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

Why DO these sofas have the seal of the United States President on them?” Jackie asked as she tried to sit back and relax. “I ask that question every time I’m in the TARDIS and nobody tells me.”

“The Doctor and I went to the White House once. We accidentally materialised over the sofas in the Oval Office and they very nicely let us keep them,” Rose explained.

“Considering we’d saved Washington from a nasty case of giant man-eating seagulls it was the least they could do,” The Doctor added with a grin and a wave from where he was working by the environmental console.

“They gave you The Presidential Medal of Freedom, too,” Rose reminded him. “Though I’m not sure what you did with it afterwards.”

“It’s around somewhere,” he said. “Medals are not really my thing.” He looked embarrassed about the idea. Though everyone else, his wife, son, his mother-in-law, shortly to become his daughter-in-law, all looked proud of him.

“Another story I haven’t heard in full,” Christopher said. “The twins have told me SOME of his adventures. But there’s a lot I don’t know about my own father. So many missing years. He put so much into those years. I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“You’re just fine as you are,” Jackie assured him with a kiss on the cheek. “At least I know where you are.”

“After next week, you’ll be right there with me,” he promised. He clutched her hand in his and pushed her hair back from her face as he kissed her properly. Rose smiled to see them affectionate with each other. Of all the men her mum had dated, Christopher, HER husband’s first born son, was the only one she had even LIKED, let alone wanted to see her mum get married to. She didn’t care that her family tree was starting to look seriously bent out of shape. She knew he would make her mum happy. And that was all that mattered.

“Father,” Christopher said, turning to him and calling him to join them on the sofa. “There is something I wanted to talk to you about. I want… I want to offer Jackie the chance of eternity through the Rite of Transference.”

Rose saw The Doctor’s face become very rigid. She could see the muscles in his cheeks tighten as he stared at his son.

“What….” Jackie began. “What’s the Rite of… of what was it?”

“Christopher… you… didn’t even discuss it with her?” The Doctor’s voice when he spoke had a sharp edge to it.

“I wanted to ask you, first. Because I’ll need your help. The Rite is dangerous.”

“It is that,” The Doctor answered him tersely. The two women, looking at them both, had a feeling more was said telepathically.

“Would somebody like to explain what you’re talking about to me?” Jackie asked.

“I think,” Rose began. “They are talking about some way in which Christopher gives up one of his Time Lord lives so that you can have a longer life the way The Doctor and me have.”

“Oh.” Jackie looked startled. “Christopher… you’d do that for me?”

“Yes, Jackie, I would,” he said. “Because I love you and I want more than a few brief years with you and then an eternity of missing you. Ask my father what it's like to love a Human for their ordinary lifespan. And his father knew it too. It's a heartbreak. And…after all…you are…” he smiled sheepishly. “Well, my mother was only a young girl when father married her. So was my grandmother. You… are a mature woman…”

“Tact runs in your family, doesn’t it, Doctor.” Jackie said with a little of her old sarcasm. “So, basically, Christopher, you’re saying you want to marry me, but you don’t want me turning into an old bag too soon.”

“Mum!” Rose laughed. “It's not exactly like that. It's…. well it's just about the greatest gift a Time Lord could give. He’s offering you a part of his own life, literally. A piece of himself. You could live a thousand years.”

“Wow.” Jackie looked shocked. “A thousand years?”

“It's what WE have. The Doctor gave up all his remaining lives to share one life with me to the full.”

“So it can be done?”

“The way it happened for us was different,” The Doctor said. “I was granted a reward from Rassilon – he owed me a big one, after all.”

“Who exactly IS Rassilon?” Jackie asked. “I’ve heard his name thrown around by you two, but…”

“He is our….” Christopher searched for a word that would do, but there was only one, and it was inadequate. “He is our God, I suppose. Our Creator. The only immortal Time Lord. But we don’t call him, he calls us. Father… was deeply honoured by his attention. I couldn’t expect him to grant me so much.”

“So how….” The fact that The Doctor was on personal terms with the God of Time Lords was just too big an idea for Jackie. She set it aside and returned to the first point. “How can it be done for us?”

“The Rite of Transference,” The Doctor told her. “But you have to understand, Jackie, that it is VERY dangerous. If the two of you go ahead, you must be prepared…. To accept that what you are going into…. Could just as easily be a suicide pact. If it goes wrong… you die. Painfully. And you might as well know, that I have NEVER performed the rite. Only two people have been stupid enough to try – the MASTER, and that lunatic Andrews who kidnapped you to get hold of me. And in both cases, they just wanted to take all my lives and kill me and get the lifeforce for themselves. Nobody in my knowledge has ever succeeded in sharing their lives. I only know of it in legend.”

“I know that,” Christopher said. “But even so…”

“I don’t want to lose you again. I nearly lost everything that matters to me trying to find you. I can’t….”

“You can’t expect mum to risk her life, either.” Rose said. “Doctor… please don’t let them.”

“How dangerous is it?” Jackie asked. “Surely the thing MUST work sometimes?”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor admitted. “Jackie… are you seriously….”

“Well, seriously, I’m NOT getting any younger, and if we do this…. I’m in my forties. That’s not over the hill completely, but I’ve not many more chances to have kids. Not if I marry a Time Lord and it takes sixteen months…. If we did this…. I would have more chances, wouldn’t I?”

“Yes,” The Doctor admitted. “That means so much to you?”

“It never did before. But… Vicki and Peter…they made me realise… being a mum was the best thing that ever happened to me. And I’d like to have another chance.”

“But if it's so dangerous….” Rose began. She looked at The Doctor. He was looking at his son. “Oh… you’re thinking of it, aren’t you. I should have known. It's a CHALLENGE to you.”

“I’m thinking, that if they are both set on trying, then I have to give them the best chance. I’m the most experienced Time Lord here. I mentored Christopher when he transcended. And several others before him. The principle is very similar. But it's longer and far more dangerous. And painful. Jackie, we’re talking about three or four hours of agony while your DNA is rewritten.”

