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

“Coreworld?” Davie looked at his TARDIS’s database and noted that the information about the planet in question had The Doctor’s familiar signature on it. “Granddad was there when he was younger.”

“There’s a note on the bottom,” Brenda observed as she looked over his shoulder.

“No matter how much they beg, Vicki and Sukie CAN’T bring any of the animals home with them.”

Brenda and the twins all laughed at that. Vicki and Sukie looked around from where they were playing a complicated logic game on the coffee table and wondered what the joke was. Nobody enlightened them. They telepathically registered their indignation at being left out of the adult conversation and continued their game.

“An animal sanctuary,” Brenda said.

“A very exclusive sanctuary,” Chris noted. “Where did you get the pass from?”

“Granddad emailed them,” Davie answered.

“Do you think he’s trying to make sure we only go to nice, safe places in the TARDIS?” Brenda asked. “I am sure this is going to be really interesting. But it’s a far cry from the sort of thing The Doctor is famous for doing. Fighting Daleks and the like.”

“We can do that sort of thing when the kids aren’t with us,” Davie said. “There are no Daleks now, but the universe has plenty of other badness.”

“It doesn’t seem so long ago that mum got mad at us for taking Sukie with us in the TARDIS. She’s mellowed!”

“We’re Time Lords now. She has to trust us.”

“Oh, is that all!” Chris laughed softly. “We just had to have our DNA completely and painfully rewritten within our bodies and mum thinks we’re trustworthy now.”

“Funnily enough, yes,” Davie answered. “You were so away with the fairies afterwards, Chris. You didn’t hear what mum said about it. She was so proud of us both.”

“I’m proud of you, too,” Brenda told them. “My Lords...” She kissed Davie on the cheek and reached and kissed Chris, too, much to his surprise, then went to talk to the girls.

“It’s a weird place, isn’t it,” Chris remarked as Coreworld appeared on the viewscreen. Davie slipped the TARDIS into orbit around it and they looked at a totally lifeless surface with very little atmosphere and no vegetation. A dead world, but one with a wonderful secret.

“It’s not a natural planet,” Davie explained. “The core was hollow, but non-life-sustaining until it was terra-formed and manipulated as an experiment by the Artraxian Federation.” Chris looked at his brother and waited for him to tell him the rest. Although the TARDIS had always belonged to them both, it was Davie who read and absorbed all the information in the database and could recall details in an eyeblink. “The Artraxians are brilliant astrophysicists, almost as great as the Time Lords were. They are peaceful people who have no interest in conquering space in the old fashioned sense of the word. They colonise planets and moons that are clearly not capable of supporting life with their terra-forming techniques that transform dead worlds into vibrant living ones.”

“They sound fantastic people,” Chris observed. “Peaceful advanced societies are amazingly rare in the universe. There is something about being smart that seems to go hand in hand with corruption. All the peaceful people’s we’ve met have been the ones with the simple lifestyles, like the Aquarians and the Creotians.”

“I would love to talk to some of their scientists,” Davie admitted. “But we won’t meet any of them here. They abandoned Coreworld as a colony and let it become the nature reservation.”

He looked at the environmental scanner and smiled as he saw the readings it was giving him about the flora and fauna of the planet’s interior.

“Fan…tastic,” he murmured, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “Absolutely fan…tastic.”

Chris smiled as he saw that look in his brother’s eyes and the phrase he uttered.

“You’re more like him every day,” he whispered.

“Yeah,” Davie smiled broadly. He took it as a compliment. It was meant to be. But all the same, it was unnerving. Chris stepped near him and hugged him around the neck.

“Don’t forget to be you, at the same time. You’re still Davie, my brother, the other half of my soul.”

“And you’re still a total girl, Chris,” he teased, returning the hug. “I promise I’ll always be me, even when I am The Doctor. Now, come on, grab the manifold and keep it steady. Materialising INSIDE a planet is something the TARDIS thinks it’s not supposed to do. We have to persuade it otherwise.” He looked across at the girls. “Brenda, get them sat down now. I’m initiating the gravity cushions in case it gets bumpy.”

It got very bumpy. But that was something else Davie inherited from The Doctor. He LOVED it when the TARDIS itself presented a challenge. He laughed with joy as the TARDIS bucked and resisted and finally accepted the co-ordinate within the planet’s core. Chris nodded. Yes, it was all there. But maybe it always had been. Davie was the natural engineer, scientist, explorer, adventurer. No matter where he got it from.

The TARDIS materialised in the designated area. Brenda took hold of the children’s hands as she followed Chris out. Davie came behind, closing the door of a TARDIS disguised as a small wooden hut with a ying yang symbol above the keyhole.

