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

She had pleaded with her father for months. He had said no every time. He had insisted on her being taught at home, by him. And she loved the lessons he taught her, enjoyed the special attention she got from him while she worked. But at the same time when Sukie played with her and told her about the things she did with the other children she wanted to be a part of it.

“You’re only five years old,” The Doctor insisted. “You’re not old enough to go to school yet.” And he looked at his daughter and knew that didn’t work. She not only LOOKED more like a ten year old, but she was intelligent even beyond that age.

Rose, Jackie and Susan joined in the argument on Vicki’s side. They all thought she should learn to mix with other children.

“She has Sukie,” he argued. “They get on fine.”

“She needs other friends,” Rose told him. “Ordinary friends. Ordinary children who don’t go time travelling at the weekend.”

“What would she TALK to them about, then?” The Doctor argued. “She will have nothing in common with them.”

“She’ll talk about skipping games and hopscotch, gym, singing class, comics and cartoons. She does all those things with Sukie inbetween reading books that adults struggle with,” Susan argued.

“You’ll be bored, you know,” The Doctor told his daughter. “The lessons will be far too easy. Susan, you know that was always a problem for you when you went to an ordinary school.”

“Yes, the lessons were dull, but I LOVED the school life,” she assured him. “You can teach Vicki and Sukie what they need to learn to be New Gallifreyans by remote while they’re learning their Earth lessons and making friends.”

Christopher sided with the women.

“It was different for us, father. Being educated privately until we went to the academy was the way it was done for Oldbloods. But we live on Earth now, and on Earth children go to school with other children.”

“Let her go,” Jackie said. “It will do her good.”

The Doctor relented. Vicki hugged him enthusiastically and ran off to find Sukie and contact their friend Tristie to tell him the good news.

There was another can of worms, The Doctor thought.

But on the first morning of the new term, Vicki put on her brand new school uniform and put her books and pens and pencils and her calculator and mini-laptop in her school bag. She wondered if her father intended to take her to school by TARDIS.

“Certainly not,” he said. “The idea is to be ‘NORMAL’. You can cycle like Sukie does other mornings. But this once, we’re going in the car so I can meet your teacher.”

Normality, The Doctor thought as he manoeuvred the hover car out of the gate of Mount Lœng House. Here he was, sitting in the driver’s seat of an ordinary car, his daughter sitting in the back, her seatbelt firmly in place, school bag and lunch box clutched in her hands. Wasn’t he a prince of the universe? Wasn’t he Ka Faraq Gatri, the Oncoming Storm, nemesis of the Daleks? Wasn’t he the Lord of Time with the power of life and death in his hands?

Yes, he was all of those things. But he was also a father taking his daughter to school.

And the funny thing was that it felt good doing that. He smiled as he looked in the rear view mirror and watched her reading her geography text book, the pupils of her eyes dilating rapidly as she flicked the pages.

“You know, in SCHOOL they take one or two pages a lesson,” he reminded her.

“The pages about continental drift are wrong,” she said. “It took millions of years more than they said for Australia to get where it is now.”

“Yes, I know. I’ve seen it when it was still attached to Antarctica. I’ll show you at the weekend. It’ll make a nice afternoon outing. But don’t tell anyone at school, will you. Trips back before the last ice age aren’t really what ordinary children do.”

“I know, daddy,” she answered. “Sukie says her friends at school mostly only go as far as Brighton at the weekend.”

“We can go to Brighton, too,” The Doctor added. “But you know, you have to be careful at all times. You mustn’t let anyone know how clever you are, and how much you know.”

“Yes, daddy,” she told him.

“And you are not to read other people’s minds. Especially not the teacher. And not your classmates, either.”

“Can I telepath with Sukie? And with Tristie?”

“Is there any way I could stop you?” The Doctor asked with a smile.

“Tristie goes to an ordinary school, you know,” Vicki added. “He likes it. He’s in the special advanced stream where they have lessons in telekinesis.”

“That’s a long way off. People now don’t even know that some of us aren’t Human, and I don’t think that’s going to change for a good few years, yet. That’s why you must be careful.”

“I know, daddy,” she said, a note of impatience in her voice. She had heard this lecture a dozen times already. But it was important. He couldn’t emphasise it enough. “There’s Sukie.”

He slowed the car to a stop at the corner of the street and opened the back door. Sukie climbed in and fastened her seatbelt. He locked the door and drove off again.

“Ok, next stop for this taxi is school,” he said. “Sukie, make sure you stay with Vicki at home time until I collect you.”

“Yes, granddad,” she said and the two of them giggled at some joke they weren’t sharing with him.

The playground was quiet when they arrived just after the bell had rung. The cloakroom was full of coats and gym bags and lunchboxes and exuded a smell that even The Doctor found hauntingly familiar. Even the Prydonian Academy had rooms like that, he thought as he watched Sukie show Vicki where to hang her coat. Then they were ready to meet her teacher.

The smiling woman who looked as if she had ‘primary school teacher’ stamped on her very DNA greeted them as they stepped into the classroom. “I’m Miss Wright. I will be Vicki’s teacher.”

“Miss Wright!” The Doctor grinned broadly. “Now there’s an historical irony.”

Miss Wright looked at him with a puzzled expression but he didn’t elaborate. She reached out her hand to Vicki who allowed herself to be brought to the front of the class as Sukie took her own seat.

“Children,” the teacher said. “This is Vicki. She is Sukie Campbell’s cousin who is coming to our school for the first time. I hope you will all do your best to be friends with her.”

The children looked at her with varying levels of interest. Vicki looked back at them and The Doctor had a feeling she was already breaking the rule about not reading their minds.

“I’m not,” she told him telepathically. “I’m just seeing which ones are friendly and which might be mean. I don’t think that boy with the red hair is very nice.”

“Well, you make sure you’re extra nice to him and there won’t be a problem,” he replied. “I’m going now. You have a good day at school, my little love.”

