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

The Chinese TARDIS materialised next to the Gothic one on the plain of SangC'lune. Davie Campbell stepped out and looked around. It was evening, past Daygone and the ceremony that the villagers would have invited all of their guests to attend. Now the people of SangC'lune would be in their homes, either in bed or getting ready for bed. They rose with the sun and worked diligently to provide for themselves and to honour the Time Lords whose spiritual tombs were on the Pyramid plain.

The young people from Chris Campbell’s Sanctuary weren’t used to such a routine. They were still wide awake, yet. Davie found them all camped on the high meadow. The glow of a fire and the smell of something tasty cooking drew him closer. There was music from a guitar somebody had brought, old Earth folk songs, mostly, with a bit of rock and roll thrown in.

Chris was sitting amongst his students, dressed in a simple robe like the rest of them. A stranger coming among them would never have guessed he was the leader of this group until they heard him speak and saw the way every other conversation stopped for him.

“Davie,” Chris called out even before he was close enough to be seen in the dark. “Welcome to the Sanctuary Builder’s Camp.”

“Have you got much building done, so far?” Davie asked. He sat beside his twin and accepted a deep metal dish containing a barbecued steak, gravy and a huge baked potato. He hadn’t noticed that he was hungry until then.

“We’ve started digging the foundations,” Chris answered. “It’s hard going by hand. The villagers are enthusiastic to help, but that wouldn’t be fair. They have enough to do.”

Davie smiled and gently teased him. He knew all about how his brother had got the monastery of Mount Lœng built – with regular supernatural assistance from Lord Rassilon himself. Without that sort of help it was a slower job.

“It’s as it should be,” Chris said with that cool, quiet tone of his. Anyone who didn’t know him would mistake it for sanctimony. Everyone who had ever come into contact with him knew it was his gentle, unassuming way. “We will appreciate this Sanctuary more for having raised it from the ground by the sweat of our own brows.”

“Of course you will,” Davie agreed. “Our ladies send their regards, by the way. Do you think it was a good idea introducing a sweet, innocent girl like Carya to the concept of credit cards? You might be broke by the time you head back to Earth.”

“Rose and Jackie corrupted her that way before I could do anything about it,” Chris admitted. “Is that why you’re here, then - for a respite from the soul-depleting effects of consumerism?”

“I’m heading back to Earth in the morning. I thought it would be nice to spend a bit of quality time with you. Our lives are so separate these days I hardly see you.”

“I’m sorry for that,” Chris assured him. “I should never want to be estranged from the better half of my soul.”

“We need to co-ordinate our schedules better,” Davie said. The idea of something as unspiritual as a ‘schedule’ jarred in Chris’s ethereal mind. Davie was still half teasing anyway.

“I just got back from a visit to Chada,” he added. “Remember that place? They’re doing ok now, living in harmony with each other.”

“Glad to hear it,” Chris answered. He smiled. Around them his students were agog. They wanted to know what or who Chada was and what the story was. “We’re going to have to tell them, of course. I’d better start. You can’t talk and chew that steak at the same time.”

Davie grinned and put another forkful of the steak in his mouth before reaching out his hand in the air and producing an image from his mind of a grey-blue planet with at least two dozen moons orbiting it. The blue was ocean, of course. The grey was a surface covered in a desert with a few fertile oases where a population had developed to a pre-industrial level of civilisation.

“You’re jumping the gun,” Chris said. “Remember how we ended up there in the first place.”

“Not our finest hour,” Davie responded with a grin. “How old were we? Twelve, thirteen?”

“Thirteen,” Chris confirmed. “Struggling with all the Human problems of puberty while learning to be Time Lord candidates. Granddad was not long married to Rose, but she was already expecting Vicki. She didn’t want to travel in the TARDIS because she said morning sickness lasted all day long in space, so we went off with him for a training adventure, master and apprentices.”

“That was his first mistake,” Davie added, his grin widening. “Deciding to trust us with the navigation.”

Trust wasn’t quite the word. The Doctor was hovering nervously as the two boys worked at the console. They looked as if they had taken in his lessons fully, but even so anything might go wrong.

“Oh!” Davie exclaimed in a tone that was self-reproaching. “I think I got the co-ordinate wrong. This isn’t The Eye of Orion.”

“It isn’t anywhere I recognise,” Chris confirmed. The Doctor laughed softly at him.

“There are millions of worlds you don’t recognise, yet, son.”

Chris liked it when The Doctor called him ‘son’, even though he felt a twinge of guilt about his own father at the same time.

“Strange that such a small planet should have so many moons,” the boy went on, proving that his understanding of astro-physics was worthy of praise. “Ah, I see why. It has a highly magnetic core. The gravitational pull is at least as great as that of a giant like Jupiter in our own solar system.”

