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

The doorbell rang. It was a perfectly ordinary thing to happen on an ordinary day in an ordinary house on the outskirts of Gloucester. But the effect it had on the two occupants of the house was extraordinary.

Then again the two current residents were extraordinary.

“Oh, please, you do it,” the female of the couple begged. “I went to the ‘paper shop’ this morning. That was enough social interaction for one day.”

“All right,” the male conceded. “But if they come in you will have to hide in the kitchen.”

He stood up and went to the oak cabinet set against one wall. There was a mirror above it. He looked at his own reflection quickly before opening the top drawer. He bent down low as he lifted the artificial flesh from the mould that kept it in shape when not in use and fixed it to his own face. The flesh bonded instantly. The veins in his own face fed blood to it. His facial muscles allowed the disguise to have the full range of normal expressions, the eyes blinking, the mouth moving perfectly. As the built in perception filter made the rest of his body look fully Human, his voice adjusted automatically. Even the subject’s own mother wouldn’t know the difference if that was who was at the door.

It wasn’t. It was just a man to read the gas meter. They had studied the protocol for these kind of events before taking on the mission. They understood what to do. He let the man into the house and he did his job quickly and efficiently before leaving again.

“It’s all right, he’s gone,” he called out, still in the voice of Rory Williams, the male occupant of the house. As his mate came back from the kitchen where she had concealed herself he looked into the mirror again at the Human face and considered how horrendous it was to his own way of thinking. The hair made his own skin crawl, the pallid pink-grey-white flesh repulsed him, the pale eyes, that ridiculously long nose and stupidly loose mouth disgusted him.

He opened the drawer and bent to detach the face. He placed it on the mould carefully and straightened up again. He was relieved to see his own features in the mirror – the dark green, leathery flesh, black eyes, the inverted nose and lipless mouth with his black forked tongue slightly protruding, the bifurcated chin with the two tips glossy black denoting his rank as a grade one member of the Alturian race.

He turned and smiled at his mate, Bessara. Her chin was also bifurcated but without the glossy tips. The females didn’t display their ranks openly. He went to sit beside her on the sofa that belonged to the Williams couple. It was white leather, a substance he found comfortable, unlike the soft furnishings elsewhere in the house.

“I’m glad we don’t have to wear those faces all the time,” he said. “The Human form is quite revolting.” He turned and looked at Bessara’s deep green face. He adored her. She was beautiful in all the ways his people defined beauty. He touched her cheek and leaned to kiss her, their mouths forming a seal as their tongues entwined and they shared oxygen lovingly.

“I like you much better this way, Groah,” Bessara said when they drew back and she rested her head on his shoulder. “But we must endure the disguise when we interact with the indigenous species.”

“Endure, indeed. They make me feel sick to look at them.”

“I’m getting used to them,” Bessara admitted. “I’ve done more of the ‘shopping’ than you have. I see far more of them in social settings. The female, Amy, has a lot of friends in the neighbourhood. It is rather strange being her. I get glimpses of her memories as well as the personality when I wear the face, and I understand so much. She values those ordinary rituals like ‘standing in the queue at the bank’ so highly. And I almost come to understand the sentiment.”

“You should be careful,” Groah warned her. “Keep the emotional values of the host separate from your own. They will only confuse you.”

“Yes, I will. And yet… don’t you find it remarkable, too? The Human form is revolting, but all the same, I quite like being her. It is a peaceful life, such a contrast to The Service.”

“There is no higher or better life than The Service,” Groah reminded her. “Bessara, my dear, I am concerned when you speak that way. Perhaps you should rest for a few days. I will go out as ‘Rory’ for a while and let you meditate on our true purpose.”

“You may be right,” Bessara admitted. “I am sorry if I let you down, my love.”

“You did not let me down. I understand that you have a kind heart beneath your carapace. But if you let alien emotions take you over you might let The Service down, and that is unforgivable.”

“I am a loyal agent of The Service. I will not be deterred from my duty. I avow to you…”

The telephone rang. The sound distressed both agents of the Alturian Foreign Service. The frequency of the ringtone on the Williams-Pond home phone was the exact pitch that caused their race acute earache.

They let it ring. If either of them answered the telephone without putting on the symbiotic flesh mask they would be speaking in High Alturian, a language that sounded, to humans, like heavily silted water running through a filter.

