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

Rose looked at The Doctor as he worked quietly at the computer databank. Whatever he was doing, he was finding it upsetting. Even from the sofa where she sat reading another of those books of Gallifreyan social life, he looked upset.

She said nothing. Some things he just had to work through himself. After a while though he left the console and disappeared into the corridor. She got up and walked to the computer console. She pulled up the files he had been looking at from the cache memory and read them.

"Oh hell," she swore softly. "He actually has THAT in the TARDIS databanks?"

THAT was the report of the investigators who examined the scene of the explosion in which The Doctor's son and his daughter-in-law were killed. Another file was the inquest in which both were declared officially dead even though they found no trace of Christopher's body in the wreckage. There was, she noticed, a great deal of fuss made at the inquest about the lack of a body. Questions were raised at first about whether he actually WAS in the car. But evidence was brought to prove that he WAS there seconds before the explosion. And then the Coroner had gone into a private meeting with the crime scene investigator and several other people and after an hour he returned and declared that Chrístõdavõreendiamõndhærtmallõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhnemiraglo de Lœngbærrow WAS officially dead and that his next of kin could, therefore, claim any pension rights due to him as a serving member of the government.

His next of kin? Who would that be, Rose wondered?

"Susan," The Doctor said and she turned to see him standing close behind her. She hadn't even noticed him coming back into the room. "Susan was his next of kin. The 'pension' entitlement came to her, with me, as her legal guardian, taking care of it for her. I really ought to contact the Bank of Minos. With compound interest there should be a nice little nest egg accumulating there for her. Enough for her to provide for the children when they come of age."

"Why did they have to go into the coroner's chamber and discuss it before they declared him dead?"

"I don't know," The Doctor said. "They told me it was because there was no trace of his body at the scene. And that made sense. You can't just declare somebody dead just because they're not around. Even on Earth they wait seven years. On Gallifrey, it would be fifty. I thought they would go with that. To tell you the truth, I was relieved at the time. Fifty years without them issuing a death certificate, not being able to have closure on it all. It would have been hard on Susan, too. So when they decided after only an hour that he WAS dead, it felt like a burden had been lifted."

"I would have thought," Rose said. "That leaving it open…would have given you something to hope for."

"It would have been an empty hope, gnawing at me, and at her. It WAS better that way. But…"


"Now I really want to know what was said in that room," he said in a tone that made Rose look at his face closely. He looked tense. The fine age lines around his eyes seemed to deepen, his brow furrowed into deep tramlines, and the muscle in his cheek quivered.

"You think something was kept from you?" she asked him.

"Yes," he said. And he reached for the keyboard. It was a strangely extended keyboard, of course. It had started out as two ordinary keyboards from Gary's Electronics, but now at least half of the keys had characters on them from the Gallifreyan alphabet, which was, apparently, some 20 letters longer than the one she knew. Most of the keys he was hitting were those mysterious Gallifreyan letters and the screen was filling up with what looked like an animated Spirograph design. Even when the TARDIS translated it in her head it was like the sort of complicated machine code that had made her drop computer studies at school. It just did her head in.

The fact that The Doctor understood all that stuff as easily as if he was reading a novel was just one reason why he was so completely fantastic. She wondered what it was like to have a brain like his with so many things happening in it.

"Painful," he said without breaking his concentration. "Sometimes I think I can't hold it all."

"Do you read every thought I have these days?" Rose asked. That was the second time he had done it in a few minutes.

"Only when I lose concentration and forget I shouldn't do that," he said. "I really need to teach you how to block my random telepathy."

"I don't mind," she said. "It's kind of… intimate. But it takes me by surprise."

He smiled at her and stopped typing. He pressed the Enter key and stepped back from the screen as it began to do some kind of calculation by itself.

"Come here," he said, reaching to hold her tightly. "I need you."

"I need you!" He had said that many times, but this time he really looked like he did.

"I wish I knew what YOU were thinking, Doctor," she said, touching his cheek gently. "Then I could help you."

"You DO help me," he told her. "Every time I feel one of those sweet, warm thoughts of yours. It's nice to feel loved in that way."

"Yeah, but I would like to be more than the cheerleader section. I know this means a lot to you. And I know it's about things that happened long before I was a part of your life. But don't shut me out. Let me help you."

"You always have," he said. "That's why I love you so much. But I'm not sure there is much you can do for me this time. This IS something I have to work out for myself."

