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

Earl Gregory parked his Toyota Prius in the car park beside the sun-drenched promenade. Sukie unfastened her seatbelt and jumped out of the car while he was still making the post-time travel check and initialising the perception filter. She dashed across the road and into the Panama Gardens and from there to the seashore.

He got out of the car slowly and looked at it critically. To him, it still looked like a 2010 Toyota Prius. But that was because he knew that was what it was. He stepped away and looked casually in the wing mirror of the 1972 Triumph Stag parked next to it and was reassured that anyone else was going to see a muddy brown and thoroughly nondescript Ford Cortina.

Then he looked more closely at the Triumph and frowned. He blinked twice and reached out to touch the car.

“Well, what are the chances of that?” he thought. Then he turned and headed across the road to catch up with his girlfriend.

Sukie had crossed the Gardens and was standing on the path above the wide yellow-brown beach that the Northumbrian town of Whitley Bay was most famous for. A slight breeze coming off the North Sea ruffled her hair, newly styled in a practical short bob. She smoothed down her knee length skirt modestly as the wind caught that, too.

“We’re not the only time travellers here,” he said as he reached her. “There’s a TARDIS with a chameleon circuit engaged right beside our car.”

“I know,” Sukie replied. She waved cheerfully to a young couple who were heading up from the beach. They both waved back enthusiastically.

“Who are they?” Earl asked, noting that they were both dressed in contemporary clothes. The woman was in a lime green trouser suit over a flowered blouse. The man was wearing a brown suit with a checked shirt beneath and no tie. The trousers in both cases were flared and the shirt and blouse both had wide, pointed collars.

“They…” Sukie looked at Earl and smiled warmly. “Er…. This might be a bit of a shock to you…. But… that is our grandson, Tristie Gregory de Lœngbærrow and his girlfriend, Trudi. Might actually be his wife, by now. It depends when in their timeline this is.”

Earl swallowed hard and looked at his fourteen year old girlfriend who only accompanied him on these time trips as long as he obeyed a long list of rules of conduct laid down by her two brothers.

“OUR grandson?” he queried. “You mean… he’s from the future. OUR future. We… are really…”

Even though he had only turned eighteen a few months ago and was a very new Time Lord, Earl thought of himself as an experienced time traveller. But the idea of meeting his own descendents was disturbing.

It was also disturbing, though in a good way, to know that he and Sukie really were a sure thing in the future. But there was no doubt that it was a paradox for them to meet up like this.

If it had been up to him, he would have taken Sukie by the hand and steered her away from them. But it was too late. The other two time travellers were already coming towards them. A meeting was inevitable.

“Sukie!” Trudi greeted her with an enthusiastic hug. The young man called Tristie smiled warmly and called her by her first name, too. Then he glanced at Earl. His expression flickered uncertainly.

“Tristie,” Sukie said. “This is Earl. I don’t think you’ve met him this early in his timeline before.”

“No,” Tristie admitted. “No, I haven’t. I…” He reached out his hand to shake. Earl did the same out of politeness. He wasn’t sure what to say.

But as he took hold of his hands he felt Tristie’s psychic ident and a jolt of recognition flashed though his mind. Yes, they were linked by blood, by DNA.

“Please… don’t call me granddad or anything,” Earl begged. “You don’t….” He glanced at Sukie who had wandered away from his side and was talking animatedly with Trudi about the sort of things girls always talked about even when they were born hundreds of years apart. “I mean… you don’t call her gran… do you?”

“Only when I’m home in my own time, and she IS my gran,” he answered. “I’ve been friends with Sukie since I was nine. I thought she was a cousin who lived in a different time. When I was a bit older and I found out how she was really related to me it was surreal. And obviously I’m older than her in this particular timeline. But it’s always been cool. I like meeting up with her like this. And it’s great to meet you, too.”

“I’m not sure what Sukie’s brothers would say about it,” Earl responded. “They’re very strict with me. And I think they’d take a dim view of us crossing timelines this way.”

“No, it’s ok,” Tristie assured him. “Uncle Davie is cool. He always says we don’t have a family tree, we have a mangrove swamp. Anyway, we’re all family. We can look out for each other.”

“There shouldn’t be anything to look out for,” Earl conceded. “This is supposed to be a simple trip to the seaside in the summer of 1974. Nothing historically significant happened at this time. There isn’t any trouble we can get into.”

“Earl!” Sukie came back to his side, accompanied by Trudi who slipped her hand into her own Time Lord’s hand. “Tristie and Trudi are here for a concert this evening. Can we go, too?”

“A classical concert?” he asked uncertainly. Trudi giggled.