“Typical man,” Jackie replied. “I was twelve hours giving birth to Rose. And you’ve put her through that twice now. Don’t talk to me about agony. Men have no idea of the word.”

The Doctor conceded the point.

“Christopher might have been thinking about this for some time, but it’s new to you, Jackie. You can’t make that sort of decision just like that. Talk to him about it. Let him go through exactly what it involves, and make your mind up carefully. And… whatever you decide, I’m here for you both.” He hugged them both gently then went back to the console to initiate their landing at their destination.


And what a destination. Jackie did her best not to stare, but for as long as she had known The Doctor she hadn’t actually visited very many planets other than Earth and it still took her by surprise to find herself in places where Human beings were not the indigenous species.

This place, the indigenous species took her completely by surprise. She didn’t even recognise them as people at first as she walked with Christopher into a great ballroom. Either side of the door were what she took to be some sort of decoration. They looked like dark coloured rushes in an ornamental glass vase with coloured smoke swirling inside and strings of lights. She almost fainted when faces made of the lights turned in their direction and one of them spoke, formally announcing them.

“Representing the United people of planet Earth, The Honourable Christopher De Lœngbærrow,” the creature said, pronouncing his surname perfectly. “Accompanied by Lady Jaqueline of London.”

She was so thrilled to actually be announced to a whole crowd of people as Lady Jaqueline that she almost forgot what kind of creature had made the announcement, or that many of the people in the ballroom were not people by her own definition of the word.

“Representing the Time Lords of Gallifrey, Lord De Lœngbærrow, The Doctor, President elect of the high council of Time Lords, Keeper of the Legacy of Rassilon, Defender of the Laws of Time, Protector of Gallifrey and The Lady Rose de Lœngbærrow.”

“You represent the Time Lords of Gallifrey?” Rose asked as she walked down the sweeping staircase to the ballroom floor on his arm. “Even though…”

“I represent the values my people always held sacred,” he said. “Truth, integrity, peace. Tomorrow, when the ambassadors of all these planets sit and forge new alliances and Treaties those values will be represented. And Christopher will speak on behalf of Earth and bring compassion and understanding.”

One of the same creatures, the great vases of rushes and mood-lighting, moved in front of them on some kind of anti-grav cushion that lifted it about a foot from the ground. The rushes bowed slightly towards The Doctor and Christopher and then to the two women in turn.

“Ambassador Roushkouft,” The Doctor greeted him with a bow of his head. Christopher did likewise. Jackie and Rose looked at each other and wondered what they should do.

“You don’t have to do anything,” The Doctor whispered to them both. “Christopher and I are the diplomats here. The formal greetings are between us. You just have to smile and enjoy yourselves.”

“Doctor,” Roushkouft answered him, the lights that made up the mouth of the ‘face’ blinking as he spoke and the eye lights moving expressively. “You are known the universe over for your great deeds. I am honoured to welcome you and your party to S-Delte-Rious.”

“Delighted to be here,” The Doctor replied. “And how is your lovely wife these days? How many children do you have now?”

“We have 57 saplings now,” he answered. “And yourself?”

“Including my eldest son who you see here with me, I have three children,” The Doctor said, almost sounding apologetic for being so behind in his procreative activity. Roushkouft’s reeds nodded understandingly and his eyelights span.

“You are young,” he said. “There is time yet.”

“57 children?” Jackie expressed the thought both she and Rose had when the Ambassador passed along to greet other guests. “You have got to be kidding.”

“Well, we could, theoretically,” Rose said, doing the maths. If we had a baby once every three years for the next 150 years….”

“I’d still be four short of old Roushkouft. But they do give birth to anything up to a dozen ‘saplings’ at once.”

“I’m trying NOT to wonder how something that looks like a potted Christmas tree has sex, let alone gives birth,” Jackie pointed out. “And some of the other aliens here….” She looked around the room. Humanoid was the dominant shape, but the skin colours, the number of limbs, eyes, ears, seemed to be infinite. And there were many more who were far from even approaching humanoid. Including the host people, the S-Delte-Riousalons. If you looked at them long enough, she realised, there was a sort of colour coding that denoted rank, a bit like the uniforms in Star Trek, she added to herself, fixing on the best cultural reference she had. Roushkouft and other senior people had smoke of deep red. The guards on the door had a shade of blue. The servants were a pale green. She thought it might also be possible to get to know them individually. There was a very slight difference in faces, length and thickness of their rushes and so on. It was just possible that she could learn to tell one from the other if she spent a long time here. But the thought of doing that was too disturbing.

“There’s a group over there representing the Earth colonies,” Christopher said to her. “I’ll introduce you to them. While the culture shock wears off.”

“The Face of Boe is here,” Rose said as she and The Doctor mingled with the other guests. “Remember him. On Platform One, when Cassandra tried to do us all in.”

“Yes,” The Doctor smiled. “Our first date.”

“My first aliens. Apart from you. Alien looking aliens.” She laughed. “Yes, I know, aliens are people, too. I know that. I’m used to it now. Was so weird that first time though.”

“Well, we gatecrashed THAT party. This time we’re the honourable representatives for Gallifrey.”

It was strange for him, too. Though he wasn’t about to admit it. Years ago it had been natural to him. He had taken on the same kind of work his father did, attending these intergalactic conferences on behalf of his government. But then there had been the bitter time. The exile, when he spent centuries as a Renegade, wanted by that government, despised by those he once called friends. Another sea change in opinion and he was forgiven, the criminal charges expunged and his government accepted him as a loyal subject, albeit something of a bohemian who it was better to keep out in the field where his rebellious ideas would not cause too many seismic shocks to their age old system.

Then the call had come. He had answered it along with all the other Time Lords. He had done his bit in the Time War. He had served his people, tried to preserve their way of life. They had called on him to do one last service for them.

And he had been left, the last Time Lord, damaged physically and emotionally, no longer a prince of the universe, but still hanging onto a little of the pride his people once had. Doing his best to preserve the best of what it meant to be Gallifreyan.

