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

Jean stepped into the TARDIS bathroom and got ready to take a bath. It had been a good day, but she was tired now and the reviving properties of soaking in hot water perfumed with scented bubbles was compelling.

As she relaxed into the bath she felt the change in the underlying vibration that told her the TARDIS had dematerialised, leaving eighth century Ireland behind them.

Not that eighth century Ireland had been on their original itinerary. They were meant to be going to the twenty-sixth century and a planet called Tara for the coronation of Reynart the Fifth, descendant of the first Prince Reynart who was an old friend of The Doctor’s.

Instead, they had ended up in Tara in county Meath, in Ireland, in the year 710, to witness the installation of Fergal mac Máele Dúin as High King of Ireland.

King Fergal had been welcoming to his unexpected guests, inviting them both to join in the feast that took place after the ceremony, which was all very nice, but the feast was seven days and nights long. She was thoroughly tired of feasting and dancing, especially in the era before anyone understood the concept of underarm deodorant or a nice salad. Ox, spit-roasted over an open fire-pit, wasn’t actually what she called a healthy food option.

She thoroughly enjoyed the hot bath with the scent of white lily bubbles soaking away the accumulated smells that she felt were sticking to her clothes, her body and her hair.

She closed her eyes and ducked under the water to rinse her hair after shampooing and conditioning. When she came up for air she saw a face looking down at her.

She screamed.

She jumped out of the bath, covered in soap bubbles and dashed out into the corridor.

The Doctor was walking past, wearing a weird pair of goggles and soldering something he had pulled out of the database console earlier. He looked up absently and seemed unaware, for a moment, that she was naked apart from rapidly disintegrating soap suds.

She shrieked and ran back into the bathroom. She returned moments later with a dressing gown wrapped around her body and a towel on her head.

“There was something in the bathroom,” she said. “Someone… I think… I saw a face… looking at me.”

The Doctor didn’t say anything, but he rushed past her into the bathroom, his sonic screwdriver held like a weapon. He scanned the whole room carefully.

“There’s nobody here now, is there?” Jean said, standing by the door and looking in. “But I didn’t imagine it, really.”

“I believe you,” The Doctor answered her. “There’s a meisson energy residue in the air - a sure sign of psychic dissipation – it’s a form of transmat using the power of the mind….”

As ever when he started on a subject only he could possibly know anything about, Jean waited for The Doctor to finish talking.

“But there’s nothing here now, of course,” he added. “Except….”

He reached up to the glass shelf above the bath. There was something there. He picked it up and looked at it closely.

“What is it?” Jean asked. The Doctor opened his hand and showed her a small gold trinket, shaped like a horseshoe – the sort of thing people wore on charm bracelets. “That’s not mine.”

“I didn’t think it was,” The Doctor assured her. “I’ve seen this sort of thing before. Come on….”

“Come on where?”

“The console room, of course.” The Doctor looked at her and grinned. “Ah, yes, I suppose you’d better get dressed, first.”

He beat a hasty retreat and Jean headed for the Wardrobe where she dried off and dressed in a cashmere sweater and slacks and a pair of comfortable sandals. She scooped her hair into a pony tail and decided that would do for now.

As she turned from the full length mirror she caught a glimpse of the same odd face looking at her through a rack of old-fashioned fox furs and feather boas. She fixed it in her memory – a long face ending in a pointed chin, long nose, pointed ears, too, sticking out from under a rather silly looking cap.

She grabbed a shoe from a rack and threw it. The face uttered a very rude swear word and ducked. A fox fur scuttled away into the shadows. Jean tried to follow but the peeping tom had escaped again.

A glint of gold caught her attention. She picked up another little charm, this time a ‘lucky cat’. She put it in her pocket and headed back to the console room.

“I saw it again,” she said to The Doctor. He was busy reading the data on one of the many monitor screens built into the console. Beside it, the golden horseshoe charm was sitting in a small receptacle where it was being scanned with a soft green light.

