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

Anthony Brian Williams looked out of the plate glass window of his apartment with a view over Battery Park that added several thousand dollars to the market value of the property. He sipped at a glass of brandy and watched the traffic on Battery Place, eighteen floors below.

“It was quieter back then,” he said to his guest. “In the 1940s… after the war. There wasn’t as much traffic. It was coming. By the fifties it was all post-war prosperity, cars everywhere. But it was still quiet when mum opened her first office, here.”

Brian Williams was technically his grandfather, but Anthony was born in 1946 and Brian in 1959 - both had come to terms with the anomaly long before Brian came to visit New York for the first time.

“A book publisher,” Brian noted. “Amy was always a clever girl. The best in her class at school. Rory used to say so all the time. She ought to have gone to college, really, university. I’m glad she made something of herself after all.”

“It wasn’t easy for a married woman to go into business back then,” Anthony pointed out. “But she had written two successful novels of her own by 1949, and she used the money to start up Petrichor Publishing Inc. Funny thing, you know – the word didn’t even come to mean anything until the 1960s. Two Australian natural historians coined it to mean the smell of rain after a long, dry season.”

Brian smiled indulgently. That was just like Amy.

Anthony smiled, too. His thoughts wandered back to the day he remembered when he had looked out of this window as a three year old boy accompanying his mother to the office. The apartment where they lived was a mere eight storeys high. This was the eighteenth floor of twenty - so much more exciting. He could see the cars on the road below, people in the park. He could see Castle Clinton and the bustle of activity at Pier A. He could see big ships steaming out to sea. There was plenty to occupy his young mind. The afternoon at the office passed by quickly and it was soon time to go home.

“That’s when it all began,” Anthony explained. “The story that became the Aliens of Floor Zero.”

Brian had read most of the book of short stories by Amelia Williams on the plane journey but he had not yet got past the introduction to the last of the anthology when they started to land. Now he was actually in the very building where it had all happened – the Whitehall Building on Battery Place.

When it was built in 1904, the offices had been so very sought after that a second, taller, annex was built and the Battery Park skyline given a unique shape that would see out the century. The Wall Street Crash left some of its tenants bankrupt and it was the scene of a few of those notorious suicides of the time when stockbrokers jumped from their high rise office windows. By the late twentieth century its day as a hub of business and commerce was past and it was converted into luxury apartments with that enviable riverfront view. Anthony had snapped up one on the very floor where his mother had once worked.

As he had said already, the country was picking itself up again after the war when Petrichor Publishing opened for business. People were buying books. People were writing books. Amy Williams employed a dozen people just to read the manuscripts that came in every day and select those worthy of notice. Among her duties, she had the final say in what got to be a Petrichor book.

At the end of that busy day when Anthony had amused himself while she worked, Amy had put on her coat and hat and made sure her adopted son had his buttons fastened properly, then they headed out of the office. On the landing they waited for the elevator. Amy, even after more than ten years as an American citizen, still called it a lift. Anthony said ‘ift’.

The door opened with a rattle and they stepped inside. It was a new elevator, fully automated. There was no need for a man to ride up and down in it. Amy had not yet decided if that was progress. She quite liked talking to the elevator operators in the various tall buildings she visited.

“Pess?” Anthony asked hopefully.

“Press, not pess, and yes, you may,” Amy answered him. “The very bottom one. Press it hard.”

Anthony pressed the button. He was only just old enough to understand the connection between that action and the fact that the elevator took them from high up in the building to the bright, airy foyer at the bottom. He always pressed the button to get to the bottom of their apartment block, and his mother or his father would often lift him up to reach the one that took them up again.

Neither he nor his mother thought anything about the button he had pressed this time. It was easy enough. The bottom one was the ground floor. Below that was the key operated access to the basement for the janitor. In their home apartment he had to press the second to last because the basement level was where the laundry room was. This was easier to remember.

When the elevator door opened, though, there was no foyer, no concierge behind his desk checking that everybody who came in through the big plate glass doors had legitimate business somewhere in the building.

There was nothing but a short corridor with dull grey walls and a stone-flagged floor, lit by two naked light bulbs, one at each end. There were doors either side, and one at the end.

“Sweetheart, what button did you press?” Amy asked. Anthony pointed to the bottom of the panel where the buttons were. Amy asked him to point again. Surely there wasn’t a button there, below the keyhole for the janitor’s access.

