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

The Doctor woke with a groan and looked around at the dimly lit cell where another dozen men were beginning to wake along with him. The shouts of the guards beyond the bars and the crack of electronic whips were as good as an alarm clock for rousing them. Behind the guards came four of the prisoners dressed, as they all were, in nothing but a grubby loincloth. At each cell they stopped and threw in stale breadrolls. That was breakfast. This morning they threw in enough for each man to have a whole roll to himself. Yesterday they had to have half. Even a whole roll was barely enough food to nourish a hard working man.

This was the fifth day since they were captured. The mind-numbing and back-breaking work of a slave worker of the Byza-Rom Space Empire was beginning to feel like the only life he had ever known.

Except he didn’t let that happen. The drugs they pumped into the prisoners to make them servile only partially worked on him. They dulled his mind, so that his thoughts seemed to have to force themselves through treacle, but his memories weren’t suppressed as they were with the other men.

He remembered he had another life before this. He remembered that five days ago he had been travelling on an executive shuttle from the planet Ge-He 7 to Jasabane Secundus as part of a diplomatic mission to forge a trade agreement between those two planets. He remembered that his son was with him. The two of them had enjoyed being diplomats again. It was the life Christopher was born to, of course. He had always loved the cut and thrust of negotiations. He, himself, had preferred the thrill of the chase, but diplomacy was in his blood, too. Plus it gave him a quiet satisfaction to be called the Ambassador from Gallifrey. It felt like the old days, before the Time War, before his exile, when that was exactly what he had been, following in his own father’s footsteps.

He focussed his mind on that recent memory. They had been a good team. They had made a good deal for both those planets. The shuttle was on its way back from the final phase of discussions when the Byza-Rom Empire had intercepted them. The fight was all too brief. The crew were subdued. The passengers were knocked unconscious by the neuron gas that was pumped through the cabin.

Those whose memories were completely befuddled probably suffered the least. They couldn’t remember that they were once passengers on a luxury diplomatic ship. They didn’t remember that they were people who had servants and aides who did their bidding, and who had never done manual labour in their lives. They fully believed themselves to be of the slave race, the Beuk, who lived only to serve their masters, the Byza-Rom.

They didn’t remember their families, their wives and children. They didn’t grieve for them.

The Doctor grieved as he thought of Rose and Jackie, guests of the Earth Federation embassy on Jasabane Secundus. This was the fifth day that they would wake knowing their husbands were missing. The fifth day of terrible, aching worry.

He thought of his children back on Earth, being looked after by Susan, aided and abetted by Brenda and Carya. The littlest ones wouldn’t even realise he was gone. Peter would, his second born son who was so like his eldest in so many ways. So would Vicki. He thought of his eldest daughter, daddy’s girl even now she was old enough to go to the park with a boy on a Saturday afternoon. He missed her more than any of them. And she would be missing him.

It was four days to her birthday. He had promised to be home for that day.

He had never let Vicki down since the day she was born. He wasn’t going to let her down now.

Today he was going to escape from this place.

He ate the bread roll, chewing slowly. Stale as it was, it still contained all the nutrients it should. It was enough for him. if necessary, his Gallifreyan constitution could extract the very last fraction of nutrition from the smallest morsel food and it could make it sustain his body far longer than it should.

It didn’t make him feel any less hungry. And that was another thing he remembered. Good food, abundant food, enough that he could leave food on the plate when he had eaten his fill.

He remembered tea and coffee, fine wine, single malt whiskey, a drink he acquired a taste for only very late in life. He looked disdainfully at the tub of water that was shoved into the cell by another dull-eyed prisoner. There was a tub left in the cell overnight, that was used for an obvious necessity. He was perfectly sure this was the same tub emptied and then filled with what was supposed to be drinking water. Their masters didn’t care if they died of diseases caused by poor diet and even poorer hygiene. Slaves were cheap enough when they were taken by force. Strong, healthy men were worn down by work and then discarded like used batteries. New ones took their place.