“The gold in this trinket comes from Earth,” The Doctor said in a matter of fact way. “All metals, all minerals, in the entire universe, come from the same source – the Big Bang as humans called it. The atoms that coalesced into stars and planets are all made up of varied amounts of each element. That’s why gold, for example, is found almost everywhere, but is more abundant on some worlds than others – they got the jackpot, as it were. But local factors give each planet’s gold a unique chemical composition. It is even possible to work out which region of a planet it comes from.”

“Like Welsh gold that’s rarer than South African or Australian gold?” Jean suggested. He had obviously forgotten what she had just told him before his mini-lecture on the origin of planetary minerals.

“Exactly,” The Doctor confirmed. “The horseshoe was made of Irish gold mined somewhere not far from where we were earlier at the Hill of Tara. Did you find another charm in the Wardrobe?”

“Yes,” she answered. So he had been paying attention after all! She handed him the lucky cat. He repeated the scan with it. “Yes, this one is Volgan gold.”

“Volgan as in… from near the River Volga in Russia?” Jean asked.

“No, from the planet Volga, known as the Planet of Gold because it is one of those jackpot places I mentioned.”

“Ah.” Jean took in that information before asking her next question. “So… what’s going on, Doctor? What’s with the lucky charms and who is the character who keeps dropping them?”

“It’s a Leprechaun,” The Doctor answered with absolutely no hint of whimsy or humour in his town.

“You’ve got to be joking,” Jean responded. “A Leprechaun? I know we just left Ireland, but seriously….”

“Seriously,” The Doctor told her, and he really did look serious. Jean hadn’t had very many conversations about Leprechauns, but those she had were usually humorous in nature. Nobody believed in them, and nobody took them seriously. Irish people tended to be a little embarrassed by them.

“That’s the Human name for them,” The Doctor explained. “Based on myths and legends of a mischievous character that thrives on trickery and deception. Trickery and deception are not the same thing. It’s important to remember that. Trickery might be humorous and more or less harmless. Deception can often be hurtful.”

“Yes.” Jean let The Doctor carry on talking while a myriad comical images from St. Patricks Day cards and cereal adverts came to mind.

“The Human legends were about right, really,” The Doctor concluded. “It’s an alien creature, of course. That’s the only bit they didn’t get. But otherwise the Leprechaun is a mischievous nuisance, a pain in the neck, and also a cosmic scavenger and a thief.”

“Hence the gold from different planets,” Jean surmised. “So why is he aboard the TARDIS? Hitching a lift?”

“I’d chuck him off even if that WAS the case,” The Doctor replied. “I don’t want that sort aboard my TARDIS. But it’s worse than that. He wants my Time Lord gold.”

As he talked The Doctor was working with an ordinary screwdriver and a soldering iron at what looked like a cannibalised mobile phone. He inserted the lucky cat into the place where a Sim card should go and soldered it shut. He began to repeat the process on a second device.

“Time Lord gold?” Jean queried.

“It’s universally known that all Time Lords carry vaults full of gold in their TARDISes,” The Doctor replied. “Universally known to all cutthroats, pirates and thieves, that is.”

“Do YOU have vaults full of gold?” Jean asked. She had never really queried how The Doctor paid for ordinary things like food and socks. Whenever they were on a planet or space station where money was exchanged for goods he always seemed to have enough, and she had seen him use a kind of credit card that was acceptable just about everywhere.

“That would be telling,” The Doctor answered.

“You don’t trust me?” Jean felt peculiarly let down by The Doctor’s comment. Surely she had been with him long enough?”

“If you knew something like that you would be vulnerable. All those cutthroats and pirates would want to get the secret out of you.”

“Ok, fair enough,” she said. She still wasn’t sure if she ought to be offended by his lack of trust, but that was a reasonable explanation, at least. “So… the Leprechaun is after the gold that you may or may not have stashed in the TARDIS. So what are you going to do about it?”

“We’re going to hunt him down and chuck him out,” The Doctor answered. He passed one of the cannibalised phones to her and put one in his own pocket, then he pulled a lever on the console. The air shimmered momentarily. “I’ve just initiated an internal shield preventing transmatting or any other form of disappearing act. He’s grounded. Meanwhile these gadgets will act as monitors to track him down… or at least track his gold down. He’ll have a bag with him. Leprechauns can’t bear to be away from their gold. But every time they do the disappearing trick they lose a bit of their treasure.”