With that, he moved to the navigation console and keyed in a co-ordinate. Rose watched him closely. She knew how many characters there should be in a space-time co-ordinate, and she automatically counted them in her head. She saw him pause, his finger over the key, before he put in the last one, as if he was making a decision.

He made the decision. He pressed the final key and locked in the co-ordinate. Then he walked around the console and initiated the time-space drive. The central column rose and fell and glowed green with slightly more intensity as they entered the vortex. Rose looked at the screen. She knew that the vortex was red when they travelled forward in time, and blue when they went back. What did it mean when it was green?

"It means we're travelling to a place that does not exist in time as we know it," he said in explanation. Although that left her none the wiser. He didn't look like he was in the mood to venture any further information though, so she didn't press it further. He went back to the database computer and looked at the strange machine code scrolling down the page.

"Going to be hours yet, either way," he said, and he turned and walked into the dojo. Rose was surprised at that. Usually he invited her to join him when he wanted to work out. When she followed him, though, she was glad he hadn't. He seemed to be working off an awful lot of frustration and the hologram opponent was taking the punishment. It didn't look like a practice. It looked like a death match and she was glad she wasn't his opponent for once.

She watched him from the edge of the dojo. She wasn't even sure he was aware of her presence. He seemed to be in a world of his own, fuelled by his anxieties. She didn't like it. He didn't seem himself at all, and his moods were absolutely mercurial, going from one extreme to the other in minutes. She was winging it every minute, not knowing if he needed her near him or if he needed personal space to work it through by himself.

When he was done he showered and came back to the console room. He stood by the console and stared at the readings with much closer attention than he ever seemed to display before. Rose looked at him and said nothing. What could she say? She wasn't even sure what was happening.

"We're there," he said at last and flicked on the viewscreen. Rose looked up at a dark piece of outer space, one part of it darker than any other. She knew what it was. They had avoided that kind of thing all the time. The event horizon of a black hole.

"Where's here?" she asked. And if she had been asked to take a guess this would not have been in the top 50.

"The most cursed piece of space in the whole universe," he said. "The place where the last act of the Last Great Time War was played out, where Armageddon came to the Princes of the Universe."

"Oh my…" Rose looked at the emptiness ahead, the black hole that slowly sucked in anything that could not maintain enough power to keep from its gravitational pull. "Oh. This is where Gallifrey was?

“This is where a whole solar system was. Six planets. Demos, Gallifrey, Karn, Polarfrey, Kasterborus and the Fibster. They all died. Demos was uninhabited. It was too close to the sun. Nothing could survive there anyway. Kasterborus was a frozen giant. The Fibster was an asteroid big enough to hold its own orbit but it never had any atmosphere. Karn and Polarfrey we used as farming and mining colonies. The people there, they must have had a few hours warning of what had happened. They would have seen Gallifrey burn. And they would have known they were doomed. At least those at home never knew what hit them.”

"Why are we here?" Rose asked. "Isn't it dangerous?"

"We're not close enough to the event horizon for the black hole to affect us. 'Why are we here?'" He sighed. "I thought I might feel some connection here. I thought the spirits… the ones that sometimes make contact with me - I thought I might find them here."

"And have you?"

"No," he sighed again. And then he pressed the door opening mechanism. A protective field automatically prevented the air from venting into hard vacuum, but the coldness of space permeated the TARDIS. Rose looked in horror as The Doctor stepped towards the door. He held onto the frame with one hand and the other he raised like a fist of defiance.

"Where are you? Where are you, you pompous, self-righteous lot? You're so up yourselves you wouldn't even just die and go away quietly. I know you're hanging about here somewhere. You interfere with my life when it suits you. Dragging me into places I don't want to go. But now… when I need answers from you…"

"Stop!" Rose screamed. He edged closer to the emptiness beyond the threshold. She pulled him away desperately.

"You are my only reason not to step out there and join my ancestors," he said as she closed the door.

"No, I'm not," she told him. "You have loads of reasons not to do that. Susan, and the boys, and Sukie, and David, and… and Jack and Hellina and my mum and even Mickey and so many other people who's lives you've touched who would be devastated if you did that. So don't talk daft. Besides… the way you were talking there… you'd be even more bad-tempered with your ancestors than you always said you'd be with your other selves at SanC'lune. I'm not sure the universe could stand up to a war of words between a bunch of dead Time Lords. And…. And… and if you did that, you'd never find out the truth about your son."

