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

The Doctor decided they all needed a holiday. The boys had taken on much more than he intended them to experience and Rose needed a treat after getting over the flu. He brought them to his favourite holiday planet, Lyria.

“This place ought to be horrible,” Rose said as she relaxed on a big beach towel in the sunshine. “It is SO commercialised it makes the Costas look unspoilt. And yet, it really is nice.”

That was a fair assessment of Lyria. The place consisted of thousands of miles of beautiful Mediterranean-like beaches of golden sand with crystal clear blue water. These had been colonised by hotels, restaurants and entertainment complexes. The seas were the domain of jet skiers and speed-boaters and the beaches full of beautiful people soaking up the sun – which was a safe activity on this planet due to the artificial UV-ray eliminator that protected it.

“Yeah, it’s nice.” The Doctor lay beside her, his head propped by his arm as he looked at her. She looked back at him and smiled. Almost everyone else on this beach was wearing bathing costumes of some kind - shorts and T. shirts at the most. His only concessions to the occasion were to leave off the leather jacket and swap the lambswool jumper for an open necked cotton shirt. BLACK of course, even though he knew perfectly well that black was a bad colour in sunlight. Rose reached her hand lazily and touched the top button, her hand brushing his thorax gently. He seemed hesitant at first then let her unfasten the buttons so that the shirt opened.

“Slight improvement,” she said. She ran her hand over his chest. He was so pale compared to the sun-seekers around them with their bronzed torsos. She smiled as she felt his two hearts beating a little faster for the intimacy she had instigated. He put his hand over hers as she rested it over his left heart and held it there.

“They beat for you,” he said. “My Rose.”

“You soppy article,” she laughed, though it thrilled her to hear him say such things. But he was so serious about it. Most of the couples around them were indulging in what a staid description might call ‘heavy petting’. Rose would have called it full on snogging. He had kissed her a couple of times, but only in that quick, light way of his.

“Most of these couples met at the club last night,” he said. “And they’re snogging because they have nothing else in common and nothing to talk about, and when they go home they’ll never see each other again. We’re about more than that. Always have been.” But he took the point even so. He shrugged off the shirt and laid down on the beach towel beside her. As he reached to embrace her, Rose noted that this was the least amount of clothing they ever had between them so far in their relationship – bathing costume against bare chest.

“What is that?” She had her hand around his neck, and without any shirt or jumper or jacket in the way her hand rested slightly lower than usual, touching a rougher patch of skin like scar tissue. Scar tissue? On him? Since when?

“Old story,” he said, moving her hand away and silencing her with a kiss. But she was curious now. Her hand traced a line along his torso. She had seen him with his chest cracked to donate one of his hearts to a dying man. She had watched his ribs close, the flesh knit together, the skin repair itself so that not even a line remained to show what he had gone through. Yet… She put her hand back on his neck and felt it. He sighed and turned over on his stomach. “You might as well know.” She sat up and looked. What she saw astonished her. It was scar tissue, and beneath it, it was still possible to make out deep marks seared into his flesh. They spelt, rather clumsily, the two Greek letters, .

“You did that?” she asked.

“No. Bunch of students at the Academy who resented a half blood being there. Six of them held me down while the ringleader branded me with a laser tool. I was only twenty. My tissue regenerating abilities were not yet fully functional. It repaired badly. And for some quirky reason it has always remained through every one of my regenerations. Like fate wanting to remind me I was once the lowest of the low and not to get too sure of myself.” He turned around again and looked at her. “Theta Sigma – the Outcast One. They thought I’d run off crying and quit the Academy. Well, I did cry. It hurt. But I didn’t quit. Couldn’t let my father down – couldn’t dishonour the Great House of Lœngbærrow.”

“Funny to think of you bullied at school. You’re so strong, powerful. Prince of the Universe.”

“Me - aged twenty - I was prince of nothing. My arms and legs were too long for my body, I was skinny, I had no muscles to speak of, my hair was too long, my hands too big. I tripped over my own feet and I was scared of doing something so stupid I’d be disowned by the Great House of Lœngbærrow. Took a long haul for me to be the Drop Dead Gorgeous cool guy that you know and love.”

“I was bullied at school, too,” Rose said. “Don’t even know why. Some of us seem to have invisible tattoos that say ‘victim here’ - even without laser tools.”

“Yeah, guess we WERE made for each other.” He tightened his hold on her and pressed his face into her hair. He knew about that. He never deliberately probed her mind, but when they were close, some memories were just so easy for him to pick up on. There had been an ostensible reason why one group at least saw fit to make her life a misery – she had no father. Why that made her so different in a north London council estate he could not imagine, but it was the excuse for picking on her.

“Do you ever think about getting revenge on them?” he asked her.

“No, it’s all in the past. But I do kind of wish this man in black with a blue box had turned up on my way home from school and walked some of the way with me.”

“We could do that,” he said. “Walking you home wouldn’t cause a paradox.”

“But it would make things different, wouldn’t it. I didn’t meet you till that evening in the basement of Henricks.”

“Yeah.” He sighed. “The ones who made my life a misery. They’re all dead now.”

