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

"I've decided I don't like heights," Rose declared as the Reisenrad, the giant Ferris Wheel in the Vienna Wurschtlprater halted to let more passengers on. Their cabin was at the very top of the 200 feet height and swayed gently in the breeze.

"Says the girl who once flew across London holding onto the trailing rope of a barrage balloon," The Doctor laughed as he stood behind her and put his arms about her shoulders. "I think that was just an excuse for a snuggle," he added in a whisper and kissed her neck tenderly.

"Barrage balloon?" Wyn questioned with a laugh of disbelief. Chris and Davie just grinned. Whatever the story was behind that, they knew it would be entertaining.

"Never mind old stories," The Doctor said. "Look at this view. Isn't it something?"

It WAS something. Vienna was a beautiful city and the surrounding countryside they could see from the top of the Reisenrad was breathtaking.

"Still, we could have come in OUR time," Wyn said. It's just showing off to bring us to 1938."

"It's not the same Ferris Wheel," The Doctor said. "This one gets burnt down in 1944. And anyway, the object of the exercise is to help the twins write a history essay on Europe in the 1930s."

"Isn't it kind of cheating when you have a granddad who can take you to see history close up?" Wyn asked. "Not that I'm complaining. A bit jealous maybe, that I didn't know you when I was doing history at school."

"When you get back to those A levels you'll have plenty of experiences to help you on your way," The Doctor assured her. "And by the way, you look very nice in that outfit."

Even though she was a tomboy and didn't much care about clothes, Wyn smiled at the compliment from possibly the only man in the universe whose opinion she cared about. They were both dressed as European ladies of the 1930s, Rose in a red flowered dress and Wyn in a tan coloured jersey and skirt combination that was feminine in its way without being 'girly'. They both had their hair braided and fastened up neatly as the women of the time did and the effect was to make them both look a little older than their real age. For Rose that meant that she was immediately taken as the mother of the two boys. A mistake she LOVED people to make, even though it meant they were assuming she was at least ten years older than she really was.

The wheel turned and they moved on. It was a wonderful ride, even for those who had ridden plasma storms across the universe.

Afterwards, The Doctor brought them to an outdoor café by the Wurschtlprater. He ordered iced coffee for the adults and ice cream sodas for the boys and relaxed in the sunshine, his long legs stretched out. The boys ate their ice cream leisurely and the girls drank their coffee and tried to avoid the attentions of a group of Austrian youths at a nearby table who seemed to be trying to catch their eyes.

"Well, I'm not available," Rose said with a smile reserved only for The Doctor. He smiled back with the kind of expression that said "She's mine." She used to be annoyed when Mickey called her 'my woman' and expressions like that. But when The Doctor did it she felt a thrill. She WANTED to belong to him.

"I don't fancy any of them anyway," Wyn said. "Even if they were my type, they just look…." She stopped. She wasn't sure what they looked like exactly but she didn't like it.

"They look sinister," Rose said, looking at them a little closer than she had been looking before. She couldn't quite put her finger on what was disturbing about them. Aside from the old-fashioned clothes they were no different from any group of young people she had ever seen down town hanging around the shopping centre. But something about them made her feel uncomfortable.

"Hitler Youth," The Doctor said without even bothering to look around at them.

"But this is Austria," Wyn said. "Not Germany."

The Doctor smiled wryly. "This is June, 1938. Austria ceased to be a nation in its own right three months ago." He looked at the blank faces of the girls and the interested faces of the two boys, who were settling into a piece of living history the way they loved it - as interpreted by their great-grandfather. "I despair of the education system of the 21st century," he said. "I really do. Ok, you didn't learn about the Anschluss at school. But you must have seen the Sound of Music."

Light dawned.

Wyn giggled.


"Just surprised that YOU have seen the Sound of Music," Wyn said. "The Time Lord from the other side of the universe."

"I HAVE spent a lot of time on Earth, you know. And sometimes when there isn't a lot to do in the TARDIS between planets I tune into the movie channel."

"WE have never sat and watched a movie in the TARDIS," Rose pointed out.

"With you around I am never that bored," he answered.

"You two don't need films. You snog all the time," Chris said.

"Where did you learn a word like 'snog'?" The Doctor asked. "I'm sure your mum wouldn't approve of it."

"From YOU," Davie replied. The Doctor blushed.

"Ok," he said. "Anyway, back to The Sound of Music. This is the summer the film happened in, by the way. Hitler annexed Austria in a bloodless takeover. A lot of people, like this little bunch sitting behind me, approved of it. They saw him as the answer to all their political woes."

