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

The TARDIS was very badly damaged. Far worse than a few blown fuses as Jack had estimated. The Doctor was dismayed and thoroughly ashamed of himself when he began to find out just how close he had come to destroying his precious ship and his oldest friend.

At least the damage was reparable. David and the boys were invaluable to him as he worked for days on end at replacing damaged circuits. He had enjoyed their company. He had always liked David, even though they didn’t always see eye to eye. They had a few things in common when they thought about it. They both hated Daleks in equal measure. And they both loved the boys with the same intensity. As for the boys, he saw as they worked how good they both were, especially Davie, at temporal mechanics. They would build their own TARDIS one day, he remembered. And although the prototype didn’t work he had no doubt they would get it right.

Repairing the damage he had done to the other women in his life was easier than he deserved, too. Susan and Rose were both too glad to have him back in one piece not to forgive him the bitter words said before. He felt he had got off lightly. He ought to have paid long penances for the hurt he caused them. He really didn’t deserve their love, he thought.

He looked up from where he was working, on his back under the life support console. Rose was sitting on the command chair, watching him. They had not talked very much in the days since he returned from the brink of insanity and worse. But she was there, all the time, near him, as if she never wanted to be parted from him.

He never wanted to be parted from her. But he knew there were things to be said, still. Until he did, they would hang between them, preventing them from really being happy.

“I never answered one question you asked me, Rose.”

“It doesn’t matter. We all said stupid things.”

“Yes, but you asked if I still wanted to have children with you, even if there is a possibility of my first born son being alive still. And the answer is yes. Because it's not JUST about that stupid, stubborn, old-fashioned idea of primogeniture. It's not just about being the last of a dying race and needing to propagate my species. I want that, of course. It would be wonderful to see a whole gleaming line of white pyramids on SangC’lune. But I want it first of all because I love you, and a child of our own is the fulfilment of our love. It's natural and right and…..” He looked at David. “You remember the moment… When the twins were born. When you first held them? And you thought…. This is what it's all about. This is what we struggled for. For this new life that is a part of me, part of the woman I love. OUR immortality.”

David looked at him in astonishment.

“You read my mind? That’s it exactly… word for word…”

“No,” The Doctor said. “Didn’t have to. It's what every creature in the universe thinks at that moment. It's what I thought when I held Christopher for the first time. It's what Julia thought.” He turned to Rose. “I want you to know that feeling, too. I want it for you and for me. To know that feeling again after all this time makes living 1,000 years worth it.”

“Doctor,” David said, pausing in what he was doing. “Apart from the bit about living 1,000 years, I think that is the most HUMAN thing I ever heard you say.”

“That is meant to be a compliment is it?”

“Yes. It is. I know you reckon your race is superior to ours, but it's when you think and act like a Human being that you actually seem to me a better man.”

“David, when you’re in a hole, stop digging,” Rose said to him. “Doctor, I understand what you’re saying. Really, I do. And it would be wonderful if you found Christopher alive. I just don’t want you to break your hearts searching forever. If you have to give it up as impossible, if pursuing our first dream proves easier, then… well CAN you do that? Can you be content with me and our children and put that other hope aside?”

Because for her, that was her greatest worry. Bad enough she was never sure he really could give up the danger and excitement of his space and time travelling life and become a husband and father by her side. But if he did that and still thought all the time of this other possibility, sooner or later it would tear him apart, tear them apart, ruin the happiness she hoped they would have.

And it was the very question he couldn’t answer. But he didn’t have to.

“I don’t think you can ask him that, Rose,” David answered for him. “If Time Lords are as much like us as that, there’s no way he could ever give up trying if he still believes there is a smallest chance. And I don’t think he should. If it was one of my boys, I know I couldn’t. I’d search to the ends of the Earth… if not the universe. Susan knows that, too. She’s a mother. She knows what it is to fret over them. So does your mum, Rose. This isn’t a Time Lord thing. It's a parent thing.”

“And I’m the only one who doesn’t understand because I’m not a parent?”

“No, but you will. That’s what he’s been trying to tell you.”

The Doctor pulled himself into a sitting position against the console as he looked at Rose. She seemed to have taken David’s words to heart. She came to him and put her arms around his neck. She kissed him tenderly.

“I won’t stand in your way. I promise.” she said.

“I’ll try to make both dreams come true,” he told her.

“I believe you will.”

“Grandfather,” Susan stepped into the open TARDIS door. “There’s something on the news you ought to see.”

The Doctor stood up. He switched on the viewscreen and tuned it to the local TV. The news bulletin showed images of the escape capsule of a spacecraft being pulled from the sea by military helicopters, followed by an interactive map that showed it was off the south coast of Ireland. It then cut to five people – four men and a woman - in space suits, sitting in a motorboat that was speeding across the sea.

“NASA?” The Doctor looked at the badges on their space suits. “NASA has not existed as an organisation for nearly 150 years.” He looked at his granddaughter and smiled. “Susan, do you remember, 1961, watching the Russians and Americans race each other into space?”