“The charms we found.”

“Exactly. We’re doing him a favour by stopping him from disappearing. It’s almost a physical pain when they lose even a tiny bit of their gold. But it levels the playing field. The chase is on. You go back to the Wardrobe and work from there. I’m going down to the vau… to the place down there… and I’ll work backwards.”

“Ok,” Jean agreed. “What should I do if I find it?”

“Catch it by its ear and hold on tight. It’s powerless if you hold on to an ear. And call me. Pressing star, hash one gets me on the internal system. Or is it hash, star, one? No, I was right the first time.”

“Ok.” She took the Leprechaun detector and headed towards the Wardrobe. The Doctor went a different way entirely. Jean wasn’t sure where. He had been very vague about ‘down there’. The TARDIS had countless levels connected by stairwells. She regularly used one to go to the library, but she had never been anywhere else. She knew from The Doctor’s chatter that there were all sorts of rooms that were hardly ever used. There was a swimming pool, though she had never been tempted to visit that. There was also a museum which he showed her around once, and a ballroom, that he hadn’t showed her. The Doctor also referred to a ‘cloister room’ which was very important to The Doctor and very much off limits to non-Time Lords, or so she always understood. Certainly she had never been in there.

Was that where the gold vaults were, she wondered?

What sort of gold? Coins, bullion, bags of gold dust, chests full of treasure?

The question occupied her mind as she walked along the generally featureless corridors of the TARDIS interior. Occasionally as she went down a stairwell or turned a corner she would come to a section that was shaped differently – hexagonal shaped corridors, triangular corridors, even one that was tubular with a narrow walkway in the centre. Most of the time, though, the corridors were grey and featureless and she was not at all certain after a while if she knew how to get back to the console room.

Then she stepped through a door and found herself IN the console room.

“What?” She stared around in astonishment. “How did I get back here?”

The detector in her hand beeped rapidly and she looked around and up. The Leprechaun was on the walkway above the console room looking down at her.

“Come here, you,” she called out. She made a run for the ladder, but clearly Leprechauns didn’t need ladders. He jumped down and raced across the room towards the door. Jean almost caught him, but he leapt over her hands and made his escape.

She heard a metallic tinkling sound as something fell on the floor. She picked it up and noted that it was a gold four leafed clover – or shamrock. She wasn’t entirely sure what the difference was, in truth.

She put it in her pocket and then pressed hash, star one. Presently The Doctor’s voice replied to her call.

“No, I haven’t caught the little wretch, yet,” she said with more than a hint of tetchiness in her tone. “Why is it that I ended up back at the console room after wandering around for ages?”

“Oh dear,” The Doctor said in a worried tone.

“What do you mean ‘Oh dear’?” Jean demanded.

“The TARDIS has launched its own automatic defence mode, changing the corridors around and leading the intruder back to the same place every time. I’m afraid you’re going to do an awful lot of walking in circles.”

“Oh, great!” Thanks to the TARDIS’s translation effect Jean could think of several very choice swearwords in several different languages, but since The Doctor would know what they meant there wasn’t much point in using them.

“Just keep him moving. Sooner or later he’ll make a mistake and I can spring my trap.”

“So you actually do have a plan apart from me going on a wild goose chase.”

“Of course I have a plan,” The Doctor replied. “When have I ever not had a plan?”

“Is the plan to have me run around blind corridors chasing the Leprechaun until it somehow makes a wrong turn and ends up in the ion rubbish compactor and ejected into space in atom sized pieces?”

“Nothing so cruel as that,” The Doctor answered. “I was planning to leave it on a planet where it couldn’t cause any trouble. But….”

“But cruelty to me is ok! Yeah, I figured. Ok, I’ll go along with it for a while. But if we don’t catch him that way after an hour YOU can do the chasing and I’ll come down where you are – wherever that is.”