“Good afternoon,” a voice said and they looked around to see a short, broad man with a pale complexion, approach them. He had a name tag that identified him as Bernick Salvet, reservation guide and having verified their pass he showed them to their carriage.

“My, that is beautiful,” Brenda sighed when she saw the open car pulled by two creatures that looked something like horses but with a corkscrew horn in the middle of their heads. “What are they?”

“Unicorns,” Vicki and Sukie said together. They stepped near the creatures and gently ran their hands through their silky manes and stroked the horns which were velvety like deer antlers. “They’re lovely. What are their names?”

“They are called Cara and Free,” Bernick told them. “They are Artraxian Moon Beasts.”

“Unicorns,” the girls insisted. Chris and Davie laughed at them but at the same time they could not dispute their assessment. They lifted them up into the car. Davie gave Brenda his arm as she climbed up to. He sat close to her in the front seat while Chris sat with the girls behind.

“Davie wants a cuddle,” Sukie teased.

“Well, Brenda is his girlfriend, he’s allowed,” Chris answered.

“So why don’t you have a girlfriend, Chris?” Sukie asked.

“Because I don’t want to get married,” he answered. “I want to build my Sanctuary and teach people the things I know I can teach them about themselves, their minds, and about the world around them.”

“Why can’t you do that AND have a girlfriend?” Vicki asked. Chris felt Davie laughing inside his head and challenging him to get out of that. He laughed too and hugged the two girls. His sister and, because his family tree was a very confused one, his great-aunt.

“Why would I need a girlfriend when I have you two?” he said. Then he turned his attention and theirs to the amazing sun of Coreworld.

“It is an artificial sun, solar powered by the real sun above the planet. It is in a fixed noonday position and the time of day is gauged by the intensity and colour of the sun, not it's position,” Chris explained to the girls. “It’s only about nine o’clock in the morning, so it is still slightly red tinged from when it brightened from its night-time ‘moon’ phase.”

“That’s so funny,” Vicki said. “It’s always dinner time here.”

“Nice try,” Chris laughed. “You’ve only just had breakfast.”

As they travelled leisurely through pleasantly undulating meadowlands beside charming waterfalls and rivers and lakes, the adults of the group realised just why the injunction about not bringing any animals back was necessary. Vicki and Sukie laughed with glee as butterflies the size of small birds flew close to them and they saw flocks of silver-winged birds in the skies. They melted with glee at the sight of fluffy white rabbit-like creatures and a breed of deer both the size of terrier dogs. They wanted to pet them, but Bernick told them that the Molons had very sharp teeth and the Dwarf Deer were very timid and would run away from them.

The girls sighed with disappointment and watched the creatures from the carriage.

“The Biekoos will play with you,” the little man told them. “They are perfectly safe and very friendly. They are the chief reason why Coreworld is preserved as it is. They are a unique breed of creature and the Artraxian government is committed to their welfare.”

“I like these Artraxians the more I hear about them,” Chris said. “A very forward thinking people.”

“That they are,” Bernick said. “They allowed my people sanctuary on one of their terraformed colonies when our world was destroyed by a meteor strike. My grandparents were among those who escaped the peril in twelve great space ships. They drifted in space running low on supplies until an Artraxian exploration vessel intercepted them and brought them under escort to the Artraxian home world.”

“No wonder granddad was so impressed by them,” Davie said. “It’s the sort of thing he would do, too. Except twelve ships is a bit more than he could handle even.”

“Are those the Biekoos?” Vicki asked as the carriage came across a rise and down to the side of a wide river. Along the river bank there were what looked like grassed over igloos. Little houses built into the very land.

Around the river bank and between the houses were the Biekoos. They were something like a bear, standing about three feet in height with long, silky looking, luxurious fur everywhere but their faces where it was short, velvety fur. They walked on two legs, but when they ran and played they went down on all fours for speed.

“Look at the little ones,” Brenda cried out in a voice that Davie knew she used for babies of any species. Every time she visited Mount Lœng House she greeted Peter with that voice. She liked babies.

“Brenda, that note from granddad applies to you, as well,” Davie told her with an indulgent smile. “We are not adopting any Biekoos babies.”

“Oh, I know,” she said as she climbed out of the carriage with the girls and they approached the Biekoos village slowly. Chris and Davie climbed down from the carriage, too, but stood by it, watching as the little creatures approached them.

“They’re friendly, anyway,” Chris noted as the three girls found their hands held by six Biekoos, one in each hand and escorted to what seemed to be the village green. “They….”