“Vengeance is yours?”

“No. I survived. They didn’t. That’s all.” He sighed again. Then he smiled. “The sun is shining and we’re on a beach. Let’s forget the things we can’t change and just enjoy it.”

“No complaints from me.” She put her arms around his neck, a little higher than before, as he kissed her with something like the passion being displayed by others on that beach. And it was all the sweeter for knowing that they WERE much, much more than a holiday romance. If there was any vengeance to be had against the school bullies it was that she now had a life they could never dream of and a man in that life such as they could never imagine.

They lost themselves in each other for at least an hour. It was nice. For all the time they spent together it wasn’t often that they were able to take THAT much time just for each other. They enjoyed it. For her it was better than anything she had ever shared with any other boyfriend. For him, it was as refreshing to his soul as an hour of deep meditation. Well, if he was honest, maybe not. But it was much more enjoyable.

“Do you think they can breathe ok?” a voice said nearby.

“Well, he can. He has a respiratory bypass system. But I don’t know about her.”

Twin shadows blocked the sun. The Doctor stopped kissing Rose and looked up at his great-grandchildren. He hadn’t quite forgotten they were with him. But the fact that they had been off doing their own thing for several hours did not bother him.

“Don’t tell me, it’s been more than an hour since you had an ice cream.” He reached in his pocket and passed them a credit token for the vendor up on the promenade above the beach. He turned back to Rose who was laughing at his blatant bribery. “So where were we?”

“Just remember I don’t have a respiratory bypass system,” she giggled as she reached out for him. And for another blissful ten minutes she didn’t worry too much about breathing.

“Granddad!” The boys came running back. Something in their tone this time seemed different and when The Doctor looked up they didn’t have any ice creams. “Something is wrong over there.”

He sat up and looked where Davie was pointing. There was a commotion a few hundred yards up the beach. People were crowding around excitedly. And as he looked a medical hover-car arrived at the scene. A few minutes later it took off again. The crowd dispersed.

“Just an accident,” he said. “Nothing for me to get mixed up in.” He lay down again face up looking at them. “You want to see me in action, saving the planet? I saved two at once last week. Done my planet saving quota. Having a week off from it.”

Rose laughed. Apart from anything else, the idea of him having a week off was almost as unlikely as him ever retiring.

The boys seemed unconvinced.

“Nothing ever happens here. It’s a holiday planet. People just lie on the beach and enjoy themselves.” He smiled and closed his eyes. He felt Rose lie down again next to him, her head on his chest. He was aware that the boys were still stood there. He opened his eyes again and looked at them. “Come here,” he said. “Sit down.” They sat. He looked up at them. They looked way to solemn for people on holiday. “I think your mum might be right. I’ve put way too many ideas in your heads. You’re supposed to be having fun.”

“We were having fun,” Chris insisted. “But then we heard that somebody got their leg eaten by something in the sand.”

“Yukk,” Rose said and moved her legs fully onto the towel.

“At night time they use an earth mover to smooth this sand over and make it look nice and clean,” The Doctor reasoned lazily. “It probably buried some broken glass. I’m going to sleep now. Wake me up at tea time.”

“You don’t sleep,” Davie pointed out. “You do your meditation thing.”

“I can if I want to. Why don’t you two try the meditation thing.”

“We don’t know how to,” the boys answered him.

“Need to teach you that. Might do it tonight at bedtime.”

“Granddad,” Chris said with a catch in his voice. “Don’t you believe us about there being something wrong?”

The Doctor sat up again and looked at the boys. Rose sat up too, leaning her head on his shoulder and her arm about his back.

“I’m in denial,” he said. “I don’t want things to be wrong here. This is a place where nothing bad happens. I used to bring Julia here for holidays. She loved the beaches, running in the water’s edge, playing and splashing about, watching the sunsets with me. I want this place to be somewhere I can depend on to be ordinary.”

“We should have gone to Brighton. That’s ordinary.” Rose smiled. She understood his frustration. So few places they had been in four years were entirely peaceful. Even their beloved SangC’lune had been tainted by evil once.

“But granddad…” Chris started to speak, then he went very pale. “Granddad…. Something IS wrong here.” His voice was pitched higher than usual. And now The Doctor felt it too - something deadly around them. Something with only one thought in what passed for its mind – kill.

And not far away somebody started to scream. The Doctor jumped to his feet and ran towards the scream. He looked back at Rose and the boys. They had started to follow him.

“No. Get off the beach. Go. Now.”

Rose grabbed the boys by their hands and ran towards the steps. Several other people had taken him at his word. Something about the way he said ‘get off the beach’ was enough to persuade them. And their echoed yells started others following until there was an exodus.

Rose fell. Somebody ran past them and knocked her and she went over in the sand.


The Doctor sprinted across the beach, dodging panicking people who were trying to run in the opposite direction. He reached the source of the trouble and for a moment even he had trouble taking it in without being ill. The body lay in a depression in the sand, severed at the waist, the lower half entirely missing, blood seeping into the sand. The Doctor looked at the eyes of the young male victim, staring in horror. He gently closed them. The only thing he could do.