"More fool them," Rose said. "A lot of people… But some didn't?"

"For me, the best bit in that film is where the Captain rips the swastika flag in pieces," The Doctor said. "Best attitude to fascism. And yes, a few brave souls took that attitude. You find no matter where in the universe you are some few people will stand up and say no. Like Chris and Davie's dad did when the Daleks invaded, like the people on Skaro, the Dalek home planet, who fought against them."

"I never realised before," Rose said. "The Daleks… They remind me of Nazis."

"Yes." The Doctor looked suddenly very distant. "Well, the Nazis are amateurs at genocide compared to them. But the analogy is about right. Both should be fought wherever they raise their ugly heads."

A cold seemed to come upon them as he spoke. Wyn knew the LEAST about the events alluded to in that conversation, but even she understood that nobody needed to tell The Doctor anything about genocide. She looked at the group of youths sitting behind where The Doctor lounged in his chair. She wondered if her mother had felt the same when she and The Doctor had fought the Daleks - a feeling of being contaminated just by being in the same place as they were.

"It's sad," Wyn said. "Sitting here, knowing those bad things are going to happen." She looked at The Doctor. "Doesn't it make you mad knowing you can't change any of it?"

"Yes," he said. "Absolutely boiling mad. It's why I defied my superiors and became an exile from my planet. I've spent my life fighting to stop tyranny and oppression. But it grieves me that I can't do anything about things like this. Yes, it does. More than I can possibly tell you."

"This is one of the times when we can't use what we know to change things?" Chris looked at his great-grandfather. He had drilled them repeatedly about the Laws of Time and not interfering with causality. He had told them that there were many things that they could not change, could not interfere with, for fear of damaging the delicate balance of time itself.

In the big picture of the cosmos, a war lasting a mere six years, involving the inhabitants of just one planet, was not that big a deal, of course. Intellectually, he knew that. Logically, he knew that. But as a sentient being with feelings, emotions, with a soul that burnt at the sheer injustice and the waste, he couldn't dismiss it so easily.

But equally, he was powerless to do anything to change the events that were starting to unfold here.

"You, sir, have the features of a Semite." The Doctor looked up coldly at the voice that addressed him. The muscles in his cheek twitched as he regarded the tall, blonde, blue eyed, shining example of Aryan adolescence.

"Come again?" Wyn looked puzzled.

"The boy just told me I have a big nose," The Doctor explained to her. His use of the word 'boy' was a deliberate put down of the youth who had come to think of himself as one of the master race. He watched the young Aryan's face harden into an expression of barely controlled anger, mixed with just a touch of fear when his eyes met one who really DID embody the authority and power he craved.

"He needs to tell US that?" Wyn laughed.

"I like your nose," Rose said with a smile. "Goes with the rest of you. And I think you're fantastic."

The youth passed on from their table and joined his group of friends who, at a given cue rose together and began to sing a song extolling the virtues of Aryan purity. It was a stirring tune, but the words were chilling to those with the benefit of historical foresight.

Around them, the effect of the song on the people at other tables was interesting. At almost every table people stood and joined in. By the time it was over almost everyone was standing. The Doctor's party was one notable exception. But there were others, too.

"Why did that little scene seem oddly familiar?" Rose asked when the song was over and everyone resumed their seats.

"See that man over there," The Doctor said, nodding towards a young man sitting alone at a seat drinking wine and making notes in a notebook. "He is a writer by name of Christopher Isherwood. He wrote a book called Goodbye to Berlin, about the rise of the madness we saw an example of just now. The book became a play called I am a Camera and then Hollywood got hold of it and made it into a musical which Rose is going to remember the name of any moment now. It's not quite as popular as The Sound of Music and doesn't have any good scenes of people ripping swastikas apart."

Rose DID remember the name of the musical and glanced at the young man who The Doctor said was going to write all of this down. She made a mental note to get hold of a copy of the original book sometime.

"THAT man didn't stand up, either," Davie said, looking at a middle aged man in a tweed suit who sat a few tables away from the writer. "Everyone else did."

"Did they stand because they believed in that song and what it represented or because they were afraid of what would happen to them if they didn't?" Chris asked. Rose nodded. She was wondering the same thing. But the boy put the question better.

"It's hard to stand out against something like this," The Doctor said. "It takes a lot of courage. Or, like us, like young Mr. Isherwood there, and like that gentleman, the knowledge that you're not going to stick around to be punished for not toeing the line. None of us have to live here. If we did, perhaps we'd stand and mouth the words just so that we won't have our heads kicked in down a dark alley… or worse."

