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

Christopher de Lœngbærrow checked the course of his father’s old TARDIS through the time vortex and looked up at his wife. She was watching him work with interest, even if the console with its levers and buttons, LED lights and monitors was a mystery to her. She smiled proudly at him.

“I’m really not a very good TARDIS pilot,” he admitted. “Young Davie preset our journey for me. I just have to make a couple of course corrections. There’s a bit of turbulence in the vortex. The monitor here says it’s just ion traces. They shouldn’t be dangerous.”

Jackie smiled and nodded. It was all beyond her. She got nervous driving a hover car, let alone something as sophisticated as a TARDIS. She thought Christopher was amazing.

“Why are you so worried about this trip?” she asked him. “It’s just a trade thing. You’ve done that kind of thing all your life.”

“I’m not exactly worried. A little nervous. I’m the first delegate from Earth to attend an intergalactic trade conference. It’s your home world’s first official tie to civilisations beyond your solar system. There is a lot riding on it. I was… honoured that Moira asked me to do it. I’m glad she thought so highly of my diplomatic skills. I don’t want to let her down.”

“Well, she couldn’t really have asked anyone else. You’re the only member of the Cabinet with a time and space travel machine.”

“There is that. But… there’s something else. This probably won’t be a one off. Moira really wants me to start taking the post of Secretary of State for Foreign and Extra Terrestrial Affairs seriously – the extra-terrestrial bit. She thinks I should do more to forge links between Earth and other worlds.”

“Between the British Federation and other worlds,” Jackie pointed out.

“With assurances to the Americans and others that they will be given favourable terms,” Christopher added.

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?”

“It’s very good for Earth. It means the Human race is finally reaching out there beyond the solar system in a real way. But it means I’ll be away from home so much more….”

“That’s good, too. As long as I can come with you. I mean… I know I’m not really diplomatic wife material. But I DO know which fork goes with what, now, and I don’t blow my nose and examine the contents….”

Christopher laughed gently. Jackie certainly wasn’t born to the life he took for granted. She had been dropped in the deep end, but she was getting there. He was proud of her efforts to fit into his world of diplomacy and high society without losing the essence of the down to earth rough diamond he had fallen in love with.

“I promised my father I wouldn’t go away,” he said. “You know how he feels about the family… about us all being together. I told him we had no plans to go anywhere.”

“Well, nowhere permanent,” Jackie conceded. “I don’t mind a few days at a conference, but if they want an Earth ambassador on Bloxi IV or whatever it’s called, they can send somebody else. I don’t want to live on a planet of four foot high midgets with purple faces who think I’m handicapped because I’ve only had two children. I don’t even want to live on one of the normal planets for long. I’d miss London, Rose, the children….”

“So would I,” Christopher admitted. “London… really does feel like home to me. It took a while. At first I was really homesick for Gallifrey. I was mourning so many people I knew there. But it started to feel right… mostly because of you, Jackie. You made me feel like I belonged on Earth, just as Rose made it right for my father.”

Jackie actually blushed at the compliment from her husband while a stray memory drifted to the front of her mind, of the first day she met Christopher’s father, The Doctor – and had made a rather clumsy pass at him.

She blushed even more deeply. Christopher laughed and moved around the console to scoop her into his arms and kiss her.

“I forgot all about him when I met you,” she admitted. “My own Time Lord, and a gentleman, too.”

“My own Earth Child…. I finally understood what it was that my father liked so much about your species.”

He kissed her again, long and deeply. The lights above the console dazzled Jackie’s eyes as she melted into his embrace.

A pair of giggling voices interrupted them. They both looked around to see Peter and Garrick by the internal door. They were dressed in identical t-shirts and shorts and could have passed for twins. They were together so often even Jackie thought of them as her own two boys, and if Garrick was accompanying his parents on this trip then nothing would stop Peter going with him. Rose and The Doctor accepted that as a fact of their sometimes unconventional family life.

