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

Rose looked around the registry office and smiled an ironic smile. They had been here before, she and The Doctor. They had sat here and watched while her mum and dad got married. Her dad had got her mum’s name mixed up. Christopher got it right first time. The registrar got HIS name wrong the first time – tripping over the pronunciation of de Lœngbærrow - and had to be prompted by Jackie.

After the wedding ceremony there was a party in the function room in the upstairs room of the Lamb and Flag. All of Jackie’s friends from the estate were there to wish her well with her new husband and her new life in Australia.

“Australia,” Jackie laughed. “I have NEVER had the slightest desire to go to Australia. They have poisonous snakes and massive spiders that get into the house. Uggh.”

“Well, it's easier than explaining to your friends and relations that you’re marrying an alien and going to live in the 23rd century,” Christopher said to her. “The car’s here, to take us to the airport!”

Before they left she threw her bouquet. She didn’t even see who caught it. It didn’t really matter. She was never going to see any of those people again. The people she had known all her life.

This wasn’t really a wedding reception. It was a farewell party. Farewell to her old life.

Her REAL wedding was tomorrow, in the 23rd century. But she had asked for this. An ordinary wedding in the way she understood it, first. Then the Gallifreyan Alliance of Unity. She wanted to do it both ways, to feel married in the way she understood it as well as the way Christopher did.

The car took them to the airport, but they didn’t get on a plane. The Doctor’s TARDIS was parked outside Terminal Three. It was all part of this farewell to normality, to ordinary life. Once she stepped into the TARDIS she would never be returning to the 21st century except on visits. And she really didn’t expect there to be many of those. Pete’s mum had been virtually the only reason she hadn’t moved in with Rose and The Doctor before Vicki was born. But after she passed away last year there WAS no reason any more. Her friends would miss her. She’d miss them. But she wanted to be with Christopher, and with Rose and The Doctor and the children. With her FAMILY.

Stepping out of the TARDIS in the basement room of Mount Lœng House really DID feel like coming home. She was happy to be there.

“Early night,” The Doctor told her when she stifled a yawn as they climbed the basement stairs. “Big, BIG day tomorrow for you.”

“Yes,” Jackie looked at Christopher. Bedtime tonight was something they had talked about. Technically, they WERE married now. But they had decided to wait. Christopher was a traditionalist as far as his culture was concerned. He needed his own ceremony before he would feel he had the right to share a bed with her. Besides, it WAS a long day tomorrow. They all needed their rest.

“Doc!” As they stepped into the hall Jack Harkness greeted him with a look on his face that made him think that he wasn’t going to get much sleep tonight after all.

“Rose, Jackie, you go on up to bed. I’ll be with you after I’ve had a chat with Jack.”

“Don’t give him too much hassle over the Thermic Torpedoes,” Rose answered, then she took her mum by the arm and headed upstairs.

“We’re going to have that chat about thermic torpedoes some time,” The Doctor said turning to Jack. “But you’re not here about that, are you?”

“We’ve had some intel,” he said. “Your children are in danger.”

The Doctor said nothing, but his face paled in shock. Christopher put his hand on his arm. He WAS one of The Doctor’s children, but he had the feeling he wasn’t the one in danger.

“What intel?” Christopher asked on behalf of his father.

“We don’t know a lot,” Jack admitted. “But we had information that a kidnap attempt…”

“Vicki, Peter… or…”

“Or the twins or Sukie. What we know is loose enough to cover them, too.”

“My children…. Why would anyone want to harm my children?”

There were lots of reasons. He knew that. There were the Pure Earth lunatics somewhere at the top of the list. There were people like those who had kidnapped Davie when he was Sukie’s age, to use him to resurrect the Master. There were any number of enemies he had made in his life who would hurt his children to hurt him. And then there were people who simply saw a rich man whose children were his vulnerability.

“What can we do?”

“Hellina is trying to find out more. Meanwhile… We’re at your service, Doctor. The 22nd Space Corps… security… close protection…”

“Rose and I got married under one of your security lockdowns. We don’t want to live under one. But…” He looked at his eldest son. And he thought about his little girl and his baby son upstairs asleep. His hearts ached to think that they were in danger.

“Can you get some people discreetly watching my granddaughter’s house?” he asked. “And then do what you have to do to secure this house and grounds. And as soon as you know anything more than a rumour, as soon as we know just what the threat is and from WHOM, I want to know.”

“I’m on it right now,” Jack promised. “Trust me.”

“I DO trust you,” The Doctor said. “Although we ARE going to have that discussion about thermic torpedoes.”

“Yeah, thought you might.” Jack turned away to get his ‘lockdown’ under way.

“Jack,” The Doctor called to him quietly. He turned back and was surprised to find himself being embraced fondly. “Just so you know, I AM glad you’re here.”

