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

Chris got his planning permission in January of the New Year. By the last day of that month a small caravan community was installed in the lee of the stand of ash trees that screened the meadow from the River Thames. One of the caravans was not, in fact, a caravan, but a TARDIS maintaining its disguise despite not having anyone to disguise itself against. Chris and Davie had officially moved out of their family home, with their mother’s blessing and were living in the Chinese TARDIS until their NEW permanent home, their private quarters in the Sanctuary, was complete.

Around them Chris had gathered a small group of volunteers to help him build the Sanctuary. Ten of them in all came to help him make a start. Chiv and Mac from Cornwall, his first two Human recruits, Brendan from Kerry, once known as Brindiron of Gallifrey, and others he had come to know in a network of telepathic friendship. Later he hoped many more would come, but these ten joined him first.

A small army of earth movers, manned by ordinary building contractors arrived in the evening of the last day of January along with the volunteers. All was ready. The next morning Chris excitedly watched as his friends and family and contracted employees all gathered ready to watch him break the first sod of Earth in the foundations of his dream.

As they all waited under a cold but clear February sky, The Doctor was the only one who noticed a sudden rush of air displacement and a tree appearing among the ash trees that had not been there before. He watched as a young man stepped out of a very unlikely door. There was something very familiar about him. The Doctor wasn’t sure exactly what. He had brown eyes. But then so did almost all his relatives. It was something more. Something about the blonde streaks in his natural brown hair reminded him of Davie. And something about his bearing, his calm self-assurance, his almost aristocratic walk, reminded him of himself as a young Time Lord before the universe knocked a few corners off that self-assurance and left him with experience as a compensation.

Yes. This WAS a young Time Lord. There was no doubt about that. And even before he focussed on his unique telepathic ident he knew WHO he was.

“Tristie,” The Doctor said with a smile. “My favourite grandchild. Or is it GREAT grandchild. Our family tree is more complicated in the future than it is now.”

“I think I am both,” he answered. “But I have never called you anything but granddad. So it doesn’t signify.”

“You know coming here is a VERY bad idea, don’t you. The girls talk about you enough from your telepathic games with them when you were their age.”

“I know.” He smiled guiltily. “When I was ten I didn’t really understand my real relationship to them.”

“They’re STILL ten. Be careful. The potential paradox here…” The Doctor looked back at Tristie’s TARDIS. “By the way, when did you develop stealth mode?”

“Davie is working on it about now, I think,” Tristie answered. “I know it’s problematic, me being here. But I had to come. The first day of the Sanctuary really existing. I first began learning its precepts when I was thirteen. I couldn’t not be here to play my part.”

“You’re going to grab a spade and pitch in?” The Doctor smiled proudly. “Another chip off the old block.” He knew he should have given him a stern lecture about timelines and causality and how fragile both were when people started travelling into their own personal past. But he was in too much of a good mood to go into all of that. And besides, ever since the children told him about Tristie, Vicki’s future son, Sukie’s future grandson, who seemed to have inherited all of their good looks and all of HIS thirst for adventure, he had LONGED to meet him.

“This is Chris’s big moment,” he said. “Let’s not miss it. He put his arm around his shoulder as he brought him to where Rose and Jackie waited with Christopher and his youngest children so far. He looked across at Susan and David who hadn’t noticed the extra guest as they smiled proudly at their second eldest son. Chris was almost oblivious to everything and everyone else as he stepped forward. The foreman of works handed him a hard hat and a brand new spade that caught a glint of the cold sunshine. He chose a spot of ground within the perimeter that had been already marked out with a thin wire stretched between steel pegs in the ground. He took a deep breath and plunged the spade into the ground. He put his left foot onto it and pushed hard and then raised the first sod of grass, roots and soil with as much ceremony and sense of occasion as he could muster. Everyone applauded and cheered as he dumped the spadeful to one side. He brought the spade and hard hat to his brother and put the hat on his head before hugging him tightly. The foreman signalled and the earth-movers roared into action. There WOULD be work for manual labourers later. But digging the wide foundation of what was a very ambitious building site would be done by machines.