“I remember Mr.Chesterton – Ian - being so excited about it. He brought in a TV and we all watched in class. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t interested.” She laughed. “Two years later he found out why. When he and Barbara found themselves travelling with us in the TARDIS.”

“Funny, but when he found himself out there it took him a long time to come to terms with it, didn’t it. I had to practically throw him out the door before he would accept we really were in a different place and time.”

“Humans worked so hard to get into space,” Susan said. “Those first tottering steps we watched cost them too much. Too many disasters live on TV. But they got there in the end.”

But that’s not a 23rd century spaceship, like you have now,” Rose said. “That looks like something from my time.”

“It is,” The Doctor said as the TV picture focussed on the capsule. “Endurance III, the first manned flight to try to reach Mars. It was launched in 2025 and disappeared without a trace after four weeks of the flight. Nobody ever heard of them again.”

“We were ready to go to Mars by 2025?”

“No,” The Doctor said. “Obviously not.”

“These people are from 2025?” David looked at the screen. “HOW did they get here?”

“That’s a very good question. I…” The Doctor stopped in mid-sentence and stared at the viewscreen. “Susan, did you see that?”


“See what?” Rose and David both asked at once.

“Subliminal message,” Davie and Chris told them.

“Not subliminal,” The Doctor said. “Just not meant for Human eyes.” He tapped keys on the console and the two Humans at least were surprised when what they thought was a live broadcast began to rewind like a video tape. Then he froze the frame.

“Code 9?” Rose looked at him. That was the signal that the government of HER time used to contact The Doctor before he gave Harriet Jones the frequency to send out a mauve alert directly to the TARDIS.

“That was a long shot by somebody,” he said. “The chances of that message reaching me…”

“It’s for you?” Susan looked at him. “There must be something very wrong, if they need you.”

“There’s something very wrong with a space shuttle splashing down nearly 200 years late,” The Doctor said. “But if they want me, there may well be something more.” He turned to the boys. “Can you finish the work on the temporal brake for me? I really do want to get her up and running as soon as possible.”

The boys were clearly torn. On the one hand, the thought of being left in charge of the TARDIS was a dream come true. On the other, there was an adventure brewing.

“Sorry boys,” The Doctor said. “I couldn’t take you with me anyway. A Code 9 means something very secret. I’m the only one they’ll let in on it.” He turned to David. “Can you give me a lift?” David agreed at once. Rose stepped forward as he slipped his jacket on. “Rose, you can’t come either. You KNOW what it's like with Code 9’s.”

“I’m coming,” she insisted. “Code 9 or no Code 9, you never know when you might need me.”

“Wait till you’ve been married ten years,” David said, winking at The Doctor. “Then she’ll be glad to get you out of her hair.”

“Never,” Rose declared, but The Doctor held out his hand to her and he sat in the back seat of the car next to her as they set off. Rose watched as he dialled a number, apparently from memory, on his mobile phone. When the line connected he gave the password “Theta Sigma” and a few moments later an even longer code that ended in the same two words. Then he told the person he was finally transferred to that he would be there in thirty minutes and closed the call. He gave the address to David.

“The Tower of London?” He looked surprised. “But…”

“U.N.I.T.’s old HQ,” Rose remembered. “Are they still around?”

“Not in their original form,” The Doctor explained. “The Daleks wiped out the military forty odd years ago. But they obviously have some kind of new organisation that has access to the old codes.”

“Including the one that summons you!” Rose grinned. “The bat signal!”

“Yeah,” he said with a laugh. “Sometimes wonder if I should make it so easy for them. I don’t answer to anyone on this planet. The Brigadier when he was running U.N.I.T. used to assume I was his to command. He soon found out otherwise when he tried to lay down the law with me.”

“But if they need help, you won’t let them down,” Rose said to him.

“Of course not. But they needn’t think I’m at their beck and call, either. Apart from anything else, they get to rely on me and they don’t fend for themselves. Have you ever noticed how little work the fire department of Metropolis do! Why rescue babies from burning buildings when Superman will be there to save the day! Well they’re not going to take me for granted that way.”

“They wouldn’t DARE,” David said, glancing in the rear view mirror to The Doctor.

“I wouldn’t take you for granted,” Rose told him. “It's too horrible when you’re not around. Those three days when we didn’t know where you were…”

“It was only three days?” The Doctor looked at her, puzzled at first, then nodded. “Course it was. Relative dimensions. I was gone nearly six months in my own timeline. I think I HAD gone mad a little. I actually did try to find Christopher by searching planets for any DNA match that was like my own. There was nothing, of course. And I started to doubt myself. How long was it then before I phoned you?”

“About ten minutes,” Rose told him. “Ten minutes after you dumped me.”

“That was when I reached the end of my tether. I felt betrayed by everyone. You, Susan, even Julia. She made me believe it was possible and I couldn’t…. that was when I wanted it to be over. When I set the co-ordinates for Gallifrey.”

“Jack said the TARDIS wouldn’t let you do what you wanted to do.”

