. A sign on it declared - “Site acquired for Cosmopolitan Enterprises.”

As for the library….

“Oh, poor Wendy,” Rose said as she saw the mess the neat, beautiful library was in. Every book was thrown on the floor and some were ripped. All the shelves were tipped over. Her lovely drawing room furniture was thrown about and her tea set smashed on the fireplace. “Whoever did this was just being downright mean.”

“She isn’t here,” The Doctor said. “Either she’s escaped somewhere, or….” He froze as he heard a noise behind them and cursed himself in low Gallifreyan for walking into such an obvious trap.

“Put your hands on your heads and turn around slowly,” a voice ordered.

“Are we to assume you are armed or do we practice method acting?” The Doctor had his answer to that question when a bullet whistled past his shoulder and buried itself in the mantelpiece. He raised his hands and laced them behind his head. Rose copied him and they turned to face a seven man guard who all had guns pointed at the two of them.

“If you say ‘take me to your leader’,” Rose said under her breath, “I shall be very cross.”

They WERE taken to a spaceship which stood, cloaked, on the village green, next to the fenced off well. They were both searched and The Doctor’s jacket was taken from him, along with everything contained in its pockets – including the two tools he might have used to effect an escape, the sonic screwdriver and his TARDIS key. Neither item meant anything to his captors, and were clearly not weapons, but they were confiscated by the captain of the guard before they were taken to the brig and locked in - The Doctor in one cell of metal bars and Rose in the adjoining one, where, to her sorrow, she found Wendy.

“Oh, Doctor,” Wendy said with a sigh when they were alone. “How did YOU get caught? You were my only hope.”

“Always have hope, my dear Wendy,” The Doctor assured her. “I’m not through by a long shot.” He sat by the bars that separated them. Wendy and Rose both came and sat the other side. He reached through and touched Wendy’s hand reassuringly, then he grasped Rose’s hand and squeezed it tight. She pressed close to the bars and put her hand through to touch his face, her fingers pressing on his lips in as close as they could get to a kiss in such circumstances.

“Your mum would go spare if she saw this scene, wouldn’t she,” he said with a smile. “She’d blame me for getting you into trouble.”

“We’ve been in worse places,” Rose reflected. “The Web.…” She shuddered at the memory.

“Worst thing about that was not being able to reach you.” He clasped her hand all the harder through the bars. It was comforting. How many years had he done without any companionship, stubbornly telling himself he didn’t need anybody. But he had lied to himself. He needed another heartbeat than his own. He needed her.

“Wendy, my dear,” he said. “At least we have time to talk, though this is by no means as pleasant as taking tea in your delightful little parlour. What has happened here? Where are the children of Paradise?”

“Some got away to the hills – we have a cave system there. Some of them hid there. Most were taken. They’re being held prisoner.”

“Not for a moment longer than necessary,” The Doctor said. “Never fear, Wendy. But who are these people?”

“Exactly what you feared the last time, Doctor. People who seek to take the Well of Life from us for their own use. At first there was one ship. It landed outside the village and three strangers came, just as you did, and the children greeted them as they greeted you and gave them water. They asked questions – and the children answered them. Once none of us would have been so foolish, but they have played at being children for so long. They have no natural suspicion. They trust everyone.”

“EXACTLY as I feared.” The Doctor said.

“The strangers came to me, assuming I was in authority, and tried to offer money for the ‘rights’ to use the water. They talked of a ‘bottling facility’ and wealth for the people of Paradise.” The Doctor made a disgusted sound in his throat. “Well, of course I told them we didn’t want all that, and they went away. I thought of contacting you then, but they were gone and…I thought you’d think me silly and paranoid.”

“No, my dear,” he said quietly. “I would have thought you sensible and cautious. But no matter. I take it they came back.”

“Yes,” Wendy continued. “Not one, but three ships this time. They landed in the night on the green, but invisible… I don’t know how….”

“Cloaking technology,” The Doctor said. “Many space fleets use it.”

“It’s all beyond us,” Wendy sighed. “We… even before we became… what we are now… we lived simple lives here. Yes, we were colonists once, but the ships that brought us here left and we lived in peace, grew food, educated our children, built our homes… we had no use for any ‘technology’ more sophisticated than a plough.”

