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

The Doctor materialised the TARDIS outside the Maitland house and stepped outside. He leaned against the door and waited. He knew he wouldn’t have to wait long.

The house door flung open and the two youngsters came running. Behind them, Clara locked the door carefully and slipped the key in her pocket. She caught up with her two charges and urged them to calm down.

Fat chance. It was a week before Christmas and they had been promised a trip in the TARDIS to somewhere both awesome and Christmassy.

“No chewing gum, sticky sweets or open bottles of pop?” he asked Artie and Angie with a hopeless attempt at looking stern. The two youngsters showed empty hands and stuck out their tongues to prove they were gum-free. “Ok, hop in.”

His grin split his face as they rushed past him. Clara came a little more sedately. The TARDIS was no big deal to her any more. She had been taking trips with The Doctor every Wednesday for more than a year now.

No, that was a lie, of course. Every time she stepped aboard she felt a thrill. It was incredible. It was truly deserving of that overused word – awesome.

“Just you, today?” Clara asked as she stepped aboard.

“Jean is spending Christmas with her family,” he answered.

“Snowed in on a Scottish island, not quite my idea of fun,” Clara acknowledged. “But being with family, of course, I can understand.”

“Yes.” The Doctor went strangely quiet then. Clara wondered if he was one of those people who got depressed at Christmas, thinking about the past. Then the grin came back and he bounced to the console. Before he dematerialised the TARDIS he pressed a series of buttons and chaser lights came on around the console room and around the console itself that took on the look of a steampunk Christmas tree.

“Cool,” Artie declared. Angie nodded and smiled and found a seat for the journey. Clara joined her. Artie hovered by The Doctor, watching what he was doing, trying to understand what the various levers and knobs, dials and pulleys actually contributed to the navigation of the TARDIS.

“So where are we actually going?” he asked. “The North Pole to see Father Christmas?”

“Father Christmas doesn’t live at the North Pole,” The Doctor answered. “Besides, aren’t you a little old for that?” The Doctor was worried for a moment as he looked at the boy’s face. Artie was twelve, going on thirteen. Surely Human boys were over the Father Christmas stage by that age? Or was his information out of date?

“Course I don’t believe in all that,” Artie replied scornfully. “What you think I am, ten? So where are we going?”

“Somewhere awesome,” The Doctor promised. “Somewhere you’ll absolutely love whether you believe in Father Christmas or not.”

And they did love it. Their first sight of Christmas Station hanging in space like a giant Christmas bauble glittering in multiple colours as it slowly revolved, creating the artificial gravity on the hundred public decks and countless ancillary ones made the youngsters gasp with delight. When The Doctor explained that it was the biggest Christmas themed retail and leisure complex in the galaxy they were impressed.

“It beats the Trafford Centre!” Angie said. “That is, if it’s OPEN.” She didn’t say anything else, but her expression pointedly reminded The Doctor of their trip to the biggest theme park in the galaxy that turned out to be closed down and derelict – to say nothing of infested with Cybermen.

“Christmas Station is always open, and it’s always Christmas,” The Doctor assured them as he acknowledged a message from traffic control telling him there was a parking space now available on hangar deck fifteen.

“How come it’s always Christmas?” Artie asked as they sat in the food court and enjoyed hot turkey and brie sandwiches followed by mince pies and cream. They had spent a pleasant morning enjoying the rides such as the Santa Flier around the ceiling of deck fifty-nine, the snowball run – a white knuckle roller coaster, and the Cascade, the highest, longest toboggan ride in the galaxy.

“Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it?” Angie replied to her brother. “We’re in the future, see, and humans are all over the galaxy on different planets with different orbits and different calendars, so its Christmas or nearly Christmas on one of those planets all the time.”

Artie looked to The Doctor for confirmation.

“We’re in the forty-ninth century and your race has colonised over a thousand distant planets but kept many of the traditions of Earth life. Christmas Station takes advantage of that fact.”

“Cool,” Artie said. Then he noticed the booklet that his sister had in her hand. It was a Christmas almanac marking how many days it was to the big day on each of those thousand Human colony planets. She hadn’t worked out the answer to his question, she had read it in the margin notes.

“Cheat!” he accused her, but there was no point in being cross when there was fun to be had. There was a whole floor of Christmas themed fairground rides they fully intended to enjoy, and a pantomime later.

