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

“Nice park,” Davie said. “And a great picnic, but why are we here? Is there something going on around this place? Some alien incursion or something.”

“Hardly,” The Doctor answered. “Would I bring my children into danger?” Sukie and Vicki were running about barefoot on the grass and he was cuddling Peter in his arms. Rose lay beside him smiling contentedly and listening to the jazz band that played on the old-fashioned bandstand nearby. “This place… I promised Rose we’d come back here when we have our own children. It's special because it's absolutely ordinary and nothing happens.”

“We used to get into all kinds of trouble,” Davie complained. “Aliens taking over the world, and stuff. You’ve got boring in your old age, granddad.”

“Yeah,” he grinned. “And that suits me fine. You two can go get into trouble across time and space. I’m happy just like this.” He smiled as he held his baby son close to him. Yes, maybe he did seem boring now he wasn’t out there fighting the fight. But there were compensations.

“Besides, we ARE the aliens and our takeover is by peaceful and democratic means,” Christopher de Lœngbærrow said with a smile that wasn’t aimed at the boys so much as his picnic date, Jackie Tyler. She smiled back at him, and it seemed to those who were capable of holding a conversation telepathically, that body language could be just as articulate.

“You’re the nice sort of aliens,” she said. “You’re ok.”

“Took you quite a while to figure that out, Jackie,” The Doctor kidded her. “Anyway, it wasn’t JUST a picnic.” He turned to the boys. “It was your first unaided flight in your own TARDIS. You got the co-ordinate spot on.”

“Couldn’t miss with our new and improved navigation panel,” Davie replied smugly. “We’re not going to get LOST as much as you did.”

“Getting lost is part of the fun,” The Doctor told them. “But your mum will be less annoyed with me if you keep assuring her of that.”

“Susan and David should have come, too,” Rose said. “We’d all be together, the whole family.”

“David has never been crazy about the TARDIS lifestyle,” The Doctor said. “He’s a down-to-earth kind of man. He accepts that his family are unusual, but he just wants to live an ordinary life. And so does Susan. She grew up as a space gypsy never knowing where she would be from one day to the next. She is happy with her feet on the ground.”

“Never thought I’d ever get used to the idea of travelling in space and time,” Jackie said. She shifted her position and sat cross legged on the grass. Christopher put his arms around her waist and the body language was quite obvious as he kissed her neck tenderly. “But I’ve got my OWN Time Lord now.”

Rose and The Doctor exchanged glances and laughed silently. They were BOTH remembering a time when Jackie had thought an alien in the family was her worst nightmare.

“You should have a TARDIS of your own, Christopher,” Davie said to his grandfather. “Then you could take Jackie to loads of places.”

“I’m a TERRIBLE pilot,” Christopher said. “I’d get us lost. I can about get father’s TARDIS to Jackie’s and back.”

“We’ll teach you,” Chris told him. “We’re going to build TARDISes. Davie and me. We’ve got it planned. You can have our first prototype.”

“I don’t think I’d be much of a traveller, either,” Jackie said. “I LIKE the quiet life. This is a nice trip. I hate being chased by green slime monsters. An ordinary park in the sunshine. I just wish they hadn’t put it next to a railway line.” As she spoke a train thundered over the Victorian viaduct that marked the boundary of the park to the south. “Glad the OTHER one is a disused line.” There was another viaduct at the northern end of the park. Both once carried trains across the wide, meandering river that marked the other boundary of the public park. One had been disused for decades and had been turned into a cycling and walking nature trail, though the thought of dragging Peter’s pushchair up all the steps to get onto the bridge had put them all off going along it.

“The northern line was discontinued in the 1960s,” Chris read on one of the more portable of the gadgets he and Davie had invented. A hand held computer console that was linked to their TARDIS’s databanks. “But there is a local legend that the ghosts of old trains still travel on the ghosts of tracks long since pulled up.”

“Spook trains!” Jackie laughed. “I don’t think so. Sounds like the Famous Five!”

Chris and Davie looked blank at Jackie’s slightly off the wall cultural reference. So did Christopher. Rose laughed and so did The Doctor.

“The spook trains turned out to be real trains being used by smugglers,” Rose said. “I remember reading that one when I was about seven. You had all the books from when YOU were a kid.”

“Famous Five!” The Doctor laughed. “Well, the only dog I’ve ever owned is K9 and there are more than five of us.”

“Besides,” Chris said. “If there are no rails up there, it can’t be smugglers. Must be real ghosts.”

“No such thing as ghosts,” Davie insisted.

“Yes there are,” his brother replied. “Remember the “lost souls” we found that time on the planet with granddad.”

“They weren’t GHOSTS as such though,” Davie argued. “Not like they mean here.”

“’Ghosts’ can be lots of things,” The Doctor said. “People tend to use that as a generic term for anything they can’t explain.”

“So there ARE such things as ghosts?” Jackie asked The Doctor. She may have her OWN Time Lord now, but instinctively she looked to The Doctor as a source of wisdom and knowledge.

“Well, bear in mind, a LOT of it is hokum. And then genuine mistakes account for a large percentage.”

“And smugglers?” Jackie laughed.

No. Deliberate attempts to scare people off to hide criminal activity aren’t really as common as you’d think. If you’re a smuggler or a gun runner or that kind of thing, you really want a low profile. Creating a myth to scare off the locals only works if it's a very primitive and superstitious society. If you tried it in the average modern British city you wouldn’t need the Famous Five, Scooby Doo or even a Doctor with an itch to solve a mystery! You’d already be knee deep in investigative journalists and there’d be a 24 hour ghost-watch webcam on site.”

