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

Selective Genes

Davie materialised his TARDIS on Welcome Plaza, the peaceful centre of Santuario city. It was not as quiet as it used to be, of course. It was an inhabited city, now. The Cessalians had fully established their colony and the plaza was enhanced by several beautiful pieces of sculpture and a large mural across the front of one of the surrounding buildings depicting a scene from the Cessalian love sagas. Many of the colonists were enjoying the balmy warmth of the brief day on Ceres, playing soft music on instruments a little like harps and lutes while others were telling long poems to each other or painting beautiful fantasy scenes from their own imaginations. They were the very definition of peace and serenity.

The same could not be said of his brother’s students who were supposed to be spending a week on the planetoid studying advanced astronomy from within the asteroid belt. The sun was shining just as warmly on them, but they were far from at peace, making up an anxious huddle with darker concerns than art. When they saw the TARDIS they stood and hurried to meet him.

Davie felt their agitation as soon as he stepped out of the TARDIS. He had been protected from it until the door opened. Now, it almost overwhelmed him for several seconds.

“Please, calm down,” he said both out loud and telepathically. “I can’t understand what any of you are saying if you all talk at once.”

He was worried, himself. The message that summoned him here was an urgent one. But he gently pressed back against the troubled voices in his head and soothed them.

“Come and sit down, all of you,” he said, choosing a carved stone seat beside a water feature. That a manufactured planet like this could spare water for decoration was a result of his own efforts to manage resources. The water for all purposes was created by fusing hydrogen and oxygen in huge subterranean tanks, and he ensured that there was enough to beautify the environment as well as provide for the needs of the population.

“Tell me slowly, now,” he said. “From the beginning.”

“From the beginning would be a very long story, Davie,” said Marton Pallister, The Doctor’s own apprentice, who was almost ready to transcend. “The end of it is that your brother is missing. And so is Carya, and Zoë Beckett. They’ve been gone for almost five Ceres days... forty Earth hours.”

“And his TARDIS,” added Darryl Harvey, another of the young Time Lord candidates with Gallifreyan ancestry.

“He didn’t just take them on some kind of outing?” Davie asked.

“His wife and a student... Chris wouldn’t be up for that.” Tony, one of the gifted humans who had been at the Sanctuary since it opened, voiced the feelings of all of them. “And if he was... Carya wouldn’t stand for it.”

“Chris wouldn’t,” insisted all of the young women and some of the young men, too.

“Most of us have tried,” added another of the humans, a young woman called Eilis. “Before he brought Carya to Earth, anyway. I mean... he told us from the start that he wanted us to live pure lives, and he set himself the highest standard of all. But a lot of us thought....”

“You flirted with him, to see if he really did mean to remain celibate?” Davie allowed himself a smile. He knew that his gentle, sensitive brother had been the object of quite a few romantic fantasies among his acolytes. If his resolve had been less solid the Sanctuary could have become a very different place. But by the time Chris met Carya and admitted his natural feelings for her, most of his students had formed relationships of their own and they were glad to see their teacher happily married to a devoted young woman.

The Sanctuary was a happy place where Chris’s dreams had all been realised. Gifted humans learnt alongside Gallifreyans and other races. They all expanded their minds in positive ways. The original seventy were swelled now by a hundred and fifty new students who were finding their feet among them.

“Zoë Beckett?” Davie turned the name over and tried to recall a face to go with it. That was the trouble with success. He didn’t know half the names of the new intake.

“She wouldn’t have been in any of the classes you take,” Brón told him. “She isn’t interested in temporal mechanics or martial arts.”

“What is she interested in?” Davie asked.

“Time Lords,” said Eilis. “You know that Chris scanned all of the books in The Doctor’s private library and made electronic copies available for any young Gallifreyan who wanted to study the history and culture of the Homeworld.”

“Not just Gallifreyans,” Davie corrected her. “Anyone who wants to learn about our culture. Are you saying that Zoë has been reading those books?”

“Every one of them,” Brón confirmed. “And she is always asking us questions about our Gallifreyan origins. She wants to know everything. About our anatomy, about our telepathic abilities, as well as the history and everything.”

“She is obsessed with Time Lords,” Eilis confirmed. “And in particular, with Chris.”

Davie was worried about his brother. He was worried about his brother’s wife. He was deeply worried that he couldn’t make even the slightest mental contact with his twin, no matter how hard he tried. He was starting to get a headache with the effort. He should have been able to make an emotional connection with him even if he was light years of space and millennia of time away. But there was nothing. It was as if Chris didn’t exist at all on any plain he could reach.