“Hey,” Jack said with a laugh. “People will talk.”


The Doctor stepped into the bedroom. Rose was asleep already. She looked so small on her own in the big bed. He wanted nothing more than to lie beside her and hold her in his arms all night long. But he knew his own comfort came second tonight.

He stepped through the connecting door to the nursery. Vicki was asleep in her bed, Peter was in his cot. He bent over it and touched him. He could feel his soft baby dreams. Nothing worried him. He had the love of his parents and wanted for nothing.

He sat in the big wickerwork chair that Rose used when she fed Peter. He looked out through the window. The moon was full and the garden looked peaceful under its silver light. But if he looked carefully enough he could see the dark figures of the 22nd space corps taking up their positions. And that was only because he had Gallifreyan eyesight. Any Human would see nothing but shadows.

He was grateful for their protection of him and his family. But the children were still his final responsibility. He was here for them.

“Daddy?” He heard Vicki stir in her sleep. She sat up and looked at him as he sat there. He reached out his arms and she came across the floor and sat on his knee. He put his arms around her and cuddled her close. His daughter. He had taken so long to realise that what he needed in his life was a home and family. Children who called him ‘daddy’ and sat in his arms with big, loving eyes watching him quietly.

“Why are you sad, daddy?” she asked him. But there was no answer he could give her.

“No reason,” he said. “Don’t you fret. Tomorrow you’re going to be a beautiful flower girl in a pretty dress at a lovely wedding. And we’re all going to be happy. Nothing will stop us being happy.”

He kissed her cheek and held her tight in his arms as he sat in the quiet room. She fell asleep again after a while and he put her back in her bed before he crept back to his own room. He got undressed and slipped between the cool sheets beside his wife. He didn’t sleep, but he at least let his body relax a little in the comfort of the bed. He let himself drop into the very lightest level of meditative trance, where his body could refresh itself, and he felt the weariness and the worry dropping away, but he could be alert in moments if anything out of the ordinary occurred.

In the morning, the house became busy. The wedding began at ten, a little later than when Rose and The Doctor got married. This time the ceremony was three hours shorter because there was no vow of loyalty from the bride’s mother. But that only made it nine hours, not twelve. Those attending were still in for a long day.

“What’s going on?” Rose asked The Doctor as he went to get dressed for the wedding. “WHY does Jack have the garden in lockdown?”

“Just a precaution,” he assured her. “We do have several cabinet ministers among the guests.”

“You said that when it was OUR wedding,” Rose said. “I only found out the truth six months later. So….”

He told her. She reached out and held him tightly. The same horror overwhelmed her as he had felt last night. She broke from his embrace and ran to the nursery where Peter was happily sitting in his playpen waiting to be dressed. Vicki was with Susan and Sukie getting ready to be a flower girl.

“It’s all right, Rose,” The Doctor assured her. “Jack and his people are on the case. HE won’t let anything happen to them. And nor will I.”

“Jack isn’t our personal bodyguard. The 22nd can’t stay here forever. I wouldn’t WANT them to. I don’t want to live under guard. But I don’t want to worry every day if my children are safe.” She laughed hollowly. “Remember when I used to worry about me and you being Lois and Clarke. Never thought about us being Posh and Becks. I can’t live that way. I want us to be normal, as far as possible. I want my children to go to school like any other children. I want them to have ordinary friends and I don’t want their friends to have to be security vetted. But… we had two assassination attempts on you at our wedding. We’ve had the Pure Earth nutters breaking in here… And now this. Can we ever live in peace?”

“What’s the alternative? Even if we went to SangC’lune there is nothing stopping the nutters following us there. They did once. But I like Earth. If I can’t live on Gallifrey I would rather live here. As I have always done. When Susan was a child, when I had no choice about it in the 1970s, every time since - Earth IS my home. I can’t go anywhere else. I want to live here, in this house, near Susan and David and their children, where the ‘Israelites’ know they can always come and find me. And no, I won’t have armed guards on the gate. I won’t hide behind walls with monitors covering the grounds. But I’ve got to protect my family.”

Was this why he had always rejected the very idea of ‘domestic’? Because of the complications, the dangers it brought to his life? No. He rejected that right away. He had been happier in this house than he could remember being for a long time. His children were a blessing on him. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. He had worried about them from the moment they were born. That was a part of being a parent. But right now, there was an immediate threat he had to take extra precautions about.

Right now there was a wedding he had to officiate at. He put everything else out of his mind until it was over.

Vicki and Sukie were charming flower girls. Vicki set off first down the central aisle of the crowded marquee, then Sukie, then Rose and Susan as matrons of honour. Then everyone watched as Jackie slowly walked, a little nervous, but smiling, looking beautiful in a dress covered in diamonds and a silver crown on her head. Chris Campbell was her escort, holding her arm proudly. His brother was acting as best man to his grandfather who waited, in his full and fantastic Gallifreyan robes and headdress. As the bride moved down the aisle the entrance to the marquee was closed and guarded by discreetly armed men of the 22nd Space Corps. Still more of them were on patrol outside. Nothing was going to disturb this ceremony for the next nine hours.