She wasn't sure which of those arguments against killing himself worked most, but he seemed to snap out of that mood almost as quickly as he got himself into it. Or maybe it was the TARDIS. Almost as if it was adding its tuppence worth to her speech it made a strange pinging noise that indicated it had completed the task he set it to do.

"Ok, we're in business," he said looking at the screen. "If they won't tell me the truth, I'll find it out for myself." He looked at Rose and managed something approximating a smile. "Are you with me?"

"Of course I'm with you, you crazy alien," she told him. "When have I ever not been?"

"Just then, when you weren't prepared to jump into a black hole with me," he answered.

"Well, yes, apart from that. Can I at least know what I'm with you in?""Come here," he said and held out his hand. She took it. "What ARE you trying to do?" she asked him. "Doctor, what are you getting yourself into?"

"There was a locked file attached to the inquest transcription. One nobody was supposed to see. It probably wasn't even meant to be in MY TARDIS's databanks. But she WAS linked to the matrix for centuries. She has the whole history of our world in her memory. And it took a hell of a lot out of her to break down their firewalls and their encryptions, but…"

He gripped her hand tightly and pressed a button and she caught her breath as the console room suddenly resolved into what she realised straight away was a courtroom. One on Gallifrey, she again quickly realised. Where in any courtroom she had ever seen on the news or TV dramas had a Royal Crest above the judge's seat, here there was the Seal of Rassilon. And of course the judge and the officials were all dressed in a muted version of the ceremonial robes she was quite familiar with by now.

The Doctor turned and looked at the people sitting in the viewing gallery. There seemed to be three distinct groups. One, the largest, were obviously Press. There was a vulture like aura about such people that was the same anywhere in the universe, Rose thought.

"I know a planet where the journalists ARE vultures!" The Doctor whispered to her. "That lot with the faces like dried prunes, are the family Mírraflaex. My daughter-in-law was a lovely girl. I often wondered how she came from a family like theirs. And of course…" He looked at the two other people in the gallery who sat apart from the Mírraflaex deputation. Rose knew them both at once. The younger looking one was The Doctor in the middle age of his first incarnation. He was dressed in a plain black robe that clearly signified deep mourning and loss. The Mírraflaexes wore the same, but he somehow seemed to wear it as an expression of his true feelings. Not just as a symbolic gesture.

The man beside him was also in the black, and his sombre features showed that for him, too, it matched his mood. This was The Doctor's father who she had seen on more than one occasion.

"This is the inquest?" She didn't really need to ask the question. It was obvious. The Doctor nodded.

"It's an illusion? Created by the TARDIS, like when it did bits of Gallifrey for us?" She looked around again. "But I thought it couldn't do people?"

"This is more than just a recreation of a place," The Doctor explained. "Everything you see here was recorded in the databanks. It's a sort of live action transcript."

"Right," she said. She reached out and touched The Doctor's sad first incarnation on the shoulder. To her surprise, he felt solid. But he was unaware of her touch. He carried on listening to a man who looked as if he had 'lawyer' embossed on his soul raising the questions about why no trace was found of Christopher de Lœngbærrow's body.

The Doctor's earlier incarnation turned sharply and glared at one of the Mírraflaex men, who was staring at him coldly. He looked as if he was going to get up and hit the man, but his father put a restraining hand on his. Rose looked around at The Doctor - HER Doctor.

"That &£$^#@ broke one of the cardinal rules of a court like this and sent me a telepathic message - saying that my son had run away from the accident."

"I'd have hit him," Rose told him.

"I'd have been sent down for contempt of court," he said. "And they'd have another proof that half-bloods are irrational and unstable." He turned then as a viewscreen by the judge's desk was turned on. There was a murmur among the jury and the Press and among the Mírraflaex family, and the older man pressed even harder on his son's arm to calm and restrain him. Because what they were seeing was security video footage of the car park under the government office where both Christopher and his wife worked. It showed them both walking to their car. Christopher had his arm around her shoulder and they were talking cheerfully. They got into the car, Christopher in the driving seat. And then the car exploded. It was a strange kind of explosion. Very localised. The cars closest to it in the car park were blown aside, but otherwise almost undamaged. But of Christopher's car only twisted fragments remained in a crater that blasted through the concrete floor.

"Sub-atomic," one of the Mírraflaexes whispered. "Very neat and precise form of assassination."