For everyone else, there was a celebration breakfast in the grand dining room of Mount Lœng House. Davie took Tristie to sit with him and Brenda while Chris was surrounded by his own friends with whom he talked with uncharacteristic liveliness about his plans.

“Have you noticed,” Christopher said to his father. “We have another biblical analogy. “With his brother and Tristie, Chris has his twelve apostles already.”

“I noticed,” The Doctor said with a smile. “Just so long as Chris doesn’t start to believe he IS a Messiah. A prophet, maybe. He would be a singular young man even on Gallifrey. Even among the brotherhood on the mountain. But as long as he has his feet on the ground it should be safe to let his imagination reach the stars.”

He turned his attention to Davie and Tristie, who were ALSO both engaged in lively conversation.

“Davie,” The Doctor said telepathically. “He is NOT to give you any tips on how to get the stealth mode to work.”

“I KNOW that, granddad,” Davie answered with a grin. “Still, knowing it is going to work eventually is a boost. I am REALLY having trouble with the matter conversion coils…”

“Tristie, change the subject,” The Doctor told him. “Compliment Brenda on her very lovely dress. That should get him off the subject of TARDIS components for a bit.”

Brenda, who could follow the telepathic conversation perfectly well, laughed and thanked The Doctor for reminding her fiancé that she was THERE. Davie guiltily turned and spoke to her. The Doctor turned, satisfied, and paid due attention to his own wife.

The work continued through the day. Chris spent a lot of time in his hard hat and reflective coat watching the progress. Various members of the family joined him from time to time and he was persuaded to come away to eat meals. But his excitement could hardly be contained as he watched his dream coming to reality in the huge swathes of ground being dug out by the contractors. He was almost disappointed when the failing light meant the end of the working day. And later, after supper, Davie and Tristie went in search of him and found him walking the perimeter in the light of the safety lamps that ringed the now dangerous foundation trenches.


“It’ll still be there tomorrow,” Davie told him.

“It’ll be there for a long time to come,” Tristie assured him. “Take my word for it.”

Chris turned and grinned at them both.

“I’m just so glad it’s finally happening,” he said. Davie nodded to Tristie and smiled conspiratorially as Chris’s attention drifted again to the future vision of the building that was going to stand in this place in a few months time.

“Just don’t stand around here too long,” Davie told him. “You’ll get cold.”

Chris didn’t answer. But he did start to climb down into the trench.

“Chris, what the heck are you doing?” Davie called out to him. “It’s dangerous down there.”

“There’s something here,” he said. “I saw… something.” He knelt and began to scrabble in the dirt with his bare hands. “There’s something down here under the soil.”

“More soil,” Davie answered. “Come on, Chris. Work’s over for today.”

“No, he’s right,” Tristie said. “Look… do you see?”

“Something metallic. But… Hang on…” He looked around and located a couple of spades and dropped down beside him. Tristie followed. Chris had already cleared several feet of what WAS, clearly, a smooth, metallic surface that had been concealed beneath the soil.

“It’s huge,” Davie noted as they cleared more soil from the area. “It’s….”

“It’s a spaceship,” Tristie said. “Wow. So THAT’s what it was. The secret nobody would ever tell me about this night.”

“What?” Chris and Davie both looked at him in surprise. “You know something about this?”

“Only that there was some sort of mystery that occurred the day work began on the Sanctuary. I never knew WHAT the mystery was.”

“So that’s why you came here, to find out?” Davie looked at his cousin, removed by several centuries with sudden understanding. “It wasn’t just for Chris’s dream. It was to satisfy your OWN curiosity.”

“I wanted to be here for LOTS of reasons. For Chris was one of them. When I was a little boy, he used to tell me all about how proud he was this first day. The right sort of pride, in the achievement, not in himself. He talked about how the Sanctuary was built mainly by volunteers who came here to join him, with only the guidance of the professional builders and architects. And you both used to talk about the ‘mystery’ in the foundations. And when I asked about it you would laugh and tease me. You had me half convinced once that you had a couple of bodies down there. Except I always knew that couldn’t be it. I mean, not you two.”