“No, it’s rock and roll! Showaddywaddy.”

Sukie giggled, too. But only because she found the name of the band hysterically funny. Earl looked puzzled.


“They’re a pop group,” Tristie explained with a roll of his eyes that only Earl noticed. “Trudi is mad about them. She has all their albums and the TARDIS kitchen is covered in their posters. I promised to take her to a concert.”

“Doesn’t that qualify as a frivolous use of time travel?” Earl asked.

“Yes,” Tristie replied. “But it keeps my girlfriend happy. It’d be great if you could come to the concert. Apart from anything else, we can let the girls get stuck into the mosh pit with all the other teenyboppers and you and I could escape to the bar.”

“I thought I was an expert on historical Earth culture,” Earl complained. “But I have never heard the word ’teenybopper’ before and I am still wondering about the etymology of the word ‘Showaddywaddy.’”

Sukie giggled again. Trudi laughed and called him a square.

“Now I KNOW I must be your grandfather,” he said to Tristie. “I can feel the cultural divide between us like a huge yawning gulf.”

“That’s because you mostly studied eighteenth and nineteenth century history,” Sukie told Earl. “And your favourite historical music is American Blues. But I think it would be a great idea to see the concert tonight. And they can hang out with us for the afternoon at the funfair.”

Trudi was obviously enthusiastic about the plan. Earl looked at Tristie who gave him a conspiratorial grin and told him to ‘roll with it’.

“I can order two extra tickets retrospectively from the TARDIS later. We’ll pick them up at the kiosk.”

Earl rolled with it. They walked along the seafront together towards the permanent fairground at the place called Spanish City. Like the gardens, the name was a historical curiosity, but the fairground was a huge draw for visitors to Whitley Bay in the mid-1970s, and so was the concert hall that stood next to it. The Dome was an Edwardian attempt to recreate the glory of the Brighton Pavillion on the North-East coast. Bright, colourful posters of Showaddywaddy made a curious contrast with the elegant façade. Earl wondered aloud if the people who built it sixty years before could possibly have envisaged rock and roll. Trudi again called him a square and Earl cheerfully conceded that he was.

The fairground itself was bright and colourful and pop music of the sort Trudi was instantly familiar with filled the air along with the shrieks of people on the roller coaster and the hum of the generators that drove the carousels. Smells of high cholesterol, high sugar, fast foods tantalised them. Every ordinary sense was assailed.

“There’s somebody else around here with telepathic abilities,” Earl said as he disembarked from an old fashioned carousel horse and gallantly lifted Sukie down beside him while Tristie did the same for Trudi.

“Who?” Sukie asked. Then she looked around and groaned. “Oh, no. I don’t believe it. It’s not fair.” She broke away from Earl and ran through the crowds towards two young men who were walking along holding hands as if they were very much in love with each other.

“Well, there’s a coincidence,” Tristie said. “As if the four of us bumping into each other wasn’t enough. Two more time travellers.”

Earl caught up with his girlfriend and heard her berating the two men.

“My brothers don’t trust me at all, do they? I can’t believe it! This is Davie, isn’t it? He sent the two of you to keep an eye on me and Earl!”

“He didn’t,” Spenser Draxic assured her. “It really is a coincidence. Stuart and I are touring the north-east coast in Davie’s Holden Commodore – his latest time car. This is the heyday of Whitley Bay. It started to go downhill a bit in the 1980s. We came to see it at the height of its popularity, that’s all.”

“I don’t believe you,” Sukie replied. “Davie sent you. I know he did. When will he get it through his head that I’m old enough to look after myself?”

“Hi, Uncle Spenser,” Tristie said cheerfully, before he had chance to respond to Sukie’s second tirade. “It’s nice to see you. It’s been a while.”

“Hi, Tristie,” Spenser responded. “I’m not sure where we are in your timeline. Have you met my husband, Stuart?”

“I don’t think I have,” Tristie answered. He shook hands with Stuart. “Nice to meet you.”

“And you,” he replied. “But… Uncle Spenser? I thought he was an only child like me…”

Tristie frowned momentarily. He had made a slight temporal faux pax. In his own generation, several centuries down the line, Spenser was married to Sukie’s brother, Davie. His present wife, Brenda, and Spenser’s husband, Stuart, being of species with much shorter lifespans, were dead and buried long before. But he wasn’t sure he wanted to explain that to Stuart. It was likely to upset him.

“It’s… just a joke, really,” Sukie said, digging him out of the hole. “Tristie calls Spenser ‘uncle’ because he’s such a close friend of the family. But he’s not really related at all.”

