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

The TARDIS was off course. The reason was a carelessly placed glass of lemonade that had spilled onto the navigation controls and blown several fuses. Chris and Davie were sitting on the White House sofa looking extremely contrite. The Doctor was on his back under the controls and Rose was passing him tools like a nurse assisting a surgeon. She was rather proud of herself that she knew what half of them were. She REALLY belonged in the TARDIS these days.

“Ok,” The Doctor said, sliding out and brushing himself down as he stood up. “Sorted.” Rose nodded her head towards the boys and he looked at them. They were so sorrowful that he forgot to be angry. He smiled at her and then went to his great grandsons. He sat between them and put his arms around them. “Sorry I yelled so much,” he said. “But it was a daft thing to do. You have to be more careful around something as precious as the TARDIS. She’s the only one of her kind left, you know. And we need her.”

“We’re sorry, granddad,” Chris said in a small voice. The Doctor’s flash of anger had stunned them both and they felt hurt by it, as well as ashamed at having given him cause to be angry at them. Now they were anxious to prove themselves in his eyes as junior Time Lords as well as restore his love for them as his dearest kin.

“Course you are,” he said, hugging them both. “Never mind. I know you won’t do that again. We ALL learn from our mistakes.” He looked up. “Rose, are we back on course?” She had automatically gone to the navigation console as he went to talk to the boys. He knew she was perfectly capable of understanding it.

“We’re on course for Earth,” she said. “But our exact location and time have been scrambled. We’re not going to get to the opera tonight.”

“Oh well,” he said. “Plenty of other nights. Boys, why don’t you take us in? Show me that you DO know what you’re doing. Rose… you come on over here with me.” The boys beamed as he sent them to pilot the TARDIS into a materialisation in the mystery unscheduled location. Rose left them to it and came to sit next to The Doctor, who had no special reason for her being there other than to kiss her indulgently. Not that she had any objection to that. He SHOULD kiss her. They had been living together in the TARDIS for so long she sometimes found it hard to remember any other way of life. She had no relationship before knowing him that in any way measured up to her relationship with The Doctor. They were as close as any married couple. Closer, even, in some ways. These moments they made for each other were a cherished part of their space-gypsy life.

The TARDIS materialised on what was, by the readings of air pollution content, early 21st century Earth – Rose’s own time zone. The Doctor didn’t bother to look at the data or even at the viewscreen to see where they were. “Spoils the fun,” he said as he reached for Rose’s hand. The boys ran to join them as they stepped out of the TARDIS.

“Oh!” The Doctor cried as he looked around the car park by a busy main road with a public park on the other side. He turned to look at the building beyond the car park. “Oh! FANTASTIC!” he laughed.

“Where are we?” Rose asked.

“We’re at Deepdale,” The Doctor said, pointing towards the football stadium. “Home of Preston North End.”


“And its matchday,” he added. “We’re playing Arsenal. Better keep your chirpy little cockney accent down around here, Rose.”

“Chirpy?” She looked indignant but he grinned at her and headed towards the club shop where he bought four PNE replica shirts and insisted on them all changing into them before he took them to the turnstile leading into the Bill Shankley Spion Kop. Rose didn’t even bother asking how he had acquired tickets for a sell-out all-ticket match. Like the opera tickets and invites to the opening nights of the great national monuments of the world, they just happened to be there when he wanted them.

“You realise,” Rose said, feeling very out of place with her ‘chirpy’ accent. “I can never be seen dead at HOME in THIS.”

“Yeah, and I bet Mickey would be real disappointed. I suppose he’s a Gunner.”

“No, Chelsea,” she answered. “But why would he care what I do? And why should I care what he thinks? You’re my man.”

The Doctor looked away from her as he smiled broadly. Of course he knew for a long time that she was over Mickey. But it was good to have it stated as fact. He knew a smart remark was not appropriate here, though, and he turned his attention to the boys, who were happy and excited at experiencing something unique that didn’t happen in their century. “So which of you knows your history? Why is this stand called the Spion Kop?” Davie was the one who correctly answered that it was named after a battle in the Boer war. The Doctor smiled at him and murmured darkly about the follies of Humanity’s wars and suggested they should have played football instead.

“So, reckon the North End will win today?” The man in the seat next to The Doctor nudged him as he asked the question. He looked at his programme and noted the date. April 11th, 2009, and seemed to be working something out for a moment or two.

“Yes, but it will be a tough game. Arsenal will score first, after fifteen minutes. Then we’ll equalise by half time. Arsenal will go 2-1 up in the first minute of the second half followed by 44 minutes of missed chances at both ends. But then we’ll put two in the net in injury time to take the match 3-2 and clinch the Premiership championship into the bargain.”