"Who is the other man?" Wyn asked. "Is he famous, too?"

"No," The Doctor said. "And right now he doesn't even realise he is anybody special at all. He just knows a bad idea when he sees it. But he's got his page in history."

"Doing what?" They all looked at The Doctor, but he shook his head. This was not the time or the place. He stood up and looked around. The Hitler Youth were drinking beer and getting noisy. Young Mr. Isherwood had put away his notebook and walked away. He'd seen enough. The middle-aged gentleman in the tweed was still drinking his coffee.

"Let's give him some food for thought." The Doctor smiled as the idea came into his head. He looked at the swastika flag that the Hitler Youth had hung from a street lamp near their table. He pulled out his sonic screwdriver and adjusted its setting. He aimed it nonchalantly and the swastika burst into flames.

"Worthy of Captain von Trapp himself," Rose said with a grin as they walked the other way, leaving the Hitler Youth howling in rage and the gentleman in the tweed smiling faintly at their mishap.


"Ok, children," The Doctor said when they were safely back in the TARDIS. "What now?"

"I want to know about that man," Wyn said. "The one you said had his page in history. Tell us what that page says."

"I hope it's nothing bad," Rose added. "He seemed nice."

"I'm afraid nice didn't get you immunity from bad stuff," The Doctor told her. "Not around Europe in that time." But he had piqued all their curiosities. He called up the data on the TARDIS computer and patched it through to the viewscreen for them all to see.

It was barely a page. But they discovered that the man's name was Ernest Porter, an accountant from Northamptonshire. He was a keen traveller and spent a lot of time in Europe. An ordinary upper middle-class man with no family ties, who, two years after they came across him in Vienna, took it upon himself to help fifty abandoned children from a Belgian orphanage to freedom.

"Wow," Rose said. "That ordinary man did that?"

"Sometimes ordinary people DO things like that," The Doctor told her. "It's like I was saying. I've met his sort all over the universe. People who didn't even know they HAD courage until they tried. Think of poor little Gwyneth in Cardiff, or Nancy in the Blitz, Lynda sticking with us when we were up against it on the Game Station. Or Mickey saving your mum from the Slitheen, Greg and Peter from the café, Wendy in her library. Chris, Davie, think of all the people your dad knew that fought the Daleks. They weren't an army, just ordinary people who used their brains. Ernest there… He's another. He could have gone back to Northhamptonshire and lived out the war in peace. When the war began he was on his holidays. He could have got home to Northamptonshire, even so, and done nothing more dangerous than ARP duty. He's too old even to be called up to fight. But instead, he risked everything for a bunch of children he hardly even knew."

"Brave man."

"Yes." The Doctor smiled. "People like him make me proud of the planet my mother was born on. It's got a lot more of those sort of people than mine ever produced."

"But your planet produced YOU," Wyn said to him. "You're like all the heroes I ever heard of rolled into one."

"It's a good job I don't wear hats," The Doctor smiled. "The compliments I get around here, I'd get one swelled head." He turned from the viewscreen and went to the flight control. "What do you all want to do now?"

"Let's help Ernest," Chris said.

The Doctor looked at him and seemed about to say it was a bad idea, but Davie agreed with his brother and when he looked around Rose and Wyn said the same.

"We can't," The Doctor told them all. "That would be interfering with history."

"It says there he died at the age of 103 in England in 1999. So he must make it," Rose pointed out. "So we wouldn't be changing anything. Just lending a hand."

"See," Chris said. "We COULD help him."

The Doctor smiled and turned to programme the navigation console.

"So…" Rose asked. "When WILL seatbelts be invented?"

"They were invented around the same time the CAR was invented," The Doctor replied. "But they didn't start coming into common use until the 1970s. Why? What's up? You don't like my driving?"

"Oh, no!" Rose replied, trying to get the right level of sarcasm into her tone. "No problem with your driving. Only I really do prefer to be buckled up tight when we're driving a lorry along a dirt track in the dark without headlights."

"Why can't we just use the TARDIS anyway?" Wyn asked. "We could pick everyone up and whisk them away in a jiffy."

"Same reason we couldn't rescue people from the Titanic that way," Rose explained. "Taking people out of their timeline, even if you put them right back again disrupts the continuum. We've got to let history take its course. We're just helping it along a bit. Right."

