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

Rose woke suddenly. She opened her eyes and saw the central column of the TARDIS console pulsating as it did when initiating a landing. But the console room seemed to be vibrating much more than it should. The Doctor was at the drive control frantically pressing buttons and throwing switches. He looked worried. VERY worried.

"What's happening?" she asked scrambling from the bed.

"We're out of control," he replied in a voice that itself seemed only just in control. "I think we're going to crash."


"Oh, that's ok. We've crash landed often enough. What I'm worried about is I'm not sure WHERE we're crashing. We're veering off course badly."

"We were heading back to Earth."

"I think we still are. But something is interfering. We seem to be heading towards the dark side of the moon."

"Anything that can interfere with the TARDIS has to be bad," Rose said. Various degrees of bad went through her head. She bit her lip fearfully.

The Doctor looked at her and then reached out his hand. She went to him, grasping it. He pulled her close. She was still in her pyjamas, warm from the bed, hair tousled and eyes still sleepy. Hardly equipped for a crash landing.

"I ought to have fitted safety belts," he said as he held her with one arm and tried to operate the controls with the other. On the viewscreen Earth's moon looked big and perilously close.

The TARDIS didn't seem entirely under his control. It FELT wrong, as if nothing he touched had any effect. "Come on, old girl," he whispered. "Don't let us down. Not now." The console almost seemed to reply to him. The green glow under the panels changed in intensity a little. But if there was a message at all, it was that the TARDIS needed his help.

He would swear it seemed frightened.

For all that it was a thing of metal and plastic and diodes and circuits, it had a life of its own. He knew that. It understood, even loved him in its way. And he cared for it, and respected it. But he had never before felt its vulnerability. He never felt that the TARDIS needed his reassurance, his comfort, the way he was giving it to Rose.

Who comforted and reassured him? He asked himself. He had relied on the TARDIS all these years. He didn't think IT relied on him.

"I'm sorry, old girl. I don't know what to do," he said as the TARDIS seemed to go into freefall. He pressed Rose down onto the floor, covering her with his own body and holding on, as he always did when things were bumpy. He closed his eyes just as the spacecraft that had pulled them off course came between them and the expected crash landing on the moon.


The pain was the first thing he became aware of as he regained consciousness. Every bone in his body ached, every muscle. He knew no part of his body was injured. If it had been, it had already mended while he was unconscious. The ache remained as a reminder that even a body with regenerative functions couldn't be tossed about like that without consequences. He opened his eyes slowly. The light was bright. It hurt his head. He closed his eyes again, waited for the world to stop spinning and opened them again.

He was not in the TARDIS. He sat up and looked around at what was clearly a cell of some kind. Three of the walls were white, with lights set into them near the ceiling. The fourth wall was steel bars. They seemed to come down from the ceiling and fix into the floor. They looked, even from where he was sitting, very strong.

Rose was lying on the floor near him. She wasn't moving. He reached for her. She was unconscious but didn't seem badly injured apart from a slight bang on the head. He reached in his pocket for his sonic screwdriver. He turned it to the setting that repaired minor injuries and applied it to her head. It was, he knew, a gentle, soothing effect. She woke slowly, and far less painfully than he did.

"Where are we?" she asked.

"Don't know. Still working that out."

"Where's the TARDIS?"

"Another very good question," The Doctor said. Just in case it was that obvious, he took out the key and pressed it to try to bring the TARDIS to them. Nothing happened. He guessed as much. Something capable of pulling them off course could probably set up a forcefield capable of holding the TARDIS. "Sorry, I'm not much help." He looked at her. Maybe it was the pyjamas, he thought, but she seemed vulnerable in a way he had never thought of her before. His conscience pricked him.

"I bring you into so much danger. It's not right. You've already seen so much horror. Faced up to so many things you shouldn't."

"When you asked me to come with you, I asked was it dangerous. You said yes. I said OK. Verbal contract, but I still accepted the risk."

"I shouldn't have let you."

"I'm older than Susan was when she faced the same risks with you. And Ace. And Jo was the same age as me when she first worked with you. And Sarah."

"I shouldn't have let them into so much danger either."

"Then you'd have been so much lonelier all these years - and probably dead, too. We've all pulled you out of the fire dozens of times."

"Maybe." He looked at her. She looked cold. He took his jacket off and put it around her. She pulled it close about her. "That feel better?"