The Doctor drank some of the water because he needed to drink. His body was capable of preserving water much longer than most humanoid species, too. But it was two days since he drank. So today he had to risk it. He let his body’s natural defences deal with the harmful bacteria that was in it. He wouldn’t succumb to stomach cramps and diarrhoea by the end of the thirteen hour work shift ahead of them.

Feeding and watering the workforce was done by fellow slaves. The daily hygiene routine was carried out by the guards, the lower caste of Byza-Rom. The Doctor had decided it was because they enjoyed this bit. Turning high pressure hoses onto them through the bars, dousing them with freezing cold water mixed with disinfectant was a sport. Although hiding at the back would seem logical, most of the men tried to make sure they got thoroughly soaked. The cells were stuffy and the work ahead made them hot. The cold water was a relief of a kind. And the disinfectant killed off the lice.

Killing off the lice meant that the Byza-Rom weren’t pestered by them when they came into contact with the slaves. Otherwise they probably wouldn’t bother with the disinfectant.

Once they were clean, the doors were unlocked and they were herded out of the cells. The guards flanked them as they were led to the conditioning room. This was one process that couldn’t be done in the cell. It had to be an airtight room, or the Byza-Rom might accidentally condition themselves.

The Doctor always felt a sense of acute dread when he stepped into the conditioning room. In so many ways it reminded him of the gas chambers of Nazi death camps on planet Earth. Not that he had ever been a prisoner in one of those camps. But he had seen one not long after the liberation. Between a telepathic mind and an empathic soul, standing in that grim place was almost unbearable. The echoes of the dying screams of countless victims pressed upon him until he passed out.

The gas that poured into this room didn’t kill. It didn’t even render the victims unconscious. It conditioned their minds. It was the reason they didn’t remember anything except being a slave.

The Doctor closed off his lungs. He was at least partially immune to the stuff, but it always left him disorientated for a couple of hours, and he had hardly been firing on all thrusters mentally for the past few days. If he intended to escape today he had to avoid breathing in any of it.

The process lasted about ten minutes. He could recycle his own oxygen for fifteen.

He kept still. The less he moved around the better while he was conserving his oxygen. The prisoners tended to meander about aimlessly, murmuring phrases about serving their masters, obedience, humility, and other nonsense that The Doctor was having none of.

Then one of them shouted in an agitated manner. The Doctor moved towards the sound of the voice, pushing the servile, sheeplike ones aside.

“He’s dead,” the man said pointing to the slumped figure on the floor. The Doctor almost forgot about recycling his breathing and nearly gasped in shock as he recognised his son’s face. Five days of beard growth spoiled his usually clean shaven features, but he knew him all the same.

He bent and touched his chest. There was no heartbeat and no respiration. He certainly looked dead. The Doctor touched his son’s forehead and allowed himself a half smile as he felt the low level brain activity of a deep state trance.

“Good thinking, son,” he whispered and kissed his cheek as he laid him down on the floor. He knelt with him and waited until the gas cleared and the door opened. He was aware that he was in an increasingly larger space. The word ‘plague’ was filtering around the slave minds.

When the air was clean again the guards stomped in, the leather of their jerkins creaking and the steel of buckles in places buckles didn’t need to go jangling noisily. If those guards ever planned a surprise attack on anyone they would have to do it in their underwear, assuming that wasn’t leather with buckles, too.

“Get up,” one of the guards said, aiming a kick at Christopher’s head.

“He’s dead,” The Doctor replied.

The guard kicked him again then took off a leather gauntlet in order to put his hand on Christopher’s chest briefly. He hurriedly replaced the gauntlet and stepped back.

“The body will be ejected,” he said. “You... carry it. Follow me.”

The Doctor lifted Christopher’s body in his arms. He followed the guard. They were taken in the opposite direction to the rest of the slaves who were heading for their workstations in the engine room on the floor below. The engines of the Empire worked by kinetic energy. That energy was created by forcing hundreds of slaves to pull long levers again and again. The engine room looked a lot like a slave galley in a Roman ship of ancient Earth except that they weren’t rowing a ship through water. They were powering the engines that drove the Empire - a space-born city-state twenty-miles wide and fifty-miles high upon which a whole civilisation lived, worked, died and were born.