"Right," The Doctor said with a smile. She had learnt so much. He was proud of her. He'd have expressed pride in a more hands-on way but he WAS having a struggle to keep the heavy 1930s lorry heading in a straight line. The vehicles he was used to driving had much lighter steering. An hour into this journey and even HIS arms were starting to ache.

"So, here we are in occupied Belgium in a stolen lorry, dressed as Red Cross nurses and…. What did you come as today, Doctor?"

"Catholic missionary," he said. Under his leather jacket and his usual lambswool jumper he actually was wearing a shirt with a clerical collar on it. Rose and Wyn both wondered if that was enough of a disguise to fool Nazis.

"Mostly, we won't be running into Nazis as such," he told them. "It would just be ordinary foot soldiers doing their job. And a boring job at that. As long as we keep our cool we won't attract their attention."

"You boys ok?" he asked the twins telepathically. "How are you getting on in there?"

"We've sorted out the TARDIS the way you said," Chris answered. "And we've got the food organised."

"Well done," he told them. "We're nearly there," he added.

It was nearly dawn, he noticed. The sky was starting to lighten to the East. He would want to get this phase of the operation done with before it was fully light. He pulled the lorry to a stop but left the engine ticking over. It was worryingly noisy, but he didn't want any trouble getting it started when they moved off again, and it had taken four or five tries at the ignition and a zap from the sonic screwdriver when they liberated it from the freight yard at Bruges railway station.

He took a deep breath and folded time. Anyone watching from the barn would have seen nothing but a blur before he was there. As it was, he noted with a wry smile, the two youngsters who had been left on guard had fallen asleep. Lucky for them he was the only intruder on their rest tonight.

He stepped past the sleeping children and found the man who had brought them on their journey. Eight days they had been at it so far, walking across country, avoiding roads, scrounging what food they could, sleeping at night in barns and moving on at first light before the farmers knew they were there. They'd managed no more than five or six miles a day, slow going, with fifty young and malnourished children. So far they had been lucky. But the closer they got to the coast, the harder it was going to be. There, they couldn't hope to avoid the German army. Especially at the port itself. Even he wasn't entirely sure about THAT bit, but he thought he had a plan that would work.

He shook the man awake gently. Even so, he was alarmed as he looked up to see an adult male standing above him in his barn full of sleeping children.

"It's all right, Ernest," The Doctor whispered. "I'm here to help you. I've got a lorry outside and food for the children."

"Who are you?" Ernest Porter asked.

"Just a friend who has the same opinion of bullies as you do," he replied. "You can call me The Doctor. Everyone else does. It makes life simpler."

"A lorry?" He sat up and The Doctor noticed that he had a small child in his arms. A boy, aged about three. Sukie's age, he thought, his youngest great-grandchild coming to mind easily.

"This is Claude," Ernest said as the child stirred and murmured softly. "He's the reason I'm here, and not sleeping the sleep of the just back home in England right now. Him and the rest of the little ones here. Claude is blind. Some of the other children have physical disabilities. Four of them are gypsies. The others are Jewish. Whichever way you look at them, the new regime accounts them waste to be disposed of."

"Life is never a waste," The Doctor said. "Come on, let's get your tribe organised." It was accomplished quickly enough. The children seemed well used to waking quickly in half-darkness and picking up the few possessions they carried with them. They moved in a quiet crocodile down the farm track to the road. The lorry disturbed them at first. They stopped and looked around at Ernest. He told them it was all right and they began to climb aboard.

"They've seen the rest of the children from the orphanage driven away," Ernest explained. "They don't know where to. The Germans came and picked out the Flemish speakers. Their idea was to have them adopted by German families and brought up as happy little citizens of the Third Reich, loyal to the regime. But these ones - they sent the staff of the orphanage away with the other children, left these ones alone, with no food, no care."

"They just left them to starve?" Rose looked appalled.

"Cheaper than gas," The Doctor observed icily. "Though not as efficient. Takes too long."

They all knew he was being ironic, but the thought still made them shiver.

"Will they all fit?" Ernest asked, looking at the lorry. It was a big one, but fifty children…

"There's more room than you'd think," The Doctor assured him and lifting the last of the refugees up he climbed inside himself. By the light of a torch Chris and Davie were already showing the children the way through the strange door at the back of the lorry which seemed to lead into a box covered in tarpaulin.

"How… what…" Ernest stared as the last of the children passed through the door.

"It's a magic box," The Doctor said with a smile. "Come, see."

Ernest looked worried.

"It's all right," Chris told him. "Granddad knows what he's doing."