Another victim. He looked around. A few yards away another depression opened in the sand and a young woman screamed as she slipped into it. He was there in seconds. He grabbed her arms and that stopped her from slipping right down. But something had her by the leg. He thought he could see teeth gripping the ankle, biting in deep so that blood spurted. She screamed in pain and fear as she slipped a little further. He lay down on the edge of the widening depression and pulled hard. He managed to get her by the shoulders, but the creature was hanging on.

“Granddad!” He heard Chris screaming in his head. “it's Rose…She’s…. We’ve got her… We’re holding onto her. But…”

The Doctor’s hearts burned. He had to help this woman, this complete stranger. He couldn’t let her die. But if that meant Rose’s life….

“Hang on, boys, do your best. I can’t yet… I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”

“We’ll try,” Chris said, and then he seemed to switch off his connection. What had happened? What did Chris not want to tell him?

“Help me,” the woman cried in agony and he turned his attention to her. What else could he do? He pulled one more time and she was free but the creature had bitten clean through her ankle. She was bleeding from the ghastly wound, but she was free. He scooped her into his arms and ran across the sand. Behind him he felt the vibrations as another depression appeared. And another as whatever was under the sand followed his footsteps. Attracted to sound, like sharks, he thought.

“Here!” A paramedic took the woman from him as he ran up the steps to solid ground. He gladly gave her over to somebody else’s care. But then his own worry returned. For as long as he was taking care of her he didn’t think of Rose. But now…

“Granddad!” He heard Davie call out loud and turned. On a bench a little way from the steps the boys sat – and Rose was with them. She was crying but she looked all right. He ran to her.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there,” he said. “I…. I saved a total stranger instead of you.”

“It wasn’t the thing,” Chris told him. “The sand caved in because it had made a tunnel and then all the people running across. We hung on…and we pulled her out.”

“Everyone else was panicking,” Davie told him. “Nobody would help us. They just ran by.”

“People get selfish when they’re scared,” The Doctor said almost philosophically. “But you didn’t. That’s what matters.”

“Take me home,” Rose said.


“To the TARDIS.”

“The TARDIS is parked. We’re staying at the hotel this week,”

“No,” she insisted. “I want to be in the TARDIS – where I feel safe.”

“Ok.” She had a point. When you couldn’t trust the ground beneath your feet he thought he’d rather be in the TARDIS too. He helped her to her shaky feet and they walked along the seafront, away from the crowds that were standing around now, getting in the way of the paramedics and making up stories between them of what it was, how many there were, how many casualties there were. When it was quiet enough he summoned the TARDIS.


The local TV said there were three fatalities, eight people taken to hospital with serious injuries, and many more treated for shock. They said it was a localised Earthquake that caused subsidence.

“That’s such an obvious lie, but people will believe it rather than believe something with razor sharp teeth was burrowing through the sand.” The Doctor flipped off the viewscreen and turned to his family. Rose was lying on one of the White House sofas, the boys sat cross-legged on the other one. The Doctor sat next to Rose. “You ok now?”

“I was ok all along,” she assured him. “So stop beating yourself up for not being there. That woman needed you more. The boys were great. They hauled me out of the hole. They’ve got your strength.”

“They would, of course. They have Gallifreyan blood.”

The boys beamed with the compliments aimed at them. The Doctor still looked serious though.

“If I’d taken notice sooner – I might have been able to do more.”

“I don’t see how,” Rose said. “What could you have done? Told everyone to get off the beach? Why would anyone have taken any notice of you? Until the attack began everything looked normal. The way you wanted it to be.”

“I don’t know. But I shouldn’t have been so dismissive. Next time I’m like that kick me hard.”

The boys promised they would.

“But what WAS it?” Rose asked, coming to the point. “What’s under that sand?”

“Good question. I think I might go find out.” He stood up and slipped on his jacket and checked his pockets for his sonic screwdriver and TARDIS key. “You stay put.”

“You’re not going down on that beach again.” Rose stood and caught his arm. “It’s too dangerous. You can’t. It will get you, too.”

“Rose!” The Doctor turned and held her for a moment. “When have I ever turned away from danger? And when have you ever tried to stop me from facing it?” She was shaking. “You’re not ok, are you? You’re in shock, still.” He sat her down on the sofa again. He touched her cheek gently. “You’re only just over being sick and then this. It’s just not fair. I promised you a holiday and instead we’re in the middle of something.” He put his hand on her forehead and radiated calming thoughts to her. She stopped shaking and he laid her down on the sofa before reaching further into her mind and putting her into a deep, dreamless sleep.

“Neat trick,” Davie said.

“Something else I need to teach you, but don’t you dare use it on your mum, dad, or anybody at school. Look after her, won’t you. I’ll be back before she wakes.”

“You will be careful?” Chris asked him. The Doctor smiled as he turned to his great-grandchildren.

“I’ve never been CAREFUL in my life. I’m hot-headed, impulsive and reckless. My teachers said so. My father said so many times. Your mum and dad say so. But generally I make out ok.” He hugged them and bent and kissed Rose on the cheek and then he was gone.