And that hurt him more deeply than anyone could guess, even those who knew him well. The bond he shared with his brother was deeper than any other. His parents, his grandparents, his great-grandfather and his whole extended family were important to him. Spenser, even though he was no longer his lover, occupied a portion of his heart. His wife and his unborn babies were the world to him.

But Chris, his twin, the other half of his soul, was his universe.

Even so, despite the urgency of the matter, despite the twisting knot of fear in his stomach, he knew that sitting here and listening to the students telling him about this girl was the key to finding him.

“Tell me,” he said.

“I tried to make friends with her,” Eilis said. “But I can’t honestly say I succeeded.”

“You’re in the same room as her, of course,” Davie noted. Chris had organised the main dormitories according to gender rather than by year as might be the case in an ordinary school or college. Those who had been there for a couple of years already shared with the new students and helped them settle in.

“She’s just such a cold, distant girl,” Eilis explained. “At night, in the dorms, we have a group meditation before we sleep. Chris taught us to do it as a way to relax and clear our minds. She never joins in. She knew how to do it. She picked it up first time in meditation class. But she would sit alone. She never joined in any conversation outside of class.”

Unless the subject was Chris Campbell, the founder of the Sanctuary. Everyone talked about him. The new students all wanted to know about the handsome young man who commanded respect and awe far beyond his tender years. Some of them developed the same kind of ‘crush’ that many of the first intake had in their first weeks. It wore off as they began to take his philosophy seriously, but most of the girls would talk about him over their late night herbal tea.

And that was a subject Zoë had plenty to talk about. At least, she asked questions. Nobody could recall her doing anything other than that. If she had a ‘crush’ on Chris it wasn’t the girly, giggly type. Nobody ever heard Zoë talk about where she would go on a dream date with him or any of the other subjects that young women in their nighties talked of, even those who had spent twenty minutes in mind-calming meditation first.

Mostly she got answers. Chris Campbell was a subject most of them would pass a pop quiz on.

But one question the other students wouldn’t answer.

“She kept asking why Chris and Carya didn’t have children,” Eilis explained.

“They’ve only been married for a little over a year,” Davie pointed out. “There’s no rush.”

“Says the man who only got married seven months ago but his wife is ten months pregnant,” Dale pointed out. Everyone laughed despite their concerns.

“That’s what happens when a Time Lord has a three month honeymoon but only goes away for two weeks,” he pointed out. “As for Chris....”

Davie thought briefly of the last time he and his brother had spent a little quiet time together. Their two lives were so busy these days it was rare enough. But they had both made time to spend with Robert, their paternal grandfather who was newly come into their lives. Robert, of course, was delighted to meet Brenda and thrilled with the prospect of being a great grandfather in the course of time. He was charmed by Carya, the wife of his other married grandson, but had not speculated about the nature of their marriage. It was Chris, later, who had confided in his brother. Carya was of a humanoid species, of course. So was Brenda. But Tiboran biology was close to both Human and Gallifreyan. Carya’s Dol-Xen biology was unrelated to either, and as much as they loved each other, it was unlikely their marriage would ever be fruitful.

Davie had hugged his brother and told him he was sorry. Chris told him he had nothing to be sorry about. Carya was happy with every other aspect of her life. And she was young, still. There were always possibilities. They hadn’t given up hope.

“Is that true?” Davie looked around and saw the young telepaths around him looking pensive. He hadn’t blocked his thoughts. Now they all knew what Chris had told him in confidence.

“I shouldn’t have...” he stammered, unusually disconcerted. They assured him the secret was safe with them.

“But Davie,” Daryl said, putting in words what all of them were thinking. “That turns it all around. We all thought he wouldn’t... we were sure of it. But now that we know that....”

“What?” Davie knew exactly what they were thinking, and he didn’t like it. But he knew they had to say it aloud or the thought would fester and grow and overwhelm everything.

“Carya can’t have children. Zoë... is obsessed with your brother. Totally besotted with him. And she has been asking about that sort of thing. About whether humans and Time Lords are compatible... And all three of them are missing.”

“No!” Davie protested. “Sweet mother of chaos, no. Chris would never...”

“It is in Gallifreyan tradition,” Brón pointed out. “A Time Lord whose wife fails to deliver him an heir... may set her aside and take a woman who will bear the fruit of his....”

“No!” Davie insisted. “Chris and I are perfectly aware of Gallifreyan tradition. We were taught by The Doctor, remember. We read that library of his cover to cover before we were old enough to know what all that ‘bearing fruit’ stuff involved... and asked a whole load of inconvenient questions about it, believe me. You’ve never seen anything like the embarrassment of a Time Lord explaining the birds and the bees to his great-grandsons. And we have always been aware of the burden of carrying on family lines. We got that from our Human dad, as well as from him. We’re descended from the Campbells of Galloway as well as the Lœngbærrows of Gallifrey. And if that didn’t drive us both mental, nothing will.”