And now he wasn’t the last. Now he was the leader of his people. Gallifrey was not dead. It existed, in exile, on Earth. And this conference, his attendance at it as the representative of the Time Lords of Gallifrey, was his way of showing that his people were not gone, not beaten, and were ready to be a force for good in the universe again.

“Hey.” Rose touched him gently on the shoulder and roused him from his reverie. “I asked you is it true that The Face of Boe is the oldest and wisest creature in the universe?”

“Yes,” he said. “His presence here means this conference has a good chance of success.”

“Always thought that was you,” she said. “The oldest and wisest.”

“Compared to Boe I’m still in nursery school,” The Doctor said. He glanced at the great creature. There were as many legends about Boe as there were about the Time Lord called ‘The Doctor’. Some of them made him nervous. The one about the Face of Boe knowing the great secret that unlocked the universe itself was scary. Especially the second bit of the legend. Where he was supposed to pass the secret on to one like him – a homeless wanderer who was the last of his kind.

“That’s NOT me,” The Doctor said to himself. “I have a home. I pay council tax.” He glanced at The Face. “He looks busy. Let’s leave him be for now. There are a couple of other people I have to get a word with socially before we all sit down at the negotiating table tomorrow.” And he steered Rose away towards a couple of species who there weren’t any catastrophic legends about.


“That was absolutely the strangest party I have ever been to,” Jackie declared when they relaxed before bedtime in the drawing room of the suite of rooms given over to their “delegation” in the S-Delte-Riousian Presidential palace. She sipped the glass of sherry The Doctor passed to her and curled her feet up on the sofa. She had taken off the ballgown and court shoes that she had made her into ‘Lady Jaqueline’ for the night and put on her nightie and dressing gown and let her hair loose. She was plain Jackie Tyler again and though she had enjoyed the illusion of grandeur she felt more comfortable now than she had all night.

“If it’s any consolation, it was all quite new to me, too,” Christopher admitted. “I haven’t met very many other species. I spent most of my life on Gallifrey, and at the time we were in rather an isolationist phase and didn’t encourage offworlders to visit.”

“I should have taken you to more of the conferences I attended, instead of leaving you with my father’s family,” The Doctor said. “When I was young I often spent my vacations from school offworld at Treaty negotiations like these. Father liked having me around and I enjoyed watching him work. I’ll never be as good a diplomat as he was.”

“I’m not sure I’ll ever be as good as you,” Christopher said. But The Doctor knew that wasn’t true. Christopher LIKED doing this sort of thing. He was a born politician. He did it because he had to. Rose had often wondered, sometimes aloud, which was the real him, the aristocrat, the one who could walk with kings, consort with presidents, or the one in the battered leather jacket who could hold his own in the Lamb and Flag pool team and walked around the flatlands of North London as if he was an ordinary man.

The aristocrat was what he had been born and raised to be, but like Jackie, he was happy to throw off the trappings and relax when it was over. He liked being the man in the battered leather jacket who moved through the universe unnoticed until it was time to make people notice him.

“Goodnight you two,” he said, kissing Jackie and hugging his son and taking Rose to the master bedroom. Jackie relaxed even more when she was finally alone with her man. He came to her on the sofa and they cuddled lovingly for a long while.

“Christopher,” she said to him. “The Rite of thingy….”

“Transference,” he said.

“Why do you want to go through with it? Is it for yourself or for me? I mean… what you were saying about your dad and his dad before him being unhappy when their Human wives both died… Well, neither of them had to be. They could have got married again, couldn’t they?”

“Yes, but even so, when you love somebody as much as father loved my mother… as much as I love you, Jackie… If he had known this was possible then, when my mother was alive, my father would have taken the chance. I am sure he would.”

“So it's so that you won’t be miserable without me…”

“Yes. But for you, too. I know you were tempted by the idea. To stay young for centuries yet…”

“I’m not young,” she reminded him. “I’m in my 40s.”

“You’re young and beautiful,” he assured her.

“I think you ARE as good a diplomat as your dad,” she teased him. “It’s not that, so much as being able to have more children. You’re the first bloke I’ve been with who actually wanted that. Twenty-odd years of my life when everyone else I knew was having loads of kids. And Rose was my only chance at it. I mean, she’s fantastic. But… Yes, it's tempting. It really would be a whole new life. But how risky is it? I don’t want to die. I don’t want you to die…”

“I’m willing to take the risk. If you will.”

“I’ll think about it,” she promised. Then she reached and kissed him again. “It’s good to do that. I suppose… you won’t come to bed with me?”

“You know I can’t,” he told her. “Not until our Alliance of Unity.”

“You and your dad, the last two honest men in the universe,” she sighed as she stood up and kissed him again before going to her room and leaving him to spend the night on the sofa.


The next morning the Conference began in earnest. Rose and Jackie joined the wives and partners and significant others of the delegates to watch from the balcony that overlooked the conference chamber. The delegates sat at tables in three half circles facing one table at which the president and chairman of the conference sat. They were both startled to discover that the chairmanship was taken by The Face of Boe. Rose vaguely wondered if they had some other word than chairman for a creature that had no use for chairs. They were even more startled, at first, to find that The Doctor was nominated as President of the Conference almost unanimously.

That was the last unanimous decision they managed to make, and anyone watching soon found out how good a diplomat he was. The first item on the agenda was the admittance of four new planets to some sort of economic federation. One of these was a former Earth colony with its own autonomous government now. The other two were also Humanoid species, though not of Earth origin. The fourth was a species that descended from reptiles rather than mammals and this planet’s admittance to the federation was being blocked by several of the Humanoid representatives. The reptilians were contending that it was nothing more than Humanoid prejudice against their species.

“It’s like when Turkey wanted to join the EU,” Rose said. “Oh, but their methods of execution of criminals is horrible. I agree, that has to stop.”

But it was not as easy as that, of course. Economic ties did not give one group of planets or species the right to dictate the politics or the justice systems of another. And it was certainly true that the Humanoids were in the majority. And maybe it WAS just a case of like species ganging up on the unlike. In which case that wasn’t fair, she thought.