"Granddad?" Ernest looked at The Doctor. In the torchlight his features were not easy to make out, but his age had to be no more than 45.

"See what I mean about names confusing things." The Doctor turned and looked directly at Ernest and those who knew his ways knew that he wasn't EXACTLY hypnotising the man, but he WAS taking away his anxiety and doubts.

"You can trust The Doctor," Rose told him and Ernest nodded and stepped through the door.

The boys had followed his instructions exactly. They had covered the TARDIS console with a heavy tarpaulin that completely hid it from view and they had turned down the lights so that the room was only dimly lit. The Doctor thought it must looked a little frightening, but even he was surprised when the children took it philosophically. Of course, they must have walked through plenty of dark stretches of woodland and slept in shadowy barns every night. The coral-shaped pillars that supported the domed roof of the console room were no more strange to them than anything else they had seen in recent weeks. Chris and Davie told them to sit down and they distributed the food they had organised. Cheese and bread and milk and also a basket of Cúl nuts. The best source of protein in the universe, and tasty too. The very thing for children who had been living on short rations for weeks.

"Ok," The Doctor said as the picnic continued happily. Boys, Wyn, you look after things back here. "Ernest, come on up front with us and give me directions."

He didn't really need directions, but he knew Ernest would be happier seeing where they were going, knowing they were not going into a trap. Claude refused to be parted from Ernest, so he, clutching his share of food, came too.

"Doctor," Ernest said as they drove towards the Belgian coast in the first light of a new day. "I must tell you that this is a little strange. Who are you, really, and how did you know where to find us? And when did we meet before? Because I am sure we have. And what IS that strange box in the back of this vehicle?"

"Oh, that Human faculty for asking multiple questions," The Doctor sighed, keeping his eye on the road ahead. "Which question do you want me to answer first?"

"They'll all have to wait," Rose said. "Look."

He'd already seen it. The roadblock. And he was aware that, had the children been crossing the field on foot, they would have missed this. He had driven them right into it. But he had expected something like this sooner or later. And he had a plan.

The twins acknowledged the telepathic message from their great-grandfather.

"Kids," they said in a loud whisper. "The Doctor says we've all got to be really quiet now. Let's all hold hands with each other and be still and silent until he says we can sing and talk again." Singing had kept their spirits up for the past hour, but now they all immediately became quiet. Self-preservation overrode their natural childish enthusiasm.

"Surely nobody can hear anything outside the TARDIS anyway?" Wyn asked them.

"Granddad says they shouldn't. But just in case we should be quiet."

The Doctor stopped the lorry just before the checkpoint and calmly took out his psychic paper.

"Now we'll find out how good his disguise is," Rose thought.

The Doctor jumped down from the driver's seat and approached the soldiers with the same calm nonchalance. She wondered if he really was calm inside or was it all a brave front.

"I had some papers made up that show Claude to be my adopted son," Ernest said. "The forms were in the orphanage director's office. I filled in the details and forged the signatures."

"That ought to do it," Rose said. "If they don't look too closely. But let's see what The Doctor does, first." She slid into the driver's seat so that she could see what was happening properly. He seemed to be chatting amiably with the soldiers, offering them cigarettes. She didn't ask where he GOT cigarettes. He didn't smoke. But it seemed to be the universal way of getting friendly with soldiers. Rose watched as one of the men made his way to the back of the lorry, but his superior called him back. The Doctor shared another joke with them and then came back to the lorry. Rose shifted back across the seat as he got back behind the steering wheel and they moved on through the checkpoint.

"That seemed TOO easy," Rose said.

"Yes, didn't it," The Doctor said. "I don't reckon we'll be as lucky next time."

"You hypnotised them?" she asked.

"Power of suggestion. I just made them think they'd already checked the back of the lorry and didn't find anything."

"Doctor…" Ernest had listened to the odd conversation and was already adding a couple more questions to his already long list.

"Yes, I know, Ernest," he said. "You're puzzled. But at least you know now that I'm not an enemy agent. I'm not driving you and the kids to your doom."

"You are an angel sent from God," Ernest said. "You must be. I had begun to despair. The journey has already been so long and we had so far to go still. And there was nowhere near enough food. All the children have been so brave, but they have their limitations."

"Yeah," The Doctor thought of the book he had pulled up on the TARDIS database. "An Ordinary Man - The Story of Ernest Porter" by Claude Porter. The diary entry for that night had expressed that sense of despair. That was one reason why he had chosen to rendezvous with them in that place. When they were all the most tired and depressed and unsure of the future his offer of help would be less likely to be questioned and most needed. They had done two thirds of the journey under their own steam. They deserved to have the rest of it easy.