“You’re a show off,” Rose told him as the man turned to his neighbour on the other side. “And doesn’t that make it hardly worth watching the game now?”

“He’ll be gob-smacked when I’m right though,” The Doctor said with a mischievous grin.

“Oh, shut up!” Rose said and read her programme.

Of course, it went EXACTLY as he said. By half time they WERE at 1-1, Arsenal having scored on the quarter hour and the home side equalising before forty-five minutes. The man in the seat next to The Doctor was giving him odd looks.

The Doctor, himself, Rose noticed, was hardly watching the game. He kept staring up into the patch of blue sky above the stadium as if he could see something there. Rose looked up but could see nothing. But she wondered why it was that he could FIND trouble just about anywhere, while claiming that all he really wanted was a quiet life!

“I have often wondered that myself,” The Doctor said when she mentioned it during the half time break from the action on the pitch. “I actually think, even without people spilling lemonade on its primary circuits the TARDIS is not as random as all that. I think she actually does react to problems she thinks I ought to sort out.”

“So there IS a problem?” Rose queried.

“Yes,” he said. “Look at the sky.”

Rose looked. It was a pleasant spring afternoon with a blue sky and fluffy clouds lazily drifting across it.

She was looking at one cloud that looked, if you REALLY used your imagination, like a Slitheen head, when it suddenly vanished from view and a different set of clouds were there instead. Startled, she looked at The Doctor. He shrugged and watched the half time antics of the club mascot and a group of children down on the centre spot for a while. But his eyes drifted up again and Rose, watching him, also looked up. This time the April sky became one from mid-winter with heavy storm clouds and she shivered in the few seconds before it went normal again.

“What’s doing it?” Chris asked and she realised the boys could see it too.

“I don’t know,” The Doctor said. “But I intend to find out. AFTER the match. Whatever it is another forty-five minutes won’t make much difference.”

They all tried to give their attention to the game in the second half, but the strange phenomena seemed to be affecting that, too. For a whole ten seconds they found themselves watching next week’s game against Newcastle United. Everything was normal for a few minutes after that, and then they found themselves at an evening game with floodlights against Anderlecht. But that was not as startling as seeing a completely different stadium altogether, at least twenty years before the 2009 season, when work had not yet begun on the new look Deepdale and they were playing Blackpool in a second division local derby.

“That was the strongest,” The Doctor said when normality resumed. After that things seemed to settle down a bit. Even The Doctor was caught up in the excitement of the equaliser in the first minute of injury time and jumped up with everyone else in the stadium when the winning goal went in the net with seconds to go. The man he had told the result to looked especially excited and might actually have hugged The Doctor if he hadn’t backed away from him and grabbed hold of Rose. Things stayed quite normal as they made their way out of the stadium with the throng of supporters. The Doctor took the TARDIS key from his pocket and looked at it, and at the TARDIS, parked by the ‘forthcoming matches’ sign.

“There’s a nice pub up the road that does decent food,” he said, pocketing the key and taking the boys and Rose by the hand.

When they reached the pub in question, though, The Doctor seemed distracted by something across the road from it. Rose wondered if it was another ‘time shift’ – for want of another word for it. But she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.

“Here,” he handed her some money. “Take the boys and get drinks and order some food. I need to do something.”

“Do what?” Rose asked. She knew him well enough not to let him get away with such vague intentions.

“That’s an army barracks over there. And the sign in front has a symbol in the corner that tells those in the know that there is a U.N.I.T. detachment based there. I’m going to consult the professionals.”

“YOU are a professional. THE professional. They should come to you.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “They should. But they don’t. So I have to go wake them all up.” He kissed her quickly and turned to cross the road. It was a wide, busy junction, but the lights were red and he looked safe.

Then Rose screamed and so did the boys. They saw him raise his arms in an ineffective protective move against the double decker bus that appeared out of nowhere right in front of him. A moment later it was gone. The Doctor looked around at Rose and the boys standing on the pavement and ran back to them. Rose hugged him tearfully.

“Stay with us, come and eat. We’ll ALL go later.”

“Yeah, why not,” he said with a smile that didn’t quite hide how shaken he had been by that hair-raising moment. He took her by the hand into the beer garden by the pub and sat her and the boys down. It was nice in the April sunshine and he actually took off his jacket and hung it on the back of his chair as he looked at the menu. Rose thought how different he looked in the white football shirt. When he went to order their meal and drinks she smiled at the name and number on the back of it. Hers said “Rose” and a 23 – her age. Chris and Davie had their own names, and their ages. His said “Theta Sigma” and the number 9.

“The nine, I understand,” Rose said. “But I NEVER got Theta Sigma.”

“It’s his nickname from university,” Chris said. “In Gallifreyan the Greek letters ALL have significance. Theta Sigma means ‘The Outcast One.’”