He pointed again and she looked again.

There WAS a button there. Next to it was a very odd symbol. Above it was the keyhole, and above that the ground floor button with ‘M’ beside it – M for Main. She used to find it odd when she first lived in America. She expected a ‘G’ for Ground Floor.

Amy pressed ‘M’. The doors closed and the elevator rose again. Through the hinge of the door she saw the lights on the boiler room level in passing and then it stopped and the doors opened at the foyer. She stepped out along with Anthony, then stepped back inside and looked curiously at the button panel.

“Are you all right, ma’am?” asked the concierge, leaving his desk and coming to her assistance.

“I was just wondering what that lower floor is – little Tony pressed the button accidentally. I hope we weren’t trespassing.”

“What button, ma’am?” the concierge asked.

“That one, right at the bottom.” She pointed to the button. Anthony copied her, pointing his little finger.

“But there isn’t a button there,” the concierge told her. “I don’t understand.”

“That button….” Amy paused. She looked at the panel then at the concierge. Then she shook her head. “Never mind. My mistake. I’m Scottish, you know. We don’t have skyscrapers over there. I’m not used to elevators.”

She smiled disarmingly and took hold of Anthony’s hand as she headed out into Battery Place. It was only a short walk to the apartment block where they lived. Amy liked walking, unlike most native New Yorkers who took cabs or the tube to get where they wanted to go. Anthony walked by her side, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the city in the early evening.

“That was my whole part in the story,” Anthony admitted. “I pressed the button. I didn’t even know the rest of the story until I read the book, much later.”

“This book?” Brian held up his copy of Aliens in Manhattan.

“That one. Mum wrote it not long after it all happened but she didn’t publish the collection until much later.”

“Funny to think of it like that. Amy wrote it all those years ago… before she and Rory were even born… and then I read it… long after they’re both….”

The word that hung in the air was ‘dead’, but neither man said it out loud.

It wasn’t funny to think of at all. It was tragic and there was nothing either Brian or Anthony could do about it except be glad that they had both known Rory and Amy Williams in their different ways and in different times.

Brian opened the book at the place where Anthony no longer had anything to do with what happened and read on, wondering what kind of aliens were in the basement and how his daughter-in-law escaped them to tell the tale.

Amy had a lot to think about on the walk back to the apartment. She was still thoughtful while she gave Anthony his tea and prepared an evening meal for herself and Rory.

She was still thinking about it during the meal. Rory watched her distractedly picking up the salt cellar instead of the sugar bowl to sweeten her coffee before he intervened.

“Sorry, I was… thinking,” she apologised.

“Yes… but what about?”

She told him. Rory listened and shook his head.

“It’s probably nothing,” he told her. “A lower maintenance floor, that’s all.”

“No,” Amy insisted. “The concierge really couldn’t see the button. I think it was a perception filter… you know, like The Doctor showed us.”

“It’s been years since we had any kind of problem like that. I think you WANT it to be something. You want a bit of the old kind of excitement.”

“No, it’s not that,” Amy assured him. “I really DO think there’s something strange in the basement of the Whitehall Building.”

“It could be a bunker,” Rory suggested. “You know, like a nuclear bunker. This is America… the only country to have used The Bomb in an act of war. Even before the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis they were a bit paranoid.”

“But the button….” Amy said again before realising how silly that sounded.

“Maybe you’re right,” she conceded. “I’m being silly. Are you picking Anthony up from daycare tomorrow instead of me?”

“Yes, I’m finished at lunchtime. I can do that.”

She tried to put it out of her mind entirely. She wasn’t entirely successful, but she made it look as if she was for the rest of the evening with Rory. They valued these quiet times when both of their work routines coincided and she didn’t want to spoil it in any way.

But the next morning when she reached the Whitehall Building she was curious about the elevator. She looked carefully at the buttons and knew she wasn’t dreaming. There really WAS another button there.

But the elevator was busy first thing in the morning. She asked the man closest to the buttons to press eighteen for her and waited patiently until she reached that floor where her office was.

About half-past ten, though, she took a break from her work of giving the final ok to the manuscripts passed to her by the reviewers she employed to sift through the slush pile. She stood for a little while looking out of the window at the marvellous view that she paid so much extra for.

Then she made up her mind.

First she wrote a letter and sealed it.

“Make sure this goes in the post tonight, Lois,” she said to her secretary as she passed through the main office. “And hold my calls for an hour. I’m just going downstairs.”

