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

"There you are, Cinderella," The Doctor said with a mischievous wink at Hellina. "Home before midnight as promised."

"Home?" Jackie looked around the hangar bay of the 22nd Space Corps spaceship. "Funny sort of place to call home. I thought the TARDIS was strange enough. But…"

"No," Hellina said as they walked from the hangar bay to the bridge. "It's not really home. It's a battleship. I've lived on it for fifteen years of my life. Started as a cadet and worked my way up. I haven't been back to New London for at least ten years. There's nobody there who matters to me anyway." She smiled as Jack took her hand. "Well, maybe it IS home then. This is where everyone who DOES matter to me is."

"The TARDIS has been home to me for longer than my home world," The Doctor said. "So I can understand that."

"I never had a home," Jack said. "I know I was born on Earth, but I've lived most of my life in space. Except for the TARDIS The Scorpius is the closest I've ever had to home, too."

Jackie looked at Jack and Hellina and though she was credited with being the woman who couldn't even programme the VCR, she understood. Two people whose lives didn't allow them to have roots as everyone else knew them, had made 'home' a state of mind rather than a physical thing. Home was in each other. She thought that was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard, and hoped that the dangerous life they led, judging by some of the stories they had been telling as they travelled back to their ship from Rome, would not tear them apart.

She looked at The Doctor, and something about him slid into place, too. For him, too, home was a state of mind rather than a place. The TARDIS was a solid representation of it, but his home was where those few people he cared about were.

She felt glad she was one of those people. And even more glad she had signed that paper and given him and Rose what they desperately needed. The chance to make their home in each other without fear of anything coming between them.

"I never knew this ship had a name." Rose said. She had almost forgotten that this was the same ship that the Arachnoids had taken over. It looked better now. All the corridors were brightly lit and there were no dark, creepy corners, and it was always full of people. The battleship had hundreds of people on board and the corridors buzzed with activity.

"Scorpius for the constellation, and because it has a sting in its tail," Jack said. "For anyone who wants to mess with us."

"What sort of sting?" The Doctor asked.

"Thermic torpedoes," Hellina said proudly. "Anything DOES mess with us up close we can incinerate it in 20 seconds flat. Never miss. Our guidance system is second to none, and we can neutralise just about any force field or energy shield."

The Doctor knew she meant him to be impressed by that. But he wasn't that sort of warrior. Big guns didn't impress him. He saw the need for the Scorpius and its crew but he would never glory in their existence.

Hellina saw his face and half guessed his thoughts. She nodded imperceptibly. He was right, in a way. But even so…

The Doctor's way might work nine times out of ten. He might settle most problems with fast talk and sleight of hand. But that tenth time, when the enemy just wouldn't listen, when it came down to kill or be killed, she put her faith in thermic torpedoes.

They reached the bridge. The Doctor stood at the top of the stairs that led down to the Scorpius's command hub. He shuddered as he remembered the last time he had stood there, when in a red haze of hate and fury he had kept on firing bullets into the body of the Arachnoid leader long after it was dead. It was a fight to the death, kill or be killed. But even so, he had felt slightly ashamed of his own part in that day. He just seemed to have taken too much pleasure in his actions. And he didn't like to think he was the sort of person who would take pleasure in causing death, even to his enemies.

That was one of the few times he had put his faith in big guns. And yes, that WAS the one time in ten that it proved the right way. But it would never really be his way.

But just as he had acknowledged the need for U.N.I.T.'s militarism to defend Earth, he knew the universe needed the 22nd Space Corps. He was The Doctor, he gave tender loving care to the universe's wounds. But THEY were the surgeons that cut out the cancers, amputated the gangrenous limbs that were beyond his help.

And that was a big enough metaphor for one day, he thought wryly and was glad when Jackie spoke, giving him a good down to Earth dose of her reality to fix on instead of these dangerous brown studies.

"Wow," she exclaimed as she looked down at the activity on the ships bridge. "It looks like…"

"Mum," Rose warned. "If the rest of that sentence has the words "Starship Enterprise in it…"

"Well it DOES!" Jackie protested.