It went to the answer phone after five rings, all of which seemed unendurable to the alien imposters.

“Hi, Amy, Rory, it’s me, Greg. Don’t forget Jess’s birthday bash tomorrow night. You two have GOT to be there. I’ve ordered a surprise kissogram. It’s going to knock her socks off.”

“What is a ‘kissogram’?” Groah asked as the call ended.

“It’s… rather difficult to explain,” Bessara replied. “The female, Amy, was employed as one in the past. I believe it involves putting on disguises, but not for the same reason we use the symbiotic masks. It seems to be something quite trivial… an entertainment.”

“Entertainment!” Groah spoke the word as if it was not only new to him but utterly alien to his cultural awareness. Indeed, it was. Alturia had no concept of pastimes and pursuits purely for the sake of ‘passing time’ pleasantly. The music and art of their world was instructive and formed part of their education when they were maturing. Now that they were adults and engaged in the Service they had no use for instruction of that sort.

“Humans waste so much of their time,” Bessara noted. “They rarely work more than six or seven hours in an orbital cycle. They sleep at least an hour more than they work, and inbetween they fill the time with ‘lei…su…re.’ I do not understand it at all. It is as if they work only in order to do more of this ‘lei…’. They do not understand the concept of service at all. This lei… lei… oh, it’s no use, I cannot fit my tongue around the word at all. But it is as if this worthless state of being is their primary ambition.”

“It is a pity. They have good brains. They would be a far more advanced society if they were not so pre-occupied with foolishness. But it is not our concern, of course. Our own protocols are clear on the matter. We cannot interfere with the indigenous culture no matter how much it frustrates our sensibilities.”

“I find them likeable, all the same,” Bessara admitted. “Most of the specimens I interact with are friendly. That is a trait that is valued on many worlds. Even our own society encourages amicable relations between neighbouring units.”

“They are friendly when encountered without their ground vehicles, these ‘cars’ that they all spend so much time inside,” Groah answered. “I suspect these ‘cars’ have some kind of mind-altering effect on them, perhaps a by-product of the combustible liquid used to propel them. The humans are thoroughly aggressive when connected to these machines.”

“I believe it is called ‘road rage’,” Bessara said. “I’ve heard it mentioned in conversations. It is an affliction among these humans.”

“This is so,” Groah conceded. “Even the one called ‘Rory’ whose thoroughly benign personality I have adopted as my disguise is susceptible. When he is in his car, he is impatient and unreasonable. He calls the humans in the other cars ‘muppets’, which I believe is an insult, though the meaning of the word utterly bewilders me.”

“It makes the female laugh,” Bessara told him. “She finds it amusing.”

“Amusement is another waste of the Human mind. They would be better without it.”

“I agree, my noble mate,” Bessara said dutifully, because agreeing with Groah, her superior in rank as well as her bonded partner was, indeed, a duty. But secretly she wondered if he was right. These small amusements such as the female, Amy, allowed herself to indulge, were interesting. She might even go so far as to wonder if those ‘lei…sure’ pursuits that humans set such store by might have some useful properties.

Then she remembered that thoughts like that were Treason, very nearly High Treason, as well as extremely disloyal to Groah.

It was unthinkable. Ever since she could remember loyalty to Altura and its system of government, its way of life, had been instilled into her. She never doubted that they lived in a perfectly ordered society. And ever since the blessed day that she was pair-bonded with Groah she had trusted him implicitly, never doubting any word he spoke or questioning any order he gave to her.

It was this assignment. Being disguised as humans, having to take on their personalities and read all the complex and contradictory emotions they had in their heads was affecting her judgement.

This female, Amy, was the problem. She was pair-bonded with the male, Rory, and her love for him was very strong. She trusted in him. Bessara had felt that when she was wearing her face. Amy had trusted Rory with her life many times. But she did not offer him her subservience. She argued with him. She called him strangely insulting names like ‘pillock’ and ‘muppet’. She laughed at him.

Bessara didn’t understand any of that, but it fascinated her. She felt as if she wanted to know more about that alien kind of relationship, that disorderly yet curiously satisfying life that Amy lived.

“I hope this mission is over soon,” Groah said. “It is the most disquieting one I have experienced in many eons. This close association with such an undisciplined race…. I shall be glad to be done with them.”

“Yes, indeed,” Bessara agreed, though in truth she was thinking the opposite. “My dear, it is almost time for our evening ‘walk’.”