"Yes, but…. This can't be good. If somebody just wanted to invite us to tea they wouldn't need to lock us up."

"I don't think they want to invite us to tea." The Doctor said. He stood up slowly and stepped between Rose and the creature that appeared outside the cell. It was about seven foot tall. The head was out of proportion to the body with an enlarged forehead. It looked at him then turned away. The Doctor heard sounds of screaming in what he guessed was the next cell and saw an unconscious man being dragged away. He was Human and wearing what looked like a FedEx uniform.

"We've been abducted by aliens," The Doctor said with a slightly hysterical laugh.

"What?" Rose looked at him. "WHAT?"

"You know all those stories about people being kidnapped and experimented on by aliens that got about in the 1980s and 90s… where everyone had similar stories about what the alien looked like - sort of grey, vaguely humanoid, big heads, tall skinny bodies etc…"

"Yes… but I thought that was just people overreacting to an overdose of conspiracy theory TV from America." She looked at him. "I never even believed in aliens until I met one. And he…" She smiled. "Well, he wasn't grey. Although he does sometimes have a bit of a big head."

"Comes with being the most intelligent being in the universe," he said. "But anyway, the thing is, it was all true."

"Ok. So we're in trouble, aren't we?"

"Yes," he admitted. "Just how much I'm not sure." He was examining the bars as he spoke. There was no breaking through them with any resource at his disposal. Even the sonic screwdriver's "welding mode" wasn't up to it.

"What will they do to us?" Rose asked. "Experiments…what SORT of experiments?"

"They want to know what makes other species tick," he said. "They're a bit like Van Statten. He wanted to use alien technology for his own uses. They want to find out what other species have that they don't and adapt it for their own purposes. They're sort of biological copyright thieves." He looked at Rose. She didn't look especially comforted by anything he was saying so far. He didn't feel too comforted himself. When they decided to find out what made HIM tick it was going to be bonus day for them.

"What are they? Where do they come from?"

"They're called Vedans. They come from a planet the other side of your galaxy. They're shunned by most sentient races because they care about nothing but this 'scientific' experimentation on other species. And knowing that doesn't help us one little bit."

"They're going to come for us soon…" Rose said. "To experiment on us."

"If I can't get us out of here, yes." He gave the bars another appraisal and decided there was no getting out that way without a key.

"They'll separate us," Rose added.

He turned to her. Strange that she was more upset by the fact that they might be apart than of being experimented on by an alien that saw her as nothing but a specimen for its observation. There were tears in her eyes. And that was a rare enough thing. She put up with some pretty scary moments without crying. But this was almost too much.

"Do you trust me?" he asked.

"Implicitly," she told him. "Why even ask?"

"Because this is going to hurt a bit."


He reached and took a metal hairclip from her hair. He snapped it so that it had a sharp edge and then took her hand and scored across the back of it until it bled. She said nothing. She didn't even try to pull her hand back. She DID trust him. She just didn't understand what he was doing.

He let go of her hand for a moment and used the same edge to cut open the vein of his wrist. As his own blood flowed he held it against the cut on her hand. She gave a soft cry of surprise as she felt his blood entering her bloodstream. It seemed to fizz slightly and it was quite a pleasant sensation.

"Can you hear my thoughts?" he asked in his mind as he took out the sonic screwdriver and used it to repair the cut on her hand. His own wound mended almost immediately.

"Yes," she answered in her own mind. She was surprised at first, then understood why. "Your blood…gives us a telepathic connection."


"Like when you gave me your blood to save me from vampyres." She frowned. "But… But then you gave me almost every drop you HAD, and I could only read your thoughts a little. This time it's crystal clear and from only a few drops."

"There were barriers between us then."

"What barriers?"

"Emotional ones. We both used a lot of mental energy pretending we were just friends, that we didn't love each other. That's the one thing that has changed between us in the past couple of years. We've allowed ourselves to love. That in itself allowed us to become symbiotic enough for the TARDIS to see you as an extension of me. That's why you can operate it. And it means you need just a drop or two of my blood to establish a temporary mental connection."

"How temporary?" She realised that for several minutes they had been talking without speaking.

"A day, maybe. But when they try to take us, if we ARE separated…"

"We can't ever REALLY be separated," Rose said.