Or as easy as he could make it. He smiled as he heard, through the telepathic messages of the boys, the children singing. Wyn was teaching them a song in WELSH of all things. Of course, they were sitting in the TARDIS. Even though it wasn't operating, its psychic waves were still affecting them. They could understand languages. They were singing the little song full of complicated rhymes of Welsh place names cheerfully. Wyn and the boys were enjoying being big brothers and sister to the youngsters.

They drove on for most of the morning. They were stopped four more times by roadblocks. Each time The Doctor's strange charm kept the soldiers from investigating the lorry's cargo. They were safe, but it slowed them down. They had to refuel every few miles, too. As a result they had only covered a little under twenty-five miles before The Doctor pulled the lorry off the road and stopped it.

"Refuelling isn't something I'm used to doing in my usual vehicle," he said. "Anyway, the kids could use a chance to stretch their legs, and we could all use some food."

The children, after a morning of rest actually did enjoy running in a sunny meadow. Those that COULD run. There were several among them with physical disabilities that prevented them from doing so - the 'human waste' the Nazis had no use for even though they were eugenically 'pure'. They sat and enjoyed some extra food and the pleasant sunshine. The Cúl nuts were especially popular. The Doctor smiled as he watched the little ones eating them. There was as much goodness in one nut as a three course dinner. And he didn't think these children had seen one of those in their whole lives. But the nuts wouldn't swell their stomachs and make them ill the way a feast of ordinary food would do. It was perfect for them. And they seemed to enjoy the taste, too.

He turned from them to look at Claude, the blind three year old who clung to Ernest's hand no matter what. The Doctor knelt by them. He took out his sonic screwdriver and used it to examine the child's eyes.

"Congential cataracts?" He looked at Ernest who admitted he didn't know the cause of the blindness.

"Cataracts are easy," he said, in the face of 1930s medical knowledge and adjusted the sonic screwdriver. He told Ernest to hold the boy steady while he shone the light into his eyes. At first there seemed no sign of any change, but when he turned off the beam the boy blinked several times and screwed up his eyes against the sunlight.

"He can see?" Rose looked at him in astonishment, and then The Doctor who had his wide 'Father Christmas' grin splitting his face nearly in two. "Oh, you…" She hugged him and kissed him. "Oh, you ARE fantastic. Well done."

"It's a miracle." Ernest said, picking the boy up. "Doctor, you…"

"I have to get the tank filled up," he said, reaching in the back of the lorry for one of the spare cans of petrol he had stocked up on. When he was done he called everyone back. A headcount assured that nobody was left behind and they were on their way again.

"You obviously aren't a real priest, are you?" Ernest said as the journey continued. "If you are, your relationship with this young lady is a very odd one. To say nothing of your grandchildren."

"No," The Doctor admitted. "This is a bit of a disguise in the hope that the Germans will be a bit nicer to a man of the cloth than an ordinary mortal. And my relationship with Rose…" He smiled. Ernest nodded. He didn't need to say anything more. He saw Rose glance at her engagement ring then look at The Doctor and smile.

"In these uncertain times, you're to be envied," Ernest said. "I've never married. Never will now, I suppose. Never imagined myself as a parent."

"You seem to be very good at it," Rose said, looking at Claude as he snuggled in Ernest's arms, refusing to let anyone else hold him. His eyes looked clear and bright now and as the afternoon wore on they knew his vision was becoming stronger. Even Rose, who knew what The Doctor could do, had been surprised by that.

"I'm engaged to a man who can make the blind see," she thought.

"Ernest," The Doctor said. "Have you thought about what will happen to all the kids when we get where we're going? I don't think you're planning to be a permanent dad to all fifty."

"I HAVE thought about it. But, I have to admit, I'm not entirely sure what will happen then. I've just taken one day at a time. Just getting the children to safety is the main thing."

The Doctor nodded. He thought again about that book written by young Claude about his adopted father's incredible achievement. One chapter near the end told of the long struggle he had to get the children out of the detention camp the authorities placed them in, to get them visas to stay in the country and find foster homes for them. The authorities had not been as helpful as they might. A certain snobbishness about Jews and gypsies existed even in those countries that would abhor the idea of putting them in gas chambers. They really WEREN'T wanted, and it had been disheartening for him and disappointing for the children to find that at the end of their journey they still weren't free.

That was another thing he had to do for them, The Doctor thought. As well as relieving them of their weary walk.