“Is it just humans that celebrate Christmas?” Artie asked The Doctor. “I mean, everyone here looks totally normal, just like us. There are no lizard people or fish people or anything like that here.”

”Lizard people?” Clara admonished Artie. “Fish people? You don’t say things like that when you’re out in space. It’s… like racism… only… worse.”

“Besides, the lizard descended race come from Earth,” The Doctor pointed out. “Remind me to introduce you to Madam Vastra some time.”

Clara giggled and then concentrated on her coffee.

“Ok, but the point still stands. Do aliens have Christmas or is it just us?”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “Christmas is a Human concept. You took it out into the galaxy when you colonised new planets.”

“Did we just take all this commercialism, the tinsel and shopping, or did the IDEA of Christmas, like peace and goodwill?” Angie asked. “Or is that just a bit too hopeful for Human beings to have grasped the concept themselves?”

“Such cynicism in one so young!” The Doctor commented. “Christmas Station does rather encompass the commercialism, but there are many Human colonies where the spirit of Christmas is alive and well. As for the other races, the idea of a midwinter festival of kindness and togetherness exists in many of them, even those not related to the Human race. Some of the festivities are not unlike Christmas in that sense. But it has to be said that Christmas is probably the most far-reaching tradition in the twelve galaxies. Beyond there, anything goes.”

Angie and Artie smiled proudly at the achievement of their species, spreading something good throughout the stars. The Doctor let them have their moment. He could have told them that Human colonisation of space caused as much upheaval and difficulties as Europeans conquering the Americas and it took a millennia for humans to stop regarding native races as ‘alien’ on the planets they learnt to share. For the most part humans had been a positive force in the galaxy, on balance, in the wider scale of things, eventually.

But they didn’t need to know that.

“Do those little guys celebrate Christmas, too then?” Artie asked out of the blue.

“What little guys?” Clara asked.

“Those….” Artie pointed towards the big Christmas tree in the centre of the food court, then hesitated. He pointed in a different direction, then another. “They move fast. But those little guys… like… I don’t know, gnomes, elves, pixies… or am I being speciesist again? Is that even a word.”

“I saw some of them around the sleigh ride,” Angie added. “I thought they worked here. They looked as if they were fixing the fairy lights.”

Clara shrugged and looked at The Doctor. He frowned and looked around. He obviously couldn’t see them, either.

But Angie and Artie could see at least a dozen of them climbing around the tree, polishing the baubles. You had to concentrate hard. Their green and red outfits camouflaged them against the colours of the decorations and sometimes they disappeared within the mass of branches and popped up in a different part of the tree altogether.

“They move fast,” Angie concluded.

“They must be employed by Christmas Station Enterprises,” The Doctor decided. “That’s something of a new development. The last time they tried getting non-Human help it was a disaster. They wanted dwarves for a Snow White scenario and instead they got four Graske and three Groske. They started fighting among each other and wrecked an entire floor.”

The Doctor’s description of what Graske and Groske were and the origins of their ongoing planetary feud drew Angie and Artie’s attention from the little characters in the trees, but occasionally, out of the corner of their eyes, they did spot a flash of red and green around the floor or among the decorations, and they wondered why neither Clara nor The Doctor could see what they were seeing.

They saw the same characters here and there in the Christmas fairground. Angie had one riding on top of the pole holding her brightly coloured horse on the Christmas Carousel, and Artie reported that they were all over the Ferris Wheel, oiling the parts and nimbly leaping from one part of the frame to the next as the wheel turned.

The Doctor was far more puzzled than Clara who had almost convinced herself that the kids were having her on for some reason. He kept looking. Now and again he thought he DID see something, but when he looked closer there was nothing.

“I wonder what they’re actually called,” Angie said to her brother as their sleigh rolled along the tracks into the ‘Wonderland’ dark ride. They were, in truth, a little old for this one, but they wanted to try everything. Besides, they enjoyed watching all the little people worked hard cleaning and maintaining the assorted tableaux of Christmas scenes either side of them. One of the scenes had broken down altogether, and they were feverishly taking it apart and putting it back together by the light of very tiny torches. The sounds of small screwdrivers and hammers was almost audible over the jaunty Christmas music accompanying the ride.