Groah sighed. The ‘walk’ was something the two humans did every evening without fail. They ‘walked’ to the local park and fed the ducks, greeting people that they met along the way. It was one of their illogical rituals, but it had to be done because it was part of the cover of pretending to be these two people.

Besides, it was also a chance of seeking out their prey. They knew he was hiding in this Human community. The more they interacted with the humans the closer they were to finding the Alturian traitor among them.

It meant putting on the disguise. Groah opened the cabinet drawer and reached for the face reluctantly. Bessara did the same. A few minutes later Amy and Rory Williams stepped out of their house and walked down the road. At the row of small shops with maisonettes over them Rory went into the newsagents and bought a packet of old fashioned sherbet lemons sold by the 200 grams these days, rather than the quarter pound, but still weighed out on scales and put into a paper bag. Rory liked that. He and Amy shared the sweets as they continued on to the park.

“Uggh, I hate the taste of those things,” Groah said, spitting the sweet out as soon as he could. “Humans eat such foulness.”

Bessara agreed with him, but actually she had already finished hers. She had bitten into it and enjoyed the sharpness of the sherbet inside the sweet, hard outer casing. She had been wondering how the sherbet actually got into the centre. Groah would be exasperated. He would say it was the sort of thing Amy would wonder about, an utterly trivial and irrelevant thing. But he would be wrong. It was she, Bessara, who was wondering about it. Humans were a strange race, but they seemed wonderfully inventive in so many ways.

The ‘walk’ brought them to the duck pond where they fed the small, noisy, feathery creatures pieces of dry bread. The ducks were utterly illogical and feeding them even more so, but it was another of the rituals of living that the Williams couple did.

“It’s what some humans do with their children,” Bessara said. “They take them to the park, to ‘play’.”

“A foolish way of educating the young. Besides, the Williams units have no children. They were selected as subjects because of that fact. Assimilating this disguise caused less disruption than where there were young involved.”

“They had a child once,” Bessara answered. “I remember her thoughts. Something happened. The child was taken from her when it was only a few days old.”

“To be raised in a suitable educational environment?” Groah asked. “Perhaps there is hope for this race, yet.”

“No, something more complicated, more distressing to the Human emotions. I don’t fully understand it all. But….”

“You pay too much attention to the subject’s memories and emotions. There is no need to explore her so deeply. Just enough to recognise individuals she knows and interact fully and appropriately with them. Leave the rest alone.”

“I try. But Amy has had such an interesting life for a Human. She is different from most of them. She does these mundane things like feeding ducks with such joy, almost as if she savours the chance to do something so ordinary.”

“Stop it, Bessara,” Groah warned her. “These humans… they don’t matter. When our mission is over, we will leave this planet. We will never return here again. These lives we are living… they are small and unimportant next to the Duty we are here to fulfil.”

Bessara accepted that as a truth. Groah had said it, after all. But secretly she couldn’t help thinking that it was not true. Human lives were not small and unimportant. They were all different, all interesting.

And Amy and Rory, the two whose lives they were living just now were the most interesting of all. Groah didn’t touch on Rory’s memories except to recognise people they were supposed to know and to act more like the subject. But Bessara had reached deeply into Amy’s memories and she understood far more about her.

There was something Groah didn’t know about Mr and Mrs Williams, something that could even have an effect on their mission.

But she knew Groah wouldn’t listen, or if he did he would just criticise her for becoming too involved with emotional, irrational, Human memories instead of concentrating on the important matter of the mission.

When they had fed the ducks they walked home from the park.

Home…. Bessara had started to think of the house as that. She knew it was wrong. The concept of ‘home’ was emotional and subjective and it was yet another indication that she was too involved with the personality of Amy Williams. But the word had a good feel to it.

It had a better feeling than the room allocated to them on Alturia, the very functional and practical sleeping chamber with the ion shower and private ablutions and a cubicle where they kept the very few private possessions they owned. They didn’t have a sitting room or kitchen there. They ate in the refectory with everyone else of their rank. They had no form of recreation room. There was no concept of ‘free time’ or ‘leisure’ in their daily lives. There was no place for shelves full of books and ‘DVDs’, for a television and certainly not for the collection of ‘ornaments’ that were everywhere in the ‘sitting room’. Groah had frequently commented about the pointlessness of china and glass bowls and plates that were not used to put food into and jugs and ‘vases’ containing cut flowers, ephemeral things that needed water and attention and yet performed no useful function.

