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

Verdi Denley slipped along the corridor on six spindly legs that allowed him to move at surprising speed. He raised his swan-like neck until his awkwardly rounded head could see the information panel. He orientated himself before ducking down again and scuttling quickly towards the closest turbo lift.

He was still a dozen yards from the lift when he heard voices. He recognised them at once. They were the very people he didn’t want to meet right now, under any circumstances, least of all THESE circumstances.

He looked around for another way out of the corridor. The only possibility was an access panel for the cleaning bots. It was too small, but he pushed himself in backwards, folding those spindly legs, drawing his neck in. As four feet passed by his eyes watched and his ears listened.

The final pieces of the puzzle came together. He knew the truth, now. But what could he do about it? Who could he tell?

How could he tell anyone?

He felt the change starting again, that sick feeling deep in the pit of his stomach – or whatever passed for a stomach. He felt his limbs contracting, his neck shrinking, his head changing shape and size.

He knew that whatever form he took this time, it wasn’t going to be one with the power of speech.

The TARDIS materialised in the long stay hangar with an animal-mechanical grinding and a waft of displaced air. It was also accompanied by a dose of Power of Suggestion for anyone who happened to witness its appearance. It made them think there was nothing unusual about a blue police phone box arriving in the hangar amongst the deluxe shuttles and interplanetary runabouts and that it had a perfect right to be there.

Jean stepped out first, followed by The Doctor. She was dressed in a figure hugging evening dress in shimmering mother of pearl with matching high heeled shoes and handbag. Her hair and make up were carefully applied and she felt nicely elegant. The Doctor was looking remarkably dapper in a dinner suit. He was still wearing a bow tie, but at least it was silk and went with the outfit.

She was a little disappointed to find herself in such a dull, uninspiring place.

“It’s just a car park,” she said. “For spaceships.”

“It’s a hangar bay,” The Doctor corrected her.

“A space park. Mind you, some of these ships look very slick – the limousines of space?”

“Most of them are just show,” The Doctor responded unenthusiastically. “Racing stripes on something that barely reaches the speed of sound! Hummph.”

“Well, anyway, I’m sure you didn’t bring me here to look at the car park. What else is going on around here?”

“This is the Crab Nebula Hilton Space Hotel,” The Doctor answered. “Incorporating the eight star Taurus Restaurant, the Zodiac discothèque, the celebrated Nebula Cabaret Lounge, and the Cosmic Observation Deck. All sorts of things are going on.”

“That explains the dinner dress.” Jean looked impressed. “We’re going to dinner here, then? Like… a date?”

“Yes, and, sort of.”

Jean carefully put his answers against her questions and wondered what ‘sort of’ meant.

“On my world it was not considered appropriate to ‘date’ a woman until a formal betrothal had been made and a bond of consent signed by her parents.”

“Oooook,” Jean answered. “Leaving aside the lack of romance on your planet, let’s just call it dinner for two friends, then.”

Well, after all, that was exactly what it was, Jean reflected. She had travelled with The Doctor for nearly a year, now. She had often spent days and nights in the TARDIS with his strange little shadow friend as their only chaperone, and he had always behaved perfectly gentlemanly towards her. They were friends, travelling companions, no more and no less.

Which was exactly what she wanted, of course. The Doctor had invited her to come travelling with him, to see some of the wonders of time and space.

There was no time limit on that journey. He had never even hinted that it was time for her to return to her real life. She had never expressed any longing to do so.

But she did wonder how much longer it would be before they had to talk about it.

Talking about anything wasn’t easy with The Doctor, mind you. For one thing they were rarely in one place long enough to sit down and talk. For another, even when they were talking, he rarely stayed on one topic for more than a minute at a time.

And he rarely talked seriously about anything, not even when they were in the middle of a dangerous situation. He faced down mortal enemies with jokes about tea and biscuits and whooped with joy as he dived for cover when they failed to see the humour.

A heart to heart talk about her future wasn’t really top of his priorities.