“It’s meant to be an insult,” Davie continued in the slightly disconcerting but charming way the symbiotic twins had. “The other students called him that to be cruel to him. He hated it. He used to cry when they couldn’t see him.”

“Then why does he seem proud of it?”

“Don’t know,” the boys both shrugged. But on reflection Rose thought she understood. It was so like him. He always turned failure to triumph. He had taken the hurtful name and made it his own, made it a thing he could be proud of. It was strange to think, though, of him so young, so vulnerable, crying in secret. Rose felt a strange affinity with him. She’d felt that way often enough at school. She wondered if that was why HE felt a connection with her. Kindred spirits beneath their otherwise different experiences and backgrounds and ages.

“But how come he told you all these things?” Rose asked the boys.

“He didn’t,” Chris said. “We can read his mind easily. He never seems able to block us.”

“You really shouldn’t do that, The things he has to worry about… they’re not things you two ought to even know about.”

“We don’t listen when he’s thinking of you,” Davie assured her. Chris giggled and blushed. “That’s a bit too private,” he added.

“Well, that’s a relief. But even so…” But she saw The Doctor return with drinks – two colas, a small white wine and a whiskey and soda. As he passed the drinks around she didn’t need any telepathy to tell the boys to change the subject.

“Do you know what’s going on?” Rose asked as he sat down and sipped his drink.

“Temporal anomalies,” he said. “Time shifts if you like. Something is causing ripples in time.”

“Paradoxes?” Rose queried.

“That sort of thing, yes.”

“And they wouldn’t have anything to do with some twit giving a match result 15 minutes before kick off to the North-West branch of Gamblers Anonymous. That bloke told about eight of his mates and they ALL got right on their mobiles and placed bets.”

“Did they?”

“YES, they did. It was a stupid thing to do. You were JUST showing off. And you know very well if one of the boys did anything that daft and irresponsible you’d tear a strip off them. And I don’t mean to undermine your authority in front of them, but they might as well know that even their great-granddad who they worship can be a total TWIT sometimes.”

The Doctor looked at her for a long moment. Two thoughts came to his mind at once. First, that the way she had come down on him like that was impressive. And second, that she was absolutely right. He HAD been all of those things. Daft, irresponsible. A twit.

“If you two do anything like that I WILL tear a strip off you,” he said to the boys. “And no, that’s not me being a hypocrite. It’s me reminding you that even I can do stupid things sometimes. And you need to learn from my mistakes, because it will save you a lot of grief if you do.”

The boys nodded solemnly and he thought he had got the message across.

“But no,” he added. “My stupid stunt isn’t causing this. All I’ve done is cause William Hill’s a bit of a loss on the day. This is something else. SOMEBODY is messing with time.”

“Somebody…. You mean a Human… not… not anything alien? Because aliens can’t get here now, can they?”

“No. But as we found out with young Brenda, there are plenty of aliens already here.” The Doctor grimaced. “How much would you like to bet it’s some idiot messing with things he doesn’t understand – like that prat in Washington, or Van Statten.”

He stopped talking as a waitress brought their meals. As she leaned across the table placing the cutlery, he blinked and found himself, Rose and the boys sitting in the dark, hours later. He blinked again and the waitress was asking who ordered the salmon.

“Well, it would be nice if it stopped long enough for us to eat,” he said when she was gone.

“We’ve done temporal experiments,” Chris said as he started in on his burger and chips. “They don’t cause weird stuff like this.”

“You two know what you’re doing,” The Doctor said. “Whoever is doing this, either doesn’t know, or doesn’t care.”

“Do you mean it IS something like what the boys do?” Rose asked. “Like the thing they did with the trees?”

“More like somebody trying to do time travel without a TARDIS. If the TARDIS didn’t have all kinds of shields and protections and dampeners I’d have ripped this planet apart decades ago. I have to stop somebody doing just THAT.”

Rose looked across the road at the army barracks. “Can THEY help?”

“They’d better.” The Doctor said. “This is a small city, but it’s a city - a quarter of a million people in immediate risk even from these small experiments, let alone when it starts to go ballistic. They need to be on the case.”

“But we’re going to eat first?” Rose said. “Like it’s not urgent.”

“The object of taking the boys with us on these trips is educating them. Not to dive into whatever mischief some fool is cooking up.”

“So what’s educational about pub food?”

“Mum doesn’t let us eat burger and chips,” Davie said.

“They’re learning to enjoy life,” The Doctor said. “One thing David is right about. I’ve taught them so much. In another year or less I’ll have taught them all I can teach them. And they’re still children. They have to BE children sometimes. Not junior Time Lords.”

“I WANT to be a Time Lord,” Chris said. “I want to be like you, granddad.”