The students were startled by his passion. He paused for breath before reaching the end of his elongated point.

“My brother did not go off with Zoë like Abraham and Hagar the Egyptian to fulfil his obligation. He doesn’t HAVE that obligation. I’m the eldest son, and my wife is expecting twins. Obligation sorted. So... if we’re all perfectly clear... if we’ve got all those ideas out in the open and off our minds... let’s find out where all three of them REALLY are.”

With that he stood up and strode across the Plaza purposefully. The peaceful Cessalians who rarely hurried anywhere looked at him curiously. He seemed at odds with his surroundings. So were the group of people who rushed after him. As they disappeared into the Hall of Communications, the Cessalians went back to their poetry and music and forgot about the hasty ways of Humans and Time Lords.

Davie stepped straight onto the anti-gravity lift. Tony and Marton both managed to join him before he snapped a destination at the voice activation panel and it began to descend.

“The rest of you make yourselves useful,” he called out before he disappeared from view.

Chris did, indeed, know as much about Gallifreyan traditions as his brother, and that was as much as any living being knew about such things. He also knew about Human traditions such as the one Davie alluded to when he mentioned the biblical Abraham and Hagar.

He knew both ideas only led to trouble, not just for the individuals involved, but for generations to come.

He also had some clear twenty third century ideas about the ethics of reproductive science.

So what was happening here was not only completely against his will, but against every principle he lived by.

And there was nothing he could do about it.

Davie paced around the huge console in the hexagonal central control room of Santuario. Behind him hovered the robot he had christened Aga, who was generally regarded as the senior robot on the planet that had been lovingly maintained by the artificial lifeforms for millennia.

“You’re sure about that?” Davie asked Aga patiently in response to the information scrolling down the monitor on his chest.

Aga’s monitor flashed with the word ‘Affirmative’.

He was sure.

“Aga says that no TARDIS has left Santuario for sixty eight standard hours – eight and a half Santuarion days. This control room is Time Lord technology. Even a cloaked TARDIS registers here.”

“But… the TARDIS is gone, too,” Marton pointed out. “That’s what got us all worried.”

“Aga, how many TARDIS capsules are on the planet currently, and what is their location?”

Aga was connected to the control centre by something very much like Wi Fi. Davie liked to think of it as robot telepathy. He could interface directly with the huge databases and memory drives of what was too huge to be called merely a computer. It was the electronic hub of the planet.

And that hub insisted there was only one TARDIS on the planet – Davie’s Chinese TARDIS parked in Welcome Plaza.

“That isn’t logical,” Davie pointed out. “Chris came here by TARDIS. The computer says he didn’t leave by TARDIS. But the TARDIS isn’t on the planet.”

Aga’s screen blanked and then filled with rapidly scrolling data as he cross-referenced the two pieces of information. After several bewildering minutes Davie told him to stop. This simple case of recursive logic could spread like a virus through the entire computer system and shut down the planet.

“A computer mind can’t work this out,” he said. “You’re programmed to think along straight, logical lines. This problem isn’t logical. Leave it for organic minds to work out.”

But his organic mind had no answer to the problem, either. He was about to turn away when Aga indicated frantically to him again. There was an incoming communication for him.

He moved to the videophone and accepted the call. His hearts lightened as he saw Spenser and Stuart on the screen. They were both wearing biking leathers. Stuart was sitting on Spenser’s knee in order to be in the range of the camera lens. Spenser’s arms were around his waist.

“What have you got for me?” he asked. Any other time it would have been delightful to tease them both about their intimacy and remember the feel of Spenser’s arms around his own waist. But he had sent them on a mission before he left Earth, and they obviously had news.

“Zoë Beckett is one hundred percent Human,” Stuart confirmed. “Both her parents are born and bred in Guildford. They have the right smell for pure humans. Not even a trace of anything else. And their daughter... we were allowed to look in her room. I got the same smell there. When a room is so closely associated with an individual it’s like a signature to me. She’s Human.”

“And she’s their own natural child? She’s not adopted or...”

He left the question hanging. Marton was beside him, and he didn’t need reminding that he was a product of a cloning project that resulted in him having the DNA of one of Gallifrey’s most notorious criminals. The possibility that Zoë was another of the ‘Children of the Master’ out to make trouble had crossed his mind, though.