When they stepped onto the lift from the hangar deck it went right out of her head, too.

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “I’m standing on a glass floor in a glass lift, on the side of a space hotel.”

“It’s exo-glass, virtually unbreakable.”


“Exo-glass can stand up to a supernova or a thermo-nuclear blast. Just in case of accidents, there’s also a stasis field back up.”

“That’s a very good definition of ‘virtually’,” Jean agreed. “I can live with that. It does feel a bit funny, though. It’s like standing on nothing.”

“If you think this is good, wait until we reach the observation platforma,” The Doctor told her.

Verdi Denley was still alive, though by the very skin of his teeth. He had twice avoided being eaten alive by the captain’s pet cat and was almost cut in two by the cook wielding a meat cleaver when hunger drove him into the galley at the wrong time. He had even had to run from two rats that saw him as competition for the little food there was to be had. He had played a dangerous game of Judas goat, leading them towards the cat and avoiding its claws himself.

He had survived in this awkward shape with no voice and no other means of communication for six long days.

And now he was running out of time. The ship had docked at the Hotel. In a few hours the terrible deed would be done and he was powerless to stop it.

At least he could escape from the ship. Perhaps there was a chance of finding somebody who could help.

The observation platform was remarkable. The single most remarkable thing was that it wasn’t a deck in the sense that Jean expected. It was a huge bubble of the same exo-glass that The Doctor had explained about in the lift. By huge, Jean measured it as about twice the diameter of the Albert Hall. It was joined to the space station by a single glass section of the lift shaft. When passengers stepped out of the glass lift into the glass bubble they stepped onto an invisible gravity floor. That disturbed Jean for a few moments then she decided she had already seen stranger things in The Doctor’s company. She strode confidently towards the curved window where she looked out onto a completely unrestricted one hundred and eighty degree view of the galaxy with particular emphasis on the nearby crab nebulae. The globe revolved slowly so that she got to see different views, including the space station itself which looked like a double ended version of Dubai’s Burj Kalifa, hanging in space, the lights from the countless windows glowing against the velvet backdrop of the stars.

The backdrop wasn’t all velvet with pinpricks of silver, of course. Among the many things Jean had learnt since joining The Doctor was that black wasn’t the only colour to be found in outer space. She was used to seeing solar displays of myriad colours that made the Aurora Borealis look tame.

But the Crab Nebula was one of the most impressive things she had seen yet. It was more than just a cloud of gases formed from the remnant of a pulsar star. It looked almost organic with its ragged fringe of red and green filaments fading to a blue like an Earth sky in the centre. She felt as if she was looking at a hole in the universe through which she could see infinity – if infinity was the colour of the sky above the Isle of Bute on a spring afternoon.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “Amazing.”

The Doctor handed her a purple coloured cocktail from the bar and sipped on a long glass of iced lime and water.

“The Crab Nebula was created by a people called the Uxarieans,” he said, just in case she was interested. “They test detonated a terrible doomsday weapon that cause the central star of the Crab system to go supernova. I met the last survivors of the Uxarieans, once. They had finally realised that doomsday weapons were bad things and cleaned up their act.”

Jean shivered. That story wasn’t quite so beautiful. Strange to think that something so incredible came from such a dreadful beginning.

“Were there people living in the system when it happened?”

“No,” The Doctor assured her. “It was their equivalent of Bikini atoll when your species were starting to mess with weapons of mass destruction. The nearest habitable planet was just beyond the nebula, a place called Wengrol, home of the Yends. That’s another story – a really sad story.”

Jean looked at The Doctor and waited for him to tell the story. He shook his head.

“It’ll put you off your dinner,” he told her. “Another time.”

Jean was intrigued, not the least because that was the first time she had ever heard The Doctor refuse to tell one of his long, tall stories. Instead he regaled her with more details of his encounter with the Uxarieans and more trivia about the Crab nebula.

