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

Chris Campbell locked off the navigation drive on his TARDIS console and turned to look at his wife. She was sitting on the comfy sofa with Tilo on her knee. He was eighteen months old now, and sitting on her knee wasn’t something he would do for very long. There was too much else to do. He wriggled out of her arms and toddled across the floor to his father.

“Come on, my boy,” Chris said, lifting him up in his arms and putting him down on a special step beside the console. “Come and see where we’re going. That’s the Hydra system, more than two hundred million light years from Earth, but a couple of hours away by TARDIS. The fourth planet from the Hydra sun is Dol-Xe.”

“He surely doesn’t understand all of that,” Carya said. “All those huge numbers and everything.”

“He understands. He’s my son, after all.”

“Yes, he is.” Carya smiled. Tilo was brown eyed with curling black hair framing his face. He was a little duplicate of his father whose own hair was tied back in a ponytail as usual, but fell to his shoulders thickly when he let it loose. Tilo reached out his hand to the screen with the destination solar system displayed on it and said a word that might have been his way of saying ‘Dol-Xe’.

“Our son,” Chris added. Even among those who knew the truth it was never acknowledged that Tilo was not Carya’s own natural born child. She had brought him from the incubator where he had been grown from an embryo and cared for him ever since. Nobody would ever dispute that he was hers.

That was why they were making this trip back to her home world and the village of the Cíeló people, the tribe she was born into. She wanted to show her son to her mother - and to her father if he would deign to recognise her as his daughter.

If they weren’t run out of town by the same mob they had escaped from in the first place.

They had talked about it late into the night when Carya first broached the idea. He didn’t have to remind her of her father’s cruelty to them both. She had never forgotten that nightmarish day. But nor had she forgotten the world and the people she came from. She had been safe on SangC'lune where he brought her first. She had come to terms with the advanced society on Earth, even carrying her own credit card these days and shopping with the same enthusiasm as the other women of the family. But she had never forgotten that she came from a pre-industrial society who worshipped the sky above them and the gods that came from it on rare occasions.

She wanted to see her home and her family, and though he was concerned about the reception that might await them Chris knew he couldn’t deny her.

“They think you are one of the sky gods,” Carya reminded him, almost as if she knew what he was thinking. “They will bow before you and beg your forgiveness.”

“And I will forgive them,” Chris told her. “But I am not a god, and I hope they won’t try to make me one.”

On the other hand, a little awe would help prevent a recurrence of the problems he encountered the last time.

“Whatever happens, I will protect you both. That’s my first responsibility. You and Tilo. My family.”

Tilo was watching the navigation monitor avidly. Just how much of it he could really understand Chris wasn’t sure. Mostly he was fascinated by the interactive star chart with its ever moving pin points of light.

“You’ll have a TARDIS of your own one day, my boy,” he promised him. “Your uncle Davie is working on it. Then you’ll be able to see as many of those stars as you like. For now, one planet will do.”

The landing was smooth. He set the TARDIS down just outside the village, close enough that it was an easy walk carrying Tilo, but far enough not to disturb the people with his magic box from the sky.

“It’s high summer,” Carya noted when they stepped out of the TARDIS and noted it’s disguise as an erratic rock formation on the wide plain. “The Thirsty Time. Look how parched the grass is. The rains must still be weeks away.”

“I didn’t stay long enough to find out about the seasons. Is the summer hard? Is there a problem with fresh water?”

“No,” Carya answered him. “The well in the village has never run dry in the memory of our oldest tribesmen. It is always good, even in the hottest times. It is the land that grows thirsty, not us.”

Chris noted that she used the pronouns ‘our’ and ‘us’. She still felt a connection to the tribe of the Cíeló. She had even dressed in a long silk dress of deep maroon colour befitting the wife of an elder of her people. Chris was in a white robe of the sort worn by those elders. It had the symbol of his Sanctuary embroidered in gold thread across the front. Carya had done the embroidery by hand sitting by the window in their apartment. It was one of the skills women of her people learnt as girls. She embroidered his robe as a token of her love and devotion to him just as she would have done if she was married to a man of the Cíeló tribe.