“You’ll have girlfriends of your own, one day,” Christopher responded. “And we’ll giggle when you’re kissing them.”

The two boys laughed and ran to the console. There was a curved step all around that The Doctor had built for Peter, so that he could reach the controls. Garrick stood beside him. The two boys watched the data streaming down the drive monitor, marking their progress through the vortex.

“Be careful,” Christopher warned them. “We are expecting a bit of a bumpy ride. Hold on tight.”

The boys did hold on. Just to be sure, Christopher also activated the gravity cushions. He did so just in time. The turbulence he had been expecting hit them with unexpectedly violent and sudden force. The TARDIS was tossed around in the vortex like a paper boat in a flood. When they were upright for a few seconds Jackie pushed against the gravity cushion holding her safely in place and reached the boys. She grasped hold of Peter’s arm just as the TARDIS literally fell out of the vortex with the sensation of a lift accelerating towards the bone-crushing bottom of the shaft.

They fell into ordinary space between two groups of space ships engaged in a battle. The viewscreen was lit by the laser cannons and plasma mortars firing back and forwards between the metallic grey fighters and warships of one side and the silvery crystalline globes of the other. One of the grey metallic ships exploded as it took a direct hit. One of the crystalline globes disintegrated as it was caught in the full force of the enemy fire.

“Sontarans and Rutans,” Christopher noted. “One of their interminable battles. They must have been chasing each other through the vortex. That’s what caused the turbulence. Their sub-warp engines just shred the ion strata….”

Jackie’s first thought was that he sounded exactly like his father right then. Her second thought was more urgent.

“Get us out of here,” she yelled. “Before both sides take a shot at us.”

“I’m trying,” Christopher answered, trying to control his voice and not sound as if he was panicking. “There’s a power drain somewhere. I can’t get the drive to engage. But we’re cloaked. They won’t shoot at us.”

They didn’t have to. There was enough crossfire from all directions that glanced off the TARDIS and sent it spinning and bucking around. Christopher desperately fought with the controls, wishing silently that his father was with him. He knew the TARDIS so much better and would know what to do in this situation.

Then something else happened. Jackie yelped and pointed to the viewscreen that was filled with fire. In the moments before the pressure wave of a devastating explosion hit the TARDIS, Christopher noted that all of the ships, Sontaran and Rutan, were burning. The battle was over, the result, mutual destruction.

Then the TARDIS pitched violently and the lights went out. All power was lost. Christopher reached out blindly and found a handhold to save himself from falling hard, but the gravity cushions had failed and there was nothing he could do to stop Jackie and the boys from being flung around like rag dolls as the TARDIS span like a ball, turning upside down, then sideways, walls and ceiling becoming floor. He could hear their screams, but he couldn’t see them. He couldn’t help them.

Then everything was still. The emergency lights came on. An insistent LED screen told him that main power was offline, but there was a back up system for life support and the TARDIS was already self-diagnosing the damage.

“Christopher!” He heard a plaintive voice above and looked up to see Peter clinging to a spur of one of the coral shaped pillars that supported the TARDIS roof. “Christopher, help me, I can’t get down.”

“Hold on,” he told him. There was a sharp pain in his arm. He thought he might have broken a bone, and he must have hit his head against the console more than once, but he ignored both wounds as he grasped the lower part of the pillar and found a foothold. He had never been good at tree climbing, even as a boy, but he had to reach Peter. He forced himself to put one foot in the ‘v’ where the pillar first branched from the main ‘trunk’ and hauled the rest of his body up. He was close enough to reach the boy. He resisted a scream as he took his weight in his arms and excruciating pain shot through his entire nervous system. Peter slowly moved around so that he could hold on piggy back style and Christopher climbed down, gritting his teeth against the agony every time his broken arm took the strain.

At last he reached the floor. He set Peter down and checked him for injuries. He was bruised and scraped, but otherwise unscathed.