He stopped. He looked at his brother.

“Do you feel it too?” he asked.

“A massive burst of telepathic messages?” Davie nodded. “Where’s it coming from?”

“From THEM!” Chris answered. “The Biekoos. They’re TALKING to the girls. They’re communicating.”

“I thought they were animals… if they’re talking… then they’re sentient beings.”

“Yes,” Chris said. “They are.”

“I can’t quite pick it up clearly. What are they saying?”

“They’re telling stories,” Chris told his brother. “They don’t use words like we do. They use pictures. But they tell stories. Coherent stories. They’re communicating with Vicki and Sukie, and Brenda, telling them all about the Biekoos, their history, their tradition. And it is SO beautiful. They have such a beautiful, peaceful life.”

“Lucky them,” Davie said. “Hidden away inside this planet, where nobody can harm them. With park wardens like Bernick to look after them. They don’t know about war and pain and suffering.”

“They used to,” Chris said. He watched as the stories seemed to reach a less carefree time. Vicki and Sukie were both crying softly as the picture stories became sad ones. “Once… about eight centuries ago… they suffered greatly. Until a man came along who made it right.” Chris laughed softly. “Oh, it would be.”



“He is a hard act to follow.”

“Yeah.” Davie grinned. “I’m going to start filtering the database and exploring places he HASN’T been before. I want to be known for my deeds, not his.”

“You will be,” Chris assured him. “But this place was worth a visit, wasn’t it. I wish they hadn’t banned people from settling here. It would be great to have a Sanctuary here.”

“You haven’t built your first one yet. And you’re planning a new one.”

“Yeah. I want to do one on SangC’lune but granddad says no.”

“The young ladies seem happy,” Bernick said to them. “The little fellows have taken to them.”

“You do know they have intelligence, don’t you?” Davie said. “Do the Artraxians know it?”

“They do, indeed,” Bernick answered him. “That’s why they protect them so thoroughly. So they cannot be exploited. This is only one ‘village’ of course. There are hundreds of them all over the habitat.”

“Brenda is hugging the baby ones!” Davie groaned. “That girl has enough maternal instinct for a whole nursery.”

“Fatherhood is going to suit you,” Chris teased his brother.

“I’m sure it will, when she is ready to marry me. But I’m not becoming the adopted dad of any furry babies in the meantime.”

Chris laughed as he saw his brother’s thoughts. Yes, his future was planned. He loved Brenda deeply. He was going to marry her in time. Meanwhile she would be his companion in his travels among the stars just as Rose had travelled with The Doctor. And that was as far as he dared look, yet.

Coreworld was a joy for them all. They enjoyed their visit. Chris and Davie were for the most part spectators, while the girls enjoyed the hands on experience, but they enjoyed it just as much and were sorry when it was over.

“Ok,” Davie said as he went to his console. “Do I have to run a lifesigns scan to make SURE there are no small furry animals in anyone’s pockets?” He looked at Vicki and Sukie but their faces were genuinely innocent of such subterfuge. He looked at Brenda and was fairly sure she wasn’t trying to smuggle any lifeforms off the planet, too. “All right then, let’s be off.”

Everyone found their seats as he initiated the dematerialisation switch. Getting out of the core was slightly less bumpy than coming into it, and with Chris’s assistance he made the manoeuvre easily. They all looked at the desolate exterior of the planet and marvelled at the technological miracle of it.

“Cheer up,” he told the girls as he began to initialise the drive and start them back into the time vortex. “We’ll come back another time. When I get Chris’s TARDIS operational I’m sure he’d love to take you another time.”

“Yeah, course I will,” Chris answered with a grin.

“That’s not what he said in his mind,” Vicki protested.

“I was just joking with Davie,” he replied. “I’d love to take my favourite sister and great-aunt to play with the Biekoos. But my TARDIS is very basic you know. Medieval stone walls and none of the soft sofas and luxury living Davie thinks he can’t live without.”

Vicki was about to reply when her attention turned to a flash of silver near the roof and a flutter of wings. She was about to mention it when Davie, leaning over the navigational console to turn a switch found out for himself. Chris was shaking with laughter as he passed his brother a moist wipe to clean his leather jacket while Vicki and Sukie shrieked with excitement.

“Don’t chase it,” Chris warned them. “You’ll scare it.”

“Who brought it in,” Davie demanded as he shooed the nervous bird away from a further drop zone around his console. “Vicki, Sukie….”

“It wasn’t us!” the girls protested.