They came to the edge of the village. The Cíeló worshipped the sky. Their houses were of glass, polarised so that it was a smoked opaque colour on the outside but transparent on the inside. They utilised a rudimentary form of solar power to keep the rooms within cool, but the people usually lived and worked outside under their sacred sky. Cooking, mending, forging tools, making and firing clay pots, spinning and weaving, all of the crafts of their pre-industrial society were done in the spaces in front of their homes.

At least that was how it had been for as long as Carya could remember. It was how it was when Chris visited the planet with his students on an otherwise ordinary day.

Today was not an ordinary day. The streets of the village were empty. The forge fires were cold, the looms and pottery wheels still.

“What is wrong?” Carya asked. “Where are my people?”

“I don’t know,” Chris answered. “But I have a very bad feeling….”

“A psychic premonition of doom, my husband?”

“No, just an ordinary Human instinct. And… there’s a smell…. It’s faint. There’s a breeze to carry the worst of it away. But….”

They reached the centre of the village where the totem stood, reaching towards the sky. Around it were six dark patches on the ground where pyres had burnt fiercely – funeral pyres. Beneath the scent of burnt wood and oil, there was the unmistakeable smell of flesh and bone having been consumed in the fires.

There had been deaths here, at least six of them at once.

That didn’t bode well in a society that was usually healthy.

“What has happened?” Carya asked.

Then a scream disturbed the eerie quiet. She turned in shock as a middle aged woman ran from one of the glass houses. Two younger women came after her, but waited by the door when they saw Chris and Carya.

“Mana,” Carya cried out emotionally, using the dialect word for ‘mother’ as the woman embraced her tearfully. “Mana, I have missed you.”

“Carya, my child,” her mother said. “I never thought to see you again. I am so glad that your sky god brought you to us at this time.”

Her mother looked around at Chris, and at Tilo who had decided he didn’t want to be carried anymore and stood on his own two feet looking around with a toddler’s curiosity about his new surroundings.

“Your child?”

“Yes, mana,” Carya answered. “We are married, Chris and I… and Tilo is our son.”


“He is named for my father. I hoped… that he would see him.”

“Let it not be too late. Your father….”

“He’s sick?” Chris asked. “There is sickness in the village? People have already died?”

Carya’s mother nodded grimly. Her older sisters covered their faces with their hands in a gesture of grief.

“No!” Carya gripped her mother’s hand tightly. “Oh, no.”

“Show me,” Chris said in a tone that was oddly devoid of emotion for him. There was enough of it among the women. The best he could do for them was remain calm and practical. He headed towards the house of the Keeper of the Rites. Carya’s two older sisters stepped aside to let him in.

The main room was dark. The polarised glass was adjusted to let in only a little of the bright sunlight. There was a scent of something like incense being burnt and candles floating in water were placed beside the low palette bed where the man of the house lay. Chris knelt and looked first in the usual way, at the exterior symptoms. The sick man’s skin was pale and cold even though beads of sweat were upon his forehead. He was barely conscious, murmuring in a delirium. He was clearly in a lot of pain.

“It’s all right, sir,” Chris said gently. “I’m here to help. Let me do what I can.”

He passed his hands across his body, reaching in mentally to look at his heart and lungs, his liver, kidneys, blood stream, searching for the cause of the illness that afflicted him. What he saw filled him with dismay, but he was sure of one thing, at least.

“It’s not contagious,” he said to the women at the door when he was done. “Please tell Carya to come in, with our child.”

There were murmurings outside and then Carya stepped into the home she had left to become Chris’s wife. She uttered a cry of despair when she saw how sick her father was.

“I’m sorry,” Chris told her. “He’s dying. The damage is already too severe. There’s nothing I can do, except take away the pain and let him wake long enough to say goodbye.”

He was doing that now, holding the old man’s hand and drawing the heat and the agony out of his body so that he could open his eyes and look upon his daughter.

“Carya, come here now. Show him his grandson.”