“Downstairs?” Lois replied. “You mean you’re going to use the fire escape?” Her boss didn’t answer. Lois put it down to a peculiarity of Scottish people. She put the letter with an address in Los Angeles in the outbox and got on with her typing.

Amy summoned the elevator – twice. The first time there was somebody from the top floor already in it. She waited for it to come back up again, empty.

She stepped inside and pressed that mysterious button that only an innocent three year old with no preconceptions about life or a woman who had travelled in the time vortex and learnt to see what was really there could have seen. The elevator descended. Eighteen floors flashed past, the slight gap between the two doors showing intervals of light where each landing was. She hoped it wouldn’t stop at the ‘Main’ floor. If somebody else got into the elevator and ended up coming down to the mysterious basement with her it would be difficult to explain.

Well, actually, she didn’t have to explain at all. Nobody ever talked in the elevators. It was always just polite nods and the occasional ‘which floor’. She could just step out and leave them to it, but she felt she wanted to be alone when she got down there.

The elevator didn’t stop. She reached the lower basement floor. The door opened onto that corridor with the two naked light bulbs. She stepped out. The door closed automatically and she heard the whirr as the elevator ascended.

She was alone down there.

She walked along the corridor, trying the door either side. They were locked.

The one at the end of the corridor wasn’t locked. She opened it and stepped inside.

She looked around and knew she was right. Something strange was going on down here. Something The Doctor would have dealt with if he were here.

But he wasn’t. There was just her.

She started to back out again, but there was somebody behind her. A hand clamped down on her shoulder.

It wasn’t Human.

She screamed.

But she knew nobody would hear her scream.

Brian closed the book at that stage, but with his thumb in the place where that chapter ended.

“That’s the thing about Amy. She won’t hesitate to do something terrifying, even when she’s terrified.”

“Yes, I realised that about mum,” Anthony agreed. “The next part of the story is what, in the publishing business, we call a change of narrative perspective. Dad takes up the story from here on.”

Brian read on again.

Rory was surprised when he got home with Anthony. Amy was there already, sitting on the sofa, looking dazed, half-asleep, or something.

“Are you all right?” he asked. “I wasn’t expecting you home. What’s up?”

“Nothing,” she answered. “I am… fine. I just… have… a headache. Yes. I have got a headache. That is why I came home. I have got a REALLY bad headache.”

“Take some of those fifty-first century ibuprofens that River brought last time she visited. They’re the best for headaches. I wish she’d bring a crate for me to use at the hospital. But I suppose that might be classed as drug smuggling.”

Amy should have laughed. It wasn’t a great joke. Rory made no claims to be a comedian, but it was a little bit funny and she should at least have smiled.

“Yes, I will take some,” she said, though she didn’t move from the sofa.

“Go to bed if you’re really not well,” he added.

“Yes, I will go to bed.”

“Amy….” Rory took a step backwards. Anthony was still waiting in the kitchen doorway for the drink and biscuits he had been promised on the way home. Rory took his hand and backed towards the hall door instead. “Amy, what’s the matter with you?”

Amy’s head snapped around to look at him. Her eyes were cold, her expression frozen.

“I AM fine,” she insisted. “I will go to bed.”

The lack of contractions in her speech was only one thing that was strange about it as she spoke in a strange monotone devoid of emotion, accent or inflection.

Rory might have put it down to PMT but for two things – first, PMT wasn’t a known diagnosis, yet. It was usually just vaguely referred to as ‘women’s problems’.

And secondly, her eyes glowed with a silvery light for a very brief moment. It WAS brief. He could almost have believed he imagined it if….

If she hadn’t leapt from the sofa and attacked him with a carving knife that she had been concealing by her side.

“It was just supposed to be single people, yet,” she said. “Loners with no ties. You are an inconvenient detail to be disposed of.”

Rory didn’t argue. He backed away again, grabbing Anthony as he turned and ran to the hallway. He kept the boy pressed against his chest and his back exposed to the danger as he grappled the door latch and pulled it open.

He didn’t know if she had followed him out of the apartment. He pushed through the firedoors onto the emergency stairwell and ran down two flights before stopping to breathe.

“Anthony,” he said gently. “Don’t cry. It’s all right. Come on, let’s see if we can take the lift from here.”

“Ift,” Anthony replied through hiccupping sobs of fright. Rory went through the fire door on the sixth floor and summoned the elevator. The friendly lift man greeted them and asked if they were going down.