It was just as hard work and the penalty for slacking was a whiplash across the back from the galley-master, a man in leather and buckles who enjoyed his work as much as the ones who cleaned the slaves did.

They were going away from that vile place, but The Doctor was under no illusions that they were heading for a better place. The ejection chambers were used to get rid of waste. That included vast quantities of food that the Byza-Rom masters threw away, clothes and other possessions they were tired of, and any dead slaves that might otherwise clutter up the ship.

They had not gone far before The Doctor decided it was time to act. He dropped Christopher as gently as he could while making it seem as if he had buckled under from exhaustion. When the guard raised his whip he reached out his arm and stopped it with more strength than his taskmasters would have expected from a slave. He grasped the whip and resisted the temptation to crack it over the guard’s back before casting it aside. He knocked the guard out cold with an old fashioned fist to the jaw that was nothing to do with any martial art he had ever learnt but would be recognised in every disreputable space port in the known galaxies.

He stripped the unconscious guard’s uniform and noticed that his underwear wasn’t leather and had no buckles. In fact, without it he looked no different to any of the slaves. The Doctor dragged his body into the conditioning room and closed the door. He pressed the switch that turned on the gas. When he woke up, he would be a slave. The Doctor felt a little guilty. A slave was a terrible thing to be. But at least he wouldn’t be a naked guard raising the alarm because a slave had taken his uniform.

The Doctor put the leather on and fastened those buckles that served a practical purpose. Then he lifted Christopher onto his back and carried him to the nearest turbo lift.

Christopher began to rouse himself as the lift travelled up eighty levels from the slave habitat in the bowels of the Empire. The Doctor helped him stand up.

“It was a good idea,” he told him. “Apart from the bit where your dead body would have been ejected into space. Good job I was around to work on the plan a bit.”

“Father!” Christopher’s deep brown eyes lit as he recognised him under the leather uniform. “We... escaped...”

“We’re not on galley detail,” he answered. “I’m not sure we could safely say we’ve escaped, yet.”

“We’re together. That’s something,” Christopher said. “The worst thing about these past few days was being separated from you.”

The Doctor fully agreed. He had been parted from his son for nearly half his life before they were reunited. He begrudged these five days. He would dearly like to make somebody pay for them.

The turbo lift stopped on the garrison deck. The Doctor looked out and then partially closed the door again, jamming it with a leather strap from his outfit. He waited until a company of guards had jingled and creaked past then he urged Christopher to walk a step in front of him.

“In here,” he said. He opened a door into the guard’s ablutionary. It looked like a Roman bath house gone space age. Ion shower cubicles stood next to hot, tepid and cold baths.

“Shave and an Ion shower, first,” The Doctor said, peeling off the leather that another man had sweated in too much for his own liking. Christopher had less clothing to drop into the waste chute before they stepped into the showers.

An ion shower was not a pleasant experience, it had to be said. Where a shower with water cooled and soothed the skin, the ion particles that stripped the dead layers from the epidermis burned uncomfortably. Shaving afterwards was impossible. The skin was too sensitive. That was why they did that first, and why, even though they were prisoners on the run and there was a sense of urgency about their mission, they used the baths afterwards.

They were letting the tepid water soothe their bodies when four guards who had obviously just come off galley duty judging by the smell of their leather came in. The Doctor and Christopher said nothing as they watched them shower and then join them in the bath. They responded with the shortest answers possible to any questions put to them and moved to the cold bath as soon as possible. They continued to bathe for a little while longer before getting out and moving through to the drying room and then to the enrobing room.

Five minutes later they emerged in squeaky clean leather and buckles and jangled their way along the corridor until they reached another turbo lift. The plan was to reach the upper levels of the Empire. Even here, on the garrison level, there was no way out. The guards were of the Byza-Rom race, but they only had a little more freedom than the slaves.

The turbo lift opened, but it was not empty. The guard captain had a breastplate as well as even more buckles jangling. He was flanked by two lieutenants.