Then he became aware of a low sobbing sound. He found Jackie under the edge of the console, holding Garrick in her arms. The child was disturbingly still and quiet.

“Jackie, let me look at him,” he said. “Let me see….”

“He’s all right,” Jackie answered quickly, clinging to him all the more tightly. “He’s all right, he’s all right. He’s just sleeping.”

Christopher’s two hearts thudded with dread as he gently prised her arms from around him. He cradled his child in his own arms as he realised the truth.

There wasn’t a mark on him, but the internal damage as he was smashed against the hard surfaces of the console room must have been extreme. Every bone was broken, his internal organs crushed. He was as limp as a rag doll, his neck twisted unnaturally.

“No!” Christopher’s first reaction was denial, just as Jackie’s had been, but then the practical realism he had always been known for overwhelmed him and he knew that his child was dead.

He cried with Jackie. He couldn’t help himself. In one terrible moment his world had been ripped apart. The son he loved from the moment he was born was gone. He reached out and held his wife, trying to comfort her, but there was no comfort he could give, and none she could give him. They were both heartsbroken.

“Grandma Jackie!” Peter cried tearlessly. “Christopher….”

Christopher reached out and held him, too. The living, beating hearts of his young brother at once eased his suffering and stabbed him in the soul. For one terrible moment he wondered if he would feel it less if Peter had died instead of Garrick, then he thought of his father and Rose, and knew it would have been ten times worse having to break it to them.

“Jackie, we have to… I have to….” He said after a long time when none of them moved. “There are things we have to do.”

There were special rituals when a death occurred, whether it was an ancient Time Lord who had lived for a dozen millennia or a boy who had lived a mere six years. Christopher knew the words that had to be said. He knew how the body had to be laid out. He knew what had to be done with the body.

He just couldn’t picture himself saying those words over the body of own child. It felt unreal, even though he was faced with the undeniable reality of it.

“He should be brought to the Cloister Room,” he said. “That’s the proper thing to do.”

Jackie said nothing. She had stopped crying, but she couldn’t yet bring herself to speak. She stood up, clinging to Peter’s hand as if her own life depended on it. She let Christopher walk with Garrick in his arms. She followed him without really seeing where they were going.

The Cloister Room in his father’s TARDIS was a beautiful place. It looked and felt like a cathedral with the high, vaulted ceiling and ionic pillars. The ornate cover over the Eye of Harmony looked like some kind of high altar in a place of worship.

Which made it feel all the more oppressive now. It was a place for laying the dead to rest.

Peter hiccupped unhappily when he saw the place where he and Garrick had been playing earlier. They had been dressing in robes and pretending to perform Time Lord rituals. The robes had been dropped on the mosaic floor depicting the Seal of Rassilon. Any other time Christopher would have scolded the boys for being disrespectful to the symbols of their ancient race, but now he couldn’t bring himself to feel anything but a bitter irony.

He laid his son’s body in the middle of the mosaic and knelt beside him as he dressed him in one of those robes. He crossed his thin arms across his little chest and straightened his legs. He leaned forward and kissed his pale forehead before sitting in the proscribed way. It fell to him to stay in vigil beside his child.

“When the vigil is over,” Peter said quietly. “He has to put Garrick into the Eye of Harmony. His body will become part of the energy that drives the TARDIS forever.”

Peter was just talking about something he had read in one of the books of Gallifreyan rites and ritual that quenched a thirst for knowledge beyond his years. He wasn’t thinking about what it meant to witness such a thing. Nor was he thinking about what his words would mean to Jackie.

“No!” she screamed, stepping across the sacred boundary of the Seal and snatching Garrick’s surprisingly light body away from his father. “No. You can’t do that. I won’t let you do that to him. We’ll take him home…. We can have a proper funeral. He can…. He can be buried with Pete…. That’s… that’s the proper, decent thing to do. You’re not going to drop my baby into that… into that… stuff.”