“No. She’s a loyal girl. So are you. And I know now… Julia didn’t lie to me. She just didn’t tell me straight. Or she did and I didn’t figure it out.”

“Yeah well, you’ve always been a bit thick. Who is it that couldn’t see the Millennium Wheel when it was lit up like a Christmas tree?” He laughed at that and hugged her and things felt almost like they should be. “Strange though. Six months for you. Three days for us?”

“Time is relative,” he said. “For Time Lords, it is irrelative.”

“So, if a Time Lord wanted to have an affair with his secretary he’d just take her off in the TARDIS and be back by the end of the coffee break?” David said with a smile.

“Not the example I was thinking of,” The Doctor answered. “Though I suppose that would work. If there was a Time Lord who got around to two relationships at once. Most of us have trouble with one. I was thinking of a time, a few years back now, when I asked this girl to come with me and she said no. So I went off. I did some stuff. Rose, did you ever wonder when it was that I stopped the Daniels family from getting on the Titanic and went to Java and Dallas, the things Clive the internet nut showed you.”

“I always thought you did those things before I met you.” She paused. “But that can’t be right. Because you said you had only just regenerated when you met me.”

“Exactly. They were bits of unfinished business that I got on with after I’d sorted out the Nestene. Took me about a fortnight to clear the backlog. And all the time I was thinking of you. And I knew you really meant to say yes. And I knew I’d regret it if I never saw you again. So I set the TARDIS to come back, a few minutes after I left. And I asked you again. And that time you came.”

“I never even thought about it. I thought you were just… I don’t know. Really? You thought about me for so long? Well I guess that explains the note about the milk. I am so glad you came back.”

“So am I,” he told her. “Besides, I’d read your timeline. I knew you were going to come with me. If you hadn’t, it would have caused a paradox.”

Actually, he thought, it wouldn’t. Because nature found its own way of compensating for Rose Tyler staying on Earth in 2005 instead of coming with him. He had spent some of those two weeks watching her, from a distance. Watching her in her new job as a cleaner in a city centre office, a job she hated but that at least meant that her days were free to do her A’ Levels part time at the local Further Education college. Except she never got a chance to take the exams, because on the morning of July 7th she had been on the tube, going home from that job she hated….

He’d never tell her that, of course. It was never meant to have happened anyway. That was the alternative if he had not given her a second chance or if she had said no twice. Knowing that alternative only made him determined that, if she had said no a second time, he would have asked a third time, a fourth, however many times it took to make sure she was a long way from London that summer.


“Tower of London,” David said, interrupting his thoughts. “It's closed. That’s odd. So where do we go now?”

“That way,” The Doctor said, indicating a slip road that went downhill as if heading to an underground car park, except there were no signs for it and anyway, there were very few underground car parks in the 23rd century. Mostly they had rooftop parking because that was more convenient for hover cars. This looked fairly straightforward though, except that at the place for inserting your credit card to pay for the parking there was a sophisticated hand print and retinal scanning system instead.

“Now THAT’s clever,” The Doctor said. He got out of the car and went to the panel. He put his eye against the retinal scanner and his right hand on the hand print analyser. There was a satisfying beep and a red light turned to green. He pressed a further key and then picked up some things that dropped into a tray below.

“You know,” he said as he got back into the car and David drove on through the raised barrier. “I am very dubious about wearing id tags after our adventure with the Slitheen.” He looked at the one in his hand. There was very little on it. Most of the information was encryptions for, he presumed, passing through automated security doors.

“Code 9: The Doctor.” Rose read the little writing that WAS printed on it. “Good job they don’t have your full name. We’d be here all day.”

“How come your palm print and retinal scan work on that?” David asked.

“U.N.I.T. have had my biometric details since the 1970s. Fingerprints and retinal pattern are the two things that don’t change when I regenerate. Funny that. Because my hands have been different sizes and shape, and my eyes have been different colours.” He pinned the id card on his jumper and passed near identical tags to Rose and David. “These are yours. I don’t feel like playing silly sods about whose got clearance and who hasn’t.”

A man stood waiting in the car park. He flagged them to a space and as The Doctor got out he came up to him shaking his hand enthusiastically.

“I’m Doctor Harpenden,” he said. “I am honoured to meet you, sir. I read your file. It was my idea to send the message out to try to reach you.”

“I really don’t like having my file read,” The Doctor said. “Or being summoned. So unless you want your memory modified to forget all mention of me, you’d better tell me this is worth me missing tea. My granddaughter is cooking minted lamb cutlets tonight. One of her best recipes.”

Harpenden was rather shaken by The Doctor’s strange response to him. He had expected more enthusiasm for the mystery they had called him into.

“When you see what we have here you won’t WANT your tea,” Harpenden told him.

The car park was already underneath The Tower of London, and they travelled even further down by lift. The Doctor had some idea how far and how fast. He could feel it instinctively. They were the equivalent of a twenty storey tower block down into the ground.