“Not elves, fairies, goblins, pixies or dwarves,” Artie decided. “Those are Human words. If they’re from another planet, they’re probably called something completely different.”

“Yes,” Angie agreed. “It takes some getting used to – the idea that there are other people out there in space and that we’re just as alien as they are when we’re not on planet Earth.”

“The Doctor isn’t from Earth. He must feel like an alien everywhere.”

“No,” Angie responded. “I think The Doctor feels at HOME everywhere. The universe IS his home.”

That was a deep philosophical thought and it silenced them for the rest of the ride. That gave them time to count the number of little workers. They concluded that there had to be quite a large colony of them living on Christmas Station.

“It doesn’t look like they talk to the people in any way,” Angie decided. “They must be shy. Or perhaps they don’t speak English…. Or Human languages, generally.” She added the last because, of course, humans have numerous languages. In the food court they had heard forty-ninth century versions of German, French, Japanese and Norwegian, and the staff mostly spoke with a kind of ‘standardised’ American-English. They wondered for a while what sort of language the little people might have.

“Whatever it is WE should understand it,” Artie said. “Remember how we could understand all the foreign languages earlier. The Doctor said it was the TARDIS translating in our heads. So we SHOULD be able to talk to them.”

“Yes. But they don’t seem to stand still long enough to start a conversation with them.”

“That’s a pity,” Artie said. “I’d LIKE to find out about them. Funny that The Doctor is so clueless. He’s usually the one who knows everything.”

“Then we’ve GOT to find out about them. To prove that he’s NOT the smartest alien we know.”

It wasn’t because they disliked The Doctor. He was definitely the COOLEST person they had ever met and he let them do things their father couldn’t even dream of, let alone forbid them from doing. But knowing something he didn’t appealed to them in a strange way they couldn’t quite explain.

By the end of the Wonderland ride they had decided that was their mission for the day – making contact with the industrious little people of Christmas Station.

The opportunity didn’t arise during the afternoon at the fair, though. There were too many humans and they just didn’t stick around long enough. Nor was it possible when they had tea in the Olde Victorian Tea Shoppe on the mezzanine floor, though they frequently spotted them around the ankles of customers picking up cake crumbs and crusts of bread dropped by the less cautious eaters. Angie wondered if they were gathering food for themselves. If so, that wasn’t quite fair. They did a lot of work. They shouldn’t have to live on scraps.

She was almost planning a campaign for better pay for the little people, but without knowing their species name it was hard to devise a campaign name. She needed to find that out, first.

After tea The Doctor brought them to the very top floor of Christmas Station where a huge translucent dome covered the whole deck. A one hundred and eighty degree view of the starfield beyond the Sol solar system was visible through it but very few people bothered about that because the inside of the dome was a fantastic canvas for the colourful images of a Fête des Lumières show with a theme of Christmas through the ages which was also represented by colourful tableaux all around the vast floor.

“It’s like Blackpool illuminations and then some,” Clara commented about it all, and the two youngsters agreed. They were finding it all absolutely fascinating, especially the images of Christmas on far off planets where presents were delivered by space shuttle. That took it to a whole next level for them both.

The little people were busy around this floor, too. Their main job was polishing all the tiny lenses set in the floor from where the light show was cast onto the dome. They scuttled around with small cloths to keep them all gleaming and dust free.

But none of them kept still long enough for Angie and Artie to talk to them. They were disappointed not to get the chance. Clara was puzzled by how down they looked when they left the dome.

“I thought that was fantastic,” she said. “What’s up with you two?”

“We’re having such a good time – we don’t want to go home,” Angie answered. “I mean… it is time to go isn’t it? We’ve been here all day.”

The Doctor grinned widely.

“Actually, I booked an overnight stay. There’s no hurry to go home. Not with a TARDIS. That’s if it’s all right by you, Clara?”

“Yes, fine,” she agreed. “Do you mean you’ve organised hotel rooms? I suppose there is a hotel here, along with everything else?”

“Better than that. I think you’ll like it.”

“He’s being enigmatic!” Angie complained. “Tell him to stop it, Clara. He doesn’t DO it very well.”

“I’ve tried to tell him that,” Clara said. “It never works. Let’s just go along with his plan. Come on, Doctor, lead the way.”

The Doctor brought them to one of the turbo lifts that transferred them from the top floor to the forty-eighth, listed as the Home Fires of Winter floor.