"There's a standard pattern for this kind of ship," The Doctor told them both with a smile. "Though it has always puzzled me how set designers for TV science fiction got it so right."

Jack and Hellina were both from future eras of Earth culture that had long forgotten about the Starship Enterprise. They were both having trouble keeping up with the 21st century conversation. But they also appreciated the lightening of the load that Jackie had provided. Too much philosophy about a job such as theirs was not a good thing.

“We’re about to jump into hyperspace,” Jack warned and he took hold of the railing around the balcony. Everyone copied him as the engine sounds changed dramatically. They actually felt the ship’s speed increase, though inertial dampeners meant that it didn’t FEEL as fast as it actually was. The acceleration needed to cross a whole galaxy in less than a minute without protection for those inside the ship would have been fatal.

It was still a minute too long for some people.

"Oh," Jackie cried as the ships engines returned to normal drive mode. "I think I am going to be sick."

"Jackie," The Doctor said, coming to her aid. "I forgot this was your first hyperspace jump. It can take people that way."

"Did it take YOU that way?" Jackie asked looking at him through her fingers as she covered her face to hide how green she was becoming.

"Can't remember. I was six weeks old when I was first taken into deep space. I'm used to it."

"I'll never be used to it," Jackie mumbled.

"Rose, take your mum back to the TARDIS for a lie down," The Doctor gently suggested.

"You're staying here?" Rose asked him. "I thought we were just dropping Jack and Hellina off and getting on our way."

"I want to see what's going on. The 22nd in action."

"You're just nosy," Rose told him and he grinned at her and kissed her on the cheek before she and Jackie left the bridge. He watched until they were gone from his sight then he bounded down the steps to the command floor. Hellina was busy co-ordinating with another vessel.

"Stand by to transmat," she said and turned and looked at a spot in the middle of the Bridge where the air shimmered momentarily and a man appeared.

Hellina moved forward and saluted him. He held out his hand to shake.

"Ambassador Fitzgerald," she said. "We are honoured to have you aboard our ship. May I introduce another honoured guest? This is The Doctor."

Fitzgerald's expression flickered as he shook hands with The Doctor, as if he knew who he was.

"The Gallifreyan?"

“You’ve heard of my people?” The Doctor himself was startled to discover that his planet was known to an Earth man. He knew Fitzgerald WAS from Earth, though possibly living and working on one of its colony planets. Colonists tended to have rather more knowledge of the universe and its multitude of species than those who remained on Earth. It was a peculiar fact that even after they had discovered space travel and made contact with species of other origins than their own, Humans on their home planet had an insularity that made them forget too easily that they were far from alone in the universe.

"I am a diplomat. I have met many people," Fitzgerald said. "Though your race I know of only by reputation. I was sorry to hear that your home world was destroyed. A tragedy."

"Yes," The Doctor said, steadying his voice as he replied. "But that is in the past, now."

"Indeed," Fitzgerald said, looking at The Doctor's inscrutable expression and wondering if it WAS in the past inside his head. "Your OWN reputation precedes you, of course. A forceful and successful peace negotiator. As a proponent and signatory of the Shaddow Proclamation…"

"Do I take it that you are here to broker a peace deal with some race?" The Doctor asked him, if only to get off the subject of his own achievements. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy having praises heaped upon him, and it was a pity he had sent Jackie back to the TARDIS. It always helped to have her learn what a great person he was. But he was not, usually, one who played upon his own reputation. Yes, he had helped forge the Shaddow Proclamation. It was a piece of work he had been proud of at the time. It bound more than 100 different races to a pact of non-aggression and held them accountable for any infringements or invasions of planets not subject to the Proclamation. But he was never sure it worked. He'd seen countless violations of it since the day it was signed. Some races just saw it as a challenge to break the terms without being caught. The Nestene Consciousness that had attempted a colonisation of Earth the day he first met Rose sprang to mind all too easily. And that was just one example.

"I am an amateur diplomat," he said. "I have gladly played my part in making peace by such means when it was possible. But too often it isn't."

"Nevertheless, it ought to be the first, not the last recourse. We may avoid some of the battles our gallant hosts have to fight that way."