“Goodbye, daddy,” she replied as she went to take her seat next to Sukie. He went to the door as Miss Wright settled the class and told them to open their history books at page 231 – The Dalek Invasion.

He turned and looked, out of curiosity, as the teacher began the lesson by asking the class how many of them had parents or grandparents who remembered the Invasion. Sukie and Vicki both put up their hands. He smiled and decided this was his cue to leave.

“Granddad,” he heard Sukie’s voice in his head as he manoeuvred the car out of the school car park. “Why aren’t you and my daddy mentioned in the history book. You saved Earth from the bad Daleks.”

He smiled at her use of the term ‘bad Dalek’. The only Dalek either of the girls had ever met was the one that had sacrificed itself for them. Their perspective on the events of 2164 was very different to everyone else in their class.

“I’ve always tried to keep out of history books,” he told her. “It’s less complicated that way. As for your daddy, I think he just wanted to live a normal life with your mum. He and his friends struggled for a long time. A lot of people he knew died. He wanted to put it all behind him. But he was a hero. Don’t you ever forget that. He was very brave. He was among the leaders of the resistance movement in London.”

“Can I tell my teacher that?” she asked.

“If you like,” he said. “Just don’t mention me!”

Vicki and Sukie both laughed and then gave their attention to their teacher. He gave his attention to the road. Driving an ordinary car was something he very rarely did. Rose used the car more often for shopping. But compared to piloting the TARDIS it was a very simple machine and very satisfying to drive.

“It really is the last straw though,” The Doctor complained as Rose and Jackie and even Christopher laughed at him. “Here I am, reduced to parental taxi to school. Domestic! Ordinary life! I can’t do it. Not full time anyway. There must be a planet with trouble brewing on it somewhere. I think I’ll take the TARDIS out for the afternoon and defeat a despot or two.”

“No you will not,” Rose answered fiercely. “You’re RETIRED. Go and help Davie in his workshop or spend some time with the volunteers in the meadow. You can tell them all about your adventures. There may be some of them who have never heard of how you defeated the Yeti in the London underground in 1968.”

“I’ll volunteer for some bricklaying,” he said, given the choice of the day’s activities. “A bit of manual labour should just about round this day off.”

“I think he would have been happier going to find a despot to overthrow,” Rose said with a sigh as he left the house. “I feel like I’ve chained him up. I never meant to do that.”

“He was joking about that,” Christopher assured her. “He IS happy, Rose. He loves you and the children. He loves this life. This is how we lived when I was a boy, you know. We lived on another planet, but our life wasn’t much different. Father drove to work every day. He worked in our equivalent of the Foreign Office. And when he came home at night he would hug and kiss my mother and play games with me, and we were about as happy as it is possible to be. And now… he has done everything he can to recreate that life again. He WAS tired of the adventurous life, of always travelling, always leaving people behind. You gave him a reason to stop, Rose. And he never resents it.”

“He has nothing to do, though,” Rose noted. “When you were a boy he had a job. It sounds dead boring to me, but it was a job.”

“He’s ok,” Christopher assured her. “Don’t you fret.”

He WAS ok. He was happy. He strolled across the meadow, noting the work progressing on Chris’s great project. The volunteers waved cheerfully to him. Chris looked up from where he was laying bricks with great concentration.

“It’s looking good,” he told him.

“It’s…. slow,” Chris answered. “All our great advances in technology, and yet putting one brick on top of another is our only way of constructing a building.”

“That’s called craftsmanship,” The Doctor said. “It’s the only way to build safe and strong. Look at the house. It was built in 1787, by putting one brick on top of the other. It’s still standing. You want your sanctuary to be standing in four hundred years time?”

“You’re right,” Chris answered him with a smile. “But still…” He sighed and looked into the distance dreamily. “I wish…”

“I’m the impatient one,” The Doctor told him. “You are the one who dreams the slow dreams.” He picked up a trowel and began to lay bricks carefully. Chris watched him and wondered when in his great long life he learnt to do things like that, before joining him at the work.

He was happy at that, too. Despite his joking complaint to Rose, he always found manual work satisfying. Creating something real and solid that was going to last. There was nothing quite like it.

Vicki put the finishing touches to a drawing of the Daleks on Westminster Bridge, with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background. She had a feeling hers and Sukie’s drawings were much more detailed and professional than everyone else’s, but they weren’t giving away any secrets.

The bell rang for break. As she headed for the cloakroom she reached out mentally and told her daddy about the morning so far.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying it,” he told her. “You go and play with the other children now, and make new friends. After break you’ve got maths. I’ll send you some lessons about temporal physics to do in your head after you’ve finished the easy sums the teacher gives you.”

She broke the mental connection and ran out into the playground with Sukie and two other girls from her class, Sarah and Caroline. They played skipping for a while. Vicki was good at skipping. It was all about timing, after all, and she was the daughter of a Time Lord. Such things came instinctively. After they had skipped they sat on a wall with their feet dangling and Vicki shared a big bag of sweets with Sukie and her new friends.

“What are these?” Caroline asked biting into the sweet cautiously.

“Jelly babies,” she answered. “My daddy gets them for me when he goes away on business.”

“They’re nice,” Sarah said. “What sort of business does your daddy do? My daddy is a stockbroker.”

“He’s a doctor,” Vicki said. “Everyone calls him Doctor. Except for me. I call him daddy.”

“Give me those,” a voice said and the red haired boy tried to snatch the bag of sweets. Vicki snatched them away quickly and he lunged again, but somehow his shoelaces had got tied together and he fell over. All four girls sitting together and several other children laughed at him. The boy retied his laces then stood up angrily and grabbed Vicki’s arm tightly. She put her hand over his to stop him hurting her and went pale. She shook visibly and Sukie thought she was going to be sick.

“Jimmy Forester, leave those girls alone,” a teacher’s voice boomed and the boy ran off. Sukie put her arm around Vicki.

“We’ll tell granddad about that when he comes to take us home,” she told her telepathically. Then Sarah and Caroline asked her if she knew how to play hopscotch and she jumped down and went with them to learn a new game before the bell rang.