“You two... follow me,” the Captain ordered. The Doctor and his son didn’t blink as they fell in with the order. The lieutenants were both fully armed. They would have been colanders before they could have taken both of them out. They had no choice but to go along with it for now.

“Are they on to us?” Christopher asked telepathically. “Maybe they’re leading us into a trap.”

If they were, it was an elaborate one. They were brought to a wide room where something like a hundred men were formed up in ranks. They fell into line with them and tried to look as if they belonged. The Captain stood before the ranks and proceeded to read out a proclamation from the Emperor of Byza-Rom. It was an angry proclamation. The Emperor seemed to think that the last campaign that the soldiers were involved in hadn’t yielded enough plunder. They were to be punished, therefore, with decimation. Every tenth man in the ranks was to be culled on the spot.

“What?” Christopher’s shocked response felt like a scream in The Doctor’s head. “Father... they can’t mean... they won’t... surely.”

“Stand firm,” The Doctor told him. “We can’t get away without risking certain death. If anyone breaks ranks they’ll be part of the cull.”

The fear of the men standing in the lines was a palpable thing. None of them were telepathic, but their thoughts were easy to feel when every man was thinking the same thing – please, don’t let me be the tenth man.

The Doctor and his son were thinking the same thing as they watched the lieutenants walking down the lines counting in Byza-Romanian. “Aino, duo, treci, quato, quinus, sexta, septim, ocat, nano, decima.”

When they counted ‘decima’ the man was immediately shot in the head with a plasma bolt and fell dead. The relief of the men either side of the dead one hung in the air along with the fear.

“Not him,” The Doctor thought as the counter reached their line. “Please, not him. Don’t let him die right her, at my side. I would rather die myself than lose my son in such a senseless, arbitrary way.”

Then he thought of Rose, and his children. He thought of Vicki, especially, and the promise he had made himself a few hours ago. He wanted to get home to her. He didn’t want to die here, in this vile place. He wanted to be with his little girl on her birthday.

But if his son died and he lived... how would he ever be able to face any of them. Jackie would be heartbroken. Rose would be, too. It was strange coming to terms with having a stepson over seven hundred years old when she was only in her twenties. It was even stranger when the stepson became her stepfather at the same time. But Rose had come to care for Christopher in both ways. She would be inconsolable. Susan took a long time to realise she had a father after so many years, but she, too, embraced him eventually. Her children loved him. Vicki loved him as her big brother. Peter looked up to him as much as he did his father. They would all hurt deeply if Christopher was taken from them.

Another man was killed simply because of his position in the line. They could hear the counters coming closer.

“Aino, duo, treci, quato, quinus....”

“Father...” Christopher began, then ran out of words. He was scared. He was no coward. The Doctor knew that. He could fight if he had to. But there was no fight here. They were at the mercy of fate.

“sexta, septim, ocat, nano...”

They hardly dared to breathe as the counter pointed at their breasts and passed on.

“Decima!” The man standing next to Christopher was killed. He fell to the ground and lay pitifully still as the counter moved on.

“Keep still another few minutes,” The Doctor said. “Hold on, Christopher. It’s going to be all right.”


It was over. The decimation was complete. A party was told off to take the bodies to the ejection chamber. The rest of those still standing were dismissed. The Doctor and Christopher filed out in their turn, half listening to orders about where they were meant to be.

They marched with the body of men at first. Then The Doctor grabbed his son by the shoulder and pushed him through the open doors of a service lift. It wasn’t turbo-operated. It took a long, slow time to rise up some fifty floors towards the elite quarters. Christopher turned towards his father in the respite it afforded and cherished the loving embrace he gave him.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured aloud. “Father, I’m sorry. Forgive me for acting in a manner unbecoming a Time Lord of Gallifrey.”

“Because you were so relieved when the man next to you was culled and not you?” The Doctor sighed deeply. “I didn’t notice... I was too busy being relieved myself.”

“It’s a terrible thing. That man... he didn’t deserve to die. But I felt no compassion for him... only... it was him and not me... or you. We’re both alive. And I can’t feel anything else...”