“I must have a near solid metal core,” The Doctor added. “That is the only thing that would give such a small planet such gravity.”

“Shall we go and have a look at it?” Davie asked enthusiastically. “The atmosphere is breathable.”

“We really should concentrate on setting correct co-ordinates,” The Doctor answered. “You should get us to the Eye of Orion.”

Davie caught his great-grandfather’s eye and grinned. They were two of a kind, explorers and adventurers at heart, and neither of them could just put in new co-ordinates and leave this unknown planet without further investigation.

“Take us in slowly,” The Doctor said to him. “See how you handle the old girl in an atmosphere landing.”

Davie took the control lever. Chris gave way to him. He was at least as competent with the TARDIS controls, but it meant more to Davie to practice this kind of manoeuvre. He was the more passionate about TARDIS flying.

“We’re a bit fast,” Chris told him as the TARDIS entered the atmosphere, creating a glorious multi-coloured St. Elmo’s Fire around itself through colliding with the positively and negatively charged atoms in the air.

“Just a bit,” Davie admitted. “But I’ve got it under control.”

Seconds later he would have liked to admit that he didn’t have it under control and that he wasn’t sure he was doing it right.

“Pull up on the helmic regulator,” The Doctor told him in a quiet, calm tone. Davie did so, but it didn’t seem to make any difference to the speed at which they were plummeting towards the planet’s surface, now.

“All right, son,” The Doctor said as Davie’s anxiety grew. “Let me see what’s wrong.” He stepped towards the console and ran his hands experimentally over the keys. “Oh $%#&*,” he swore in Low Gallifreyan, the language of all Gallifreyan swear words. “The Static Matrix is dead.”

“Granddad, please don’t use the word ‘dead’, just now.” Chris begged him in a strained voice. “What can we do?”

“Both of you turn those two wheels at once, Chris, clockwise, Davie, anti-clockwise.” The two boys did as he said straight away while he pulled desperately at the lever by the side of the console that looked exactly like the handbrake of a car.

“This is the, sort of, equivalent of a parachute for a TARDIS in freefall descent,” The Doctor explained to the twins as they felt a gradual slowing of their downward speed. “It’ll still be bumpy though. Hang on, boys.”

They hung on. The Doctor moved around the console and protected them with his own body as the crash landing became inevitable.

But there was nobody to protect him as the TARDIS impacted with the ground then toppled sideways before rolling for what seemed like forever. Chris managed to cling on to the console, but The Doctor and Davie both fell as the walls became the floor and then walls again in quick succession. He heard his brother cry out telepathically and there was a sharp pain before nothing else.

The TARDIS came to rest at last. It was still on its side. Davie was slumped against the sideways on door. The Doctor was a little further away, also unconscious. Chris calculated the drop below him and let himself fall, landing awkwardly, but on his feet. He ran to his brother, who was starting to come around from the knockout blow he had received. He groaned and clutched his head where a nasty gash was bleeding badly.

“You need some fresh air,” Chris said to him. He pushed open the door and helped his brother to crawl out. They both stood up and looked around at the grey-sandy plain that stretched for mile upon mile. There was a smudge in the distance that might have been some kind of settlement, but he wasn’t sure.

“You rest,” he said to Davie. “I’ll go and get granddad.”

He wasn’t entirely sure how he was going to lift a full grown man by himself, but he was determined to try.

The Doctor was very still. Chris felt a moment of hearts-sick terror. What if he was dead? But then he felt a beat from his left heart. His body must have shut down to repair the damage from the fall.

“Granddad,” Chris whispered, holding back his tears. “I’m going to try to get help. I’ll come back for you, I promise.”

He went back outside and looked around more carefully. There were several of those smudges, some closer than others. If they could reach some people it would be all right.

“I’m coming with you,” Davie told him. “You can’t go off on your own.”

“No, you’re not well,” Chris insisted. “Stay there in the shade of the TARDIS and rest. I’ll be all right.”

Davie tried to stand up, but he was dizzy and disorientated. He had to admit that his brother was right.

“I’ll stay here,” he conceded. “But I’m still not leaving you. We’ll stay in contact telepathically.”

Chris was glad of his brother’s company even if it was only inside his mind. It was a very wide and lonely plain.

He hadn’t walked very far before he realised something startling about the landscape.

“I can’t see the TARDIS now,” he said.

“I don’t think the ground is completely flat,” Davie answered him. “We might have landed in a hollow, and now you’re in another hollow and we haven’t got any line of sight.”

Any other two boys might have worried about that, but one of Chris’s emerging talents as he hit puberty was an innate sense of direction. Leave him anywhere, in any terrain, and he would find his way back. He would know where the TARDIS was when the time came.