The Doctor took a break in order to send Vicki’s temporal physics lesson in a concentrated mental burst. Then he went back to the bricklaying. It WAS a good way to pass the day. Yes, the work was slow, but at the end of each day a little more was done. And there was a satisfaction in that which was hard to beat.

He quit in time to shower and change and go out in the car again to collect his daughter from school. He again wondered at the ordinariness of it as he stood there at the school gate, among dozens of other parents, waiting for the bell to ring. A few of them said hello to him and commented about the weather. He answered them politely.

He had never done this sort of thing when Susan went to school. He hadn’t wanted her to go and had refused to be involved. He stayed away from Parent-Teacher meetings.

And that was the problem. That was what brought Ian and Barbara looking for him to find out why Susan was such a strange child and why her only relative was so aloof. That was the start of the long adventure that brought him, in a roundabout way, right back to here.

So this time it was important to get it right. To be here, to exchange pleasantries with other parents, to talk to the teachers. This was his chance to be a parent in a way he never did before, even with Christopher.

The bell rang and shortly after the doors opened. Children burst out of the school, running across the playground to meet parents or to make their own way home on foot or by bicycle. He noticed the red haired boy that Vicki had taken a dislike to and some others of her class. He saw their teacher drive out through the staff exit in her car.

What he didn’t see was either Sukie or Vicki.

An ordinary parent might have worried at that point.

He wasn’t an ordinary parent.

“Where are you?” he asked telepathically, picking up both girls easily enough.

“Signing Vicki up for the choir and the school band and gym club,” Sukie answered.

“Oh,” he replied, surprised at first, then wondering WHY he was surprised. “Oh, well, ok. Social activities. That’s good.”

He waited patiently another few minutes until they came running to him. As they walked to where he had parked the car they were chatting busily about the kind of day they’d had. Vicki did seem to have enjoyed the lessons, even though they were rather easy for her. She really enjoyed being with the other children and exchanging ideas.

“That red-haired boy,” Vicki said, turning to a more serious subject. She related the break time incident with the bad-boy Jimmy Forester. She and Sukie both laughed as they related the bit about him falling over his laces.

“You didn’t make it happen did you?” The Doctor asked. The two girls put on their most innocent expressions but something made him suspicious. “I think we need to add tangling up shoelaces by telekinesis to the list of things we don’t do in school,” he added.

“He’s going to die next year, in a car accident,” Vicki said, out of the blue.

“What?” The Doctor stopped in the process of unlocking the car and looked around at her. “Vicki….”

“When he grabbed my wrist and I put my hand on him to make him stop, I felt it…”

“I didn’t know you could read timelines, yet. I need to teach you to block that when you don’t want it to happen.”

“I can show her,” Sukie promised. “Chris showed me how to ages ago.”

“Ok,” he conceded. “But…”

“Daddy,” Vicki said. “He’s not a nice boy, but…”

“No,” he told her, knowing what she was going to ask him. “No, we can’t do anything about it. What happens, happens. That’s one of the hard things about being who we are. Knowing things like that and knowing we can’t.” He looked at his daughter and great-granddaughter. He wasn’t sure either of them really understood. It was a big thing he was telling them. A big grown up thing. But they were trying. “The only thing you CAN do, is TRY to be friends with him in the meantime. Even if he isn’t very nice. Maybe he WILL be nice if you give him a chance.”

He settled them both in the car and they set off. The girls started to talk about the choir, Sukie leading the conversation to get Vicki’s mind off the other subject as they turned into the road. Now that the school run had dissipated this road was almost a quiet country lane. There was a stand of trees one side behind a low stone wall, on the other, a green parkland was separated from the road by another low wall. It was a pleasant enough drive, The Doctor thought, and a safe road for Vicki and Sukie to cycle along from school when he was away in another galaxy defeating despots.

“That’s Miss Wright’s car,” Sukie exclaimed suddenly. The Doctor glanced around at the only other vehicle on the road as they passed it. He knew at once that something was wrong. It was parked askew and the driver’s side door was open. He slowly put his foot down on the brake and stopped his car a little way along the road.

“Sukie, Vicki,” he said quietly and calmly. “I want you to unfasten your seatbelts and lie down on the back seat with your coats over you. Keep still and quiet. All right.”

As he got out of the car he set the auto-lock and car alarm. If the girls had to get out in a hurry they could open it from the inside, but nobody could get in to hurt them.

He could tell even from a distance that the engine of the abandoned car was still running. Somebody left it in a hurry. Still several paces from it he noticed a woman’s handbag, the contents spilling out, but not as if it had been ransacked by a thief. More like it was dropped in a scuffle.

As he crouched to pick up the handbag he heard the unmistakeable sound of an energy weapon powering up. He looked around and just caught a glimpse of movement in the trees the other side of the road before he sprang from his crouch and propelled himself over the wall. He lay flat as the car exploded but almost immediately afterwards he moved along the inside of the wall, keeping low as he put some distance between him and the burning car. He heard the girls screaming in his head and reassured them he was alive and well and told them to stay put.

He time-folded as he leapt over the wall and crossed the road in a blur. On the other side was a swing-gate and a path leading into the trees where the energy weapon had been discharged.

The gunman was powering up to fire again as The Doctor came out of the time fold directly in his line of fire. A neat scissor kick sent the weapon flying and the gunman into a none too peaceful sleep. He looked around and saw that the trees thinned out into a clearing almost immediately. He spotted the woman, Miss Wright, Vicki and Sukie’s teacher, struggling with two other men. She put up a brave fight and managed to get free from them. He saw one of them raise another of the fiendish energy weapons, but the other forced his arm down. It looked as if they wanted to take her alive and intact. He didn’t bother to wonder why as he time-folded again.

She was doing the right thing, he noted as he crossed the ground in a blur. She was weaving and turning back towards the trees, back towards the road. But the two were closing in on her. He saw them reach to grab her as she stumbled and fell. But he was on top of them. As he came out of the time fold he grabbed both by the collar and bashed their heads together, hard. He dropped them and reached for Miss Wright and was startled to be kicked in the midriff for his pains.

