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

It was far from the smoothest TARDIS landing he had ever made. The young Time Lord whose short form of name was Tristie de Lœngbærrow-Campbell-Gregory whooped with laughter as he hauled himself up from the floor and saw his pretty young wife on the other side of the console. She had kept to her feet and was laughing back at him.

“Let’s see where we are,” he suggested. He pressed the button that turned on the large wall mounted screen. They both looked curiously at what seemed to be a forest of iron trees outside. People were walking around them and didn’t seem especially concerned with the arrival of the TARDIS. It must have chosen a perfectly incongruous disguise even in such an odd-looking place.

Speaking of congruity – he noticed a young woman outside wearing extremely short shorts along with a blouse made of layers of net and black nylon tights with flower shapes cut out of the fabric all around the thighs. If that was acceptable clothing for this place and time then Trudi’s hotpants and t-shirt with ankle boots would not attract any more attention than they usually did. His own pants, open necked shirt and candy-striped blazer fitted in just about any time and place except those where men wore doublet and hose or togas.

They stepped out together into the strange forest and took note of the thick iron-red trunk with branches of steel welded to it that was the TARDIS’s very well chosen disguise.

“It’s an art gallery,” Trudi said after glancing around at her surroundings and then walking from the forest through a doorway into a more general collection of sculpture in a larger room. “A modern art gallery. Groovy.”

“Groovy is probably an old-fashioned word,” Tristie told her. He picked up a leaflet and noted that the ‘Forest of Steel’ by Dale Armitage was on display from June 15th to July 30th of the year 2016. It was forty-two years since Trudi stepped out of the 1970s and into his TARDIS.

“It’s good to know people still have imagination in the future,” she added. “This is great stuff.”

“I like the French and Belgian Plein Air painters of the nineteenth century, myself,” Tristie answered. “Feel free to call me a square, but I prefer pictures and sculptures that look like what they’re meant to be.”

“These do,” Trudi answered. “Look at that piece - the huge, ugly, greedy man stuffing himself with spoonsful of sweets.”

Tristie looked. The information panel said that the piece represented the Nazi holocaust. The sweets – six million of them – were the nameless, faceless victims whose lives were eaten up by fascism.

He wasn’t sure if it proved his point or hers. Besides, his attention turned to one of the other exhibits in the gallery. He moved towards it slowly, as if he was afraid it might run away if he was hasty.

“We’re in Liverpool,” Trudi said, consulting the leaflet he passed to her. “Shame the Beatles have split.”

Tristie could have pointed out that by 2016 two of the Beatles were dead, but he was too busy looking at the piece of sculpture called ‘Power of the Crystal’.

To call it a ‘sculpture’ was actually a contravention of the Trade Description Act. There had been no sculpting involved. The beautiful tapering shape was natural. This was one of the Metebelis crystals, one of the really big ones, eighteen inches high and seven inches wide at the top. It was suspended within an inverted pyramid shaped glass container. Beneath that pyramid was another smaller pyramid pointing upwards. The larger pyramid with the crystal within was balanced on top of the smaller one with mind-boggling precision. There seemed to be nothing other than gravity involved and that was apparently ignoring the usual rules. The whole thing was displayed on a light coloured wooden pediment with an information panel on it.

“It says here this was designed by a man called Nigel Dewin,” Trudi said, reading the leaflet she picked up from a stand nearby. “He was born in Wrexham, but works here in Liverpool. He designed the garden in the apartment building where he lives. Look, there’s a picture of it in here. It’s really gr…..”

Trudi decided against using the word ‘groovy’ again. Tristie would probably tease her about it.

“It’s nice. I like it. He seems to have a thing for crystals, though. Look at this.”

Tristie took the leaflet and looked at the garden in the picture. It wasn’t a flower garden. The grassed over square with benches for the rest and enjoyment of the residents was decorated with sculpture pieces much like ‘Power of the Crystal’ but on a large scale. The centrepiece was at least eight feet tall, an inverted glass pyramid enclosing a blue crystal shape. But this one was obviously just glass. It was hollow inside and water poured up from a central reservoir and down again inside the pyramid.

“He used the crystal theme on a whole different scale,” Trudi pointed out. “Clever.”

“Yes, very clever. But this….” Tristie held his hand near the class case enclosing the blue crystal. “Trudi this is one of the children of Metebelis - one of the crystals we were supposed to find and bring back to the planet they came from.”

“That’s going to be tricky,” Trudi pointed out. “I’ll bet there’s a pressure alarm under there. We can’t exactly just walk out with it.”

“I could fold time,” Tristie said. “I’d just be a blur. Or… I could use a perception filter. I could even materialise the TARDIS around it and be gone before anyone can do anything about it.”