“What’s going on there?” Jean asked, interrupting his monologue just before her mind reached tipping point for absorption of astronomical information. Almost all the people on the observation deck had moved to the end currently facing the space hotel. The Doctor watched with his eyes narrowed and his expression one of close concentration, as if he was reading the minds of the people around him.

“It’s the royal space yacht of the Pargolian Empire,” he explained after a while. “The Crown Prince and Princess are paying a visit to this region of space. They’re having dinner and cabaret with some of their celebrity friends.”

“I guess that means there’s no chance of us getting a table tonight, then,” Jean said. “We’re hardly going to be on the A. List.”

“Want to bet?” The Doctor responded. “I’m an A. List person, I’ll have you know. Remind me to tell you about cocktails at Fred Astaire’s house, Vegas parties with Elvis, not to mention my friendship with Elizabeth the 10th of Britain.”

There he was again, telling tall stories! Fred Astaire, Elvis… Elizabeth the 10th! Jean smiled indulgently, but she really didn’t think they had any chance of getting into the restaurant at the same time as the royal couple.

The Doctor continued to smile enigmatically as he escorted her to the hundred and fiftieth deck where the restaurant was situated. They stepped out of the turbo lift into the foyer where a liveried guard inspected credentials and checked names against a list.

The Doctor presented a gilt-edged card and the guard bowed his head and welcomed him before an usher announced ‘The Doctor and Miss Jean Ferguson of Earth’ to the assorted guests.

“All right, clever clogs,” Jean told him as he passed her a long fluted glass of genuine French champagne, imported from Earth – which was so far away the vintage was twice what it was when it left the winery. “So you ARE on the A. List. Where are the royals, then?”

The Doctor grinned again and escorted her across the busy room full of mingling guests. She noted that very few of them were Human in the sense she understood the word. There were people with bird faces, people with green, spiky skin, short, squat people who looked like they were fashioned by a very bored worker in a Blu-Tac warehouse, people with more than one pair of arms, and one or two she would only class as ‘people’ at all by applying the term extremely loosely. In many cases it was impossible to tell if there was a male and female of the species. She was sure one of the more Human looking ones was switching back and forward as the mood took him/her.

The Doctor headed straight for the glittering royal couple. Nobody tried to stop him.

And they truly were glittering. Not only were they wearing gold crowns, but their robes, their hair, their skin, the feathery wings that sprouted from their backs, were golden. They were the most beautiful, and the most shiny, people Jean had ever seen. She remembered to stop staring and to curtsey as neatly as she knew how just before The Doctor gave the most cursory nods of his head as if he was equal to them.

The Crown Prince nodded to him in return and greeted him like an old friend, reminding him of a badminton tournament where he had partnered the Prince’s father, the former Crown Prince. The fact that this had happened almost forty years ago when the Prince himself was a boy didn’t seem to matter. The Doctor easily fell to chatting about the intergalactic gold market and the decline in etiquette among the newly moneyed as if he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Jean, meanwhile, accepted the Princess’s compliments about her dress, feeling a little guilty since she had not had any part in choosing it. The whole outfit was hanging by a full length mirror in that strange room called the ‘Wardrobe’ as if the TARDIS itself had taken on the role of lady’s maid for her. She wondered what else she could talk to a princess about while the two of them were acting as spare parts to the men. Fortunately, dinner was announced and she and The Doctor got in line behind the royal party before she had time to panic.

Verdi Denley scampered along the conduit inside the walls where the hot and cold water pipes ran side by side. He tried to avoid touching either, but not very successfully. One half of his poor, distressed body was scorching hot and the other freezing cold. He wondered just how much energy could be saved by the company that owned the space hotel if they properly insulated all of those pipes. After all, they ran for literally miles through the whole complex, and that much heat loss through them was costly.

But he had more vital things to worry about than space hotel management, and he still didn’t know how he was going to do anything about it while he was in this body shape. His best plan so far was to make it look as if the restaurant was infested with some kind of vermin. Perhaps the royals would go back to their own ship in disgust.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t much of an infestation on his own. He would probably just get stomped on by the Maitre D. and swept away with the rubbish by a cleaning bot.