“Ooof,” he gasped. “Hey… I’m on your side.” He reached to lift her up as she recognised him and stopped kicking out. “Good kick. I’m glad you wear sensible teacher’s shoes not heels though.”

“Mr….” She stammered. “You’re… Vicki’s father. I met you this morning.”

“That’s right,” he said. He glanced at the cut on her head and was puzzled by it. But that could wait. He pointed back down towards the road. “Sukie and Vicki are in my car. Go and sit with them. I’ll be with you in a minute. Just going to sort out some loose ends here.”

She nodded and ran. He bent and picked up the weapon dropped by one of the unconscious would-be kidnappers and found a second one on the other man. He recognised them both as triphasic disrupter canons. No wonder the car had exploded. He looked around carefully and spotted the slight shimmer that told those who know what to look for that there was a cloaked shuttle capsule parked up. Something not much bigger than a family car. Room enough for three kidnappers and a kidnapee.

He aimed one of the weapons at it then he threw both the disrupter canons into the resultant fire before heading back to where he left the first assailant sleeping it off. He found the other weapon and brought it with him.

Miss Wright was sitting in the passenger seat of the car. The girls were sitting up in the back talking to her. He waved to them as he retrieved Miss Wright’s handbag from where it still lay in the middle of the road.

“Here you go,” he said, handing it to her as he climbed into the driver’s seat after leaving the weapon safely in the boot. “I think everything’s there. Children, fasten your seatbelts now. Miss Wright is coming home with us for tea.”

“No,” she protested. “If you could just drop me at my house… I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine,” he told her. “You’re bruised and battered and you’re in shock. Besides, I’m a nosy parker and I want to know what this is all about.” And he started the car without another word. At the T-junction some five hundred yards further along he stopped to allow a fire engine to pass, heading, he supposed, to deal with a car and a small woodland that had both mysteriously combusted. He pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and set it to tissue repair. He passed it to Miss Wright and told her how to use it to mend her still bleeding forehead. The fact that she didn’t question the technology went on top of the mental list of questions that still needed to be answered. But they could all wait until they were all safe behind the secure walls of Mount Lœng House.

“You were supposed to drive to the school, pick up the girls and bring them home,” Rose told him after he had given a brief explanation of why they were late for tea. “I’ll swear you have a trouble magnet built into your DNA! Sukie has been to that school for five years without incident. Her brothers went there before her. Susan and David were on the PTA all that time. You visit once and the teachers are attacked!”

“It’s not MY fault,” The Doctor protested.

“It’s not his fault,” Miss Wright said. “It’s…. it’s mine.”

“It’s not yours, either,” The Doctor told her. “But you just come on and have tea with the girls and the rest of my charming family and we’ll discuss the matter later.”

“But…” She looked about her, her eyes darting fearfully from The Doctor to Rose, to the two girls and the twins, to Christopher and Jackie. “But… I can’t just eat tea… They may come here. Your children… may be in danger.”

“This house and its grounds has the best security this side of the Alterian frontier,” The Doctor answered. “Plus my son has two personal bodyguards on account of being a Cabinet Minister. You are perfectly safe here. So come on. Tea. Then explanations.”

And he wouldn’t hear another word until they had eaten. Sukie and Vicki sat either side of their teacher and chatted to her about the school choir and she almost seemed to forget her troubles for the length of the meal. Afterwards The Doctor sent the girls to do their homework and play in the playroom and the adults came to the drawing room. The Doctor sat Miss Wright in a comfy armchair and made sure she had a fresh cup of tea as he and Rose and Christopher and Jackie sat on the sofas and looked at her expectantly.

“I’m sorry to be so much trouble,” she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” Jackie told her, sympathetically. “We’re used to trouble in this house. It’s his middle name.”

“Actually, my middle name roughly translates as dragon fire.” The Doctor answered. “But anyway, Miss Wright… do you have a first name, by the way? Please don’t tell me it’s Barbara because that would be a coincidence too many.”

“Lily,” she said but The Doctor couldn’t help thinking she paused too long before answering what should have been a simple question and he noted that her eyes fixed on the flower arrangement in a vase on the sideboard just before she spoke. White Calla lilies and red roses.

“Ok, Lily,” he said, going along with that name for now. “Do you know why three men wanted you to get into a spaceship?”

“No,” she answered and again he felt she wasn’t being truthful. “I’m a teacher. I’m Sukie and Vicki’s teacher. I teach… I…”

“How long is it since you left your home planet?” The Doctor asked, going for a question that was bound to disconcert her.

“My…” Her hands shook and tea slopped into the saucer. Rose leaned forward and took the cup from her and held her hand gently.

“Stop frightening her,” she told him. “What makes you so sure she’s not from Earth?”

“Because she comes from a species where blue-blooded aristocracy isn’t a metaphor,” he replied. “That’s why I let you mend the cut on your head before anyone else saw it,” he added to her. “Philadonia?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“Used to be a nice place under the old system,” The Doctor said. “There was a military coup. Nasty totalitarian regime took over. You managed to escape?”

“My father was the last President of the free Philadonia,” she said. “Hector Ridoni. He sent me away when the fall of our government seemed inevitable. I know there was a revolution. My father was deposed. After that, I don’t know. I heard a lot of people were killed. Others imprisoned or exiled. I never knew for sure.”

“Hector Ridoni!” The Doctor exclaimed. “Then you must be Calla Ridoni!” He grinned broadly. “Oh, my dear. You were Vicki’s age when I saw you last. That would have been about five years before the revolution. We stayed at the Presidential Palace. Let me see… who was with me? It would have been after Susan married David, but before Ian and Barbara went home. Yes, Vicki would have been with me. Not my Vicki, the girl I named her after.”

“Doctor, getting to the point would be a good idea right now,” Jackie told him.