She concentrated on his mind. It was amazingly easy to see. She had the feeling he was blocking some things from her. She was not surprised. There were a lot of things he couldn't share with her. But what he did share with her was all he was feeling right now and all he was thinking.

"You're as scared as I am," she said reaching out to hug him. He put his arms around her and leaned his head on her shoulder, his face pressed into her hair.

"Yes," he said inside his head. "Yes, I'm scared. I'm always scared when things like this happen. I'm not afraid to do what has to be done. But I'm not pretending to be a fearless hero, either."

"You're my hero," she said. He laughed and she felt a little less scared. "Well you ARE!"

He thought something else. She agreed. "Yes, I'm glad the boys aren't here. This is way too scary for them. We'll face this through together, me and you."


They were still holding each other tightly when the Vedan came to their cell. It walked silently, and neither saw it. Neither were sure how long it had been there. When The Doctor did realise they were being watched it was too late. As the pain of the inhibiting ray screamed in every nerve of his body he heard the Vedan say something about 'perfect for the empathy research.' Rose had already succumbed and was limp in his arms as he passed out beside her.

When he woke again he was aware first of the bright light shining down on him. It looked like the kind used in an operating theatre. For some incomprehensible reason he thought of the operating theatre in a San Francisco hospital where his seventh life had 'died' with the worried blue eyes of Doctor Grace Holloway looking down at him.

The eyes that looked down at him this time were black. A grey membrane that might have been an eyelid blinked across them as the Vedan watched his first reactions.

His first instinct was to grasp the creature by its scrawny, thin neck that hardly looked strong enough to support such a head and squeeze. He clenched his hands in frustration and pulled against the restraints that held him by the wrists and ankles. His head was free and he turned it to see that Rose was shackled to a similar table. She was still unconscious, still in her pyjamas with his jacket wrapped around her.

"I advise you not to do anything foolish," the Vedan told him in a rasping voice. "If you have emotions for the female specimen then do not do anything to anger me. Because SHE will be given pain in proportion to your actions."

"Go to $%&%&*," The Doctor said and wrenched at the arm restraints with all his might. The Vedan pressed a button on the panel between the two tables. Rose jerked awake and screamed in pain.

"I'm sorry," The Doctor told her telepathically. "That was my fault."

"How was it your fault?" she asked rather shakily. He told her. "So you can't try to escape or he zaps me and if I try to escape he zaps you?"

"Yes. And it's one-nil at the moment. If you feel I should be zapped to even the score, feel free."

"I wouldn't do that to you," she told him.

"Both awake," The Vedan rasped. "Good. The experiments into empathic responses of specimens that are emotionally attached to each other can begin."

"What do you mean emotionally attached?" The Doctor said. "I never saw this woman in my life before. She just threw herself at me in the cell and started kissing. Wasn't my idea. Disgusting habit anyway, all those germs passed around."

"Nice try, Doctor," Rose told him. But her laugh was cut short by another pain inflicted upon her as punishment for The Doctor's response.

"Stop that," The Doctor yelled. "You want to hurt somebody, hurt me."

"Don't hurt him," Rose said. "Don't." But the Vedan turned a dial on his control panel and The Doctor had to grit his teeth against screaming aloud. He felt as if his whole body was on fire. He turned his head and saw that the Vedan was holding a hot flame against Rose's arm. Somehow it had no effect on her. She was not burned. But HE felt the pain of it enhanced ten times.

"Stop it," Rose screamed out loud. "Stop hurting him."

"It's all right," he told her in his head. "It's just pain. Nothing I can't handle. I just don't want them doing it to you. As long as he keeps giving me the pain you're safe."

"Chained to a table on an alien ship with an alien psychopath," Rose answered. "Funny definition of safe, Doctor."

"I know. It's no picnic my end either. I don't think these restraints are as strong as he thinks they are. But if I try to free myself he'll hurt you."

"I can take it," she said. "If you can."

"No, you can't," The Doctor told her. "He's only just getting started. That was a taster of what he wants to do to us."

"This is what I wish to observe," the Vedan said, pleased with himself. He wasn't talking to The Doctor or Rose. They were just his test subjects. He was talking to himself. "Two perfect specimens with emotional attachment. How much pain will the male endure to protect his mate? Will the female endure punishment for the male?"

"Yes," Rose shouted out. "Just leave him alone."

"The male has not yet been tested to breaking point," the Vedan continued. "And he was aware in that test that the pain was simulated. He knew that his mate was not in fact harmed. But what if he cannot see what is being done?"