If he didn’t find a way soon, it would be too late. The deadly plot would be unstoppable and many people would die.

If so, he only hoped he was one of them. He didn’t deserve to live if he failed.

Jean had expected to be seated on one of the lower tables, far from the royal party. She was surprised to find herself at the main table, seated right beside the Crown Princess, while The Doctor was at the Prince’s right hand. The Crab Nebula’s top zero gravity tennis player, a pair of glossy-faced holovid stars and a man with a complexion like an opaque glass filled with water, who was apparently an intergalactically renowned opera singer, made up the rest of the Royal table. The Prince and Princess liked to mingle with colourful and interesting people rather than dull politicians and fellow royals.

The Doctor certainly qualified as colourful and interesting, but Jean wasn’t so sure about her own credentials. To her surprise, the Princess did seem to take a shine to her. She asked her many questions about her home on Earth. Jean described Bute in glowing terms, and accidentally gave the impression that Earth consisted entirely of one small island in the northern hemisphere.

She was trying to figure out how to redress that error when she became aware of a disturbance near the door to the kitchen. In fact, she would go so far as to describe it as a kerfuffle. She heard somebody used the word ‘rat’ in hushed tones. She was probably the only person who understood what it meant. The ‘Hilton’ space hotel chain, of course, was founded on Earth and most of the kitchen and serving staff were humans with American accents. But the people she was dining with spoke their own languages, translated to English for her by the harmless radiation that her brain soaked up while aboard the TARDIS. They paid no attention to the chatter of the waiters and kitchen porters.

So Jean was the only person who was looking when a strange creature escaped from the kitchen and scuttled along behind the drapes covering the exo-glass windows. She watched the slight movement of the velvet fabric out of the corner of her eye while describing the Eiffel Tower to the Princess and assuring her that something that tall could certainly stand up in the gravitational field of an m-class planet.

The creature poked its nose out under the curtains and seemed to be judging its moment. While most of the staff were busy taking away the plates from the smoked salmon entrée and bringing the roast Orion beef main course to the table, it dashed across a dangerously empty stretch of carpet and under the nearest table… the royal one.

Jean slipped her hand down beside her chair and waved it slowly. She hoped the creature would recognise it as an invitation and not be frightened.

“Eeeeohhh!” The female holovid star squealed shrilly. Everyone stopped talking and looked at her curiously.

“Something touched me,” she said. “Something… furry… and… warm….”

Her co-star and, if the space port tabloids were to be believed, lover, looked at the tennis player accusingly, but ‘furry’ was not a description that could be applied to the tall, skinny, bony man who was so hairless he didn’t even have eyelashes.

The Doctor was the one who peered under the table and confirmed that there was nothing furry to be seen. By that time, there wasn’t. It was sitting in Jean’s lap and she had hidden it under her napkin. She stroked the furry creature reassuringly and hoped it would keep quiet until everyone stopped worrying about it.

Verdi hunched down as small as he could make himself against the silk-satin fabric of the woman’s dress. He didn’t know why she had chosen to help him, but he was grateful that she had.

Of course, there was something different about her. He knew that when she ran her fingers through his fur. He could feel the low level Artron energy within her. She was a time traveller, perhaps one of the few that was left.

Time travellers tended to have a different outlook on the universe to ordinary people. Perhaps that was why she took pity on a helpless creature with nowhere left to run. Perhaps that was why she passed down a piece of vegetable for him to eat, caring not that the gravy on it would stain her dress.

Or perhaps she just hated crab broccoli and didn’t want to offend the host. Whatever reason, the food was welcome. He hadn’t had time to grab anything in the kitchen.

But he was acutely aware of time passing and the danger that loomed ahead of them all. He was safe here, protected by the unusually kind woman, but he was also trapped.