Even so, he began to feel a little nervous, not about his chances of finding his way back to the TARDIS, but of finding any help. The same hollows that obscured the view backwards obscured the smudges he was trying to reach.

Davie voiced his concern about that telepathically.

“I won’t get lost. I’m keeping those moons in sight,” Chris answered. “They’re in geo-synchronous orbit – always in the same place in the sky.”

“I know what geo-synchronous means,” Davie told him. “I’ve just got an almighty headache here, not a brain meltdown.”

“Well, anyway, it means I know I’m still going in the same direction. I’m not going in circles or doubling back or anything like that.”

“We are sure that there are people on this planet?” Davie queried. “It doesn’t exactly look hospitable.”

“The TARDIS registered small settlements with lifesigns.”

“Did it say if they were friendly lifesigns,” Davie added. “Maybe we should have thought this through. You could be walking into danger, Chris. Perhaps….”

“I’ve got to try.” Chris walked on in silence for a little while longer, but the question haunted his thoughts. There were so many hostile races that The Doctor had encountered, Sontarans and their enemies the Rutans, Zygons, Kraals….

He spent several minutes trying to remember exactly what the Kraals were. The Doctor had told him and his brother about them once, but he couldn’t remember if they were the ones that tried to invade Earth using androids to impersonate people or if they were the ones that the Daleks used as heavy muscle in the old days. He would have to check later.

“Chris, I’m having trouble reaching you,” Davie told him, breaking into his thoughts in a strangely distant voice. “I think the ground where you are must contain a lot of lead or something magnetic. It’s blocking you.”

“It must be that,” Chris answered. “There’s still nothing to see. Try to stay with me as long as you can.”

Davie tried, but it wasn’t long before he couldn’t reach him. Chris felt suddenly very lonely on a wide, empty plain with no sign of any other living being. Tears pricked his eyes and he longed to turn around and make his way back to his brother and The Doctor. He regretted leaving them. This WAS a huge mistake.

Then he came to the top of a low, long incline and looked down at a deep valley beyond. It was one of the oases, but hidden from view until he was almost upon it.

It was inhabited. He could see people moving around on the green, fertile meadow around a cool, blue lake and in the trees that surrounded that. They had houses built in the top of the trees and walkways between them. Chris looked down from above and thought it was impressively imaginative.

He started down towards the village, but he hadn’t gone very far before the villagers came towards him. They weren’t carrying any weapons, which was a relief. One of them stepped closer. He was humanoid, with an ochre-coloured face and chocolate brown hair and eyes. He was at least a foot shorter than Chris, who was yet to start the final spurt in growth to his adult height.

The phrase ‘Umpa-Loompa’ crossed his mind just before he fainted from exhaustion.

“Umpa-loompa?” Around the campfire his friends either laughed if they understood the literary reference or puzzled over the curious word if they didn’t.

“Yes,” he confirmed. “That’s just what they looked like, very short, with small arms and legs and a stocky body, very friendly looking. And that’s what I felt when I came around lying on a feather mattress a little later. I was in a tree house with the smell of wood sap in the walls. There was a female of the tribe bathing my head in a sweet, motherly way, and I knew I was safe.”

“Lie still, little man,” the ochre-faced woman said, offering him a drink of something like milk flavoured with spices. “I’m Gala. What name are you called by?”

“Chris,” he answered. He didn’t bother with a surname. A short, simple name obviously sufficed. She nodded in understanding.

“You’ve had a nasty fright, I’m thinking. It must have been the Achada. But you’re safe now.”

“Yes, I feel fine, thank you,” Chris answered. “But… my brother and granddad. They’re still with the TARDIS…. Our… our transport. We crashed, you see. And they’re both hurt.”

“I’m sorry,” Gala told him. “I fear the Achada have already taken them.”

“The what?”

A door woven of some kind of reeds or the long leaves of something like a willow tree opened briefly spilling dappled sunlight into the tree house room. A male of the ochre-faced species looked at him solemnly.

“A party followed your tracks, little man,” said the male who identified himself as Kale. “But we found nothing but disturbed soil at the crash site and the footprints of the Achada. They wear leather coverings on their feet just like those you were wearing. They are easy to distinguish from the Chad. We wear only cloth coverings.”

“The Achada are another tribe?” Chris guessed. “And they took the TARDIS and my brother and The Doctor?”

“It is so. I am sorry. The Achada are powerful. They travel silently on silver wings. They have weapons that bring long sleep to their Chad victims. We cannot fight them. Any who are taken by them are lost to us.”

Chris’s hearts sank in dismay. This Achada tribe sounded very dangerous.”

“What do they do to the Chad that they capture?” he asked. “Are they made slaves or….”