Carya moved closer, clutching her son’s hand. She knelt at her father’s side and reached out to him.

“Panu,” she said. “I am here. Look, this is my son, named in your honour.”

Little Tilo played his part well, allowing her to bring him close so that her father could reach out and touch his head in blessing.

“He is a fine child, worthy of the Cíeló people. I am glad you brought him to me. The first born son of my daughters. He is my heir… just in time....”

“Panu, I am sorry,” Carya sobbed. “I am sorry that I went away from you.”

Her father reached out to touch her face. He smiled though it was a struggle to do so. He spoke to her in his own language, and she replied. Chris deliberately didn’t let the words translate in his head. There was no need. Father and daughter were reconciled. That was what mattered.

He stepped outside, letting the two elder daughters and his wife attend to him in what were the last hours. He could feel the same sorrow in other homes of the village, too. It grieved him to know that there was nothing he could do. All those who were sick were going to die. None of his powers as a Time Lord could stop it from happening.

He knew when it was over for Carya’s father because all four women raised a keening cry. He waited until it stopped before he went back into the house. Carya sat with her child in her arms and sobbed quietly while her sisters and mother did the necessary job of wrapping the body for cremation. The funeral would be at nightfall, along with the others who did not make it through this day.

While they were busy, Chris carefully examined the flagons of drinking water and the sacks of food kept in the coolest part of the house. He went outside and drew water from that well Carya spoke of and tested that. He was puzzled and the answer to the puzzle eluded him.

“This is not an ordinary sickness,” he said when he returned to the house of mourning. “It was poison.”

“Poison?” He had spoken in English, and Carya echoed the word in the same language. Then she looked around at her mother and sisters and repeated it in her own language. They were all stunned. They had thought, as did everyone in the village, that the sickness was an infection that had been spread in the usual way from person to person. But poison was another matter.

“Poison,” Chris repeated. “Something similar to lead poisoning, the same kind of symptoms, abdominal pain, anaemia, headache, but the substance I saw in his blood is different.”

It was a new element, one of those still missing from the periodic table hundreds of years after humans worked out how to catalogue the essential building blocks of the universe. Even allowing for those that Time Lords and other species knew about the table was still incomplete.

A new element was something that would excite scientists. Even Davie, and The Doctor, both scientists at heart, would be interested, though Chris knew the deaths of villagers would concern them first.

He wasn’t excited. He was interested in one thing only – how the element came to be in Tilo the Elder’s body, and the bodies of the other victims.

“Why are your sisters here?” Chris asked suddenly. “Don’t they have husbands and homes of their own?”

“Anya’s husband was one of the first to die,” she answered. “The funeral pyre was lit three days ago. “Bettan’s husband succumbed last night. The fires we saw when we arrived….”

“Who else died? Who else is sick?”

Carya listed a dozen who were dead already and more who were deathly sick.

Chris noticed one obvious link between them.

They were all men.

“How is that?” he asked sharply. The mourning women looked around at him. He had disturbed their ritual. But his question was one that needed to be answered, and after all he WAS one of the gods of the sky come among them.

“Why only the men? Do they eat different food or drink - something forbidden to women?”

“Only the water of Atten,” Bettan answered for them. “But it is not possible. That is the most sacred water of all, touched by the sun god.”

“Please explain,” Chris asked them. He lifted baby Tilo onto his knee and hugged him close as he listened to the story that might explain the mystery.

“There are no rivers above ground in the Cíeló country,” Carya explained, first. “The first time I saw water running freely was on Sang’Clune, and when I was brought to live beside a river as mighty as the Thames, I was astonished. I had never seen such a thing here on my own world.”

“That makes sense,” Chris noted. “This is a near-desert environment. The rains that come don’t stay on the surface but are quickly soaked into the ground, and form underground rivers, reservoirs even. The Thirsty Land hides the stuff of life itself. Your village well taps into the underground water – it’s probably an aquifer….” Nobody understood that word. He passed over it as Sereh took up the story from her daughters.