The creature seemed to have gone to sleep after she shared the fresh fruit from her strawberry pavlova with it. At least, it was very quiet and still. She hoped it was all right. She hoped that strawberries didn’t disagree with its stomach. She didn’t need a sick alien creature on her lap. She tried not to worry too much as she tasted a little locally made cheese and biscuits and drank brandy coffee while the political and social conversation continued.

Finally, the Crown Prince and Princess stood. Everyone else stood a moment later. Jean was the last to be upright. She was grasping the cashmere shawl that went with her dress, hiding the creature inside. She must have looked strangely awkward like that as the Prince and Princess left the table and headed for the lift to the observation platform. They were going to view the nebula before the cabaret began. Their celebrity friends, including the opera singer, tennis player and holovid stars went with them.

“I’ll catch you up,” Jean told The Doctor. “I… need to… to freshen up.”

She made a dash for the toilets. There were four of them, recognising that gender was a more complicated matter than humans ever managed to understand. She pushed open the door with the safe, familiar, female humanoid shape on it, hoping there wasn’t a queue.

It was a very nice public toilet. It had a long line of washbasins complete with gilt-plated taps and soap and moisturiser dispensers, and a row of soft towels for hand drying as well as the cubicles with soft tissue and automatic freshening spray.

Jean put her shawl down in one of the basins. The creature slowly uncurled itself from the cashmere and she got a proper look at it, finally. It definitely wasn’t a rat. It was almost round with very little distinction between head and body. It had very tiny paws and two very big eyes that peeped out of the mass of black fur. The two eyes looked at Jean appealingly.

“What are you?” she asked. The creature’s eyes blinked and something almost like a teardrop fell, as if the question was a painful one.

“That’s a hard question to ask a Yend,” said The Doctor. Jean saw his reflection in the mirror and turned to see him sealing the door with his sonic screwdriver so that they wouldn’t be disturbed.

“This is the ladies, you know,” she pointed out.

“They can use the Neutral, along with the Alpha Centauri Ambassador and the gendermorph couple from Haollstrom,” he said. “This is more important than ‘freshening up’ after dinner.”

He moved towards the basin and pointed the sonic screwdriver at the furry creature. It backed away and Jean protested fearfully.

“It’s all right, I won’t hurt him,” The Doctor promised. “I was right. He is a Yend, poor soul.”

“Yend… you mentioned them before…. You said it was a sad story.”

“They used to be humanoid, like ninety per cent of the galaxy… like nearly everyone out there at the Prince’s party. But they experimented with shape-changing genetic augmentations. For several generations they could change themselves at will, and they used that skill to advance themselves. Then a second star entered their solar system – a star called Montrain. It bathed the planet Wengrol in an unusual form of mutated gamma radiation. Yes, the sort of thing that made Bruce Banner into the Incredible Hulk in the comics. Complete coincidence. But the effect on the poor Yends was that their bodies constantly mutated. By constantly, I mean they could have two heads when they woke up in the morning and no head and five legs when they went to bed. The metamorphosis was instant and impossible for them to resist. Most of them went mad trying to stop it. Their species was doomed. Their last hope of survival was a case of embryos that hadn’t been affected by the radiation, but when I took them away and examined them they were all dead.”

“Oh… You mean you tried to help them before? Doctor… that’s….”

“Dooooo….cc….” Jean stared at the creature… the Yend. Had it tried to speak? She reached out as if to stroke it again, but The Doctor stopped her.

“He’s not a cute furry pet,” he told her. “He’s a sentient being. Give him his dignity.”

The Doctor drew her back from the basin, and just in time. The furry creature was mutating. Its body swelled and the thick fur ripped apart as a purple, misshapen form with long, insect-like legs and six tiny eyes burst out, toppling out of the basin and landing on the floor with a splat.

The Doctor aimed the sonic screwdriver at it and confirmed that the mutation was still occurring. The purple mass twisted painfully and a small mouth opened wide and let out a moan of agony. As ugly as it looked, Jean desperately wanted to comfort it, but The Doctor warned her away.

“His mutating DNA might absorb some of yours, then he might not know if he was coming or going.”