“Jackie,” Christopher said. “He’s my baby, too. In his DNA, he’s more mine than yours. He has two hearts, and my Gallifreyan blood. He can’t just be buried like an ordinary Human. Cremation of some sort has always been the rule for our kind. The Eye of Harmony is… it’s an honourable way.”

“No,” Jackie insisted. “No. I won’t let you.”

“Don’t fight,” Peter begged them. “Don’t fight over him.”

“Oh my God!” Jackie sobbed, looking at Peter. “Christopher, he’s right. We mustn’t argue about this. Do… what you have to do. But please, not yet. Let me hold him a little while longer. I don’t want… I’m not ready, yet.”

Christopher nodded. He knelt in the vigil position again. Jackie sat in the middle of the Seal, holding Garrick tightly, determined not to give him up again until the last possible moment.

Peter watched the two adults, his own hearts breaking. Garrick was his soul mate. Garrick’s cot had been moved into the nursery alongside his bed when Peter was a year and a half and Garrick four months old. They had slept in the same room ever since. Though they had different mothers and fathers, their DNA was almost identical. They looked like brothers. They acted like twins, sharing each other’s thoughts, learning and growing together.

Peter couldn’t think of doing those things without Garrick. The future was a dark void without him.

He blinked as the main power came on and the dim, atmospheric lighting of the Cloister Room brightened a little. The hum of the engines was a little louder. The TARDIS had recovered from its wounds.

But those within its walls couldn’t recover so easily.

“Christopher,” Peter said. “Christopher… make it right. Make it not have happened.”

“What?” Christopher looked up from his grief-stricken meditation. “Peter, I’m sorry. I can’t. Nobody can. Nobody can bring the dead back to life.”

“WE can,” the boy insisted. “Mummy did it, once.”

That was not exactly true. No Time Lord had the power to restore life. In certain circumstances the TARDIS could. It was how Jack Harkness was living and breathing. But Christopher had no idea how that miracle had happened.

He only wished he did. He would give anything to turn back this cruel twist of fate.

“Christopher…. Please,” Peter again pleaded.


Christopher looked at his brother. He was so like Garrick it was possible to imagine for a long moment that this was a ghastly nightmare and that his son was right there in front of him. But then he turned his head and Jackie was sitting there, still cradling him as she had when he was a baby, but this time to no avail.

He wanted to do what Peter asked. He wanted it to ‘not have happened’.

But it was one of the most unbreakable of the Laws of Time, the one set in granite for all eternity. Even a Time Lord couldn’t bring people back to life. Once events had taken their course, they were immutable.

He couldn’t do it.

Besides, the only way he possibly COULD do it would be against every principle he ever lived by. He was a philosopher, a politician, a diplomat. He was a negotiator.

He wasn’t a warrior.

“Is there a way?” Jackie was looking up at him. He realised it was the first time she had looked him in the eye since this had happened. Did she blame him? Or was it just too hard for her to look at anyone right now?

“No,” he answered. “No, Jackie, there isn’t. Even Time Lords can’t cheat death like this. It’s not possible.”

“You can’t take us back in time so that….”

She shook her head.

“No, that wouldn’t work, would it? If we travelled in time, backwards, forwards or sideways, Garrick would travel with us. He would still be….”

“I’m sorry,” Christopher said. “I am so sorry.”

“It’s all right. I don’t blame you. I know if there was any way, you would try it. I know you wouldn’t leave it like this if there was anything…. I just have to accept it… just as if he had been hit by a car or fell out of a tree or….”

Christopher didn’t trust himself to answer. Because he had already thought of a way it could be done. The only way. And he had dismissed it because it was against the ancient Laws of Time, and because it was against his personal principles.

Would Jackie ever understand that those things were more important than her child’s life?

Would he ever accept that such things were more important than the family he loved?

Even his father called the Laws of Time dust in the solar winds. He had broken almost all of them.