Several dreadful possibilities crossed his mind. He had learnt of the cultures of Southern America such as the Aztecs, Incas and Mayan who practised Human sacrifices, and would offer up captives to their gods. He was aware of cannibal tribes in the South Pacific seas who would regard strangers as a tasty meal. Slavery was not the worst of the fates that could befall Davie and The Doctor.

“No Chad who was taken has ever been seen again,” Kale answered him. “That is all we know.”

Chris was worried. This didn’t bode well at all.

“Where do the Achada live?” he asked.

“They live below,” Kale said. “But it is impossible. We cannot find the doors to their domain. You must accept, as we accept, that your loved ones are gone.”

“I can’t accept that,” Chris answered. “Without The Doctor and the TARDIS I can’t get home. My mother will be devastated if we are both lost.”

“I grieve for your mother’s tears,” Gala said to him. “I, too, have suffered the loss. My husband and then my three children were all taken by the Achada. Their memory lies heavily with me. But we must accept what cannot be changed. I, at least, have the comfort now of your presence, little man. I can give you the love I cannot give my own daughter and my two sons.”

It was an honest gesture. Chris looked at Gala and saw the gentleness of a mother in her chocolate brown eyes. But he wasn’t ready to be adopted by her. He couldn’t accept that the situation was as hopeless as all that.

“Please, stop calling me ‘little man’,” he said. “I am taller than all of you.”

Gala smiled and kissed him on the cheek in a tender way.

“You are tall, it is true, but you are still a youngling. I knew that as soon as I saw you. You shall have the protection of the Chad family.”

Chris wondered how good that protection was, considering that Gala had lost three children to these hostile Achada. But it was well meant. He was safe with the Chad until he could find out more about where The Doctor and Davie might be held captive.

“Come, little man,” Gala added. “It is time for our meal. Join us.”

The Doctor woke on a soft bed covered in silk sheets. He wasn’t in any pain, which surprised him since his last memory was of a lot of it.

“Granddad!” He looked up at the sound of a familiar voice to see an unfamiliar face. At least it was an unfamiliar colour. He reached out and touched Davie’s cheek. The eucalyptus green was a sort of powder paint, he noted. “It’s all right, it’s a kind of custom the Achada have. They paint the exposed parts of their bodies. Allasa did it to me.”


“A very pretty girl, even with a green face,” Davie answered. “Her father is the prefect of this habitat. He brought us here. They have really fantastic tech. We were both taken to the medical centre first. They have these tables with some kind of scanner above, and they mend any wounds, internal or external. I had a really severe concussion and you were haemorrhaging into your brain. They saved your life.”

“I’m grateful to them for that,” The Doctor said, sitting up and looking around at the stark but clean room.

“So am I,” Davie admitted. “But… Granddad, Chris isn’t here. When they came to us, I was a bit delirious, but I thought Chris had reached here and sent them to help us. But when I asked, they knew nothing about him. They said he must have been taken by the Chad. They’re a sort of primitive race that lives on the surface of the planet, in small tribes hunkered around the oases.”

“Friendly?” The Doctor asked hopefully.

“The Achada don’t think so. That’s why they live in underground habitats. They’re going to send spies to check on all the nearby Chad settlements, to see which one has Chris. Then they can mount a raid and rescue him.”

“They’d better let me know when they plan to do that,” The Doctor said. “Soon, I hope. Tribal people tend not to be very kind to strangers. At best, they might use him as a slave. At worst….”

“Don’t say it,” Davie begged him. “I’ve thought about it, too. Sacrifices to their gods, cannibalism….”

“Let’s go and talk to this Prefect, see what he knows about the Chad,” The Doctor decided, reaching for his clothes. “What about the TARDIS? Did they bring that into the habitat?”

“Yes. They’re curious about it. They’re advanced technologically, as I said. I think they’d like to talk to you as much as you want to talk to them. This is an interesting place. They seem to be decent people. If I wasn’t worried about Chris, and what mum would say if we went home without him, I could enjoy being here.”

Chris thought he could enjoy life in the Chad tribal settlement if he wasn’t worried about Davie and The Doctor. They had a thoroughly pleasant communal way of life. Food was cooked over a fiery pit and everyone sat together in the open air and ate their fill, chatting happily. Gala introduced him to all of the young people of the tribe, especially, he noted, many of the girls. He wasn’t sure if he was being sized up as a potential mate for one of them. That was something he would have to have a little talk about. He was only thirteen, after all, not quite ready to get married.

The young female Chad found him fascinating. After the meal a group of them gathered around him offering gifts such as strings of colourful beads, a rather odd looking hat and a pair of hand sewn cloth shoes for his feet.

One of the girls brought a pot with a powdery substance in it that turned out to be paint. She turned his face, neck, hands and arms ochre to match the Chad tribe. It was a peculiar sensation, but not unpleasant.