“The Atten is such a river, running deep below the land,” she said. “But there is one place, and one time of the year – The Day of Light – when the sun reaches it through the Cavern of Glory. Then the light shines off the water as it never does any other time. Our men – from the youngest who have just reached manhood to the eldest - go to drink from the water after it has been blessed. It makes them vigorous and fruitful.”

“And this happened recently?”

“A week ago,” Anya added. “The men took sick soon after returning. It seems that the Sun-God is angry with us.”

“Is it punishment for the harm we did to you, His brother of the sky?” Sereh asked Chris fearfully.

“No, it isn’t,” Chris assured her. “Don’t you think such a thing. All that was done before is forgiven. I have brought your daughter and our son to visit, and what blessings I can offer I freely give. But I must go to the Cavern of Glory and see the Atten for myself. Can anyone show me the way?”

“I can show you,” Carya said. “It is permitted for women to visit the cavern on days other than the Day of Light.”

“Then we will go right away. It is just midday. There are six hours until nightfall. I will bring you back in time for the funeral. But it is important to find out what happened to the men.”

“It will be tiring for Tilo,” Carya said.

“We’re going by TARDIS, not hiking,” he assured her. “But if you think it would be too much for him….”

Sereh gathered her grandson in her arms. Chris nodded. Caring for the child would be a comfort to her in these difficult hours. The matter was settled.

“Let’s not waste any more time, then,” he said. He stood and reached out his hand. Carya came with him, giving one backward glance at her father’s body laid out on the bed and her sisters observing the vigil while her mother fed oatcakes to her child.

The sun was high and bright. This was the time of day when nobody would think of beginning a long trek. But they were only going as far as the TARDIS. Carya looked back often at the village, the place of her birth and childhood that she had left in difficult circumstances and returned to in tragic ones. She was holding back her tears and doing her best to be helpful to Chris, but he knew she hadn’t fully grieved, and she would need his help to get through it when she did.

When they reached the TARDIS Chris went straight to his environmental console and brought up a schematic map of the Cíeló territory. He found the village easily enough and traced a path north-east.

“Is that it” he asked. “Where that outcrop of rock is? Does that lead to the Cavern of Glory?”

Carya shook her head. She didn’t know how to relate the map on the screen to the land she knew. Maps always puzzled her. She couldn’t even use the London Underground system without Brenda’s help. But he had assumed she would understand a map of her own world.

“It’s all right, we’ll do it another way.”

He put the TARDIS into hover mode just a few feet above the ground then opened the doors. Carya sat at the opening and looked out at the plain. She told him which way to go, not using the points of the compass, or even left or right, but in relation to the sun and its position in the sky - this without even a wristwatch to tell her what the time of day was.

On Earth, most people, even some among his own family, thought of Carya as a sweet girl but of limited intelligence. They were wrong. She was simply so far out of her natural environment on Earth that she had no frame of reference at all. The sun came up in a different place. The hours were a different length. People used clocks to measure time. They lived in houses with roofs that cut off the view of the sky. They used maps that bore no relation to geography whatsoever to tell them train in a subterranean tunnel, far from the sun and sky, would get them to another part of the city.

But here she knew what time it was and where she was just by looking at the sky. She knew exactly where she was going. She was guiding him, teaching him, not the other way around.

“That’s not a natural outcrop,” he said as they drew closer to the feature he had seen on the map. “It’s man-made.” He was never sure if man-made was the correct term. It was one coined on Earth and generally meaning made by Humans. Carya’s people were humanoid, but not Human, as he was acutely aware since returning to this planet.

But anyway, what he was looking at was something like a barrow or burial mound as made by ancient tribes of Britain and Europe. It was too symmetrical to be natural, shaped something like the hub cap of a car, maybe a hundred metres in circumference, rising up to an apex some twenty metres above ground level. It was covered in scrubby grass just like the plain around it and he thought at first glance that it would be impossible to detect from above. When he let the TARDIS hover a little higher, though, so that he could see the top of the mound, he was surprised. It was covered in concentric circles picked out in white stones or chalk, something of that nature. It was like looking at the contour lines on a map actually drawn onto the real landscape.