And neither did The Doctor. Her heart was filled with pride as he took control of the argument and cooled heads on both sides before making several points, calmly and clearly and above all, fairly. By the time they broke for lunch there was still a long way to go before Glopsic Nine was going to get its nomination to the federation, but it was looking much more of a possibility than before.

“I can’t listen to much more of it, though,” Jackie said when they ate lunch with their men and three other delegates and their wife, mistress and chief woman of the harem, respectively. “It’s worse than Westminster Live!”

“Jackie, you’re marrying the Secretary of State for Foreign and Extra-Terrestrial Affairs next week,” The Doctor pointed out. “Westminster Live should be your favourite programme.”

“He doesn’t expect me to take part in cabinet meetings,” Jackie responded.

“There is a guided tour of the city and countryside of S-Delte-Rious this afternoon,” the chief woman of the harem of the Ambassador for Q’latmira in the Alpha Centauri sector told them. “Many of the delegate wives are going on it.”

“Sounds a BIT more fun,” Jackie said. Rose would have happily watched her man wrap up all the political problems of this sector of the universe, but she agreed to go with her mum.

And it WAS a great afternoon out. S-Delte-Rious was a beautiful planet and they saw a great deal of the region immediately beyond the capital city by a sort of luxury hover coach with drinks and snacks served by the pale yellow servant class S-Delte-Riousians. They managed this – being a species with no obvious limbs – by means of anti-grav serving trays that moved along in front of them at the height a waiter would normally carry a tray.

Jackie had to concede that being the significant other of an inter-galactic delegate wasn’t a bad life. It was certainly the best offer she’d had in a while.

They even found out how S-Delte-Riousians reproduced. Rose remembered when she was very little and had been puzzled about why a place where you buy plants and the place where she went to school were both called a nursery. On S-Delte-Rious there was no confusion. The people began life as a sort of pot plant. The youngest, in the incubator room, were like twigs planted in a compost of some kind. Except twigs didn’t usually emit a sort of low snore as they slept. Once they matured into saplings, they went to the nursery proper, where they sat in neat rows and learnt their equivalent of their ABC’s and listened to stories and sang songs taught to them by their nursery nurses and teachers. At night, the lights were put out and they slept in the same rooms, where they lived until they were old enough for their first training anti-grav container and could go to ‘big’ school.

“So… the mothers sort of develop these little twigs that eventually break off and become baby ones…” Jackie was grasping the concept slowly. She remembered her comment about childbirth and decided it wasn’t the WORST way to go about it. But it was a funny kind of life, all the same.

They left the sapling nursery and were on their way to see the great volcano, the source of the thermal energy that powered the S-Delte-Riousian city. Nobody thought anything when a large truck overtook the coach but when it forced them to land and stop and a group of armed humanoids poured out of the back of the truck there were screams of terror, fainting and something like panic.

“Sit down and shut up!” They were all told by the man in combat lightweights and a half-face mask disguising his features. He fired his gun into the ceiling of the coach to indicate his authority. It wasn’t a gun that fired bullets. It seemed to be a sort of ray gun.

“A sonic disrupter,” Rose said. “Nasty. They kill by stopping all the internal organs. Heart, lungs, kidneys etc. They’re banned by three treaties.”

“Tell them that,” Jackie murmured. “What’s happening, do you think?”

“We’re being kidnapped,” Rose said. “There’s a lot of wives of important people here. We’ll be held to ransom, I expect.”

“For money?” Jackie asked.

“It usually comes down to that!” Rose sighed. “Greed…. The Doctor HATES that.”

The kidnappers came down the aisle between the seats. They confiscated mobile phones and communicators and made everyone pull down the blinds and then put their hands on their heads and lean forwards. They felt the coach move again, this time driven by one of the kidnappers. The S-Delte-Riousian hostesses and the driver were locked in the galley at the back.

“Everyone shut up now,” they were told. “We’re having a change from the official tour. Courtesy of the Delibrian Liberation Front.”

“The what?” Jackie whispered but Rose had never heard of them. She revised her idea about it being about money, though. This sounded more like a ‘cause’. And that was worse. It meant fanatics who were prepared to die rather than surrender and who would think nothing of killing hostages. Kidnappers who wanted money tended to keep their victims alive until the ransom was paid.

She felt a little disturbed that she knew so much about such murky worlds, and told herself she got it from TV, but that wasn’t true. Since The Doctor took her to The End of The World – their first date – she had been held hostage more times than she cared to count.

And The Doctor always got there to rescue her. She knew he would move mountains to get to her now. If he knew what was happening.

She tried to concentrate her mind. She no longer had the psychic connection to him that she had during her pregnancies. The ability to reach his mind had faded once Peter was born.

Peter! She hadn’t missed him until that moment. She knew he was safe with Susan and she had been enjoying the break from motherhood on this trip. But now as she thought of being held hostage, she felt a dull ache inside of longing to be with her baby.

“Concentrate,” she told herself. “Try to reach him.” She tried. But it was no use. She couldn’t get through to him. There was no connection. He would not know she was in trouble until the kidnappers made their demands.

The Doctor was listening to a long discussion about whether the federation should give military aid to the government of Delibria to assist in the suppression of an anarchist movement responsible for several terrorist attacks. He was a man who knew very well that one man’s terrorist was another’s freedom fighter. He’d supported quite a few revolutionary movements in his time. This lot sounded like they just wanted to wreck a perfectly adequate political system in order to force their own point of view on the people of the planet. He was well aware that he was only hearing one side of the story and had determined to look into the Delibrian Liberation Front before he recommended a policy to be voted upon.

Suddenly he felt his concentration falter. He felt as if something or somebody was trying to reach him mentally.

One of the boys, maybe? He thought. They were on a trip of their own. Or one of his Children of Israel? But the conference room had lead lined walls, to prevent telepathic leaking of sensitive information. They would not be able to get through.

It seemed urgent, though. He couldn’t understand the message, but he felt that it was important. He felt that somebody needed his help. And needed it now.