He tried to question them about the Achada, but the very name frightened them. They all had friends or relatives that had been captured in one of the raids, but they accepted that it was a fact of life.

“I know who they remind me of,” one of Chris’s students said. “The Time Machine. The Eloi and the Morlocks. Except the ones who live underground don’t seem monstrous like the Morlocks. They’re civilised.”

“Yes, later, when we talked it over, Davie and I both thought of that. But at the time, I had another literary reference in mind. The Chad reminded me of the rabbits in Watership Down whose warren was decimated by a man who put down traps, but they accepted that as inevitable and never tried to fight it.”

That was the most frustrating thing about the Chad. They had clearly suffered and continued to suffer, terrible losses every time these Achada attacked. But they did nothing to help themselves. There were no guards around the oases, no weapons, not even primitive ones like spears or slings to throw stones. The only defence they had was to hide in their tree houses when the alarm was raised.

“What if somebody doesn’t reach the tree houses in time?” Chris asked. “What if they need help?”

The answer was vague, but he gleaned the fact that any member of the tribe unfortunate enough to be caught on the ground when a raid took place was on his or her own. Their loss would be briefly mourned by the tribe before acceptance of the inevitable.

Chris was, at heart, a pacifist, having learnt from his Great-Grandfather many valuable lessons about first seeking the peaceful solution to a problem. But The Doctor also fought when it was necessary, when there was no choice, when freedom and justice was at stake.

If The Doctor was here, he would lead the Chad in a rebellion against the Achada, freeing the prisoners and forcing them to stop terrorising the poor Chad people.

If The Doctor was here, of course, Chris wouldn’t have to worry about rescuing him from the Achada.

He thought about trying to instigate such a rebellion himself. But he was a thirteen year old boy, not a thousand year old Time Lord. What could he do?

Perhaps The Doctor would escape with Davie and the two of them would come looking for him. The best thing he could do was wait here where he was safe.

“Sounds like their apathy was wearing off on you, Chris,” he heard as he paused in the telling of the story.

“It wasn’t exactly apathy,” he answered. “More an acceptance of their lot in life. They were fantastic people in all other respects, kind and generous. Gala was quite happy to take me into her little home and look after me. The others were perfectly friendly. And I learnt to weave willow leaves into rush mats in the first afternoon I was with them.”

“I learnt how to grow plant using hydroponics,” Davie commented. “The Adacha were amazingly technologically advanced. Really clever people.”

Chris glanced at him. Davie laughed softly.

“Yeah, I know. They had some secrets that left a lot to be desired. The Doctor and I didn’t realise it at the time. We thought they were fantastic.”

Davie had almost forgotten how worried he was about his brother as he explored the Achada habitat with Allasa. For one thing, it was the first time in his life that a girl had paid him this much attention. It was a heady kind of discovery for a teenager. For another, the Achada technology fascinated his scientist soul. They used transmat beams to go up to the surface, keeping two physical doors only for emergency exits. They explored the surface using what looked very much like huge silver surf-boards that rode silently a few feet above the ground using anti-gravity cushions. And, of course, their medical technology was second to none. Any illness or injury could be cured using the auto-scan-repair tables.

“That must mean that you live really long lives,” Davie said. “With no illness to worry about.”

“Yes,” Allasa answered. “Our eldest habitants are over a hundred years old. They are retired, of course. But they retain good health and are fulfilled.”

They watched from a gallery above the medical centre as several patients came to avail of the scanner tables. One was a toddler with a severe hare lip that was repaired in less than an hour without any pain or discomfort to the child. His face was reconstructed perfectly and he went home again with relieved and happy parents.

A man with burns down one side of his body from an accident was similarly treated and able to get up and go home afterwards with his body restored. Davie was impressed.

He was less impressed when a young girl came in with her mother and father. She was, it had to be said, a rather plain thing and a little plump, but far from grotesque. She laid herself down on the table and the machines set to work, altering her cheekbones and her nose, shaping her mouth and jaw, lengthening her limbs and smoothing away puppy fat. When she stood up again she was beautiful in the way a thirteen year old boy, even one whose hearts generally belonged to things with engines, could recognise.

“Why?” he asked.

“So that she will attract a man,” Allasa answered as if it was obvious. “She was at least four inches shorter than the ideal, and her nose was too big.”

“I thought she was fine,” Davie responded. “Do all girls do that?”

“Only the ones who need it,” Allasa replied in a tone that suggested she had NEVER needed it.

“I don’t know, it doesn’t seem right to me,” Davie admitted. “I mean, the man with the burns, the child with a disfigurement….”

“But being less than beautiful is a disfigurement,” Allasa insisted, and nothing Davie said could shake her profound belief that it was right and proper to do this.

He told The Doctor about it later. He found him in what Allasa called the ‘quiet recreation room.’ Davie would have called it a library, except that the books were all on memory chips that slotted into hand held readers.