“Bodies ARE what I’m worried about,” Chris said. “If this is some kind of crash site, if people have died… on the ground my Sanctuary is meant to be built upon…”

“Chris,” Davie said to him. “Don’t be daft. Even if it IS, all we have to do is arrange for a proper burial. It’s not like it taints the ground. The only thing is, something like that would have to be investigated. It would hold up the work.”

“Let’s investigate it ourselves, right now,” Tristie said to them. “Let’s find out what happened. Get some of your people from the caravans and dig out whatever this is.”

Davie looked around him at the lamplit scene. He shivered a little with the cold before reminding himself that his Gallifreyan physiology meant that he didn’t have to feel the cold. He could regulate his body temperature.

He climbed up out of the trench and looked towards the house. He couldn’t explain why, but he felt as if he wanted this to be done without his great-grandfather knowing about it. And if they were lucky, they might just get away with it. The drawing room on the ground floor was screened by the wall of the formal garden and even from the bedrooms there wouldn’t be much to see.

“I’ll get the lads,” he said. “If we get on with this we could be done by midnight.”

Thirteen of them working with spades very quickly cleared the full extent of the crashed ship. And it was soon very obvious that it WAS a crashed ship. Davie estimated its length to be about twenty-five metres. It was an elongated oval shape like a fat cigar, or an old fashioned airship such as any 23rd century boy with an interest in things of an aeronautical kind would have seen pictures of. The metallic outer skin was even ribbed something like an airship.

It looked amazingly intact.

“There has to be a door,” Tristie said. “Dig around it. Dig down.” He looked covetously at the big yellow earth movers that waited in silence for the next morning. “I suppose we couldn’t….”

“No, we couldn’t,” Davie insisted. “Come on, let’s put our backs into it.”

Widening the trench around the ship wasn’t an impossible task, just a long and back-breaking one. And a bitterly cold one on a February night.

“We’d get done faster without so many stops for tea,” Tristie pointed out after three hours in which he had hardly stopped for a moment. He looked slightly disgusted at his two cousins as they hugged their hands around mugs of the said tea, provided by Brenda who had declined the equal opportunity for her sex of pitching in with a spade. On this occasion she was perfectly happy with the traditional ancillary role.

“Without tea we’d never have got through the first hour,” Davie answered him. “We’re going fine. Midnight was possibly a little ambitious. But we’ll make it. We’ve almost cleared one section down to about eight feet.”

One eight feet long section of the twenty-five yards, he reminded himself a little gloomily. Midnight WAS too ambitious. They would likely be here all night. In which case, not only would they have a very tired, very cold group of volunteers, but also some very awkward questions when the contractors turned up to work in the morning.

He turned to see Chiv and Mac, Chris’s two Human friends, and one of the Gallifreyans, Brón, hovering nearby like people with something on their minds.

“What’s up?” he asked them. Chiv had clearly been elected as spokesperson.

“We were wondering. Could this be a Dalek ship? Crashed here during the war?”

“No,” Tristie answered them with certainty, “Dalek ships aren’t like this. They’re your traditional flying saucer shape.”

“You say that as if you’ve seen them up close and personal,” Davie told him. “I thought they were all gone now.”

“When I was your apprentice, training to use a TARDIS of my own, we found a Dalek base in the Isop system,” he answered. “We blew it up. You set up a chain reaction that took out all of their ships.”

“I’m going to try very hard to forget you told me that,” Davie said calmly. “The thought that I, one day in the future, will fight the same enemy that The Doctor fought all his life, that destroyed our homeworld on Gallifrey and tried so many times to destroy this one…”

He wasn’t sure if he was scared of the prospect or proud that he was, apparently, spectacularly successful against that enemy. The Doctor had told him once before, though, that in taking on the mantle of his work, in being The Doctor, he inherited his enemies as well as his allies.

He was mostly glad that it was far into the future and he didn’t have to worry about it now.

“It’s not Dalek. It’s not Cyberman, it’s not Sontaran,” he confirmed. He took out his sonic screwdriver and analysed the metal with it. “It’s mostly titanium alloy. But that’s fairly bog standard for spaceships. Has been since the 21st century on Earth and for longer just about everywhere else. That doesn’t give us any more help in identifying its origin.”