The sun was setting on the horizon. The Doctor sighed as he remembered many pleasant days when he had watched that sunset with Julia, walking by the edge of the tide. The last rays of the sun spread red-orange light across the sea. It looked beautiful. But now it was spoiled by some horror that lay beneath the sands. Death lurked somewhere between where he stood and the incoming tide.

The beach was empty, but a small crowd was standing by the steps - Police and city council authorities. The Doctor moved closer and listened as they argued about whether they might be able to open the beach in the morning. What he heard made his blood boil. So much for beating himself up for not doing anything.

“We can minimise the damage,” one of the councillors was saying. “As long as they believe the Earthquake story. Put extra patrols on, paramedics on standby...”

“You have got to be joking,” The Doctor interjected loudly and they all turned to look at him. “Three deaths today. And they’re not the first, are they? How long has this been going on?”

The authorities looked at him then each other. There was no reason at all to answer the question put by a total stranger dressed in such a nondescript fashion. Yet all seemed to feel they had to explain themselves to him. And none of them thought to ask who he was.

“How do you know there were others?” a police officer asked.

“I didn’t. You just confirmed it. So how long? And how many victims?”

“Three weeks,” one of the council officials admitted. “There have been ‘disappearances’. Some of the night workers cleaning the beach – individuals walking at night. This was the first day attack.”

“You knew there was something for three weeks. And you let innocent people go onto the beach.”

“Our economy depends on visitors coming to our beaches…. The hotels, the restaurants….”

“Well I think you’ve blown that now.” The Doctor said. “So what do you know? Or do I have to work it all out for you?”

“We know its some kind of animal life,” he was told. “But we don’t know if it’s just one or many. And we don’t know what it is.”

“In other words you’re absolutely useless.” He walked down to the bottom step and looked at the sand. The depression where Rose had fallen was still visible.

“Are you out of your mind? It comes out at night.”

“That’s what I’m hoping. I want to see what we’re up against. Don’t you?” He looked back to see a row of anxious faces looking down on him but not one was likely to want to help him. He stepped onto the sand. It seemed solid enough. But he was taking nothing for granted. He stealthily approached the depression, pulling out his sonic screwdriver. He adjusted the setting and aimed it at the sand. There was nothing to be found there. The boys were right. The sand had simply collapsed on top of one of the creature’s tunnels because of the running feet.

He went further, to where he had pulled the woman from its grasp. There he got much more interesting results. There were residual traces. Saliva, tissue… He climbed down into the depression and sifted the loose sand until he found the solid object the sonic screwdriver was telling him was there. A tooth.

He climbed back out onto the level sand and looked about him. One of the earthmovers used for ‘cleaning’ the sand at night stood nearby. Nobody tonight was prepared to get into the driving seat. The cleaners stood in another huddle on the promenade a little way from the councillors. All eyes were on him, the only madman prepared to set foot on the beach.

He got into the cab and turned on the engine. He half climbed out of the cab again, standing on the footplate by the door. The machine vibrated loudly. If that didn’t attract the creature’s attention nothing would.

And it did. He could sense the secondary vibrations coming towards him, and a ripple in the sand as if it was being displaced by something huge underneath.

How huge? The Doctor actually felt rather nervous as he saw it come closer. Above on the promenade people were shouting to him to run, and he thought he probably ought to think about doing that.

He jumped from the earthmover as the ground opened up beneath it and the several tons of metal slid into the sand. The cab was the only part above ground and that was rapidly filling with loose sand. The engine grated to a stop but the subterranean vibrations continued. The Doctor jumped aside as the line of displaced sand actually ran between his legs where he landed. He began to run towards the steps. Two of the cleaners began to come down as if to assist him but he shouted at them to get back. He was just outpacing it anyway. He would make it.

He forgot about the hole by the steps where Rose had fallen earlier. He tripped headlong over it. And as he did so the creature emerged behind him. He felt it grasp his foot. Even through heavy duty boots he felt the teeth dig into his flesh. He kicked out with his other foot as the two beach cleaners reached him and yanked hard. He was luckier than the woman he had saved earlier. His foot was intact, though bleeding badly as the creature released him. It hadn’t managed to get a firm enough grip or he would have had a serious injury. He was told that his regenerative capabilities COULD grow a new hand or foot in time, but he would prefer not to find out how much time.

He ran up the steps with his two rescuers just as Chris and Davie reached the scene.

“I told you two to watch Rose,” he said to them breathlessly.

“We heard you yell out. We thought you were in trouble.”

“Course I’m in trouble. There’s a man eating creature underneath that beach and the city fathers of Amity here still plan to pass it off as an Earthquake. Did any of you see what it was, by the way?” He looked at the assembled witnesses and they all shook their heads. “Damn! The whole point of me risking my neck out there was to get a look at it. Never mind. Plan B.” He winced in pain as he put his injured foot down. It would be ok in a little while. It was already starting to repair, but the bite had gone quite deep. Chris and Davie took his arm as he began to limp towards the TARDIS. He turned around once.