BOTH versions of The Doctor looked at the man with an expression that ought to have killed him stone dead. Rose did too. That was nearly as nasty a thing to say as his private message before.

"He's Christopher's brother-in-law," The Doctor told her before she even asked. "Ámándáliá's brother."

"He's a nasty git," Rose said. "Ignore him."

"I am," he answered. "This is the bit I want to know about." They watched as the lawyers and three men who looked as if they were government officials, and another who looked like he might be some kind of police officer, approached the bench. There were hushed conversations and some documents passed around. Then the Judge stood and announced that he would hear evidence in his Chambers. Everyone stood as he left his seat and went out through the door to the Judge's inner sanctum, followed by the officials. The Doctor gripped Rose's hand and rushed after them. This was the part that was not in the official transcripts. Only in this hidden record.

"Well," the judge demanded of the one who looked like a police officer. "What is this about?"

"At the time of the explosion, a rip in the time continuum was noted on our scanners," the man said. "It centred on the scene of the explosion."

"Sweet mother of chaos," one of the government officials whispered aloud. "You realise what that could mean?"

"The odds are incalculable."

"But it IS possible."

"Chrístõ Miraglo de Lœngbærrow could be alive. His body could have been pulled through the rip at the same moment the sub-atomic explosion occurred."

"But if that is so, he could be anywhere in the universe. And in any time. It could take years to find him. Decades."

"Nevertheless, a search should be made. He is… was… an influential government minister. Some say he would be Lord High President in a short time."

Everyone looked at the third of the government men. He made a disgusted sound that indicated his opinion of Christopher de Lœngbærrow as Lord High President of Gallifrey.

"Your thoughts on that matter are best kept discreet, Lord Ravenswode," he was told. "It has not yet been ascertained if the man being held in custody for the killing had any accomplices."

"Are you threatening me?" Ravenswode retorted, but the judge silenced the argument.

"The matter stands thus," he said. "There IS a possibility, slight as it may be, that the victim is in fact alive. I have heard of an accident involving a rip in the continuum in which a man was transported all the way to Karn. He was found in a cúl nut tree, completely unharmed but utterly naked."

"I take it there have been no reports of nakedness on our sister planet in the past week?" Ravenswode said acidly.

"This is not a case for hilarity, either," the Judge admonished those who had stifled laughs. "And it is clear that this evidence casts a doubt. I cannot declare the victim legally dead if there is a possibility that he is alive."

"And we cannot launch a universe wide search. He may just as easily have materialised in deep space and asphyxiated."

"How long should we keep this matter open? Do we wait fifty years to declare him finally dead? Do you think his father will leave it like that? HE will want to know the truth. That man is like a dog with a bone when he sees something amiss. Look at the way he dealt with the matter of the misappropriation of funds from the State Loans Company. We already had one man incarcerated on Shada for the crime. But HE kept probing until he uncovered corruption at the highest level."

"Damn right I did," The Doctor whispered. "The gits were going to lay it all on one scapegoat accountant."

"Some people would regard his single-minded tenacity as admirable," one of the government men said.

"Some people should be careful he doesn't rattle the skeletons in THEIR cupboards."

"Enough," The judge said again. "The question is clear. Do we declare this man dead and close the case or leave the verdict open until a body is found - dead or alive…"

"Clothed or otherwise," somebody muttered.

"Declare the half-blood dead," Ravenswode said. "Close the case. His father will have to accept the verdict. There is a child involved, is there not. Make it clear that she is entitled to his full pension rights. That will satisfy everyone that the verdict is a fair one."

"And if he is alive?"

"Then he will find he has no place in our society when he returns. No position, no identity. Either way we are rid of a half blood from influencing our political system." Ravenswode paused. "Shame the father couldn't be got rid of so easily as well. But I think it would take more than a sub-atomic explosion to remove that irritation."

"As I said before, Ravenswode, you need to take care not to voice those opinions publicly."

"My opinion is the honest one. There are those who even within this room will not say what is in their own hearts."

"Let me make it perfectly clear," the Judge said. "You, who outrank me, are telling me to direct the jury to return a verdict of murder even though the victim has vanished without trace and may not even be dead?"

"The murderer can only be vaporised once, and he clearly did kill the woman. It makes no difference to the administration of justice."

"I suggest that you DO as we suggest," Ravenswode said. "I know there are a few skeletons in YOUR cupboard, Your Honour!"