“We’ve found a door,” came an excited cry and it was a race to see who reached it first. Chris was slightly ahead of Davie and Tristie, feeling around the edge of the flush fitting hatchway.

“There doesn’t seem to be any way to open it,” he observed. “Not from the outside.”

“We can’t get in?” There was a distinctly disappointed air about the muddy, cold group of excavators.

“Let me see,” Davie said. Again he applied his sonic screwdriver. “There are three magnetic bolts on the inside,” he reported. “Chris, Tristie, we’ll do it together. Sonic screwdriver with reversed polarity…”

He stood in front of the door and his brother and cousin either side and they did as he said. There was a soft clunking sound and in the combined glow of the three sonic screwdrivers they saw the hairline join widen as the hatchway opened out like a drawbridge. Davie darted out of the way and watched anxiously, wondering if they had cleared enough of a gap.

They hadn’t, quite. The door stuck in the mud bank when it was still only partially open. But it was enough for them to get inside.

“Torches,” Tristie called. “Bring torches.” But there was no need. He watched as Davie climbed in through the half-opened hatch. As soon as he put his feet down inside the ship low level security lighting switched itself on.

“It has POWER!” Chiv had his hand on the side of the ship, but pulled it away as he felt it vibrate suddenly as if it had been brought to life.

“It’s probably working on some kind of reserve battery,” Davie said. “It’s been in the equivalent of ‘stand-by’ mode for a long time. Now it’s on power saving mode. We should try to see if it has a mains power we can get back online before we totally drain it.”

When he said “we” he automatically meant himself and Chris, with Tristie. But he realised that the rest of the party wanted to come into the ship as well. And he really couldn’t deny them. They had worked hard for hours, digging out freezing mud by hand. He could hardly deny them the chance to see what it was all about.

“I suppose there’s no point in saying ‘wipe your feet’?” he said as even Brenda clambered in through the hatchway and came to his side. The mud from their shoes actually did make an unusual mess on the metallic floor of the corridor inside. Hermetically sealed for however long it must have been, there was no dust. It looked remarkably well preserved for a crashed ship.

“It must have soft landed,” Tristie noted. “How it became buried I don’t know.”

“If it was far enough back,” Chris said. “Then all of this land was a marshy flood plain for the Thames. It could have ploughed into loose mud and been covered over by the tide.”

“That would have been a VERY long time ago,” Davie pointed out. “Richmond was built up by the Tudor era. We did it in history when we were at school, and Granddad took us to see it. We travelled on a Tudor barge from Tilbury right up Windsor, past the Tower of London and everything. Mostly the Thames hasn’t changed much since then.”

“I meant a VERY long time ago,” Chris answered him. “Like about 12,000 years ago, towards the end of the last ice age, when the sea levels were starting to rise and cut off Britain as an island. When the Thames was still one huge long river that joined up with the Rhine. Granddad showed us THAT once, too, but only from low orbit. We didn’t land.”

“Well, ok,” Davie concluded. “We have a theory. Let’s see if we can prove it.” He turned and set off, leading the way. Chris and Tristie and Brenda followed him. The others quickly followed, their muddy footprints marring the pristine floor.

“Have you noticed it’s getting warmer,” Brenda pointed out after a few minutes. “And there’s fresh air. It felt a bit thin at first. But now it’s ok.”

“Automated systems are reading our presence and providing life support,” Tristie said. “A very smart ship.”

“It’s a BIG ship,” Mac commented. “We dug out something about twenty-five metres long. But we should have walked to the end of that, by now.”

“Good point,” Chris noted. “I wonder…”

“Rudimentary use of relative dimension technology?” Davie finished his sentence. “It’s bigger on the inside.”

“Well, it’s not Time Lord technology,” Tristie said. “At least I don’t think it is.”

“It’s NOT,” Brendan of Kerry told him. “I was BORN on Gallifrey, remember. I was the co-pilot of one of the freighters that got the survivors away from Karn. I know OUR technology. It’s not. It uses a similar process. But even in the golden age I don’t believe even the most arrogant of Time Lords would claim sole proprietorship of such ideas as relative dimensions.”