Again the afternoon was punctuated with checkpoints and refuelling stops. Even so, The Doctor was confident they would be at Ostend before nightfall. With luck and some bribery they might get on a boat before midnight.

"We would be another week or more walking," Ernest said, slightly awestruck at how easy it had become thanks to the miracle who called himself The Doctor. "I'm not sure if we would have made it."

"You would," The Doctor said with certainty. "You would have made it. But this way is easier on you all."

"Doctor, do you know that Earth expression about not counting your chickens before they're hatched?" Rose asked him. "We're not there yet."

"You're right," The Doctor said. "But if our luck holds…"

The luck ran out.

This checkpoint was bigger than any they had come up against before now. There were more soldiers. And they looked less bored with their work and more alert. Again, The Doctor jumped down from the lorry and approached them with his friendly manner, introducing himself as a man of the cloth with a humanitarian mission. But these ones wanted everyone out of the lorry. Rose jumped down and took Claude from Ernest while he, too, climbed down.

In a neat sleight of hand The Doctor passed Rose the psychic paper to present as her identification. Ernest had already purchased forged papers for himself at great expense. They satisfied the soldiers that they were all who they claimed to be, but they still wanted to see inside the back of the lorry.

The Doctor had no choice, of course. There were too many of them. He opened the back and let them in.

"What is this?" the officer demanded, waving his gun towards the tarpaulin covered TARDIS.

"It is a piece of medical equipment," The Doctor told him, "For the treatment of tuberculosis patients in the hospital at Ostend. We brought it from Louvain by lorry because the trains are reserved for your own troops."

"Open it," he was ordered.

"I can't do that," he replied. "It is hermetically sealed to prevent bacterial contamination. It is of no interest to the Third Reich. It is medical equipment. That is all."

The officer looked at The Doctor and then gave an order to his men to open fire on the box. He watched The Doctor's face as he watched them pump bullets into the TARDIS. His expression remained impassive.

After what seemed like an age, they stopped firing. The officer stepped forward and pulled aside the tarpaulin, expecting to see a box riddled with bullets, possibly blood seeping from it from the fugitives he suspected were hidden within it.

He looked at the TARDIS. But he didn't see it. While he was watching The Doctor's face, HE had been looking back at him, and Power of Suggestion told the officer that he was looking at a piece of medical equipment for the treatment of tuberculosis, albeit with a slightly dented exterior having been shot up by his troops. He turned away and left the lorry, his men following him.

The Doctor jumped down and went to where Rose waited with Ernest, Claude clinging even more firmly to his hand and crying. Ernest looked like he was in shock.

"Get in the lorry," The Doctor told him. "Let's get out of here."

Ernest did as he told him, moving like an automaton. Rose passed the child up to him and followed him. The Doctor jumped up into the driver's seat and applied the sonic screwdriver to the ignition. He wanted it to fire first time. He drove through the checkpoint slowly and as soon as they were clear he put his foot down on the accelerator.

"We got so far…" Ernest said, trying not to cry openly. "Only a few miles from the port. And now…"

"Ernest," The Doctor told him. "It's all right. Nobody is dead. The kids are all fine. They had a bit of a fright. Gunfire outside the TARDIS echoes like hell inside. But there's no way an ordinary machine gun could possibly get through those walls."

"I thought so," Rose said. "But I couldn't be sure…. I hoped…"

"You…" Ernest looked at The Doctor. "They're really all right?"

"They're all singing now," The Doctor said. "Boys, please, not that song. It gets stuck in your head all night."

"Trust The Doctor," Rose said. Ernest did trust him, though he reminded himself that he had no reason to. He had met him only this morning - at least he thought he had. There was a strange nagging feeling in him still that their paths had crossed before, but Ernest couldn't place where. He'd had no reason then to believe the dark-clad stranger was there to help. But he had taken him at his word.

How could he not trust a man who had performed a miracle before his eyes. He looked down at the child in his arms. Claude looked up at him and smiled. Ernest smiled too. For the first time since he set out on his apparently hopeless quest he felt he HAD something to hope for.

The sun was going down as the lorry turned down the coast road and headed to the port of Ostend. There The Doctor again showed German soldiers what was in the back of the lorry. There, again, he seemed to hypnotise them into seeing something other than an English police public call box covered in tarpaulin, persuaded them that there was nothing in the lorry to concern them. His cover story changed only slightly. His medical equipment was now destined for Amsterdam, by boat.

