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

It was a beautiful evening on Tibora, the sort of evening Brenda had imagined ever since she and Davie were betrothed. In that imagined evening it was still warm from a lovely spring day. The sky was clear, the moon was full with a silvery moonpath across the glass-still lake, and the man she loved was at her side.

It was exactly that way tonight, just as she had pictured it so long ago, right down to the moonpath. There was a soft light in the window of the lodge, a nightlight in the nursery. The children were asleep. They were safely sleeping with Brenda’s mother sitting in a rocking chair between their beds, watching over them.

Brenda held Davie’s hand as they walked by the lakeside. She was wearing a soft woollen shawl over her head and shoulders. It was befitting a married woman of Tibora as well as keeping the cool breeze from chilling her.

Davie was dressed as he was the first day she met him, in his leather jacket and black trousers with a t-shirt underneath with the name of one of his favourite rock bands on it.

He was older now than the keen eyed teenager she had fallen for when she was just a girl herself. In linear time he was in his early twenties. In actual years, when he added up all the time he spent at the racetracks of Britain and Europe and the exploratory trips in time and space that he went on regularly, spending weeks away from home but coming back in an afternoon, he was over thirty. Either way he looked strong and handsome and capable of anything – of being guardian of the universe, saving the oppressed from their oppressors, winning trophies for those races that set his adrenaline racing….

Or just being a husband and father, being with her under this starry sky while their children slept peacefully after a day when both boys had walked unaided for the first time.

“They’re growing up fast,” he commented out of the blue. “Our little boys.”

“Yes,” Brenda answered him.

“Time to start thinking about a couple of sisters for them?”

Brenda laughed softly.

“Not yet. Maybe when the boys start school. We’ll need to buy a bigger house, anyway. And that would mean moving away from Rose and Jackie and your mum.”

“That’s not SUCH a bad idea,” Davie pointed out. “Sometimes I have to fend off hordes of female relatives to get to my own children.”

But Brenda was appalled at the idea of not living close to the extended family she had married into. She would never have coped with being such a young mother of twins without so much experience around her. Besides, family ties were important to Tiboran women. She couldn’t contemplate living as a nuclear family separate from everyone she knew.

“It’s all right,” Davie assured her. “We can build a couple of extra rooms onto the apartment. I could use a clean room for experiments as well as the workshop and garage, and a study for drawing up blueprints. That could all be built onto the back of the old stables with living space above. How about a drawing room that faces the river with a balcony, a proper one with wide glass windows that open out on summer evenings and make the room feel as twice as big.”

“You’ve thought it through?”

“Of course I have,” he lied. He was winging it, as always. But it didn’t hurt to think about the future in such terms. He lost himself for a few minutes in imaginary building plans incorporating his own solar panels to make it as energy efficient as possible.

Then Brenda whispered to him and he pulled himself back to the present. He looked up into the sky.

“Wow,” he said. “It really is quite spectacular. I know Chris said to watch out for it, but I really wasn’t expecting it to be quite so amazing.”

“Beautiful,” Brenda agreed.

What they were looking at was a particularly fine meteor display. It was amazing because the streaks of light in the sky were all shades of blue - ice blue and bright metallic blue, pale turquoise at the extreme of the spectrum and an iridescent azure blue at the other.

“And it’s all my fault,” Davie added. “Well, me and Chris. It was our first unsupervised TARDIS trip. Granddad gave us the co-ordinates for Metabelis III, the blue crystal planet. It was amazing. But we ran into trouble. There was a disembodied mind within the crystal cavern harbouring a long deep grudge against The Doctor. We destroyed it, and not long after we got away from there everything went mad again. The mind must have been holding back volcanic activity deep below. Without it nature came back with a vengeance. It blew the mountain apart. The crystals were thrown up beyond the atmosphere and they’ve been floating through space for six years, now, making the most spectacular effects in any atmosphere they enter. The Metebelis Blue Meteors.”

“Being incidentally responsible for a mountain exploding isn’t really something to be proud of,” Brenda chided him. She had heard the story many times before, of course. Davie’s early adventures in time and space had been a part of their courtship that first time he came to Tibora and had asked her father for a Bond of Intent. She never tired of hearing about any of his exploits as long as he didn’t dwell on the danger or any wounds he had received in the course of them. She was proud of him. But she was also the balance to his enthusiasm. She would remind him gently that violence wasn’t always the answer and that she worried about him getting hurt, even when the scars had healed by the time he came home to her.