Both of them cried out softly as they felt the gravity around them change. It pressed down on them, so that they could not move any part of their bodies. They could not move their heads to look at what was being done. So when he heard her screaming in terror, when he felt her terror overwhelming his telepathic nerves he had no idea if she was being genuinely hurt or it was just another simulated pain.

And the not knowing hurt him more than when he was experiencing the pain itself.

"Why does liquid come from your eyes?" the Vedan asked him.

"Because I am an aberration," The Doctor replied bitterly. "I was born with tear ducts instead of a nictating membrane in my eyelids. Comes from reckless cross-breeding of species."

"I did not ask about your biology," the Vedan told him. "My scans of your physiology indicate that you are a different species to your mate. That is of no importance. What interests me is the emotional response this expelling of liquid indicates. You are in no discomfort. Yet you exhibit signs of distress. It can only be the empathic reaction. Because your mate is in pain, you…"

"Well what is so bloody surprising about that?" The Doctor asked angrily. "Any species with a soul would feel for another being in pain. Why don't you try to get an empathic reaction from a Dalek, or a Cyberman, or…. Or one of your own kind."

"What is a soul?" the Vedan asked. "Where is that organ located in your anatomy?"

"You'll never find it even if you turn my body to pulp and examine every atom under a microscope."

"Does your mate have this - soul?"

"Yes, she does. But you will never see hers either."

"I could dissect her body as you suggest."

"Then there would be nothing to stop me from wringing your miserable neck," The Doctor replied. "Because the only thing keeping me from doing that is your ability to hurt her in disproportion to my actions." He tested the arm restraints again. He figured he could pull them apart in maybe ten seconds. But he could kill her in ten seconds.

"But you could rescue all the other people he has as prisoners," Rose told him. "Once you never would have put my life above others. That's what I never wanted you to do, Doctor. I never wanted you to think I was more important than anyone else in the universe."

"Lois and Clarke," he thought suddenly. "Superman can't be always saving Lois and letting the rest of the world fend for itself."


"The world should try helping itself," he said. "It depends on Superman too much. It asks too much of him. Why shouldn't he have somebody special that he cares about? It's not fair to ask him to let her die and save everyone else. And it's not fair to expect me not to care what happens to you. I do care. I love you. And I know that makes me vulnerable. Especially right now when we're being tested like Pavlov's dogs to see if we'll react the way he wants us to react. But that's how it is. I love you. You ARE more important than everyone else in the universe. And pretending otherwise just rips me apart."

And that was it, of course. It was exactly what the Vedan was trying to discover. It was exactly what the Dalek in Van Statten's bunker had known. It used his love for her as leverage. It was exactly the button to press to strip all of his defences away, all of his means of fighting back.

He and Superman had that in common. Neither of them should have had hearts. Neither of them should have fallen in love. They should have stayed clear of emotional attachments.

But then what was the point of being alive? Yes, love made him weak. But it also made him a man, not just a being. It made him better than Daleks, Cybermen, Vedans, and any other being that had to ask where the soul was. He belonged to those species of the universe that knew where it was. And if that made them weaker, then so be it.

But he wasn't sure that WAS true.

"Would you die for her?" the Vedan asked, breaking into his thoughts.


"Would you DIE for her? That is the last thing I need to test. How deep are these empathic responses I have noted? Does self-preservation override them? Would you DIE for your mate?"

"Yes," he said. "Yes, I would."

"Do you believe him?" the Vedan asked, turning to Rose.

"Yes, I do." she said. "He has said so many times. He has faced death for me, and for other people, too."

"Faced it, perhaps," the Vedan said then. "But has he EXPERIENCED it."

Rose thought of that alternate reality where he DID die for her and regenerated into the stranger they met at New Year. The nightmares she had were clear enough to know that, YES, he HAD died for her. The Daleks had been destroyed. Mankind was saved. Her death would have been just one more casualty that day. But he gave himself up to keep her alive. Ok, maybe he DIDN'T die in the way humans did. His life went on in a way. But the man she loved died. The one he became… at best he was a friend with whom she shared some painful memories of what was taken from them both.

"Yes," Rose said quietly. "Yes, he has."

"Then DIE." The Vedan turned to The Doctor again. "Sacrifice yourself and she will be returned to your ship, unharmed."