At the apex was a hole. At the environmental console a schematic automatically showed the measurements. It was a circular shaft two metres in diameter and going down two hundred metres to a wide space below ground.

“The circles are to draw the sun god to the cavern,” Carya explained. “On the Day of Light when his path across the sky brings him to this place.”

“Yes.” Chris understood what she meant scientifically. The orbit of the planet around the sun meant that it appeared to rise in a slightly different place each day of the year and travel a different path across the sky. On one day of the year it would pass directly over the mound and for a brief time shine directly down the shaft filling the cavern below with light.

“How do your people get in? They don’t climb down the shaft, do they?”

“There is an entrance on the north-side and a path down. Only the gods may enter this way.”

“Well… I am a god,” Chris pointed out. He positioned the TARDIS directly over the shaft and set it to descend slowly. Carya was startled, but she could not dispute his logic. He was a sky god and she was his hand-maiden. There was no blasphemy in taking this route to the Cavern.

Without that direct sunlight, the Cavern, which the TARDIS measured as a hundred and forty metres deep and two hundred metres wide, was in total darkness. The shaft was too deep to let daylight come through except when the sun was directly overhead.

As soon as he brought the TARDIS to a stop on the cavern’s smooth, rock floor, though, it was bathed in light, showing up the full magnificence of a natural cavern formed by the action of water running through permeable rocks for millennia. A river ran straight through the cavern, the Atten that Carya’s people spoke of.

The source of light was obvious when they stepped out of the TARDIS. The ship had disguised itself as a huge glowing orb. It was almost too bright for his eyes, even with the protective membrane that was the legacy of his Gallifreyan blood. Carya looked straight at it and smiled.

“We travel within a sun. You truly are a sky god.”

“We really have to talk about that some time,” Chris answered. “First, let’s look at this river. If I’m right, it’s the source of the trouble.”

It was a wide river, and it looked deep, too. It was fast flowing, except for one section where either erosion or the work of the Cíeló people had cut an inlet. There a relatively quiet pool was formed, refreshed by the flowing water but where it would be possible to swim without being swept away by the current. It was directly under the shaft, where the sunlight on that special day would strike the surface of the water.

“Do the men swim?” Chris asked. He was only slightly surprised to discover that Carya didn’t know much about the annual ritual that the men came to indulge, but he could imagine that they might strip off their clothes and get into the water, some having come year after year, some of the youngest doing it for the first time. They would tread water as they waited for the sunlight to reach them. When it did, it would be spectacular. The sun’s warming rays striking the water and the bodies of the men within it would be dazzling. The light would fill the whole cavern, reflecting off the water and onto the walls and ceiling. It would look and feel like a blessing. Drinking the blessed water afterwards would feel like a privilege given to them by the gods of the sky.

But had it been a curse instead? Chris knelt by the edge and reached down to touch the water. His submersed hand acted as a sensor. He could read the chemical make-up of the water.

“Yes, the poison is here,” he concluded. “It’s exactly what I expected. The question is how did it get there? Your people come here every year and it has never made them ill before. That means something was introduced to the water in the year between Days of Glory.”

“It doesn’t look poisoned,” Carya said. “It is beautifully clear. I can see the bottom.”

“The poisonous element is clear, just like lead. Your people use lead in their glass-making, and it makes the windows bright and clear. This element does the same to the water, but it is, nevertheless, poisonous.”

He kept kneeling with his hand in the water and concentrated, attracting the poisonous element in the water to his hand, like a chemical catalyst. When he lifted his hand a few minutes later it was covered in a thick film of viscous liquid, perfectly clear, just like the water, but utterly poisonous. He shook his hand and it slithered off like jelly, holding the shape of his hand, even the lines of his palm and his fingerprints for a few moments before becoming an amorphous lump.

“I still don’t know how it got into the water,” he said. “But I know how we can find out. Come on, back to the TARDIS.”