"Absolutely," The Doctor agreed readily. "I have, of course, no part in your negotiations. I am here quite by coincidence. But I should be interested to observe the proceedings."

"That would be difficult, I am afraid," Fitzgerald told him. "The representatives of the two sides have specified that I alone meet with them. They have settled on a neutral meeting place - a moon of an uninhabited planet in an unpopulated system."

"The delegate ships are arriving," Hellina said and her communications officer flicked switches until the viewscreen changed to a wide view outside the Scorpius. Two alien ships were slowing to a halt either side of the comparatively tiny shuttle craft that had brought the Ambassador. One was a perfectly spherical ship in gunmetal grey that looked ominously militaristic. The other glinted in the reflected light of that moon above which they were in stationary orbit. It was made of a crystalline substance that looked almost organic.

"Oh!" The Doctor stared at the two ships and his memory lurched. It had been a long time since he had encountered either race. Several regenerations back. And he had hoped never to encounter them again. He had hung around here first out of curiosity. Now, he had reason to stay. He looked at Fitzgerald. A memory stirred that he never expected to resurrect from the depths of his mind. A memory of his father doing the same job Fitzgerald was doing now.

He looked at the Ambassador and realised something that had been there in his thoughts all along without him quite fixing on it. Fitzgerald had a look, a bearing about him that reminded him of his father in his 12th regeneration. A dignified man with the appearance of about 50 years of age in Human terms, though his father had been nearly 4,000 when he married the Earth Child who was his mother.

He remembered well the story of his own birth. His father had not been there. That was unusual for his society. It was important for a father to be present at the birth of a first-born male child. Especially in an Oldblood family like his, where there was so much riding on the production of a healthy primogeniture. But Ambassador Lœngbærrow, had been unable to return home to Gallifrey. It was several days before he reached his wife's side and looked for the first time on his newborn son.

Because he had been on the other side of the galaxy negotiating a treaty between the two most argumentative races in the universe at that time. The Daleks and Cybermen had not yet emerged as a threat to universal peace. They were new races. But long before their time there were….

"Sontarans and Rutans!" The Doctor pronounced both words with such tones of distaste that Hellina and Jack both turned to look at him and Ambassador Fitzgerald gasped in astonishment as he uttered a Low Gallifreyan curse beneath his breath. Though the Ambassador was unlikely to know the meaning of the curse, the tone was unmistakeable.

"You mean to broker a deal between those races?" he asked Fitzgerald.

"We believe they are ready to talk. They have given assurances. And if peace could be made between them it WOULD be for the benefit of billions of peoples affected by this ongoing war."

"That is true," The Doctor said. "Too many innocents have suffered because of their intransigence. But that they are ready for peace? No. I'm sorry, but I don't believe it. Not of THOSE races. My father gave the best years of his life to trying to make peace between them. And when I say best years… he was a Gallifreyan. I'm talking about a millennia. And after he succeeded they barely kept the peace for more than a year. He was not a man who gave up on anything. But he washed his hands of the Sontarans and the Rutans. He refused to have anything more to do with them and urged the Gallifreyan High Council to do the same. They did. I'm the only Time Lord who encountered them since. And that was only because they both chose to fight their fight on Earth, and I wasn't having that."

"You think we'll fail too?" Ambassador Fitzgerald asked.

"Yes, I think you will fail. These races don't want peace. They live for war. They have known nothing else for thousands of years. Sontarans - they don't have families, they have squadrons. They 'hatch' thousands at a time to be raised as the perfect warriors. And Rutans… Their hatred of the Sontarans is their only driving force. Their whole intelligence, their morality, is based on their war. They care nothing for any culture, any race. They will destroy planets if they are in their way. I stopped them from using Earth as their base for another attack on their enemy years ago."

"Nevertheless," Fitzgerald said. "I MUST try."