And nothing did. The long but beautiful ceremony continued uninterrupted. When, finally, Jackie and Christopher were presented to their friends as man and wife there was no other emotion but pure joy. They grasped each other’s hands tightly as they walked back down the aisle together.

Outside, it was a warm summer evening, just a little after seven o’clock. They stood and breathed in the fresh air together. Rose and The Doctor with Vicki and Peter joined them. So did Susan and David and their children and they walked together to the reception marquee. As the rest of the guests made their way in The Doctor slipped back outside and found Jack keeping a close watch.

“All quiet here,” he assured him. “But Hellina is on her way. She’s found something out. But she’s still a couple of hours away yet. So go on and enjoy the party and don’t worry.”

“I owe you one, Jack,” The Doctor said with feeling. “YOU take care of yourself, too. You’re not expendable. None of you are. I don’t like the idea of the 22nd being here to take a bullet for any of us. Your lives are valuable, too.”

“Yeah,” Jack nodded. “But… it’s little kids under threat. That’s not on. You know you can count on us.”

The Doctor nodded and he turned and went to the reception. Rose looked at him as he took his seat, but there was nothing he could say. They still didn’t know what the exact threat was, only that it was to the most precious and most vulnerable part of their lives.

He did his best to hide his worry and make the reception a happy one for Christopher and Jackie. He had looked forward to this day for a long time, and didn’t want it spoiling. When he first realised that the two of them were becoming more than friends he had found the idea alarming. But then he came to realise it as the best thing that could possibly happen to both of them. And he was pleased that it had all happened so relatively smoothly.

Just before midnight the happy couple departed in a limousine with a member of the 22nd Space Corps driving and one riding shotgun. Neither of the newlyweds were enthusiastic space travellers, so their honeymoon choice was simply a cottage hideaway in Scotland. But as the car left Jack signalled and a second car slipped in behind as a discreet escort. Five minutes later a less discreet six man people carrier followed that. Christopher, after all, WAS one of The Doctor’s children and they still didn’t know who exactly was under threat. Nobody was taking any chances.

“Doctor!” Jack called as he turned from seeing his son and daughter-in-law off. He turned and saw Hellina waiting with him. He took them both aside and listened to what she had to say. When she was done he went back to his family. He had hidden his concerns all through the day. But now, nobody looking at him could doubt there was a grave problem.

“Susan, David, you and the children are staying here tonight. Sukie can sleep with Vicki. The boys can go in Christopher’s room, you two in Jackie’s….”

David began to protest that their own home was only a mile and a half mile away, but something in The Doctor’s eyes stopped him.

“After we’ve got the children to bed, I want to know the whole story,” David told him. “None of your usual arrogance, Doctor. I acknowledge that you’re smarter than us all, but don’t hide the truth from us like we’re children ourselves.”

David was right, of course. And once Sukie was in bed with Vicki and Peter laid in his cot, with an armed guard outside watching the window, and another standing outside the nursery door on the landing, The Doctor gathered the adults of his family in the drawing room. The twins had insisted on being counted among them. Nobody denied them the right.

Hellina waited until everyone was quiet before she began to speak.

“It’s David and Susan’s little girl they want,” she said very simply. “Sukie…” The gasp of horror from David and Susan was no less audible than that from the others.

“They want my child….” Susan stammered.

“Who want her… and why?” David demanded.

“She is a super-telepath,” Hellina continued. “The threat is from a race called Corelites. They seek out telepaths to use as their navigation slaves in their ships. And they have found out that there is a special one here… on Earth. Sukie…”

“How?” The Doctor demanded. “Rassilons’s Envelope…”

“Doesn’t work when there are Corelites living undercover on Earth who can send emissaries to meet their comrades on any planet or space platform in the galaxy,” Jack pointed out. “Then all they have to do is slip into Earth a few at a time on scheduled transport ships. And that’s what they’ve done. We only found out because one of them got arrested on an unrelated charge and wanted to trade off information.”

“Navigation slave?” Susan was clinging to David and both were horrified. They turned to The Doctor. “What does that mean? They want her to navigate their ships? She’s eight years old…”

“No,” The Doctor said. “Not exactly. She would be PART of their ship.” He closed his eyes and rested his head on his hands as the full horror of it enveloped him. He thought back to that time on the Gamestation, to the pathetic remnant of a woman called the ‘Controller’. She had once been a child like Vicki and Sukie, an advanced telepath. Human, but a rare Human with those skills that were natural to his own people. At the age of five she had been ‘installed’ as part of the system that worked a space-bound television station. She was fed intravenously while her brain was used as a psychic battery to maintain the system.