“She’s theirs biologically,” Spenser replied. “Natural... is a matter of opinion. I talked to Mr and Mrs Beckett. They were quite forthcoming. Zoë was conceived using Selective Gene IVF. They chose the genetic characteristics of their child: hair colour, eyes, gender and sexual orientation... but most especially... intelligence.”

“That’s expensive. Are they rich?”

“They’re Meritocrats,” Spenser said as if that explained everything. “Zoë was educated by her parents until the age of nine when she went to university and got two undergraduate degrees by twelve and then two doctorates by seventeen.”

“A child genius!” Davie nodded. “No great surprise since her genes were selected for that. So... why did she come to the Sanctuary?”

“According to her parents, it was to expand her potential further. She had reached the limits of ordinary education. The only thing more than two doctorates would be three. But that isn’t advancing. It’s just more of the same. Chris’s Sanctuary offers ways to open the mind further.”

“That’s not exactly what the Sanctuary is about,” Davie noted. “Chris wanted to train humans to be the best they could be... but for the benefit of all humanity, not so that they could be superior to their fellow species.”

“That’s not what her parents think. They approved of her going to the Sanctuary because it has Centre of Excellence status under the education authority. They thought she might recruit other super-brains like her to Meritocratism.”

It wasn’t exactly a religion. Meritocrats tended to be too sure of their own superiority to accept a god who was superior to them. It wasn’t a political party. They took no part in local or national elections. They had no manifesto or declared policies. Meritocrats believed that they just had to bide their time. They believed that the population of limited intelligence would eventually dwindle into insignificance and they could take control. They used to be dismissed as cranks. Then in the aftermath of the Dominator invasion far too many of them were found to have been collaborators. Now they tended to be regarded with suspicion and mistrust. The people of limited intellect froze them out and most of them retreated into private, insular lives to await a new generation of supreme Meritocrats.

They didn’t usually talk to anyone outside their elitist circle. Spenser must have used a strong dose of Power of Suggestion to get them to talk to him so freely about themselves.

“As if!” Tony commented. “Nobody in the Sanctuary is going to listen to Meritocrat claptrap. We came because of Chris’s philosophy. We’re learning to be better people so we can make a better world – for everyone, not just an elite.”

“I’m glad you think so,” Davie told him. “But Chris’s philosophy is no use without him to teach it to you. We need to find him, still. And all we know is that he and Carya are with this...” He wasn’t usually judgemental about people in this way, but concern for his brother overrode all courtesies. “This elitist crackpot.”

Chris’s eyes wept but he couldn’t blink away the stinging salt water. The neural inhibitor was still too strong. He was paralysed. His eyes were fixed open, staring up at the stone effect ceiling of the cloister room.

His own cloister room.

He was a prisoner in his own TARDIS.

He heard a movement near him, but he couldn’t turn his head to see who it was. He was relieved when Carya’s face came into his view. She wiped his eyes with a soft cloth and bent to kiss him on the cheek. Then she cried out in pain and jerked away from him. Chris saw the metal collar on her neck. Their captor was able to send painful electric shocks through her body at a touch of a button on the matching cuff on her own wrist.

“That’s enough. Come away from him,” Zoë ordered her.

“Please... let me give him food and water,” Carya pleaded. “He has had nothing for a whole day.”

“He’s a Time Lord. They can live without both for much longer than most humanoids. He doesn’t need anything. If you want him to keep on living, do as you’re told. Fetch me a bottle of iced water.”

He couldn’t see, but he knew Carya had gone to do Zoë’s bidding as if she was a slave. That was more painful, more humiliating than his own physical hurt, knowing that his wife, the woman he loved, and whom he had promised a life of contentment, was reduced to this.

Davie went back up to Welcome Plaza. He needed to think, and his organic brain did that better in the fresh air, away from the computers. Marton and Tony came with him. The others had taken him at his word and were making themselves useful somewhere.

“Davie,” Marton said quietly. “I know what you thought... when the selective genes were mentioned... She might be like me.”

“She’s not like you,” Davie assured him. “Your genes have nothing to do with who you are as a person. Your Gallifreyan DNA gives you a higher functioning brain than humans, two hearts, telepathy, no tear ducts, and resistance to most diseases. It doesn’t make you a good or bad person. Your parents did that. Zoë’s parents... did they want a child or a eugenics experiment? Either way... what they have... is a girl who....”

Who did what? He still didn’t know for sure what was happening. Except he was certain that Chris wasn’t a willing participant.

Tears were obscuring his eyes again, but this time Carya wasn’t allowed near him to wipe them away. Chris stared at the ceiling through a blur and listened to the sound of an abominable experiment being carried out. It was far too late to stop it, now. But the inevitable result was one he could scarcely bear to contemplate.