“THAT BEACH STAYS CLOSED,” he ordered. He watched their faces. Those who THOUGHT they were in charge resigned themselves to taking orders from what their brains told them was a higher authority even if their eyes weren’t so sure. It gave him a grim kind of satisfaction to be obeyed by SOMEBODY.

The eyes of one of them weren’t sure about anything, he thought, singling the man out for special attention. The Doctor remembered him standing close by before. His ID badge said he was Daniel Bryant, Director of Parks and Beaches. Bryant was looking at him and at his colleagues and back out over the beach in turn, his eyes darting from one thing to the other. If he had to name the expression on his face it would definitely be GUILT.

“I wonder what you know about this,” The Doctor thought. And decided he would ask him TOMORROW. Right now he wanted to get his boot off and check how many teeth marks there WERE in his foot. Might help identify the creature, he thought grimly.


Rose was awake when they reached the TARDIS. She told the boys off for leaving her without telling her they were going out and then she told The Doctor off for his recklessness.

“Rose,” he said gently as he sat down and pulled off his boot and sock. “Can you try not to sound like your mum when you nag at me?”

“I’m not nagging and I don’t sound like my mum,” she replied. She looked at his foot. “What the hell did you do?”

“Got a bit too close,” he said. “Didn’t run fast enough.”

“YOU didn’t run fast enough!” Rose looked shocked. “I’ve seen you run. You’re faster than an Olympic runner. How fast is this thing?”

“Faster than an Olympic runner.” Rose knelt and massaged his foot. It was starting to heal now and it didn’t look so bad. But she could see how much blood had soaked into the discarded sock. “That’s nice,” he said as she held his foot and caressed it gently. “I didn’t mean it about the nagging. It’s nice to have somebody who cares about me, worries about me. But I’ll always be the one who dives into trouble wherever it is. Even if it means taking a bullet for somebody else – even a total stranger. That’s me. And it’s a lot to ask you – to be the one who cares if I live or die, but you took on that job, Rose. And I hope you’ll never regret it.”

“Oh, you crazy alien. You know I love you. And I DO care if you live or die.” His foot was as good as new. He pulled off the other boot and sock as he went to the TARDIS console with the sonic screwdriver and the tooth he had found in the sand.

“Who are the City Fathers of Amity?” Chris asked, remembering the one thing The Doctor said that he didn’t understand.

“That lot out there are,” The Doctor said with a grimace. “Worrying about their profits if they have to close the damn beach - putting their reputation before the lives of innocent people.”

“Seriously?” Rose giggled. She had recognised the movie allusion right away.

“Practically script perfect. Only this is NOT a shark attack.”

“Well, if we’re into genre fiction, I was thinking of the one with Kevin Bacon and the giant worms in the desert,” Rose said. The Doctor laughed.

“Come to think of it I remember a really bad B. movie that actually WAS about a monster under a beach eating people.”

“Never heard of that one.”

“You wouldn’t. It went straight to video when Betamax was still the industry standard.” He tapped a few more keys on the console and they heard the sound of the laser printer feeding a sheet through. The Doctor picked it up from the tray and brought it over to the sofa.

“There we go, this is what we’re dealing with, according to the DNA trace the TARDIS just ran for me.”

Rose looked at the picture.


The boys looked and made much the same remark. The Doctor folded the page and slipped it into his inside pocket.

“Enough of that for tonight,” he said. “I suppose nobody wants to eat at the hotel?” Nobody did. “Ok, let’s order pizza.”

Even on Lyria, where people came from all over the galaxy in all kinds of crafts, the pizza delivery boy was a little puzzled about being asked to deliver to a blue box sitting on the promenade. But he did. The look on the boy’s face when The Doctor answered his knock and paid for the pizzas was enough to keep their minds off sand monsters for a while.

Afterwards The Doctor remembered what he had said earlier about teaching the boys about meditation. Rose lay down on the sofa again and watched as he made them sit straight backed and cross-legged on the floor.

“Clear your minds, first,” he said. “And close your eyes. Now, look inside yourself. Feel your hearts beating. Feel your lungs breathing, your brain thinking.”

He knew they were doing it. He could feel their minds letting go of what was happening around them and turning inwards upon themselves.

“That’s good,” he said. “Now, concentrate on your hearts. Feel their beats and slow them. Carefully. Slow to half the normal speed. Now do the same with your lungs. Slow them down. Take half the normal breaths. And let your brain slow, let your thoughts come slowly.”

He expected them to get it wrong at first. And he was ready to help them if they got into difficulties. But to his amazement they both got it right first time. It was as easy as that. He touched their hands. They didn’t respond. They had reached the first level of meditative trance. He reached to them with his mind. Now they were in that state they wouldn’t hear ordinary words. He slowed his own hearts, lungs and brain to the same level.

“Now,” he said. “Its like compression stops in diving. We’re going to drop down through several levels. You’re not ready for the very lowest level yet. That’s too advanced. And there’s no reason for you to go there. But we’ll take it to three levels. And he showed them how to slow their hearts still further, to gradually stop breathing altogether, to relax every muscle in their bodies and to let their minds slow and quieten until almost no brain activity would register on any medical scan.