He raised his hand and stopped the Delibrian ambassador from continuing his submission. He apologised for the interruption and said he must excuse himself from the room for a little while. There were murmurs about the unscheduled adjournment of proceedings, but it could not be helped.

Outside the conference chamber was a reception area and a wide glass doorway leading to a balcony overlooking the city. He went out there. Resting his arms on the railing he let his mind reach out, trying to find the message that had been meant for him.

“Father?” He heard Christopher’s voice distantly as he concentrated his mind on the telepathic plane. “Are you all right?” He felt his son’s hand on his arm, but he didn’t react to his touch.

“It’s Rose,” he said, his eyes opening suddenly. “She’s in trouble.”


“They’re together….” He turned and ran. Christopher followed him. He reached the reception desk. The S-Delte-Riousian at the desk looked at him with a questioning gleam in its eyes.

“The coach with the delegate’s wives aboard… you must be able to reach it by radio or something…”

The receptionist’s lights twinkled in sequence as it interfaced with the computer terminal in front of it. The Doctor turned the monitor towards him and saw the videophone connect to the coach. It was in partial darkness. It seemed to be inside somewhere that was dimly lit and the curtains were all pulled. And he could see and hear that something was wrong. Men with guns were clearly in control. Several of the women were crying. But so far they looked unharmed. As he watched one of the gunmen turned and saw the open videophone connection and reached for one of the women with one hand and for the microphone with the other.

“We have your women,” the man said. “We will kill one hostage every thirty minutes until our demands are met.”

“What ARE your demands?” The Doctor asked calmly. He recognised them as Delibrians. There was a certain tinge to their skin, slightly yellow, and a pointedness to the head that was distinctive in their species. He didn’t need to be told this was a faction of the so-called Liberation Front and he could guess what their demands would be.

“We demand that the Delibrian government stands down and a provisional government takes its place pending free elections. We demand that our political prisoners are released and that the police and army surrender their arms.”

“You don’t want much, do you,” The Doctor replied. “And if they will not concede to your demands?”

“Do not play us for fools,” the man said. “We mean what we say. These women… the privileged wives and mistresses and whores of the over-fed and over-privileged. They shall die unless we are taken seriously. And to prove we are serious….”

“No!” the woman screamed as the man put a gun to her head. “No, please. My husband is ambassador to a very tiny planet, unimportant. That woman there…. her husband is president of the conference. She is much more important than me.”

The Doctor’s hearts froze as the woman pointed to Rose. She looked up as the man turned to her.

“Is that true?” she was asked. And The Doctor was proud of her reply.

“Yes,” she said. “He is. And if you kill me he will hunt you to the far side of the universe and tear you to pieces with his bare hands.”

“You will live, for now,” the man said to her. “If you are so important, you will do as a bargaining chip for later. But this one… wife of the ambassador of a tiny, unimportant planet….”

He squeezed the trigger. The victim didn’t have time to scream. All the other women did. The body fell to the floor. The Doctor nodded grimly. He knew what kind of people he was dealing with.

Fanatics. Zealots. They were the worst. Worse even than murder machines like the Daleks or Cybermen or Autons. They at least killed because they had no other function. These sort of people killed because they had decided that somebody else’s life was less important than theirs.

And Rose and Jackie were at their mercy.

Christopher looked pale. The Doctor reached out and held him briefly. He understood his fear. He felt it, too.

“Go and tell the delegates what has happened. That woman… She was the wife of the Castritan ambassador. Break the news to him gently. And… tell the bloody Delibrian delegation I want to speak to them.”

“What are you going to do?” Christopher asked.

“I’m going to find out where they are,” he said. He stepped around the reception desk and stood beside the S-Delte-Riousian receptionist. He gave it instructions of how to triangulate the position of the videophone signal. He would have done it himself, but S-Delte-Riousian computers did not have keyboards. The receptionist was connected to it by a wireless relay directly from its brain.

“This is not possible,” the receptionist said. “A videophone link cannot be traced after the connection is cut.”

“Yes, it can,” The Doctor assured it. “If you do just what I tell you.” He looked up as he continued to give the receptionist instructions that would crack the safety protocols that made the impossible possible. He saw Christopher come out of the conference room with the Castritan Ambassador. The man was crying pitifully. He could feel his son’s own distress. Christopher knew only too well what it was like to lose his wife to an act of mindless violence. He had come to terms with it, the more so since he had come to love Jackie. But now, with her in danger, the old pain was raw and burning in his head.

“Here is your co-ordinate,” the receptionist said, its voice registering astonishment. “It should not be possible. But…” The memory chip was ejected from the computer. The Doctor slipped it into his inside pocket where it was safe. He thanked the receptionist and went to his son and the distressed man.

“I am very sorry for your loss,” he said. “Rest assured that justice will be done.”

“We shall demand nothing less,” the Castritan ambassador said. He turned as Ambassador Roushkouft slid quietly through the doors followed by the representative of Delibria. Christopher put a restraining arm on the grieving man as The Doctor outlined the demands of the Delibrian Liberation Front.

“And I suppose the next thing you’re going to say is ‘We don’t negotiate with terrorists,’” he added. “Neither do I, in fact. And there isn’t TIME to negotiate anyway. They intend to kill another hostage in….” he looked at his watch. “22 minutes. I’m going to get there first. Ambassador… your receptionist has the location of the hostages. Arrange whatever forces you have to mount a rescue mission. But I am going now…”

“But you can’t…” The Delibrian Ambassador said. “You are president of the delegates…”

“Yes,” he said. “Which is the reason I know my wife WON’T be the one to die next. Because they said they would hold onto her as a bargaining chip. But it could quite easily by yours.” That went home with the man. “I was only voted as President of the conference because I represent a dead planet. I have no vested interests in any of the issues at stake. The ultimate neutral. But now I’m not a neutral. Now I have a vested interest. And I’m not going to stand by and let anyone else get hurt.”

He turned and walked away, reaching for his TARDIS key as he did so. It solidified in its usual dramatic way right in front of the elaborate S-Delte-Riousian national crest and the sign welcoming delegates.