They all laughed at the absolutely obvious logic of that and the boys decided that taking their little sister and their even littler great aunt to the ice cream vendor would be a more productive use of their time. But Jackie was still curious about the definition of ghosts. So was Rose.

“You told Charles Dickens that most ghost stories come from aliens trying to make contact with Earth,” Rose said. “And don’t hold Peter like that. He’ll be sick all over you.”

“Peter is fine,” The Doctor said. “And yes, that’s the next obvious explanation. But that’s nothing to be scared of either. It's a scientific problem. Sometimes there are holes in time, or in space, or just in reality as we know it, and things pass through. Like the Gelth were trying to do back then. And when THOSE kind of things are ruled out, that leaves a tiny percentage of cases where it really is just the sad remains of a life that won’t let go. And that’s really just another kind of science than the usually accepted kind. It's about what we are, beyond the flesh and blood and organs that make up our body. It's about the soul of us that makes us who we are inside of what we are. Some souls feel a need to stick around, that’s all. The problem is that between the Scooby gangs and the journalists, the conspiracy theorists and the well-meaning amateurs there’s little chance of the souls ever getting the help they need to find the peace they seek. Earth is very short on genuine experts on ghosts.”

But just to prove he wasn’t the expert on everything Peter WAS sick all down the back of his jacket. He saw the funny side of it and went to get himself and the baby cleaned up in the TARDIS, discreetly parked under a clump of trees. The other TARDIS was sitting near it disguised as a portaloo. The boys had been a bit put out by such an unglamorous way of blending in. The Doctor had just told them to be careful to put a ‘disused’ sticker on it in case anyone wandered in by mistake.

Rose lay down on the grass and pretended to be asleep as she watched her mum and Christopher take advantage of the quiet to kiss lovingly. She smiled secretly. She was glad for them both. Christopher was the first boyfriend her mum ever had that she liked particularly. They were both widowed and they understood each other’s sadnesses so well. If they DID decide to get married it would be fantastic. Even if it DID confuse her family tree big time.


The two strange additions to the park were still there when the sun went down and the park went quiet. In the dark, The Doctor and Rose and her mum and his son took advantage of having two handy baby-sitters for the little ones and went for a walk by the river. There was a clear sky and though the treeline obscured the constellation that meant the most to the two men, low on the southern horizon, it was an interesting experience walking under the stars with The Doctor – because he had visited most of them.

Even Christopher felt a little daunted. He admitted almost apologetically that he had nowhere near as many stories to tell as his father had.

“I must be a disappointment to you,” he said to Jackie. “After knowing my father for so long. I am more typical of our people, you know. We watch the universe, but we rarely go out into it. Only Renegades or criminals would go as far as father has done.”

If it hadn’t been dark Christopher might have seen the glitter in The Doctor’s eyes when he said that. But Jackie headed off a potentially upsetting moment between them.

“I don’t care that you’re not a big adventurer,” she told Christopher, sliding her arm closer around his back. “The stuff your dad’s done in his time, scares me to death. I’m happy with you as you are. Member of Parliament for Richmond upon Thames!” She laughed. “Who’d have thought it. My mum would have told the whole street. ‘Our Jackie’s walking out with an MP!’ She’d have thought I was really going up in the world.”

“So ‘walking out’ with an alien from a far away planet wouldn’t bother her, but the fact that he’s an MP would get her excited?” The Doctor smiled at the strange logic that Rose and Jackie both had in abundance. It ought to have its own special section of philosophical thought. The Tyler Principles.

“I don’t think I could have told my mum THAT,” Jackie said. “She’d be dead proud of the MP bit, though.”

“As long as you love me for more than my political power,” he told her.

“Oh, I do.” She said. And she said something in a low voice to him then and he replied.

“I’m not sure what we ought to do now,” Christopher said. “Rose, you seem to be the only one to ask. I wonder… Would you give your consent for me and your mother to be married?”

“Wow!” Rose was so surprised she actually stopped walking. “You’re asking me? Do I have to sign a contract like mum did for me?”

“We’ve both been married before. It's not technically necessary,” he said. “But I do feel as if I ought to have your permission. And…” He cleared his throat and addressed his father. “Father… May I have YOUR consent to this Alliance?”

“Well, of course you can,” he said. “Christopher, you HAVE been married before, both of you. You don’t need our permission. You do have my absolute blessing on it though. I hope you will both be as happy as Rose and I are.”

“Same goes from me,” Rose told them. Really, it's wonderful.”

“Does this mean we’re engaged?” Jackie asked. And it was as well she didn’t have telepathic abilities. She might have felt just a little aggrieved by The Doctor’s laughing comment to his son.

“Yes, I know she’s always a step behind the rest of us,” Christopher replied in defence of his fiancée. “But she gets there in the end. And I love her.”

“I know you do,” his father replied. “Jackie’s a one in a million. You look after her.”

“That I will,” Christopher promised.

“We should celebrate,” Rose said.

“Pubs are shut,” The Doctor told her. “It's late, you know.”

“Not THAT late,” Jackie said. “Trains are still running.” The sound of a train whistle cut through the air and the rumble of wheels on a track getting louder.

“Where’s it coming from?” Rose asked turning around. “The line is back THAT way.”

“That’s not an electric train anyway,” The Doctor said. “What the….”