“We never meant that to happen,” Davie admitted. “It was just one cataclysmic thing following another on that planet.”

“And six years on it’s all caught up with you. Have you thought of it that way? The consequences of what happened that day so long ago… here in the skies of Tibora.”

“Yes,” he answered. “Yes, I’ve thought of that. As consequences go, this is fairly benign, mind you.”

Brenda was going to reply to that comment, but a sound distracted her. It wasn’t very loud at first, but it was getting louder – a displacement of air, the whine of something moving very fast, coming closer.

Then there was a soft crump as something landed very near to where they were standing. It half buried itself in the ground and hissed as it cooled down after falling through the atmosphere at terminal velocity.

“Wow!” Davie approached the still faintly glowing object. “That’s brilliant. It’s one of the crystals.”

He reached his hand towards it and then thought better of it. He knelt and blew on the end of the elongated prism. His breath came from his mouth as ice particles that hizzed and fizzed but cooled the crystal enough for him to pull it out of the ground.

It was nearly two foot long and as wide as his wrist. It was heavy, too. He held it in both hands and estimated its weight to be around five kilogrammes.

“It’s still perfect,” he noted with awe in his voice. “It’s travelled light years through the vacuum of space, fallen through the atmosphere, then I cooled it so rapidly it ought to have cracked under the pressure, but it’s still absolutely perfect. Even a diamond would have shattered. I think I shall have to reclassify it as the hardest substance in the known universe.”

Brenda smiled. Perhaps third in his enthusiasms after righting the wrongs of the universe and pushing the limits of internal combustion Davie was a natural born scientist. He was bound to have found a way to pick up the crystal. It was impossible for him to walk away from it.

“It’s a pretty thing,” she admitted. “And such a perfectly symmetrical form – it’s hard to believe that happened naturally.”

“It’s orthorhombic,” Davie answered. “Having three two-fold axes.” Brenda obviously didn’t care about that, though. “It’s a shape found in nature all over the universe, but usually you’d need a microscope to see it. Sugar crystals are orthorhombic before they’re refined into the stuff we put in our coffee. Salt, too. The wonder of Metebelis Crystals is that they grow as big as this.”

“I suppose you intend to keep it as a souvenir?” Brenda said to him.

“Not just as a souvenir. I made the vortex manipulator for my first time car with a small metebelis crystal. The possibilities for one this size are yet to be discovered.”

Yes, Brenda thought, a born scientist.

He turned to her. His eyes were bright with excitement about his find, but when he reached to kiss her they were soft with love.

“Whatever other passions I have, you’re my first,” he assured her.

“I’m not sure if that’s entirely true,” she told him. “But as long as I’m somewhere in your priorities that will do.”

“Right now, all I want is to walk a little further around the lake and then come back to the lodge for cocoa, then an early night with you.”

“Fine by me,” Brenda acknowledged. That kind of evening was ALWAYS fine by her.

It was still quite warm when Brenda woke in the dark and wondered what it was that had disturbed her. The clock by the bed showed that it was just after three. It was still another two hours to dawn. The window was open and a very slight breeze came through.

She listened carefully, wondering if it was one of the boys who had made a sound. They had slept through the night for months now, but she still had a mother’s instinct about them.

She got up and went through to their room. They were both quiet, tucked up in their twin beds separated by only a little table where the night light in the shape of a panda glowed softly. She leaned closer and felt their soft, contented dreams.

It wasn’t either of the children who had woken her. She was sure of that.

She went back to her bedroom. Davie was still asleep. She could see his face, relaxed and peaceful. She could feel his dreams, too. They were quiet ones. She was glad of that. He had a lot of reasons to have nightmares. For a young man he had experienced so many horrors and taken terrible risks. But tonight he slept soundly and without any of those horrors disturbing him.

But why was she able to see his face? There was no nightlight in this room, and the moon had set now. There should have been near total darkness.

But something was filling the bedroom with a soft blue light rather like the glow from the nightlight in the children’s room.