What would happen when Zoë had what she wanted from him? When she was sure the experiment was a success and she no longer needed him? Would she kill him? What about Carya? She certainly had no use for her. It was clear from the way she spoke to her that she valued her life even less than his.

And it was all his fault. He had accepted Zoë as a student. Even though he knew her family background was dubious he had thought her suitable for his programme. He was sure the peace and tranquillity of the Sanctuary would soon overrule those strange ideas that she got from her parents. He had brought this insidious little viper into their fold. And now he was paying the price for his over-confidence.

“Davie!” Brón and Eilis again proved to the quiet Cessalians that Humans and Time Lords were hasty people, running noisily across the Plaza. “We’ve got something.... We know what it’s all about.”

“What is this?” he asked as they presented him with a slimline hand held computer. “I mean... I know it’s a personal computer... but...”

“It’s hers,” Brón explained. “She left it in her locker.”

“I thought the personal lockers had tri-phasic locks,” Davie commented.

“I’m good at that sort of thing,” Brón replied. “If I wasn’t training to be a Time Lord I could probably be a really good safe cracker. I also do passwords. I’ve unlocked all of her files. Check the stuff she’s downloaded first. Then you really have to look at her diary.”

Davie looked. As a boy he had learnt to read slowly when the reading matter was a novel to be savoured and enjoyed. But factual material, technical specifications, he wasted little time on. His eyes dilated rapidly as he took in the information, occasionally having to pause while the small screen on the mini computer caught up with him.

Zoë had collected every theoretical paper the Time Lords had ever produced about genetic engineering. They had banned such things on their world. But that didn’t stop them producing a bank of knowledge about how it could be done. Most significant was a long technical document that showed how an embryo fertilised in vitro could be brought to accelerated maturity using artron energy within a containment chamber.

Time Lords had found a way to make babies outside of the womb.

Attached to the file was a second document vetoing such a project on ethical grounds. It argued that Time Lords, like any other living beings, were nothing without blood ties, without families. The production of a generation of children by what had been called the ‘loom’ because it wove the fabric of life together would be the end of Time Lord society as they knew it.

The author of the veto showed evidence from other races across the galaxy where techniques similar to looming were used. He pointed especially to the Sontaran race, who had no concept of family at all. They produced millions of cloned hatchlings at a time with the one aim of raising armies for their endless wars. He also referenced the Dominators, another race who reproduced through cloning technology and who were devoid of moral values or conscience.

Davie shuddered. Sontarans and Dominators were his own mortal enemies as Daleks and Cybermen had been The Doctor’s.

Less dangerous, the document added, but still disturbing, were the Gemarin, who created thousands of new children every year through a process almost identical to the one devised by Time Lord scientists. They divided the progeny into ‘families’ of three hundred with house parents who saw to their health, welfare and education. Gemarin differed from the Sontarans and Dominators in only one respect. They produced their clone children to take their place in the workforce of their planet-wide factories, rather than as soldiers bent on conquering the galaxy.

Davie didn’t recognise the name of the scientist who had developed the process. But he knew the name of the Time Lord who had vetoed it. He was still a young man at the time, working for the Gallifreyan Civil Service, but his knowledge of other cultures, other worlds, had been enough to convince his superiors on the High Council that even Time Lords, with all their technology, ought to make babies the old fashioned way.

“Well done, granddad,” Davie whispered aloud with a proud half smile. But at the same time, his hearts thudded with dread. How would his great-grandfather feel about Chris being a part of a revival of this obscene technique?

Carya came to him, at last. She had been crying. Her lovely dark eyes were red rimmed. She wiped the tears from his eyes and bent to kiss his frozen lips. He could feel her touch, but he couldn’t respond. The neural inhibitor still held him immobile.

“She’s asleep,” Carya said. “I could escape. Even with this collar on. I could get far enough away that it won’t work. But I can’t leave you. And I can’t leave... Chris... it was horrible. Most of the poor things died. I saw it happen. Dozens of them... they just died in the... the tank. She didn’t grieve. She... was angry because it wasn’t working. But she didn’t grieve for them. I did... because... they are a part of you, my love. And even if their creation is a wickedness... They’re still flesh of your flesh, my husband. And... Chris... there is one that remains... one that has the strength. I think it might survive.”

Chris didn’t respond. He couldn’t even indicate to her that he had heard her words. She kissed him again and then moved away. She didn’t want to anger Zoë if she should wake.