And when they stepped out of the lift it was into an airlock which didn’t open until a light which flashed red with the words ‘entering biohazard zone’ turned green.

“I thought this was about lost space-shuttles,” Rose said.

“So did I,” The Doctor added. “What’s going on, Harpenden?”

“This is,” Doctor Harpenden said as he brought them to a window overlooking a patient in an isolation cubicle. The patient was clearly very ill with some horrendous disease that left his body – what could be seen of it – covered in suppurating pustules.

“Uggh,” Rose said and shivered as she tried to imagine what it must be like to be THAT sick and still alive. Still awake. As she looked, the man opened his eyes. They were red and blood-shot, but they were clearly alive and clearly horrified by what was happening to him.

“Don’t worry,” she whispered, though she knew that he could not possibly hear her. “The Doctor will help you. That’s what he does.”

“That’s one of the shuttle crew?” The Doctor asked, putting two and two together. “They came back sick?”


“They looked ok on the TV, when they were rescued.” David said. “How quickly did they deteriorate?”

“Overnight,” Harpenden replied. “They were in an isolation area anyway, merely as a precaution, so the spread of the infection was minimal. We have brought in everyone involved in the rescue. The lifeboat servicemen, the helicopter crew – and their families. Everyone who might have had any contact at all is here under observation. And I regret to say that some of them are showing early signs.”

“Looks like some kind of Haemorrhagic fever,” The Doctor observed. “You’ve tried all the usual treatments?”

“Usual treatments?” Harpenden asked. “For Haemorrhagic fevers? When have they EVER been the kind of diseases with a ‘usual’ cure?”

“Early 22nd century,” The Doctor told him. “There were very few of these things left to worry about.” He sighed. “Of course, the Daleks destroyed the fabric of society from the top down. So much of that knowledge must have been lost. But you have TRIED the standard anti-viral treatments?”

“Yes. Nothing is working. You’re right. The Human race HAS lost a lot of knowledge. But from what we recovered from the same databases that told us to put out the Code 9 alert this ISN’T anything that came from Earth. Don’t forget it began with the shuttle crew. We’re working on the assumption they picked up something in space.”

“Are any of them fit to talk?” The Doctor asked. “I need to know where they have been. And how they got back here two hundred years after they set out.”

“The woman is not as far gone as the four men. She may be able to talk. Our debriefings had hardly begun when they started to display signs of illness. And those who conducted the briefings are themselves showing symptoms.”

“That means it's airborne, doesn’t it?” Rose said.

“You’re a doctor?” Harpenden turned to her in surprise.

“No, but there were loads of films with this sort of thing as a theme a few years back. There’s things like this that spread by water droplets – people sneezing or coughing, that sort of thing, and ones that spread by touch - and usually the virus would mutate into an airborne form and then the hero’s girlfriend would get sick and he’d have to go to the rescue.”

“Er…” Harpenden clearly didn’t know what to make of Rose’s line of logic. The Doctor did, though.

“She’s absolutely 100% right. Except for the last bit, because I am waiting for you to guarantee me that your isolation of these patients is also 100%. Because I’m the hero in this case, and she’s my girlfriend, and if she gets sick you’d better hope you’re already at death’s door. Because I will be holding you responsible.”

Except he knew that wouldn’t be true. Rose and David could have been perfectly safe outside of this complex but he had ‘pulled strings’ to bring them inside. WHY? There was nothing either of them could do. He knew Rose wanted to be near him. He understood that. He had known that David was curious. He hadn’t been in on the adventure since they had fought the Daleks together, all those years ago. He had wanted to be included this time. And he had let his ego overrule his good sense. He wanted Rose and David to see him save the day. After his stupidity in recent weeks he needed to raise his hero status with both of them, after all.

But the cost of his ego, if that worst case scenario should come about, was too awful to contemplate.

“The isolation is as complete as we can make it,” Harpenden said. “Everyone entering these cubicles passes through decontamination both ways and puts on disposable hazmat suits within the decontamination area.” He brought him to the female astronaut’s cubicle. She looked less terminal than her colleagues yet. She just looked feverish and sick. Not grotesque.

“You’re going in there?” Rose knew the question was pointless. Of course he was going in there. He took his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and gave her the jacket to hold and he stepped inside the anteroom. There he put on the hazmat suit and was decontaminated before he was able to open the inner door and step inside with the patient.

“Hello,” he said to her. He looked at her chart. “Tanya Reede. That’s your name? Tanya, I’m sorry I look so weird. But I suppose you’ve seen enough people looking like this by now.” She nodded. “I know you’re very sick. And I’m sorry about that. I’m going to try to help. But to do that I need to know what has happened to you.”

“The captain could tell you more,” she said. “I’m not really…” The Doctor didn’t have to say anything. She caught on all by herself. “Oh God! The others? They’re already dead?”

“They’re alive, but they can’t tell me anything. You’re the only one.”

“I’ll do my best then,” she said.

“Good girl. Can you tell me what happened to the Endurance III after it dropped off NASA’s radar?”