"How can I trust you to do that?" he asked.

"You can't."

"No, I guess I can't." He closed his eyes. "Rose," he said in his mind. "Yes, I WOULD die for you. I will if I have to."

"NO!" she screamed out loud as the two tables were enclosed in clear plastic domes. "NO!" She struggled against the bonds that held her. "NO!"

"Your air is limited." The Vedan told them. "You will both die in a few minutes unless ONE of you sacrifices their air for the other."

"Don't do it," Rose said to him telepathically. "Don't do it."

"It's ok," he told her. "Give her my AIR," he shouted at the Vedan. "I mean it. Let her live."

The Vedan pressed a button. The Doctor closed off his lungs as he felt a vacuum around him. He looked and saw that Rose's table was open again and she could breathe easily.

"You're doing your thing, aren't you?" He heard Rose say. "You've stopped your breathing."

"Yes, but I can only do this for so long. I WILL die if he doesn't quit this experiment soon."

"You cheated!" The Vedan said and the plastic cover was withdrawn from around him. He let himself breathe. "You cheated. You have respiratory bypass!"

"It is a natural function of my species," he said. "Cheating doesn't come into it."

"The experiment is invalid. There was no sacrifice. You knew you could cheat death."

"What did you expect him to do?" Rose shouted at the Vedan. "You really expect him to die, just so that you can prove a point? He's The Doctor. He's turned better aliens than you into space dust. No matter how much he loves me, he wouldn't waste his life for THIS!"

"I would, Rose," The Doctor told her. "Yes, I would. Because it IS my fault you're here. I have to save you if I can. I made my choice centuries ago to live this life. But you came with me on a whim, because my life looked more attractive than the one you lived. So yes, if my death saves your life, even for such a ridiculous reason…"

"You will NOT cheat this time!" the Vedan screamed at him. "Even one of YOUR kind will die without brain functions." The Vedan pressed a button and The Doctor felt himself pressed back onto the table again as the gravity pressed down. His head was locked into position facing straight up into the blinding overhead light. He saw a panel open above him and a probe begin to decend. Probe? It looked more like an electric drill. And it was aimed directly at his forehead. Above the whine of the instrument he could hear Rose screaming but the focus of his attention was on the drill as it came towards him. The Vedan was correct. He WOULD be killed when that thing bored through his skull and into his brain. And he had no tricks that could get him out of this one. It was correct about that, too. He really was facing death squarely this time. He closed his eyes. He didn't want to see it. He didn't want to lose his nerve at the last moment and scream. He wouldn't give his enemy the satisfaction. He just wished his death could have had a little more purpose than this.

"No!" Rose screamed. "No, you can't kill him. He's important. The universe needs him. He helps people. He saves people from harm. He can't die. I'm not important. I'm just… just a shop girl. Just ordinary. If you want to kill somebody to prove your damn point, then kill me. I'll give my life for his. Let HIM go."

The Doctor opened his eyes. The drill had stopped millimetres from his head. The Vedan had stopped it.

"Very well," The Vedan said. "The experiment is equally valid if the sacrifice is made by the other."

"No," he screamed out as he heard another drill above the table Rose was strapped to begin to descend. He felt her fear. He heard her murmur prayers that she had learnt years ago in school assembly and which seemed utterly inadequate now. He felt the gravitational pressure on his body released. Cruelly, he was now able to turn his head, if he wanted, to see the drill bore into her head, to see blood and bone and brain tissue spurting out over her beautiful face.

He didn't want to. He only wished he could shut off the horrible sound. He heard the squeak as it cut into her flesh. He heard her cry out in pain and in his head she told him she loved him before her brain shut down. His own anguished cry rang loud in the air. She was dead. He was alone. She had sacrificed herself to save him.

Or so she had believed. But he was still a prisoner. It had been for nothing.

He tried to control his grief in front of his captor. But the loneliness, the awful reality of loss and grief engulfed him.

"Doctor?" It was a few minutes before he realised she was reaching out to him. "Doctor…. Are you…. why can I still feel you? They killed you."

"They killed YOU!" he said. "Are we both dead?"

"I don't think we're dead at all. I think…."

But that was enough for him. He tensed his wrist muscles and pulled at the restraints that held him. He felt it give. He pulled again, using that superior musculature of his as it was meant to be used. The wrist restraint tore apart. He had a hand free.