“You ARE like me,” The Doctor said, ruffling Chris’s hair. “Too much like me, maybe. But you’re too young for my burdens. So stop rifling through my memories when my guard is down. There are things in there I wish I didn’t remember. I certainly don’t want you to have to suffer them. And in-between being old before your years, I want you to be children, too. I want you to be 11 year olds.”

“But it all seems so…”Davie began.

“Meaningless,” Chris continued. “The games other boys play. The silly things they talk about. The things they want to do when they grow up.”

“We just want to be Time Lords,” Davie said.

“I’ve created monsters.” The Doctor smiled grimly. “It’s all right, boys. You be yourselves. I don’t think you WERE ever meant to be like other boys. You’re NOT like them. You ARE Time Lords. But just remember it isn’t all scary stuff. We’re allowed to have fun. We’re allowed to be happy.”

“I’m happy,” Rose said. “Although I’m not keen on these time shifts and I don’t want this planet ripped apart.” She looked around her. A beer garden at the corner of two busy main roads was hardly the most exotic of locations, but it was, in its way, a more compelling reason to save the Earth from destruction than the most idyllic and scenic locations. All these people, hurrying from one place to the next, unsuspecting that their lives were – AGAIN – in the hands of The Doctor. And he was sitting there eating salmon fillet and selected fresh vegetables of the day.

But when they finished eating he was briskly efficient again. This time he didn’t even suggest leaving them in the pub. But as they approached that busy junction he clung tight to all of the people he loved. Strange that he should feel afraid of crossing a road, after the things he’d seen and done and endured. But after the experience earlier he really DID feel apprehensive. He had actually felt the bus hit him, felt his bones crack as metal collided with mere flesh at speed. His relief when they stepped onto the pavement on the other side was palpable.

Rose had expected that people would jump to attention and start doing his bidding as soon as The Doctor announced himself at the gate block of the barracks. It was what they USUALLY did.

This time she was disappointed. For the third time, The Doctor patiently explained at the security desk while Rose and the boys sat on hard chairs and watched.

“I want to speak to the O.C. of the U.N.I.T. detachment based here,” he said. “Unified Intelligence Taskforce.”

“There is no such detachment – no such organisation, SIR.” The Ministry of Defence security guard was still being polite, but with an edge that suggested that any moment he would become impolite.

“Then get me the O.C. of this barracks. He’ll sort this out.” He turned and sat down next to Rose. He saw the man get on his phone, though, and he was confident that once the wheels of command were turning in the right direction everything would be all right.

He was wrong. It was NOT the O.C., or even one of his aides, who came to the gate block, but armed soldiers who arrested him for violation of Ministry of Defence property and dragged him away to the barracks in handcuffs.

“Granddad says don’t worry, Rose,” Chris told her in a whisper as she and the boys were escorted with a little gentler but no less insistent force to a detention room with a table and two chairs. Rose sat in one and Davie took the other. Chris sat on the table, his legs dangling, and relayed the messages The Doctor was sending through him. “He says it’s ok, they make dumb mistakes like this all the time. Remember San Francisco.”

“They tortured him in San Francisco.” Rose answered.

“He says, stop fussing and panicking. And stay calm.”

“Tell him to go boil his head,” Rose snapped. “His cool, calm front… pretending he knows what’s going on, pretending he has a plan. It gets him into trouble every time. And one day it’s going to kill him.” She thought for a moment then smiled through her tears. “No, don’t tell him that.”

“Too late,” Davie said. “He heard. You don’t want to know what he told you to do with YOUR head.”

The door opened and an officer came in. He looked at Rose and the boys for a long time.

“What sort of terrorist comes up to a military target unarmed, bringing the wife and kids, all dressed in football shirts?” he said.

“You tell me,” Rose answered with a mental strength she didn’t know she had.

“Obviously that’s NOT what you are.” The officer, a colonel, who identified himself as Ferns, looked at them again. “Is he nuts? Is he one of those publicity freaks that gets into the team photos at the FA Cup and climbs up the walls of Buckingham Palace to hang banners… that sort of thing?”

“He is The Doctor,” Rose said.

“So he said,” Colonel Ferns replied. “And that’s all he said. Stubborn man. Even when he was threatened with….”

“Threatened with what?” Rose demanded.

“Never mind.”

“Where is he?”

“In a cell, reconsidering his refusal to co-operate.”

“You locked him up!” Rose was appalled. “You’ll be the ones to reconsider not co-operating with HIM. You don’t know how much you need The Doctor.”

“The Doctor.” Ferns looked at her. “You say that as if he’s somebody we should all look up to. But what does it mean exactly? What is it? Some sort of codeword?”

“He identified himself and asked to speak to a U.N.I.T. officer.”