Slowly, Tanya Reede told him what he needed to know. Slowly he came to understand what had happened to her and her comrades. A sequence of accidents followed by something that was no accident at all.

“Oh my God, what’s he doing?” Rose cried out as she saw him take off the glove parts of the Hazmat suit and reach to touch the woman’s forehead.

“He’s going to contaminate himself,” Harpenden cried out. He ran to the intercom system. “Doctor, are you mad? Touching them is suicide.”

“Not for me,” he replied. “Just shut up. I need to concentrate.”

“What IS he doing?” David asked.

“He’s reading her mind,” Rose explained. “I’ve seen him do that before. There must be something he needs to know that she can’t explain in words.”

“Reading her mind?” Harpenden queried. “But…”

“I thought you said you read his file?” Rose said to him. “You know he’s not an ordinary bloke. He can do stuff. And… He must know what it is now. If he knows it won’t affect him.”

“But…” Harpenden began to speak and then his voice seemed to fail him. He fainted. David shouted for help, but none came. He ran to the nurse’s station at the other end of the corridor where there had been people a few minutes before. They had all fainted too. He ran back to the intercom and told The Doctor.

“So much for bloody 100%!” He raged angrily. He turned to the woman patient and said something to her then he reached for the internal door. But the outer door wouldn’t open until he had been decontaminated. That took a frustrating half hour. He watched as Rose and David moved Harpenden and the sick nurses and other staff onto trolleys and moved them into a room. When he saw Rose touching the sick he wanted to scream at her not to do that, to save herself. But he knew that was pointless. If the infection WAS airborne then she was already contaminated. She might as well help the others while she still could. And he knew she WOULD help them. Because on top of everything else that he loved about her was a compassion for those who needed help that matched his own. She would never have TRIED to save herself at the expense even of these complete strangers she didn’t even know an hour ago.

“Rose!” he shouted as soon as he was able to get out of the decontamination chamber. She ran to him. He held her in his arms briefly. He wanted it to be a long, lingering hug, but he didn’t have the time to spare. She kept close by him though, as he found a computer terminal and began to work feverishly.

“Ring the TARDIS on your mobile,” he said to her. “I need to talk to the boys and there’s something in the way this place is built – it was a nuclear bunker, I think. Lead-lined walls and whatever. I can’t get through to them telepathically. Not clearly anyway. It's fuzzy and intermittent.”

The souped-up mobile phone could get through to anywhere. Except the TARDIS.

“You blocked the number,” she said passing it to him. “When you were….” She broke off. He didn’t need reminding of what an idiot he had been. He took the phone and examined it. But it was blocked from the TARDIS. He couldn’t do anything from this end.

He dialled another number.

“Susan,” he said when it was answered. “Listen, we’ve got some problems here. Don’t you worry. David is ok, but it's going to take a while. I need some help from the boys. Can you go to the TARDIS and ask them to key this code into the console phone and then call Rose’s mobile.” He gave her a long alphanumeric code. She repeated it back exactly. She WAS his granddaughter after all.

“What is it all about?” David asked while he waited for the call he needed.

“The Endurance III was caught up in a time storm. They happen a lot in deep space. Rare within the solar system. But not impossible. They were pulled out of the 21st century and ended up here in the 23rd. All very scary but nothing more than the stuff of late 20th century science fiction. But before Buck Rogers and his crew could land back on 23rd century Earth and ask for help to get home they were intercepted by an alien ship – a hostile alien ship with designs on conquering Earth! But of course it couldn’t do it the old fashioned way by hovering over all the major cities and blasting lumps out of it until you surrender.”

“It couldn’t?” David looked puzzled but Rose nodded. She understood.

“Rassilon’s Envelope finally did the business.”

“Yes. So when an Earth ship came into their possession – one which they took to be the most advanced technology of your world, of course – they hit upon an ideal plan. They treated the astronauts kindly – ostensibly. They said they were giving them protection from space viruses they had never been exposed to before and had no natural immunity to. And then they sent them back to Earth in their shuttle. They, of course, had no idea they were no longer in the 21st century and no idea that they were, in fact, carriers of a deadly disease that could wipe out the planet in a few weeks, leaving it nicely empty and ready for occupation by a race that the disease didn’t affect.”

The phone rang. The Doctor stopped explaining while he answered it.

“Chris, how close are you two to getting the TARDIS up and running?” He listened to Chris’s answer and it was clearly NOT the one he wanted. He swore under his breath. “Ok, we’re not going out in space and I certainly wouldn’t trust it in the time vortex. But a short hop over DISTANCE should be ok. He pulled his sonic screwdriver out and read the co-ordinate to them. “We’ve got lead lined walls here so use the compensator or you’ll bounce off and end up in the Thames.”

David looked worried.

“It’s ok, they can handle the TARDIS. I’ve been giving them lessons.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about,” he said. “You’re bringing my kids into a building that is infected with a deadly space virus.”