“Yes, I suppose you could,” Trudi admitted. “I didn’t know I married an art thief.”

“It’s not art. It’s a living thing. We know that. It’s a lost child of an alien family. We have to find a way of getting it home.”

“Not yet,” Trudi told him. “I mean….” She reached out and touched the glass pyramid and closed her eyes as she felt the mental connection with the crystal. “This one is safe here. But it has a… a brother… sort of. It’s here in this city, too. But they’ve been separated. We have to find the other one.”

“Miss, please do not touch the exhibits,” a man in a security uniform called out to her. Trudi withdrew her hand quickly. The security guard walked on, but looked back to make sure she wasn’t touching again.

“I think I know where it is, the other one. It’s in that garden in the picture.”

“Well, that would be helpful if we knew where the building was. Liverpool is a big place.”

“Let’s explore it a bit, then. Maybe we’ll find out more.”

“I should get back into the TARDIS and scan for the other crystal,” Tristie said.

“Oh, don’t be so square and uptight,” Trudi told him. “Just because we’re on a quest doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun. This is LIVERPOOL. It’s one of the coolest cities in the world. I want to see it. We can have lunch and see the sights, and try to find your building while we’re at it.”

Tristie didn’t think he had ever been square or uptight. He thought he was a cool kind of man. But he had been thinking about his duty as a Time Lord and the quest that Davie Campbell had given to the whole family. Duty wasn’t a word that often went with cool but if it also made him square and uptight, then he probably should lighten up a bit.

“Let’s explore,” he said with a wide smile. He grasped Trudi’s hand, as usual enjoying the envious glances of other men when he did that. They made their way out of the Tate Liverpool, promising to take another look at it later when they came back to the TARDIS.

Meanwhile he let Trudi lead the way to the Beatles Museum where she indulged joyfully in nostalgia about the music she had grown up with as a child of the nineteen-sixties. She must have puzzled some people who overheard her talking about the Fab Four playing the Birmingham Hippodrome when she was nine years old.

Later they had coffee at an open air café overlooking the Mersey before heading towards the newest and most controversial addition to the Waterfront – The Museum of Liverpool.

Opinions about the modern structure differed even within the architectural community. Tristie thought it was a bit too angular and besides it cut across the view of the famous Three Graces of nineteenth century Liverpool. Trudi thought it was ‘far out’ and ‘cool’.

Inside, Tristie thought it was like being on a very well-lit space station. Trudi thought it was ‘fab’, ‘hip’ and, of course, ‘cool’.

Tristie was delighted to find a clue to his quest in the exhibition about the evolution of the waterfront.

“Opened in 1901, the gargantuan Liverpool Tobacco Warehouse is on an unequalled heroic scale and dominates the landscape for many miles around. It extends along the whole of the south front of Stanley Dock. It is fourteen storeys high with forty two bays and is said to be the largest brick building in the world. Its construction absorbed twenty seven million bricks, thirty thousand panes of glass and eight thousand tons of steel. It could accommodate seventy thousand hogsheads of tobacco, each weighing one thousand pounds.”

“Tobacco warehouse?” Trudi looked wryly at the sign reminding patrons that the art gallery was a no-smoking area. It was right above a scale model of the Stanley Dock including the huge warehouse, its companion building across the other side of the water filled dock itself and a huge grain silo with train lines running underneath so that the grain could be dropped straight into transport containers.

“Not any more, of course,” Tristie added. “The decline in smoking means it was derelict for about twenty years. Now it’s been converted into luxury apartments. This model shows how it looks now. The centre of the building was hollowed out and made into the private resident’s garden with those crystal pyramid features.”

“We don’t know where it is, still,” Trudi pointed out.

“No problem now I know the name of the building,” Tristie responded. He took out his mobile phone and logged onto an interactive map. He selected a walking route from the museum to the apartment block. “It’s just over a mile. Are you up for a brisk walk along the riverside?”

“I’m up for it,” Trudi answered. “It’s a nice, sunny afternoon. Pick up a couple of bottles of pop from that booth down on the prom, though. It could be thirsty work.”

Tristie bought bottles of a popular energy boosting soft drink that hadn’t been invented in Trudi’s time and they set off along the Waterfront. As far as Pierhead it was easy enough. There was a wide promenade free from road traffic. At an ice cream van Tristie again spent money on further refreshments. They ate multi-coloured, multi-flavoured fruit lollies as they continued along Princes Parade where modern office blocks of concrete and glass reflected the sunlight.