“It’s terrible,” The Doctor admitted. “We should be ashamed of ourselves. No, he didn’t deserve to die. Those men... they’re conscripts, forced into service of an emperor who comes up with crazy ideas like that and commanders who carry out such barbaric orders. I feel sorry for them. But they’re not our problem. I know it’s harsh. But we don’t have time to be sympathetic to our enemies. Our problem is getting off this ship and getting back to where we belong.”

“In time for Vicki’s birthday party.”


“You’ve been thinking about her a lot. I can feel it. It’s almost as if she’s the only one who matters to you. Even Rose... your wife...”

“I love Rose with every fibre of my being,” The Doctor replied. “I love you, my first born son. I love all my children and grandchildren... great grandchildren... Sweet Mother of Chaos... next year I’ll have great-great grandchildren. Brenda is having twins! I want to be with all of them. But my head can’t encompass it all right now. Thinking of them all... it’s those damn drugs messing me up. Just keeping one of them in my mind is as much as I can manage. And... my little girl... my Vicki... She’s my reason not to give up.”

“Garrick... my son...” Christopher admitted. “He’s my reason. I’ve been thinking of him every day I’ve been here.”

“And it’s time we got back to them,” The Doctor said. “We’ve wasted too much time already.”

The lift reached the top floor at last. The doors opened. The Doctor looked outside carefully then they both stepped out. They looked at the sign, written in Byza-Romanian, pointing the way to the executive shuttle hangar.

“We won’t get into there dressed like this,” The Doctor pointed out. “We’ll be lucky if we get to the end of this corridor.”

“Time to change out of this bloody leather?” Christopher suggested, pointing to a door to another bathroom.

This one outdid the one the guards had to themselves. The baths were the size of swimming pools and there were female slaves, dressed in small pieces of silk, who served fruit and wine to the elite who came there to relax.

The showers had real water in them. They were both grateful for that luxury as they quickly washed away the memory of leather against their skin. When they emerged from the shower, throwing their uniforms down the waste disposal, there was a slave girl waiting to dress them. She didn’t speak a single word while she was doing so. She had clearly been conditioned that way.

“I wish we could send her away,” Christopher said. “It’s just a little bit embarrassing. I don’t even have Jackie dress me from my skin out. She’s good with cufflinks and tie clips... I never quite got the hang of those. But... having a woman... who I don’t know... fastening a satin loincloth on me...”

“This bit of the experience we don’t ever share with our wives,” The Doctor pointed out. “They might think we’re enjoying it. I’m not, by the way. Any more than you are.”

When they were fully dressed, the slave woman bowed to them and walked away. They looked at each other dressed in fine satin and silk robes and sighed.

“I feel better like this,” Christopher admitted. “They’re not exactly like our robes of office on Gallifrey... but it feels... like the clothes I was born to wear. I suppose that makes me a snob... but I never felt right in the guard’s uniform.”

“I think that was just a revulsion to leather against skin,” The Doctor answered. “I hope I get over it before I see my old leather jacket again.”

“I never understood why you liked that old thing,” Christopher told him. “You’re a Lord of Time. You were born to live like this... with fine clothes and good food and every privilege...”

“I wear it because there are too many people who weren’t born to live like this. The universe is full of slaves. I feel ashamed to wear satin when so many people are naked.”

“That’s why we were negotiating trade deals for Jasabane Secundus,” Christopher pointed out. “The people of that planet will all benefit from the increased exports.”

“Yes, I know that,” The Doctor admitted. “But... we’re on a ship full of slaves... and men who are not much more than slaves... who are worse off than them in many ways...”

“You said they weren’t our problem.”

“I’m not going to feel guilty because we survived their barbaric cull. But... there has to be something... we can’t just leave them.”

“I don’t know what else we can do,” Christopher answered. “Not while we’re here. Let’s get away.... get back to Jasabane Secundus. Then we can report this to the proper authorities. The other slaves... some of them were delegates along with us. They’ll be freed.”

“We just run away.” The Doctor sighed deeply. “It’s not how I do things, Christopher. I’ve always fought back. It doesn’t feel right just making our escape.”