“There is no such regiment as U.N.I.T. in the British Army.”

“Yes there is,” Rose answered. “You’re wearing U.N.I.T. insignia on your cap. So stop messing about and go talk to The Doctor. He knows about the problem you’re having and he can help. He helped you before – lots of times. Only he erased his name from your computers after the Slitheen attack on London, two years ago… when we… when Ten Downing Street was blown up. We were there. HE stopped the aliens nuking the world. But then he took himself out of the system because he said it was too dangerous for his name to be known.”

“Slitheen?” Ferns was suddenly doubtful. Only the top ranking members of U.N.I.T. even knew about those. The destruction of Ten Downing Street had actually been put down in the Press as a GAS LEAK. Of all the lame stories. Thank God for the fifteen second attention span of the Reality TV generation. “What do you know about…”

“More than you, I’ll bet,” Rose said. Then she looked at Chris who was trying to get her attention. She nodded to him.

“Theta Sigma,” Chris said to the Colonel. “Put that in your computers.”

“What?” Ferns looked at the boy curiously.

“Just DO it,” Chris said imperiously as he looked back at the Colonel with a stare Rose recognised only too well. Chips off the old block. They were that, all right.

Colonel Ferns’ eyes showed his uncertainty. He turned away from them as he relayed a message though his radio. A minute later when he turned back his face had a very different expression. He was about to speak when the radio crackled. “Well get him out of there,” the Colonel shouted back after an urgent voice spoke on the other end. “And if there’s a mark on him … What do you mean the bruises have already disappeared? Take him to the command centre. He has full access. That comes right from the top – THE TOP – the PM!”

“So, now you know,” Rose said.

“You three will have to stay in here,” Ferns said. “HE’S the one with top level security. I’ll… have tea brought in… orange juice for the kids… just stay calm.”

Rose was tempted to tell HIM to go boil his head, too. But she was too relieved that The Doctor was NOT being subjected to some torture – although she didn’t like that bit about bruises – and that they WERE now listening to him.

“What I said earlier about staying out of his head,” Rose said when they were alone. “Scratch that. STAY in his head, stay with him.”

“I was never anywhere else,” Chris grinned, and again Rose was startled at how like The Doctor he WAS. “Theta Sigma – that’s his backdoor into the system in case anything like this happened.”

“You’re too clever by half, Doctor,” Rose said with a laugh. She knew Chris would pass the message on.

“He says he knows that, and, he loves you, and he loves me and Davie and we should stay put here and not worry. He’s on the case now.”

“Yeah, we’re out of the loop. The ‘wife and kids’ waiting here while superman saves the day.” But she wasn’t really cross. She LIKED the fact that people jumped to THAT conclusion about them. And she was sure whatever he was doing he WAS saving the day. It was what he did. Nobody did it better than he did.

“I apologise for your initial treatment,” Colonel Ferns said to The Doctor as he was shown into the U.N.I.T. command centre – full access, straight from the top.

“Yeah, heard that before,” The Doctor said. “I’ve been kicked in the ribs by the best of them. Your lot get an average to middling.” Ferns began to bluster but The Doctor cut him short. “Save it. I’m not interested. Just show me what you know about what’s going on around here.”

“We have been monitoring anomalies for several days.” Ferns turned to a computer monitor and brought up the data. The Doctor pulled a chair and sat at the terminal. He started to type so fast Ferns had to look away.

“You’ve not tried to find the point of origin?” Ferns looked blank. “Where it’s coming from,” The Doctor added.

“I KNOW what a point of origin is,” Ferns said. “But there is no way of telling. The traces we’ve been picking up, the anomalies – are too fractured, too confused. We don’t even know exactly what they are, except they are not normal.”

“They’re time shifts. Humans shouldn’t even be able to tell. Not ordinary Humans anyway. Anybody who has ever time-travelled can see it. Momentary jumps in time that snap back almost instantly.”

“Time travel….”

“You work for U.N.I.T. You know nothing is simple. Nothing can be taken at face value. I’m a time traveller. Nobody knows more about this kind of thing than me. Don’t ask stupid questions. Because if we don’t trace this and put a stop to it Humans WILL see it – very briefly, before the planet explodes.”


“Seriously. Now, shut up a minute while I save the planet.” The Doctor typed for a few more minutes then pressed the send key with a flourish. A schematic appeared on the screen. He pressed another and overlaid a map of the city. “There’s your point of origin. Took me…what…. Ten minutes? If you hadn’t spent so long treating me like a terrorist we could have had this wrapped up by now.”

“How can you have done that? We have been trying ever since this started.”