Carya followed him dutifully. Once inside he immediately put the TARDIS into hover mode again, following the river upstream through the tunnel it had long ago carved in the rock strata. It gradually narrowed and the roof got lower, but the TARDIS could move just as easily underwater.

“The tunnel is getting smaller,” Carya said. “There won’t be room.”

“Yes, there will,” Chris answered her. “The TARDIS can transcend dimensions. That’s how we got down a two metre wide shaft in a craft this size in the first place. The outer size of the TARDIS will shrink to allow us to pass through easily.”

Carya didn’t like that idea much. Travelling through an underground tunnel was unnerving as it was. She clung to his hand and turned her face away from the viewscreen. Even if she had been looking it wouldn’t have shown anything disturbing. There was no way of judging their relative dimensions except by interpreting the data on the drive monitor, but she didn’t want to see.

“It’s all right, sweetheart,” he said after a while. “You can look now.”

She looked and exclaimed in surprise.

“But we’re above ground. The river….”

“We’ve travelled nearly five hundred miles. That’s much further than any of your people or the people of your neighbouring villages will have travelled. You don’t know anything about your planet beyond a very small area. The average temperature is a good three degrees cooler here than on your plain. The grass is thicker and lusher and the river runs above ground.”

That was clearly news to her. She looked around at what was still her planet, but a very different part of it. Strangely, this much more fertile part of it was uninhabited. That struck Chris as a little bit backwards. But it wasn’t what concerned him right now.

What caught his attention was lying on the grassy bank of the river. The twisted wreckage was obviously a space ship of some kind, probably utilising warp-shunt technology judging by the nacelles. It was large enough to carry half a dozen humanoids or rather less of a larger species.

He set the TARDIS down next to the wreck and stepped out. Carya stayed by the door. She watched as he walked all the way around the wreckage and then knelt to examine something near the river.

He walked back to her. There were tears in his eyes.

“I know what caused the poison in the water,” he said. “It was… the bodies… of the pilots. I don’t know what species they are. I’ve never seen them before… but their bodies are made up of that unknown element… the gloopy stuff I had on my hand. They must have looked amazing in life… humanoids made of transparent gel. Their dead bodies are just terribly sad. I don’t know if it was the impact that killed them or if they couldn’t breathe oxygen….” He brushed the tears from his eyes. “Anyway, I think one of them fell into the river. His body slowly dissolved into it and it was carried down stream. That’s how your people were poisoned.”

“Because these aliens accidentally crashed by the river and died? That’s sad. So very sad.”

Tears pricked her eyes, too. He wasn’t sure if she was thinking of the unknown aliens or her father, her sisters’ husbands and the other men of her village who died as an indirect result of the first tragedy.

“It’s very sad,” he agreed.

“You can make it right,” she said. “You have the TARDIS. You could stop the ship from crashing. Then my father and the others won’t get sick… nobody will die.”

“I can’t,” Chris answered. “I really can’t. It is not permitted. We are already a part of this timeline after it has happened. I can’t go back and alter anything.”

“You are a sky god. You can do anything.”

“I’m not. I’m a Time Lord, and there are rules we must obey.”

“You are a sky god. You can do it… you can do it… for me.”

“Carya… please don’t,” he begged. “Don’t make me say no to you.”

“My father…. He was a good man, even if he wronged you because of our tradition. Bettan and Anya… their husbands were good men, too. They died without giving sons to them. Our cousin, Kara, her son was of the age. It was his first time… he died yesterday. My friends Mara and Dilla, they are fatherless and not yet married. So much grief…. So much sorrow. So many deaths. Chris, please….”

“What if they were war-lords come to conquer your world?” he said. “Maybe their deaths were a blessing after all?”

“You know that isn’t true,” Carya told him.

He didn’t. He didn’t know anything about these alien beings. But as she said that, he felt as if he did. He looked away from his wife, away from the crash site. He looked up at the sky that Carya’s people worshipped, directly into the sun that was still high in the sky. The light dazzled his eyes but it didn’t hurt.