It wasn’t exactly Treason to enjoy a room full of such pointless things, but it would certainly be regarded as aberrant behaviour. Groah would be disappointed in her if he knew that she harboured such foolish notions.

But she couldn’t help it. The longer this mission continued, the more often she had to put on the face, the personality, of Amy Williams, the more looking at things with slogans like ‘A Souvenir of Swansea’ appealed to her.

It didn’t make her loyalty any less. It didn’t change her dedication to the Service, or make her waver in her determination to track down and kill the traitor who had taken refuge on this haphazard world.

But she found herself coveting pointless trinkets like the music box that played three different tinkling tunes when the lid was opened or a picture frame full of photographs of Amy and Rory on holiday.

She found herself coveting the life she was pretending to live and wishing it really was her life.

“Bessara!” Groah spoke sharply as they approached the front door of the house she was thinking of so fondly. “There is something wrong here. Somebody is….”

Then the front door opened. A man stood there, an absurd looking man whose body seemed all awkward angles. He grinned widely at them and pushed his floppy hair back before reaching to hug ‘Amy’.

“Hello, Ponds, I thought I’d drop in and see how you were getting on,” he said. “I’ve brought pizza and beer. Is the beer supposed to go in the microwave or the deep freeze?”

“Neither,” Bessara managed to say. Memories that were not her own stirred. She knew this absurd face. There were no pictures of him among the souvenirs of Amy and Rory’s life, but he had been an important part of that life for a while.

“Doctor!” she managed to say as his name floated into her mental grasp. “It is…. It is good to see you.”

“How did you get into the house?” Groah asked suspiciously.

“Sorry, should have asked permission, shouldn’t I,” The Doctor answered. “Forgot to ask permission to hug, too. Excited to see you both. Come on in, both of you. Did I mention I brought pizza? Where does that go, by the way? In the washing machine or....”

“Doctor, don’t be silly. You know perfectly well how to use kitchen appliances,” Bessara replied in the exact tone Amy used at times like this. She stepped past the strange visitor who had invited Amy and Rory into their own home.

Groah followed Bessara into the house. The Doctor shut the door behind them and bounded past to reach the kitchen first. Groah watched his animated figure doubtfully. He was extremely disconcerted by this turn of events, desperately searching the stored memories of Rory Williams for data about The Doctor. What he managed to glean was not at all reassuring. The information that they had about the Human race in this era of their history was that they had no official contact with extra-terrestrials.

But The Doctor was an extra-terrestrial.

He was far more than just another extra-terrestrial.

He was trouble.

Bessara went to the kitchen with The Doctor and started pulling strange objects like a ‘bottle opener’ and ‘pizza cutter’ from the utensil drawer. She really intended to eat that strange food with the pungent smell that came in large flat cardboard boxes and drink the liquid that fizzed ominously when the pressurised top was released. She understood how to work such tools? They had prepared simple meals for themselves using the food sold in the local community, but they had not used anything other than simple knives for those tasks. The complicated objects in that drawer had been a mystery to them, and since they were irrelevant to the mission, a mystery they were happy to remain in ignorance of. But now Bessara, in the guise of the female Human called Amy was acting as if she had worked in this kitchen every day of her life.

She was talking to The Doctor as if she had known him forever. Groah understood why. His mate had done what he had urged her not to do. She had allowed the memories and personality of the Human female to overwhelm her. She was living as ‘Amy’ fully and completely.

It was wrong. He would have to censure her for it. But at this moment, it was probably the saving of them. This man, The Doctor, knew Rory and Amy Williams intimately. He was far more than a neighbour they met in the park or the man who read the gas meter. And he was far more intelligent than any Human. He would see through their disguise unless they were both able to play their part to the full.

Which meant he had to eat pizza and drink the disgusting stuff called ‘beer’ directly from the brown glass bottle and talk about old times the way Bessara was doing so very well. He had to laugh as they remembered absurd adventures like meeting Winston Churchill in the Blitz, even though he had not accessed the part of Rory’s memories that covered that incident and he had no idea who or what Winston Churchill was or what the Blitz might be.

“He was a character, wasn’t he,” Groah agreed when The Doctor and Bessara stopped laughing. “Winston Churchill… he was remarkable.”