Stuart accepted that explanation. Then Sukie brought the conversation back to her original point.

“You still don’t need to be here, spying on me and Earl. We’re not going to do ANYTHING that we shouldn’t. We’re just having a good time at the fair, then later we’re going to a concert. And then we’re going home. THAT’s all. We don’t need chaperones. So go away.”

“Sukie, I think they’re telling the truth,” Earl told her when they again protested their innocence. “I can’t read Spenser’s mind, because he’s putting up walls. But Stuart has no idea what you’re talking about. They picked up the car from Davie a week ago in linear time and they’ve been travelling to different places and times having a holiday together.”

“They DO come from this part of England,” Tristie pointed out. “They’ve got more reason to be here than us, really.”

“Well… ok,” Sukie conceded. “Maybe it is coincidence. But they can still go away and leave us alone. We don’t need them hanging around with us.”

“I don’t mind if they join us,” Earl said. “If they’re friends of your brothers they must be ok.”

“I’d love to have them with us,” Tristie added. “Come on, Sukie, Spenser’s cool. And we can ALL go to the concert tonight.”

“Concert?” Stuart queried. “What sort of music.”

“Showaddywaddy,” Trudi said. She was slightly bewildered by the argument, but she knew Spenser in later years, too, and was happy to meet him. “Do you know them?”

“I know of them,” Spenser admitted. “Though I was born in the 18th century, you know. I used to listen to chamber music until I met Davie and he got me into Queen. I’m not really any kind of expert on popular music.”

“I think there’s some of their stuff on the classical jukebox in my pub,” Stuart added. “I haven’t seen a live pop concert for years, though. That would be very nice.”

“Ok, then. Sorted,” Earl said. “What ride shall we go on next?”

Sukie sighed and accepted that Spenser and Stuart were joining them. There really wasn’t anything she could do about it apart from sulk, and she didn’t want Earl to think she was the sort of girl who did that.

In some ways it wasn’t so bad. Spenser was ok in his way. She had gone through a phase of not liking him when it looked as if he might make Davie change his mind about marrying Brenda. But now Spenser was married to Stuart and it was almost like having two new brothers.

“Isn’t it a bit dangerous doing that?” Trudi asked the two new members of their party as they all queued to get on the caterpillar ride. “Holding hands, I mean. This is 1974. I know anything goes in the future. I’ve been there. But this is the twentieth century. Men don’t… you know… not in public, anyway.”

Spenser laughed and gripped his husband’s hand even more tightly as he kissed him on the cheek.

“We’re both wearing low-level perception filters,” he explained. “People can still see us, but they don’t see anything that upsets them.”

“It works, too,” Stuart told her with a smile. “On Monday we were in Brighton in 1964 and he kissed me like that in front of a whole crowd of mods and rockers. They didn’t even notice.”

“Well, be careful,” Earl warned them. “Perception filters aren’t always one hundred per cent effective. I got in trouble once wearing one. I was in my local park in the nineteenth century wearing a t-shirt and shorts. When the filter failed all the Victorian ladies started screaming because I was ‘naked’.”

Everyone laughed at the mental image, though it didn’t stop Spenser and Stuart holding hands as they queued for the ride. They only let go of each other when they got onto the ride. Stuart sat next to Sukie and Earl on one seat while Spenser was beside Trudi and Tristie opposite them. They all relaxed as the ride moved off.

All except Stuart who looked around at the crowds, breathing deeply.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him.

“There seem to be a lot of non-humans in this crowd,” he said. “I get the earthy smell of humans… that’s ok. And the chestnut smell of Time Lords from all of you. I love that smell. But there’s at least three other smells, too. There’s the sharp lemony smell of Groxxians and the lavender of Chessenians. Those two people over there, with the blonde hair… and a charcoal smell… they’re Hannons.”

“I’ve never seen a Hannon before,” Sukie commented. “That lot have very good disguises. They’re the ones with five eyes, aren’t they?”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Earl told him. “Earth, even in this time, has far more non-terrestrials than humans ever guessed. They’ve been living here for centuries.”

“I know,” Stuart answered. “I’m one of them. But I’m so used to living in a small village where Spenser and I are the only ones. Being in such a diverse crowd, it’s a sensory overload. But there’s something else… a smell I’ve never known before…”

“What sort of smell?” Trudi asked him. She had met plenty of unusual beings in her travels with her own Time Lord, but one that could recognise other species by their smell was up there in her top ten of fantastic.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” he answered. “It’s sort of… like hot spiced meat… like…”

“Like hot dogs?” Earl suggested.

“Yes… yes, something like that.”