What did happen was a vision. Perhaps it was standing there in the presence of recent tragedy that made it happen. He didn’t analyse it too closely, but he felt for a brief moment the emotions of the transparent aliens in the crashing ship. He felt their terror. He felt their thoughts in their last moments about the loved ones left behind on their own world. He knew that they were peaceful explorers who bore no ill will to anyone and simply wanted to study the universe just as his own Gallifreyan ancestors did.

Then the vision ended. He looked at Carya.

“You ARE a sky god,” she said again.

“All right,” he conceded. “All right. I know what was wrong with the ship. It would be easy to prevent the crash.”

“Then, please, let’s do it,” she begged. “Everything will be all right if you do.”

“Everything except I’ll have broken one of the cardinal laws of time,” he pointed out.

But the more he thought about it, the more likely it was that he was going to do it.

“They all break the rules when it suits them. Even The Doctor. Even Rassilon himself – and he WROTE them. For you, for your people… I will do it. If I can. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling it’s what I am supposed to do.”

This time it took a more complex TARDIS manoeuvre than hovering. He had to move back in time several days and work out an appropriate trajectory to intercept the alien ship.

But he was experienced at such complex manoeuvres and he timed it exactly right. His TARDIS materialised in orbit above the planet just as the stricken ship became caught up in its gravitational pull. He extended the ‘tractor beam’ that his brother had fitted when he renovated the Gothic TARDIS and fastened onto the ship before contacting its captain.

“Your ship has a misaligned navigation computer,” he said to the transparent man whose worried face appeared on the communications screen. “You are dangerously off course. Give me your MAC code and my computer can calibrate yours then you can be on your way.”

The transparent features relaxed into relief. He thanked Chris for his help and transferred the information he needed to access the computer. He noted that it was a very trusting thing for the captain to do. The MAC code allowed him to do much more than recalibrate the navigation drive. He could have overridden their whole system and taken control of their ship, to say nothing of stealing any confidential information in their database.

He didn’t, of course. He even resisted checking the navigational system to find out what part of the galaxy they originated from, which would have been a clue to their species. That probably made him the least curious individual in either the Time Lord or Human race from which he was descended, but he didn’t care. That wasn’t what this mission was about.

“You’re sorted,” he said at last when he was sure it was safe to release the ship from the tractor beam. “Good journey to you.”

“And to you, my friend,” replied the captain. “May the peace of Xol be upon you.”

The unknown ship turned into its new trajectory and was quickly on its way out of the Dol solar system. Chris watched until they entered deep space and initiated the warp shunt drives then he programmed the TARDIS to take them back to the Cíeló village.

“Have we done it?” Carya asked anxiously. “Will my father be….”

There was only one way to find out. Chris set the TARDIS down in the same place as before. It was late afternoon on the day they left. As they approached the cluster of glass houses there was a smell of fire on the air, but not the acrid smell of funeral pyres. This time it was outdoor cooking fires and hot forge fires, kilns for firing pots. Carya’s heart beat faster as she looked around and saw the men and women of her tribe at their work. Her sister Bettan stopped her spinning wheel and waved cheerfully. Her husband was weaving cloth by her side.

They reached the home of Tilo the Record Keeper and she cried out with joy and left Chris’s side to run to her father. The old man was sitting outside in the warmth of the afternoon teaching little Tilo to write his name on a sheet of finely made paper with a pen and ink. It was the skill of a record keeper and Tilo delighted him by picking it up straight away.

“He is, indeed, my heir,” he said to Carya, reaching out to embrace her and kiss her forehead. “My dear child, I am sorry for all that came between us in the past, all that made you a stranger to me. Will you forgive me?”

“Of course I will, my father,” she answered. “I am sorry if I disobeyed you. But I am so glad that it is all right, now.”

Sereh came from the house bringing food and wine for Chris, her son in law who was a sky god. Of course, there was no recollection of the grief they had suffered. All of that was wiped away when he changed the recent past. A moment of doubt about the consequences of breaking such immutable Laws of Time crossed his thoughts, but the joy on his wife’s face as she sat with her father, accepted again as part of her community, swept them away. He would break many more such rules for her sake.