“Using the tables for purely cosmetic reasons seems trivial,” The Doctor agreed. “But if it is a part of their culture and they participate willingly, it is not for us to criticise.”

“Granddad, you told mum that about the Aztecs and their practice of Human sacrifice,” Davie pointed out.

“And I was right. So long as they sacrificed willing victims who truly believed in what they were doing I would not interfere. If the Achada were taking unwilling subjects and submitting them to cosmetic changes that would be another matter. But the girl was happy with the results?”

“Yes. But… isn’t it wrong that they have this concept of perfection and use technology to achieve it?”

“Again, only by our morals,” The Doctor reminded him. “I would be more concerned if they had that concept of perfection and cast out or mistreated those who don’t conform to it through no fault of their own. Even humans… even Time Lords… have our prejudices. We like our women to be slim and pretty. I loved Rose from the first moment for her sparkling personality and her quick wit, but I also noticed that she was a stunningly lovely young woman.”

“I haven’t really….” Davie blushed. “I mean… girls at school….”

The Doctor smiled benignly at his great-grandson.

“Puberty lasts for something like fifty years on Gallifrey. You have it easy. But when you do start looking at girls as more than just inconveniences, it’ll be the pretty ones you notice first. And centuries of cultural conditioning has shaped what you recognise as pretty.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Davie admitted.

“Let me show you something,” The Doctor added. He tapped a few keys on the reader and Davie looked at an image of something that would be called ugly in any culture. It had simian features with shaggy hair and overlong limbs. “These are the sub-species called the Chad that inhabit the surface of the planet. The Achada live down here to avoid contact with them. They are placid enough if not disturbed, but they have aggressive tendencies and have been known to attack Achada patrols.”

“I didn’t think they were as ugly as that,” Davie commented. “I thought they were just a less technological people than the Achada – like African tribes were to the Victorian explorers.”

“There, you see,” The Doctor told him. “You made a judgement based on appearance. Now you see why the plain girl wanted to be beautiful in the eye of the beholder.”

Davie laughed and admitted that The Doctor was right. He sat and took up another of the hand held readers and selected a history of Achada that he read rapidly, his fingers scrolling at the wheel that moved the text up the screen. Within a few minutes he had digested the full contents of the memory chip.

“Interesting,” he said, changing the chip for another. This was a novel, a story about star-crossed lovers in a period of Achadan history that was less benign than now, when family loyalties could be bloody. It bore similarities to Romeo and Juliet that would have made an interesting literary essay if he could have persuaded his school teachers to accept it. This he read at a faster pace than most humans, or indeed the Achadans around him, but still more leisurely than the way he had read the history book. The Doctor had taught him to read instructive works quickly, to grasp the information, but to savour works of prose at a slower pace.

He was near the end of the deadly confrontation between the brothers of the two lovers when Allasa’s father, the Prefect of the Habitat, came to tell them that Chris had been found. The Achadan patrol had raided a nearby Chad oasis and freed him. They were heading home, now. Chris had suffered a slight injury in the fight and they would bring him to the medical centre. The Doctor and Davie could meet him there.

They both abandoned their books and hurried to the medical centre. They were taken to a private room where Chris rested in bed after his treatment. He looked a little groggy and pale from his ordeal, but cheered up a little when he saw his brother and his great-grandfather.

“Granddad,” he said when he extricated himself from Davie’s hug. “You have to tell them… the Achada… there was no need to take all those prisoners. The Chad didn’t hurt me. They were looking after me. I was safe. They can let them go back to their tribe.”

“Prisoners?” The Doctor was puzzled and concerned. “I thought they went into the oasis to bring you out, not to take prisoners. I’ll talk to the Prefect right now.”

“You must have been scared,” Davie said to his brother. “Stuck with those ugly looking primitives.”

“Ugly?” Chris shook his head. “I wouldn’t call them that. Different, sure. Speaking of which… green really isn’t your colour.”

Davie grinned.

“Red isn’t yours. I’ll see if Allasa has a sister who can sort you out.”

“I hope it washes off, either way,” Chris added. “Mum won’t be impressed. I’ll be glad to get home to her. I was worried I was stuck on this planet for good. But now we’re all together… I should go back to the oasis and let them know I’m ok, and I’ve found you. Gala will be disappointed. I think she would have liked to adopt me. But….”

Davie was having trouble reconciling Chris’s experience of the Chad with the creatures described in the Achada book of anthropology.

Chris didn’t understand why Davie was so comfortable with the people who preyed upon the Chad so cruelly.

Then they were both startled by screaming and grief-stricken cries coming from the medical room. Chris reacted right away to the sound of one voice calling out desperately.