“That IS the point. Miss Wright?” he smiled. “Yes, my dear friend, Barbara, was the first Earth woman you ever met. And she was a school teacher. So when you came here as a refugee, that was the persona you chose for yourself. You used her name and took the same job as her.” He took hold of her hands and looked at them. “The Philadonian aristocracy are also noted for having five fingers on each hand. Reconstructive surgery to make you look Human? It must have been traumatic.”

“It was worth it. I’ve lived here in peace for twenty years. Nobody ever suspected. And I LOVE being a teacher. I don’t know what it was all about today. But I won’t let my life here be ruined. I thank you for helping me. But I think the best thing is to carry on as if nothing is wrong.”

“No,” The Doctor told her. “I can’t allow it.”

“YOU can’t allow it?” she looked at him mutinously and he recalled that the Philadonian aristocracy, though perfectly charming people, gave Time Lords a run for their money when it came to stubbornness. “Who are you to…”

“I’m a parent,” he said. “These people mean business. I’m not having their next attempt to kidnap you happen in the middle of geography with thirty innocent children – my own included - in their line of fire.” And to illustrate his point he brought out the triphasic disruptor cannon and put it on the coffee table in front of them. “This is what they’re packing as weaponry.”

“I don’t know what that is, but it LOOKS nasty,” Christopher commented, his first input into the discussion. “Those are people who mean business.”

“They ARE,” The Doctor said. “Lily, consider yourself under the protection of the de facto Gallifreyan government – that’s me and Christopher – until we know what this is about. You’re staying here. Jackie and Rose can find you some spare clothes…”

“No,” she insisted. “I at least have to go back to my house to get….” She paused and looked at The Doctor. “I think I know what they want. The Gladius and the Liber Philadophic.”

“The great symbols of Philadonia,” The Doctor said. “The Gladius – the sword is held aloft in the left hand by all the incoming presidents to represent one half of the power of the Presidency. The power of might. In the other hand he holds up the Liber - the book of law. The power of Right. Both treasures have been missing since the revolution. The military junta have been searching for them because they know they can’t rule absolutely until they produce them.”

“And they’re on Earth? With Lily?” Rose guessed the rest.

“The Liber is,” she said. “The Gladius… my father had it last. I don’t know where he or it is, or if he’s alive or dead. But that’s why I have to go home. If you think you can protect me, then you must protect the Liber, too.”

“Why don’t I drive Lily to her house and she can get the Liber and pick up some of her own clothes, too,” Rose suggested.

“No,” The Doctor answered. “It’s too dangerous. There might be more of those armed maniacs out there.”

“Doctor, come on!” Rose protested. “You taught me everything you know about self defence. If anyone tries anything… But come on, it's unlikely they’ll have another pop at her today. We’ll be there and back in an hour, tops.”

“Martin and Geoff could go with them,” Christopher suggested, referring to the two former 22nd Space Corps men he took on as his own permanent CPO’s.

“We don’t need Martin and Geoff,” Rose said. “Come on, Lily, let’s go and get this over and done with.”

They left the room. The Doctor nodded to his son and he reached for the intercom system that connected to the kitchen where his two security men tended to hang out in the evening when he didn’t need them. He told them to follow Rose’s car discreetly.

“Make sure she doesn’t know they’re there,” The Doctor said. “Or she’ll call me names all night for not thinking she was capable.” At that he picked up the disruptor again and looked at it thoughtfully before putting a videophone call through to the Scorpius. If this kind of weaponry was being bought and sold in the Philadonian sector Jack would want to know about it.

“I never really thanked him,” Lily said as Rose steered the car out through the main gate. In the rear view mirror she saw the flash of head lights and guessed that Martin and Geoff were following after all. She was relieved in a way. Though that didn’t mean she wouldn’t take The Doctor to task for not thinking she was able to cope.

“What was that?” she said.

“Your husband… The Doctor… Is that what you call him? I never thanked him properly for helping me earlier. He was....”

“The word we usually use is ‘fantastic’,” Rose told her with a smile. “I’m not sure if it’s because he’s a hero or because he’s just nosy, but he wouldn’t pass by without trying to help somebody in trouble.”

“Hero,” Lily said. “Absolutely. I am sorry to drag everyone into this, though.”

“You didn’t,” Rose assured her. “He did. My mum’s right. Trouble IS his middle name. But he’s had plenty of practice at it. He’ll sort it all out. Don’t worry.”

“I don’t… I hope it’s over now. I don’t want… I don’t want this all starting up again. Philadonia… I was a child when I was sent away. I’ve lived my adult life on Earth. I don’t want to go back there. I want to be a teacher. I like being a teacher.”

“He’s right though. Unless we’re sure there won’t be another attempt….” Rose shuddered. “I thought Vicki going to school would be a chance for her to grow up normally. But her teacher is another alien refugee.”

“Another?” Lily looked at her in surprise. “What do you mean…”

“The Doctor is an alien himself. That’s what he was saying before. He was on your planet ages ago. But now he’s supposed to be retired. He’s supposed to stay out of this sort of thing. Except that would be like asking a fish not to swim.” Rose sighed as she remembered the look in his eyes when they came into the house. The thrill of the chase. The adrenaline pumping. He had something to get his teeth into again!

Retirement! Never. Not until he was in the grave. And even then Rose wasn’t sure it would keep him down.

She glanced in the rear view mirror as she turned right, following Lily’s directions. She couldn’t see Martin and Geoff’s car now. They must be keeping a very discreet distance.

“Triphasic disrupter canons!” Jack didn’t look pleased as he peered at the weapon The Doctor held up. “They’re banned in every sector this side of Alteria. They were developed by the Araglin Secret Service from Dalek technology. Somehow or other they came across a ray gun from a defunct unit and reverse engineered…”

“Yeah,” The Doctor sighed. “You know that’s the very reason I blew up the weapons factory at Villengard. They were into the same bloody ideas. Any chance you could get some agents into Araglin?”

“We did that last year,” Jack answered. “But the intergalactic illegal arms market is big business. I’m not surprised the Jagonians have them, though. It's right up their alley.”