“Deadly to Humans,” The Doctor said as he brought up a molecular model of the virus on the computer screen. “It attaches to the red blood cells. Time Lords don’t HAVE red blood cells. We have orange. We don’t have iron in our blood. We have an element that isn’t pronounceable in English and not yet added to your periodic table.”

“Time Lords are immune,” Rose said. “You and the boys… and Susan…”

“Yes.” He looked at David. “I’m not sure about you and Sukie. She’s a natural hybrid. You… became one when my DNA was fused to yours when you needed a bone marrow transplant. I think you might be ok. But…”

“But I’m going to end up like them…” Rose said. She gave a little whimper of fear. Neither of the men blamed her. It was a dreadful thought. “I’m the hero’s girlfriend who gets sick!”

“Except I’m no hero,” The Doctor said. He turned as he heard the familiar sound of the TARDIS arriving, but David got there first, hugging his sons as if he hadn’t seen them in a month. Susan appeared at the door, too.

“I left Sukie next door,” she said. “I didn’t want the boys to go off in this thing on their own. Not while it's still not working properly.”

“Oh Susan,” David said to her as he embraced her lovingly. “I wish you’d stayed away. But if the worst happens, I’m glad you’re here.”

David explained the situation to Susan and the boys while The Doctor went to his console. He checked the diagnostics. The boys were right. There was still hours of work to go yet.

“Doctor?” Rose came to his side as he sat by the open panel where the boys had been working. “Is it really that bad? What did you mean about you being no hero?”

“There is a cure for this,” he said. “But not on this planet. Klatos Beta in the Gemini sector. It's a research planet. They find cures for diseases. They stockpile them to treat epidemics. If the TARDIS was working it would take me three hours, there and back, in real time, ten minutes in relative time just so that I don’t cause a paradox by arriving before I’d gone.”

“And without the TARDIS?”

“The fastest ship I know would take five hours to get there, IF they’re even in the sector.” He stood up and began putting through a call. Jack Harkness grinned warmly when he saw The Doctor, but when he explained what he needed he looked grim.

“The Scorpius is about three hours away from Klatos if we turn around right now,” he said. “But we’d still be another five hours away from you. You’re going to lose some patients.”

“I know. But do your best.” He looked at Jack pleadingly. “Rose could be one of the patients by then. Anyone Human who was exposed….”

“Oh Hell!” Jack swore. “Oh Hell! Look…we’ll be there. Count on us.”

“Klatos isn’t a charity,” The Doctor said. “Put it on my account. I’m transmitting you the access code. I’m in their files. I’ve used their services before. They know my credit’s good. We need enough for fifty-five people in this facility initially. After that they should be able to synthesise it to immunise Greater London and beyond if necessary.” He paused and made an effort to smile. “I’ll be checking my bank statements. If I find I’ve paid for any wild orgies I’ll be chasing you up.”

“Scouts honour, Doc,” Jack said, catching his mood. “No orgies. Hang in there, big man. Take care of everyone.”

“I will,” he promised and closed the connection.

“So there you are,” he said. “I’m not the hero. Jack is. I’m the idiot who wrecked his ship in a fit of self-pitying temper. I’m the one who put you and David at risk by bringing you in here. I’m the one to blame if any one of these people dies.”

“No you’re not,” David said as he stood by the TARDIS door. He had heard what he said. “Any more than you were to blame for the people we lost when we fought the Daleks. You did your best. You’re still doing your best.”

“I’m…” He stopped. A critical alarm was sounding at the nurse’s station. He ran to check. “It’s the first case. He’s going into convulsions.” He looked around. “Susan… please…. You’re the only one who can help me.”

Susan came with him. She saw the sick man through the window as The Doctor opened the door to the decontamination chamber. He closed the door but he didn’t wait for the green light on the inner door. He used the sonic screwdriver to override the lock.

“Grandfather….” Susan asked as she helped him to administer drugs to end the seizure and settle the patient down again. “Are you SURE we’re safe?”

“I’m sure. I know this is horrible. But…”

“We’ve seen worse,” she said. “Though not much.”

“We’re losing him,” The Doctor said. He saw the patient finally collapse down on the bed, but his heart was failing fast. The man opened his eyes once and tried to speak, but his mouth filled with blood as lesions turned his lungs to pulp. He coughed involuntarily, the blood spraying over The Doctor’s hands as he held him, and then it was over. The eyes were still open but they were empty. Susan closed them. Touching that dreadful body was the last thing she wanted to do, but her natural compassion let her do one last kindness for him.

The Doctor was scrubbing his hands with antiseptic soap. He was immune, but he couldn’t risk carrying anything outside of this room. He and Susan went back into the decontamination chamber. He sealed the inner door with the sonic screwdriver and waited for the green light. It seemed a long time coming. His thoughts were on the rest of the patients, working out how long it would take. They had all been infected at the same time. It must have simply come down to their individual constitutions, how well their bodies could resist the disease before death became inevitable.

He opened the door the moment the light turned green. Just in time for the alarm to alert him to the next patient reaching critical point. Susan looked at him.