Chris understood fully. He couldn’t see, but he knew what was happening. He had been awake through the whole process. When she sliced into his flesh to take the genetic material she needed from his spleen he had not felt any pain, because his central nervous system was frozen. But he had felt the knife cutting into him. He had heard the hum of the electronic laboratory equipment she brought into the cloister room. He had seen the glow from the Eye of Harmony when the cover was drawn back. Zoë had made Carya do that. The TARDIS recognised her, his wife, joined by love, if not by any formal ceremony, as an extension of him, and it had responded. Zoë had already taken full advantage of the one way Carya, with her limited education, was useful to her - making her move the TARDIS to this location where nobody would ever find it.

She had also made her assist in the monstrous operation to produce hundreds, thousands, of embryos that were then force grown in a tank full of synthesised embryonic fluid using Artron energy from the TARDIS to massively accelerate the process.

That most of them had failed was a blessing, he had decided. He wasn’t sure how he felt about the news that one was still viable. His instincts, his intellect, his moral values and his emotions were all fighting a battle of their own within his head.

Zoë’s diary of her plans provided more clues. Davie read it with as much personal self control as he could muster. Much of what he read sickened him.

“I know what she wants Chris for,” he said when he was done. “She knows about the physical and mental superiority of Time Lords. She intends to merge his Time Lord DNA with her own carefully selected Human genes to produce a superchild – the Meritocratic Ideal. She wants to be the Creator of a new Master Race!”

“She wants Chris for the Time Lord DNA?” Eilis queried. “You don’t mean that she’s going to force him to...”

“No,” Tony contradicted her quickly. Davie was disturbed enough by what he had read. “That’s the point. Meritocrats want to have their superbabies without sex.”

“Well, where’s the fun in that?” somebody commented. There was a ripple of laughter. But then they all came back to the serious point.

“Last week... before you all came here, she went to a clinic and had her own ova removed and cryogenically stored,” Davie said. “Never mind Creator. She wants to be the MOTHER of the Master Race.”

“She’s nineteen,” Eilis said. “And she had her ova removed?” The women of the group all looked at each other and shuddered at such a travesty of nature. “She’s nuts.”

“What about Carya?” Brón asked, passing quickly from the subject.

“She mentions her in the diary several times,” Davie said. “She refers to her as the ‘simple primitive’.”

There was an uproar of protests among Chris’s students. Carya’s gentle, unassuming manner and her devotion to her accidental husband had endeared her to them all. They didn’t care that she came from a non-technological world and had a lot of catching up to do on what they considered civilisation. They all loved her dearly.

“She’ll kill her, won’t she?” Daryl said quietly. “If she hasn’t already.”

“We’ll find them,” Davie said, mustering as much faith in his own words as he could find. Daryl had spoken aloud the fear in his hearts for both of them. What use would Chris be when it was done? He was no more than a tissue donor to her. His life was in danger, too.

And where was he supposed to start looking?

A metallic blur streaked across the plaza. The Cessalians noted that robots, too, could be hasty in their actions. Aga stopped in front of Davie. His monitor was streaming information. Davie told him to slow down. Even he couldn’t keep up. Then he read the data from the beginning. His two hearts stirred with hope.

“Aga, I told you not to risk your circuits on the problem,” he said at last. “But you did. I think that’s an important breakthrough in artificial intelligence. You ignored a direct order from an organic lifeform and conducted your own inquiry.”

Aga was a non-humanoid robot with a computer monitor on his torso. He had no means of expressing pleasure. But Davie had the feeling the little artificial lifeform was experiencing some kind of satisfaction deep in his diodes.

“You’ve worked it out,” Davie added. “The one place the TARDIS could go without leaving the planet... the one place that the sensors wouldn’t detect and even I couldn’t reach telepathically. I just hope we can get to them in time.”

Chris took a long deep breath and then held it again. The neural inhibitor was, at last, starting to wear off. He could move his face at least. He slowly forced his neck to turn in order to see what was happening. Zoë was still asleep on a long, low couch she had made Carya pull beside the open Eye of Harmony. She was an intellectually advanced Human, but she was still Human. After more than forty hours of activity, she was exhausted.

“Carya,” he whispered. It was all he could do. His throat was dry, his voice hoarse. But she heard him. She crept quietly to his side.

“My love,” she whispered. “Are you...”

“I’m still in trouble. I can’t move. But you can. Carya... you must get away, now. You can’t get out of the TARDIS. But there are places... the zero room. Go there. With the door closed she will not be able to trace you with any scanner. The collar won’t work. You’ll be safe from her.”

“I cannot leave you...” Carya protested.