The Vedan was bending over him to examine his emotional reactions. It didn't even see the sharp punch that connected with its jaw and sent it sprawling on the floor, dazed. The Doctor sat up and freed his legs and then he bounded across to the table where Rose was lying. He began to unfasten her restraints too, beginning with the ones that cut painfully into her ankles. He was freeing her wrists when she twisted her body and kicked out behind him. He heard her foot connect with flesh and turned to see the Vedan fly through the air to lie unconscious and still.

"Thanks," he said taking advantage of the fact that she still had one hand tied down to kiss her on the lips.

"I saw you die," she said as he freed her and she stood up. "I saw it. The drill going into your head… I felt you in my head… dying."

"I heard it kill you," he said. "What…."

He looked around. The Vedan was still on the floor. But it looked different.


It was starting to come around. It seemed to be made of tough stuff. Even from a prone position the move Rose had used could kill. The Doctor grabbed the Vedan by the neck again and pushed it up against the wall. It was no longer seven foot tall, but closer to five, shorter than Rose. Its head was still massive and out of proportion, but its body was a skinny, weak thing, the arms and legs like twigs.

"Please… do not cause me any more harm!" The Vedan cried.

"Please?" The Doctor was astounded. "PLEASE? You're begging for mercy from me. You showed me none."

"It was only an experiment. A study," the Vedan said. "A test of the strength of bonding between a male and female. When your ship came within the jamming field I used to make my space laboratory invisible to planetary defences it was the best opportunity yet for testing this important aspect of emotional attachment."

"Study?" The Doctor snarled at him. "You tortured both of us, and you made us both think…."

"It was illusion only. Neither of you were physically harmed. You were simply induced to believe you were suffering physical pain."

"Didn't feel like an illusion," Rose said. "I can remember REAL pain. And I remember you murdering him…" And the memory fuelled an anger in her. She kicked out again, her foot reaching high and connecting with the creature's side. It shrieked louder than she expected. She looked puzzled.

"Rose!" The Doctor protested. "He's our prisoner now. You don't do that. Especially not THAT."

"I only got it in the side."

"Yes, but this is a Vedan. The side is front and centre for them. If you get my meaning."

For a moment she didn't. Then she blushed. "Oh!" She looked at the creature again. "Well, it serves you bloody well right," she said to it. "A taste of what you did to us. And I DON'T remember you asking us if we'd be your guinea pigs in your experiment. What gives you the right to use people that way?"

"Your species uses the lower species of your planet in the same way," the Vedan argued. "I have observed your ways."

"Yeah, and I signed loads of petitions to stop it. Lots of us know it's wrong. Does your planet have a League for the Humane Treatment of Humans? Or do you think we're fair game?"

"Are you the ONLY Vedan on this ship?" The Doctor asked, getting to an important point. "Are you working alone?"

"Yes," it said.

"So you make yourself look three times your real size to intimidate people."

"To show superior strength."

"How many people are there here on this ship? How many experiments have you conducted?"

"There are fifty remaining. More were returned to the planet. But I am unable to penetrate the shield that surrounds it now. You were the first fresh subjects for a full cycle of the solar star."

"Rassilon's Envelope!" Rose said.

"Another bloody snag. Earth people abducted by aliens are locked off from their homes!"

"They are all well. They are fed and sheltered."

"They're still prisoners. And where is my ship?"

"The blue box? I can take you to it. It is not harmed."

"Better not be. You are going to free ALL of the captives and THEY are going to my ship."

He let the Vedan down on its feet, but kept a firm hold on its shoulder with one hand. With the other he reached for Rose, keeping a tight hold on her hand as he frog-marched the Vedan from his 'laboratory' to the cells where his captives were kept. Like most captives who had given up hope of rescue most did not even look around when they heard footsteps. Not looking, not being noticed, was clearly a way of avoiding being taken for experiment. When the first cell was opened, though, and the prisoners saw their captor, himself a captive, there was a change in the whole atmosphere. The news of rescue was passed along from cell to cell. When they saw the true nature of their captor, most wanted revenge. By the time they were all free The Doctor was acting as PROTECTOR to the Vedan, preventing it from being torn to pieces by an angry mob.

"NOW, take me to my ship," he said. The Vedan sighed and pointed. The Doctor pushed him along until they came to a small cargo hold. The TARDIS was there, lying on its side, but apparently unharmed.