When they reached Waterloo Road it was rather less charming. New apartment blocks rose up behind very old walls from the warehouses that once lined the docklands. This area had only recently been reclaimed from the urban decay. Soon even those gave way to very functional new warehouses made of corrugated steel on one side of the road and empty, boarded up houses and shops awaiting demolition on the other. In some places there was nothing but old walls with advertising hoardings above and empty wasteland behind them.

Trudi wasn’t exactly scared. After all, she came from Birmingham and that had its dismal parts, too. But she clung to Tristie’s hand all the same as they walked in the shade of those old walls and felt a little colder than they had back on the tourist Waterfront.

When they reached the former Tobacco Warehouse, now renamed Crystal House, she looked up at its high walls doubtfully. It had been given a facelift. Bricks that had stood for more than a hundred years were bright and clean and the double-glazed apartment windows glinted in the sunlight. But she felt something oppressive all the same. When she looked up at the building she thought for a moment as if she could still see it with a century of grime clinging to it and windows smashed by vandals showing only a black void inside.

“Mr and Mrs Gregory!” A man in a neatly pressed suit and tie approached them. Trudi was surprised, but Tristie stepped towards him and shook hands warmly. “I’m Norman Sutcliffe of Sutcliffe, Rimmer and Best Estate Agents. I’ll show you around the apartment and then if there are no problems you can sign the lease right away.”

“Excellent,” Tristie answered. He took hold of his wife’s hand and followed the agent into the cool, bright foyer of the apartment block which dispelled some of Trudi’s misgivings, at least. Inside every trace of the former use of the building was gone. The lift that brought them to the top floor apartment that was apparently for rent was modern, clean and smooth.

The furnished apartment was beautiful. Trudi looked at it appreciatively. As she and Tristie looked out of the bedroom window at the central garden she asked the question she was burning to ask.

“WHY was there an estate agent waiting for us?”

“I thought of it while we were walking up here,” Tristie answered. “I realised we needed a good reason to be here. If we’re tenants, we have the right to go everywhere. Nobody can stop us.”

“Yes… but…. How did you arrange it?”

“I haven’t, yet. Remind me when we’re back in the TARDIS to make the appointment with Mr Sutcliffe.”

Trudi laughed. The estate agent came into the room and asked if everything was well. Tristie said it was all fine and signed the papers. Trudi watched him do that thoughtfully.

“Shall we go and sit in the sunshine in our shared garden?” he said when the agent was gone and they were the official tenants of a two bedroom furnished apartment. Trudi couldn’t wait to go back down to the ground floor and then out into that inner courtyard.

“That’s really spectacular,” Tristie admitted as they looked up at the glass fountain they had seen as pictures and a model in the Museum. The images didn’t do it justice. The sun shining down on the clear outer casing and the blue coloured glass within made it iridescent. The water that sprayed up and then poured down the sides sparkled. It was a lovely centrepiece for the quiet, pleasant garden.

“Tristie,” Trudi said as he walked all around the fountain examining the smaller arrangement at the base. The tip of a foot tall pyramid that rose up from the floor almost met the one that hung down with barely an inch of space between them. It was very much like a stalagmite rising up to meet a stalactite.

Trudi congratulated herself on knowing which was which and called out to her somewhat distracted husband again.

“What?” He looked around as if surprised to see her with him.

“Did we really take a five year lease on a furnished apartment just now, or was it just a Power of Suggestion thing?”

“We really did,” Tristie answered. “Why?”

“Well… I was sort of thinking… We’ve been knocking about in the TARDIS for over five years. And we’ve been married for nearly a whole year now. And… well… have you ever thought about settling down in a home of our own? I mean… I know the TARDIS is home to us both, and your parents have a great house when we go back to your century. But….”

“Are you thinking of us staying here?” Tristie asked. “In Liverpool, in the 21st Century.”

“Maybe, I mean… seeing as you signed the papers…. We could, I suppose?”

“You’d like the idea of us having a place?”

“Yes. I would. We’re married, after all. And I know that means you’ll be with me forever. Because you’re a Time Lord and you won’t break an important vow like that. But it would feel more real if we were settled. I mean… we’d still use the TARDIS. We have loads of places to visit. But to come back to a flat of our own….”

Tristie smiled indulgently. He reached out and embraced her slender frame, kissing her on the lips lovingly.

“I guess we’ve got ourselves a place of our own, then,” he said. “As long as you don’t mind becoming a Scouser. It’ll be a bit of a shock to the system after being a Brummie all your life.”

“I think I could live with that,” Trudi assured him. “I can live with this building being a bit grungy on the outside, too, since it’s so utterly tubular on the inside.”

“Tubular?” Tristie laughed gently at that alternative to groovy.

“What the devil do you think you’re doing?” A loud, authoritative voice called out, ringing around the enclosed walls. They turned to see a tall man dressed in black crossing from the west entrance to the apartments. “This is private property. How did you get in? You have no business being here.”