“Yes, we are,” Rory answered. “Sam, did Mrs Williams come up with you earlier? Did she seem all right?”

“She got in about twelve,” Sam answered. “She was quiet. Usually she has a friendly word. Very nice lady, Mrs Williams is. I thought perhaps she wasn’t feeling well.”

“Yes, I think you’re right,” Rory agreed. The elevator reached the foyer. He thanked Sam for the service he rendered every day without fail and stepped out. Anthony clung to him and hiccupped quietly.

“Café,” he said to the boy. “Milk and cookies for you. A strong cup of coffee for me.”

There were plenty of those in the Battery Park area. Rory sat with his adopted child and drank his coffee thoughtfully.

“Tony,” he said after a while. “Listen to me, son. Your mum didn’t do anything scary. She loves you. She’ll always love you, and you can trust her. I promise you that. When you see her again, she’s going to hug you like hugs are going out of business. Don’t ever think anything bad about her. Don’t ever be scared.”

Brian looked at Anthony quizzically.

“Did that work?”

“It must have,” Anthony replied. “Because I don’t remember ever being afraid of mom. I remember being scared and running away from the apartment, but I don’t remember what had scared me at all. After the milk and cookies dad got a cab to the hospital where he worked. I spent the day in the paediatrics department playing with a big fire truck with an extendable ladder and having orange juice in a bed with other kids in the room.”

“Funny how children can adapt like that,” Brian said. “All the money spent on therapy for youngsters who’ve been in ‘traumatic situations’ and all they really need is a fire truck and orange juice to take their minds off it.”

“Well, it worked for me, anyway,” Anthony agreed.

Rory made sure his son was looked after by people he trusted before he decided what he was going to do next.

It didn’t take a lot of thinking about. It was obvious where he should start looking. He hailed another taxi and told the driver to take him to the Whitehall Building.

Built in 1904 and named after the mansion home of Peter Stuyvesant, last Governor-General of New Holland, before it became New York, the building was designed for no purpose other than providing high quality office space in an area that was becoming known for its banking services – what would be known in the next century as high-end financial businesses.

Rory knew that from the prospectus Amy had when she was considering her options for the Petrichor Publishing Inc’s head office. There was nothing more sinister about it than capitalism at its most speculative.

But then why was there a basement whose lift button was hidden behind a perception filter?

The concierge knew him as Doctor Williams and nodded a polite ‘good afternoon, Doctor’ as he passed through the entrance hall. He summoned the lift and looked at the row of buttons carefully before first going up to the eighteenth floor. There, Lois confirmed that Mrs Williams had only come back briefly from her mid-morning errand to say that she was going home. When pressed, Lois admitted that her employer had seemed distracted.

Rory thanked the secretary for her help and returned to the elevator. This time he pressed the very bottom button, the one he knew nobody else would have seen because they didn’t expect to see it. That was how perception filters worked. They didn’t make things invisible, just unnoticeable to those who didn’t need to notice them. The Doctor had called it ‘a somebody else’s problem field’ with a twinkle in his eye and a follow up remark about intellectual copyright.

Well, it was HIS problem now. Rory took a deep breath before he stepped out of the elevator into the dimly lit basement corridor. He tried every door until the last one opened.

What he saw there made him feel sick, horrified, and VERY angry.

And that was before he found Amy.

Brian paused and looked up.

“I came up that lift. Funny to think….”

“It’s NOT the same elevator. They built a whole new system with modern safety fittings when they turned the offices into apartments. It’s not even in the same place. The sub-basement is now a laundry room. I only went down there once, just to see. There’s nothing to be scared of, but I prefer to send out my laundry.”

“I’m starting to understand why,” Brian said before he went on reading.

It was like the morgue in the basement of the hospital where he worked – or perhaps how it might look if the mortuary assistants were all on strike and the bodies left on tables. It was nearly as cold as one of the cadaver storage cupboards. His breath misted up as he walked between the tables looking at the bodies. They mostly seemed to be homeless people. Their shabby clothes and rough hair and beards were obvious clues. Some looked a bit better dressed, mostly young men and women in their twenties or older people.

Rory wondered about those demographics. Of course, the twenty-somethings were most likely to live alone and not be missed. Older people whose families had grown up, perhaps a spouse passed away, might also be overlooked.

Somebody was collecting people who nobody would make any fuss about.