“I think they might have tried,” Davie said. “You should hear granddad about that sort of thing. But no, I don’t think it’s ours. For one thing, the language is different.”

He stopped at what was clearly an interactive information panel giving directions to sections of the ship. It wasn’t operational, but there was an ordinary metal plate above it with symbols embossed on it. The young Gallifreyans saw it briefly as a series of geometric patterns before their eyes automatically translated it for them. Only Chiv and Mac lacked that ability having never travelled by TARDIS.

Davie yet again adjusted his sonic screwdriver. He used it to power up the screen just long enough to see an outline plan of the ship. It lasted no more than thirty seconds but it was long enough for him to commit it to memory.

“The bridge is THAT way,” he said, pointing. But before we get to there, there’s something I have to see. I’ve never actually seen one before.”

He turned left into a recessed doorway. Two big doors with the same magnetic bolts they had found on the main door. Again the sonic screwdrivers with reversed polarity sorted that out and they stepped inside.

“Oh my word!” That was the politest exclamation of them all. It came from Brenda. Around her were Gallifreyan oaths and a more universal phrase from Chiv and Mac that all made her blush. Davie was the most excited, though Chris and Tristie vied for second place if there was a prize for enthusiasm.

“NOT bodies, Chris,” he told his brother. “Nobody’s dead here. It’s a suspended animation chamber. Not cryogenics like Granddad said they used on Shada, but full on suspended animation. These people could have been here for thousands of years and never aged a day.”

They were encased in what looked like plastic blister wrap and almost everyone who had lived on Earth for any length of time was reminded of a shelf full of toy action figures in their packaging.

Except there were hundreds of shelves, stacked high and wide and these ‘action figures’ were not five inches, but more like five foot tall, squat, dumpy humanoids with broad shoulders and thickset bodies. They all had reddish hair and reddish complexions, male and female alike, and were dressed in maroon robes.

“Still not sure who they are,” Davie said. “But I think I know what they’re doing here. Let’s get to the Bridge. I need to see what works and what doesn’t on this ship.”

“At a guess, I think more doesn’t work,” Chris remarked as they left the suspended animation chamber. “Tristie, make sure the lights power down in there once we’re all out. Let’s save what we can.”

Saving power was something none of them were ever used to doing. Their domestic electricity in their homes came from reusable wind and wave power. The TARDISes Chris, Davie and Tristie were familiar with had limitless power. None of them ever thought about switching off lights as they left a room. But now, suddenly it felt vitally important. Davie was even starting to do calculations in his head of how much air they were using and whether he ought to send some of the group back outside to save that much energy.

The designer of the ship’s bridge hadn’t really considered that possibility. As soon as they stepped onto the floor the lights came on, and so did all the computer banks. The only thing that didn’t was the engine drive. Tristie went to examine that as Davie went to the Captain’s chair.

He noticed several things at once about that chair. First, that it was made for a short, squat person, not a tall, slender one like himself. Secondly, that it was a very basic chair and was not meant for regular use. The ship was clearly meant to be automatic once it was set on course. The captain and crew were almost certainly among those who were in the suspended animation chamber.

He reached out to the main computer. He was slightly surprised when a computerised voice asked him to state his name and rank.

“Davie Campbell de Lœngbærrow,” he answered. “Rank… well, Captain I suppose. On my own ship anyway. Yes, Captain.”

“You are not listed among the ship’s manifest. Are you a rescue party?”

“Yes,” he answered. “Can you tell me what happened?” He was impressed by the Artificial Intelligence interface this computer had. It was up there with the creations of Professor Marius for user friendliness. “And when?”

“The ship was thrown off its course by an unanticipated comet exerting gravitational pull. It crashed on this planet. The automatic systems power-down to conserve energy initiated 378683112345 seconds ago at this mark.”

“Er…” Chris looked at his brother. He looked blank, too.

“About 12,000 years ago, give or take,” Tristie said. “I’m good at maths.”

“When this was all floodplain and the Thames was joined to the Rhine,” Chris noted.