The Doctor glanced at him. For a brief moment Groah wondered if he had said the wrong thing. Then that absurdly mobile face twisted into another wide grin.

“Remarkable is the word,” he said. “Remember when he climbed the flagpole on top of Whitehall because the Union Flag was upside down and he wanted to fix it before the German Ambassador saw the mistake?”

“Yes, I remember it well,” Groah answered.

Again there was a momentary flash of puzzlement in The Doctor’s eyes. Then he changed the subject once more, talking to Bessara about another adventure they had all shared, involving a race called Silurians. The memory stirred a little easier this time. Groah pictured the Silurians easily. They were a lot like the Alturians in appearance, though their social stratification was far different.

“They’re a fine race,” The Doctor said. “Humans fail every time to properly understand them. It is a pity. They could be great friends if they could only get over their prejudices against each other.”

Bessara agreed, talking about the Silurians she had spent time with, the physician, Malohkeh and the leader of the tribe, Eldane, and others.

“You and Malohkeh got on like a house on fire, Rory,” The Doctor said to Groah. “Two medical men together, comparing notes about Human and Silurian physiology. You could have written a book on the subject between you.”

“Perhaps we still might,” Groah answered.

“I doubt it,” The Doctor continued in a quite different tone. “Malohkeh was killed by Restac because he wanted to make peace with the humans. He and Rory never had time for a house to smoulder between them, let alone catch fire. And while we’re at it, Rory never met Winston Churchill, either. He wasn’t with us in the Blitz. Besides, Winston couldn’t climb a flagpole if his life depended on it and the German Ambassador was sent packing in September 1939. Who are you? And what have you done with Rory Williams?”

His mood changed from friendly to suspicious to downright hostile in moments, catching Groah unawares. The Doctor reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a long, chunky object with a green light at one end that could have been any kind of weapon. Groah drew back nervously. Bessara gasped in horror. Groah’s perception mask was melting away from his face. The filter had already failed. His hands were revealed as dark green leathery skin with three long, thin fingers that grasped at the chair arms, his nails digging into the fabric as the rest of the Human flesh disguise fell away from his face. His tongue flicked out and then back in again quickly.

“Don’t move,” The Doctor warned. “This has a laser mode I could use to cut your head off. I’ve never actually done that before, but there’s a first time for everything, so I’m told.” His eyes flicked towards Bessara. “I know you’re not Amy. Your performance was better than his, but I could tell from the start. You didn’t quite blink often enough. And your Alturian flesh gives off a very slight smell of wax crayon.”

“Doctor….” Bessara began. “You must understand….”

“I must do nothing of the sort. Amy and Rory are my friends. You’ve been messing with them. I’m assuming for the moment that they’re alive and unharmed. That’s why I’m being quite calm and civil about this. But if I don’t get a reassurance that they ARE alive and well very quickly I could get really angry, and you wouldn’t like me angry. You really wouldn’t.”

“They’re alive,” Bessara assured him. “They’re safe.”

“We’re not murderers,” Groah added. “We’re Alturian Agents in pursuit of a dangerous criminal. We don’t have any reason to hurt anyone except that man.”

“And what will you do with the criminal when you find him?” The Doctor asked.

“That is an internal matter,” Groah said. “He is a traitor to Alturia. He will be dealt with according to our justice system.”

The Doctor nodded. He had heard of Alturian justice. It was hard and unforgiving. He felt sorry for their quarry. But his own friends were the more pressing matter.

“Show me where you left Amy and Rory,” he said. “Right now.”

“They’re in the bedroom,” Bessara told him. “They’re quite comfortable.”

“Show me.”

“I won’t be ordered like this,” Groah attempted to say. “I am a High Agent of the Alturian Service. I….”

The Doctor wiggled the sonic screwdriver threateningly. Groah shrank back nervously.

“Show him,” Bessara said in Amy’s voice. “We ARE of the Service, not a pair of Renegades. We must show him that his friends are not harmed.”

“Very well,” Groah conceded.

Bessara led the way. The Doctor kept his sonic screwdriver aimed at Groah and made him head upstairs, too, keeping him as a hostage against any attempt to harm Rory and Amy. As it happened, the sonic was in medical analysis mode. It couldn’t harm anyone except a Valletian, a race with such acute hypochondria that merely giving them a medical examination made them ill.