Except that the captain he paid handsomely to take four passengers and a rather odd piece of cargo on board his tramp steamer was not headed for Holland.

As soon as they set sail, The Doctor brought Rose and Ernest with his young charge to look at his cargo. He opened the TARDIS door and they stepped inside. Ernest was overwhelmed as the children all gathered around him. The Doctor hugged the boys and Wyn.

"Seems like ages since I saw you," he said to them. "Have you been all right?"

"Yeah, great," Wyn said. "'Cept have you ever thought of getting some nice soft carpets down in here. My bum is killing me from sitting on this hard stuff."

"If it's any consolation, driving that lorry was no fun, either," he said. "We've got a sea journey now, by the way. Due in port at about six o'clock tomorrow morning. So let's get some rations passed around and sort out some blankets and everyone can get their heads down."

The twins, Wyn and Rose all 'got their heads down' in their own bedrooms. The Doctor was busy though. He kissed Rose goodnight and then set about his tasks. When he was finished he went to the console room to see if everyone was all right.

"We're quite all right," Ernest said. He was the only one awake. The children were sleeping, warm and comfortable with blankets and pillows The Doctor had found for them. "But Doctor…."

"I never did answer any of your questions, did I?" he said with a smile.

"I've several more I've thought of to ask since," he replied. "But if you would prefer I didn't…"

"I really would prefer you didn't. I wouldn't lie to you, Ernest. If you really want the truth. But it would do you no good knowing."

"The children said this was an enchanted forest. They've been told that when they wake up they will be in a free land where they need never be frightened again."

"That's the general idea."

"Do I really need to know how?" he asked. "If you question a miracle, doesn't it disappear?"

"I don't know," The Doctor said. "I've never really believed in miracles as such. What I do believe in is people like you. Ordinary men who do extraordinary things, because sometimes extraordinary things have to be done to make a difference."

"You seem to be the opposite, Doctor. You are an extraordinary man who does ordinary things - like driving a lorry - and makes a difference that way."

"As long as we make a difference, it doesn't matter how we do it." He grinned. "I will tell you one thing. You asked when we met before. I'm the man who can make swastikas catch fire spontaneously."

"Ah." Ernest thought back two years, to a sunny day in Vienna. "That was the day I decided I didn't like Nazis. I made my mind up then that I would find a way to thwart them in my own way. And when I found Claude and the other children, I knew what I COULD do."

"An ordinary man, doing his best," The Doctor said again. "You are a credit to your species, sir."

"My species?" Ernest looked at him. "You talk the strangest way, Doctor. And yet…. "

"Like you said, Ernest, don't question a miracle."


Eight hours later as the children ate a picnic breakfast of Cúl nuts and milk on the floor of the TARDIS console room they all felt the slight swaying that told them they were being unloaded from the boat. When it stopped, The Doctor went to the door first. He looked out and smiled. "Come on, everyone," he said. "It's a beautiful day in Dublin town."

"Dublin?" Wyn queried as they all stepped out onto the quayside and looked, blinking in the morning sun, at the rather dirty river that nevertheless reflected the same sunshine. "Why Dublin?"

"Neutral country," Rose remembered. "I learnt THAT at school, anyway. No Blitz here. The kids can REALLY know some peace."

"There's a small Jewish community here," The Doctor said. "I sent a telegram ahead during the night. Yes, if I want it to the TARDIS can send telegrams. We're expected. There you are, look." He pointed to the old fashioned omnibus that was slowly rolling towards them along the busy quayside. "A lift into town for you all, Ernest. They're going to find foster homes for all the children. Here's papers giving them all the right to stay in Ireland, by the way. They'll need filing with the appropriate authorities, but even the most nit-picking clerk won't find a problem. Even for me, that was a fair bit of typing, so don't lose them. I made out young Claude's papers for the British authorities, instead. I had the feeling he'd be staying with you."

"Yes," Ernest said, slightly dazed at the way the problems he had foreseen ahead had all been resolved by means of one large manila envelope. "Yes, I can't imagine parting with him now. I'll see that the children are all settled and then I am sure we can get home to England easily from here."

"Fantastic," The Doctor said. "My job is done. He turned to his own companions as they stood by and watched the children being gently lifted up onto the bus for the very last leg of their journey. "Would you lot like to have a look at Dublin before we get going? The last time we were here none of us got muchtime for sight-seeing."

"The last time we were here there was a war going on around us," Rose pointed out.

"This time, this is one of the few places in the world were there ISN'T a war on," The Doctor told her. "So let's make the most of it."