Instinctively they ALL looked up at the disused line. Both women, with an even older instinct grasped the hands of their men as they saw with their own eyes what was, unmistakeably, a TRAIN, running on tracks that were not there any more. There was no ethereal light, and it didn’t look silvery and see-through like a classical ghost. It was just simply there, where it had no right to be, an old style diesel train from the 1960s, pulling passenger carriages with the old British Rail logo on each one. The women didn’t see that much detail, but the two Time Lords were able to take it all in as if their eyes were filming the strange phenomena.

At least Christopher did. Rose gasped as she felt The Doctor’s hand slip away from hers and when she looked he was running up the steps to the top of the bridge. He must have time-folded in order get up there that fast, she thought. Then she screamed as he jumped between the last passenger carriage and the guard’s van at the back. Ghost train or not, it looked solid enough to turn him to mince meat on the tracks that weren’t even supposed to BE there. Her scream mingled with the Doppler sound of the train continuing over the bridge.

And then, suddenly, it was gone. The sound cut off and the train itself disappeared as it reached the other side of the bridge.

“Doctor!” Rose screamed again in the sudden silence.

“Stay here,” Christopher said, taking Jackie’s hand and pressing it into Rose’s. They were both trembling with shock at the strange turn of events. “I’ll go and see. I’m sure he’s ok, but…”

Christopher didn’t time fold. He wasn’t sure he was in a hurry to get to the top of those dark, slightly slippery stone steps and find…

Find what? His father killed by a passing train that had no tracks to pass on? It was insane, but what they had seen looked solid enough. Could it kill? He didn’t want either of the women to see, anyway, at least not until he was sure.

He reached the top and was relieved when he saw the blue glow of his father’s sonic screwdriver illuminating the otherwise pitch darkness. His face looked ghostly in the light but otherwise he was unharmed.

“It’s a ghost train,” he said in explanation. “It just passed straight over me. Didn’t feel a thing. He held out the sonic screwdriver and looked at the readings it was giving back. “I’m going to have to run this by the TARDIS computer,” he said. “But I think….”

He stopped. They BOTH heard the sound of another train approaching. Christopher clutched at his father’s arms and they held each other as they stared at the lights of a steam locomotive rapidly approaching them. Even though he knew the first one had not hurt him, even The Doctor braced himself for a painful and deadly impact as the several tons of dark-painted iron rushed towards them. He felt his son scream in his head and his arms clutched him the more tightly.

It didn’t hit them. It passed through and around them. They stared in astonishment as well lit passenger compartments, the dining car, the luggage van and guards van rushed past them. They both span around and looked as they found themselves standing on the cycle path again and they watched the train pass over the bridge. The rails seemed to extend for about a metre or so behind the train, receding with it until it reached the end of the bridge where train and tracks suddenly vanished. In the sudden silence they heard Jackie and Rose at the bottom of the steps yelling for them.

“We’re both ok,” The Doctor shouted back. “It's ok, don’t try to come up here. Those steps are lethal in the dark. Hang on there.”

They both made their way back down. Just as they reached the ground another train passed overhead.

“I’ve never been a trainspotter,” The Doctor said. “But that one looked about ten years older than the one we just saw. And that was about that much older than the diesel. There seems to be a pattern.”

“Gh.. ghost trains through the ages!” Rose stammered through chattering teeth. She wasn’t easily scared, but the darkness, the cold, and the sheer impossibility of this situation were getting to her. She hugged The Doctor and was glad of the warmth of his body next to hers.

“Well, I’ve seen enough,” Jackie said. “I thought you two were both…” She let out a shrill whimper that exactly expressed how Rose had felt, too. They BOTH thought that their men had been killed in just about the most horrible way they could imagine.

“I haven’t,” The Doctor said. “I wonder how many more there are.”

“NO!” Rose insisted. “Take us back to the TARDIS NOW.” The Doctor looked at her in surprise. It wasn’t like her not to be interested in something like this. Was she really frightened?

“Take us back,” she insisted. “Mum’s scared. And I have to feed Peter soon. And I’d much rather be with my baby than standing around out here watching…. Whatever the heck that is up there.”

A few hours ago, The Doctor thought, he had said HE would rather be with his baby than out there adventuring. And yet, as soon as something exciting occurred his blood was burning with the thrill of it all.

“Come on,” he said. “Back to the TARDIS. We’re all cold standing around here. And I’m not going to be able to work this out anyway without transferring the readings to the main computer.” He took Rose by the shoulder and they turned back to where the two TARDISes were both parked still, between the ornamental fountain and the bandstand.

“Granddad,” the twins both yelled together as they walked into the TARDIS. “Did you see…. We were monitoring it…”

“Yes, we saw,” The Doctor said. “But quiet, you’ll wake the little ones.” Sukie and Vicki were both asleep under blankets on the sofas. Chris was holding Peter who looked as if he had just woken up. Rose took him at once and went away to change and feed him and put him to bed. The Doctor smiled at her motherly instincts. He had got her away from the children for just over an hour on this late night walk. But as soon as she was with her baby again she wanted to see to his needs. He and Jackie took the other two and tucked them in their beds in what had once been the twins’ bedroom on board the TARDIS, and was now beautifully adapted as a nursery and children’s bedroom. Vicki and Sukie hardly stirred as they were put to bed, and Peter went to sleep quickly once he was lain in his cot. Then they returned to the console room where The Doctor was itching to hear what the boys had found out.