But it was tempting, just to get into a shuttle and leave. It would be over. He would be on his way back to Rose, and he could call Vicki and ask her what she would like for a birthday present.

“I want to see my daughter’s face,” he said. “Let’s get a shuttle and get out of here.”

Nobody challenged them as they went into the hangar and selected a shuttle. The Doctor took the pilot’s seat. Christopher fastened himself into the navigation position. He watched his father competently start up the engines.

“That’s one thing I never learnt to do,” he admitted. “I have been a lifelong passenger, be it in a TARDIS, a space shuttle, or even a car. I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“Piloting this isn’t a problem,” The Doctor replied. “The problem is I don’t have the protocols for opening the space doors. I’m hacking the computer. But if I get it wrong they’ll know we don’t have authorisation to take the shuttle out.”

“You’ll do it,” Christopher told him. “You’ve fought Daleks and Sontarans and Dominators. A computer isn’t going to defeat you.”

“I wonder if my other children will grow up so certain of my invincibility. Vicki thinks I can do anything. So do you. Will Peter and the little ones be so sure? I’m getting old. I’m not as sharp as I used to be. Maybe they’ll realise I do have feet of clay after all.”

“You’re still affected by the conditioning drugs,” Christopher told him. “There’s nothing you could do to let any of us down. You’re our father. Me... Vicki, Peter, Julia and Jack, Sarah Jane... you’ll always be the one we all look up to.”

“I’m getting old,” he insisted. “I should have worked this out by now.”

Christopher watched anxiously. This was an odd mood for his father. It had to be chemical. Perhaps he was experiencing withdrawal symptoms now they were away from the slave levels. He would be all right once they got away.

If they could get away. An alarm sounded on the dashboard and an imperious voice informed them that their journey had not been scheduled and demanded rank and identification mark.

The Doctor switched off the alarm and the communicator and fired up the engine.

“Forget authorisation codes. We’re going to run the barrier. Hold tight.”


“You said you believed in me. Don’t tell me you don’t have faith in my driving? We’re just going to accelerate to full speed in about three seconds and bust out of the hangar bay.”

Christopher’s faith was severely tested as the shuttle went from stationary to two hundred and forty miles per hour in only two seconds and hit the steel shutter that barred the way.

“We did it,” he gasped as the shuttle broke through into space.

“No, we didn’t!” The Doctor sighed. “I’m sorry, Christopher. I overcooked the engines. We’re losing power. We’re not flying. We’re falling... falling through space. Life support is damaged, too. Unless the Byza-Rom pull the shuttle back and recapture us we’re dead in a few minutes.”

“You... tried...” Christopher told him. “And... I’d rather die like this... with you... trying to escape... than falling down from exhaustion in the slave galley or... shot by random. At least... at least...”

The shuttle pitched and rolled and the drive controls exploded into a mass of sparks.

“They’re firing on us. They don’t need to take us alive. One more hit and we won’t need to wait for the life support to give out.”

Christopher murmured a low Gallifreyan swear word as the artificial gravity failed and his body pressed against the seat belt, the only thing stopping it from floating freely.

“Vicki,” The Doctor whispered. “I so wanted to get to her birthday.”

“Father!” Christopher replied. “I DO still believe in you. But... Oh... Rassilon’s breath.... I... I believe in my grandsons, too.”

“What?” The Doctor managed to reply. The ship was already disintegrating around him in the moments before the transmat beam took hold of him. He knew they were seconds from death. But he felt Christopher’s surge of optimism like lightning in his own mind.

He opened his eyes and looked up at a black lacquered ceiling with Mandarin charms against evil forces written in red. He felt the familiar vibration of the Chinese TARDIS in flight. Then a young man with dark hair streaked with blonde reached to help him up.

“Sorry I cut it so fine, granddad,” Davie Campbell said to him. “Steady... you know how transmats always mess with your head. Stand still for a second.”

“Christopher!” he murmured. “Davie... Oh... please... don’t tell me... If you had to choose between us...”

“He’s ok. Chris has him. Wait.”