As for diplomacy… his father had often said that the Sontarans and Rutans had no concept of such things. All they cared about was their war. They didn’t care about innocent victims caught in the middle of their endless conflict.

So why should he care about them?

“Jackie,” he said. “We’ve got full power back, but coming out of the vortex like we did… I need to contact Davie or somebody… I need help to get us home. You stay here. Peter, you too. Stay with my boy… until…. Until….”

He was lost for words. He reached to kiss his wife gently. He bent and kissed Garrick’s pale cheek, noting that his body was growing cold already. Then he turned away. He walked back through the echoing corridors of the TARDIS, back to the console room.

He looked at the navigation console. It was true that he didn’t know a lot about piloting a TARDIS. At least not as much as his father, or either of his own grandsons who had inherited The Doctor’s passion for exploration. But he had learnt quite a lot in recent years. His father had taught him. So had Davie. Chris’s method of TARDIS piloting was beyond anyone else, but he had given him some tips, too.

He certainly understood how to do a simple temporal shift back in time. Jackie was right about that. It wouldn’t change anything that had happened within the TARDIS. But what was happening outside in this region of space was still mutable. It could be changed.

He could tell that he had arrived before the two battle fleets. The TARDIS registered the lack of burning debris and radiation.

But it wasn’t long before they arrived. The Rutan crystalline fleet looked beautiful at first glance. They hung in the sky like frozen stars. The Sontaran mothership was like a huge black-winged metallic beetle from which hundreds of smaller fighter ships, round like huge metallic golf balls in space, emerged.

He quickly scanned the mothership and found what he was looking for. The Sontarans had a suicide weapon – the word kamikaze, and its meaning, drifted into Christopher’s mind from somewhere. He didn’t know what the Sontaran translation was. He didn’t care. But he could see that they didn’t intend to lose this battle. At all costs they intended to destroy their enemy. If they destroyed themselves in the process, then their names would be chanted in victory by their successors.

The idea turned Christopher’s stomach even without knowing that it was that deadly weapon that had been directly responsible for the death of his son. The TARDIS could have withstood an ordinary space battle. It had survived worse. But the wave from the suicide weapon had knocked out the power long enough to neutralise the gravity cushions and then tossed the TARDIS around in its wake. A child’s fragile body had precious little chance.

“If that’s what you want, then so be it,” he murmured as he dematerialised the TARDIS and re-materialised it in the weapons array of the Sontaran mothership.

He wasn’t a warrior like his grandson. He wasn’t even a fighter for universal justice like his father. He had no idea how those weapons worked, and the arrival of the TARDIS in the middle of it all had attracted the attention of the Sontarans on duty on that deck. He could hear their weapons striking off the TARDIS exterior. He ignored them. He knew they couldn’t break in. Nothing could break into the TARDIS.

He looked carefully at each side of the console. Of course, the one thing the TARDIS didn’t have was a weapons array or anything remotely resembling one. No TARDIS had ever been developed with military capability. That was the fundamental point of Time Lord space exploration. It was peaceful, it was non-intrusive and non-aggressive.

And Christopher always thought that was a good thing. He still thought so.

But right now both he and the TARDIS were going to be working against their nature. He worked quickly at the computer mainframe, overriding the computer aboard the Sontaran mothership, taking control of the weapons array.

It was relatively easy. Sontarans were fierce warriors, but they thought on very simple lines. They had never considered the possibility of an enemy attacking them from within.

Before he pressed the button that activated what he decided to call the kamikaze weapon, he pressed another one. His voice echoed inside the TARDIS and outside, throughout the Sontaran ship, and relayed to all of the fighter ships, too.

“This is for my son,” he said. “For my family.”

He pressed the button. The mothership imploded and exploded at the same time. The Sontaran fighters and the Rutan ships all disintegrated with it.