“You know what’s going on there?”

“We’ve been monitoring. It’s purely internal, so it's not in our remit. But we’ve been watching out in case the trouble spills over. Philadonia has been under a military Junta for twenty years, give or take. The generalissimo, Karl Jagon ruled by force. Any resistance was crushed. But last year there was a counter-revolution, popular uprising, the usual thing. Jagon was ousted. Most of the military deserted. He used too many pressed conscripts. They just dropped their arms and went home to their families. All but a loyal core. Jagon and his core – we reckon he has about fifty men – they took over the flagship battle-cruiser and fled.”

“So they’ve got a new president?”

“They’ve got the old President, Hector Ridoni. Apparently he was in the state prison when the people stormed it. Been there all those years. They’re ready to swear him in any day. But they need some old artefact to make it official.”

“The Liber,” The Doctor said. “Yeah. We know where that is. And Ridoni’s daughter. Alive and well and living in surburbia.”

“You be careful, Doctor,” Jack told him. “Jagon’s lot have no chance of retaking the planet. They don’t have the support. He put too many of his old allies in the same prison as Ridoni. But if they know the daughter is on Earth… if they’ve tried once already…”

“Yeah, I know,” The Doctor told him. “That’s why…” His mobile phone rang in his pocket. “Hang on.” He flipped it on, expecting it to be Rose. When he saw the incoming number was from Geoff, he was wary.

“Sir,” Geoff told him. “I’m sorry. Our car broke down. We went on foot…but… You’d better get here, sir.”

The Doctor didn’t wait another moment. He dropped the mobile phone and turned and ran from the room. A minute later as he broke the video phone connection with Jack, Christopher heard the sound of the TARDIS dematerialising in the hall.

“They’ll be ok,” he assured Jackie whose expression spoke a thousand anxious words. “He won’t let anyone come to harm.”

Jackie hugged her baby grandson and hoped he was right.

The TARDIS materialised outside the house where Miss Lily Wright, AKA Calla Ridoni lived in exile on Earth. Geoff and Martin were waiting when The Doctor stepped out. They were very clearly upset.

“Sir,” Martin began. “I am SO very sorry. If we had been here…”

“You could be dead,” The Doctor told him. “Don’t beat yourselves up. Just tell me what you know.”

“Like I said,” Geoff continued. “Our car cut out half a mile back. We lost sight of her Ladyship’s vehicle. But we had the address so we continued on foot, cutting through the back streets. But by the time we got here…. They must have been watching the house, waiting for them. There’s a car parked across the drive. They must have come in behind them and blocked their escape. They were just leaving as we got there – by space pod. It was cloaked over there, by the garage. There’s scorching on the grass from the take off. The house… there are signs of a scuffle but…”

“Ok,” The Doctor said very quietly. He put his hand up as if to silence the two men. He closed his eyes and concentrated.

When something traumatic had occurred in a location, when emotions had run high, it was possible for a strong telepath to pick up enough resonances to mentally reconstruct what had happened. It was better than Crimewatch, he always said. But it was mentally exhausting and he didn’t do it very often.

But he had to know what happened, and if his wife was alive when the space pod took off.

And Calla Ridoni. A lot depended on her being alive.

“We can help.” He heard Chris’s voice in his head as he tried to focus. “Vicki and Sukie told us something was going on.”

“I never knew Miss Wright was an extra-terrestrial,” Davie added. “I used to like being in her class. She’s nice. I hope she’s ok.”

“I do, too,” The Doctor said. “Help me then. Join your minds with mine…” He was grateful for their help. He wasn’t sure he could do it otherwise.

Rose and Lily hadn’t even noticed the black car parked down the road. Why would they? It was an ordinary car parked in an ordinary street. Rose turned into Lily’s driveway and slowed her car to a stop by the doorstep. They got out and went into the house. Rose waited in the hall while Lily went to her room. She quickly found a few clothes and toiletries she needed and pulled a chest from under her bed. She opened the chest and took out the treasure of Philadonia, the Liber. It wasn’t a real book, but a gold sculpture of a book, opened out, a section of their law inscribed on the page. It was beautiful and symbolic of something that had been denied on Philadonia for a long time.

She put it into a pillow case and brought it with her. As she came to the top of the stairs, though, she heard the front door kicked in.

Rose was alert at once as the two men burst into the house. She went into a crouch and came up in a flying leap that took out the first man. The second didn’t know what hit him as her elbow came back and connected with his jaw.

She had run out of the house. The Doctor saw it clearly from Lily’s point of view. He wasn’t sure WHY he was seeing her view of it. He had expected to connect with Rose’s emotional resonances. But Lily’s were stronger. Perhaps because it was her house. Her essence was more firmly established in it.

He saw Rose run out of the house and into a trap that even she didn’t anticipate. Two more of the Jagonites were in front of her, and another two flanked her, coming around from the two sides of the house. She put up a fight, but four at once was more than she could fight. Once, maybe, The Doctor thought, she’d have done it in an eyeblink. But two long pregnancies had taken the edge off her fighting skills. His hearts quailed as he saw her subdued, knocked out and carried away to the cloaked ship. The two unconscious men were dragged along by their colleagues, making their escape moments before Geoff and Martin arrived on the scene.

“What!” He broke his focus on the past and stared around at the present. “Wait a minute…” He turned and ran into the house. He tore up the stairs and into the bedroom. He bent cautiously and looked under the bed.

“Owww!” he yelled as a sensible school teacher’s shoe connected with his face. “How many times do I have to tell you I’m on YOUR side.”

Lily scrambled out from under the bed, bringing the pillow case with the treasure of Philidonia inside with her. She was extremely contrite about hurting The Doctor again, but he hardly heard her apologies as he planned his next move.

“Boys, bring your TARDIS here, please,” he said to Chris and Davie mentally. “If your mum complains tell her… Damn it, never mind what Susan thinks. I need you. Rose needs you. A people struggling to bring democracy back to their world need you.”