“It’s a BIRD,” Brenda pointed out as she watched it come to rest on top of the elegantly carved Chinese cabinet that was actually a cleverly disguised emergency food dispenser. “It could have flown in at any time when we had the doors open.”

“That’s true,” Chris added. “Maybe you SHOULD have done a quick lifesigns check after all.”

“It seems happy up there,” Sukie pointed out.

“Well it can stay up there for now,” Davie conceded as he cancelled their flight programme and took them out of the vortex into ordinary space temporarily. “But we’re turning right around. It can’t stay. It would be unhappy in a cage and it couldn’t live in the wild in London.”

The girls were clearly disappointed. They crowded him with reasons to change his mind. But he was adamant.

“Yes, I know the bears are fine. But that was different. The were orphans. And you turned those big brown eyes on granddad. But I’ve had you as a sister for nearly ten years, Sukie. It doesn’t work on me. Besides, the Artraxians are really serious about this kind of thing. It’s why they only allow people with special passes to come to Coreworld. And if you want us to be allowed to visit again we go back right now.”

“You always told mum you can’t turn the TARDIS around in the vortex,” Sukie pointed out. “You’re a fibber, Davie.”

“It’s true,” he answered. “You can’t. At least not easily. But I’ve dropped out of the vortex already. I’m programming our return journey now. We may be a few days after our original visit, but that’s neither here nor there.” He initialised the drive once more and they entered the vortex again. He kept a close eye on the bird but it seemed to have settled down again on the cabinet. Sukie and Vicki looked happy about an unscheduled return to Coreworld even if they did have to give their stowaway back.

As they emerged from the vortex into the space around Coreworld, though the proximity alarm sounded. The cloaking shield Davie designed himself automatically protected the TARDIS from attack. The anti-gravity cushions protected the girls and Brenda as he and Chris looked in astonishment at what was happening.

There were two battle cruisers, one of which Davie identified as Sontaran, the other he didn’t recognise, but the TARDIS databank showed it to be a Sibran Battle Star. The database also noted that Sibrans were extremely aggressive, and had been at war with every species in their sector of the galaxy at least twice and had friendly alliance with only one other race, the Rutans, the enemies of the Sontarans.

“Why are either of them fighting over Coreworld?” Chris asked as he watched the dog fight.

“I don’t think they are,” Davie answered. “I think they just happened to be passing by.”

“There’s another ship,” Chris said. “Is that the 22nd Space Corps?”

“Yes, but it's just a XAVRA class. They’re fast and they’re armed to the teeth, but one of them can’t take on both of THESE. Even the Scorpius would be in trouble.”

“It’s IN trouble,” Chris groaned. “The Sibrans are turning on it.”

“Hang on,” Davie pressed switches and the TARDIS swung about sickeningly. The next moment they heard the sound of thermic torpedoes exploding against their shield as he put them between the XAVRA and the Sibran war ship. Meanwhile the Sontaran ship had turned and was firing on the Sibran. They saw its engines explode and the ship went into freefall, screaming towards Coreworld where it was caught in the weak, but still existing, gravity field. The XAVRA, taking advantage of the respite they bought them, turned all of its weapons on the Sontaran ship. As it exploded dramatically the TARDIS bucked and span, but held her position.

“Unidentified cloaked ship,” a female voice said as Davie darted to the communications console. “If you’re friendly, we owe you one, if not, then tough luck, but either way who the hell are you and what are you doing in this sector?”

“I’m Davie Campbell-De Lœngbærrow,” he answered. “I’m just de-cloaking my ship now. Don’t worry about its appearance. The designation is 564S?, or if you happen to know Jack Harkness, he knows it as TARDIS II. And what the hell were you doing starting a war in a protected zone?”

His designation was clearly recognised. The viewscreen resolved into a video communication from a woman in 22nd Space Corps captain’s uniform.

“Captain Campbell,” she said. “Thanks again for your help. I’m Captain Jenna Lang. We didn’t start the war. The Sibran ship was under arrest for violating the protected zone and was being escorted back to their own sector when the Sontarans turned up and you know the rest.”

“That we do,” he answered. “I…” He stopped speaking as Chris interrupted him with the telepathic equivalent of a loud yell and drew his attention to the environmental console. He read the data there and uttered a profound Low Gallifreyan swear word that had Brenda blushing and the two little girls giggling because they knew it was rude even if they didn’t know what it meant.

“Captain Lang,” he said, returning to the communications console. “Are you getting the same readings from the planet?” There was a pause and she looked around as one of her lieutenants responded. When she spoke again her face was ashen and her voice was clearly affected by what she had learnt.