“What the heck does THAT mean?” Artie asked. But very soon they found out. They emerged into what looked like a Christmas card view of a country place covered in snow. Meadows stretched away towards a fir forest and above was a starry sky – one with familiar Earth constellations in it.

A horse drawn sleigh awaited the party. The two youngsters laughed at the cheesiness of the idea but they sat up on the wide seats happily. The Doctor and Clara sat beside them and the driver headed off to their destination.

The sleigh passed by a half a dozen cottages with low roofs covered in snow and warm light coming from the frost covered windows. They all looked cosy in an unreal, idealistic way.

Finally the sleigh stopped in front of a two storey cottage with three glowing windows under the eaves and two either side of the door. A chimney poked out of the snow covered roof and smoke rose from it suggesting that a real fire was burning inside.

“THIS is where we’re staying?” Angie looked at the cottage with a mixture of scepticism and curiosity. “I mean… it’s for real? This whole place is so… make believe… like the way people think Christmas should be but it never is. Are these houses REAL? They’re not… just cut outs?”

“They’re real. It’s the ‘ideal Christmas experience’,” The Doctor explained. “A chance to live like a perfect Christmas card scene.”

“Is there supper?” Artie asked. “If there is, I’m good.”

“Come on,” Clara said. “This snow is cold enough to be real, ideal or not. Let’s get inside.” The Doctor opened the front door. He didn’t use a key. In the idealised world of Christmas cards there were no burglars. People didn’t need to lock their doors. He stepped in followed by the two youngsters and Clara.

After a small vestibule with pictures of perfect winter scenes lit by an old fashioned glass-shaded lamp they stepped into a perfect Christmas cottage living room. The cottage sofa and two armchairs were all arranged to get the maximum warmth from the roaring open fire. The mantelpiece was decorated with Christmas cards and snowglobes. A decorated Christmas tree stood beside the cottage window. It had real candles burning on it, though Artie thought there might be something a bit space age about them. The candles looked as if they had only just been lit, but they had just walked into the cottage and they had been burning before then. They were obviously designed to burn forever with just one little dribble of wax down the side.

The fire was the same. Artie sat on the sofa and watched it for long enough to ensure himself that although it was a ‘real’ fire, not a gas fire with a very clever flame effect, the logs were not actually burning down. The spare ones in a brass bucket on the right and the hearth set of poker and shovel on the left were just for show.

It really was the ideal Christmas scene, with none of the inconvenience of making a fire.

Clara checked out the ideal cottage kitchen with a black-leaded solid fuel cooker and rows of burnished copper pans hanging on the wall and found supper – meat pie, hard boiled eggs and tomatoes, with a huge apple tart and clotted cream and a big jug of hot, milky cocoa. It was a supper straight out of an Enid Blyton world, perfect for this ideal winters evening.

“Super,” The Doctor said about the supper. “What a lovely spread.” He sounded just like a character from the same Enid Blyton books. Clara glared at him, but he didn’t take the hint and carried on talking like that throughout the meal, falling just short of using words like ‘spiffing’ which really would have been going too far.

“It’s fun,” Angie said as they sat quietly in front of the fire with their cocoa and full stomachs afterwards. “For a little while, at least. I don’t miss the television and my laptop at all, just for the one night. If it was more than that, I think the cuteness would start to get annoying.”

“Yes,” Clara agreed. She had summed it up. They could play the make believe for a short time, as long as they could go back to real life. That was pretty much how she dealt with all of the weird and wonderful things she did with The Doctor – by returning to the real, ordinary, normal world when it was done.

“I love it,” The Doctor said. “This is how Christmas ought to be.”

“You’re an alien,” Artie pointed out. “What do you know about what Christmas OUGHT to be?”

“I’ve lived with humans for centuries, on and off,” he answered. “I’ve done Christmas in the 1960s and 70s, the 1980s, the 1870s, 1910, 1455, 1598, 1724…. Lots of different kinds of Human Christmas. I’ve seen Christmas when Cromwell banned it and all people could do was say a few prayers by candlelight, and way, way back when it was a pagan festival and the poor soul who found a bean in his pudding got hunted as a sacrifice to make the sun come up, Christmas in the Blitz, Christmas on the Western Front in a mud-filled trench. THIS is how it ought to be, warm and cosy with friends and family.”