“Wait,” Christopher said and ran to join him as he put the chip into the TARDIS’s navigation console and prepared to initiate the drive. “I’m coming with you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Jackie’s there, too. I won’t let her die without doing whatever I can. I know I don’t have your talents, Father, but I’m still a Time Lord. There must be a way I can be useful.”

“I’m going in unarmed against a bunch of fanatics with sonic disrupters. We’ve got ten minutes to work out how EITHER of our talents could be any use in this situation.” He set the TARDIS in motion and then looked back at him. “You still think you’re a disappointment to me because you’re not a hero type like everyone thinks I am.”

“Yes,” he said.

“You could never disappoint me. But this isn’t your…”

“Jackie is in danger. Don’t tell me this isn’t my fight. I’ve got every reason to be here.”

“These Tyler women!” The Doctor said with a forced smile. “They get us hooked, don’t they?”

“She’s been my reason for living since…. Since I began to live again. She got me through it. Except for you she was the only one who really understood what it was like to lose the nearest and dearest person in your life…”

“I know,” The Doctor told him. “Even when she hated me, she still understood me better than anyone else. Jackie is a wonderful woman. And we’re going to get her back. Both of them. All of them. I’m not going to let anyone else die for this stupid so-called cause.”


Rose and Jackie held each other as terrorists moved up and down the coach watching them all carefully. The man who had spoken to Rose looked at them both.

“Is her husband important, too?” he demanded.

“My…. Christopher represents the United People of Earth,” Jackie said proudly.

“Earth isn’t important,” the man growled. “You’ll do next.”

“No!” Rose screamed and clung to her mother. “No, don’t you touch her.”

“Twelve minutes,” he said. “Then we find out if they’re ready to take us seriously.”

“Oh my God!” Jackie cried. “They’re going to kill me.”

“Look,” Rose said, speaking up. “You…. you can’t do this. Get on the videophone again. Speak to… to the man you spoke to before…. He’ll do what he can to help you. He’s helped lots of people.”

“He’s the one, isn’t he?” Rose had tried not to give him away, but these were NOT just stupid gunmen. The leader was a very intelligent man. And he saw straight through her. “He’s the president of the conference. The one who can make things happen.” He grabbed Rose and dragged her from her seat. “Call him,” he said.

Rose instinctively punched in the code that called the videophone on the TARDIS. She didn’t know why, but she felt that was where he would be now.

“Doctor,” she said when he answered the call. “I’m sorry, I am a stupid Daphne, getting myself kidnapped.”

“It’s not your fault,” he answered. “You didn’t try to seize power you aren’t supposed to have.” He glowered at the one holding her. “If you don’t take your hands off my wife…”

“You have nine minutes to accede to our demands, or the next hostage dies. THIS one… I think she’s known to you.” Jackie was pulled roughly forward. They all heard the anguished gasp from Christopher, standing beside The Doctor.

“YOU have nine minutes to surrender or you will be VERY sorry,” The Doctor responded. And Rose felt a surge of hope. He looked like that when he told the Daleks that word they so rarely heard – NO. These men had seriously underestimated him.


“Seriously,” Christopher said. “What ARE you going to do unarmed? Does the TARDIS have any weapons on board AT ALL?”

“Since when did a TARDIS carry weapons? Except when our grandchildren have their bright ideas about thermic torpedoes! And sometimes, when there have been people on board for whom weapons are natural – like Jack – it created a whole armoury for him once. But I got rid of it. And it would never do that for me. It knows I’m not comfortable with guns. There’s a couple of swords in the Dojo. But if you can remember how to time fold and if you still have any of the martial arts I taught you when you were a boy, we won’t need them.”

“I CAN time fold,” Christopher said. A half smile came to his face momentarily. The Doctor caught the look.

“You use it to stretch out quick kisses into long snogs,” he said. “Yeah, I do that, too.” He adjusted something on the TARDIS control and looked at his son. “We’re materialising,” he said. “Be ready.”

They materialised in the back of the coach. Two of the gunmen and three women found themselves materialised inside the TARDIS. The women squealed in astonishment as they saw two blurred figures move across the floor and then the two gunmen were lying on the floor making bubbling noises as they drifted into unconsciousness.

The Doctor released himself from the time fold. Christopher did too. He bent to pick up one of the guns.

“No,” The Doctor told him. “THAT weapon is so illegal I don’t even know why somebody is even making them. We’re certainly not using them.” He used his sonic screwdriver to make the mechanism in the two weapons self-destruct then he turned to the viewscreen. Two more gunmen were running up the aisle towards the TARDIS door. He told the two women to get down behind the console and looked at his son. “Put your sonic screwdriver on this setting,” he said. Christopher looked embarrassed.

“It’s in my other suit,” he admitted. And he thought his father DID look irritated at him then.

“ALWAYS carry a sonic screwdriver,” he said. “You never know when you might need to put up a set of shelves.” He sighed. “OK, YOU do the martial arts. I’ll deal with the guns.” And he opened the TARDIS doors.

Again there was a blur before the two men and their weapons were disabled. That dealt with the men on the coach. He looked down the long aisle and saw the women all looking back at him with hope in their eyes.

“Rose?” he called out as he strode down the aisle. “Jackie?” But there was no answer from them. When he reached the front of the coach he turned and looked at the other hostages.

“They took them,” one woman told him. “They said they were going to do the next execution live on television.”

“Ok,” The Doctor said. He glanced at his watch. If they were on schedule there were two minutes. “All of you…. through that door back there. Go on. You’ll be safe there.” He turned to his son. But he needed no words. He was ready for the last part of the battle.

They time folded as often as they dared as they ran through the only door leading off from what he guessed was some kind of hangar or depot for hover-vehicles. That led to a flight of stairs going down and another gunman to dispatch at the door leading to a brightly lit room. In a matter of seconds they took in one man operating a TV camera while the leader of the gunmen made a prepared statement in front of it repeating his demands. They saw Rose held by a third man and Jackie in the hands of another who was pointing a disrupter gun at her head.