“Stuart, sweetheart,” Spenser told him gently. “There’s a hot dog stand by the ride entrance.”

“Oh!” Stuart blushed endearingly. “Yes… that must be it.”

Everyone laughed, but not unkindly. Stuart sat back and relaxed as the caterpillar gained speed and the canopy came down over them. In the diffused green light that came through it they all laughed together.

“What shall we do now?” Earl asked when they spilled out from that ride and looked around at the further choices available.

“What about that one?” Trudi asked, pointing to a façade covered in dark, macabre images. This attraction promised to be the ‘fright of your life’, ‘the greatest scare you’ll ever have.’

“Haunted Hotel?” Earl looked at it scathingly. “Those things are such frauds. Surely none of us are daft enough to be fooled by a load of cardboard cut outs coated with luminous paint…”

“Well, of course we’re not fooled by it,” Trudi responded. “But let’s go and have a look at it. Why shouldn’t we? Just because I’m the only Human here, and you’re all superior races with telepathy and smell-o-vision and whatever… doesn’t mean my opinions don’t count. And I’d like to have a look at that ride.”

“Nobody thinks that,” Earl replied quickly. “I was brought up to respect all life and all species. If I had ever dismissed Human beings as inferior when I was a kid my dad would have locked me in my room with the Laws and Ordnances of Old Gallifrey to memorise. It’s the most boring book in the universe. I’d have chewed my own leg off to avoid reading it.”

“Haunted Hotel it is,” Tristie decided. “Can’t be bad, anyway. There’s quite a few people queuing up.”

They joined the queue. It moved swiftly and it wasn’t long before they were being invited to step over the ‘threshold of doom’ into the ‘foyer’ of the ‘hotel’ where a clockwork ghoul sat at a reception desk inviting them to sign the register. They all did so, noting that the pen provided had ink the colour of blood.

“Hey!” Trudi exclaimed as she signed her name. “Look at that. Romeo Challenger’s been in here.”

Everyone other than Tristie looked puzzled. He just looked resigned.

“He’s the drummer from Showaddywaddy,” he explained.

“He’s cool,” Trudi said. “I wonder if he’s still in here. I might get his autograph.”

“He’s hiding in the wardrobe in the Haunted Bedroom away from all the girls who have ever said that,” Spenser teased. “Hurry and you might get him all to yourself.”

Trudi laughed and tugged at Tristie’s hand, steering him towards the haunted stairs. She wanted to see if she could catch up with her pop idol. He winked at the others and said he’d meet up with them outside.

“Funny,” Stuart said as the rest of them strolled towards the Dining Room of Death . “I’m getting the hot dog smell really strongly in here.”

“There must be a stand built up against the wall,” Spenser told him. “It’s a ploy to make people hungry while they’re walking around this place. They come right out and buy hot dogs. It’s the only way you’d get me eating that stuff, anyway. I can’t bear them.”

“I don’t think so,” Sukie pointed out. “Because I can’t smell hot dogs. Can anyone else? If it was an ordinary hot dog smell we’d all smell it. But it’s only Stuart.”

Spenser and Earl both sniffed the air and agreed with her.

“That means there is somebody in the Haunted Hotel who actually is the species that smells like hot dogs to Stuart’s species,” Sukie summarised.

“Perhaps it’s the drummer,” Spenser suggested. “What kind of Human name is Romeo Challenger!”

“Don’t say that in front of Trudi,” Stuart said as Sukie giggled conspiratorially. “It’s ok. It’s not the WORST smell, ever. And I don’t suppose they’re trying to invade Earth if they’re the sort of people who do fairgrounds.”

“You never know,” Sukie pointed out. “Granddad once told me about a time when he defeated an Auton invasion. They were using a circus to get a foothold on the planet. But I don’t think there are any Autons around here. If there were, they’d be hiding their heads in embarrassment around all the really shonky animatronics on this ride.”

They all laughed and looked at a particularly bad fibreglass zombie waiter who was attending upon a zombie family around a table full of fibre glass food. So far nobody had been given the ‘fright of their life’. Earl suggested that it might be possible to sue for false advertising.

Nobody could remember when exactly Spenser and Stuart went a different direction. When Earl and Sukie stepped out of the gloomy Haunted Hotel into the bright sunny day again, they looked around expecting to see them coming out through the exit door behind them, but they didn’t. A few minutes later Tristie and Trudi came out, but there was no sign of Stuart and Spenser.

“They might have got bored before us and left,” Tristie suggested. “We wouldn’t have spent so long, but Trudi found her Romeo in the Guest Bedroom of Doom and spent ages chatting to him. He was very nice about it, mind you. Didn’t seem to mind her telling him what a huge fan she was and all that.”