The TARDIS survived a few minutes longer. Christopher had time to witness the destruction he had caused. His Time Lord soul felt the deaths of his enemies like the coldest chill he had ever experienced.

He had time to wonder if he had done it right. Would this change anything, or was it just a futile and suicidal gesture?

Then the dimensional walls collapsed and the TARDIS was ripped apart.

Christopher blinked and looked up from the console. Jackie was nursing a bruised elbow. The gravity cushions prevented her from falling, but she had banged her arm against the console.

The boys were unharmed. They hadn’t exactly had a fun time. They both looked a little sea-sick, but they were fine.

Garrick was alive.

Christopher resisted the urge to hug him until breathing became a problem.

“Where are we?” Jackie asked. “What happened? What’s wrong with the space out there?”

Christopher looked at the viewscreen.

“There’s been a battle here. That’s the debris left over from a devastating weapon that wiped all of them out. It’s what caused the ion turbulence in the vortex, and dragged us into this sector of time and space.”

“But the battle’s over, now?” Jackie asked. “They’re all… dead… whoever they are? We’re not in any danger?”

“Yes,” Christopher answered. “We’re safe. The only problem is, I have no idea where we are. Coming out of the vortex like that scrambled the co-ordinates.”

“You mean we’re lost?”

“Not for long. Davie told me, if I had any problems, I could send him a message. We just need to sit tight until he gets here and gives us a tow.”

“You mean you’re going to call the TARDIS AA!” Jackie laughed.

“Yes, something like that,” Christopher answered. “Meanwhile, I think we should have a picnic… on the floor. Boys, why don’t you go see if there’s anything interesting in the kitchen to make a picnic with?”

Peter and Garrick laughed and ran off to inspect the fridge. Jackie followed them to make sure they didn’t cause a mess. Christopher called Davie who promised to be with him shortly.

“Thanks. I’ll buy you a drink when we reach Blocci IV. Least I can do.”

He bought him the drink in a very impressive lounge bar of the orbital centre where the trade conference was due to take place. Davie listened as his grandfather told him what he had done.

“You went back to when the Sontarans and Rutans arrived and activated the kamikaze weapon. Strangely enough the utterly unpronounceable Sontaran word for it comes from the same root as the Japanese word - Kamikaze – divine wind….” Davie stopped talking. Christopher didn’t really need a lesson in etymology just now. He needed to know he did the right thing. “It meant that the fleets were destroyed BEFORE the TARDIS came out of the vortex in the middle of their battle - which meant none of what happened after you arrived the first time happened.

“Garrick wasn’t killed.”


“But I wiped out two battle fleets. I killed them… all of them.”

“They were all going to die anyway. The Sontarans always intended to use the ??????????? weapon. You just made it happen an hour earlier. Besides, they’re Sontarans and Rutans. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over them.”

“You wouldn’t, Davie. But I’m….”

“I know. You’re a peacemaker, not a warrior. And I’m proud that you are. Carry on being a peacemaker. Don’t let it chew you up inside.”

“Garrick is alive. His future is before him. I can live with being a mass murderer if it means he’s alive. That’s why I did it.”

“Ok, then.”

“Ok, then?” Christopher smiled wryly. “I’m not sure my father would say that. I DID break one of the fundamental laws of time as well as destroying two battle-fleets.”

“I think he would,” Davie answered. “I’m pretty sure he’d consider Garrick’s life worth it. You know family is the most important thing in his life. He loves your son as much as he loves you. He’d have ripped the Sontarans and Rutans to pieces with his bare hands in your place. As for the Fundamental Laws of Time… we ALL seem to have messed with that one way or another, including The Doctor. Maybe we’d better be a bit more careful in future, in case we do unravel causality, but we’ve got off lightly on this occasion. Like I said, don’t lose any sleep over it, grandfather.”

“That’s the first time you’ve EVER called me that.”

“I’m sorry I took so long. It’s my round. Let’s have another drink – to our family.”

“To our family,” Christopher agreed.