But neither Groah nor Bessara knew that, and The Doctor was happy to keep them in ignorance for now.

“Unharmed,” Bessara said when they stepped into the master bedroom. “As I indicated.”

The Doctor looked at Rory and Amy, lying on top of the neatly made bed in unnaturally stiff and formal positions. They looked uncomfortably like corpses laid out in death. He touched Amy’s cheek and it was cold. He didn’t panic. There were any number of methods of suspended animation that made a warm-blooded body cold to the touch. A quick scan with the sonic screwdriver confirmed his guess. The Bessarans had not harmed either of his friends. They were in a deep sleep mode in which no time would have seemed to pass for them, so their bodies would not need food or water or even oxygen. They could, in theory, stay that way for years without suffering any adverse effects.

But The Doctor was not going to allow that theory to be tested.

“Wake them, now,” he ordered. “You… whatever your real name is… I want to talk to Amy, the real Amy.”

“It is… not easy,” Groah protested.

“Make it easy,” The Doctor replied. “Or else.”

“If you’re The Doctor…” Bessara said. “If you’re the one Amy knows so well, then you won’t harm us. You’re… merciful.”

“That word is new to you, isn’t it?” The Doctor responded. “You learnt it from her. Yes, I am merciful. But don’t mistake that for foolish. Don’t mistake it for soft. And don’t think for one minute that looking like Amy will stop me from causing you a lot of pain if you don’t do as I say right now.”

Bessara looked at The Doctor. There was such a cold look in his eyes, she knew he really meant it. For his friends, he would certainly hurt both her and Groah.

It hurt to see that look of hatred and disgust. She wished he would look at her the way he would look at the real Amy, with those eyes soft and a smile on his lips.

“Do it,” she begged her mate. “Groah, wake them now. We cannot disobey The Doctor.”

Groah began to protest, but he knew he was defeated on this occasion. It was galling. He was one of the Service’s best agents. He had never been anyone’s prisoner before. He had never been outsmarted by any foe.

And he fell for a simple bit of meaningless chatter that gave him away as an imposter.

He reached out his hands above the sleeping Amy’s body. A glow came from the middle of his palm and enveloped her. At first it was a cold blue glow, but slowly it turned to a warm orange before fading away. Amy blinked and opened her eyes. She saw The Doctor and exclaimed in surprise to see him standing above her. Then she saw Bessara standing behind him and screamed. The Doctor glanced around and understood why. Bessara’s face was melting. She was turning rapidly into an Alturian with a leathery dark green face, bifurcated chin and forked tongue.

“It’s all right,” The Doctor assured her. “There’s a reason for all of this. I’ll explain in a minute. The important thing is you’re all right.”

“What about….” she turned her head and saw Rory beside her. She touched his cold skin and shrieked.

“It’s all right, Groah promised. “I can wake him, now. Please, don’t worry.”

He repeated the process with Rory. He woke as the warm glow faded. But his reaction was very different. He went from lying flat to a defensive crouch in seconds and launched himself at Groah, his hands fixing around the Alturian agent’s neck.

Amy screamed. So did Bessara. Their combined voices hurt The Doctor’s ears and it took him a moment before he reached to separate the two. Bessara stepped forward to hold her mate, but The Doctor stopped Amy from going near Rory.

“He’s not what he seems,” The Doctor said, changing the setting on his sonic screwdriver to one that could scramble the insides of an organic being. “You just stay right there, sunshine. Don’t even think about moving. Groah, what was it you planned to do when you found your traitor?”

“Take him back to Alturia for trial,” Groah answered. “But… do you mean to tell me….”

“Amy, stay back,” The Doctor warned her. “Stay with Bessara. She’ll protect you if it takes us out. Groah, do what you have to do.”

Groah raised his hand again. A very different glow emitted from his palm, enveloping the faux Rory. The Human façade began to melt away, revealing the Alturian beneath. He screamed in rage, but only briefly before collapsing onto the bed again. The Doctor examined him. He was cold to the touch, but that was because he was cold-blooded. Alturians were descended from reptiles. He was in a faint and would come around soon enough.

“Hey! Let me out of here!” A familiar voice called out, hammering on the inside of the wardrobe. Amy ran to open the door and Rory stepped out, groggy and very puzzled to find The Doctor and three other aliens in his bedroom.

“The Doctor can explain it all,” Amy told him. “At least he says he can. He’d better.”