“If they came out first, wouldn’t they have waited?” Sukie asked.

“Maybe they decided to get away from us after all and find somewhere quiet to test out those low-level perception filters,” Earl answered her. “See, they aren’t checking you out, after all, Sukie. They’re just enjoying each other’s company.”

“No,” Sukie insisted. “I think… something isn’t right. Try reaching Spenser telepathically. If they’re just around the park somewhere then we ought to be able to reach them….”

Earl and Tristie both tried and admitted they couldn’t make contact.

“But that just proves my point,” Earl added. “They want a bit of quiet time together. You know, they ARE recently married. They’ve probably gone for a cuddle in the Tunnel of Love.”

But Sukie wasn’t placated. She turned back to the door they had come out of and tried to get back into the Haunted Hotel. But it was a one way door, fixed so that people couldn’t sneak into the ride without paying. Her attempts to open it just attracted the park security.

“My friends are trapped in this silly ride,” she insisted. “They’ve been kidnapped by… by…”

She stopped as the security guard looked at her curiously. She thought about what she had been about to say. Spenser and Stuart had been kidnapped by aliens who smell like hot dogs? How stupid was that?

“I think…” she began again. “I think…”

“I think we ought to take a look inside this ride to make sure our friends haven’t accidentally got themselves stuck somewhere they shouldn’t,” Earl said with surprising command in his voice. The security guard blinked and looked at him. This was an eighteen year old boy, but he found himself admitting that the Haunted Hotel could be closed to the public temporarily while a search was made.

“Nice Power of Suggestion,” Sukie told him telepathically. “Nearly as good as Davie.”

Tristie and Trudi waited at the exit while Earl and Sukie went in through the front entrance. The animatronic ghouls and ghosts were all switched off and the lights were turned right up while they walked through all of the rooms. There was nobody there. All the fire doors were secure. There was nowhere anyone could hide.

“They already left,” Earl said as they stepped back outside through the exit door. “Like I said, they must have fancied a quiet time.”

“I suppose…” Sukie admitted. “When we see them later, I’m going to give them hell for going off without telling us.”

“Well, that’s rich, considering you didn’t want them with us in the first place,” Tristie pointed out. “Come on, let’s go get something to eat. I’m hungry.”

“Good idea,” Sukie decided. “Only, not hot dogs. You know, it’s funny, but I think there IS a slight smell of them in that place. And it makes me want to eat anything BUT hot dogs.”

They ate at a little restaurant near the Spanish City Dome. Trudi got very excited when she saw the members of Showaddywaddy being shown to a table not very far from their own.

“You are NOT going to pester them for autographs,” Tristie insisted. “They want their dinner in peace before the gig. You can see them later. I’m not bad at Power of Suggestion, either. I might be able to get us backstage.”

Trudi smiled at her man. Then she glanced back at the band and frowned.

“Funny, Romeo isn’t with them.”

“I don’t know which is which,” Earl admitted.

“I do,” Tristie noted grimly. “Like I said, TARDIS kitchen. I could pick him out with my eyes shut. And he’s not there.”

“Did anyone see him leave the Haunted Hotel?” Sukie asked.

“After Trudi was done with him, I expect he ran away as fast as he could,” Tristie joked.

“Romeo Challenger was last seen in the Haunted Hotel,” Sukie pointed out. “Spenser and Stuart were last seen in there. All three of them are missing. I think…”

“What? They’ve all been kidnapped by the Waiter of Doom? Maybe he ate already. Probably had a craving for hot dogs.”

“That’s not funny,” Sukie protested. “I think there really is something wrong. And I’m going to find out what.”

She put down her fork and knife and jumped up from the table. Trudi did the same. The two men both called out to them, but they ignored them.

“Do you really think it is possible?” Trudi asked. “Could Romeo have been kidnapped by aliens?”

“Is that really his name?” Sukie asked. “It doesn’t seem normal even for a pop star.”

“He comes from Antigua,” Trudi replied. “Perhaps it’s normal there. I don’t know. But…”

“I think something funny is going on and I think it’s in the Haunted Hotel. But I’m not going in the front way again. They’ll be watching me.”

Sukie reached in her pocket for her sonic screwdriver. It only had limited functions compared to the ones her brothers, or even Earl and Tristie, used, but it could open locked doors. She slipped around the back of the Haunted Hotel structure. As well as the main entrance and the exit, there had, by law, to be emergency exits. She found one of them and her sonic made short work of the catch. The two girls stepped inside.