“The Sibrans must have detonated their thermo-nuclear cannons just before impact,” she said. “The damage…”

Davie almost forgot to respond to her. He was looking at the computer model Chris had called up. He saw the simulation of what was going to happen to the planet in the next fifteen hours as the crack in the crust caused by the nuclear detonation widened.

Coreworld was going to break open like a nut.

“Captain Lang,” he said at last. “Stand by while I split the comm. I need to contact Artraxia.”

“You have communications with that kind of range?” she asked. “We would have to relay the signal and it would take hours to get a reply.”

“I have them now,” he said. “Stand by.” He looked up at the viewscreen as it split in two and the Artraxian President himself responded to the emergency code Davie had sent. In a few words, accompanied by a recording of the incident and the worst case scenario data from the TARDIS computer he conveyed the seriousness of the situation.

“We can send a zoo-ship to evacuate the personnel and as many of the animals as we can,” he said. “But it will take twelve hours to get there. By that time… we may only be able to reach a fraction…”

“Captain Lang,” Davie said. “Can you meet the zoo-ship from Artraxia and give it safe passage in the event of any more Sibrans turning up. Mr. President, there may be something I can do to buy your people more time. If you will trust me.”

“We are in your hands,” the President answered.

“On my honour as a Time Lord,” Davie said. “I will do my utmost to protect the innocent lives on Coreworld.”

“What are we going to do?” Chris asked as he closed both communications and moved quickly around the console pressing buttons apparently at random, though Chris knew that Davie was in full control of everything.

Another way in which he resembled The Doctor, he thought.

“Remember the old Earth story about the little Dutch boy with his hand in the dyke?” he said. “Brenda, girls, come help me, too. There are a lot of readings I need to keep abreast of. Chris, you take the environmental console. Keep running those simulations. I need to know if and how much I’m slowing the crack. Brenda, can you take the communications. Start getting in contact with the people down there. Let them know what’s happening and tell them help is on the way. Vicki, Sukie, take the panels either side of me here and visualise the numbers on the screen. Show me them in my head.”

Everyone jumped to his command. Chris and Brenda took up their positions. So did the girls. They could neither of them manage a TARDIS on their own, but they understood enough to follow his commands. Vicki had known a TARDIS console since she was six weeks old. That child seat in The Doctor’s TARDIS had seemed like a mad idea at the time. He and Chris had both laughed when they saw him build it, but as she stepped up to her place, her little feet in patent leather buckled shoes and white socks wedged against the base of the console, her eyes were bright with understanding. Sukie, not to be outdone by her younger partner, was equally ready.

“I don’t now anything about Dutch boys and dykes,” Brenda told him as the TARDIS descended to an orbit only about a quarter mile above the planet’s surface, directly above the damaged part of the crust. “What ARE we doing?”

“A dyke is a wall used in the old days in the Netherlands to hold back the sea from reclaimed land that was below sea level. The story goes that a boy spotted a small hole in the wall and blocked it with his finger and stayed there, eventually holding it with his whole hand, until help arrived. His action saved the dyke, saved the town from being drowned.” He paused and smiled gently at his fiancée as she waited for him to explain what that had to do with their situation. “I have set the TARDIS into position above the impact zone, and I am sending out a powerful electro-magnetic gravity pulse that is slowing the spread of the crack.”

“And we can do that until help arrives?” Brenda asked.

“We have to try. There are 2,000 people who work in maintaining Coreworld, as well as the Biekoos and all the other animals and birds. We have to buy the Artraxians time to get their zoo-ship here and start the evacuation process.”

“Will they get them all?” Sukie asked. Her eyes turned momentarily from the screen in front of her to the little bird, still asleep on the food dispenser.

“Concentrate,” Davie gently told her. “The bird is fine. But I need that information if I can save his family.” Sukie blushed and returned to her assigned work.

“The zoo-ships are used to take species to the newly terraformed colonies,” Davie said in explanation. “They are huge, with whole floors sectioned off to take different animals, aquariums, aviaries, and areas for insects. They use suspended animation chambers for those animals that might be distressed by the transfer. I think… if we buy them this time, yes, Sukie, yes, I think they can rescue all the animals.”

“But they’ll have to go to a new home,” she said. “They’ll be so frightened. They won’t like a planet with a sun that goes around instead of staying still.”

“But they’ll be alive,” Chris assured her. “We’re doing the best thing we can.”

“Can we keep it up?” Brenda asked. “Can we keep… keep our finger in the dyke. For twelve hours?”

“For longer, if we must,” Davie answered. “We have to hold the planet together until the evacuation is complete.”

“We can try,” Chris added. “We have to try. We’re all they have.”