“They’re still coming,” Davie told him as he joined them by the environmental console. That’s the fifth one in an hour. It seems to be a time anomaly centred on the bridge. I reckon even people living in the houses just beyond the park wouldn’t know anything about it. And it's just fields the other side of the river. You would have to be in the park, like we are. And who else would be in the park at midnight?

“Not the sort of people anyone would believe,” The Doctor reasoned. “Drunks, homeless people. Yes, I can see how the Scooby Gang wouldn’t have been alerted to these phenomena before. But I wonder what it's about? I really need to have another look up on that bridge.”

“In the morning,” Rose insisted. “Please, Doctor, enough.”

“She’s right,” Jackie said. “In daylight, I don’t even mind going up and having a look myself. But not now. Let’s all just go to bed.”

“That goes for you two,” The Doctor said as the boys headed for the door. “You go straight to your own TARDIS. No sneaking up there. It SEEMS to be harmless. But whatever is going on is not NORMAL and there might be dangers I haven’t seen yet.”

The boys looked disappointed. They HAD been thinking of going to look.

“Maybe they should stay in here tonight,” Christopher suggested. “In case…”

“They only have to walk five metres from this TARDIS to their own,” The Doctor said. “I can trust you to do that, can’t I, boys?”

They looked at him, his eyes seeming to bore into their souls. And all thoughts of sneaking off went out of their heads. They knew they couldn’t disobey him.

He knew they wouldn’t THINK of disobeying him. He said goodnight and shut the door. He trusted them to walk to their own TARDIS without any detour.

“We never told them the other news,” Rose said. “Never mind, it can wait. We should have a proper party though. And Christopher, you have to buy mum a ring.”

“I know I do,” he said as The Doctor turned down the console room lights and they all went to their bedrooms. Christopher kissed Jackie at the door to her room before they parted. Rose watched her mother’s face as she went into her room.

“I think Christopher must be the first boyfriend she ever had who didn’t want to sleep with her right away,” she said as she snuggled into bed with her husband. “Your Gallifreyan honour is a bit of a new thing to us Earth women!”

“Christopher will be good for her,” The Doctor said. “I’m pleased.”

“You really ARE, aren’t you,” Rose said as his arms reached to hold her in the warmth of their bed.

“Earth tradition dictates I’m supposed to hate my mother-in-law. But I’m allowed to adore a daughter-in-law. Jackie IS a fantastic woman. She’ll be good for him.”

“I’m glad he doesn’t think she’s thick because she comes from a council estate. Christopher is so well-educated, clever. And mum…”

“She’s a cockney diamond like you. Christopher saw that in her, just like I saw it in you. He loves her for what she is. Just as I love you.” With that he pulled her closer to him, fondling her tenderly. She reminded him that Peter would need her in a few hours and he told her that was plenty of time.


The Doctor woke early in the morning and slipped from the bed. Rose had been up only an hour before feeding Peter and she was asleep again. He could probably get away with an hour without her noticing he was gone.

“Hey,” the boys called to him as he slipped out of the TARDIS. “Where are you going without us?”

“Why are you up so early?” he asked them. They grinned. “Come on then. Let’s go see what we can find out before everyone else is up.”

“Strange that Rose didn’t want to get into it with us,” Chris said as they climbed the steps to the old railway bridge. “She used to be game for anything.”

“She’s a mum now,” The Doctor said. “She loves our babies. Doesn’t want to be stuck in some horrible situation far from them. I know how she feels. I don’t want to be far from them, either. But we’re just having a look at things up here.”

They reached the top of the steps. The bridge was as it should be. The rails were taken up years ago and a tarmac path laid for cyclists and walkers. They walked halfway across and stopped to look out over the view of the countryside upriver and of the industrial town downriver, both looking fresh and bright in the early morning. And peaceful, too. It was hard to imagine anything strange had happened.

“Well, we didn’t dream it,” The Doctor said. “Christopher and I stood up here last night while a ghost train ran over us.”

“Wow, fantastic,” Davie said.

“It was anything but fantastic,” The Doctor told them. “You stand here and watch death racing at you.”

“But what IS it anyway?” Chris asked. “Are they REALLY ghosts? You said yesterday that most ghosts aren’t really ghosts.”

“I’m still not sure,” he said. He walked forward again, across the bridge. It was a good two hundred metres, and he found himself feeling VERY glad when he got to the other side and the trees and grass and solid ground. He wasn’t sure why. The fear was completely irrational. The bridge was no more likely to fall down now than at any other time in its history and whatever was causing the anomaly only seemed to happen at night.

“You know,” Chris told him. “We’re not on solid ground now even. This banking covers an old viaduct that carried on for another kilometre beyond the river. Because this all used to be the flood plain of the river and they had to raise the railway above it.” He passed his hand held databank to his grandfather and he looked at an old sepia photograph of what had once been a very beautiful sight. There must have been at least fifty graceful arches made of some kind of white stone that shone in the sunlight as the steam train passed over the river.

“Why was it covered over?” The Doctor asked. “Please don’t tell me there was some kind of disaster and all this is some sort of psychic resonance from it?”

“Not that I can see.”

“Doesn’t make sense anyway,” he added as they began to walk back again across the bridge. “We didn’t just see one train repeating its journey as if the souls of the dead were trapped in an endless cycle. We saw different trains from different periods of the history of the line. It's more like a temporal anomaly.”

“Is it dangerous?” Davie asked.

“That’s the big question,” he said. “I’m not sure. I need to get some more data and try to work out exactly what SORT of anomaly it is. Come on, let’s get back before we’re missed and Rose gives me a tongue-lashing.”