“You get your woman,” The Doctor told his son telepathically. “Mine can look after herself. And I’ll deal with these two.”

“Rose! Remember Milan,” he yelled as they both time-folded once more. They moved quickly. Everything around them appeared to be slow-motion in comparison. As he dealt with the cameraman and the leader of the Delibrian Liberation Front he saw Rose deal with her captor with the first judo throw he ever taught her, the one called Tani Otoshi. Christopher, meanwhile, streaked across the room towards Jackie.

But the gunman’s finger was squeezing the trigger.

“Mandy!” Christopher screamed as he reached Jackie in the same moment the disrupter ray enveloped them both. The Doctor screamed nearly as loudly as Rose did as he saw them collapse together. In a rage fuelled by grief he crossed the floor even without a time fold before the man was able to fire a second time. The gun flew from his hands as the Gung Fu kick rendered him unconscious with less pain than The Doctor thought he deserved.

“Mandy?” Despite her grief Rose couldn’t help wondering why he had said that.

“It’s what he used to call his first wife,” The Doctor said as he turned back to his son. His relief when he saw him start to raise himself up from the ground was cancelled out when he saw Jackie lying ominously still beneath him.

“Oh &#@£$%,” he swore.

“Mum!” Rose screamed. “Mum! Oh my God! She’s… she’s dead!”

“Not quite,” Christopher said as he held her in his arms. “My body absorbed some of the force. My hearts could withstand the blast. But… she’s not far off…. I don’t think…”

“Save her!” Rose screamed at The Doctor. “Save her. You have to. You can’t let her die.”

“I can’t do anything,” he said. He looked at Christopher. “He can.” Christopher looked at him and nodded. “Bring her to the TARDIS…. The Cloister Room. We can do what has to be done there.”

Christopher lifted Jackie into his arms. He pressed her close to him as he carried her. Rose walked beside him. She was biting back her tears, aware that they were going to try to do something, but not knowing what, or if it could work.

In the console room there were cries of dismay from the other women as they saw Christopher carrying Jackie’s lifeless body. But they did not stop. They moved as quickly as they could. They didn’t dare time fold now. They were none of them sure if she could take the strain.

The Cloister Room was lit only by the light from the big artificial window that cast the pattern of Rassilon’s seal on the floor. But it was more than enough for what they needed to do.

“Should have at least a Gallifreyan day of purification rites to prepare for this,” The Doctor said. “Christopher, you have to go into this cold. Are you…”

“What choice is there? I won’t let her die.”

“What are you going to do?” Rose asked. The looks on both their faces scared her more than anything.

“The Rite of Transference,” Christopher told her. “It was going to be my wedding gift to her. Now… it will save her life so that we can HAVE a wedding.”

“Or you could both die…” Rose whispered. Her mouth was too dry for anything else.

“If I don’t she WILL die. I have no choice. I would rather die trying than watch her slip away knowing I COULD save her but didn’t try.”

“Christopher,” The Doctor whispered to him. “Never doubt your own courage.”

The Doctor stretched Jackie’s body out straight, her arms by her side, and then put his hands on her head. There wasn’t a lot of brain activity anyway. She was in a coma. But he slowed her heart and lungs, putting her into the suspended state best for what was to come. She might still feel some of the pain, but with luck it would be muted.

“It’s as if he was donating a kidney to her,” Rose reasoned aloud as Christopher lay down at her side.

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “That’s it exactly.” He took her hand and gently slid off the ring of eternity that he had given to her some time back when it still seemed a long time before they could be married and he wanted to renew his promise to her. The Ring of Eternity was more than just gold encrusted with diamonds. It was a valuable possession of any Time Lord. It could be used in these kind of rituals to enhance the power being created. He slipped the ring onto Jackie’s right hand and Christopher put his left hand, with his own Ring of Eternity on the middle finger, over hers. The two rings touched and The Doctor thought there was already a spark of power arcing between them.

Christopher closed his eyes and The Doctor took his other hand and knelt beside him. He felt him dropping down into a deep level of meditative trance. There the shock to his system as he made the transference would be less intense. The Doctor began to recite the form of words that initiated the Rite.

“Chrístõdavõreendiamòndhærtmallõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhnemiraglo de Lœngbærrow, Time Lord of Gallifrey, give freely and without reservation to Jacqueline Andrea Suzette Tyler nee Prentice, the gift of eternity. Chrístõdavõreendiamòndhærtmallõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhnemiraglo de Lœngbærrow, Time Lord of Gallifrey, let your lifeforce be divided, let your gift be given. One life of many, given up willingly ..... Chrístõdavõreendiamondheartmallõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhnemiraglo de Lœngbærrow, let your gift be accepted….”

Rose hadn’t been told what to do. She knelt the other side and took her mother’s hand. She felt so still. She wasn’t sure it wasn’t already too late.

“It’s not,” The Doctor assured her. “Look….” She looked and saw a pale blue glow around their hands. It came from the ring Christopher wore and it was connecting in some way with the ring on Jackie’s hand. And the glow was expanding until it encompassed them. Rose let go and stepped back. The Doctor laid his son’s hand down gently and stepped away too. He took hold of Rose and hugged her. “If she was already dead, then the process could not have gone so far. It IS working. It is still dangerous yet, though. And it will take hours. Meanwhile, come on. We have to sort out a bunch of would-be terrorists and some very frightened women.”

“No,” Rose said. “No, I can’t. My mum…. I have to…” She looked at them again. “She’s alive… he’s…. he’s giving her his life…”

“Just as I gave you mine,” The Doctor told her. “Come on,” he said. “Really, there is nothing we can do for hours yet.”

The women were still waiting patiently in the console room. The Doctor was rather pleased to see that they had not been idle though. The four gunmen from the coach were all sitting now, bound with belts and scarves and whatever they had to hand, but thoroughly bound, and gagged, too. Nobody wanted to listen to anything they had to say. The others were locked in the room below. He went to the communications console and was happy to report that the S-Delte-Riousian police were only minutes away. They were happy to be told that they had nothing to do but take nine disarmed gunmen into custody and arrange transport for some traumatised women.