“But the girls can’t stand there for twelve hours,” Brenda said. “They’re children.”

“We’re Time Lord children,” Vicki protested. “We can do it.”

“We can all do it,” Chris told her. “The consequences, if we don’t, are just too horrible.”

The Biekoos were one of the most unique species he had ever seen. He had to help them. And not just them. All the other endangered species on Coreworld. Some people might think they were just animals and they didn’t matter. But he didn’t. The Doctor had taught him and his brother to value life. All life. They had to try. If they failed, then they failed. But at least they WOULD have tried.

Davie kept his left hand on the lever that kept the TARDIS in position over the land and his right on the one that maintained the gravity field that was forcing the slowdown of the terrible damage. It was only partly working. He was slowing it, but little by little the crack was lengthening and widening. He could maybe buy the planet another day, long enough to complete the evacuation. Long enough for the zoo-ship to get out of range before it cracked apart and became so much dangerous debris floating free in space, becoming asteroids, possibly being caught up in the gravitational pull of some other planet and being accounted a moon.

That’s if his TARDIS didn’t crack first. He could tell that the engines were under stress already. The difference in the sound was subtle. But this was HIS TARDIS and he knew it. Perhaps not as well as The Doctor knew HIS machine after centuries of calling it his home, but he knew it all the same. The TARDIS was giving her all, too. He only hoped she would come out of this unscathed.

“How much damage could it do?” Chris asked him, telepathically, carefully blocking out the girls so that it was a private conversation between them.

“You know that thing about exploding and imploding at the same time,” Davie said. “Or the inside of the TARDIS being expelled into hard vacuum…”

“It’s that serious?”

“Not yet,” Davie answered. Then he grabbed hold of the console as the TARDIS shuddered. The bird twittered on its perch and ruffled its feathers as he fine tuned their position. “That was just a hiccup. She’s ok, still.”

“The zoo-ship is in range,” Brenda announced finally. “They’re hailing us.”

“Tell them to stand by for three passengers coming aboard from here,” Davie decided. “Vicki, Sukie, go stand with Brenda. I’m transmatting you to the ship. You can help look after the animals. Your Biekoos friends will be happy to see you.”

“Davie…” Brenda looked at him. He didn’t need any telepathy from her. He could see she wasn’t fooled. She knew he was sending them out of danger.

“I’ll see you later,” he told her as he reached for the transmat control.

“You’d better,” Brenda told him fiercely. Then as the beam enveloped her she told him she loved him. Vicki and Sukie yelled. It was the first time either of them had used a transmat. It was an adventure for them.

“Just the two of us now,” Chris said.


“If we die, we die together.”


“If I tell you I would rather die with you than anywhere else, will you try not to call me a total girl as usual.”

Davie grinned.

“I’ll try to resist it.” Then his grin widened. “But you ARE, you know.”

Chris laughed, too.

“Are we going to make it?” he asked. “Seriously?”

“I don’t know,” he answered. “Come and take over here. I want to use the computer to calculate some stress levels.”

They swapped places. Chris kept hold of the levers and kept them in position. Davie stood at the computer console and typed rapidly. The figures didn’t look good. The longer this took, the less effective it was. It was no longer a finger in the dyke. It was more like his whole hand. More like his whole arm up to the elbow.

“If my TARDIS was functional at least we could take it in turns,” Chris said. “If we’d travelled here together.”

“Yeah,” Davie said. “Or if Granddad….” He paused. “Hey… I wonder. Keep hanging on there, will you a minute, Chris. Move the dial one click every thirty seconds.”

He typed rapidly again and found what he was looking for. He studied it for a few seconds and then he breathed in deeply.

“Why didn’t I think of it?” he whispered. “I could…” He sprinted around to the communications console and keyed in the videophone at Mount Lœng House. It didn’t take long to connect. Rose answered it. Which wasn’t quite to plan.

“Hi,” he told her brightly. “Don’t worry, everyone here is ok, but I need to talk to The Doctor. I might need him to come and rendezvous.”

“You’re a bad liar, Davie. He failed in THOSE lessons. There’s something wrong…”

“Please,” he begged. “Get him for me.”

“Just you be careful. Whatever it is…”

It took a few minutes, but when The Doctor contacted him it was from the TARDIS. He had patched into the communication. He sent him the data and explained what had happened so far. He saw The Doctor’s face pale with alarm.