The Haunted Hotel was busy. People seemed to find it amusing. They joined the crowds exploring all of the various rooms. But Sukie kept her sonic screwdriver in her hand and she was carefully feeling around telepathically.

“Earl and Tristie are both trying to contact me, but they feel really far off, as if something is blocking them out. Now why would that be when this thing is just made of wood and plasterboard and fibreglass?”

“Some kind of psychic dampener,” Trudi answered, much to Sukie’s surprise. “I’ve been with Tristie for long enough. I know a bit about that sort of thing. We were in some caves once, and he found it really weird because he said all of his ordinary thoughts, let alone his psychic ones, seemed to bounce back off the walls.”

“This doesn’t do that, but it’s like a fog. And…” She looked closely around the room they were in. It was the ‘Black Study’. There was a mirror set into one of the walls that amused the tourists by giving back distorted images. She aimed her sonic screwdriver at it.

“There’s some kind of energy coming from this. It’s a… it’s a temporal portal. Maybe a spatial one, too….”

“You mean…” Trudi looked at the mirror. “You mean Romeo is behind there. And Spenser and Stuart…”

“Maybe other people, too. Who knows how many victims it’s claimed.”

“Victims?” Trudi’s face paled. “They’re dead?”

“No… no… I don’t think so. They can’t be. Because Stuart and Spenser are from my time and you and Tristie know them in his time, when we’re all older. And Romeo… well you know more about the band than me. They didn’t get a new drummer in 1974, did they?”

“No. I’ve read about them on the TARDIS database. Romeo was still with Showaddywaddy right into the twenty-first century when they did nostalgia shows. But…”

“Yes, I know. Time can be in flux, and it can change just like that. But right now, I’m sure they’re alive. As long as you can remember about the nostalgia shows, then I think they’re ok. But we have to find a way in. We have to rescue them.”

“How?” Trudi reached out tentatively and touched the mirror.

“No! Don’t touch…” Sukie yelled. But it was too late. There was a strange flash as if the mirror had reflected the light of a different sun and Trudi disappeared.

“Oh… &*@#!” Sukie groaned, using a word that the older members of her family didn’t even know she knew. She sighed and looked at her sonic screwdriver, then turned it to laser mode. She used it to commit a small act of vandalism, scoring a message into the plywood wall beside the mirror. The message was in Low Gallifreyan and it would tell Tristie and Earl what she thought was happening.

When she was done, she put the sonic back in her pocket and stepped forward, closing her eyes as she reached out to touch the mirror.

“Sukie!” Spenser Draxic grabbed her hand as she swayed dizzily. “Oh, my dear. I thought you were safe, at least.”

“I am safe,” she answered. “I’m with you.” She opened her eyes and saw Stuart at Spenser’s side. “I found you both.”

“Yes, you did,” Stuart said. “And we found you. But I’m not sure that helps very much. It just means we’re all in trouble together.”

Sukie looked around. She was standing on a barren plain with a red sun in a copper coloured sky. There were something like fifty people milling around the plain in a very dazed and confused manner. Sukie didn’t feel dazed and confused. Her question was a practical one. “Where are we?”

“We’re right where we always were,” Spenser answered. “This is Spanish City, Whitley Bay, but in the year five billion and something. The sun is going supernova. This plain… it was the North Sea. The oceans and seas have dried up and the planet is just waiting for the end.”

“You’re kidding!”

“I said that, too!” Sukie looked around to see who had spoken. It was a tall, good looking West Indian man. Trudi was holding onto him as if he was precious. “If I was any other kind of musician I might put this down to a really bad trip. But we’ve always tried to set a good example to the kids who follow us, so this has to be real.”

“Don’t tell me!” Sukie groaned. “You’re Romeo Challenger.”

“He came through the mirror, too,” Trudi said. “And all these other people. But how come you came through, Sukie? You must have seen it was dangerous… why didn’t you get away?”

“Couldn’t leave you to fend for yourself, could I? Besides, I didn’t just come through accidentally. I did it deliberately so I could find out where you all are.”

“But now you’re trapped, too.”

“Yes, but I’ve got a homing beacon.” She held up her sonic screwdriver. It was pulsating with a soft blue light. “My sonic has a tracking device on it. Davie modified it. He DOES trust me. And he trusts Earl. But he said if we were going to travel to all kinds of times I should have a panic alarm, just in case.”

“So help is on the way?” Spenser looked relieved. “Ok, good thinking, Sukie. Brilliant thinking, Davie! TARDIS rescue and repair. He invented the time travel AA!”

“We’ll get back in time for the gig?” Trudi asked. “That’s good. We were worried.”