Angie was about to point out that none of them were actually The Doctor’s family, but that would have been cruel. In a way he was right, anyway. The four of them felt like a family in a nice, cosy kind of way that fitted the idealised scene.

It was nice to pretend for a while.

Angie went to bed at the same time as Artie, something she hadn’t done for a long time. After their long, exciting day and the cosy evening she was too tired to exert her older sister superiority over her brother. Besides, she was curious to find out what sort of bedroom she would be sleeping in.

There were four rooms under the sloping eaves, none of them big. Angie stepped into the one she guessed was meant for her. Pale pink and blue trellis wallpaper and prints of horses in meadows decorating them were illuminated by candles in stout holders. There was an oak dresser with a mirror, a chest of drawers and a bed with a patchwork quilt. There was a nightdress folded on the pillow. It was her size, but in an old-fashioned style she would never imagine wearing usually. There was a doll wearing a similar nightdress sitting on a chair by the window. Angie laughed at the twee nature of it all and thought of her own bedroom with her pop posters and her music system, her laptop on the desk, iPod on the bedside table. That room was much more ‘her’. It was a long time since she had been the sort of girl who had a doll.

But for a while, for pretence, it was nice to get into this surprisingly soft bed and blow out the candles. Snow fell softly outside the window and she watched it until she fell asleep.

Artie didn’t watch anything. He was asleep almost as soon as he blew out his candle.

Some time later Clara went to a bedroom that was a duplicate of Clara’s but without the doll on the chair and with some ornaments around the dresser.

The Doctor had a bedroom, too, but he forgot to use it. He fell asleep on the comfy armchair by the fire, which automatically died down to warm red embers.

Some time during the night Angie woke suddenly. She had heard a noise. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it came from Clara’s room and it sounded wrong.

She slipped her feet into a pair of soft slippers that were handily by the bedside and crept across the landing, almost bumping into Artie who was coming from his room in a pair of striped pyjamas and slippers.

“It sounded like something smashing,” he reported. Angie nodded and reached for the doorknob. She opened the door cautiously, not sure what to expect. Clara had always insisted that The Doctor wasn’t her boyfriend, and there WERE four bedrooms in this cottage. But just suppose they WERE….

Her teenage concerns about what the designated adults might be doing flew from her mind as she and her brother stared at the most peculiar thing they had seen even in The Doctor’s company. Clara, in her nightie, still fast asleep, her arms by her side, was slowly moving about a foot from the floor, as if by levitation.

Except levitation never involved the strange noises that were coming from underneath her.

“Booro… guaroe… exende…nay… tindende… coggi… nay tindede tindende, upsy-do. Nooooo, nay upsy. Exende, coggi tindende, upsy-dossy-rit.”

That was what they heard at first. This must have been a language that the TARDIS didn’t know, because it was just gibberish to them, though gibberish with the tone of somebody giving directions to somebody else.

“It’s them… the little people….” Artie exclaimed in a loud whisper. “They’re kidnapping Clara.”

“Get The Doctor,” Angie told him. “Quick.”

“Why me?” Artie demanded.

“Because you’re a boy and I don’t want to know what an alien man wears in bed,” she answered. “Stop arguing and do it.”

Artie ran off and looked in the last bedroom and noticed that it was unused. He ran downstairs while Angie watched Clara bend at the waist and knees as she was slid up the wall and then out through the open window to a more urgent series of instructions – ‘tende, tende, tende, stoopi. Do-re-upsy, doppe, upsy, sidsy. Tende, tende, exende, upsy, upsy, stoopi.”

She ran to the window and stared out as Clara was carried, head first, down the outside wall of the cottage and then along the snow-covered garden path. She turned from the window to see Artie.

“The Doctor’s asleep downstairs and I can’t wake him up, so I left a note,” he said.

“What sort of note?” Angie asked him. “Come quick, Clara’s been kidnapped by the little guys?”

“Yes,” Artie answered. “Come on. We’d better get after them.”

They rushed downstairs, grabbing coats to put over their nightclothes and out into the snowy night. They could see tracks that would have defied the smartest native scout. There were dozens of little footprints within a deep furrow in the snow where Clara’s body had been dragged.