The Doctor didn’t say anything to that. Jean decided that was HER plan. She closed the call and increased her speed as the tracker indicated that the Leprechaun was surprisingly close ahead of her.

She crashed through a door, fully expecting to be back in the console room again and gasped in surprise as she looked around an elegant ballroom. It was as big as a football pitch with a floor made of marble – or something that looked like marble, anyway. Surely there wasn’t that much of the substance in the world. The ceiling was so exquisitely moulded the designer of the Palace of Versailles would have been weeping in envy. Three walls were lined with long, glittering mirrors that reflected the light from the crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling while the fourth was a series of windows looking out over a formal garden that gave way to rolling parkland.

For a while she was so stunned by the beauty and incongruity of such a room aboard the TARDIS that she forgot about the Leprechaun. Then she caught a glimpse of movement reflected in the mirror and turned to see the creature swinging off one of the chandeliers, making it tinkle alarmingly as he jumped to the next one.

“You know there’s no door,” she called out. She had already noted that herself. The way she had come in was through one of those mirrors and she wasn’t entirely sure which one. She was banking on it being obvious when she had to leave.

“Hahhhahahahahahahah!” the Leprechaun answered her. Jean thought that was several ‘ha’s’ too many and treated it to one of those swear words, one in Scots Gaelic that she had known even before she became a TARDIS passenger.

The Leprechaun answered in kind. Obviously there were swear words in Irish, too.

“I don’t need any translation for that,” she said. “And for your information, faery folk are nothing new. I was born and raised on an island. We’ve got loads of myths and legends – standing stones that used to be hags, kelpies, water horses, pixies, nuckelavees. You should meet one of those on a dark night. That’ll give you a run for your money. You’re just a daft little man with bad taste in hats compared to one of those.”

The Leprechaun swore again and leapt down from the chandelier. It ran straight at her and threw something small and glittering towards her face. She flinched to avoid it hitting her in the eyes and the Leprechaun leaped straight over her head and out through the mirrored door that sprang open unhelpfully.

Jean pocketed the gold wishbone shaped charm and sprinted after the creature, wondering just where she was going to end up next.

Where she ended up next was an even more remarkable room. She looked up at a roof made of slender, arching ribs of metal holding together panes of glass and around at the walls of the same materials. It was like the hothouse at Kew Gardens, except that the plants growing within it were like nothing on Earth – literally nothing on Earth.

She looked closely at a vine that twisted around a supporting column. The leaves were pale yellow-green with purple veins. As she watched, a bud opened and a flower bloomed – bright purple petals that spread as wide as a saucer before turning brown and curling up. A seed pod formed in place of the flower and that burst open spreading tiny seeds into the air.

All that happened in the space of a minute while she watched. The plant budded, flowered and seeded in that short time.

Other plants were equally remarkable, but she knew she didn’t have time to study them. The Leprechaun was in here, too. The fact that so many of the plants were capable of rapid movement of their own volition made it harder to spot him. Several times she jumped on completely innocent plants. One of them proved not quite so innocent and bit her on the arm for her troubles.

“Haahahahahahahaha,” cackled a now far too familiar voice as she got herself tangled in an over friendly vine. She felt something sting her on the cheek, but it wasn’t any of the plants. It was another gold charm – this one a lucky rabbit.

“I’m going to make you EAT these when I catch you,” Jean yelled as she found her feet and ran from the arboretum.

She had no idea where in the TARDIS she was now – if, indeed, geography of the usual sort meant anything any more. She just kept her eye on the blip on the screen that managed to be a corridor’s length ahead of her all the time.

Once she emerged onto a balcony that went all around a room some six feet or so above the floor itself. She looked down and saw an elaborate mosaic of coloured sand, something like the mandala that Buddhist monks made and unmade as a symbol of life being made and unmade in an ever changing world.

This pattern wasn’t anything like a Buddhist mandala. The symbol was more like one of those intricate cogwheel symbols that appeared on the TARDIS monitors. They were High Gallifreyan writing, a kind of stylised pictogram that would have made a professor of Sanskrit weep. Normally they translated in her head and she understood what they meant, but this one didn’t do that. Instead the sand moved of its own volition forming new symbols constantly.