“What are we waiting for? We might be able to save this one.”

They couldn’t. It was hopeless. The only thing he could do was BE there for him. Not being alone at the end seemed to be a comfort to the patient. He felt his thoughts in the last moment, and they were easier for that.

Easier than his own thoughts. He cursed himself again and again. He might not have been able to save the first. But the rest.... if his TARDIS was operational, it would be over now. These people would be recovering, not dying.

The fourth of the Endurance III astronauts died a little more peacefully than the others. He had slipped into a coma and felt nothing. But The Doctor was becoming more and more despairing.

“Doctor!” David’s cry as he stepped out of the fourth decontamination chamber tore his heart out. Because it could only mean one thing. He ran into the TARDIS. Chris and Davie were kneeling beside Rose as she lay on the floor. He was by her side in a moment.

“Go on with what you were doing, boys,” he said. “I’ll look after her.” Neither of them moved. “Go ON!” he said more sharply then realised he had been too sharp. “Fixing the TARDIS is the best thing you can do for her. If I could be ready to intercept the Scorpius…. Shave some time off the trip.” He lifted Rose in his arms and took her to the cabin bed she used to sleep on. He made her comfortable. It was all he could do. Isolation was a moot point now. Clearly the complex was contaminated. He was satisfied that the main lockdown would hold. Which meant they were sealed in until this was over, one way or another.

“Susan and I will do what we can for the other patients,” David told him. “You and the boys get on with the TARDIS and watch out for Rose.”

“I should….” He began.

“You said it,” David told him. “If you can get the TARDIS fixed you can be there and back in no time.”

“But you…”

“If I’ve got immunity, then I can do as much as you can. If I haven’t, then I might as well be useful to them until either you or Jack gets here with the cure.”

It made sense. There was nothing to be done for the patients except make their last minutes comfortable. The Doctor kissed Rose gently and left her there and went to get on with rewiring the link between the Automatic Time Path Computer and Navigational control. Without that, he couldn’t determine the right point at which to leave the vortex to arrive at a destination. He would be randomly sticking pins in a map of the universe for centuries to get anywhere he wanted.

“Doctor!” He heard Rose call to him and he left Chris to carry on the work. She was awake but she looked feverish and sick. “It's not your fault,” she told him. “And you are a hero.”

“I’m a hero with feet of clay,” he said. “I made a stupid, stupid mistake and now four people are dead already. And you…”

“Jack will be here in time,” she said. “Or you’ll fix the TARDIS.”

“I hope so,” he told her. “I couldn’t bear to lose you like this.”

“I don’t want to end up all gooey and yukky,” she said. “If I’m going to die, I’d like you to be able to kiss me first.”

“I’ll do that anyway, no matter how gooey and yukky you are,” he promised. “Daft aren’t we. Only last week it was me at death’s door. Now it’s you.”

“Not the first time. You’ve saved me loads of times. You saved me when I had the vortex burning my head out. You saved me when the Vampyre got me….”

“The Vampyre!” The Doctor sat up suddenly. “Blood…. I could… I could buy us some time.” He bounded across the floor and pulled a medical kit from the cupboard under the console. He fixed a tourniquet to his arm and extracted a pint of his blood with a large syringe before injecting it into her bloodstream. She looked a lot better straight away. His orange blood cells would kill off and replace some of her red ones. It would slow the infection. He looked at the boys. They had the same blood. So did Susan. If they each gave a pint, they could replace it in a half hour without any ill effects. He could spare another pint himself. The next four most critical patients could be given a few more hours. Maybe he could buy them enough time for Jack and the Scorpius to get through.

It worked. Every half an hour each of the four with Gallifreyan blood was able to donate a replenished pint. He brought two more patients into that strange treatment programme and replenished the most critical. It was holding back the disease, but it did make him and the boys weak for a while and the work on the TARDIS was slowed. He was putting his hopes in Jack coming through for them.

Because after all he didn’t DESERVE to be the hero this time. It should be Jack. And David, and Susan, and Chris and Davie. HE didn’t deserve the credit for this one.

“Grandfather,” Susan said to him. “I heard what you were thinking. “Stop beating yourself up. If you weren’t here, these people would ALL be dead now. They didn’t know where to get the cure from. And they couldn’t have got it even if they did. You came here, you worked out what had to be done, you sent Jack to do it. You’re holding the fort meanwhile, doing your best for everyone.” She paused. “And you know what, I’m glad I’m here with you. You and me, and David… just like the Dalek war. And we won then. Thanks to you. We will this time.”

“I’m still no hero,” he insisted.

“Well, fine, welcome to everyone else’s world. You make mistakes. There are consequences. Just like there are for every mortal being in the universe. Don’t beat yourself up for not being an omnipotent god who can do everything.”

“You’re a sweet girl, Susan,” he told her. “I’m a lucky man to have you as my granddaughter.”

“What is it, Rose says?” She smiled. “You’re a soppy article.”