Somewhere, once, she must have had parents.

That was exactly what the Corelites wanted Sukie for. She would be placed in a life-support cell just big enough to contain her body and wired up to their ship, used to plot their course through the universe. That was how Corelite ships worked. But after centuries of such space travel they had run out of natural telepaths on their own planet and had taken to kidnapping. They were universally condemned, of course. When caught they were punished. But it was a big universe and not all of it was adequately policed. It was like the 20th and 21st century bans on whaling on Earth, and the countries like Japan that flouted the ban knowing that it was impossible to police an ocean.

“They want a SUPER-telepath?” he said. “Not just any telepathic being?” That was a new development. And a worrying one even apart from the fact that the super-telepath in question was his own flesh and blood. “Why?”

“Does it make any difference?” Chris asked. “The point is…”

“The point is, there are lots of telepaths. Even on THIS planet alone. Everyone in this family except for Rose, Jackie and David. All of the ‘Israelites’. Maybe a few hundred ordinary Humans scattered around the world with natural abilities that could be used. Then there are other species out there who use telepathy as part of their normal lives. Brenda’s people, the Tiborans, the SangC’lune folk… their telepathy is mostly latent and it owes as much to the psychic energy of the planet itself, but it's still there. Countless other species I’ve met over the centuries. They could easily pick off one of those. WHY a super-telepath?”

“Because it would be like putting in Duracells instead of ordinary batteries?” Rose said. It was a horrible analogy, but it fitted.

“Maybe. But I wonder. There could be something more to it. Are your people still interrogating the one you got hold of?”

“No,” Hellina said. “He killed himself. After he had spilled the beans that far he panicked and broke a suicide pill concealed in his mouth. I think you’re right. There IS more to it. We’ve had dealings with them before. They’re a nasty bunch of space pirates and brigands. They used their telepathy driven ships to plunder the universe. Attacking other ships, undefended planets…. The envelope kept them away from Earth until now. But it seems they’ve got ambitious.”

“Stop talking like this,” Susan demanded. “You sound as if this is just an ordinary, everyday piece of work for you all. Even you, grandfather. This is MY CHILD we’re talking about. And… they can’t. You can’t let them…”

“I’m taking Susan to bed,” David decided. “She’s heard enough… The children… they’re safe for now?”

“Yes,” Jack assured him. “Our people have it covered.”

David looked at Jack. He’d met him on only a few occasions. Most notably when he was here for Rose and The Doctor’s wedding. Jack was just about the second most courageous man he knew – next to The Doctor himself. And his people were in the same mould. He trusted them. But still…

“I’d like you all to stay here for a couple of days,” The Doctor told him. “We can protect all of the family together. This house is easier to secure. We have outer perimeter walls. We have the TARDIS – it will signal if a space craft tries to land here. And I would feel better knowing you are all here with me.”

“I really don’t think….” David began. “I CAN look after my own children, Doctor…” But Susan squeezed his hand and looked at him pleadingly.

“He’s right,” she told her husband. “I trust you, David. You’ve always protected us. Took care of us. But… but grandfather…. When it comes to aliens…”

“Yes,” he sighed. “You’re right. Doctor… we’re in your hands.”

“You always were,” he whispered as they left the room. He looked at his wife, and at Jack and Hellina and the twins as they sat there, still.

“You’ve caught these people before?” Chris asked Jack. “You’ve found these ships with kidnapped telepaths wired up?”

“Two or three times,” Jack said.

“The telepaths… you can free them… they’re ok afterwards… they can go back to their families…”

Jack looked at Hellina, who tried to look impassive. He looked at The Doctor. He knew, too, what the answer to that question was.

“Tell me,” Chris insisted. “Sukie is OUR sister. We’re here to look after her, too. We should know.”

“No,” Hellina said. “They can be freed from the nightmare of being a living computer, forced to think of nothing but numbers day and night, for as long as they live. But the only freedom… is death. Once ‘installed’ they can’t survive when ‘uninstalled.’ The last time… it was a boy, about your age… I held him in my arms. He cried for the first time since he was three years old. Cried for his mother… I’m… I’m nobody’s mother. Never would be. I may be technically female, but I live in a man’s world. I don’t… I don’t do the parent thing… I didn’t know what to do.”

“You did what anyone would do,” Jack told her, putting a gentle arm on her shoulder. “Compassion isn’t just a woman’s prerogative. You held him. You made his last moments…”

Hellina had tears in her eyes. THAT was enough to startle everyone else in the room. She WAS everything anyone imagined a hard-headed soldier to be. She was a front line combatant from a future century when gender had long since ceased to be an issue. And yet she was barely holding in her emotion.