"That's why the remote call wouldn't work," Rose said. "It doesn't like being on its side or upside down. If it wasn't for that we could have got out of here ages ago."

"Yes," The Doctor turned to the fittest of the prisoners and asked them to help haul the TARDIS upright. When it was done, he opened the door. "Rose, you take everyone inside. Tell them to sit tight and touch nothing."

"Where are you going?" Rose asked, wondering if an assortment of people from the Fedex employee to a man from the Australian Inland Revenue department would actually obey instructions from a blonde girl in pink bunny pyjamas and a leather jacket three sizes too big for her.

"I'm going to sort a few things out with our grey friend here. To make sure he pushes off and doesn't try to mess with Earth again."

The Doctor was gone for quite a while and Rose WAS having trouble with crowd control. Too many of the people were wandering around the console room, trying doors that the TARDIS had automatically locked, and prodding parts of the console.

"How come these sofas have the US Presidential Seal on them?" Somebody asked. She sighed and turned to tell them just to sit down when an alarm sounded and she turned to find somebody trying to pull the Fast Return Switch.

"Will you stop that," she called out. But nobody was listening to her. She turned again and a small group were demanding that she open the TARDIS doors because they wanted to go and get the Vedan and lynch it.

"Sit down and shut up," she said to them, but she knew she didn't quite have The Doctor's way of making people do what they say.

"The lady said sit down and shut up," a commanding voice said. "Anyone still standing in three seconds is under arrest for causing an affray." THAT was a voice of authority, she thought and turned and smiled at the officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who had come to her aid.

"I'm glad they took notice," he whispered to her. "I'm WAY out of my jurisdiction here. They could have just told me to get lost."

Rose nodded. Of course it worked. She'd seen The Doctor do it many times. Authority exerted in that indefinable way commanded respect no matter where you were. It was something some people had even when their badges and warrant cards were a million miles out of jurisdiction. The Doctor had it even in a scruffy leather jacket that made him look like a navvy. Even if she wasn't wearing the bunny pyjamas, Rose knew she DIDN'T have it.


"So, what did you do?" Rose asked when he returned. He had taken a look around the crowded console room and gone straight to the drive control. In orbit over Earth he turned on the viewscreen and they watched the departure of the alien ship.

"You should have set it to self destruct," somebody told him. "That scheming runt deserves to die." There was a surge of assent to that.

"What if he comes back?"

"He won't," The Doctor said. "I have disabled every function of the alien ship except basic life support and one autopilot programme to return it to its home planet. In addition I have wiped this solar system from the computer databanks, and installed a virus which will do the same to the databanks of every ship in the fleet and every computer on his home world. They will not be able to find Earth in future. You are safe."

"He should have been punished."

"I don't do punishment. I don't do revenge." The Doctor said in a firm voice that settled the matter. "I do rescues. And if I absolutely have to, I do taxi service. If you can all tell me where you're from and when I'll try to get you back. I'll probably have to leave most of you wandering disorientated on a road some place. Decide for yourselves if you're going to say you were abducted by a little grey alien or if you want to make up something more believable. Don't bother telling anyone about the blue police box and the other alien. NOBODY will believe that bit. Take it from me!"

It took a long time to deliver fifty people to where and when they were abducted. They came from all corners of Earth, from the USA, Canada, Australia, Russia, France and Britain. Finally the TARDIS was quiet. The Doctor smiled at Rose as she skilfully put them into temporal orbit again after the last of the abductees was left off on a quiet road in the Scottish Highlands.

"Where shall we go now?" He asked her.

"Can we go see mum?" she asked. "Can we park by the bins and have a few 'normal' days. Normal like my life used to be before you came along."

"Rose… are you…" He looked worried. She knew why and was quick to assure him.

"Not for ever. I don't want to leave you or anything. And when I say normal… Normal for me now IS being here in the TARDIS. But I just want a bit of Earth normal, London normal for a while. Just to get my breath back. But I want you there, too. Or it's JUST London. Besides, I know you crave my mum's lasagne."

He smiled in relief. For a moment, he thought the trauma of the past few hours really had been too much for her.

"Right now, even your mother's sloppy shepherd's pie sounds good. Lasagne would be a bonus." He grinned and set the co-ordinates for the bins behind Powell Street Flats. "You might want to change out of the pyjamas though. She'll be wondering what we've been up to."