The judge sighed and nodded and indicated that the meeting was over. They filed out of the chamber. The Doctor followed them. He got in front of Ravenswode and struck at him with his fists.

"You $%$£^^%, you total $$%&#%"!" he screamed at him and struck him again and again. Ravenswode walked straight past him without noticing his rage or his blows. He turned and ran after him, still shouting Low Gallifreyan curses whose tone Rose thought she could translate even if the actual meanings were less clear. In the courtroom he saw his first incarnation sitting there, calmly waiting to hear the result of the inquest. He went to him and grabbed him by the shoulders. Of course he didn't react. He didn't know his older self was there.

"Please," he begged with angry tears rolling down his face. "Please hear me. You… We're the same. You ARE me. Can't you feel me? Listen… Don't take this lying down. Question the verdict. Make them look into it further."

"Doctor," Rose said, holding him by the shoulders. "This isn't real. We're not REALLY there when it happened. This is just like a sort of recording. Even if he could hear you, nothing can be changed. It happened."

It was a measure of his grief and anger that he, who had explained it to her before, hadn't even realised it until she pointed it out. He turned from berating his other incarnation and looked at her. She embraced him tightly and concentrated her mind on the TARDIS console.

"END THIS!" she commanded and she was almost surprised when it did. She was still holding him, but they were in the console room now. He looked around, disturbed to find himself there.

"It would do no good to stay longer. You know the rest"

"Those arrogant, cold-heated, pureblood &£@#!&$," he swore as he broke from her embrace. "I never even dreamt they would go so far. That they would be so… so deceptive. They… they knew there was a possibility he was alive. But they declared him dead. THEY didn't try to find out where he might be, because… because he was a high placed HALF BLOOD and his murder was convenient to them."

He tried to sit down on the sofa but he missed. He fell on the floor and stayed there. Rose knelt beside him, holding his head in her lap. She understood his sense of shock. She felt his pain. But she didn't know what she could do.

"I was so glad that they returned a verdict at all," he continued. "I didn't question it. I didn't consider that they lied to me. I believed my people were acting in my best interests. I…."

"Well, why wouldn't you believe them? You didn't do anything wrong. You said yourself, it was a relief to you."

"I took the easy option. I should have questioned. I should have queried it. I should have refused to accept the verdict. I should have made them investigate."

"Don't beat yourself up that way," Rose told him. "Don't. You didn't do anything wrong."

"I gave up on him." he said. "I gave up on my own son, my own child, and sided with those who considered his murder a political convenience. I abandoned him."

"No!" Rose was worried. THIS was exactly what Ten had warned her about. He was obsessing. He was beating himself up for something that was SO not his fault. She was pretty shocked by the revelation, too. It was a cold, horrible thing to do. And she understood his anger, but it should have been directed at the people who made that judgement, not at himself.

"The Time Lords hurt you. And you're the ONLY Time Lord left, so you're aiming all that anger at yourself. Because you're the only one you CAN blame."

"When DID you take that degree in psychology?" he asked with an ironic laugh.

"Lived with you for six years," she said. "I've done it all. I could write a postgraduate thesis on the biggest ego in the universe and all his neuroses."

"You didn't even know what a postgraduate thesis WAS six years ago," he told her. "And the words "ego" and "neuroses" weren't even in your vocabulary."

"Yeah," she said. "I was thick." She stood up and walked away from him, tears pricking at her own eyes.

"That… was a mean thing for me to say," he admitted as he sat upright. He looked at her. "As if qualifications mean a thing. You're fantastic without a single degree to your name. And… and you're right. You are absolutely spot on right. I am blaming myself because there's nobody else left to blame. But the fact remains… Christopher is alive somewhere. And I have to find him."

“Maybe,” she said. “But not yet.” She stood up and turned to the console. He watched as she went to navigation, programmed a co-ordinate and then moved to the drive controls to initiate their entry into the vortex. The green vortex that brought them back from a place were time did not exist.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

"23rd century," she told him. "Where you have a family, remember. Talk to Susan. Spend some time with the kids. This is about them, too. Just give it all some calm thought. And then… if you still want to search for him, for your son, then I'll help you to do whatever it takes, until we find him or, until you're sure that he really IS dead."

The Doctor pulled himself up from the floor and sat on the sofa. He looked at Rose and thought about going to Susan's. He wondered when women took over his life so completely. But he didn't object. He was too tired, emotionally and physically, to care right now. He sighed and wondered if he had ever felt as old as he did right now.