She turned from the bed and the face of her sleeping husband and saw the source of the light. It was the crystal Davie had brought home with him. He had left it on the sideboard when they got ready for bed.

She drew closer and reached out her hand, then snatched it back quickly, knowing that glowing crystals could not possibly be a good thing. Especially a crystal that came from Metebelis, where The Doctor had been mortally wounded and Davie and Chris had barely escaped with their lives.

Then she reached out again. Something drew her to do it despite her fear. She touched the crystal, noting that it was warm. Not hot, not burning her hand, but warm like the touch of a living body. It was a hard surface, the very hardest possible, but it was warm.

And it was speaking to her. The words were not spoken aloud, or even in her head as she heard Davie’s inner voice, but she heard them in her heart.

And her heart broke with the grief within it. She cried from loneliness and pain.

Davie woke to hear his wife crying. He rose quietly and reached out to her.

“What is it?” he asked. “What’s wrong? Is it the boys? Brenda….”

“Davie!” She turned and let him enfold her in his arms. “Oh, Davie, you have to help. I can’t bear it. It’s so lonely.”

“What is? Brenda, you’re not making any sense. Stop crying and tell me what’s happening.”

“The crystal,” she told him between sobs. “It’s not just a crystal. It’s alive, and it’s far from home… from its family. It’s a lost child, Davie.”

“It can’t be,” Davie argued. “Sweetheart, you must have had a really vivid dream. You imagined it. You’re… a wonderful mother to our boys, and I love you for it. But you’re allowed to switch off when you’re asleep.”

“I wasn’t asleep. It woke me. I thought it WAS the children at first. But it’s not. At least it’s not OUR children. But… listen… can’t you hear it?”

“I can hear our boys asleep in their room.”

“Davie….” Brenda grabbed his hand and reached to touch the crystal with her other hand. He cried out in surprise.

“I feel it,” he said. “Through you, anyway, I can feel it. Yes, it does seem like a lost child. The emotions, the fear, the loneliness. It’s almost unbearable. But it can’t be. It just can’t.”

He let go of her hand before the grief that had made her cry overwhelmed him, too.

“It might not be real,” he said. “That crystal came from Metebelis. Between the great spiders and the ‘intelligence’ that tried to attack me and Chris that place is just one great hive of deceit and lies. It might be a way of luring us there, some sort of trap.”

“Luring us?” Brenda questioned. “The meteorites fell randomly. It was a complete coincidence that we were out there, and that it fell near to us.”

“Was it a coincidence?” Davie asked. “I mean, it’s a HUGE one, really, isn’t it? And thinking about it, the meteorites also fell on SangC'lune, where Chris is at the moment. There are about two hundred million light years between here and there. I’m not so sure there isn’t some kind of intelligence involved in this. And if so… I’m not quite ready to trust it.”

“Davie, you’re thinking like a warrior, on the defensive. You’re not thinking like a parent. If you did, you wouldn’t be so suspicious.”

“It’s my duty to think that way. To protect the universe from harm… and especially to protect my family.”

“And we love you for it. But please, Davie, trust me this time. Listen again, and tell me if you can sense any shred of deceit in this. If there is any malice… then it is something using them. And you HAVE to help them.”

Brenda stood her ground. Davie looked from her to the still glowing crystal, trying to decide what to trust, his own instincts or hers.

“You want me to go off to Metebelis Three with the crystal?” he asked. “We’re meant to be spending time together as a family.”

“Yes, that’s why we’re going together. You and me, and the boys. We’re ALL going to Metebelis Three.”

“After all I’ve said about that place, you want me to take our children there?”


“Now? They’re asleep.”

“You’re just making excuses, Davie. You know very well they’ll be excited to get up early and go on a trip with us. They’ll love it.”

“We’ll need the hover attachment for the pushchair. There were no pavements on that planet even BEFORE bits of it were blown to smithereens.”

That just sounded like an excuse, too. Davie knew they were resolved to taking an early morning TARDIS trip. He was still uncertain about the reason for this mission, and he was even more uncertain about the wisdom of bringing his family with him, but Brenda was adamant.