“Will he be all right?” she asked. “It looks horrible… I don’t mean him… I mean what’s happening to him.”

His next form was like a small grey-blue hippopotamus with a tail like a shark instead of back legs. He let out a braying noise that seemed to have the word ‘help’ in it.

“I can’t help you, my friend,” The Doctor said gently. “Your body is trying to find a viable form, but I don’t know how many mutations it will take. I am sorry. I really am. Believe me, I know what it’s like. At least, this time, you’re not alone. Jean and I will be with you for as long as you need us.”

“You mean that, don’t you,” Jean said to him. “You’re prepared to look after this poor Yend, when other people would run and scream.”

“Running is the only option sometimes,” The Doctor said. “But screaming is pretty useless unless you’re being attacked by sound-sensitive killer tulips on Andrazo V. There’s nothing frightening or dangerous about a Yend, though. They’re the most pitiful creatures in the galaxy.”

“He’s changing again,” Jean said. “I think it’s really hurting him this time.”

She stepped closer, her innate empathy with the troubled Yend overriding The Doctor’s warning to stay back from him. She reached out and touched what, for a short time, looked like a shoulder.

“I can’t let go!” she exclaimed. She looked in horror at her hand fused to the morphing flesh and had a terrible vision of her own body combining with the Yend like two pieces of pastry dough pressed together before rolling out.

“Stay still,” The Doctor said, rushing forwards with his sonic screwdriver buzzing wildly as he applied it to the join between Jean and the Yend. “Jean, think Human, try not to lose yourself. Keep hold of yourself as an individual.”

Jean tried to do that. She thought about home and family and everything that made her Human, doing her best to keep the memories fresh and clear in her mind. She recited the names of people she knew, friends and family from Bute, her tutors from university, her colleagues at the visitor centre at Culloden.

“Doctor… I’m forgetting. What’s my aunt’s name?”

“It’s Sheelagh,” he told her. “I’m nearly there. Hold on a moment longer.”

Jean shrieked with relief as her hand came free finally. She looked at it, fully expecting the skin from her palm to have peeled off, but it looked perfectly normal. It didn’t even sting.

Then her attention was turned to the Yend. He unfolded his newest body and stood up. She looked at his new form for a long moment before grabbing her cashmere shawl and tying it around his waist as an improvised loincloth. He needed it now that he had become a very well developed Humanoid with a well-muscled torso, dark curling hair and very handsome features in his well-proportioned face.

“He’s absorbed some of your DNA,” The Doctor said. “And it’s helped him to fix onto a stable form.” He took off his dinner jacket and put it around the Yend’s naked shoulders. That and the shawl made a very odd outfit, but between them they warmed his body and covered those parts that it was not considered polite to expose.

“Please, help,” he said in a halting voice as if he was still getting used to having the power of speech again. “Not me…. I’m… I’m all right. But you must save the Prince and Princess. They’re going to be assassinated.”

“When?” The Doctor asked. “How?”

“I don’t know, exactly,” Verdi Denley told his new allies. “I only know it will be here… and it involves a bomb.”

“A bomb in a place like this? It will kill thousands,” Jean said. “Doctor….”

The Doctor made a decision quickly.

“We need to get to the TARDIS,” he said. “That’s everyone’s best chance.”

That was the opposite end of the space hotel to the observation lounge where the Royal couple were. If anyone else had made such a suggestion it might have looked like cowardice. But it was The Doctor. He had a plan. Jean was sure of that.

In the few minutes it took to reach the hangar, Verdi Denley told his story. He had left Wengrol a year ago and had drifted between space ports and tramp ships, scraping a living whenever his changing form allowed, hiding when he became too monstrous to be seen.

It was when he was in one of his more gruesome forms, hiding upon a ship heading for the space hotel, that he had stumbled upon the plan by revolutionaries to execute the Crown Prince and Princess before establishing a military junta on their world. Before he could tell anyone of what he had heard, he had turned into the rat-sized furry creature that Jean had allowed to hide in her lap.