“Bed,” The Doctor decided. He looked at Jack and Hellina and wondered when either last rested. “Everyone, including you two. Take the main guest bedroom. The boys will show you.” Hellina hesitated. “Your people are doing what they have to do. Don’t worry.” And to Hellina’s surprise he hugged her. To Jack’s less obvious surprise but definite pleasure he hugged him too. Then he reached out to Rose.

Again, he went first to the nursery. Vicki and Sukie, tucked up together in bed, were asleep. Vicki’s arm was around Sukie’s shoulder as they cuddled up. They were almost like sisters anyway. Vicki was a strong telepath, too, and even when Sukie was at home with her mother or at school, he knew they kept up a connection between them.

Peter was a little fractious in his cot. Rose came and fed him and changed him and put him down again. They both waited until he was asleep before going to their own bed. But he left the door to the nursery open. And again he didn’t let himself do more than lightly meditate, ready to be wide awake if anything disturbed the sleep of any of his children.

The next day was beautiful. They almost could forget there was anything to worry about. David went to work as usual. Sukie was off school anyway, for the summer holidays. Susan was happy to spend the day in the garden watching her daughter play with Vicki, watching her sons tinkering with something that was going to go in their TARDIS, talking to Rose, parent to parent, as she took care of Peter.

The Doctor looked at them all. It was a perfect domestic scene. The little girls were playing in just about the biggest paddling pool it was possible to get without it being reclassed as a swimming pool. Jack was playing with them, spraying them with the hose that filled the pool while they squealed joyfully. The man and woman of the 22nd who had been detailed as close protection had their guns in their discreet hip holsters partially hidden by loose, casual t-shirts. They looked like two people with nothing much to worry about, laughing at the children’s antics even as their eyes swept the immediate area for anything out of the ordinary. The Doctor knew for certain that casual look would change in an instant if ANYTHING happened. He trusted the instincts of Jack and Hellina’s hand-picked elite force.

But WHAT could destroy the peace of a home more than a gun battle in the garden, the children diving for cover, screaming, as the 22nd went into action. How would they ever recover from a trauma like that?

Sukie had recovered from having her mind taken over by two separate alien entities at once when she was Vicki’s age, but that was mainly because she didn’t remember most of it. It was all a sort of fuzzy dream in her head. But the worse case scenario now could scar them mentally for a long time to come. And he didn’t want that.


Nothing happened that day. Jack and Hellina kept in touch with their forces on standby in geo-stationary orbit, but they had heard nothing new. By evening the threat felt less immediate to all but The Doctor. When David suggested that he and Susan and the children should go home tomorrow he stood his ground.

“No,” he said. “We can’t get complacent yet.”

“There is such a thing as OVER-protection,” he said. “Armed CPO’s watching my child playing in the garden. It's….”

“It's not ideal, I know,” The Doctor said. “But for the moment, it's the best way to look after everyone.”

David conceded that they could stay one more day and went to bed.

The next day was beautiful again. And nothing happened. Even The Doctor began to wonder. Jack assured him the information was correct. The threat was immediate.

“I’m getting to the point where I WANT something to happen, so that this can be over with,” The Doctor said. “We can’t live like this forever. David is right. He and Susan have to get back to their normal life. So do we. So do you. You can’t protect us forever.”

“I’m happy to do so if I have to,” Jack said. “Do anything for you.”

“Yeah, I know you would. But how would you explain that to your superiors? And our wives would get jealous.”

Jack grinned. He still counted The Doctor as his one and only unrequited love. He knew there was nothing he could do that would make him THAT grateful. But that didn’t stop him having an emotional tie to The Doctor that went beyond any other loyalty. He would stop the proverbial bullet for him any time. Or for any of his family.


The next morning, David was adamant.

“Tonight, when I get back from work, I’m taking my family home. We have GOT to get back to normal. I don’t want my children living under siege.”

“It’s hardly that,” The Doctor began.

“Yes it is,” David insisted. “How many people does Jack have on 24 hour watch here? There must be at least twenty around the grounds – in the woods, patrolling the river, the perimeter walls, two on the main gate. Then the kids have at least four people watching them all the time. There’s another dozen people in the house itself – not even COUNTING snipers on the roof. SNIPERS! I mean, seriously. And don’t think I haven’t noticed a car following me to work. I know Jack means well, but it's too much.”

The Doctor sighed. He didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t how he wanted to live either. But he was sure the threat was still real. And he feared what would happen if they let down their guard.

“The snipers are definitely too much,” David said as a parting shot as he stepped out of the hall and went to his car. The Doctor stood at the doorway and watching him drive away. He watched the escort car follow. As he turned away he saw the shimmer of displacement that indicated a cloaked ship. For a moment he froze in fear before he saw a door open briefly in thin air. Hellina jumped out. She must have been away co-ordinating with the Scorpius.