“At least it’s easy enough to follow,” Artie said with a shrug. “Come on, then.”

It was a mad thing to do. They SHOULD have tried again to wake The Doctor and tell him what was happening. But after all, Clara was their friend and she was in trouble. They kept on going, crossing a style into a snow-covered field that sloped downhill. Their bedroom slippers were holding up surprisingly well. They ought to have been soaked through with freezing cold melted snow in minutes, but their feet were warm and they made good progress. By the time they reached the half-frozen brook at the bottom of the slope and crossed a wooden footbridge leading into a dense forest of evergreen trees they could hear the strange language up ahead.

“Tende, tende, mindy bumpsy, oopsy doosy, ovey tay loggy, roundy tay rocsy.”

“Did that ALMOST make sense?” Artie asked his older sister. “Maybe the TARDIS is starting to figure the language out.”

“I don’t like the sound of it, though,” Angie answered. She had a sudden vision of Clara travelling along, head first, a foot from the ground, being steered over fallen logs and around rocks just in the nick of time. The thought of going into that forest in the dead of night worried them both but they knew they had no choice.

“I’ve got a torch in my pocket,” Artie said, suddenly producing a small battery operated flashlight that illuminated the path ahead.

“What are the chances of that?” Angie remarked dryly, but the Blytonesque coincidence of it all didn’t matter. Avoiding the same obstacles they were hearing about in the odd language up ahead was vital if they were going to avoid the twisted ankles and bruised heads that tended to be part of those sort of stories. They stepped over the snow-covered branches and tree roots and around the boulders that might have been problematic and listened to the voices of Clara’s abductors as they closed in on them.

“Tende, tende, holey upside heady.”

“Too biggy,” replied a slightly softer voice than the one that had been giving directions all along. “Choppy armys?”

“Maky bigger holey,” was the answer, much to Angie and Artie’s relief as they interpreted the odd conversation.

“If they get down a hole we’ll lose them,” Artie pointed out. “Let’s shift.”

They moved quickly towards the strange scratching and scrabbling noises and emerged into a small clearing just in time to see Clara’s feet disappear down a hole at the base of a large oak tree. A mount of snow and soil showed where the hole had been enlarged.

“We’ve got to follow,” Artie said as they looked down into the dark hole.

“I know. I just don’t WANT to,” Angie answered.

“I’ll go first,” Artie gallantly offered. He stepped forward and slid down into the hole. Angie winced and slowly eased herself into the darkness.

She was surprised, and then not surprised, to find that the soil only went down a few feet before there was a square access hole with a ladder. She had forgotten until then that they were on a space station, not actually in a real world with soil that went down to bedrock.

Below was a huge room, possibly storage space of some sort. There were rows of shelves but there was no stock on them, just hundreds of little beds on each tier for the hundreds of little people who lived down here.

Angie climbed down the ladder and straight into a ring of them who waited to capture her. They had already overpowered Artie who had his hands and feet tied with something as thick as string but obviously very strong. To stop him warning her, his mouth was being held closed by one of the little people who clung upside down on his face. Angie brushed away attempts to bind her, too.

“Get off my brother’s face,” she said. “That’s no way to behave. What’s going on down here, anyway? What have you done to Clara?”

Clara was still asleep, but she had been covered by a patchwork quilt that seemed to be made of several dozen of the blankets from their little beds. There was a patchwork pillow under her head.

“Sleepybyebe dusty,” answered one of the little people standing on her shoulder. He waved a little sack and demonstrated the dust inside it. “Go’bi iss iny chargy of sleepybyes.”

“Gobby? That’s your name?”

“Noooo Go’bi,” the little man insisted, though if there was a subtle difference in pronunciation Angie didn’t see it.

“Did you do that to The Doctor, too?” she demanded.

“Didny touch doctor manny,” Go’bi insisted. “He iss diffy.”

“He’s going to be mad as hell when he gets here. He’s got a fierce temper on him. Bigger things than you have run away from him. So you’d better let us all go if you know what’s good for you.”

“Clara lady stays,” said another of the little people. “I Ga’bi say soo’s. Clara lady iss new queeny of Bo’gi.”

“Bogey?” Artie’s mouth was free now though he was still tied up. “They’re called Bogey? Yuck.”

“Not bogey, Bo’gi,” Ga’bi insisted, but again the difference was too subtle to matter.