“Vicki and Sukie are safe. They’re on the ship. But… I was wondering… Can the Omegan Manoeuvre be done with two TARDISes… yours and mine…. I could hang on another couple of hours if you could get here…”

“Two wouldn’t do it,” he said. “In any case, you need to keep your finger in the dyke. If you move your TARDIS now it’ll be all over.” The Doctor looked at the data Davie had transmitted to him thoughtfully. “The last time I did it, was in my graduate days and we used eight TARDISes to move a moon out of a decaying orbit into a safe one. Coreworld isn’t as dense. Might manage with four.”

“We don’t have four,” Davie said, his hearts sinking. “I thought… it was a chance… to save the planet. But…”

“We have four,” The Doctor said. “Chris’s TARDIS can’t be navigated till you sort out the mess Draxic made of it. But it works in all other respects. I could bring it under tandem control. Then there’s Tristie. He’s young but he’s nearly as good with his TARDIS as you are.”

“That makes three. What about the fourth. I thought I would be able to use MINE. But you said…”

“Don’t worry about it. Hang in there. Two hours maximum. That includes placating Rose.” He grinned. Davie suddenly felt a lot better.

Though he still couldn’t make three into four. Or four into five.

Besides, it was going to be a close thing. The engines sounded bad.

“You’d better take over again,” Chris said. “If it goes critical I don’t want your ghost blaming me for eternity.”

“You haven’t done anything wrong. We’re just straining the engines big time. I think we’ll make it. I hope we will. Granddad’s coming. I think… I think we can do something. But I don’t know how we can get four…”

“I do,” Chris answered him. “You’re so worried about this, Davie, you just haven’t been able to get your head around anything else. If you haven’t figured it out by the time they get here…” Chris grinned. “You’re a genius, but you don’t know everything, brother of mine.”

Davie accepted that. He took control of the levers and concentrated on them. Chris went to the communications console and reported to him that the evacuation was going as well as could be expected. But it was too much to expect that it would be complete in time.

“If…” Davie began, then stopped. “Even if he DOES get here, even if he does find a non-existent fourth TARDIS, it’s a long shot. I don’t think we can do it.”

Chris looked at his brother. That wasn’t like him. He wasn’t a quitter.

“You’re feeling the TARDIS’s pain,” he said. “You and it are symbiotic… the imprimatur… it’s hurting. The engines are at their limit, and so are you.”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I think you’re right.”

“Hang in there, both of you,” Chris told him.

He hung in there. Chris was right, though. It was starting to hurt him. He wondered how that story ended. Did the boy wind up drowned in a puddle of dyke water?

“I don’t think so,” Chris assured him with a laugh. “Anyway…” He looked up at the viewscreen. “Hey… look.”

Davie looked. Something had entered the Coreworld space sector. For a moment he couldn’t work out what it was. Then he realised it was four things.

Four TARDISes.

Two were in default mode as they were supposed to be while in flight.

The other two were shaped as police public call boxes.

“I told you we’d get here,” The Doctor told him as the screen resolved into a videophone communication from him. Tristie’s voice enthusiastically overlapped The Doctor’s for a few minutes, then Christopher’s voice was heard.

“I’m in the Gothic TARDIS,” he said. “Father thought it needed ‘steering while under tow’. But since Chris is the one who has the imprimatur to it, he should transmat aboard and take the helm now.”

“Ok,” Davie answered. “But who’s the other….”

“Hello, Davie.” A voice came in as an audio transmission, without pictures. The accent was a sort of Earth cockney and there was an emotional catch in his throat. “Some day we really should meet properly. I think we’d have a lot to talk about. But we’re busy right now. This was your idea. You take the lead. We’ll follow.”

“Because if it goes wrong, your ghosts will all have me to blame?” he laughed. He looked at Chris as he disappeared into the transmat beam. Even though he called him straight away from his own TARDIS he felt lonely now, on his own.

“You’re never alone when you’re in your own TARDIS,” The Doctor – the OTHER Doctor - told him. “Trust in her.”

“Thanks,” he said. Then he switched the viewscreen to a schematic of the stricken planet. He could see the other four TARDISes getting into position around it, taking one half hemisphere each. He kept his hand on the lever that was holding his TARDIS in position. The crack was still lengthening and widening and his effort was less and less effective. But if they got this right, it wouldn’t matter.

If they got it wrong it wouldn’t matter, unless the ghosts really DID gang up on him.

They got into position over the south-western hemisphere. The four TARDISes were in formation, like a team. Davie felt more than a little proud that they would all do this for him. Especially THE OTHER ONE. For him to make this effort…

“Ok,” he said. “I’m ready. Go for it.” On the viewscreen the schematic showed a ring of energy forming around the planet, spreading out from the four TARDISes. Slowly all four of them increased the force. It moved in as if it was squeezing the planet. Literally, it was. They were squeezing the planet back together, the artron energy from the four Eye of Harmony sources within the four TARDISes, would then seal the damaged crust just like bonding two broken pieces of china together. Better, even, because mended china is never as good as before and there is always a join. There would be no join here.