The boys laughed as he set off walking back across the bridge.

“WHAT?” he demanded.

“Granddad, didn’t you once say that we are the princes of the universe, that you are the most powerful man in the universe…. With the power of life and death at your fingertips?”


“So why are you scared of what Rose might say to you?”

“Because she’s my wife. And even princes of the universe are scared of upsetting their wives.”

“So does that mean that Rose is the most powerful woman in the universe?” Davie asked as Chris burst into uncontrollable laughter.

“Yes,” The Doctor replied. “And that’s how it should be. Just you two wait until you have girlfriends. Surprised you don’t, actually. Good looking pair of lads, like you.”

“We’ve been out with girls sometimes. But….” They caught up with him and matched his fast-paced step. “Granddad, what do we DO about girls…”

“Er…” The Doctor looked at them uncertainly. “I think it's your DAD’s job to have THAT conversation with you, and he ought to have done it a couple of years before now.”

“Not THAT,” they both said at once. “We mean… if we get serious with a girl… What do we tell them about who we are? About WHAT we are… the two hearts and being able to live thousands of years and have thirteen lives.”

“Oh.” The Doctor thought about that for a moment and frowned. “That’s a good question. I think... Well, you’re only seventeen yet. There’s no need to rush into anything. I think if you’re just dating girls, there’s no need to worry about telling them anything. But… when you’re older, when it's serious and you want to marry… then we’d better have another think about this.”

They HAD put their finger on something. Rassilon had promised him that their species would be renewed through the generations of his children, Chris and Davie, Sukie, Vicki and Peter, and any others that might come along - any other children he and Rose might have in the future, maybe even Christopher and Jackie. They would all be Time Lords in their time, all but Sukie, but even she had Time Lord DNA in her and would be mother to Time Lords. When they all grew up and married. But who would they marry? Their partners would be taking on a huge burden of keeping their identity as an alien race on this planet a secret. It was a problem Rassilon hadn’t offered him any advice about when he told him he was destined to be the patriarch of the new race of Time Lords.

He hoped he had an answer to the problem by the time they WERE old enough for serious dating.


It was another beautiful day and the park was just as lovely as it was the day before. But Rose couldn’t help feeling that it was less pleasant picnicking there this time, knowing its eerie night time secret.

“It's nothing to worry about,” The Doctor assured her. “You liked it here yesterday. Nothing has changed.”

“Except that you have your Scooby mystery to solve,” she said, watching as he read the results of his analysis on the hand-held databank. “You’re never REALLY happy without one, are you?”

“No, I suppose not,” he admitted. “I’m an incurable nosy parker. But really, this IS fantastic. There is a time rift on that bridge.”

“A rift – like in Cardiff?”

“Sort of. The one in Cardiff was in space AND time. This one seems just to be a temporal anomaly. It's remarkable. I think it must have first opened up around when they first built the bridge. But then it would have been a hairline fracture in time. But over the years it's widened until it stretches right across the bridge.”

“And the trains – they’re just – well what?”

“Echoes of the past,” Christopher said. “They can’t hurt anyone because they’re not really there, of course. But for a short time each night, for that short space where the rift is, it's 1961 or 1954 or 1867 or whenever.”

“Why only at night then?” Jackie asked. “Why not all the time?”

“That I can’t explain, The Doctor said. “But it must have been happening that way for a long time. It's only now that the rift spans the entire river that it's really spectacularly noticeable, and then only to anyone who happened to be in the park at a very unreasonable hour of night.”

“Is it dangerous?” Rose asked.

“To the general public, not really. But look what happened to the rift in Cardiff. Our old friend Margaret wanted to use it for her ends. All it takes is somebody with her mentality. And the fact that it's steadily growing is worrying. It's grown to about two hundred metres in one hundred and fifty years. It would be at least twice that by our time in the 23rd century. Give it a thousand years it would be miles long. Ten thousand years and it would circle the Earth. I don’t know. It COULD become very dangerous.”

“So I suppose you’re going to do something about it?”

“Well, I’m the only person who CAN do something,” he said.

“You really DO like trouble, don’t you,” Jackie told him. “Doctor, really, can’t we just forget about it? It’s not as if anyone would ever thank you for dealing with it. We’re the only people who even KNOW about the problem.”

“If my actions depended on being thanked for my efforts I’d have done a lot less in my life,” The Doctor answered her. “I don’t look for thanks. But if something is wrong I try to make it right. That’s me. You understand, don’t you, Rose?”

“Yes, I understand. But I wish I didn’t have to. I wish… I wish you really COULD retire. But things like this will ALWAYS have you rushing into it again.”

“I have to…”

“You DON’T have to,” Jackie said. And to his surprise Christopher agreed with him.

“Father, you DON’T have to be the universe’s saviour every time.”

“Yes, I do,” he said. “Who else will? The boys are not old enough to take the job on yet. And you aren’t interested in doing ‘Renegade’s work’” He spoke those last words bitterly. “But you have to realise…”

He stopped and looked around at his family. The two little girls were making daisy chains together and crowning each other with garlands of them so that they looked like two flower fairies. His great-grandsons were listening to every word he was saying, as ever, anxious to please him. His son was looking at him with something like sadness because there seemed a gulf between them as wide as the temporal anomaly in its own way. Jackie and Rose just looked exasperated by him.

“Doctor…” Rose whispered and pressed his son into his arms. “Be what you have to be. I won’t hold you back. But just remember what’s really important.”