“You must,” he said. “As long as you’re here, I can’t fight her. I can’t risk her harming you. Get away, now, please, Carya.”

“As you so order,” she replied in the way a woman of her tribe would speak to her husband. He had never ordered her to do anything in that way. But he needed her to do this, now. She leaned over and kissed him once, then stepped towards the incubation tank. Chris almost called out when he saw what she was doing, then he realised she was right. The zero room would protect them both.

The cloister room door looked like heavy, aged oak. It was, in reality, nothing of the sort. And it was a part of the TARDIS that recognised Carya as a bone fide crew member. Encumbered as she was, it opened for her to pass through and closed again afterwards. The sound was like a big oak door closing on a room made of heavy grey stone. It woke Zoë. She looked around and saw the empty tank. Her scream of rage echoed around the cloister room. She ran to the door but found it impossible to open.

Chris breathed steadily and maintained the mental hold on the door. Until the neural inhibitor had begun to wear off his psychic powers were dampened, too. But now he had strength enough to force the door closed against the efforts of an athletically built nineteen year old woman.

After trying for several minutes she gave up. Again she screamed in rage and frustration and stormed across the room. Chris held his breath and tried not to blink as she hovered over him with a sharp scalpel held against his throat.

“I will kill you, then find her,” she said. “That primitive won’t rob me of my triumph.”

Chris said nothing. But he concentrated his mental energy on the scalpel. It became red hot, the edge burning a thin line on his neck. Zoë screamed as her fingers blistered and some of the skin came away as she dropped the knife.

“I’ll kill you,” she said again, blinking back tears of pain and grasping him around the neck with her bare hands. Chris closed off his breathing and recycled his air. He could feel a tingle in his fingers and an ache in his shoulder muscles. If she didn’t strangle him in the next few minutes, he could probably fight back.

“The centre of this planet, it’s not molten rock like a normal planet,” Davie explained to the students who followed him aboard his TARDIS. “The Time Lords who created Ceres built a giant zero room in the centre... a place where time and space are neutralised, that has no tangible connection with the planet around it. Scanners won’t scan it. Anything could be inside there and we wouldn’t know.”

“Chris’s TARDIS?” Brón asked.


“How would Zoë know about that?” Marton questioned. “And how would she know the TARDIS could get into it?”

“There’s a detailed schematic of the planet on her computer,” Davie answered. “She planned it all carefully. As for the TARDIS... she may not have taken a lesson in temporal mechanics with me, but if she read The Doctor’s Gallifreyan library in its entirety, then there are several books about TARDIS construction and operation in there. It’s how I got started with my time cars, adapting the technology.” He looked around at the anxious faces that looked back at him. “Grab a handhold. Travelling through a planet is a bumpy ride even without a zero force in the middle.”

Chris managed to raise his left arm. His hand formed a fist and he punched. It wasn’t a particularly strong punch. His muscles were still weak. But it was a punch. It caught Zoë under the chin and threw her back off him. He took a whooping breath of air. He had almost run out of oxygen in his lungs and he was light-headed as well as still partially paralysed. But he had stopped her from killing him. He struggled to pull himself into a sitting position. His legs wouldn’t move, yet. But he had regained the use of his arms.

He saw Zoë standing up again after falling onto the floor. There was a cut under her chin. His ring of Eternity had done that. He felt guilty. It had been instilled into him from an early age that hitting women was wrong. But this woman was trying to kill him. Chivalry, as well as his pacifist principles had to be set aside for the time being. He got ready to defend himself again.

He didn’t have to. The big oak door crashed open and two people rushed through in the blur of a time fold. Chris breathed deeply as he saw Eilis and Brón bring Zoë down with the gung fu moves that The Doctor and Davie both taught in the Sanctuary. Chivalry didn’t count when it was women fighting each other. Zoë, who hadn’t attended the martial arts classes, was easily subdued. The two women dragged her to her feet as the other students approached cautiously. She struggled at first, but Brón put her hand on her forehead and quietened her mind. She made no further trouble.

“Don’t hurt her,” Davie said to them. “But make sure she’s not faking that. Don’t give her any opportunity to get away.” He turned to his brother and kissed him on the forehead before examining him carefully. “Lie down again. Neural inhibitors are the worst, granddad always says. Letting humans get hold of the recipe is the biggest mistake we can make.”

Chris felt his brother gently press him down again and then his hands were touching his chest, steadying his hearts. He felt the soft, loving touch of Davie’s mind within his body, forcing the last of the debilitating poison out of him. He cried out at the painful pins and needles in his legs and when he tried to stand up, he almost fell down again. Davie held him up. For a few moments he laid his head against his brother’s shoulder. They had held each other up physically and emotionally all their lives. This was no exception.