“Hahahahahahahahahahaha,” the Leprechaun laughed and jumped down onto the sand, kicking it up and distorting the symbols.

“I don’t think you want to do that,” Jean told him. “I’m pretty sure that has something subtly clever to do with the navigation of the ship. You’ve probably altered our course and sent us to prehistoric Swindon or something.”

The Leprechaun stuck out his tongue and flung another gold charm at her. She caught it before it hit her face and dropped a little gold pixie shoe into her pocket with the other charms before lunging forward to try to grab the mischief-maker.

She missed again and he ran for the door at the end of the mandala room – for want of a better word for it.

Another long series of corridors led her twice back to the console room and once to the swimming pool, which was kidney shaped and was surrounded by plants growing in terracotta pots and pieces of statuary and a selection of sunloungers. The Leprechaun was cheekily lying on one of the loungers when Jean sprinted around the pool to try to reach him. Again she missed him by inches and acquired a gold boot-shaped charm for her collection.

After a dozen more corridors and two stairwells, one up and one down, she found herself in a room she recognised. It was The Doctor’s personal museum. He had shown it to her once and told the stories behind some of the artefacts.

“Seriously, don’t even think of stealing that,” she told the Leprechaun as he attempted to put something the size of a cricket ball into his sack of portable treasure. “Yes, it’s gold, but it’s the Orb of Vastria. It’s actually a planet, a real planet, that was sucked into a black hole and almost crushed to a singularity before it was thrown back out. It still WEIGHS the same as it did when it was a full size planet. You WON’T be able to carry it.”

The Leprechaun stuck its tongue out at her again and tossed the orb into his sack. Obviously the laws of physics didn’t apply to him. He tore off again and Jean gave chase.

“Oh, you’re in trouble now,” she called out as she found herself in the Library. This, like all the other rooms she had found in her quest was a remarkable place. It had several galleries and a mezzanine overlooking the main floor. Every space available contained bookshelves bursting with leather bound volumes.

It was a silent place like most libraries except for a faint sussuration that any visitor became gradually aware of. It was a sound that might worry anyone who didn’t know what it was.

Jean knew, because The Doctor had shown her, that it was the biography section. The biographies of all The Doctor’s friends and acquaintances over a long, long life, were writing themselves as those friends and acquaintances lived their lives.

Her biography must be working overtime right now - describing this madcap romp through the TARDIS.

“Hahahahaha!” The laugh came from the top gallery, and so did a book that the Leprechaun threw at her, its pages opening randomly as it fell. As it fell to the floor beside her she noticed her own name on the front. He had thrown her biography at her.

She didn’t bother to read it. She knew what was happening. She ran for the wrought iron winding staircase that led to the gallery floors. As she did, she heard the Leprechaun’s laughter cut off mid-guffaw. It sounded worried, even alarmed.

“Told you so,” she called out as she hurried up the steps. She knew exactly what had happened.

“I told you that there were scarier things than you around,” she added as she reached the biography section and saw the Leprechaun backing into a corner away from a dark, roundish character with a slit of a mouth. “Hags, kelpies, water horses, pixies, nuckelavees…. THIS is Humphrey Boggart, and you’ve disturbed his hibernation.”

Humphrey was purring happily. His slit mouth turned up into a grin. He was trying to make friends with the Leprechaun.

But the Leprechaun didn’t know that. He was obviously scared. He was quivering like a Leprechaun jelly and pressing himself so flat against the wall it was a wonder he wasn’t making an imprint in the plaster.

“Cuidiú liom!” the Leprechaun cried out shrilly and threw his sack of gold at Humphrey. Of course, it went straight through him, spilling the charms, the Orb of Vastra and more nuggets of gold ore than the small sack could possibly have contained if the ordinary rules of physical space counted for anything.

“Nooooooo!” the Leprechaun screamed as he realised what he had done. He dived straight through Humphrey, his greed overriding his fear as he tried to pick up his treasures.

“Got you,” Jean said, grabbing him by the ear as The Doctor had advised her to do. The Leprechaun squealed and struggled ineffectively before becoming very calm and quiet.