“Got something for you,” she said as she came inside. Jack appeared from the dining room hugging a mug of coffee, but immediately alert. Hellina opened up an impossibly thin, wallet sized computer terminal and Jack and The Doctor both looked at the pictures displayed on the screen.

“This is what it’s all about. The Corelite SUPER ship. Their prototype – not yet operational. It needs a super-telepath to navigate it. That’s WHY they need Sukie.”

“Where is that ship?” Jack asked. “If we blow it out of the sky….”

“We’re not sure,” Hellina said. “Our people found the construction base. They were building secretly on an uninhabited moon. They’re not any more. The base, the blue prints, are totalled. But we think the prototype was already launched. It's out there somewhere. The threat is real. It’s STILL immediate.”


And yet, the day passed peacefully again and even The Doctor’s thoughts were turning on the possibility of replacing the paddling pool with a real, custom built swimming pool when Vicki was a LITTLE bit older.

Then Susan’s mobile phone rang. It was David. She wasn’t worried at first. He had called several times yesterday to make sure she was all right.

But this time it was different.

“Our house has been broken into,” she told her grandfather. “The police called David…”

“Tell him I’m on my way,” The Doctor said, alert at once. Chris and Davie looked at each other before Davie said he wanted to come, too. In case their TARDIS had been interfered with.

The Doctor knew as well as they did that no burglar could possibly interfere with a TARDIS. But then he wasn’t sure this WAS an ordinary burglary.

“David is on his way there to meet the police. You don’t both need to be there,” he told Susan. “You stay here with Sukie.” He looked around for Jack. He was already heading for the 22nd Corps unmarked hover car parked nearby. Hellina immediately called two of their people to move in to double the close protection detail on the family.


“This wasn’t an ordinary burglary,” The Doctor said as he and David viewed the damage to their home with dismay.

“It’s THEM? The ones who… the Corelites…”

“I can feel their presence,” he said. To confirm he raised the sonic screwdriver and took a reading. “They’re not carbon-based lifeforms like Humans. Their base mineral is manganese. They leave a tang in the air – if you know what you’re looking for.”

“They trashed the house looking for Sukie? Why? Did they SERIOUSLY think we hid her in the deep FREEZE, or the washing machine? Our home is…. Destroyed…. They even wrecked my rose bushes.”

He looked close to tears. The Doctor understood why. He knew it wasn’t JUST about rose bushes or ripped carpets, wrecked furniture. He had been one of the brave few who picked up the pieces of their lives after the Dalek invasion, who helped put the Human race back in charge of the planet. He had lived in peace for forty good years, fathered three children, thought that his life was as it should be, then their home was destroyed by another alien attack. They had moved to this house, and put down new roots. And now, after eight peaceful years this house, too, had been ruined.

“You were right, Doctor,” David admitted. “If I’d insisted on coming home…”

“Dad,” Davie came to his father’s side. “We’re all safe. That’s what matters.”

David looked at his son. The eldest by minutes of his two boys. When did he grow up into such a smart boy, he wondered. How much was it his own influence and how much The Doctor. But at that moment he was HIS son, offering him his moral support when he needed it.

“Nasty little bleeders when crossed,” Jack said as he looked around at the devastation. “I’m sorry, David. With you all over at the big house I didn’t think we needed to watch this place.”

“That’s ok,” he said. “I don’t blame you. Anyway, if this is what they do… Anyone you left here could have been hurt. I wouldn’t want that to happen just to protect a house.”

“Do you suppose they gave up when they couldn’t find Sukie?” Davie asked. The Doctor and Jack looked at each other.

“No,” Jack said.

“We shouldn’t be here,” The Doctor added. “We should get back to the children.”

“Dad still has to deal with the police,” Davie said. “I’ll stay with him.….”

Davie was right. On both counts. The Doctor and Jack DID need to get back home, quickly. And HE needed to stay with his father. The Doctor felt a surge of pride in his mature thinking. Between them, they hadn’t done a bad job of raising the boys.

The car WAS as fast as the TARDIS over the short distance, but The Doctor wished he had taken his own ship all the same. He would have felt in control. He felt frustrated sitting in the passenger seat while Jack drove. Jack was already breaking the speed limit. He couldn’t go any faster.

He braked hard as they reached the gate to Mount Lœng House. It was hanging open. That was wrong for a start. The Doctor jumped out of the car and ran. He yelled as he fell headlong over a body just inside the gate. As he untangled himself he saw it was a man in the uniform of the 22nd Space Corps.

But unless there was a very strange recruitment policy in the 22nd, there was something very wrong. This man looked as if he had died of extreme old age. His hand brushed against the wizened leathery skin of the man’s face as he closed the staring eyes.

“Oh my God!” Jack swore as he stepped out behind him. “That’s….”

“One of your men?”

“Neil Murray,” Jack said slowly as he examined the soldier’s dog tags. “From New Liverpool, aged 23.” He stared at the face again. “What DID this?”