The twins told him they’d be there in a minute. He turned to Lily. “Come on. You and your treasure are going home.”

“Home?” she protested. “THIS is my home.” But there was a burning look in The Doctor’s eyes. She came with him down the stairs and out of the house just as a roaring sound and a displacement of air heralded the appearance of a white transit van out of thin air. A ying/yang symbol adorned the side of it. Chris and Davie climbed out of the front.

“Miss Wright,” Davie said with a smile. “How are you?”

“Miss Wright is a bit dazed and scared, but she’s ready to help sort everything out here and on her home world. The reason these goons have been trying to grab her is because they want to blackmail her father into resigning the presidency in favour of Jagon. He also wants the Liber. With that in his possession he will be able to assume the absolute and undisputed power he never had before and stifle all opposition. That’s the core of the matter, as I see it.”

“Yes,” Lily said. “That has to be the plan. But…”

“But the idiots grabbed Rose instead. Jagon must have been recruiting from the Thugs-r-Us bargain basement. They didn’t notice that two of you arrived in the car. And they obviously had no description of you. They were supposed to grab a woman. They grabbed Rose.”

“A capsule like that can only be short range,” Geoff commented. “There will be a ship in orbit. Even if it has hyperdrive it has to get out of the solar system first….”

“That’s MY thinking,” The Doctor said. “You two are coming with me to catch up with them. Chris, Davie, you’re taking Miss Wright and the Liber to the presidential palace on Philadonia. They can’t use her to force her father’s hand if she’s with him.”

“My father?” Lily looked at him. “He’s really alive?”

“He is. Now go. I want to get my wife back. She’s the most important thing for me, but you and your people’s well-being come a close second. Davie… you can do it?”

“Course I can,” he said. “Philadonia’s only an hour away. Come on, Miss Wright. You’ll love travelling by TARDIS.”

The boys took their former teacher in hand and brought her to the van. The Doctor turned and ushered Geoff and Martin into the police box.

“This ship…. can get to Philadonia in an hour?” Lily asked as she looked around the Chinese TARDIS. “And you two fly it?” She wasn’t sure which part astonished her more. “I remember when you two were in my class. The cleverest boys in the school. But so quiet and strange. You always seemed to be in a world of your own.”

“I liked your classes, Miss Wright,” Chris told her. “Sukie likes being in your class, too.”

“I’m glad,” she said. “But…. Oh dear. What will become of us all?”

“It’ll be all right, Miss Wright,” Davie assured her. “Granddad is on your side. You’ll win.”

“I didn’t think I had a side,” she sighed and sat down on the smart leather sofa and watched the two young men she remembered as boys operate their strange, wonderful machine.

The Doctor manoeuvred the TARDIS into orbit and flipped on the viewscreen. There was no sign of a ship in orbit. But Geoff drew his attention to the long range scanner.

“They’re just approaching the asteroid belt,” he said. “Moving on half power. That class of ship can’t possibly attempt hyperdrive within the solar system. But catching them up…”

“You haven’t travelled by TARDIS before, Geoff.” Despite his worry for Rose, The Doctor smiled as he got a lock onto the Jagonite ship and pressed the dematerialisation switch.

Rose wasn’t TOO worried. She knew The Doctor wouldn’t sit by and let her be kidnapped. But she wasn’t exactly happy either. Her head ached where she had been whacked and she guessed she was already a long way from home. The faint vibration beneath her feet told her she was in some kind of space ship in ‘impulse drive’. So she was probably still in the solar system. That was good. She had no doubt at all that The Doctor would search the whole universe for her if he had to, but it would be a darn sight easier if he didn’t have to.

The door opened. She sat up straight and looked at the man who stepped into the ‘cell’ flanked by guards. She tried to suppress a giggle at the way he was dressed. Why did military dictators always think that a uniform covered in gold braid and a big peaked hat with metal bits all over was impressive? And who was he kidding with the row of medals?

“Well, Miss Ridoni,” he said with a contemptuous sneer. “It's been a while since you left Philadonia. You must be quite excited about returning.”

“As if!” Rose answered. “What do you think you’re going to do with me?”

“Nothing, whatsoever,” he replied. “Only keep you in the same prison as your precious father as an example to the population of my ‘mercy’.” He laughed coldly. “For preference I would have you and him both hung in the Great Square outside the Presidential Palace, but my advisors tell me that would be unwise. If Ridoni resigns in my favour I may rule with the help of some Coercion Acts to quell dissent, but if I have you both killed the population will revolt uncontrollably.”

“Is all this effort really worth it for one little planet?” Rose asked. “Why don’t you just find a nice uninhabited rock and be your own little dictatorship?”

Karl Jagon snarled at her contemptuous answer. One of his men stepped forward as if to hit her, but he stayed his arm.

“Don’t touch her. YET. Bring her to the bridge. It is time to make contact with Ridoni. When he sees we have his daughter he’ll have no choice but to resign.”

“Don’t you need something else to be ruler,” Rose asked. “A certain BOOK.”

“Your father does not have the Liber EITHER,” Jagon answered. “He cannot rule by right without it. But I will rule by might with or without it.”

“Yeah, yeah!” Rose sighed as she was taken in hand by the guards. “You know, have you considered, I haven’t seen my father for all these years. We’re not exactly CLOSE. Maybe he won’t care what you do to me. Maybe he will consider that the good of the people is worth sacrificing me for. Maybe he’ll carry on ruling Philadonia with wisdom and mercy while he has you hunted down to the end of the universe and made to suffer for my murder!”

Jagon looked at her and seemed to consider that possibility for a moment. But only for a moment.

“Ridoni is a weak fool. He would never do anything that ruthless. That’s why this is so easy.”

“Oh well,” Rose said “We’ll have to see about that.”

Come on, Doctor, she thought. Come and get me. I want to go home.

Funny, but she wasn’t especially frightened. She could have fought these two guards, and even Jagon himself. But there was nowhere to go. She was stuck on their ship. Besides, playing along, letting them think she WAS Calla Ridoni bought a bit more time for everyone involved.