“And why shouldn’t you. It was a good life. You all lived the ideal that mankind went to the stars to find.”

“These people didn’t. They talked about exporting the water to those who would pay huge sums for it. I knew then… I sent the message to you as they broke in the door and took me prisoner. The children were being rounded up as well. I think most of the people are prisoners now – maybe some of the farmers were able to escape. I don’t know what they mean to do to us….”

“Whatever they MEAN, it won’t happen, count on that.”

“But you can’t stop them. You’re a prisoner, too.”

“You don’t even have your sonic screwdriver,” Rose pointed out.

“Don’t need it to get out of here if you have a couple of hairslides.” The Doctor reached and took the metal clips from her hair. A blonde swathe fell across her face and he smiled at the sight, but he had more important things to think about. He went to the cell door and began to manoeuvre the twisted hair slide in the lock. Technically, it should not have been possible. It was at least a five lever lock and a hair clip should not have done it. Neither Rose nor Wendy, watching him, believed he could do it.

“Anyway, when did you learn to pick locks?” Rose asked him.

“In nine hundred and fifty-one years do you not think I could have learnt lock-picking?”

“No. Why would you?”

“For when I get locked in cells by stupid and unreasonable people,” he answered giving a triumphant laugh as the door unlocked with an audible clunk. “Sadly I broke the hairclips.” He held them up as proof and looked at Rose and Wendy. “It’s a pain doing it that way. I’m going to get the KEYS, and my jacket. I’ll be right back.” He slid the door open and disappeared down the corridor with Rose calling to him that he was a show off and he owed her a packet of hairslides.

There was only one guard. He was easy to send to sleep with a well aimed karate chop to the back of the head. He took the keys and looked around. His jacket was on the chief guard’s desk. The contents of his pockets were strewn across it; his sonic screwdriver, his TARDIS key, a packet of chewing gum and some dental floss, a small magnet, a short piece of string and a dried up cúl nut picked some six months ago in the TARDIS’s illusion of Gallifrey. He looked at it momentarily and put it back in his pocket with the other items. It was a useless object, but it was something REAL that came from his planet, and he felt a strangely sentimental urge to keep it.

He slipped back to the cell block and freed Rose and Wendy. Both of them embraced him gratefully. “Come on,” he said. “We still have to get off this ship.”

“Why do you want to get off it when we only just went to the trouble of getting you on it?” He spun around as he heard Jack’s voice and realised they were suddenly on a different ship. Rose and Wendy looked around, too. Rose recognised it as a ship to planet shuttle craft big enough to transport a couple of dozen people or some sort of cargo. Wendy just stared wide eyed.

“Jack!” Rose cried out in surprise. “But that was nowhere near twenty-six hours.”

“How long have we known the Doc?” Jack laughed. “Can he keep out of trouble THAT long? We decided to come early. And what did we find when we did a scan of the area but one Time Lord and two Human females in a ship’s brig.”

“Actually, I’d already broken us out of the brig,” The Doctor pointed out. “And got my jacket back.” He bounded over to where Jack was sitting at the navigation controls of the ship. He waved to Hellina in the command seat. “So, what else did your scan show?”

“Three ships. All grouped around the village green. That one…” Jack pointed to the largest silhouette on the viewscreen. “…is a transport ship, and we’ve detected several hundred lifesigns in what appears to be the cargo hold. My guess is they plan to ship the indigenous population out and dump them somewhere else while they take advantage of the planet’s natural resources - which must be pretty valuable from what I’ve been picking up on their ship to ship radio transmissions to each other.”

“Oh it’s valuable all right. But it comes with a hidden price.” The Doctor gave him a shortened version of the gift and the curse that the Well of Life had – water that contained as much nourishment as a balanced meal in a single glass; which if taken daily could halt and even reverse aging, but if taken over a prolonged period caused sterility.

“And were these ‘exporters’ planning to tell their potential customers of this ‘side effect’ I wonder?” Jack said.

“I couldn’t care less,” The Doctor answered. “I intend to stop them before they start exporting.”

“We’re here to help,” Jack assured him.

“Yes, and you will. But… Paradise is a peaceful planet. Its people are simple and decent. I want you to back me up with a show of strength, but I don’t want anyone killed if it can be avoided. Do you understand what I’m saying? Let’s avoid any fire-fights.”