“I don’t ever forget that,” he said in a choked voice. “My son, my baby. He’s the most precious thing in my life. Peter and his sister and you. I never forget that.”

“Then that’s all right. Go do what you feel you have to do. We’ll wait here in the park and enjoy the sunshine while you close the rift in time and make the world right again.”

“Can’t do it on my own,” he said. “I need precise navigation to get the TARDIS into position.” He saw the boys become attentive but he shook his head. “No,” he said. “Not this time.”

“Davie is the best navigator in the universe,” Chris protested on his brother’s behalf.

“I have to go into the rift,” The Doctor told them. “That’s too dangerous before you’ve even transcended. Christopher, I need another Time Lord with me.”

He heard Jackie gasp and saw Christopher tighten his hold on her hand. He had promised her yesterday that he was not an adventurer and offered her a different kind of life, one where she didn’t need to fear for him every day. And now his own father was pulling him into his dangerous lifestyle. He was forcing him to make a difficult choice, he knew. And maybe at the expense of his relationship with Jackie.

“There’s something about you being Time Lords that makes it safe for you to be involved in this?” Jackie asked. “That’s why you need Christopher?”

“Yes,” The Doctor explained. “We stand outside of time. We’re masters of it. That’s what Time Lord means. It's not just a word.”

“Then you’d better do it,” she said. She turned to Christopher and put her hands on his shoulders. He pulled her closer and they kissed lovingly. The Doctor turned back to Rose and reached with one hand as he pressed their son to his chest and held him tightly. He kissed her for a long, sweet time. THIS was what it was all about. The love of his wife, the feel of his son’s tiny hearts beating next to his. They were the reason he lived now. But the adrenaline still pumped in his veins when there was something to be done. And he would be untrue to himself if he tried to ignore it.

“Come back to us safely,” Jackie said to them both. “We need you.”

“I need you,” Christopher told her.

“I need you all,” The Doctor said as he gave Peter back to Rose. “Chris, Davie, I need you in a practical way. I want you to monitor us. Your TARDIS can track mine and know exactly where and when we are. If we seem to be in trouble you throw us a lifebelt.”

The boys looked a bit more cheerful having been told there WAS something they could do and headed for their TARDIS while The Doctor and Christopher headed for the police box. Rose and Jackie looked at each other gloomily.

“Here, let me hold my grandson,” Jackie said, taking Peter. “The one thing he DID get right. They’re both beautiful children. He’s a good dad to them. Can’t fault him on that. But….” She hugged the child to her and fought back tears. “How do you manage when he goes off doing dangerous things like that?”

“I have faith in him. He’ll be okay. They both will. I wish he DIDN’T do these things. But I fell in love with an adventurer. How can I expect him to just give it all up, really?”

“But does he have to drag Christopher into it?” Jackie continued. “He just wants to do what he does best. He’s a great politician. He likes to look after people’s small needs in the community. He’s a kind, sweet, considerate man. He’s not into this running around solving trouble.”

“He’s his son,” Rose said. “They can’t be THAT different.”

“I keep forgetting THAT,” Jackie said with a half-smile. “But they ARE different in that way. They’re both terrific. Don’t get me wrong. The Doctor… He’s a wonderful man. I love him for all he’s been for us all over the years. But he drives me nuts, too.”

“Yeah, that about sums him up.”


“Father,” Christopher said as he watched The Doctor working out co-ordinates on the computer. “You didn’t really need me, did you?”

The Doctor didn’t reply. Christopher repeated the question.

“Yes, of course I need you,” he replied finally. But Christopher wasn’t convinced.

“If this comes between me and Jackie… she’s not happy about me coming. If this destroys what we had…”

“Then you couldn’t have had much to begin with,” The Doctor told him. “But I wouldn’t worry. Jackie loves you too much to let one little thing come between you. Don’t forget I’ve known her a lot longer than you have.”

“I know THAT,” Christopher replied shortly. He was silent then for a while and continued to watch his father working at the TARDIS console with the sort of energy and verve he only ever seemed to have when there was danger and excitement going on.

“Where DID this come from?” Christopher asked. “I remember you… when I was growing up, when I was a young man… I looked up to you. You were a politician, a dedicated leader of our people, who respected our laws and our traditions. You were Chancellor, my grandfather was Lord High President. We were the most respectable and powerful family on our world. And I wanted to be like you. When did you change into… into… a RENEGADE?”

The Doctor caught his breath and fought back the bitterness he felt hearing his own son use that word, and in such a tone of voice - as if he regarded Renegades as the lowest of the low.

“I was proud of you. I would have been the happiest man in the universe to see you become Lord High President as everyone confidently supposed you would be. But how could I care about those things afterwards? When you were KILLED because of political ambition? Christopher… I was never an enemy of Gallifrey. I never betrayed her laws, her traditions. I simply couldn’t be a part of it anymore after you were taken from me. I found a different life. But it was still an honourable one. And I will not accept that narrow judgement – Renegade, criminal, fugitive, from anyone. Least of all, you.” He spoke those last words with such fury that Christopher backed off from him. He had rarely seen his father angry, even more rarely with HIM. He knew he had crossed a line he should not have crossed.

“We should talk about this,” The Doctor said more softly. “But not now. We really DO have to save this planet from a temporal cataclysm and I DO need you. It wasn’t just a ploy to mess up your love life.” He paused and made an adjustment to the navigation console. “And by the way,” he added looking up again. “If you think I would do that to either you or Jackie deliberately we REALLY do need to talk. Now grab that switch and turn it very carefully, no more than two degrees clockwise every ten seconds.”