“I’m smarter than you lot are. And I know what I’m doing. Don’t worry. You’re not the first U.N.I.T. officer to feel inferior in my presence.” He fine tuned the readout and a closer map appeared on the screen. “Looks to me like an ordinary house about a mile from here. Calls for discretion – you, me, three or four plain clothes U.N.I.T. men. Don’t scare the locals.”

“Apparently you are on first name terms with the Prime Minister. And SHE says you outrank the military in any decisions to be taken.”

“Nice lady!” The Doctor said with a wide grin. “Ok, come on then.” He stood up and swept out of the room, Ferns following.

“You lot ok?” He spoke telepathically to Chris, knowing the boy was in constant connection with him. “Yeah, I know. She always worries about me. Tell her I’m ok. Really.” The boys were refusing to let go of the telepathic connection with him. He didn’t mind. It felt nice, having them both with him in his head, feeling their thoughts while knowing they were both safe out of harms way behind the strong barrack walls.

It WAS an ordinary house, in the middle of a terraced street. And it WAS less than a mile from the barracks.

“So many civilians,” Ferns sighed. “We ought to have evacuated the street at least.”

“This is not a bomb-maker,” The Doctor told him as they prepared to enter the house. “The damage being done here is of the sort that will impact on the whole world if it’s not stopped. Evacuate to Mars, you might be safe – though VERY bored. The place has no culture whatsoever.”

Two of the U.N.I.T. men covered the back while the other two brought down the front door with a lock-busting ram. The Doctor stepped in followed by Ferns, the two soldiers bringing up the rearguard.

They found the only occupant of the house in the drawing room. Taken completely by surprise he was quickly taken in hand by the two U.N.I.T. men, who searched him and plasi-cuffed his hands together. After a sullen moment of defiance he identified himself as Sindhal Ravesh and claimed to be an immigrant from India living a peaceful life as a second-hand clothes dealer.

The Doctor wasn’t convinced of any of that. He pulled out his sonic screwdriver and adjusted the settings.

“There’s a basement to this house, and it’s THAT way. What’s down there ISN’T second hand clothes. Bring him.”

Under The Doctor’s command two of the U.N.I.T. men were left to secure the house while Ravesh was manhandled by the other two down to the basement.

“Ye Gods, what IS this?” Ferns asked as they stepped into the semi-dark, windowless room. The whole of one wall of the big room was like a giant computer server, but The Doctor knew that nothing of this technology came from PC World. It was, all of it, alien technology. He moved to the chair set in front of a keyboard with no letters on it that anyone from Earth would recognise. He glanced at it for a moment then began to press keys as if the language was perfectly well known to him.

“You’ve been trying to disrupt the time continuum,” The Doctor said to Ravesh. “Why? It’s obviously not a time travel experiment, which would be the obvious thing. This is intended to disrupt time – to STOP it. Which, by the way is virtually impossible. Well, it CAN be done, but the planet you’re on tends to explode when you start it up again.”

Ravesh said nothing. He watched The Doctor with eyes that missed nothing. The Doctor did the same.

“What planet are you from?”

“What do you mean, what planet?” Ravesh blustered. “I… this is my planet.

“Pull the other one,” The Doctor insisted. “You’re an alien.”

“How can you….” Ferns began.

You’ve heard the expression – takes one to know one.”

“You’re a….”

“Oh, let’s not get tiresome. How do you think I’m an expert at all this?” The Doctor turned to Ravesh again. “Once again – What planet are you from?”

“Orin Brevia,” Ravesh answered. “As if you’re likely to have heard of it.”

“In the third quadrant of the Naxio system? of course I’ve heard of it. It blew up. Probably some fool messing with what he doesn’t understand.” He sighed as he brought up another schematic on the computer. “You know, this is primitive. A pathetic attempt at time control. Not even close to getting it right. But close enough to make it too dangerous to let you carry on. By the way, want to have a wild guess at what planet I’M from?”

Ravesh looked at him and his eyes widened.

“Good guess.”

“But I heard there were none of THEM left.”

Yes, I heard that, too. But here I am, putting a spoke in it for you.”

“I had to do it. For the sake of the children.”

“The CHILDREN?” The Doctor’s immediate thought was for his own children. He knew that was just some kind of Freudian connection but it disturbed him enough.

“This planet is in some kind of temporal envelope – shielding it – making it unplottable, unreachable from space.”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “I know that. There’s a damn good reason for it. Keeping people like you out.”

“Earth... Has always been the place that the universe’s oppressed have looked to as a sanctuary. It is a shining beacon of hope. But now that hope has been thwarted. And out there…. Just outside Earth’s orbit…. Searching for sanctuary…. We have three ships of refugees from our world. Fuel is low. Food… is non-existent. The people are starving. And their only hope is snatched from them.”

“Ships…” Ferns said. “We’ve detected no….”