He touched one of the bodies. It was cold, but there was no rigor, and unless he was mistaken….

No, there was a pulse, a very faint, impossibly slow one.

Not impossible, of course. He had seen people in suspended animation before. The Silurians had perfected long term storage for themselves. The Siren had all her patients carefully preserved on the edge of death. It wasn’t impossible, just improbable in the basement of a New York skyscraper in the 1940s. Humans didn’t have that technology, yet.

Then his heart froze. He reached the table at the far end of the room in a horrified moment.

“Amy!” he cried out in grief. Then he forced himself to think rationally. She was alive. She was probably being kept alive in order to animate the copy of her that was at their apartment with a carving knife.

What she – the copy - had said to him made sense now.

“It was just supposed to be single people, yet. Loners with no ties. You are an inconvenient detail to be disposed of.”

Whoever did this, needed her alive, needed all of them alive.

He looked around and counted at least fifty people in suspended animation.

Fifty copies were wandering around New York, pretending to be Human.

Why? What was the point?

Taking over the world, of course, Rory guessed. Body-snatching. They were starting with people who wouldn’t be missed. Later they could take couples together, then whole families.

Before anyone realised, the whole of New York would be copies – aliens in disguise, Gangers, Autons, Androids of some sort. Rory didn’t need to use his imagination. He had experienced most of those things and learnt about the rest from The Doctor.

Whatever it was, he wasn’t going to let Amy be used. He lifted her cold, limp body from the table and carried her towards the door.

He was almost there when he heard a noise. He crouched behind one of the tables with Amy clutched in his arms. He watched as a man dressed in a neat brown pinstripe suit with a tie and highly polished shoes came into the room. A second man walked beside him in a strange manner, as if he was sleepwalking or hypnotised. He looked like a cab driver. The pinstripe man made the cabby lie down on an empty table perilously close to where Rory was hiding with Amy.

He watched as the alien shimmered and took on his true alien form. If he hadn’t already seen this room and guessed what was happening, Rory might have thought the alien was beautiful. He was silver, though not the solidly metallic silver of Cybermen. He was more like quicksilver – mercury – liquid metal that could hold a vaguely humanoid form. It flowed around the form as the alien injected something into the cab driver’s arm.

Then something happened that might seem strange to anyone who hadn’t spent time with a time travelling alien in a police box. A ‘ghost’ of the cab driver began to coalesce above his body. It floated away and merged with the alien before solidifying.

That’s how they made the copies, Rory noted as the fake cabbie walked back out of the room leaving the real man in suspended animation. Now there was one more in the city – a cabbie. He met dozens of people every day. He could bring any number of them here. Perhaps they wouldn’t make sure they were single any more. Who would ever trace a stranger from the railway station who got into a cab and was never seen again? Not in this age, long before CCTV and GPS tracing and clever stuff like that.

The coast seemed to be clear. Rory picked Amy up again and carefully headed for the door. He checked that there was nobody in the corridor and then headed for the lift.

He pressed floor Eighteen. Amy owned the largest office suite on floor Eighteen. He had every right to be there.

Lois and the other administration staff in the outer office were startled to see their unconscious boss carried in by her husband.

Especially when Lois mentioned, in some confusion, that Mrs Williams was already in her office.

Rory put Amy down on the comfortable sofa where would be authors waited to see their potential publisher if they were lucky enough to get beyond the slush pile. He made sure she was in the recovery position before he headed for the office.

He was right. The fake Amy was there, in Amy’s chair, with her back to the door, looking out on the plate glass window.

“Who are you and what do you want on this planet?” Rory demanded. The chair swung around slowly. It LOOKED just like Amy in every detail, even the silver chain with an ‘A’ on it that she had worn for decades.

But he knew it wasn’t, and he had absolutely no compunction about attacking the alien that had taken on her form. He lunged forward, grabbing the spike on which papers to be filed were stuck. He aimed for the eyes. The alien pushed the chair back with a clatter and stood, a quicksilver arm stretching out from the fake Human flesh, literally stretching like silver toffee. It grasped him around the neck and squeezed slowly.

Rory was choking. The spike scratched ineffectually at the arm made of a substance that couldn’t be damaged by ordinary weapons. But he could push against the arm that was holding him. The alien was slowly forced back against the window. He made one more effort and he heard the glass crack.