“Yep. So all these people have been stuck here all along. Through 12,000 years of Earth history. The great fire of London, war, famines, plagues, the blitz. The Daleks! And nobody even knew they were there. There was a football pitch and a tennis court here not so long ago when Mount Lœng House was a school. And all the time these people quietly slept.”

“Who ARE they and where do they come from?” Tristie asked. The computer didn’t answer. It seemed to have accepted Davie’s captaincy but nobody else. Davie repeated the question. In front of him a viewscreen displayed a star chart and, while mental arithmetic was Tristie’s forte and engineering was his, Chris’s face lit up as he traced the journey of this unfortunate ship back to the home planet of the squat, red-haired people.

“It’s in the Cassiopeia sector. Or it was. By looks of things there was some kind of disaster. This was one of the lifeboat ships evacuating people from the planet. That’s why they’re in suspended animation. They had a long way to go. They chose to do it in the most efficient way. The ship was fully automatic. They didn’t think anything could go wrong.”

“Tell that to the Titanic,” Davie said, echoing what his grandfather so often said about such examples of over-confidence. “Ok, we know who they are and why they’re here. Now we need to see about getting them out of here. We’re certainly not going to build the Sanctuary over them.” He turned to look at the engineering control. To his surprise, Brendan had already sat down there and was running a diagnostic. He let out a Low Gallifreyan swear word that again raised a blush on Brenda’s cheeks. Davie caught the urgency of his tone and ran to his side. When he saw the information on the screen he used an even worse curse.

“Everyone who doesn’t have some kind of engineering skill get out of here. The power is going down by the minute. Even BREATHING is putting a strain on it. Brenda, Chris, can you go and get my TARDIS. Materialise it in the engine room.” He looked around at the rest of the group. Chiv and Mac were artists. Most of the Gallifreyans had been miners or children of miners. Those were skills he couldn’t use right this moment. And they all realised that. They followed Brenda and Chris. As soon as there was a clear gangway Davie began to run to the engine room. Tristie and Brendan both followed him.

“What’s the problem?” Tristie asked him.

“The problem is that this ship has been running on reserve battery power for 12,000 years. And it still is now that it’s powered back up. The connection to the mains power that should have kicked in when we came aboard is broken somehow. We have an hour, maximum before all power is drained and this becomes a cold, dark tomb for all those people.”

“Oh hell,” Tristie swore. “Can we fix it?”

“I don’t know,” Davie answered. They reached the engine room at almost the same moment that Chris and Brenda materialised the Chinese TARDIS in it. He became busy straight away. The TARDIS gave him the tools he needed and far more detailed diagnostics. It also gave them life support. Chris and Brendan sealed the door and then switched down the air supply in the rest of the ship. Instead the TARDIS with its doors wide produced air and its own carbon monoxide scrubbers kept that air fresh. They bought themselves another twenty minutes that way. But the TARDIS couldn’t power the whole ship.

And the TARDIS couldn’t repair the damage.

“I’m not sure it can be done,” Davie said with a sad sigh. The main power conduits were damaged in the original crash. They have completely deteriorated over time. There’s just SO much damage. It would have taken fifteen minutes, tops, when the damage first occurred. But now, it’s a major job. I don’t know if we have enough time.”

“If the power conduits hadn’t been damaged, the ship would have had full power all along, it would be all right?” Tristie asked.

“It would have gone into the same low power hibernation,” Davie replied. “Because it was programmed to do that in the event of any kind of accident. To await a rescue ship. They didn’t expect the rescue to take as long as it did. But if the mains power was working, when we came aboard we would just have had to do some minor repairs, then pilot them back into space and reprogramme their journey. As it is…”

“Do your best, Davie,” Chris told him. “I have faith in you.”

“So do I,” Brenda told him. “But is there nothing else we can do? Can’t we get the people out, revive them? I hate the idea of them down there, in the dark, just DYING.”

“It’s not as easy as that,” Chris said. “You can’t just open the cases and give them a poke to wake them up. They have to be carefully revived. And THAT takes HUGE amounts of power that we REALLY don’t have. There’s not enough reserve even to get ONE of them revived.”