Jack looked at The Doctor. The last time they went into battle - against the Arachnoids – he’d had to practically take the gun from The Doctor’s hands to stop him laying into the creatures. It had been a moment of madness he had recovered from, though, and his more natural pacifism asserted itself again afterwards. “A show of strength? Yep, we can supply that. What’s the plan?” He grinned as The Doctor smiled widely. The Doctor always HAD a plan.

Wendy was still coming to terms with the first time her body had been instantly transported from one place to the next when Jack’s transmat beam deposited her and Rose right next to the cave system where the free people of Paradise were hiding.

“I think I prefer to go on my own two feet, on the whole,” she said. “It’s not right - turning a body into millions of pieces and re-assembling it.”

“After all the years I’ve spent with The Doctor, a transmat is kind of ordinary,” Rose told her.

“How long have you been with him?”

“He owes me the fourth birthday present since I’ve known him next week,” she said with a smile.

“He’s a very nice man, but very puzzling. He seems to have a mystery hidden deep inside him,” Wendy mused as they walked through the cave system.

“Yes,” Rose thought aloud. “That about sums up My Doctor. An enigma wrapped in a mystery inside a conundrum or something like that. But when I look at him I just see a man who took me from nothing and showed me the universe… who I love more than anything in the universe.”

“Well, THAT much is obvious to anyone,” Wendy smiled. “He loves you very much. It’s in his eyes.”

“That’s the Human part of him,” Rose said. “It would be.”

“He’s not Human?”

“In his DNA, no. But… if being Human means caring and loving and being there when he’s needed – like he came here for you and the people here – then I think he’s more Human than any of us. Though I don’t know if he’d agree with me. All I know… is the universe would be an even more messed up place than it is without him.”

“Who’s there?” A voice cried out in the darkness ahead. Wendy stepped forward.

“It’s me, Wendy,” she replied. “It’s all right. Come on out, all of you.”

Rose turned the torch Jack had given her to full brightness and it illuminated the cave around her. She watched as dozens of children and a few young adults emerged from the shadows and came towards them. Wendy greeted them all as friends and quickly told them of The Doctor’s ‘plan’. Some were enthusiastic, others doubtful.

“We can’t do it. We’re just kids,” they protested. Rose looked around at them.

“Listen,” she said. “The Doctor said to tell you all – he said that he’s here to make it so none of you have to be scared ever again. And you CAN do this. Because - he says the one thing children always have is courage and that’s maybe what you were looking for when you all became children.”

“We’re ready,” they said after a few moments in which they pondered the message. Even when he was not there, Rose thought, there was something about The Doctor that inspired people. It wasn’t the words, though when he had told her what to say to them she had thought they were pretty good words. It was the IDEA of him. He was there to make you not scared. He had done that for her for more than four years, but it was still rather awesome when she saw it work on others.

The Doctor and Jack beamed in directly to the cargo bay right outside the locked cage. The two guards were taken so completely by surprise that the simplest of moves rendered them unconscious. Inside the cage the children looked on in amazement.

“Quietly,” The Doctor whispered loudly to them as he melted the lock with his sonic screwdriver. “We still have to get out of this ship.” He opened the cage wide and the children came flooding out, crowding around him and Jack. It took a while to organise them all, but when he did they actually looked quite a formidable crowd heading for the cargo bay doors.

“Ok, let’s go, kids,” Jack said as the doors opened onto the village green. “Quick march, keep your eyes peeled for trouble.” He and The Doctor took the lead, at a fast pace but not so fast that the children couldn’t keep up.

They timed it right. Their party emerged from the cargo ship just as Rose and Wendy arrived from the caves with the other section of the paradise population. From both sides they surrounded the well, where the architects of the plan to rob them of their Water of Life were busy discussing ways of pumping the water in bulk to the proposed bottling plant. The men looked up as they became aware of the children. The Doctor stepped forward.

“This planet and its people are under my protection,” he said. “Remove yourself and your craft from it at once.”

“YOUR protection?” A man stepped in front of him. He had a badge identifying himself as Jarves Marren, director of offworld operations for Cosmopolitan Enterprises. “And WHO are you?”