"Yes," The Doctor agreed. "You must." Again he was reminded of his father. He, too, went often into no win situations because he knew he had to try. When he was a student, aged only 97, with many years at the Academy to go, he had spent his summer vacation with his father, watching him work, admiring his skill at the negotiating table, his compassion for the innocent, his diplomacy and tact with warring parties, his determination to see justice done. And as the negotiations reached crisis point he had witnessed an assassination attempt on his father - an attempt that would have succeeded if he had not been a Time Lord who was able to regenerate his body. He remembered only too well. It was the first time he had seen a regeneration. He had held his dying father's hand as his body changed and he woke with a new face and looked up at him. Even then, he had returned to his role as arbitrator, had brokered the peace treaty between the race that had tried to murder him and their equally antagonistic neighbours. And only when that was done did he find time to prove to his own son that only his face had changed, not his affection for him.

The Doctor put his hands on Fitzgerald's shoulders for a few moments. The gesture surprised the Ambassador and The Doctor offered no explanation for it. He had done it for one reason only. In the momentary physical contact he had reached into the Ambassador's mind and established a mental connection there. He wanted to know what was going on in the negotiations that would take place down on the moon below as soon as the delegates from the two races and the Ambassador, as mediator, transmatted down.

"Good luck," he said as the Ambassador stepped into the beam.

The Doctor walked back to the TARDIS, half aware of his surroundings, half focussed on what was happening below, seeing it through the Ambassador's eyes. So far both the Sontaran Grand Marshall Astoran and the Rutan Imperial Commander, who appeared to have no name, only that military title, were keeping a wary eye on each other as the Ambassador read the articles of peace that had been proposed.

The Sontaran was a typical example of his species; squat, with a neckless head that looked like a muddy Earth potato and a face that by any aesthetic definition would be called ugly. The battle armour that many took to be an exo-skin since Sontaran's were never seen in any other clothing, began where the head stopped. A helmet that covered the head when in battle lay on the table by its side.

The Rutan did not sit. It was not even remotely shaped to use chairs. It was an amphibious creature that resembled a spherical jellyfish, if jellyfish came in luminescent green. It hovered over the other side of the table and pulsed with the electrical charge that it stored for use as a weapon against its enemies. The Doctor knew the Sontaran would have a concealed weapon so they were equal even if they had disobeyed the first rule of diplomacy and distrusted each other from the start.

Which was fair enough since he distrusted them both.

He stepped into the TARDIS and smiled as the comfort of home and family enveloped him like a soft glove. Home, his TARDIS, his precious last link with his lost world. Family - he looked at Jackie, asleep on Rose's cabin bed, looking much healthier than before, and Rose, sitting on the sofa reading one of the books about Gallifreyan etiquette from his library. That made him smile. The book was written in Gallifreyan but the TARDIS made it possible for her to read it.

"Hi," Rose looked up from the book as he came in and smiled broadly at him. His hearts flipped as he moved the Sontaran-Rutan peace negotiations to the back of his mind and stepped towards his fiancée of a few hours. He sat by her side and put his arms about her. She smiled even more broadly as he put his hand under her chin and turned her face to his.

"It's so good to be able to do that," he said as he released her from the kiss. "It's wonderful to know I have the right to do it any time I want."

"What took you so long?" Rose teased him.

"Cowardice," he admitted. "I was afraid to let myself love." He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers, his lips staying on the one with the diamond ring shining on it. The diamond felt cold against his mouth, but her hand was warm. "No more," he said. "Now you are mine. My Promised One." He looked at the page she was reading. It was the customs of the Gallifreyan marriage ceremony.

"I always thought you were kidding about the twelve hours."

"I know it seems a little daunting," he said. "But…"

"No. The ceremony sounds beautiful. It's so complete. So final. When we do this… we really WILL be married, forever. It's nice to think that it will happen one day."

"Our Alliance of Unity will be my proudest day. He took the book from her and looked at the beautiful etching of a Gallifreyan bride and groom taking each other's hands. “When I see you in your diamond gown standing before me in the Panopticon….” He stopped and his eyes looked sad.

“What is it?”

“The Panopticon is gone. It was on Gallifrey. I was… I was thinking of my Alliance to Julia, and my son's Alliance… Wherever we are joined in Unity, whenever it is, it won't be on Gallifrey. I don't know why…. For a moment I forgot. I really thought we would be married there. My right as an Oldblood… Maybe it was because I was thinking of my father before. But he's gone too. He'll never see me make you my wife."