“That’s Gala!” he exclaimed. “What are they doing to her?”

He jumped out of the bed, clad in only a paper gown and ran to the door. He wrenched it open and launched himself at the Achada who was near the scanner table where his friend was restrained.

“Gala!” he cried out. “Stop it, somebody. Get her off this thing. What is it doing to her?”

Gala screamed in pain. Around her other Chad were also screaming. The Achada had fastened them down with metal cuffs on their hands and feet. They couldn’t escape what was being done to them.

Davie was appalled. When he watched the process before it was painless. The Achadan’s suffered no distress at all. But the Chad were screaming as their bodies were lengthened, their faces altered….

To make them look more like Achadans.

“Out of the way, boys,” said one of the Achadan technicians. “This is nothing to do with you. Go back into the other room.”

“It has everything to do with us,” Chris answered. “You’re hurting them. They did nothing to you. They live their lives out there in their oases. They don’t harm you. They couldn’t harm you if they tried. They have no weapons. They don’t even know how to fight. Your lot just rounded them up like… like….”

He was at a loss for a comparative noun. His anger and grief overwhelmed him.

“This is all wrong,” Davie added. “And it’s all based on a lie. If these are the Chad, then you’ve lied to your own people. They’re not aggressive, and they’re nothing like the thing in the picture I saw. They’re just….”

He looked at Gala, part way through the process and remembered what she looked like before. The only description he could think of was ‘Umpa Loompa’ and that wouldn’t mean anything here.

He barged the technician out of the way. He knocked three more of them down in a manner that would have excited the rugby coach if he had ever tried out for the school team. He reached the main computer bank that controlled all the tables and switched every switch, pulled every lever he could until the scanners all ground to a halt. He fought off every attempt to stop him.

“Keep back or I’ll smash this machine up so that you’ll never get it working again,” he threatened. “Don’t think I can’t.”

“I think you’ve done enough for now,” said The Doctor gently. He had come into the chaotic room followed by the Prefect who he turned on angrily. Davie watched in admiration. Nobody did angry quite like The Doctor, who berated the Prefect for kidnapping and torturing members of the Chad tribes.

Chris opened the restraints and helped Gala from the table. She was a foot and a half taller and thinner than she was, but her face was still hers. The same was true of the other Chad that he freed from the tables. They were still recognisable as the people he knew, but their bodies had been altered.

“Look at them!” The Doctor raged. “What gives you the right to do that to these people? Who are you to steal people from their homes and mutilate them?”

“It is not mutilation,” the Prefect answered. “They are mutants. They must be conformed. It is for their own good.”

“For their own good?” The Doctor glanced around. Chris was doing his best to console Gala, who was crying pitifully. “Does SHE look like this was doing her good?”

“Your boy stopped the process before it was complete. Along with the physical conforming her mind would have been adjusted so that she accepted her new, perfect form and would be content to take her place as a woman of the Achada.”

“That’s why none of them come back?” Chris gasped in horror. “You raid their homes, you take prisoners… and turn them into you…. And then you make them HATE what they were born as. That is the most disgusting thing I have EVER heard. You… you make me sick.”

“Me, too.” Davie looked at Allasa, who was standing near her father. “You knew about this? You knew what your people were doing? You didn’t tell me about it. You knew it was horrible. You knew I would be horrified, so you didn’t tell me. You’re… you’re only beautiful on the outside. Inside, you’re as ugly as that picture in the book… you’re the monsters.”

“You are mentally disordered, all of you,” the Prefect insisted. Behind him a phalanx of armed guards entered the medical centre, settling the argument in his favour. “Take them… the two boys and their father… and these hideous abominations. Put them all on the tables and run the mind conformity programme.”

“Father no!” Allasa exclaimed. She ran to put herself between Davie and the guards. “No, you can’t. Father, this is wrong. Davie, believe me, I didn’t know… I didn’t know that this was happening. Not by force. I thought that the Chad asked to be made beautiful. I thought….” She looked at Gala. “I thought they were REALLY ugly and frightening. These people are not… they’re not beautiful, but they’re not monsters, either.”

“No, they’re not,” Chris told her. “They’re wonderful, gentle people, who wouldn’t hurt a fly. And YOUR people capture them and torture them, and call it doing good. Don’t you see….”

“Yes, I do see, now,” Allasa answered. “Father, it is wrong. We must stop….”

“You’re disordered, too,” the Prefect responded. “Guards, take my daughter, also. See to it that these rebellious ideas are removed from her mind.”

“No. I will not….” Allasa lunged forward as the guards came closer. She grabbed at the barrel of the nearest gun, trying to push it away.