“Yeah, just a bit,” he replied. He was going to say something else, too. But suddenly the time rotor glowed and rose and fell once to indicate that it meant business. He stood up. “Fantastic!” he cried. At the same moment the viewscreen flickered on and Jack called out to him.

“How are you all doing?” he asked. The Doctor told him. The four deaths disturbed him, as well as the news that Rose was sick. But he was upbeat. “We’re in the solar system now. Hang in there. By the way – is this the ship that kidnapped your astronauts?” He showed a still picture of the alien ship The Doctor had seen when he looked into Tanya Reede’s mind. “Not a problem any more,” Jack said and the picture changed to a live one of the same ship imploding in a blaze of fire.

“You shot at it?”

“It shot at us first,” Jack said. “Rules of Engagement fully satisfied.”

“Fair enough then. Give me your co-ordinate. I’m going to intercept you. Shave an hour off the waiting time at least.”

“You’ve got the TARDIS fixed? Have you tested it?”

“I’ll test it on a hop across the solar system to meet you guys,” he said. He turned to the others. “Everybody else stays here. David, take Rose. Make her comfortable somewhere. Boys, Susan, look after her and the other patients. I’ll be back in two ticks.”

They did as he asked. He closed the door as David carried Rose out of the TARDIS. She was asleep again. He hoped to be back before she woke. Or if he was not….

He knew that if there was anything wrong he could achieve the oblivion he had sought not so long ago. This time he desperately hoped not to die. For Rose’s sake.

“Come on, my old girl,” he whispered to the TARDIS as he programmed its co-ordinate.

David put Rose to bed in a side room, then he and Susan both rushed to the room where the last of the astronauts, the woman, Tanya Reede, was entering the last stages of the disease. Susan gave her the last pint of Gallifreyan blood they had extracted. It was becoming less effective, but she seemed to rally a little.

“My Grandfather is going to help you,” Susan promised her. “He’s the best. He’s a real hero.”

“That’s what I think,” Jack said as he stepped through the decontamination chamber. “He says he’s nothing of the sort. But he lies a lot, doesn’t he!”

“Yes, he does,” Susan said with a relieved laugh. “The TARDIS made it?”

“It made it. The Scorpius is only an hour behind, but we came ahead in the TARDIS, with the medical supplies and staff. HE’s with Rose,” Jack added. “But he told me this was the worst case. And to look after her.”

“It's all over.” David sighed. “Thank God!” he thought about it. “Thank The Doctor. What would any of us do without him?”

“Well, I’d be living the good life as an interstellar conman,” Jack said. “Not sure he did me a favour sometimes when I’m being shot at by the scum of the universe.”


By the time the Scorpius was in transmat range all the patients had received their first dose of the treatment and were on their way to recovery. By the time their medical team was ready to clear out again the next morning everyone was on the mend. Everyone working in the facility was vaccinated and they had begun synthesising enough to take care of Greater London.

Tanya Reede was the only one with a real problem.

“This is the 23rd century?” She looked at The Doctor as he explained the situation to her. “And in the 21st century they think I’m dead. My family have had a memorial and everything.”

“I’m afraid so,” he told her. “I COULD take you back,” he added. “My ship is fully functioning now. It has time travel. So does the Scorpius. But mine’s faster.”

“Usually,” Rose teased him as she sat with him, holding his hand as if she never meant to let it go again. “Then again he could take you to the other side of the universe and the end of the world first.”

“I don’t think I want to set foot in another spaceship,” Tanya said. “I was the token civilian on the programme, you know. I’m an anthropologist. I was going to study the remains of the extinct Martian civilisations.”

“He can tell you about those,” Rose said. “He’s met them.”

“I’m not sure I care very much about Martians any more. I’ve seen enough aliens to last me a lifetime. But would they let me stay here, do you think? Could I live in the 23rd century?”

“I don’t see why not. I’m quite fond of this century myself. The TV is a lot better since reality shows were banned by law.”

Tanya laughed. And that was her best medicine, Rose thought, looking at her. She could start to pick up her life now.

She looked at The Doctor. He was still eating his hearts out over the fact that four people died. Nobody could convince him that the dozens he had saved outweighed them. In all his life, the ones he had lost, as few as they might be, always weighed heavier on him than the millions he had saved. That was him. He cared so much about the whole of creation.

“Rose and I have things to do, soon,” he said to Tanya. “But Susan and David will look after you. I daresay you could stay with them for a while until you find your way.”

“Are you taking Rose with you?” Susan asked him as he got ready to go. “I thought she might stay here with us for a while.”

“No chance,” Rose said. “He needs me to look after him.”

“That I do,” he agreed. “I’m a total sad case without you.”

“You’re going on with your search?” Susan asked.

“Yes, but now I know where I’m looking,” he told her. “So give me a kiss and wish me luck, and I WILL see you very soon.”

She kissed him, and he held out his hand to Rose. She went into the TARDIS with him and a few moments later it disappeared. Susan sighed. She had stood by so many times and watched it disappear. Ever since that first time when he left her with David. At least now she knew he WOULD come back.