"My father won't be there either," Rose reminded him. "We've both lost such a lot. But we have each other."

"Yes," he smiled again. "If nobody else existed in the universe, we would have each other. My Rose, my own Earth Child."

Jackie looked at the intimacy they shared through half closed eyes, not giving away that she was awake. She smiled, though she, too, felt sorry that Rose's father could not share the joy of knowing their daughter was engaged to such a wonderful man. The last few hours were unreal. What had promised to be a quiet evening by the TV turned into an engagement party in Rome. And now the TARDIS was parked on board a space battleship while goodness knows what went on outside. There were few dull moments when The Doctor was around, she thought.

Maybe because he already had an open psychic connection to the Ambassador, The Doctor caught those last thoughts and looked towards Jackie with a secret smile. "I would give anything to have some dull moments," he thought. "At best we have a respite between the dangers."

And as if to prove him right he saw in the scene he had pushed to the back of his mind the Sontaran rise up in his seat and shout angrily at the Rutan, who in turn glowed actinic green and replied. The Ambassador rose to his feet and spoke to them both, but there was something in the tones of the argument that made The Doctor fearful. He ran to the console and opened a radio link to the bridge.

"Get the Ambassador out of there," he yelled. "Transmat him out, now!" Then he closed the link and ran out of the TARDIS.

"Doctor!" Rose looked after him. He had left the door open. That in itself was a sign of his anxiety. She saw him increase speed as he sprinted along the corridor to the bridge. She looked at her mother quickly then ran after him. Jackie looked at HER retreating back and then followed, at a slower walking pace, closing the TARDIS door behind her.

The Doctor reached the bridge just as the transmat beam brought the Ambassador back on board. He gave a cry of despair as he saw Fitzgerald fall to the ground as soon as the beam dissipated and took the stairs at a run so that he reached his side before even those who were closest to him.

His heart had stopped. The Doctor had felt it through that psychic connection. Twice he had been hit, once by an energy burst from a Sontaran ray gun, once by an electric shock from the Rutan. Either was enough to kill.

He began at once the only thing he could do. For all his powers, all his abilities, the one thing he had never had was the ability to raise anyone from the dead. But if he was in time, then the ordinary human method might do it.

"Doctor," Jack knelt beside him. He could see what he was trying to do, and he had hoped he COULD do it, but the longer it went on he knew it was impossible. There was a limit to how long a human being could be clinically dead and be revived and they had passed it and then some. "Doctor, it's too late. Leave him."

"No!" he said and continued to massage the Ambassador's heart, trying to make it beat again. "No. I won't give up on him. He never gave up…"

"Stop," Jack said and pulled him away as the communications officer came forward and covered the late Ambassador with his own jacket. Jack reached his arm around The Doctor's shoulders and lifted him to his feet. He turned his face to him with a grief in his eyes that seemed far greater than might be expected over the death of a stranger he did not even know a few hours ago. Jack started to speak but there was nothing he could think of to say.

Jack couldn't know what to say. He didn't know what was in The Doctor's mind. He didn't know that when he saw the Ambassador fall he had seen in his mind's eye his father's assassination. But he was grateful for his friend's strength in a moment when he himself felt so very vulnerable.

"I should have gone," The Doctor said. "I know what these creatures are like."

"It wasn't your job," Hellina told him, reaching out her own arm to comfort him even though she didn't quite understand why he was so grief-stricken.

"It IS my job," The Doctor said. "It always has been. I should have… I would have…."

"You would have been killed just the same," Jack told him. "And you just got engaged a few hours ago. You think Rose wants to lose you THIS quick?" He looked up as Rose came down the stairs. She and her mother had watched from the balcony as he tried to save the Ambassador, but now she came to him. The Doctor looked at her and stepped from Jack's embrace towards her.

"Doctor!" Rose screamed as she reached the bottom step. She saw his horrified expression as the transmat beam enveloped him. She ran towards him. Jack threw himself between them and held her back.