There was a heart-stopping sound. Davie caught Allasa as she fell back, pale blue blood pouring from the wound in her chest. The Doctor tried to help him, but one of the half-altered Chad got there first. They lifted her onto one of the tables. The scanners weren’t working, of course. Davie had stopped them. The Doctor could help there, at least. What he didn’t know about computer systems wasn’t worth knowing. He worked with two of the techs to restore the scanner programme while Davie held Allasa’s hand and willed her to stay alive long enough to be treated.

“If she dies, this can’t help, can it?” he said to her father who bent over her asking for her forgiveness. “It can’t bring people back from the dead?”

“No,” the Prefect managed to say in a dread-filled voice. All thoughts of processing the prisoners had gone from his head in his anxiety about his daughter. The guards waited with their weapons lowered, wondering what their instructions were. The Chad clutched each other for comfort and wondered what the immediate future held for them.

“Yes!” The Doctor called out triumphantly as the machines whirred into life. The scanner above Allasa automatically detected her wound and began to mend it. Davie sighed in relief. Her father wept for joy as she was restored to health. He seemed to have forgotten about reconditioning her mind.

“Why is her blood the same colour as ours?” asked the Chad called Mallo who had helped Davie while father and daughter were tearfully hugging and forgiving each other.

“What?” Chris looked at him and Gala. “It isn’t. It shouldn’t be. You’re different species, aren’t you?”

“That’s what their history says,” Davie confirmed. “The Achada were colonists who established their habitats a hundred generations ago. They came from the second planet of this system which broke up through tectonic instability, forming several of Chad’s newest moons. They live apart from the native people who they regarded as inferior in body and mind....”

“So they are separate species, but they have the same colour of blood,” Chris conceded. “That’s possible. I suppose it would look different under a microscope, though? Like Human blood and that of a cat or a dog….”

“No,” Davie commented. He looked at the medical data on the scanner above Allasa then checked the one that Gala had been fastened to. “No, their history is one more lie in a whole series of falsehoods and cover-ups. As for the blood, the answer is right here on this data screen. Allasa’s blood is not only the same type as Gala’s but she has genetic similarities… the sort found in mother and daughter relationships.”

“What?” Chris actually uttered the only coherent word in the several seconds of stunned silence that passed in the wake of this bombshell. “You mean….”

“Allasa is Gala’s biological daughter.”

“She said that her children had been taken by the Achada,” Chris said. “But….”

“Allasa is not your child,” Davie said to the Prefect accusingly. “She was a Chad who was taken by force and converted… her mind altered so that she believed herself to be an Achada. This gets sicker by the minute.”

“It’s more complicated than that,” The Doctor said. He was looking at the data on the main computer. “Allasa IS his biological child. Gala is her mother, and he is her father. Her parents were both Chad originally.”

Ohhh!” Chris gasped. “Gala told me that her husband was captured first… then her children.”

“Can it be true?” Gala stared at the Prefect. “Can it really be? Are you Traya… my husband?”

“Of course I’m not,” the Prefect answered scathingly. “I’m not….”

“Well, you wouldn’t know, would you?” The Doctor pointed out. “Your mind and body would have been altered so that you don’t know who you used to be - the same with Allasa. It’s probably a complete coincidence that you adopted her as your Achadan daughter not even knowing that she was your true child when you were Gala’s Chad husband.”

The Prefect was very pale. He trembled with emotion. Allasa looked at him. She started to go to him, then turned and ran to Gala instead. She let her Chad mother embrace her.

The Prefect groaned in horror and crumpled emotionally and physically.

“And that was the end of the pretence that had gone on for generations,” Davie concluded. He looked at the group around the campfire. They were all watching him and Chris with awestruck attention. “We stayed for a little while, for The Doctor to fix the TARDIS and to make sure that the Achada and the Chad were properly reconciled. Gala became the leader of what they called the intermediaries. They were part Chad, still, and part Achada, and they helped both to understand each other, and to accept each other. When I visited this afternoon, some of the Achada had left the underground Habitat and chosen to live the simple life with the Chad. Some of the Chad had chosen to embrace the technology of the Habitat. And they all have a different idea of what is beautiful, now.”

“And that’s the moral of the story, is it?” The students laughed softly.

“I didn’t really mean there to be a moral,” Davie answered. “The Doctor said at the time that he should have known better. He’s come across a lot of beautiful people who turned out to be untrustworthy. He told us about Drahvins, and a bunch who called themselves The Elders, and the Carrionites of Rexel IV – not a stationery supplier, apparently.”

“Anyway, it was a good lesson in life,” Chris said. “One I ought to include in my philosophy – not to judge people by appearances.”

“Well, it might be more convincing if The Doctor and the both of you hadn’t all married beautiful women,” somebody pointed out. There was more laughter. Chris and Davie looked at each other and laughed too.

“It’s still a good lesson for life,” Chris insisted. “Even if I don’t always practice what I preach.”