“Ok,” he mentally whispered to them in his own deep state. “Let’s come on back up now.” And he guided them back up through the steps again until they opened their eyes and gasped in amazement at the sensation.

“Felt like being underwater,” Chris said.

“Felt like being born,” Davie added. The Doctor wondered at such an odd description of the feeling but thought he had hit the nail on the head.

“How long can we stay like that for?”

“With practice you could do it for days,” The Doctor told him. “We have rituals that involve as much as three days in deep meditation. When you transcend you have to go to the very lowest level for several hours.”

“What is that?” Chris asked. “I’ve heard you mention it before. Like it’s important. But what is it?”

“It’s when you become Time Lords for real. Your DNA gets rewritten. Instead of being an ordinary Gallifreyan with one life, you become a Time Lord – and have thirteen lives.”

“Do you feel it?” Rose asked. She had also heard him speak of transcending before. And it didn’t sound pleasant.

“Some do, some don’t,” The Doctor said. “I did - every moment of it. It was very painful. But I wanted to transcend so much, to prove myself worthy, I didn’t care. I blessed every awful moment and when I came out of it…” He smiled at the memory. “The first thing I remember was my father hugging me and telling me I was no half-blood any more. But I was, of course. I always was. But I was a half-blood Time Lord with the FULL power of our race. I had WON over the bullies and the begrudgers.”

“Well done.” Rose smiled as she caught some of his feeling of triumph over those who had tried to put him down.

“When will we do that?” Chris asked. “When will we become Time Lords?”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor told them. “Long before I did, I think. I was 180. But I think you might be ready by the time you’re eighteen.”

“That long?” Davie looked disappointed.

“Long?” The Doctor smiled. “Seven years. I didn’t graduate from university until I was 200. You’ll be fully qualified, fully fledged Time Lords by the time you are a legal adult by Earth standards. You’ll know everything I took all those years to know and maybe more, because you’re both so smart you’ll work things out I never did. And I think you’re going to be way more powerful than I am. Meantime, just be yourselves. I love you for what you are. So do your mum and dad. There’s no hurry.”

“I wonder what they’re going to say at school when they go to see their careers advisors,” Rose said. “I can just picture the teacher’s face when they say they’re going to be Time Lords when they leave school.”

“It wouldn’t mean anything to their teacher. Most people on Earth don’t know what a Time Lord is. Even in their century. Anyway, Time Lord isn’t a job. It’s far more than that. It’s what we ARE.”

“Got to go back to school when we go home,” Chris complained. “I wish we could stay here forever. I love travelling in the TARDIS and having adventures.”

“You’ve had enough adventures to be going on with,” The Doctor told him. “Time to get your feet back on the ground for a while. And Rose and I can have a bit of time to ourselves.”

“For kissing,” Davie grinned.

“Sometimes,” The Doctor answered with a smile. It was a cheeky thing to say, but he didn’t care. “Sometimes we just drink cocoa and Rose darns my socks while I catch up on a bit of reading.”

“I have never darned a sock in my life,” Rose said. “And I’m not going to start now. Buy new ones, tightwad.” But she laughed and the trouble outside seemed far away as they sent the boys to bed and then spent a pleasant time together on the sofa making up for the afternoon that was cut short.

“I’ll never expect you to darn anything,” The Doctor promised her. “My Lady Rose, that’s what you are. And I should make more time to treat you as that.”

“I’m not a Lady,” she said.

“Yes you are,” he insisted. “To me you are. And when we are married, on my honour as a Lord of Gallifrey – you WILL be a Lady in title as well.”

“Mum would like that.”

“I’m not planning to marry your mum.” He silenced her with kisses then and there was not much else said until she told him she was going to get ready for bed. She changed into the pink bunny pyjamas that reminded him how young she was and how impossible any further intimacy was. He watched her fall asleep before he put himself into a comfortable position and let himself into a state of deep meditation. He wasn’t going to risk sleeping in the Human way and let the sort of nightmares that came after an overwrought day haunt him.

They were ALL woken early the next morning by an explosion. Rose was first up out of her cabin bed. The Doctor was a few moments behind her. A deep meditation took a little longer to come out of than mere sleep. The boys ran into the console room as the second blast vibrated the TARDIS.

“Its 4 am,” Rose said looking at the clock on the console that gave local time. “What’s going on?”

“I BET the Amity fathers are mortar bombing the beach to try to kill the creature,” The Doctor said as he pulled on fresh socks and a pair of unbitten boots. “You three had better get dressed. Come find me when you’re ready.” He knew there was no point asking them not to come. “You SHOULD be safe up on the promenade.” He raced to the door and was gone. Rose sighed.

“I hate being right all the time,” The Doctor muttered as he looked at the scene down on the beach. He didn’t even know Lyria HAD an army, but there was one there now, or at least a citizens militia, with mortars, blowing up the sand.

“ARE YOU ALL TOTALLY OUT OF YOUR MIND?” he shouted as he approached the same group of council members that had been there the night before. “You don’t even know what you are dealing with here.”

“We don’t need to know what it is. We just need to kill it,” he was told.