“I’m The Doctor,” he said with a smile. Marren had clearly not heard of him, but another man stepped up and said something in a low voice. The Doctor saw the flicker of doubt in his eyes but this was a man who was not going to give in as easy as that.

“I don’t care WHO you are. We have made a fair offer to these ignorant people for the rights to the mineral assets of the planet. They refused that offer, so we have forcibly taken possession of it. This is too valuable a product to be in the hands of children and feeble women.”

“Who are you calling feeble?” Rose said, and The Doctor smiled as he thought of Ace, who he knew would have said exactly the same thing before proceeding to kick the proverbial.

“It is THEIRS. There is no statute in the universe that allows for such a forced takeover of property. And there are a dozen treaties that PROTECT such people and their planet from the likes of you… Let alone the fact, as I have already pointed out, that they are under MY protection.”

“You are insane,” Jarves Marren told him. “I have an ARMY here. I can kill you and your noisy woman and everyone here just like that!” He snapped his fingers and they heard the sound of weapons being cocked all around them. The Doctor and the children of paradise were ringed with armed men, Marren’s private army of commercial conquest. Marren himself pulled a pistol and aimed it at The Doctor.

“Oh, for heaven sake,” The Doctor sighed and moved towards him. Marren fired once. The Doctor heard Rose scream as the bullet tore into his shoulder. He did, indeed, flinch as he felt the pain, but he just looked at his attacker with utter disdain. “I have already had a sword through that shoulder today, thank you. And that’s another bloody hole in this jacket. Rose is tired of darning it. Have you any idea how hard leather is to invisibly mend?” He didn’t even need to slow time as he crossed the ground between him and the startled Marren who expected his ‘warning shot’ to render The Doctor helpless. With his good left hand he wrenched the gun away and spun him around into an armlock around the neck. He was aware of the sound of safety catches coming off weapons all around him, but he just smiled in a way that made the owners of those weapons strangely uncertain of their position.

“Well, if you shoot me, you shoot him as well,” he pointed out. But Marren’s deputy, the one who had heard of The Doctor, moved quickly and grabbed Rose, a knife close to her neck.

“Let him go or she dies.” He said.

“I think this is what they call a Mexican standoff,” The Doctor said. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jack tense his muscles as if to move towards her. “Jack, no, he can slit her throat before you’d reach them.” He looked at Rose and she mouthed a word to him. He gave the most imperceptible nod. “Besides, Rose has learnt quite a few things since we were last all in a scrape together.” As he spoke Rose moved quickly, performing one of the Shaolin moves he had patiently taught her. Moments later the man who had held a knife at her throat was in a huddle on the floor groaning and wondering how he had been beaten so painfully by a slip of a girl. Another man had tried to grab Wendy, but before he had got close enough she had kicked him in the shins, All around armed men were being set upon by the children who took Rose’s action as a cue to make their own stand against their captors and stamped on feet and kicked joyfully. The Doctor looked on, pleased. It was the best thing for them - to feel they had fought back. But it was still children versus men with guns and he couldn’t risk their lives as long as there was another way.

“Jack,” he called. “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a bit bored with all this. I really needed Marren here to come up with some daft cliché like ‘you and who’s army’, but since he doesn’t seem to want to oblige shall we show him whose army I have as back up when people like him choose to ignore me?”

“You got it, Doctor,” Jack said and he raised his arm as if in signal. In the same moment Marren looked up in shock as fifteen troops ships of the 22nd Space Corps decloaked above them. They watched in astonishment as troopers abseiled down ropes and if any had thought they might shoot them as they descended they thought again when an even louder sound of guns being locked and loaded echoed around the village green. Marren’s army were ringed by an even bigger army with bigger weapons.

“One show of strength and no fatalities,” Jack said with a smile as Hellina dropped from her abseiling rope right beside him and took Marren into her custody. “And only one shot fired. Are you ok with that, by the way?”

“Not as if I was never shot before,” The Doctor put his hand up to his shoulder and pulled the misshapen bullet out of the hole in his jacket. Beneath the leather his arm was as good as ever. “Here,” he said handing it to Marren. “A souvenir of meeting me, to think about when you’re sitting in a jail cell on… Jack, what is the nearest prison colony to here? I forget.”