By “we” she obviously meant herself and Mr Romeo Challenger. She seemed to have taken it upon herself to look after him while he was out of his time and place.

“Romeo has been here for about an hour,” Trudi added. “He’s talked to some of the other people. They all went into the Haunted Hotel some time today. They’ve all only been here a little while. But they’re really scared.”

“You’re not scared, Romeo?” Sukie asked him.

“I’ve done Top of The Pops,” he replied. “Nothing scares me after that!” He shook his head. “Tell the truth, I’m absolutely petrified under this cool rock and roll drummer exterior. But these two ladies seem to think that we’ll be rescued soon. And I’m putting my faith in them.”

“We’re right,” Trudi assured him. “You’ll be fine, Romeo.”

“What worries me,” Sukie said. “Is why all this happened. That mirror isn’t an accident. Somebody has been deliberately trapping people here. Why? And is it something to do with the aliens with the hot dog smell?”

“If it is… then we have another problem,” Stuart told her. “Because I’m getting a strong smell…”

Somebody screamed. Everyone started screaming. Trudi held onto her rock and roll drummer protectively. In the air above them three sinister looking ships hovered. They were black and grey and between them there was a huge net. It didn’t take a Time Lord brain to figure out what was going to happen next.

“They’re fishing… for people!” Romeo Challenger exclaimed. “We’re being fished.”

“Not if I can help it,” Spenser responded. As the net dropped he pulled his own sonic screwdriver from his pocket. A few swift movements with the laser mode reduced the net to shreds that drifted harmlessly down.

But that still left the three ships. Clearly catching prey was their object. When trawling failed they adopted the method of beaters on a grouse hunt. They spread out and then closed in a pincer movement, firing electronic pulses into the ground. Terrified people ran away from the pulses, screaming and tripping over each other in their panic.

“Split up!” Stuart yelled. “Everyone run in different directions. Then they can’t get us all.”

That made sense, but these were holidaymakers who had been dropped into a nightmare. They didn’t know how to react. They were allowing themselves to be herded into a tighter and tighter group.

“I think they want us alive,” Spenser surmised as he held onto Sukie and Stuart. They had no choice but to move with the panicking crowd. If they tried to stand their ground they would be trampled. Trudi and Romeo were keeping pace with them at first, but the crowds milling around swallowed them. Sukie tried to turn back and find them but Spenser wouldn’t let her.

“They’ll be all right,” Spenser told her. “Trudi’s learnt a lot from travelling with Tristie and Romeo seems to have a bit of sense. They can take care of each other. But I don’t know what we can do apart from run, and we can only do that for so long. They’re going to have us beat eventually.”

“Why are they doing this?” Stuart asked. “What do they want us for?”

“I don’t know,” Spenser admitted.

“I think I do,” Sukie replied as she saw another ship – a much bigger one – bearing down on them from the opposite direction. The fleeing people halted and stared at it. They knew there was nowhere to run. “It’s… a hunt, a game… that’s what this is all about. We’re… amusement… the thrill of the chase for… THEM.”

“I’ve never heard of a hunt that went well for the hunted,” Stuart pointed out.

“Me neither.” Sukie turned to Spenser and hugged him. “Spenser, I’m sorry I was mad at you earlier. In case… in case I don’t get a chance to tell you…”

“You’re forgiven,” Spenser told her. “But… don’t worry. I think we’re going to have plenty of time for telling each other things. Look…”

Spenser was looking up. So was Stuart. Slowly all of the terrified people looked up, but only a few of them were reassured by the sight of what looked like a twentieth century police helicopter hovering there. Everyone else thought it was something else trying to capture them. When the whole crowd was enveloped by a shimmering bubble that came from the base of the helicopter it looked like the final act of the hunt.

“No!” Trudi’s voice called out from amongst the crowd, somehow managing to be louder than all of them. “No, it’s not the aliens. It’s Tristie. It’s my boyfriend. He’s come for us. Everyone keep still. We’ll be all right in a minute,”

“But what’s he doing?” Stuart asked.

“My grandson to the rescue!” Sukie answered him with a laugh. The news that it was Tristie’s TARDIS surprised her a little. She had expected Davie or Chris – maybe both - to answer her distress signal. But she was just as glad to have Tristie on hand. “He’s put a shield around all of us while he does something about the ships. Look… Oh, he’s clever!”

The sound of the hunting ships died suddenly as they were hit all at once with an EMP pulse generated by the TARDIS. Each of them had enough auxiliary power to land on the barren plain, but that was all. The crowd had barely taken that much in when the shield around them shimmered.