“Anyway, what’s all this about Clara being your queen?” Angie said, getting back to the main point. “Don’t be daft. She can’t be. So wake her up and let us all go or it’ll be the worse for you. I mean it. When The Doctor gets here he’ll unleash hell’s fury on you all. There will be bogey blood spilt.”

She thought she sounded confident when she said that, but something must have sounded wrong to the Bo’gi. They all just laughed at her and two of them tried binding her ankles. She grabbed them both and knocked their heads together. They yelped and went limp in her hands.

“That’s enough of that,” she insisted. “All of you keep still and be quiet. Stop trying to tie me up. I’m a paying customer. Well, The Doctor paid, anyway. You can’t treat me like that. Untie Artie, too, and then explain what this is all about.”

“Oooh, she’s a bossy-bossy,” said one of the Bo’gi, moving close but keeping clear of her slippered foot in case she kicked out. “Fiercy one. Be canny with thissy one.”

“You told righty-righty Go’gi,” said Ga’bi. “A fiercy bossy-bossy.”

“You think I’m bossy, wait until Clara wakes up,” Angie answered. “I mean it, start talking now, or else.”

The language was still not exactly recognisable English, but she was starting to understand it better with every sentence. Angie and Artie sat down on the floor in a ring of the Bo’gi and listened as they told a rather long-winded and tortured sage of leaving their home world because of over-population and under-employment. The Bo’gi liked nothing better than cleaning, polishing and mending, but their home world was as clean and shining and thoroughly maintained as it needed to be, so tribes of them set off in space ships to find new homes where they could be useful.

“We likey-likey-liked the big blue and whitey-white planet,” Go’bi explained. “But then we saw big shiney-shiney bally and came here insteady. We found lots to do. Lots of cleany-clean and mendy-mend. Lots of yummy-yums and warmy-warm places. Big-uns don’t see us. Only kiddly-kids. We get on with work and no bother.”

“So you’re not actually EMPLOYED by the Christmas Station people?” Artie asked. But the concept of employment for money puzzled them. The people in charge of the huge business that was Christmas Station never even knew that the Bo’gi had taken up residence, let alone that they were doing all those jobs around the place.

That was an incredible thought to begin with but there was still a bit more to this story.

“Biggy problem,” Ga’bi explained. “No queeny, no Bo’gi-babby-babs. So Bo’gi looky out for lady to be queeny….”

“Ah….” The penny dropped rather heavily. Angie had assumed at first that they had wanted Clara for a queen in the ceremonial sense, to look pretty and be adored by the tribe. Now she realised it was something more like a queen bee at the centre of a hive.

“Is that possible?” Artie asked.

“No, I don’t think it IS,” Angie answered. “Not according to the biology lessons I’ve done at school, and not if Clara has ANY say in the matter.”

“Quite right,” said a familiar voice behind her. Angie turned and looked at The Doctor’, brushing snow and soil off his tweed jacket. “Thanks for the note. I knew where to start looking right away. So, Angie, Artie, are you going to introduce me to your new friends?”

“These are the Bogey,” Artie said. Go’bi corrected him impatiently. “That one is Gobby. And his mate there, is Gabby. There’s also a Goggy. I don’t know the rest of their names, but there’s a sort of pattern.”

“Of course, the Bo’gi. I should have realised when you two saw them about the place this afternoon. Adult humanoid brains can’t see them. It’s a well known fact. Angie, another year or two and your brain would be too mature. You’d have thought your brother was going dotty.”

“How come you can see them now?” Angie asked.

“I practised thinking like a child while I was following your tracks. It’s not easy. It’s getting on for eight hundred years since I was a child. But then again, childhood is nearly a hundred and fifty years for my people, so I had plenty of time to get used to it.”

As he was talking he stepped over and around the Bo’gi and examined Clara.

“A herbal sedative,” he commented. “Perfectly harmless. She won’t know anything about it in the morning.”

He went to pick her up, but the Bo’gi crowded around him, muttering about their ‘queeny’.

“No!” he told them. “Angie already told you it’s impossible, and I absolutely forbid it. You cannot go around stealing women. That’s not on. But if you let me take Clara back, I promise I will help you.”

“Promisy, promisy!” Ga’bi replied sarcastically and the rest of the Bo’gi muttered in agreement. They obviously didn’t believe him.