“Right, you,” she said. “You’re coming with me, now.”

The Leprechaun put up no resistance at all. The Doctor was right about that. holding onto its ear made it utterly compliant.

“I’m heading back to the console room with him,” she told The Doctor over the phone/Leprechaun tracker.

“Excellent,” The Doctor replied. “I’ll meet you there.”

In fact, The Doctor was already in the console room when she got there with the Leprechaun literally under her thumb and Humphrey bowling along, trilling happily and trying to hug everyone.

“Good, we’re almost there,” he said.

“Almost where?” Jean asked.

“Remember I mentioned the planet Volga, the gold planet?”

“You did say something about it. We’re taking a gold-obsessed Leprechaun to a planet made of gold?”

The Doctor smiled widely and initiated a materialisation. When the TARDIS fully stopped, she looked as she always did at the big round screen to see where they were. She was surprised to see almost nothing. The only light outside was the blue-white lamp on top of the TARDIS.

“Come on, sunshine,” The Doctor said to the Leprechaun. Jean was still holding him by the ear so obviously she had to come with him. Humphrey followed.

They emerged into what had to be a huge cavern, though it was impossible to say how huge because there was so very little light.

“We’re deep underground on Volga. Much deeper than any of the gold mines worked by the Volgans. They are never going to dig this far down even when they mechanise the process. These caves and passages are cut off from the surface and from all contact with other beings.”

“That’s a lonely thought,” Jean commented.

“Yes, it is,” The Doctor agreed. “For species who thrive in company. But a Leprechaun… by the way, you can let him go now… doesn’t care about people, about friends and company. He loves gold.”

Jean let go of the Leprechaun and he ran four steps before stopping and looking around. He bent down and picked up a nugget of gold. Then he picked up another, and another. In the limited light Jean could see his eyes bright with excitement. Here was all the gold he could want.

“Here,” The Doctor said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out an Aldi ‘bag for life’. “Put them in there before your hands get full. There’s a sort of fungus that grows down here. It’s called gold mushroom, and there are pools of fresh water. You have everything you need except people to annoy. Off you go, and don’t let me hear about any more trouble from you.”

The Leprechaun took the bag and put his treasures into it, then he scampered away a safe distance before sticking out his tongue and blowing an insolent raspberry at The Doctor.

“Come on,” he said to Jean. “Let’s go.”

“We’re just leaving him here?” she asked. “He’ll be all right?”

“He’ll be fine,” The Doctor assured her. “He’s in gold utopia. He won’t care about anything else.”


“Humphrey?” The Doctor turned to look at the darkness creature who stood out as a thicker blackness in the blackness. “Come on, boy.”

“Nooo,” Humphrey answered. He trilled and purred at The Doctor who drew closer and put his hand through his darkness. Jean watched from the TARDIS door as he talked quietly and Humphrey trilled in response.

“You’re sure about this?” The Doctor asked. “Ok, then. No problem. I’ll… pop back now and again to see how you you’re getting on.”

“He’s staying, too?” Jean asked in surprise.

“He came from a cavern system like this. He’s happy to stay and keep the Leprechaun company. I’m not sure how the Leprechaun feels about that, but he’s staying as a friend, not a jailor. I think they’ll get on fine.”

“Ok, then.”

The Doctor waved to the two unlikely beings and closed the door. He watched on the viewscreen for a few minutes as the Leprechaun danced around the cavern rapidly filling his bag with gold and his even more peculiar companion drifted happily in the shadows.

“I’ll miss him,” The Doctor said.

“Humphrey, you mean?” Jean queried.

“Yes… but I think I’ll miss that little rascal, too.”

“I won’t,” Jean assured him. She reached into her pocket and found the handful of charms had had thrown at her. “I might get a bracelet to keep these on. But not in any kind of fond remembrance. By the way, you never did say – DO Time Lords keep vaults of gold on board their TARDISes?”

The Doctor didn’t answer the question. He just grinned enigmatically and launched the TARDIS onto its next destination and whatever adventure lay there.