“It’s down to you, then?” Brenda said to Davie. “You can save them.”

“WE can TRY,” he answered. “We work together. Chris, monitor the power levels. Brendan you can test the current in those circuits over there. Brenda, take the sonic screwdriver and use it to unlock all of those panels there. Tristie…”

He looked around. Where WAS Tristie?

“He went into the TARDIS a few minutes ago,” Brenda told him. “He didn’t say anything. I thought he was doing something for you.”

“Go and get him, would you,” he said to her. She ran to do as he asked as Chris took over opening up the panels. When Brenda returned and reported that Tristie was not in the TARDIS and he had operated the transmat beam he was puzzled and irritated.

“He ran off and left us?” he said as he continued with his attempt to save the ship. “He KNEW we needed all hands, and he’s near enough as good at engineering as I am. But he LEFT.”

“He must have had a reason,” Chris suggested.

“Not one that any member of this family could justify,” Davie answered. “He COULDN’T be SCARED. Not after what he said to me about Daleks. Unless that was all just bravado.”

“Cowardice doesn’t usually run in this family,” Chris admitted. “We can manage without him, can’t we?”

“I’m not sure if it makes any difference either way,” Davie responded. “I REALLY don’t know if I can do it in time. We’re against the clock, big time.”

“Granddad would do it,” Chris told him.

“Yeah, he probably would,” Davie said. “Anyone want to go get him? He’s only two hundred yards away in bed.”

He was wondering if they SHOULD, after all, have got The Doctor before they began this. Hundreds, thousands of lives were at stake now because he thought he could do it by himself.

One thing The Doctor had told him a long time ago, was about how it felt to fail. Especially when failure meant the deaths of innocent people. He spoke most bitterly about The Game Station, the place where he had last battled the Daleks. Many millions had died because he had failed, a hundred years before then, to recognise that there was more going on at Satellite Five than he had seen at first sight. He weighed those dead souls on his own conscience.

As Davie fully expected to do in a matter of minutes. He couldn’t do the work that needed to be done in time. There was just too much damage. The entropy of thousands of years with the mains power offline defeated him.

“How much power do we have?” Brenda asked as she watched Davie work.

“A few minutes,” Chris answered. “Two minutes.”

“It’s not time enough. You three should get into the TARDIS. There’s nothing else you can do.”

“I’m not leaving you,” Chris told him. “We don’t quit in this family. Not OUR generation, anyway,” he added slightly bitterly.

“There’s nothing you can do,” he insisted. “Nothing I can do in two minutes…”

“One and a half minutes,” Chris corrected him.

“Damn it!” Davie screamed out loud. “Damn, damn…”

Brenda put her hands over her ears as he switched from mild English profanities to some not so mild low Gallifreyan ones. His frustration and disappointment, his bitterness at failing so completely overwhelmed him. Chris and Brenda flanked him and pulled him back away from the dying power system, their own grief nearly as acute as his, though they didn’t feel the responsibility for the failure quite so keenly as he did.

“What!” Through his tears Davie was suddenly aware that the lights had turned on in the engine room. Not the low level emergency lights, but full, bright light that flooded the room as the main engine hummed with power.

“You did it!” Brenda cried, hugging him tightly and kissing his cheek. “You did it, Davie. After all.”

“No,” he answered her. “No, I didn’t. It wasn’t me. It…”

He looked around and then raced for the door. It opened easily now that there was full power. So did the outer door. He scrambled up out of the trench and ran towards the treeline. Tristie emerged from the tree that wasn’t a tree looking extremely smug.

“What the &#@$%£ did you do?” Davie yelled.

“You said it, Davie,” Tristie answered him. “‘It would have taken fifteen minutes, tops, when the damage first occurred.’ I took my TARDIS back. 378683112345 seconds. I fixed the damage. It took TWELVE minutes.”

“NO!” Davie yelled, grabbing him by the shoulders. “NO! You never do things like that. Didn’t you EVER listen to what granddad said about interfering with the time continuum?”