He expected the alien to let go as it fell. Instead he felt himself dragged out of the broken window along with it. The feeling of free-falling towards the pavement below was horribly familiar to him. How many times had that happened, now?

Then something unfamiliar happened. The ground didn’t get any closer. He was hanging in the air only a few feet away from the ground – close enough to see the different shades and the cross grains from when the paving stones were cut from a quarry somewhere in New York State.

He looked around slowly and saw an upside down face smiling at him – a face that was the right way up while he was hanging upside down. He recognised the smile. He recognised the golden curling hair.

“River….” He whispered.

“Hello, dad. Hang on a moment. I’ll set you right.”

He looked past his daughter and noticed that the people all around on Battery Place weren’t screaming or exclaiming in astonishment, or pointing at him as he hung there. They were walking by as if nothing had happened.

“Quicksilvers aren’t the only species who can use a perception filter,” River explained as if she had read his mind. She was wearing a desert camouflage military uniform with tailoring to accentuate her figure. She snapped her fingers and a man in the same uniform without the tailoring came to her assistance. Between them they set Rory on his feet while the ‘Quicksilver’ was taken into custody using a portable stasis field to prevent it from putting up any resistance.

“The stasis field also cuts off the connection between the Quicksilver and its victim,” River pointed out. “Go on up to mum. You’ll find she’s waking up, now.”

Rory stepped back into the foyer of the Whitehall Building and headed to the elevator. As he did, the concierge stood and approached. He ducked as an arm made of quicksilver lunged with a letter opener as a dagger.

A strange electronic buzz rang out around the foyer and the Quicksilver concierge was engulfed in another portable stasis field. River walked nonchalantly up to her father.

“Let’s go up together. My colleagues will deal with the sub-basement.”

“Who are they?” Rory asked as he stepped into the elevator and hit the button for the Eighteenth Floor. “And how come you turned up at the crucial moment?”

“They’re Time Agents – from the fifty-first century. The future equivalent of a SWAT team. They’ve been tracking down Quicksilvers all over history, trying to establish communities on Earth by bodysnatching humans. When I got mum’s letter, I alerted them to the cell here in New York. We had to come the long way around, of course, on account of Manhattan being quantum-locked by the Angels. But here we are.”

“Here WE are,” Rory said, stepping out of the elevator and heading for the offices of Petrichor Publishing – again. He was trying not to think about his rapid exit from it not so very long ago.

“Rory!” Amy shrieked and ran to hug him as he came into the office. Lois and the other staff were puzzled by a great many things, not the least the fact that Rory was standing there after he had apparently crashed through the window. “River… how did you get here so fast?”

“I got your letter, mummy dear,” River answered. “And came at once.”

“What letter?” Rory asked.

“It’s over there in the outbox,” Amy answered. “I must make sure it gets posted later or it’ll be a paradox. “I drew the weird symbol next to the button and sent it to River with a note. You know… to that mail box she set up in Los Angeles for sending letters to her. I hoped she might recognise what it was.”

“I recognised it. And then I called the boys in. I knew you were in over your head.”

“The cavalry arrived at the last minute,” Rory concluded. “Out of the blue. Isn’t there a word for that in fiction?”

“Deus ex Machina,” Amy replied. “But I don’t care. Did you see what was in the basement?”

“I thought you weren’t going to worry about the basement,” Rory answered her. “I suppose I should have known better. You just can’t resist a mystery.”

Brian closed the book and looked up at his grandson standing by the very window that Rory had once fallen through with the alien simulacrum of Amy. It was over fifty years since that happened. The incident would have been entirely forgotten if Amy hadn’t written it all down as a piece of fiction.

“So the Time Agents woke up all the people and put a stop to their copies, then?”

“I’m not entirely sure how they did that,” Anthony admitted. “They would have had to track down all the Quicksilvers living their false lives and separate them from the Human sources. It must have taken a few days. River stayed with us while it was going on. That was the first time I met my ‘big sister’. I didn’t realise at that age how weird that was. I just accepted that she was part of our family.”

“Accepting mad things like that is all part of our family,” Brian observed. “I could tell you some stories that never got written down.”

“That’s why I wanted you to come over and spend some time, grandfather,” Anthony said, knowing that the word sounded strange in these circumstances. “I thought we might have a chance to exchange stories.”

“I think you’d better call me Brian,” Brian said quietly. “Otherwise, that’s fine by me. Did anyone tell you what happened when the cubes landed?”