“You wouldn’t,” The Doctor replied. “The envelope works both ways. Alien ships can’t see Earth and there is no good reason why YOU should see the alien ships. Stops you getting curious about things you’re not ready to get involved in. They’re not your problem. Your problem is people trying to rip this planet apart in order to contact them.” He turned back to Ravesh. “You seriously think you could break the envelope? The Earth you so desperately want your people to reach would break first.”

“We are desperate.” Ravesh said. “This was the last hope. My CHILDREN are among the people dying out there. We have no chance of reaching another suitable planet. I am begging. If YOU understand the technology that closed this planet from us, let my people through it. We are few enough. We will live quietly among you and cause no problems. As I have lived for many years here, waiting for my family to be able to reach this blessed planet – the sanctuary.”

“Doctor,” Ferns said. “Can’t it be done? After all…if they’re refugees….”

“No, it can’t,” The Doctor said. “The envelope is sealed against anyone and anything not of Earth origin – except me.”

“Is this - envelope - your doing then?” Ferns asked.

“No. Long story. Not going there, especially not in his hearing.” The Doctor tapped a few more keys and a schematic appeared showing the Earth, surrounded by a sort of barrier and three ships outside of it in a geo-stationary orbit. “Well, the ships are there, right enough.”

“Please… I beg you.” Ravesh sounded desperate. The Doctor felt a certain sympathy. When the envelope had been closed and he had found himself locked out of it, cut off from Susan and the boys, he had been devastated.

“Mind you,” Ferns continued. “It’s a bit disturbing, the idea that aliens come to Earth like the Cambodian boat people, looking to us as their sanctuary. Perhaps it’s time we had some kind of procedure – for processing them and ensuring they stay within the rules when they settle among us. A register, perhaps, so we know how many, and where….”

The Doctor looked at him coldly.

“Do I look like Tommy Lee Jones? Despite the jacket, I’m not one of the ‘Men in Black’. I’m not interested in how many refugees wind up here. I certainly don’t want any part in ‘registering’ or monitoring them. Apart from the fact that I AM the number one alien on this planet, and have no intention of letting anyone keep an eye on MY activities, that’s a civil liberties violation I would fight to my last breath to prevent. So forget it. And if any of your superiors have that in mind – THEY can forget it, too. But….” He turned back to Ravesh, who recoiled from the dark flash in The Doctor’s eyes. “I’m not having the envelope pulled apart so that the universe’s refugees can land their lifeboat. Nor am I going to be a bloody shuttle service or school taxi run for every alien that wants to get in or out of it. It was put there for a reason. And it stays there.” Then his voice, his face, softened. “All the same, if your case is genuine, if there really IS a ship in distress out there, I HAVE to help. I would refuse to do so at peril of my soul. I’ll… do what I can.”

“You are a prince among men,” Ravesh said obsequiously.

“No I’m not,” The Doctor said. “I’m just…. The captain of the Carpathia.” The cultural reference was lost on Ravesh, and even on the Colonel. But to The Doctor the analogy was clear. Out there was the space equivalent of a sinking ship. His was the only vessel capable of reaching it. And he could not turn his back and have those souls on his conscience. He stood up and reached in his pocket for his TARDIS key.

“No,” Davie yelled and his voice echoed around the detention room where he, Chris and Rose waited patiently. They had listened carefully to everything that was happening, but now both boys became disturbed.

“He’s wrong,” Chris screamed in panic. “Granddad… NO. Look at him again. He’s lying to you.”

“What?” The Doctor was startled by Chris’s voice in his head. He looked up. “Who’s lying?”

“Ravesh. He’s NOT a refugee. He’s an… an advance guard. The spaceships are trying to find Earth… to invade it.”

“You’re sure?”

“Look into his mind,” Davie called out. “I looked, and he’s lying. He’s planning something bad.”

The Doctor walked right up to Ravesh. He touched his forehead and concentrated his mind on connecting with him.

“No,” he said to the twins. “You’re wrong. He’s just a worried man. His own kids are on the ship.”

“He has no kids,” Davie replied frantically. “Look further. Break down his wall like I did. Look at his OTHER thoughts.”

The Doctor hesitated only for a moment. He knew perfectly well that mental blocks meant nothing to the twins. They had penetrated his OWN head often enough. Even if he didn’t know that, his instinct would be to trust them. People with such close telepathic connections as they had couldn’t lie to each other, and if they saw danger, if they saw something amiss, he had to believe them.

He grasped Ravesh with both hands around the side of his head and forced his way into his mind. The wall was obvious now he was looking for it. And it was obvious that the thoughts this side of it were a cover story. He focussed his mental powers on breaking it down. Ravesh fought back. He WASN’T telepathic. His race had no such powers. But he WAS strong-minded. He fought to prevent The Doctor finding the truth. And it became a question of whose brain would fry first.