It wasn’t something that happened easily. The schematic registered seismic tremors within the core as the crust knitted together again. The planet was not going to be unscathed.

But it WAS going to be whole.

His TARDIS was taking the strain. It was caught between the four energy sources and if it didn’t have its own powerful gravitational fields it would have been crushed like a pebble in a cement maker.

“We did it, Davie,” Chris called out to him at last, not by audio or visual communication, but with an emotional telepathic burst. “YOU did it.”

“We did it,” he said. “All of us. You, Tristie, Christopher, granddad… and…”

The cockney voice called out over the audio link.

“YOU did it, Davie. You take the credit for it. I’ll be off now. You take care of yourself.”

“Won’t you stay?” he asked. “I… I’d like to meet you. Granddad told me about you…”

“Another time,” he said. “Another place. But… listen, when you get home… tell your mum… tell her… No, don’t tell her anything. Just hug her like hugs are going out of business will you. Do that much for me.”

“I will,” he promised. Then he knew the link was broken. On the viewscreen he saw the second police box wink out as it dematerialised. The Tenth Doctor had his own adventures, his own battles to fight. Even so, Davie knew that ‘another time, another place’ wasn’t an empty gesture. He had a feeling he WOULD meet him eventually.

“I’ll be off, too,” The Doctor told him. “Before Rose decides to beat me up. We were meant to be doing a romantic dinner for two tonight.”

“You’d better get on with that then,” Davie answered with a laugh. As the second police box dematerialised he slaved his brother’s TARDIS to his own and brought them both down into Coreworld. Tristie followed in his, not to be outdone in the TARDIS piloting skills.

Coreworld had not been unscathed. There had been rockfalls and floods. Trees had fallen. In the Biekoos village there wasn’t a single house that hadn’t collapsed and they were all waterlogged from where the river bank had been breeched.

“But it could have been a lot worse,” Chris told him as he, Christopher and Tristie stood with Davie and looked around at what would only be a matter of time and effort on the part of the Coreworld rangers.

As they looked there was a shimmer and Sukie and Vicki, holding hands with four of the Biekoos, and Brenda, cuddling two baby ones, transmatted in.

“We are NOT adopting them,” Davie teased as he ran to kiss Brenda. Around them more of the Biekoos were being transmatted back to their home. They were grief-stricken at the sight of their destroyed village, but they crowded around Davie as if they knew he had saved their world. As he accepted their furry hands in his and felt their telepathic images of gratitude, two more people transmatted down. Two Artraxians. He stepped towards them. It was the first time he had seen one in the flesh – or more accurately, in the fur. Artraxians were tall, the male and female were both over six and a half feet, with thick, luxurious body hair and copper-coloured faces. They wore robes of a light weight but richly coloured fabric and they looked impressive. Davie had been taught very well that he was a prince of the universe and most species bowed down to him, but in the presence of these Artraxians he had the feeling he ought to be doing the bowing.

Though as they reached to take his hands, they bowed their heads to him.

“On behalf of the government of Artraxia, we thank you, Davie Campbell-De Lœngbærrow.”

“We just did what we could,” he answered. The Artraxians looked with him as Brenda and the girls sat with the Biekoos on what was left of their village green.

“You should know this,” they told him. “The reason why the Biekoos are so important to us, why we value them, why Coreworld was created as a safe place for them. They are our genetic ancestors. We, the advanced species of Artraxia, evolved from the simple Biekos people. There are only a few chromosomes of difference between us and them. We honour them as our brothers and sisters. And we would not have them harmed.”

“That I did not know,” Davie answered. “But if I did, my actions would have been no different.”

They stayed several days. Brenda and the girls helped with the repopulating of Coreworld with its animal life. They especially helped the Biekoos to rebuild their houses, a muddy job that resulted in a lot of extra showers in the TARDIS. Finally, there was only one thing left to be resolved. As the girls said their farewells, Davie and Chris placed a nest made out of pieces of paper and cardboard and fluff from the sofa cushions carefully into a box along with the three eggs that had been laid in it. They placed the rather affronted mother bird in the box and put the aerated lid firmly on. They gave it to their friend, Bernick to look after.

This time, Davie did a thorough lifesigns check on his own, Tristie’s and Chris’s TARDISes, before they set off home.