“Temporal accelerator. Something like the boys designed to grow trees in the garden at enhanced speed. Used on a Human being… This poor sod must have had about 100 years worth of it.” The Doctor turned around. He knew there should have been two guards on the gate. The other was a woman. He remembered her as a pretty young redhead. The body slumped inside the perimeter wall was a white haired, shrunken husk.

“Oh my God!” Jack said again.

“Painful way to die,” The Doctor added. “Like having every cell in your body pulled like elastic. It would have taken several minutes.”

“The Corelites have weapons like that?”

“They don’t think twice about using little children to power their ships. I don’t suppose they’d care about firing a weapon like that. I’m sorry for your people, Jack… But… my family…” He turned and began to run. Jack was a few paces behind him. He was slower not only because Gallifreyans were naturally faster than Human, but also because he was trying to raise his people on his radio. His heart thudded like lead as he failed to reach any of the perimeter guards. Radio silence from more than twenty of his people.

“We’ve been breeched,” he yelled to The Doctor as he heard Hellina’s voice on the radio. He heard her warn those left – the guards inside the house and on the roof – to stand to.

Ahead of him The Doctor became a blur as he folded time and accelerated far beyond Human ability.

“Rose!” The Doctor screamed as he came out of the time fold by the paddling pool. “Rose, get inside the house with Peter. Go now.”

Rose moved as soon as she heard him shout. Susan started to run towards the pool but Chris got there first and grabbed his sister as The Doctor lifted Vicki into his arms. They turned and ran with them. The four man close protection detail moved in to cover the French door as their protectees ran towards it.

“Look out!” he heard Jack shout. He glanced around and saw three of the Corelites break cover from behind the hedge that separated the formal garden with its lawns and fountains from the meadow. Jack drew his gun and fired. Hellina did, too. Two of the Corelites fell dead, but they had already fired. The slow death screams of two of the protection detail almost covered the sniper shot that took out the third of the Corelite snatch squad. But almost immediately four more of the aliens appeared. They were tall and rangy, with a metallic looking sheen to their skin, and they all had those deadly weapons.

“I’m sorry!” The Doctor whispered as he ran past the two dying solders, blinking back tears as he felt their pain empathically. “I’m sorry I can’t help you.”

The sound of rapid gunfire filled the air, along with the high-pitched whine of temporal accelerator guns, and far too often screams of Human pain. The Doctor guessed that the house was surrounded by a large force of Corelite storm-troopers. What was left of the 22nd squad were holding them back from the house.

Ahead of him, Chris and Sukie made it to the safety of the French doors. He was at the threshold himself when he saw another Corelite group of three round the corner from the front of the building. Jack saw them too and opened fire with an automatic rifle he had picked up from the dead man on the gate. The three fell, but one of them managed to squeeze the trigger of his terrible weapon. The beam hit The Doctor momentarily before it fell from the dead Corelite’s hands and smashed against the stone-flagged ground with a hiss and a brief flame.

The Doctor screamed. He couldn’t help it. The pain was agonising even for somebody who could block his pain receptors. He felt it in every cell in his body. It was worse than regeneration. At least then he tended to be not quite fully conscious. This time he was wide awake and his very soul was screaming. He knew Vicki was feeling it too. He heard her cries over his own. He felt all of her pain as well as his own as her raw telepathic senses overwhelmed his. He fell, still holding her. He covered her body with his. And hoped the pain would stop soon.

“Doc!” Jack yelled as he dived in through the French window after him. “Doctor…”

Rose stood over him, clutching their baby close to her. She saw him move, heard him groan. He was alive. But….

“Jack…” The Doctor called out weakly. “Help me, please.” Jack came to his side at once and held his shoulders as he raised himself to his knees. He gasped in astonishment as he saw Vicki – The Doctor had been shielding her with his body until now. Rose cried out and Susan screamed softly. Chris held Sukie back as she tried to go to her.

“Vicki love,” The Doctor murmured. “It’s all right my little love.” He pulled off his jacket and wrapped it around her quickly as he stood her on her feet, the shreds of her swimming costume, ripped open at the seams, simply falling off her. He held her tight in his arms and tried to comfort her. She was crying pitifully. And he fully understood why. His whole body still ached and he felt like crying too.

“What’s happened to my child?” Rose screamed. Jack left The Doctor’s side and held her comfortingly. “Oh my God! What’s happened?” She clung to Jack, appreciating his kindness, but she couldn’t BE comforted.

“We were both caught in the beam of a temporal accelerator,” The Doctor said as he hugged his daughter and tried to soothe her. “We both got about five years of accelerated aging.”

“She looks about nine years old,” Chris said. “She looks like Sukie… like they were twins.” He turned and ran from the room, Sukie following him.