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong,” he replied. “How do you know if it CAN be killed by blowing up the beach? Maybe it has some kind of exo-skin that protects it. Or maybe it CAN be blown to a million pieces but it has the sort of DNA that can make each of the million pieces into a brand new creature?”

“Is that possible?” One of the councillors looked nervous and signalled to the militia to stop firing.

“Yes, it’s possible.” He reached into his inside pocket and pulled out the printout. “As it happens, it’s NOT a self-replicating creature. So you’re in luck. But it’s also not something you can just blow up. At least not by mortars aimed randomly at bits of beach. THIS is what you’re up against. It’s called a Dorlian Sand Dragon – Dorlian because it comes from a planet called Dorlia which is almost entirely desert, hence SAND and dragon because – well, that’s what it looks like. Except it doesn’t fly, it burrows in the sand. And extrapolating from the tooth I found last night, and the size of the bite marks on my foot, it’s about nine feet long.”

As the news sunk in among the councillors Rose and the boys arrived on the scene. The Doctor pulled them all near him protectively. He scanned the faces of the councillors as they tried to make an on the spot decision about their situation. He looked directly at the man he had noticed last night. Bryant, the Director of Parks and Beaches. He looked at Rose and winked.

“Remember we were talking about genre fiction last night. I always thought the most predictable and boring plotline was the one where some idiot buys an exotic pet and when it gets too big and eats next door’s dog they abandon it in the sewer.”

Bryant tried to walk away but suddenly, without anyone seeing him move, The Doctor had caught up with him and pushed him against the railings.

“Want to share something with us, Sonny Jim?” he asked. Bryant sensibly decided he DID.

“I bought it offworld. The kids called it George – after some old story about George and the Dragon….”


“And it ate the neighbour’s dog.” Bryant squealed as The Doctor twisted his arm just enough to make his point. “So I took it out to sea and tipped it overboard.”

“It swam home,” he said. “And by the way, George is a Georgina. And she’s from one of those species that don’t need a male in order to reproduce.”

“Isn’t that another genre fiction movie,” Rose interjected.

“Yes, it is. But we’re not going to have any little Georgina’s running around here eating through the paying visitors. Because we’re going to find her lair. Sonny Jim here is the Parks and Beaches manager. He can tell us where a creature that loves sand, salt water and dampness might make a nest.” He released Bryant from his hold and spun him around. “Well? Any ideas?”

“Under the old lifeboat station,” he said after a very brief thought. “The historic one.” He pointed to a building some way down the beach that extended out over the sands.

“Seems like a good guess to me,” The Doctor said. He turned and began to walk towards the old lifeboat station. Rose and the boys followed. Nobody else did. He turned and looked around. “You three are fully prepared to go with me to find something with more teeth than I want to count. Something that’s already in a bad mood because of all the noise waking it up – which, by the way I quite empathize with. You really would follow me into anything.”

“Don’t leave us out of the loop,” Rose said.

“Come on,” he said. “But when I say stop, STOP. Ok.” He turned again to the councillors. “So, you lot are happy to watch a couple of kids go into danger YOU won’t face?” That pricked their consciences. Several of them, including Bryant, followed.

As they came close to the old lifeboat station it was quite obvious that something bad was happening there. The SMELL of rotting flesh was nauseating. The Doctor remembered the half a body he had found yesterday and guessed the other half was probably taken back here, to the nest. He turned to tell Rose and the boys to stand clear. He didn’t need to. They had backed off from the smell. So had most of the councillors. The Doctor by-passed his respiratory system. If he didn’t breathe he couldn’t smell it. At least that was the theory. He approached the wooden structure of the lifeboat station. Beneath the main building was a sort of cellar built right down onto the beach. It was locked, but the sonic screwdriver made short work of the lock. The Doctor opened the door as quietly as he could.

He had blocked off his breathing but even so the stench assaulted his nostrils and the sight of decaying flesh made him feel sick. But he had no time to worry about that. Georgina was home. When the door opened, filling the cellar with unaccustomed light and air, she raised her head from the nest and hissed menacingly. He knew the creature probably couldn’t see him as such. It had only rudimentary eyes. It lived its life in darkness and hunted by sound. He stepped inside the cellar and moved sideways so that he no longer appeared as a silhouette against the brightness. He moved forward slowly, sonic screwdriver out and set. The creature moved its head and a steel collar and chain that still marked it as a ‘domestic pet’ clanked on the ground. He had guessed accurately. Nine feet long, from the tip of the long snout – he took careful note of the sharp teeth - to the tail. It was the colour of muddy sand, perfect camouflage in its natural environment. The four legs had sharp talons on the end, and the body was protected by a thick but flexible skin – not scaly as dragons of legend were, but more like an Earth alligator. It was formidable anyway. A dangerous carnivore.