Orinan versus Time Lord? There was no contest. And if it was true, then brain frying was too good for him. As he redoubled his efforts, he felt Chris and Davie with him, adding their own mental muscle to the fight. Ten years old or not, it was formidable. Not only were they remotely projecting themselves into HIS head, but they were using HIM as a springboard into the mind of another. He’d never even heard of that being done before. It was certainly beyond his own capabilities.

My boys, he thought with a surge of joyous pride.

But that could wait. Meanwhile their combined forces were breaking down Ravesh’s mental defences. At last he saw it. - not stricken refugee ships, but three battle-cruisers intent on conquest - firepower capable of destroying any defences Earth had – and they were precious few - then erasing the major cities from the map, leaving handfuls of frightened, leaderless people to their mercy.

That was the plan, and HE almost fell for it. He trusted too easily. He did the same when the Gelth pleaded with him for a way into the Human world.

He wasn’t going to do it again.

He turned to the man who had broken down the door and snatched the heavy steel ram from him. He used it to smash Ravesh’s machinery to pieces. The two U.N.I.T. men, Ferns, and their prisoner all watched in astonishment as The Doctor swung the ram as if it were no heavier than a golf club again and again and again. Ferns had the impression he was unleashing a lot of anger on the machinery rather than on the prisoner. Sparks flew. Circuits hissed as he smashed them to pieces. Electricity arced and flashed. The Doctor kept on until there was nothing left but smoking wreckage. He turned breathlessly, dropping the ram with a loud thud, barely missing his own foot.

“Take that one away,” he said, pointing to Ravesh. “Find something to charge him with and keep him in jail forever.”

“Granddad…. Look out…” Chris yelled again a moment before Ravesh lunged forward. The plasi-cuffs snapped as the apparently Human arms bulged and metamorphosed into grey, scaly limbs at least two inches thicker and unfolding to twice the length as they reached and grasped The Doctor by the neck. He hadn’t expected THAT either. He should have taken time to examine the physiology and find out if the Humanoid WAS Humanoid. Too late, he reflected as the creature’s hands started to strangle him. He closed off his lungs, of course, but that only bought him a little time. And he didn’t especially want his spine crushed.

“Back off,” Ravesh hissed as Ferns and the U.N.I.T. men all drew their handguns. “Or the Time Lord DIES by my hand.”

“No!” The Doctor heard Chris and Davie both loud in his head just before the ram flew from the ground where he had dropped it, straight to his hand. Remote telekinesis as well. Fantastic, he thought as he brought it up quickly and heard the sickening crunch as it connected with Ravesh’s skull. He fell back limply and The Doctor allowed himself to breathe again. Ferns knelt to examine the body.

“I think it’s dead,” he said.

“No, it’s not…” The Doctor pointed to the unmasked arm. It clenched and unclenched itself and the half creature, half Humanoid, partially metamorphosed into its bigger, stronger, uglier version, tried to crawl away. Ferns stood quickly and backed away, firing his handgun into the head. The other two men fired as well.

“Ok, it IS now.” The Doctor was not particularly sorry at what could certainly be called military overkill, although he felt a little nauseated at the sight of the mangled alien skull. It wasn’t the way he would have done it. But it was over at least. “I’m going to my family now. How you cover up this….” He pointed to the body. “And THAT…” He glanced at the wrecked machinery. “… Is your problem.”

“What about the three ships out there?” Ferns asked as he got on the radio and requested the necessary containment units. Now, they COULD pretend it was an unexploded bomb or a chemical spill and evacuate the area while they dealt with the situation. Ferns felt he was in control again.

“They’re still waiting instructions on how to invade Earth. They can wait a bit longer. When I’m back in MY ship I’ve a couple of contacts who can sort them out.” A walk in the park for the 22nd Space Corps, he thought. Especially if they took them by surprise.

As soon as he walked into the detention room, Rose ran and embraced him as if they had been parted for a week. The boys sat looking pleased with themselves. So they should. He went to them and hugged them both tightly.

“You two,” he said. “You did it. You stopped me doing the totally wrong thing. You SAVED this planet. You saved MY life. You are absolutely fantastic.”

“Does this mean you’ll let us navigate again?” Chris asked.

The Doctor took Rose in his arms again as he reached in his pocket and summoned the TARDIS to take them all away out of there. He looked at her, and at the boys.

“Why don’t me and you just retire to a little cottage by the sea and leave saving the universe to these two,” he said with a smile. “They’re better at it than me.”

“I think the universe needs The Doctor for a little while yet,” Rose said, though the idea had its merits. “At least until they’re old enough to drive.”

But he let them navigate, anyway.