“Pereton IX,” Jack answered. “The one with the sodium mines.”

“I’ll let you and your troops round them all up and arrange for their transportation then. Meanwhile, let’s get some clearing up done around here.” He turned to the children. “Your paradise has been tainted by things that should never have been seen here. Guns - well they will be gone within the hour. You have my word on that. The rest - well, children you may be, but I think you can all pull together and help repair the wounds. That fence around your Well of Life - I think a few dozen of you can bring that down - mind your fingers on the sharp bits though. Meanwhile, I’d like some volunteers to go to the library and tidy it up for Wendy while she and I and Hellina here have a quiet chat.”

As the 22nd Space Corps took the army of Cosmopolitan Enterprises into their custody the children divided up into parties to repair the damage done. The Doctor took out his key and summoned the TARDIS. He took Rose in one hand and Wendy in the other and they stepped inside followed by Colonel Hellina Artura. He brought them all through the console room and through a door in the corridor to a room the TARDIS had instantly created, reading his thoughts as he came across the threshold. It was a parlour not unlike Wendy’s own one. Tea was already made, on a tray on the table. He told them all to sit down while he went to a writing bureaux by what HAD to be a totally fake window looking out on a sunny garden.

“The TARDIS is a sentimental old girl,” The Doctor smiled looking at the garden. “Always has to create the last little detail.” Then he opened the bureaux top to reveal a word processor that looked quite out of place. He typed at speeds that ought to have set the keyboard smoking for a few minutes then pressed ‘print’. Finally he brought the pages with him and sat down. He took the cup of tea that Rose passed to him and drank it quietly. Then he became very business-like.

“I am sure I have mentioned at least once that I WAS a fully qualified and notarised lawyer on Gallifrey. I don’t get to use all those years of dusty learning often, but it doesn’t mean I can’t. THIS is a formal Treaty between the people of Paradise, represented by Wendy here, as one of the elders of the community, and Me, guaranteeing my protection and patronage of the planet – as is my right to grant as a Time Lord of Gallifrey. We agree that the 22nd Space Corps will guarantee to protect the planet in a more concrete form by establishing a permanent outpost in unobtrusive orbit around the planet. From there, without interfering with the life here, without ever frightening the children with guns or exposing them to technology that is not a part of their simple lives, they will make sure no unauthorised visitors EVER again threaten the lifestyle chosen by the people of Paradise.”

Then he himself signed the three copies he had made of the Treaty and passed them to Wendy and to Hellina who both signed without hesitation, then to Rose, who he said would do as a witness to the authenticity of the document.

That done they all walked with Hellina back to her ship with a copy of the Treaty to take back to 22nd Corps Headquarters and then The Doctor, Rose and Wendy went to the library. Rose had dreaded what they might find there, remembering the mess that had been made of it, but when they arrived they were pleasantly surprised. All the books had been sorted onto the shelves, the damaged ones made to look decent. The parlour furniture had been put back in place, and from somewhere a new tea set had been left in place of the old one. Only the damaged door remained as proof that anything bad had happened, and The Doctor said he would deal with that.

“I can’t believe the children did all this tidying up,” Wendy said. “Usually they care for nothing but play.”

“I think the one good thing about this sorry incident may be that the children will realise there are SOME responsibilities in life,” The Doctor told her. “And that helping others is as rewarding as empty play. Organise a few of them to do repairs and restoration, a lick of paint about the village, that sort of thing. This is THEIR paradise. Maybe they could learn to take pride in it again.”

“Yes,” Wendy said. “Doctor, thank you, for everything. Even…. Well, I don’t like the idea of there being an army up there, with guns. But we are so helpless. We NEED their guns to protect our peace.”

“Sadly, that’s the way of the universe. We NEED people like Jack and the 22nd Space Corps for those who won’t listen to reason. But you need have no more fear. That’s the main thing.” He looked at the mauve alert crystal sitting on her mantelpiece like an ornament. “That’s all it need be, now. An ornament. But in the unlikely event that the 22nd Space Corp CAN’T help… you KNOW that I can, and I WILL.”

“You’ll always be here to make sure we don’t have to be scared.”

“Count on it. My word as a Time Lord of Gallifrey.”