“That’s what he did?” Davie glanced around momentarily as Chris, with Brenda and Brendan following behind, emerged from his own TARDIS. It didn’t have stealth mode, but he was too angry to notice it materialising. “He went back… he changed the past.”

Chris looked nearly as angry as Davie did as he stood next to his brother and glared at their cousin. He had already broken the rules by being there in this time, before he was even born. He had shown his cavalier attitude to causality by that action. But now he had gone too far.

“I SAVED the ship,” he protested. “There was no other way. You couldn’t have done it in time. You DIDN’T do it in time, did you?”

“No, I didn’t. But that’s not the point. You can’t. You shouldn’t. What you did could have caused a catastrophic temporal anomaly. You could have unravelled the fabric of time.”

“You sound like granddad,” Tristie said. “I heard all of that from him.”

“So did we,” Chris told him. “That’s why we wouldn’t have done what you did.”

“Davie, Chris…” Brenda spoke quietly by their side. “He WAS wrong to do that. But the ship has power. Do you think… we can save the lectures for later. Let’s make sure…”

“Yes,” Davie agreed. He looked around. All of Chris’s apostles, as The Doctor had christened them earlier in the day, were watching and listening to the argument. “My TARDIS, everyone,” he said.

He materialised this time on the ship’s bridge. It, too, had full power now. Davie took the captain’s chair again. The computer responded to his voice command and confirmed that they had full power before listing a number of minor repairs that needed to be completed before they could begin the countdown to relaunch. He assigned the repairs to the apostles while he and Chris looked again at the star charts.

“They’ll be 12,000 years late,” Brenda pointed out as she watched them reprogramming the flight computers.

“But the planet they were aiming for is still uninhabited. They will be able to make the new life for themselves just as they planned to do. They won’t even know there was a problem until they examine the computer databanks.”

“They won’t know we helped them? Couldn’t we leave them a note?”

“I’m going to leave the technical details in the databank,” Davie said. “The number of seconds the power down lasted, and all of that. But I think we could do something more personal.” He nodded to Chris who went into the TARDIS, returning a few minutes later with a metal casket.

“I was going to have this sealed into the wall of the Sanctuary. It’s a time capsule with records of planet Earth as it is in 2217. It’s got pictures of all of us, as well. The ones we took yesterday during the ceremony. They’ll know who helped them on their way.”

He put the capsule on top of the computer databank by the captain’s seat. Then they were ready. The hatchway was sealed. Davie fastened his seatbelt in the captain’s chair. Chris took navigation. Brendan was in the pilot’s seat prepared to do the actual flying. The rest of their group found seats and prepared for lift off.

“We’ve never been in space before,” Chiv said as he and his brother clutched hands in anticipation.

“First time for everything,” Davie told them. “On my mark, Brendan.”

He gave the order. Brendan initialised the flight. Slowly at first the ship rose up from the pit it had lain in for so long. Then gradually it picked up speed. Escape velocity was less traumatic than it should have been. The ship was equipped with very good inertial dampeners that cushioned them from the g-forces.

And sooner than anyone expected they were in space.

“We can’t hang around too long,” Davie said as he prepared to switch the ship over to the automatic systems. “We’ll be noticed by Earth’s monitoring systems. Time for us to say goodbye and good journey.”

They did so very solemnly, all of them together. Then they went into the TARDIS. Davie dematerialised his own ship just as the alien one shifted into hyperdrive and was gone from the solar system.

He landed the TARDIS by the side of the foundations. He was not altogether surprised, when they all stepped out, to find The Doctor standing there, looking at the deep hole that wasn’t there when he last looked at the day’s work.

“There’s an explanation for this, and why my family were all woken in the middle of the night by what Vicki insists was a space ship taking off?”

“A really good explanation,” Davie answered. “Though not one I would want to explain to the contractors when they ask about the hole. Any thoughts on what excuse we’re going to tell them?”

The Doctor laughed. He didn’t need to use any telepathy to know that there was a REALLY long story, or to guess that he wasn’t going to be told all of it.

“Chips off the old block,” he said as he looked from Davie, with his arm around Brenda, to Chris and to Tristie. “All three of you.”