“I give you my word, as a Time Lord of Gallifrey,” The Doctor insisted.

“Timey-wimey?” They had obviously heard of Time Lords. The Bo’gi murmured among each other quietly, as if they were partially convinced and were considering The Doctor’s proposal.

“Doctor timey-wimey get us a queeny?” Go’bi asked. “We give back Clara lady.”

“No, you give me back Clara first, then I get you a Queen,” The Doctor firmly told them.

They considered this a little more.

“Timey-wimey oath?”

“Absolutely,” The Doctor assured them. He raised his right hand and swore solemnly that he would keep his end of the bargain.

“Okey-dokey do, then,” Go’bi decided on behalf of them all. “Take Clara lady and kiddly-wids and come back with queeny.”

“Excellent decision,” The Doctor said. He lifted Clara into his arms. She was still completely insensible. The Doctor looked at the hole everyone had arrived by, and decided against trying to stuff her back up through it.

“You lot must use some kind of teleport to get around the Station,” he said to the chief Bo’gi. He bowed his head and pointed to a corner of their domain. The Doctor stepped towards the place. Angie and Artie followed. There was a large metal circle on the ground. They had seen enough science fiction to know what it was for. They stood close to The Doctor and waited for their bodies to be disassembled and re-assembled somewhere else.

The transmat brought them back to the idealistic cottage where they had been so cosy before the Bo’gi turned up in the night. The Doctor brought Clara back to her bedroom and left her tucked up comfortably. He told Angie and Artie to get some sleep, too, but they were too wide awake for that.

“Ok, go and get biscuits and cocoa and sit by the fire,” he said. “I’ve got something to do.”

“You’re going to get them a Queeny?”

“Yes. It’s going to take some negotiation with the Bo’gi High Council. It calls for my best diplomatic skills. They are very protective of their Queens. That’s why this tribe didn’t have one with them when they travelled. But now I can argue that they’re an established community here on Christmas Station they should let me have one.”

Angie and Artie were curious about The Doctor’s negotiating skills, to say nothing of what the Bo’gi homeworld was like, but he insisted that they had to stay at the cottage with Clara. Reluctantly they obeyed.

An artificial dawn had crept over the artificial sky and it was snowing softly, covering the evidence of last night’s activities when The Doctor returned. Angie and Artie had fallen asleep on the sofa, but they woke as he crept into the drawing room and sat by the fire. They sat up and looked at him expectantly. He said nothing but smiled enigmatically. Angie scowled at him.

“Did you do it, then?” Artie asked when the tension became unbearable.

“Of course, I did. One Bo’gi queen installed with the Christmas Station tribe, ready and willing to be the mother of the future Bo’gi babies, unlike our Clara.”

“What does a Bo’gi queen look like?” Angie asked. “Just out of interest.”

“About two foot tall and nearly as wide,” The Doctor answered. “With pink eyes in a round face and long silver hair.”

“Not at all like Clara, then?” Artie commented. “I wonder why they thought she might do for them?”

“Maybe they recognised the natural kindness and unconditional love she has in her,” The Doctor said. Artie and Angie both grimaced. That kind of talk was embarrassing to them. Besides, there was a sound of movement above. Clara came down the stairs rubbing her eyes sleepily.

“Why is everyone up and around so early?” she asked. “Is there any coffee going?”

“I’ll make it,” The Doctor offered. “You sit down by the fire.”

She sat. The two youngsters tried not to look too knowing when she reached up and pulled a twig from her hair. She looked at it curiously.

“I had a really weird dream,” she said. “About travelling… and falling.”

“Weird. Perhaps you need another go on the Sleigh Ride roller coaster later.”

“Perhaps I do,” Clara conceded. “But right now, I just want that coffee.”

The Doctor appeared on cue with a steaming pot and mugs for everyone.

“Has this been the coolest Christmas treat ever, then?” he asked them all.

“Definitely,” Angie and Artie agreed.

“Yes, I think so,” Clara added. “But I still want to get back to reality soon. I think I just saw a little face in the window. I’m starting to believe in the little people you two were on about yesterday.”

Artie and Angie grinned and glanced around. They waved surreptitiously to Go’bi of the Bo’gi who waved back and carried on clearing the snow off the windowsill outside.