And one body. The Doctor found a blanket in the TARDIS and brought it to wrap the body of the first victim and make it decent while they waited for the reinforcements. Rose watched him. He was so gentle as if he didn’t want to cause her dead body any more trauma. He knelt beside her quietly. If he was Human, she supposed he would have prayed at that time. His own people respected the dead by a night-long vigil. The few minutes he knelt by her side were a compromise between the two.

“When she told them to kill me instead,” Rose said as he stood and put his arm around her shoulder. “I thought she was so mean, so cowardly. But… she’s dead and…”

“Fear makes people do irrational things,” The Doctor said. “I’m sure she didn’t really want you to die instead. I….” He paused. “When I saw that… when he killed her… I felt something like relief because it wasn’t you….and that was wrong, too. Her life was just as valuable. Her husband is just as grief-stricken as I would be. And… And I am glad it won’t be my responsibility to decide what happens to those men. I detest the idea of death penalties. But they shot an unarmed woman to demonstrate to me that they meant business. They didn’t even know who she was. They didn’t CARE who she was. They deserve whatever is coming to them.”

He wasn’t even sure whose jurisdiction they belonged to. Would they be tried on this planet, by the S-Delte-Riousians? Or by the Delibrians? Or would the Castritan Ambassador press a claim for trial on his planet for the murder of his wife?

He wondered if he SHOULD have let Christopher pick up that disruptor and made the question academic.

No, he thought. What happens to them after this is for somebody else to decide. They may be Lords of Time, they may have power over life and death, but they didn’t have the RIGHT to determine whether anyone lived or died..

The S-Delte-Riousians arrived and quickly did what was left to do. The dead woman and the rescued hostages were taken away with an S-Delte-Riousian police escort. The Doctor and Rose returned to the TARDIS. He put it into temporal orbit. Later, they would have to return to S-Delte-Rious. The conference still had several important issues to resolve. This incident could not be allowed to interfere with that.

But first…

They went back to the Cloister Room. Nothing seemed to have changed. The process took a long time. And The Doctor knew that several things could still go wrong. The process could stall and the lifeforce dissipate leaving them both fatally damaged. ALL of Christopher’s lives could be stripped from him, leaving him like a flattened battery. And he wasn’t even sure in that case if Jackie’s body could contain the full and undivided lifeforce of a Time Lord. More than likely it would burn her out and leave her brain dead.

They wouldn’t know until it was over. One way or another.

The Doctor sat partway up the steps where he could see them both. Rose sat next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder. They comforted each other as they waited. He knew just how anxious she was for her mum. As much as he was for his son. For both of them, of course. But most especially for his own child.

“I remember the day he was born,” The Doctor said quietly. “Happiest moment of my life. Being a dad for the first time. He was so small, fragile. But he grew strong. He had all of my brains.” He let his thoughts ramble aimlessly through those early memories of his son’s life. “He was quieter than me, as a boy. Less of an adventurous spirit. Didn’t get in trouble as often as I did. Or maybe I was less strict with him than my father was with me. No, I don’t think so. He WAS a very good boy. He loved reading and learning. There was a huge library in our house and he had read every book in it by the time he was fifteen. Even the ones on Gallifreyan law. Knew he was going to be a great man. And he was…” Rose felt him shake as he remembered the murderous actions that had taken his son from him for so long. But he smiled again. “And he’s still a great man. Cabinet minister in the Parliament of Great Britain. It’s not quite Lord High President of Gallifrey, but he’s done well in so few years.”

“It's more than mum ever hoped to find in a man. She looked like a real lady at the Ambassador’s Ball. I think she thought it was a dream she would wake up from and find herself back in the flat all on her own.”

“I’ll be glad for her to wake at all,” The Doctor murmured. “And my son. This is so dangerous. Especially when he hadn’t prepared himself.”

“I think the glow is fading,” Rose said. And she was right. It was fading, dissipating. She stood and went to her mum’s side. As the glow disappeared she reached to touch her.

The Doctor hesitated just long enough to snap his fingers. At once the room was bathed in warm light. Rose looked at her mother’s face.

“She looks younger,” she said. “Really, she does.” And she was right. Some of the lines and creases of age seemed to have smoothed and her skin looked softer and less careworn. Her expression was softer, too.

“Is it…” Rose remembered suddenly people saying that in death faces often looked younger and softer, when they were free of the pain of their life. Her heart felt like lead for a long, agonizing moment.

Then Jackie breathed. Her chest rose and fell and the sound of her first deep breath in hours seemed to be amplified in the quiet Cloister Room.

“Rose…” she murmured as she opened her eyes. “Oh Rose!” She cried. “I had such a nightmare. So much pain… I felt….” She looked around and saw Christopher still lying beside her and The Doctor reaching out to him. “Oh, my God. What has happened to us? Where are we?”

“We’re in a special room in the TARDIS,” Rose said. “Where there’s a sort of special energy and it’s okay to do these Time Lord rituals and things.”

“What ritual?” she asked. “Christopher… why is he….?”

“He was in a deep trance,” The Doctor explained. “Takes a few minutes. Like a diver doing compression stops.”

“What happened?” She said again. “I remember being in that room… the man with the gun at my head… and… then…”

“Christopher saved you,” Rose told her. “He saved you. Because he loves you as much as The Doctor loves me.”

“We did it,” Christopher whispered as he slowly regained consciousness. He opened his eyes and smiled at his father as he bent over him anxiously. And then he turned and reached out for Jackie.

“It worked?” Rose asked as they hugged each other on the floor. “She’s….”

“It worked,” Christopher said, proudly. “It worked perfectly.”

“Oh my God!” Jackie cried out when she realised what everyone else was talking about. “Oh my God! You actually did it. The… Rite of thingy… you gave me one of your lives….”

“It was the only way to save you. I had to do it.”

“I don’t feel any different,” she said. “Should I?”

“No,” Rose told her. “Don’t worry. Really. Just… welcome to the rest of your life. It’s worth it. It really is.”