"NO!" he yelled. "That's a single entity beam. You'd kill him and you."

"Where has he gone?" Rose asked as she in turn was comforted by Jack's strong arms. "What's happened?"

"There!" Hellina's shout drew their attention to the viewscreen. They looked to see the negotiating chamber on the moon. The Doctor stood where the Ambassador had stood. The Sontaran delegate was beside him and the Rutan appeared to have both as its prisoners.

"The negotiations are over," the Rutan rasped in a voice that seemed like the audible equivalent of static electricity. "The Humans will listen and obey. We have killed one hostage. You know we are serious in our intent. We will kill this one unless you do as we say."

Hellina opened a communications channel.

"What is this about?" she demanded. "How dare you take hostages from my ship. Especially a civilian who has no part in any of these proceedings."

"Civilian!" The Sontaran made a rasping sound that could have been a laugh. "This is no civilian. This is the Time Lord called The Doctor. He is the enemy of our people."

"I never knew I was so famous," The Doctor said with a cool laugh that almost certainly belied a real fear that one or other of these two armed enemies would turn their weapons on him.

"The Transmat is disabled," the communications officer said, though the information seemed surplus to requirements. Nobody really expected it to be that easy.

"They're blocking it," Hellina said. She turned back to the screen. "What are your demands?"

"Fire on the Sontaran battleship," the Rutan said. "Destroy the enemy at our door. Or we kill your precious Doctor."

"No!" Rose cried. "Oh, no. You can't do that." She knew that the Sontarans were bad news. The Doctor had spoken of them before in such tones that she realised he regarded them as in his top five of the universe's nastiness somewhere just beneath the all time Number One, The Daleks. But to fire on them to save him - he would never countenance that.

"Of course we won't," Jack said, taking her by the arm and blocking her view of the viewscreen and of Hellina's negotiations with the Rutan. "Nor are we going to abandon him. You know we wouldn't do that. Even if Hellina could, if the 22nd could, I COULDN'T."

"Jack…" She didn't have anything to say. She just wanted him to hold her. He was the only one who could understand how she felt. Because after all, he cared for The Doctor nearly as much as she did.

"That is unacceptable," Hellina told the Rutan. "You will release both hostages at once and return to your ship. If you no longer wish to negotiate a truce we will allow both parties a temporary amnesty to remove your ships from the quadrant…."

"No negotiations. This one will die unless you destroy the Sontaran ship. Our weapons cannot penetrate their shields. We know you have the capability. You have thermic…"

The Rutan screamed as its body was enveloped in a ray of death. It seemed to glow an even brighter green for a moment then turned to a dull greenish-brown as its energy was drained and it fell to the ground with a hiss like a deflated balloon. The Doctor turned to see two more Sontarans who had somehow penetrated the transmat shield - or perhaps they were already on the moon, a secondary back up to the Sontaran in case of exactly this double cross.

But that left him in even more trouble. He raised his hands and backed away from three of his most troublesome enemies as they pointed their rayguns at him.

"The Rutan traitor has been eliminated," the Grand-Marshall rasped. "Now let us repeat its demand. You will fire on THEIR ship or The Doctor will die."

Rose didn't hear Hellina's response to that new demand. She was already running back to the TARDIS. Jack followed her. They had both thought of the same solution to the stand off below. Jackie made to follow but Rose turned and told her to stay on the Scorpius, because it would be safer.

"This is safer than the TARDIS?" she asked. "How much danger are you going into? The TARDIS is the SAFEST place I know?" But Rose didn't have time to argue. She unlocked the door and sprinted inside, Jack following close behind

"Look," Hellina said to her as she walked down the steps to the floor of the Bridge. Jackie looked at the viewscreen and was astonished to see the TARDIS materialise around The Doctor and two of the Sontarans. She saw the one left outside fire its ray gun at the TARDIS door, but even she knew that no ordinary weapon could penetrate the TARDIS. It was the ones inside that worried her.