Christopher took the control and did as he said while The Doctor initiated a materialisation he had rarely tried before. A mid-air one. He was aiming to place the TARDIS over the hairline fracture in time that had existed before the bridge was built.

“You’re going to put the TARDIS over the fracture and hope it closes it?”

“Not HOPE. And it won’t be just a matter of putting the TARDIS over it. We need some serious psychic effort. THAT’S why I need you. I don’t want to use the boys. And I definitely wouldn’t use Sukie. Even though her psychic powers are phenomenal.”

“Just tell me what to do.”

“Just keep your hand on that switch for now,” he said. “And stand by.”

He initiated the materialisation. Christopher gasped as he looked at the viewscreen. The TARDIS was suspended in mid-air between two halves of a partially built bridge. The graceful arches stretched across the flood plain to the south, and as the TARDIS revolved they saw the other half of the bridge coming from the north to end abruptly about a metre away from them.

“We’re across the time anomaly,” The Doctor said. “Can you feel it?”

“No,” Christopher answered. “Wait… Yes. The feeling in my stomach like I’m being pulled two ways at once.”

“That’s because the TARDIS operates in its own temporal field. The two are conflicting with each other. You can let go of the switch now. Come here.” The Doctor flicked one more switch, opening the TARDIS doors and then stood away from the console. Christopher came to him and they held each other by the shoulders, arms locked for strength. “We’re standing either side of the anomaly. Concentrate on it. Find it with your mind and will it to close.”

He did so. They both did. Their combined psychic energies sought out the anomaly and focussed on it. In their minds, it felt like an earthquake fault, two edges slipping against each other and the forces of gravity pushing them slowly apart. They mentally pushed from either side, forcing them to come together and to knit together into a seamless whole.

That was the principle. The practice was a lot harder. Like the friction of two sides of an earthquake fault creating heat, there was a sort of psychic temperature that was increasing rapidly. Both Time Lords felt it in their bodies as ACTUAL heat. They felt their body temperatures rise as they kept the pressure on. Their blood was already well above the usual sixty degrees Fahrenheit and fast approaching the human ninety-eight point six degrees. And even that was only bearable for them because of their part human DNA. In the back of his mind, The Doctor couldn’t help appreciating the irony that pure blood Time Lords would have been in trouble now.

But even they couldn’t let themselves get MUCH hotter before their blood could not cope any more. They risked a painful death as their blood boiled in their veins.

“Don’t give up,” Christopher told his father mentally.

“I don’t intend to,” The Doctor replied. “But if we don’t… Son… I’m sorry for being angry with you before. I want you to know that if we… If I don’t make it.”

“If we die, we die together.”

“But you’ll regenerate,” The Doctor told his son. “Look after Rose and my children for me.”

“We’re not going to die,” Christopher insisted. “Rose and Jackie would kill us…”

He screamed suddenly. The Doctor screamed too. Out loud, not in their heads. They both felt the mental shock as they forced the anomaly to close. They felt the psychic ‘heat’ seal the crack.

They had done it.

They both felt their legs collapse beneath them and for a long time they lay on the TARDIS floor, regulating their breathing, regulating their body temperature as they brought it back down to normal.

“We’re not going to die – Rose and Jackie would kill us!” The Doctor said with a laugh. “Was that a joke?”

“I know, I’m not very good at it. They don’t teach stand-up comedy at the Prydonian Academy.”

“That they don’t. We’ll have to work on your material!”

“The anomaly - We’ve done it?”

“Yes.” The Doctor came back to the console. “Come on. Let’s get home to our family.”

He reached for the switch to close the door. But as he touched it, he felt a jolt as if an electric charge had passed through his body and he was thrown back from the console again. Christopher was beside him in a moment, steadying him as he tried to stand up. But he was thrown onto the floor as well as the TARDIS span suddenly. They screamed together as they saw through the still open door a steam train hurtling towards them.


There was no impact. They saw, as they had the night before, the carriages passing through the TARDIS, passengers, luggage, mail carriages flashing past. They both stood, shakily and clung to the roof supports as the effect seemed to speed up. Train after train passed through them, too fast now to see details, it was a blur of light and then darkness, followed by light.

The Doctor struggled to the console. The air around him seemed to push him back. He felt as if it was solid and corporeal. He stared at the navigation console. The screen was a mass of scrolling data – time co-ordinates. They were travelling rapidly forward in time. The wheel that indicated temporal speed was spinning out of control. But the console was still live. As he put his hand near it the static electricity arced and crackled. He couldn’t touch anything on it.

“How far have we come so far?” Christopher asked, shouting above the noise that had become as much of an audible blur as the flickering images around them.

“About fifty years,” The Doctor said. “I can’t stop it. I can’t get near the controls.”

“If we can’t stop….”

“We’ll just keep on going forever, until the year five billion and something when the world is engulfed in the expanding sun and we die with it.”

“You don’t believe in sugar coating the bad news, do you?”

“No,” The Doctor replied tersely. He fought his way back to where Christopher still clutched the roof support and hugged him tight. He felt helpless. He didn’t know what was happening exactly. He was GUESSING that when they closed the crack in time it recoiled against them and sent the TARDIS spinning forward, but without entering the time vortex first. They were travelling in actual time, but speeded up.