She was right about the boys being excited. They were sleepy at first when Davie woke them, but being dressed while it was still dark, eating toast fingers with marmalade and drinking orange juice from their non-spill cups while sitting on their child seats beside the TARDIS console was an unexpected treat. They chattered happily in their one year old child language and kept up a stream of telepathic conversation between themselves while Davie plotted the course to the edge of the Blue Galaxy and the strange and troublesome planet of Metebelis Three. He put the crystal on the console and watched it carefully as he navigated their journey. If it glowed any brighter or showed any sign of communicating anything new he wanted to know about it.

“I wonder why it was more receptive to you than me?” Davie pondered once during the journey. “After all, I’m a powerful Time Lord. I’ve got strong telepathic powers. And I’ve BEEN to Metebelis Three, after all. Why wouldn’t it contact me, first?”

“Because I’m a mother first and before all else,” Brenda answered. “Fatherhood is only one of your priorities. It came to me because it knew I would understand right away. Look how long it took you to even listen and believe me.”

“I’m just being careful,” he answered defensively. “MY children are my first priority no matter what else asks for my help. If there is anything that threatens them….”

“You’re a good father, Davie. We all know we can depend on you to protect us. Let the crystal being know that, too, and it will trust you as much as we do.”

Davie looked at the crystal. He reached out a hand and touched the strangely warm surface. He felt nothing. He needed Brenda as a conduit to it.

“If you ARE what she says you are, I’ll do all I can to help,” he promised. “But if this is a lie, I can be a very angry man. I am much less merciful than The Doctor. I give no second chances.”

He thought he felt something, a very slight emotional stirring inside him. But was it coming from the crystal or was he just worried about what might be behind this strange turn of events?

“It will all make sense when we get there,” Brenda said.

“I hope so,” Davie responded. “Look, there it is - the blue Metebelis sun.”

He was talking to the boys. They looked at the viewscreen. They were only a little over a year old and they didn’t know that a star that gave off azure blue light when it burned was incredibly unusual. They didn’t know that they were visiting a place that defied the usual laws of physics. Why would they? They were travelling in a space and time ship that already defied those laws. Perhaps they would learn, later, to be in awe of such things. Or perhaps they would always take them in their stride, being born to this life of exploration and discovery.

He landed the TARDIS near the cavern entrance to what was left of the blue mountain. It was even more remarkable now than the last time. The great heat from the explosion that thrust most of the debris out of the atmosphere and into space had vented through it and the floor, ceiling and walls of the tunnel were melted into thick blue glass, some of it smooth as a plate glass window, some of it ridged and patterned.

Mark and Sebastian rebelled against being contained in their twin pushchair and wanted to walk on the curious surface. Davie let them. Brenda was anxious in case they fell, but she was learning to let them try to stretch themselves and not to worry if they picked up the occasional bruise or scrape in the attempt.

“Tilo!” the two boys said out loud together. Davie was surprised. They had recognised the arrival of another TARDIS using the quiet mode he had designed, and they had correctly identified it as belonging to their uncle Chris. The glass wall shimmered in one part and then opened briefly. Tilo Campbell, six months older than the twins and far more confident on his feet ran to them. His father and mother stepped out. Chris hugged his brother fondly.

Carya, his wife, was carrying one of the crystals, identical to the one Brenda was taking care of.

“She’s hardly put it down since we found it up on the high meadow on SangC'lune,” Chris said. “She says it needs a mother. It’s lonely.”

“A foster mother, at least,” Davie answered. “I think the idea is to bring it back here to its family. That’s what Brenda thinks, anyway.”

The two brothers were sharing their experiences of becoming temporary parents to such an unusual lifeform when they heard another TARDIS materialising, this belonging to a Time Lord who stubbornly refused to have stealth mode fitted. The blue police box went surprisingly well with its surroundings, lighting the tunnel with myriad reflections of its flashing lamp while the animal-mechanical sound of its engine echoed off the walls. A few moments later the door opened. Christopher de Lœngbærrow stepped out with his wife, Jackie, holding one of the crystals like a strangely angular baby.

“We were having a romantic picnic for two on the Eye of Orion when the meteors reached us,” Christopher explained. “Usually I can’t get Jackie home fast enough when we’ve left Garrick with Rose and my father. But she insisted we have to come here, first.”

“Another lost child of Metebelis,” Chris noted. “This is going to be quite a family reunion.”