“The last thing I remember… you were at the shops… there was a knock at the door….”

“It was the one on the bed,” The Doctor said. “He’s an Alturian criminal. These other two are going to take him back for trial, after they’ve apologised for misusing both of you in a manner that contravenes the 34356th Amendment to the Shaddow Proclamation.”

“No,” Bessara said. “I mean… not about the apology. But about taking Grosnah back to Alturia. I don’t think I can, not now.”

“Bessara, what are you saying?” Groah asked. “Of course we’re taking him back. He’s wanted for treason.”

“He’s wanted for disobeying the laws of a government that doesn’t even allow us to feed the ducks on the park when we’re not working. Maybe… I think maybe he had a point. I think we should all commit his kind of treason.”

“Bessara!” Groah was astonished. “How can you say such a thing? This man….”

“Your brother….”

“What? Really?” Amy asked. “You came here to arrest your own brother?”

“I thought there was a family resemblance,” The Doctor noted.

“They all look alike to me,” Rory commented. “Not that I understand anything about any of this. And as explanations go, this isn’t much of one.”

“I’m a little lost now, myself,” The Doctor admitted. “Bessara, are you saying that you want to defect from Alturia?”

The word ‘defect’ obviously had no direct translation into Alturian, but Bessara slowly nodded as she realised what it meant.

“I want to feed ducks and go shopping, eat pizza…. I want the freedom of choice that Humans have.”

“Bessara, don’t be ridiculous,” Groah protested. “You’re confused. I told you not to get involved with Human emotions. You’re not thinking like an Alturian.”

“No, I’m not,” Bessara agreed. “And if you’d been accessing the real memories of Rory Williams, you wouldn’t either. If you had the real Human subject as your mental interface instead of Grosnah in disguise you would have felt the same way. Their emotions are too big to ignore. Their ideas are so colourful. I don’t ever want to go back to Alturia. I want to stay here.”

“Must I arrest you, too?”

“No,” Bessara answered. “You must stay with us… with me, as your mate, and Grosnah, your brother…. Let us all put the grey life of Alturia behind us and start again.”

“We can’t,” Groah protested. “We must…”

He stopped. He looked at his brother who was coming slowly around from the faint, then at the real Rory Williams.

“I can feel his thoughts. The mental link is still strong. I feel….”

“Ready to feed the ducks?” Bessara asked hopefully.

“No, but…” He reached out his hand to his brother. Moments later they were touching each other’s chins, a sign of affection for Alturians.

“Let’s give them some private time to talk to each other,” The Doctor suggested. “There’s still plenty of pizza for everyone and Bessara can explain what all this was about.”

Bessara had clearly developed a real taste for pizza. She had six slices while she explained about the mission that had brought them to Earth, about being led to this area but losing the scent after they had taken on their disguises….

“Us!” Rory was still not entirely happy about being locked in a wardrobe while he was impersonated by not one but two Alturians.

“They won’t be trying that again,” The Doctor insisted. “Not unless they want to incur my wrath.”

“Then how can they stay on Earth?” Amy asked. “They stand out just a bit.”

“They’ll have to take new disguises. I can help them with that. I can fix them up with shimmer cloaks that let them look perfectly Human. My old friend Craig in Colchester wants to rent out his old flat. I’ll give them a reference. He might be able to fix them up with jobs at the call centre. They’ll do all right. As long as there are no more attempts to impersonate anyone.”

Groah and Grosnah came into the living room. The Doctor passed them slices of pizza he had set aside for them. They ate quietly while the plan for their future as Earth citizens was outlined.

“They’ll send other agents,” Groah pointed out. “We’ll never be able to live in peace.”

“I’ll send out a message… make it look as if your space ship blew up in deep space, all hands lost. You two will be hailed as lost heroes. Grosnah’s name will never be spoken of again. You can live in peace here on Earth and enjoy pizzas and duck feeding and all the freedoms you yearn for.”

“Doctor… you are merciful,” Bessara said. “I… understand the word fully, now.”

“Just don’t take adantage of that fact,” The Doctor warned. “No more impersonating friends of mine. No more impersonating any Human on this planet, or you’ll see what happens when I really AM angry.”

The three aliens looked at him and saw his eyes harden momentarily. Then they softened again.

“I think we need more pizza,” he said. “Groah’s snaffled the last slice of thin crust meat feast.”