"Get down," Rose yelled as she saw The Doctor and the two enemy creatures solidify inside the TARDIS. The Doctor didn't wait to be told twice. As he hit the deck she realised they were in a strange reversal of the first time she had seen the TARDIS materialise around somebody like this. That time it had been her and a Dalek that had been brought inside the TARDIS by The Doctor. This time SHE had snatched him from danger.

There was no time to think about the synchronicity of the situation though. She and Jack sprang forward together and darted around to the backs of the two startled Sontarans. In perfect unison they hit the Sontarans at the base of their necks with a pair of strong fighting daggers that Jack had taken from the dojo before they materialised. Both knew, she from The Doctor, he from researching his enemies, that Sontarans could be killed by a blow to the probic vent - a sort of exhaust pipe in the back of their necks.

The Doctor stood up and sprinted across the room and hugged Rose, then turned as Jack approached and hugged him too, much to his surprise and delight.

"Glad you remembered how to kill Sontarans," he said as he went to the console. "Which one of you did the piloting by the way? It was good work."

"That was Rose," Jack said. "The TARDIS purrs like a kitten in her hands. It knows you two are an item."

"Course it does," The Doctor said with a smile and stroked the console gently. "Thanks, old girl," he whispered before becoming brisk and efficient again. "Ok, let's get out of here. The element of surprise wore off ten seconds ago."

"What the hell…." Hellina and Jackie and the whole bridge crew stared at the viewscreen as the TARDIS disappeared again leaving two dead Sontarans behind it. The third Sontaran screamed in rage but their attention was distracted when the TARDIS re-appeared on the balcony. The Doctor emerged first followed by Rose and Jack. He came down the stairs with a purposeful stride.

"Get this ship out of here," he yelled. "The truce is over. They're going to start killing each other again any moment." As he spoke, the negotiating chamber still on the viewscreen exploded. It had to have been some kind of booby trap bomb. Neither ship had armaments that could penetrate to the underground chamber. But they could attack the Scorpius, and when the communications officer switched views they saw the two enemy ships turning to face them. As they retreated at impulse power The Ambassador's empty shuttle was incinerated as a foretaste of what they might expect.

"Time for that sting," Jack said, and Hellina nodded and gave the signal to tactical command. Moments later two thermic torpedoes were seen speeding through space towards their targets.

The Doctor found himself feeling no remorse whatsoever as the enemy was destroyed in two explosions that left both ships as no more than burning debris that got caught in the gravitational pull of the moon and created some new craters on its surface. Neither the Sontarans nor the Rutans had the slightest redeemable feature. There was no reasoning with them. His father had been right when he washed his hands of them. He was right when he said they weren't looking for peace now. He took no satisfaction in being right though. He couldn't get past the knowledge that Ambassador Fitzgerald had died for nothing.

He sighed as he watched the medics attend to the body of that good, brave man who had done so much to make peace in many parts of the universe. He had failed in the last. It was beyond anyone to stop the war between these two factions. The best the universe could hope was that they stuck to fighting their war in their own sector and left everyone else alone. And that was a forlorn hope at best. Sooner or later he'd have to fight one or the other, or both, again. And so would the 22nd Space Corps.

Jackie turned from watching the two ships vaporise and watched her daughter hugging her fiancé whom she had almost lost within hours of their engagement. She almost wondered if she had done the right thing letting Rose get engaged to him. His life was SO uncertain. But they loved each other, and what, in all honesty, could she have done? To refuse would have made them both miserable.

"Doctor," she said, accepting the inevitable as they, apparently, did. "You promised to get me home in time to watch the film at eight o'clock."

"That I did," he said with a bright and inscrutable smile. "I didn't say we wouldn't have a bit of excitement on the way."

"You can keep your excitement," Jackie said. "It's too scary for me. Give me a hot cup of cocoa and a nice romantic movie any time."

"I think I'll join you," Rose said. "I've had enough scares for one day as well."

The Doctor admitted defeat. He winked at Jack. "I'll catch you again somewhere in the universe when the domestic mood wears off." Then he followed the women into the TARDIS. A quiet night in front of the TV didn't look too bad from his point of view either. One day he might just get that quiet life he longed for. Though with the likes of the Sontarans and Rutans out there he knew it was a while off, yet.