That meant that they would be dead long before the supernova. Because travelling outside of the vortex meant that time was actually passing. They had both aged 50 – 60 – 70 years in the few minutes that had already passed. In an hour they would both be thousands of years old. Another half hour or so and HE would be dead. Christopher could last maybe two or three hours more. He still had eleven of his lives left. But by the time the TARDIS burned up in the supernova their bodies would be dust anyway.

Small mercies!

He clutched his eldest son tightly and thought of his little daughter and his baby son and wished them a good life. His only regret was the sorrow their deaths would cause his family.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have asked you to come.”

“You needed me.”

“I’m sorry, still.”

“Father… I think it’s slowing down…” Christopher looked around. He was able to see details of the echo of a train that passed through them, the people, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd class on the windows, the royal mail van. When the next train went by he was able to catch the headlines on the newspaper one of the passengers was reading.

“Everest conquered?”

“1952,” The Doctor automatically replied, his card index memory of Earth history coming to the fore. “We’ve been moving forward for nearly 100 years.”

“Why is it slowing?”

“I don’t know. I still can’t get near the console.”

“England won the world cup…” Christopher read another news headline.

“1966. That was 14 years in five minutes. We ARE slowing down.”

“Man walks on moon…”

“1969. I went to the Isle of Wight music festival that summer. Dylan was fantastic.”

“More to the point, that was only three years in the same time it took to do more than a decade.”

“There are no trains now,” The Doctor said after they read that last headline. “The line was closed. Look. The lines are grassing over.”

Watching grass and weeds grow over the lines as the 1970s passed was less interesting than reading news headlines on the trains. But it was less mentally disturbing. Then in what they judged to be the mid-1980s there were changes. They saw the work being done in their now much slower but still rapidly passing years. The lines were pulled up. The track was tarmaced over. And then walkers and cyclists began to be seen passing along the way.

“We’re not visible to them, are we?” Christopher asked. “We’re still going too fast for that. And that’s why we don’t hit anything – or it hits us. We’re not actually in the same place long enough to impact.”

“I’m not sure. I’ve never known the TARDIS to do this. I didn’t think it could. It SHOULDN’T do this.”

“We….” Christopher looked around uncertainly. “Father… I think we’ve stopped.”

“We have,” The Doctor said. He reached out to the console tentatively. This time there was no static jolt. He read the final reading on the navigation console. “That’s fantastic. We’re back where we should be. About two hours after we left.”

“Hey!” They both felt the twins reaching to them telepathically. “Are you two all right?”

“We’re fine,” The Doctor and his son both replied together. “We’re just fine.”

“It worked.” They heard Chris and Davie congratulate each other on a neat bit of work. “We did it. We rescued you two. We threw you a lifebelt.”

“Hang on,” The Doctor said reaching for the dematerialisation switch. “Tell me in a minute. We’re coming to park up where we should be, before we disturb the ramblers associations with a police public call box on top of the bridge.”


Actually, it was a couple of hours later before the boys got to tell their side of the story. Jackie and Rose both insisted that they had seen enough of that park to last them a lifetime now and demanded they went somewhere else. The Doctor took them to Rome and he and Rose and the children went to see The Colosseum, where The Doctor described in detail having taken part in a chariot race there in the time of Emperor Augustine. Jackie and Christopher, meanwhile, went looking at jewellery shops. They met up in the Piazza Navone in time to have supper on the balcony of their favourite restaurant.

“So it was simple enough, really,” Davie explained. Once we realised the TARDIS was skidding through time out of control, while in the same SPATIAL coordinate the whole time, we just got a lock on it from our TARDIS, slaved its engines to ours and applied the brake. The closer you got to us the more power we could give to slowing you down. You took about an hour to move from 1856 to 2006. 150 years exactly.”

“We aged 150 years in an hour,” Christopher said looking at his father. “Good job we’re Time Lords. Anyone else would be dead.”

“Yes, we got off lightly.” They looked at each other. 150 years was nothing to an adult Time Lord. They both had slightly more fine lines around their eyes and both had some grey in the hair around the temples. But that was about all. Even their women did not see a problem.

“You look very dignified,” Jackie told Christopher. She was so glad he was back with her in one piece that minor details didn’t bother her at all.

“Do I look dignified?” The Doctor asked Rose. She smiled and brushed her hand against his hair.

“At least it just went a bit grey. It didn’t fall out. It’s not fair though. That’s 150 birthdays you missed out on.”

“I get to live them over again with you and my babies,” he told her. “But never mind us. Jackie and Christopher have some business to sort out. IF she doesn’t mind marrying an older man.”

Christopher laughed and turned first to Rose, pulling a sheaf of paper from his pocket. “This is the Bond of Betrothal for you to sign.”

Rose took it. She remembered how much of a shock it had been to her mother when The Doctor presented her with just such a contract for THEIR engagement. Rose looked through it quickly, and then she signed the last page and accepted the cheque that was a part of the deal. Then she and The Doctor watched as Christopher took Jackie’s hand and formally proposed to her. She looked so happy, Rose thought. The years seemed to fall off her and she looked nearly as young as when she married Pete in that registry office in the autumn of 1985. When Christopher slipped the ring on her finger she looked as if she would burst with joy.

“He won’t die on me,” she said to Rose. “If he was hurt like your dad was, he has eleven more lives to live. He’ll always be there for me. He’ll never let me down. And besides, I LOVE him.”

“That’s all that matters,” The Doctor said, kissing her tenderly on the cheek. “Supposed to hate my mother in law,” he added, remembering what he had said the night before. “But I’m allowed to adore my daughter in law.”