They were a party of nine, now, including three adult couples and three toddlers who set the pace, running along the echoing tunnel and laughing at the sounds their voices and footsteps made.

When the three boys went suddenly quiet ahead Davie, Chris and their grandfather all broke into a run. They all stopped and sighed with relief when they emerged into what had once been the central cavern deep within the mountain. Here had been the seat of the cataclysm. The cavern was now a crater open to the sky. The floor was strewn with rock debris and solidified lava, all covered over with a blue glass veneer where heat had fused the surface minerals.

In the centre was what was left of a great pillar of crystals. When Chris and Davie had seen it before it reached the ceiling of the great, cathedral-sized cavern. It was broken now, reaching only ten feet or so in a jagged finger pointing to the sky, but that was still enough to be a spectacular sight.

“Oh, I can feel it now,” Davie admitted. “What a closed minded fool I was to think they could do us any harm. They must be related to the evil consciousness that we encountered last time. But these ones don’t mean anyone any harm. I know that now.”

“Our women knew instinctively. They didn’t confuse themselves with suspicions,” Chris noted. “And our children, too. Look.”

Tilo, Sebastian and Mark were sitting in a ring around the crystal pillar. They were all reaching out to touch it, and their lips moved as they communicated telepathically with the crystal minds within the pillar.

“You were right,” Davie said to Brenda. “There is something very much like a family here. Almost in the sense we know it. I can feel the kind of love and protection that parents give their children. I can feel the sense of dependency and need that children have for their parents, and the closeness of siblings. That’s why our children are so content there - our boys and Tilo, cousins, among a whole lot of other cousins and brothers and sisters.”

“Not quite that. I don’t think they have any concept of gender here,” Chris pointed out. “The older crystals are mother and father in one, nurturing, protecting, loving.”

“So when the cavern blew up,” Brenda said. “They lost some of their big extended family.”

She looked around at Carya, her sister in law, Chris, her brother-in-law, at Christopher and Jackie, whose exact relationship to her was complicated. She thought of the rest of the family in London; The Doctor and Rose and their children, Susan and David, David’s father, Robert, Sukie and her boyfriend, Earl, as well as their grandson, Tristie and his wife living outside of their own time. Spenser and Stuart and their children, too, not related by blood, but family all the same. She thought of her own family on Tibora, her mother and father, her brother, Phillip, cousins, aunts and uncles living in other parts of the planet.

If one of those branches of family was torn away she knew she would be devastated. If she was, herself, torn away from everyone she loved, she would be utterly destroyed.

Small wonder these crystal beings who lived together in even closer communion with each other than they did as organic lifeforms had been in such distress.

She stepped close to the pillar with the crystal she had taken care of since it called out to her. She placed it in a crack where a crystal had broken off. It fitted, and when she tested it she found it had stuck tight. She kept her hand close for a little while then she smiled. She stepped away.

“It’s all right, now. It’s happy. It’s with the ones who love it.”

Carya and Jackie stepped forward and did the same. Both seemed reluctant to let go at first, but they knew their curious fosterlings belonged here. They could not be selfish about them.

“There are others,” Chris said. “Many others. I can feel the gaps where so many were lost. It is a source of grief to them, even though they have each other.”

“We’ll look for them,” Davie promised. “We know where some of them fell, on Tibora, SangC'lune, the Eye of Orion, Earth. We can track them down there. And we can look elsewhere. Christopher, you and granddad can do that in your TARDIS. Chris and I can do it, too, and Sukie and Vicki. I’ll give them a chart of places the meteorites could have landed. Tristie, as well. He can help. Our whole family can do our bit to help them.”

“We’ve got a mission, then?” Christopher asked. “All of us? You know it could take years to find them all.”

“It could take generations,” Davie responded. “Our children might have to carry on the task.”

“And they will,” Chris told his brother. “This will be our family’s quest for as long as it takes.”

“You daft pair,” Jackie told them. “You sound so serious, like Knights of the Round Table going off after the Holy Grail or whatever it was.”

Christopher hugged his wife, laughing gently at her down to earth antithesis to Chris and Davie’s solemnity, but every one of them, from the oldest Time Lord to the youngest child accepted gladly the duty put upon them.