The next moment Sukie looked around happily at the console room of Tristie’s TARDIS. Earl turned from working beside his grandson and ran to hug her.

“We got you!” he said. “We got you.”

“Where are the other people?” she asked. Only five of them had been transmatted to the console room. Spenser and Stuart, of course, and herself, and Trudi along with Romeo Challenger who was carrying her in his arms.

“I put everyone else in the zero room,” Tristie answered. “With a low level sleep inducing pattern to the lights. They’ll all pass out quietly until we get back to 1974.” He looked at Romeo. “Can I have my fiancée back now, please?”

“Yes, of course,” he answered, letting her down gently onto the sofa. “She’s got a sprained ankle. I had to look after her…”

“Family tradition that,” Sukie the Healer told him as she knelt to examine Trudi’s ankle and gently soothed it better with the power of her mind. “Somebody has to have a sprained ankle or it wouldn’t be a proper adventure. So what was all that about, anyway? Who were those aliens? And why were they kidnapping people from a fairground in 1974.”

“Gessan,” Tristie answered. “I identified their ships from the TARDIS database. I would have worked it out earlier, but unfortunately the Time Lords never categorised species according to smell. All we had to go on was Stuart’s hot dog fixation.”

“Maybe we should think about adding some notes to the database,” Spenser pointed out, smiling warmly at his lover. “So what did they want with us?”

“Sport,” Tristie answered. “They’re intergalactic sports hunters. Seems like they put the portal into the Haunted Hotel in order to trap humans and send them through to the year five billion where they would be stranded on that barren plain. Easy prey… like shooting fish in a barrel.”

“I was right,” Sukie pointed out with a note of triumph. “But… what sort of loopy idea is that, anyway? There must be easier ways of getting their sport.”

“Loopy idea is right. And I’ve closed it down. The EMP pulse will have fried the portal from this end. It will just be an ordinary mirror at the other end, now. I’ve got a couple of loose ends to sort out later, but the only hot dogs Stuart should be able to smell in future are the sort that come with fried onions.”

“My hero,” Trudi said.

“Our grandson!” Sukie whispered to Earl. “I think he’s a chip off the old block.”

“He certainly is,” Earl replied.

The bulk of the victims were left in the sunshine in Panama Gardens. They were all suffering from short term memory loss thanks to a filter Tristie put into the transmat beam when he set them all down. Some of them might put their confusion down to drink or drugs. One or two might be convinced that they were abducted by aliens, swearing that they couldn’t account for the missing hours any other way. Others would just be puzzled.

“Can we trust you not to tell anyone what happened?” Tristie asked Romeo Challenger as he materialised the TARDIS beside the Spanish City Dome. “If not, then I CAN do something about your recent memories…”

“Oh, don’t,” Trudi begged. “I don’t want him to forget meeting me.”

“I don’t want to forget meeting you, honey,” Romeo told her. “But I don’t think I’m going to be telling anyone about this. I’ll say I fell asleep in the bus. Will I see you all at the concert, then? Come on backstage afterwards, all of you. I’ll let the door staff know to expect you.”

He smiled warmly at Trudi, and shook hands with Earl and Tristie before he stepped out of the TARDIS. Trudi sighed happily.

“There must be easier ways to get a backstage pass!” Stuart commented.

The concert started on time. Trudi and Sukie were right up at the front of the mosh pit with the most ardent fans, and Romeo waved at them several times, making them the envy of every other girl around them.

Their men retreated to the bar. They stayed there for most of the first half of the concert, waiting for the fairground outside to close. There were security guards patrolling the premises, of course. But Spenser and Stuart weren’t the only ones who had personal perception filters. Nobody noticed the four men who slipped into the Haunted Hotel by the fire door. They didn’t see them slip out again a few minutes later and head back to the concert.

When the show was over and people poured out of the Dome, they were surprised to see a fire engine and several police cars outside. There was obviously no fire on a clear, cool night. But the story got around very quickly that one of the attractions at the fairground had mysteriously collapsed. Nobody was injured, since it was closed, but obviously there had to be an investigation.

“Oh well,” Spenser remarked as the six of them watched for a few minutes and then turned away towards the stage door where their names were on the list to be admitted. “It wasn’t much of a ride anyway. Rather boring. Perhaps we’ll come back next season and see what they’ve put in its place.”

“Just the two of us?” Stuart asked him. “Or shall we all meet up again?”

“Oh, let’s all get together,” Sukie answered. “Maybe Davie and Brenda could come as well. And Chris and Carya… a great big family get together in Whitley Bay!”

“As long as nobody wants to eat hot dogs,” Tristie agreed.