She wondered how long The Doctor was going to be, but she had no doubt at all that he WOULD be there.

She just wished he would get a move on.

Hector Ridoni drew himself up proudly as he faced the assembled nobles of Philadonia. Those who were left after Jagon had killed, imprisoned or exiled so many. They WERE, he had to admit, a slightly ragged and faded aristocracy now. But perhaps that was no bad thing. Not that the ordinary Philadonians had ever suffered under their rule. They were far WORSE off under Jagon’s junta. But perhaps it was time to bring about the reforms that blurred the distinction between the blue bloods and the rest of the population. Perhaps it was time some red-bloods sat in the Senate, too.

That was a reform he would be able to make now, he thought, proudly. It would be the way of mending ALL the wounds Jagon’s regime had inflicted on aristocrats and commoners alike.

He raised his left hand with the Gladius in it and said the time-honoured words claiming the MIGHT to rule. There was a round of applause and the cheers of the people beyond the palace were relayed through a large video screen on the wall.

He raised his right hand with the Liber held tightly. There were murmurs of appreciation. The Liber had been missing for all of Jagon’s reign. It had been the reason why he had never ruled except by force and why, eventually, his regime fell. The people would not accept his MIGHT without the RIGHT alongside it.

Ridoni got ready to speak.

“HOLD!” A voice boomed around the room and he looked up. Jagon’s face, enlarged on the videoscreen, was an even less palatable sight than it was in the flesh.

“Ridoni, you were warned,” he said. “If you take the final oath of office I will slit your daughter’s throat right here before you.” And there was a glint of steel and a blonde haired woman Ridoni had never seen in his life was pulled into view. For one with a knife at her throat she didn’t look quite as concerned as she ought to look.

“How will you do that?” he asked. “My daughter is right here.” He turned his head and smiled as Calla Ridoni stepped forward. Two dark haired young men flanked her. Both smiled as if they knew there was yet another punchline to this joke.

And there was. On the video screen they saw Jagon’s ridiculous hat blown off his head by a sudden gust of displaced air and behind him something rectangular and blue was appearing. The blonde woman took that as her cue. Her hand moved too fast for the video screen to pick up more than a pixilated blur as the knife flew through the air. But it came back into focus in time to treat the Philadonian Senate to a delightful view of Karl Jagon vomiting his last meal as he bent double in agony. Behind him two men emerged from the blue box in flanking formation and the click of their automatic weapons were warning enough to the rest of the crew on the bridge of the Jagonian ship. Another man appeared at the door and the blonde woman ran to his side.

“Hector, old friend,” The Doctor said, looking at the video screen picture. “Have I missed the whole ceremony?”

“Not quite all,” Ridoni answered. “I have yet to take the final oath.”

“Well, carry on then. Don’t let us stop you.”

Ridoni nodded and raised the golden Liber in his right hand. He said the words that made him absolute leader, by right and justice, of the people of Philadonia. On the ship, The Doctor and Rose watched the celebrations within and without the Senate Hall. Then the screen shimmered and resolved itself into an incoming videophone message. The Doctor nodded to the Jagon communications officer who accepted the call.

“Jack!” he said with a smile. “How are you doing?”

“I’m doing fine. You might want to hold onto something. We’re just about to put that ship into custody. You know how tractor beams can make things a little bumpy.”

The Doctor grinned and held onto Rose. She clung to him happily. Jagon stood up shakily and looked at the screen.

“Who are you and by what right do you interfere with my ship? The internal politics of Philadonia do not concern any other agency.”

“I’m Major Jack Harkness of the 22nd Space Corps,” he replied. “And you’re quite right, the internal politics of Philadonia weren’t our concern. We could do no more than monitor that situation. Even the kidnapping of an ordinary citizen of Earth wouldn’t really warrant our intervention unless the Earth government requested us to act, and we don’t have enough evidence to get you for the Triphasic Disrupter Cannons. But you made one REALLY big mistake. You didn’t just grab an ordinary Earth citizen. You grabbed the wife of the de facto Lord High President of Gallifrey. BIG mistake, Jagon. Your biggest yet.”

“We’ll leave him to you to sort out then,” The Doctor said. “When you’ve wrapped this up, maybe you and Hellina would like to join us for a late supper.” Jack grinned and said it was a date. The Doctor turned with Rose to return to the TARDIS. Geoff and Martin backed in after them and closed the doors.

He ordered in the late supper. Between Susan and David who drove up to collect Sukie from her grandfather’s, and Chris and Davie arriving back with Miss Wright, the eventual arrival of Jack and Hellina made it a quite large ad hoc party.

“Sorry we’re a bit late,” Hellina said as they stepped into the drawing room. “We had a bit of trouble with the loose ends.”

“Jagon didn’t get away did he?” Rose asked.

“Not exactly,” Jack answered. “He set the self destruct. We had to drop the tractor and get out of range.”

“Megalomaniacs always make sore losers,” The Doctor said philosophically.

“But it’s over,” Lily said. “Jagon is dead. And his followers. There will be no more threats against me or my father?”

“You can return to Philadonia,” The Doctor told her. “You needn’t hide out on Earth any more.”

“Or I can stay on Earth. I told you, I LIKE being a teacher. And if there is no more danger to me or to the children, then surely you can’t object…. I know you were concerned before, but...”

“It’s your choice, Calla,” The Doctor assured her. “Absolutely. Vicki and Sukie think you’re a great teacher, anyway. They don’t want you to go.”

“Not Calla,” she said. “Just plain Miss Lily Wright.” She smiled as the two girls came and sat with her. “You two should really be in bed,” she added. “You have SCHOOL in the morning, and I won’t let you off if you fall asleep in class.”

“Neither will I,” The Doctor added. “But they can have another half hour.” He smiled at his assembled family and friends and remembered something. “Rose, I got to fight a despot today after all. And still took the kids to school and back. Can’t be bad!”