Whatever she looked like, mentally and emotionally she was still four years old and she cried and clung to The Doctor. His own continued discomfort was increased by her telepathic distress overwhelming his psychic nerves constantly. He tried to calm her, but her pain, her confusion, was too much.

“Turn her back,” Rose insisted. “Put her back the way she was.”

“I can’t do that,” he said. “Even if I could, I WOULDN’T. You have no idea how painful it was for her…. For both of us… to reverse it would be ten times the agony. I won’t put her through that.”

“Why didn’t it affect you?” Susan asked him. “You were both hit by the thing.”

“It did affect me. It aged me five years. But… but that’s nothing to me. I’m over 1,000 years old anyway.”

“My baby…” Rose cried. As Susan took Peter from her, she bent and hugged her little girl.

Chris and Sukie came back into the room. Chris gave The Doctor Sukie’s nightie and he dressed Vicki in it. Sukie came to her side. Chris was right. They looked like twins. Dark haired and brown eyed. Rose and The Doctor both looked as Sukie, the gentle super-telepath with a healing touch, hugged Vicki and soothed her with her calming mental force. Vicki reached and hugged her back.

The Doctor stood up, his mind clearing now as Vicki’s telepathic torture eased. He was the first to realise that the battle going on around them had ceased. From somewhere outside was the sound of somebody sobbing in agony, another victim of the temporal accelerator. But the siege was over.

“We’ve got them all,” Hellina said as she came in through the French windows. There was no sense of triumph as she said it. Her troops had been caught badly by the attack. She hadn’t even started to count how many were dead. Dozens, she thought. And five prematurely aged by the accelerator weapon. Seeing young, vibrant men and women turned to elderly, frail wrecks, their whole lives taken from them, had shaken Hellina’s hard core. She couldn’t begin to know how these victims and their families were going to come to terms with what had happened to them.

“We could have done with taking one alive though,” Hellina added. “We still have to locate the super-ship.”

“I don’t care about super-ships as long as it’s over,” Susan retorted. “Tell me it’s over…”

“No,” The Doctor said quietly. “It’s not over. Not while that ship is out there waiting for a super-telepath to navigate it. This attack failed, but it's not over…”

“Yes it is,” Jack told him. He had been listening on his ear-piece to a message from the Scorpius. “Doc… you want to see this.” He flicked a switch on the elaborate armlet he wore that served as a lifeform scanner, chronometer and compass and a hologram projector. The Doctor watched – they all did - as it relayed a see through but otherwise sharp and clear three-dimensional view of what the mothership of the 22nd Space Corps was looking at right now. “The prototype. They brought it under remote autopilot from the two standard class ships either side. It’s ready and waiting to install the navigator… and then they’re off to fight the mother of all battles using their new class of ship.”

“The hell they are!” The Doctor muttered darkly.

But Hellina was on her communications device, too. And she gave a simple instruction to her crew on the Scorpius. As they watched, the hologram ships, all three of them, suddenly imploded and exploded at the same time.

“You still have a problem with Thermic Torpedoes?” Jack asked. He tried not to look too pleased about it. He knew they’d taken a lot of lives in that all too easy action of firing three torpedoes in quick succession. He knew it included two of those pitiful telepaths trapped aboard the escort ships.

Though he could probably count that as a mercy killing.

“Yes, I do,” The Doctor said. “In TARDISes. And if you EVER think of giving the boys that kind of weaponry again you’ll know that even a pacifist can teach you the meaning of pain. But… right now… NOW it IS over. Yes, I’m… grateful. I’m glad the 22nd has those weapons. Thank you.” He turned away as Jack flicked off the hologram. He picked up his little girl in his arms. “Vicki…” he whispered as he hugged her. “I’m sorry you were hurt. I never meant for any of you to suffer.”

Vicki smiled at him and put her hand on one cheek while she kissed the other. His daughter’s kiss on his cheek drove away thoughts of thermic torpedoes and sudden death in outer space. In his head he heard her tell him she loved him.

“I love you, too, Vicki, my little love,” he told her.

“What are we going to do?” Rose asked him as she hugged him and their little girl together. “She can’t stay like that.”

“She’ll have to,” The Doctor said. “She’s all right. She’s already intelligent for a three year old. I can teach her. She’ll catch up on being eight years old.”

“But she’ll never be four, or five or six…”

“She’s alive,” The Doctor told his wife. “Our little girl is alive. So is Sukie, and everyone else. The sacrifice of Jack’s people who died out there… They bought our children’s lives with their own. Jack… Hellina… when you do what you have to do… to tell the families of the people you lost… Tell them it WAS worth it. They didn’t die needlessly. My family is safe because of them. And I will remember their sacrifice as long as I live.”

Hellina nodded. She didn’t trust herself to speak. For the second time ever, The Doctor saw tears in her eyes.