It might not be able to see him, he realised, but even in the awful stench of the cellar it could smell him - clean, living flesh. The head whipped around and the jaws snapped, missing him by inches as he jumped back. He dodged to the left, further away from the light, trying to avoid tripping on the fetid larder of rotting flesh. The remains were mostly Human but it looked at if it had been eating stray dogs as well. He wasn’t inclined to investigate further. And Georgina wasn’t giving him chance to dwell on it anyway. Again he had to dodge the jaws, and jumping out of the way of the deadly bite put him in range of the equally deadly tail that whipped across his back painfully. The leather jacket bore the brunt of the force but he felt it all the same and he knew he had the sort of bruises that would set Rose back into Jackie mode if she saw them.

He’d worry about that when he got out of the dragon’s den. He dodged back around to the end with the teeth and adjusted his grip on the sonic screwdriver as he placed himself in the doorway again where she couldn’t miss seeing him.

The head darted forward as he expected and he aimed the sonic screwdriver’s beam straight at the creature’s eyes. The head dropped. The body caught up with it as it slumped down. The setting he fondly called ‘sleepy-bye’ worked on Sand Dragons as well as people. He wondered for a moment what he would have done if it hadn’t.

He’d have found out how long it DID take for a Time Lord to grow a new arm, he thought grimly. Or possibly a new head.

He adjusted the setting on the screwdriver to another one he regularly used – melting locks - and applied it to the metal collar. The creature had obviously outgrown it since it had become feral. It dug deeply into its neck. Removing it was an act of kindness. And he intended to do one more act of kindness for it.

He stepped back outside and summoned the TARDIS to the spot as he waved to everyone to come closer. Holding their breaths and covering their faces with handkerchiefs, they did. He went into the TARDIS and returned presently with a large bundle of tarpaulin.

“Get hold of this,” he told Bryant and some of the others. “We’re going to wrap Georgina in it and move her out of there.”

“You’re not going to kill it?”

“Why should I?" The Doctor asked. “It hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s not malevolent. It didn’t kill those people because it hates Humans or has ambitions of taking over the planet. It killed them for food, because that’s its instinct. The real monsters are the ones who took it from its own environment, where it is part of an ecosystem, a food chain, and sold it as a pet. As for the kind of idiot who would BUY such a creature, let’s not even go there.” He shot Bryant a dirty look and he had the decency to look away.

“Then what are you…”

“I’m going to take it home, where it came from. Leave it among its own kind. That’s all any of us can wish for - to be among our own kind.” Rose caught a glint in his eyes when he said that. He could never be among his own kind, never return to his home planet. In that knowledge he was prepared to make it possible for a creature anyone else would have killed without thinking to return to its home. Did he say compassion was a Human quality? If that was so, then he was far more Human than he claimed to be, and a lot of Humans were far less.

“We’ll never move it,” one of the men said. “It weighs about eight tons.”

“Yes you will,” he said. “Put some effort into it.” He joined in the effort himself, of course, helping to roll the creature onto the tarpaulin. “Careful. She’s a pregnant lady,” he told them. They looked at him in amazement. Rose looked in understanding. Compassion, yes. And he was right. This creature was not like the Arachnoids, or the Slitheen, or the Daleks, knowingly killing out of spite or for power. It was an animal that killed to eat, to survive, just like a lion or an alligator, or a shark. She thought about the first film reference they identified in this strange adventure. If the filmmakers made a mistake it was in making it seem as if the shark was out to get the Humans, when all it wanted was to survive. She knew The Doctor understood that as well. She knew these men didn’t understand that. They had expected him to kill it. They wanted revenge. But you can’t take revenge on something that doesn’t know it has done wrong.

“Why didn’t you just materialise the TARDIS around Georgina?” Rose asked.

“Two reasons,” The Doctor said as they finally manhandled the creature through the TARDIS door and settled her on the floor of the console room. “One, I didn’t want any decaying body parts to materialise in the TARDIS with her. And two, that would be too easy. These guys have a problem and here I am, mysterious stranger with a quick solution. Doesn’t work that way. They have to have some part in the consequences, if it’s only getting a bit hot under the collar hauling an unconscious Sand Dragon into my ship so I can take it away for them.”

The TARDIS interior had caused a lot of interest of course. He pushed everyone outside and stood at the door looking at them. “I’m taking the creature back where it belongs. Meanwhile you lot get that building torn down, get the bodies decently removed, and clean up the whole place. And I’ll be back to see that you’ve done it.”

“We’re going back there?” Rose asked as he closed the door and set the co-ordinates for the home planet of the Sand Dragon. She and the boys sat on the sofa, well away from it, despite The Doctor’s assurances that it was safely asleep.

“I paid up front for a fortnight at that hotel,” The Doctor said. “And I think we deserve to finish our holiday, don’t you?”

“I think you’re just a tightwad who knows he won’t get a refund,” Rose answered him with a grin.

“Want to bet? When did anyone ever refuse me? Least of all some poor hireling on hotel reception. One hard stare and they crumble. But if you want a better reason, how about going back and enjoying that beautiful planet for what it is. I want to walk on the beach at sunset with you, shoes off, the water lapping our ankles, soft sand in our toes, watching the sun go down and the stars come out. And I want you to think of nothing else but how beautiful it is. And forget you were ever scared out of your mind by things lurking under that sand. So after we’ve taken Georgina home, that’s what we’re going to do.”

And they did.