There was a slight bump as two TARDISes connected in space. The door opened and The Doctor saw the stone effect walls of the Gothic TARDIS. His other great grandson stood at the console beyond, but The Doctor barely noticed him as he ran to embrace his son.

“You taught them everything they know,” Christopher told him. “Our own flesh and blood... to the rescue.”

“They’re brilliant,” The Doctor agreed. He looked around as Davie stepped through from his own TARDIS to his brother’s. “You came looking for us?”

“Rose asked us. She said the authorities were useless. They’d already written you all off as dead. But she wouldn’t give up. And neither would we.”

“They’ll have to listen, now,” Christopher said. “Now we’ve escaped. Now we can prove that the Byza-Rom did it.”

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Chris responded. “Granddad, you wouldn’t believe the politics involved. The Emperor flatly denied anything to do with the disappearance of the diplomatic ship and threatened war against the next authority that accused them without evidence.”

“We ARE evidence,” Christopher protested. “When we give our testimony... There are others. The other delegates... important men.... still prisoners.”

“Their governments have already declared them dead,” Chris explained. “I don’t think...”

“Then we don’t leave it like this,” The Doctor answered. “We fight. I wanted it over. I wanted to go home. But not now. Not if it means letting this go on... not if any ship in the galaxy... any innocent people... can be enslaved by these bullies. No. I won’t have it.”

“Now you’re talking,” Davie said with a grin. “Let’s fight back.”

Chris and Christopher, both men of peace, looked at The Doctor and Davie and noted how alike they were, not so much in physical appearance, but in the burning expression in their eyes and the determined set of their shoulders.

“How can we help?” Chris asked.

“Two TARDISes... one is more than enough. But with two...” The Doctor outlined the bare bones of a plan. Davie fleshed it out with detail. Christopher and his second born grandson listened to them both and agreed it could be done, and neither of them would have to compromise their pacifist leanings. It could be done without a single fatality.

“You materialise in the slave galley ten minutes after we’re done,” The Doctor told Chris. “You need to pick up the delegates. Just the delegates. I know there are others, hundreds of others. But we can’t take them all. Just those most recent captives.”

“We’ll be ready,” Chris promised. “Ten minutes. Is that time enough?”

“It’s the minimum we need to snap the delegates out of their conditioning so that they will want to be rescued. After that, things will start to happen by themselves, anyway. Events will turn very rapidly for the Byza-Rom.”

The Doctor and Davie turned and returned to the Chinese TARDIS. The door closed and there was another bump as the two time machines disconnected. Chris watched the signals on his own console. Christopher waited, for the moment without anything to do.

“You’re both so clever. You and your brother. Even my father knows it. He knows he doesn’t have to do it any more. He can leave it to the two of you. But there’s a stubborn streak in him. Having to be rescued by Davie will dent his ego a bit. But he’s proud of you all the same.”

“When we heard you were both missing... we’ve been searching for days. The Byza-Rom have hyperdrive, of course. And they cloaked their flight path. We went down a couple of blind alleys. But we never even thought of giving up. We might be the defenders of the universe now. But we still need The Doctor. And we need you, too, grandfather.”

Christopher smiled softly. It took a long time for either of the twins to call him that. When they did he felt proud.

“They’ve materialised in the central control room,” Chris added. “Davie’s got his sonic screwdriver set to stun mode. Any Byza-Rom who get in their way will be out cold in seconds.”

“Stun mode? He has a stun mode on his sonic screwdriver? It’s not supposed to be used as a weapon.”

“It’s for self-defence,” he said. “I’d rather he wasn’t. But Davie... he’s a fighter... a warrior. He gets into danger. And when he does he needs all the help he can get. Besides... right now... it’s better than killing people.”

He checked the time. It was nearly ten minutes after his brother and The Doctor materialised in the central control. He set his destination for the slave galley in the very bottom of the huge Empire vessel. He couldn’t see from the inside exactly what his TARDIS had disguised itself as, but the guards on the viewscreen were terrified of it. They dropped their weapons and ran. Chris opened the door. Christopher stepped out with his spare sonic screwdriver set at wide range molecular disruption. He held it against the nearest section of the long steel chain that bound the slaves to their workplaces. It started – there was no other word for it – a chain reaction that unbound the molecules of the steel. The slaves found themselves unbound and unguarded.