“Carya,” he said. He was still shaky, but he managed to run as far as the door. Davie caught up with him and they ran together through the stone-walled corridors of the gothic TARDIS. Chris stopped once to catch his breath. He was still suffering. Forty hours under the influence of a drug specifically designed to render a Time Lord helpless wasn’t easy to recover from. But he just needed a moment before he was ready to go on again. He reached the door to the zero room a few moments before Davie and opened it without a pause.

It was the only room in the Gothic TARDIS that didn’t have a stone theme. Instead, it had cool rose-cream walls, ceiling and floor that melded seamlessly into each other so that it was hard to see which was which or even tell just how big the room really was. Carya was sitting on the floor, her legs crossed in front of her and carefully holding something precious wrapped in her cardigan. Chris knelt with her and gently unfolded the cloth to look at the tiny baby boy. He looked the size of a healthy newborn Human child. Except he wasn’t newborn. He hadn’t been born in the sense of the word he recognised. He was created in a cloning tank. The clue was there to be seen. This child had never been in a womb. There was no placenta, no mark where an umbilical cord had been detached. His stomach was completely smooth.

“The only one that survived,” Carya said. “The others...” Her dark eyes were full of tears as she remembered. Chris had seen the sad results of Zoë’s first attempts to create life by unnatural means. The mercy was that they couldn’t have felt much pain before it was over.

The baby gave a soft whimper. Carya held it close to her.

“Don’t hurt him,” she said. “Please, don’t. I know it was wrong.... But he’s....”

Chris reached out and touched the child’s forehead. He immediately sensed his own DNA that had been used to create him. The tissue had been taken from him by force. The wound had mended easily. There was no trace of it now. But even so, he had reason to feel repulsed by the result of the insane, utterly abhorrent procedure.

But he didn’t. He could sense the Human DNA that formed a bond with his own. Zoë’s carefully selected genes made this child part Time Lord, part Human, just as he was. The Time Lord DNA was stronger, just as it was in him. The child, when it was grown, would be capable of everything he was.

“He’s... yours...” Carya said. She only partially understood the concepts of DNA and inherited traits. She had only just followed what Zoë was doing with her equipment. It had astonished her to see a child growing within an artificial tank from the genetic material created in a test tube. The process went against everything she understood about life.

But she grasped that this child, in a strange way, came from her own husband. And for that reason alone she had taken him with her when she ran from the cloister room. She had protected Chris’s offspring.

“He’s ours, Carya,” Chris said quietly. “I would never have chosen to do that, no matter how desperate we were for a baby. But now he has been given life... he’s ours to love and to cherish. And... I CAN love him. I know I can, despite the way he was born. I can, if you can.”

Carya didn’t need to say anything. If the end result of the nightmare she had gone through was a baby in her arms, then it was worth it.

Davie stepped forward and used his sonic screwdriver to remove the electronic collar from Carya’s neck. Then he lifted her and Chris both to their feet. He hugged his brother and his wife, and the child he would get used to calling his nephew when the memory of how he came to exist had faded from all their minds.

“He’ll need a name,” he said as he walked with them back through the corridors to the console room. “And I think it might be a good idea if it wasn’t either David or Christopher. It gets confusing enough in our family.”

“Robert,” Chris decided. “After his other grandfather.”

“Tilo,” Carya said. “My father’s name.”

“Tilo Robert Campbell,” Chris said. “What about Zoë? What are we going to do about her?”

“Marton already did something,” Davie answered. “He wiped her memory of everything beyond her first week at the Sanctuary – all the knowledge she acquired about Time Lords.”

“He’s VERY good at mind control,” Chris noted. “It’s a good job he’s one of us. I’d hate to have to fight him if he joined the dark side.”

“Yes,” Davie agreed before returning to the problem of Zoë Beckett. “She’s in a deep sleep, now. Mind altering is an exhausting business. I’m going to put her in my TARDIS and take her back to Earth. I’ll pack her belongings and then take her home with a note saying she’s been expelled for misbehaving. I don’t know how Meritocrats deal with failure, but that’s their problem. Ours is explaining how you and Carya spent a week on Santuario and came back as parents.”

“Nobody in our family will question that,” Chris replied confidently. “After all, you went on a two week honeymoon and brought your wife back three months pregnant.”

“Wait until Brenda sees little Tilo,” Davie said. “She’ll want to borrow him for practice.”

The two brothers laughed at the idea and noted that Carya was holding onto the baby so firmly even Brenda would have precious little chance of prising him from her arms.