“If I’d known that you were going to turn into such a… sturdy… figure,” Jean said as they stepped into the TARDIS. “I…. Well, no, I’d have done exactly the same, honestly. I could see you were scared and desperate and… I’m glad you’re ok. I’m a little bit sorry you’re not a cute furry thing. I was sort of thinking you’d make a nice pet.”

“Pets aboard the TARDIS are never a good idea,” The Doctor said. “I’d have had to say no. Even mechanical dogs are a nuisance. Organics really don’t work.”

“Just as well, then,” Jean responded. She and Verdi watched as The Doctor dematerialised the TARDIS and prepared to re-materialise it on the observation lounge where the royal party and their celebrity friends were.

They were a fraction of a second late. The TARDIS materialised just as the bomb planted by the revolutionaries destroyed the lift shaft connecting the exo-glass observation bubble to the main part of the Hotel. The bubble was propelled away, tumbling freely in empty space, the artificial gravity failing and the air escaping through the broken remains of the lift shaft.

“They’re dying!” Jean cried out as she saw desperate figures floating in the rapidly decompressing bubble. “Doctor, help them.”

“I am helping them,” he answered. “I’m extending the TARDIS’s gravity field and projecting an oxygen bubble. I can’t hold it for long, though. Get ready to go out there and help them.”

Extending the gravity field brought the floating bodies back down, though not with a bump. They landed gently on the invisible floor created by the TARDIS. Jean and Verdi quickly ran to help them up and send them into the strange blue box that had appeared in the midst of the chaos.

“The glass is breaking!” somebody yelled. Jean looked up and saw great cracks appearing in what The Doctor had assured her, not so long ago, was capable of surviving a supernova.

The cracks spread. The bubble wasn’t going to last much longer. Jean grabbed the unconscious male holo-vid star and dragged him over the TARDIS threshold before going back for a man in steward’s livery who was still struggling to breathe. Verdi was carrying the Crown Princess. The Prince was already safe inside the TARDIS, receiving CPR from The Doctor.

“Come on,” she said, lifting the steward to his feet. “You’ll be safe in there.”

She looked around. He was the last. Everyone else was safe. But the bubble was shattering inch by inch. There was no sound to accompany the breaking glass. There wasn’t enough atmosphere in the gravity field for that, but around her now was just a mass of fragments with nothing but the silent prayers in her head holding them together.

She and the steward made it over the doorstep into the TARDIS just as the exo-glass bubble finally collapsed, the fragments flying away into space. She closed the door and looked around at the puzzled but relieved victims of the assassination attempt and felt as if she had done something good. At least some of these people were alive because of her.

All of them were alive because of Verdi’s timely warning. She found him among the crowd, still dressed so very oddly in a dinner jacket and cashmere shawl and hugged him.

“You’re a hero,” she said. “You’re THE hero. The Doctor does last minute rescues all the time. It’s nothing to him. This one is YOURS, and I’m going to make sure the Prince knows it. You should get a medal.”

“I… don’t know if I’ll have anywhere to pin it,” he said. “I might change into something with ten legs and eyes on stalks any moment.”

“No, you won’t,” The Doctor told him. He was holding up a thin length of transparent plastic with blocks of computer data printed on it. “I just finished analysing your new DNA. The fusion of Jean’s genes….” He giggled at the juxtaposition of those two words before becoming serious and scientific again. “It’s the miracle your people have been looking for. Human DNA stabilises your form. You’re cured. And if we can cure you….”

“There are tens of thousands of Yends on Wengrol,” Verdi said. “Can they….”

“We’ve got work to do here, still. You’ll have to give your testimony to the authorities. You’re the only one who can identify the would-be assassins. After that, we’ll take a trip to your world and see what can be done.”

Verdi looked at The Doctor and at Jean, and tears of joy came to his part-Human eyes. Jean hugged him again because it seemed the thing to do.

“Come on,” she said. “Let’s find you some trousers before you do anything else.”