“Gedding, Ventige, Delan,” Christopher called out. “Come with me. “Neilson, Bell, Seatis, Deasy.”

The diplomats who had been with him and his father looked around at each other as if they had just woken up from a bad dream. Then they responded to his call. They moved towards the TARDIS door. Christopher looked at the other slaves. They were all starting to remember their real names, their real existence.

“The people who did this to you are above... in the elite sections. There are less of them than there are of you. The guards won’t stop you.”

He stepped back into the TARDIS and closed the door. It dematerialised. Chris returned it to its parking orbit beside the great Empire ship. Shortly after Davie’s TARDIS connected with his.

“A velvet revolution is in progress,” The Doctor announced. The soldiers have laid down their arms. They’re marching up to the elite quarters with the slaves. The elite are powerless and demoralised. It will be over in a few hours. The Byza-Rom empire will fall.”

“Chemical inhibitors,” Davie said. “The slaves and the guards were conditioned with them. There were low levels of it in the air on all but the Elite levels. They kept the slaves servile and the soldiers obedient. On the Elite levels there were low levels of chemicals that boosted confidence and gave them a belief in their own superiority. I changed it, just like changing the cartridges in an air freshener, just on a bigger level. The Elites have been given a huge, overwhelming dose of fear and defeatism. The slaves and the soldiers have been given a dose of rebellion. By the time they reach them the Elites they’ll cringe before them and surrender. Even the Emperor. I gave his chamber a specially large dose of abject cowardice.”

“Meanwhile, these men need clothes and food,” Christopher said of the delegates who stood in the middle of the Chinese TARDIS still in their slave rags. “And then they all need to contact their families.”

“You sort them out,” The Doctor said. “I’ll contact our family and let them know we’re alive and well.”

Christopher agreed. He took the bewildered men to the wardrobe. Meanwhile The Doctor called Rose and Jackie. The sight of him cheered them both. Jackie was relieved to know that Christopher was all right and would call her in a few minutes. Then The Doctor made another videophone call. A few minutes later he was looking at his daughter’s smiling face.

“I’m all right,” he assured her. “And I’ll be home in time for your birthday. What do you want me to bring you for a present? There are some fantastic handmade dolls on Jasabane Secundus.”

“I like dolls,” Vicki told him. “That would be nice. But... what I’d really like is TARDIS piloting lessons. Because... I’ve got a TARDIS of my own, now. The other one... Ten... he visited us while you were away. He said he was retiring. And he gave me his TARDIS. He said you probably wouldn’t let me pilot it on my own until I was about twenty, but I could start learning, now.”

“Seriously? He gave you his TARDIS?” The Doctor was surprised. “Well... there’s a surprise.”

“But... can I.... will you teach me? And Sukie, too. She can be my co-pilot. We can be just like Davie and Chris in their TARDIS.”

The Doctor thought of some of the trouble Chris and Davie had got into in their TARDIS. Even so, he knew what his answer would be.

“Of course I’ll teach you. TARDIS lessons are hard to wrap, though. Maybe I’ll get the doll, too?”

Vicki smiled happily. The Doctor sighed. He had longed to see that smile. It made the whole weary struggle of the past days worth it. He was sorry to end the connection. But Chris had news.

“The Emperor of Byza-Rom is signalling his unconditional surrender,” he said. “What happens now? The plan didn’t go this far.”

“We relay his surrender message to the Shaddow Proclamation. They come and take the Empire into their custody. They’ll arrange for the repatriation of the slave captives and the arrest of those responsible for their oppression. The Emperor will face war crime charges. After that... the rest of them... the former soldiers, the former Elite.... will have to make their own decisions about how they run the Byza-Rom Republic.”

“Wow!” Chris exclaimed. “We actually set all that in motion?”

“We did. We’re the Lords of Time. We can do things like that. At least... you and your brother can. When I have to be rescued by you... I can take a hint. I should do the same as the other one. Time for me to retire. This time I mean it.”