“Um… actually, we have,” Tristie answered, pulling the tenancy agreement from his blazer pocket. The man was looking scathingly at Trudi’s attire. But two could play at that game. “I must say, you’re very well dressed for a caretaker.”

“I am Nigel Dewin,” the man replied in what could best be described as an educated Welsh accent, bearing the distinctive cadence but with his vowels properly rounded and his consonants crisp. “I am an artist. I designed this garden,” he added when his name alone didn’t achieve the proper level of respect from Tristie.

Trudi just wondered if he thought designing the garden gave him some kind of special privilege. After all, he didn’t actually OWN the building. She thought he was a rather creepy looking man. All black on a sunny day was decidedly off. Even after seeing the tenancy he still looked at them both in a disparaging way. He obviously thought girls in hotpants weren’t the right sort of residents for his precious building. But Tristie was meeting him with all the authority of his Time Lord race and if a battle of wills was called for the result would be a tight one.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, sir,” Tristie responded with a grin after deciding the silent stand off had gone on long enough. “Nigel Dewin, the artist. Yes, of course, I’ve seen your work in the Tate. It was why I chose the apartment here - the chance to live in such close proximity with your work – to be in the presence of such genius every day. This garden – the fountain – is magnificent.”

He had decided against a battle of wills. He mollified Mr Dewin with the correct paperwork and his fulsome – if not over-fulsome - praise of his artistic talents.

“Well, I hope you enjoy living in Crystal House,” Dewin said. “And do enjoy the garden, of course.”

He turned and swept away. If he had been wearing a cloak over his ensemble it would have swished dramatically.

“There’s more to him than meets the eye,” Tristie noted. Dewin stopped just inside the door to the inner foyer and was watching them both with keen, sharp eyes. Nearly as keen as Tristie’s. “Much like this fountain… which looks like the tip of the iceberg to me.”

Trudi wondered what he meant by that, but Tristie could be as enigmatic as any of the older Time Lords in his family when he chose. He reminded her that they had just leased a flat with a very nice bedroom. It was time for an afternoon nap, and then, since their new home didn’t have any food in it, they might order a pizza.

Their first afternoon in their own home was a pleasant one. Tristie proved he was cool enough to set aside his theories about Mr Dewin and his sculptures and give his full attention to his wife. When the evening started to draw in he ordered the pizza and awaited the buzz on the downstairs door from the delivery boy.

He was surprised when he heard the internal bell instead. The way Nigel Dewin reacted to strangers in the garden it was unlikely that pizza vendors would have free access to the building. He went to the door cautiously.

Not quite cautiously enough. Even with his hand on the latch the door flew back as if a potent energy was behind it. Nigel Dewin stood there, dressed in black again, but this time a robe with sigils embroidered on it in silver and a cloak that really did swish as he stepped over the threshold. Behind him were two men also dressed in black but without the sigils. They rushed past as Dewin grasped Tristie by the shoulders and forced him to his knees.

Forced was the word – and not merely physical at that. Tristie felt his mind pressed upon as heavily as his body. His first thought was that Dewin was a Time Lord. But he was fully Human. He had felt that when he spoke to him in the garden. He was a Human who had somehow embraced and made full use of a supernatural power.

He heard Trudi screaming through a fog of confusion that filled his mind. The two men dragged her out while he felt his consciousness slipping away.

He woke slowly, the fog still filling his mind. His eyes refused to focus. He was aware of a strange light and the sinister chanting of many voices. He couldn’t move. Even his eyelids seemed to be fixed open. His eyes were dry. That was why it was hard to focus.

He was lying on something hard – hard like marble or obsidian, cold through the thin satin fabric he had been clothed in. The light was directly above him. It was silvery-blue and cold like moonlight, not warm like sunshine. He held onto that notion and wondered if there was a full moon this night. It WAS night, or else he was in a very dark room with only one source of light – the one directly above him.

He forced his eyelids to close, allowing his tear ducts to bathe his eyes. Then he opened them again, shielding them automatically from the glare of the bright light.

He knew where he was now. He was under the fountain. He was right about it being the tip of the iceberg. He was inside the iceberg, now. The foot or so of the glass pyramid that was above ground continued down, spreading out to form a huge glass enclosure within what must have been part of the original cellars of the Tobacco Warehouse.

Directly above, suspended from the apex of the pyramid was a crystal – a genuine Metebelis Crystal, this one three times the size of the one in the Tate, but clearly the ‘brother’ it had spoken to Trudi about.

He could feel its grief at being separated, not only from its brother, but its planet so very far away in the blue galaxy. It was in pain.

It was a prisoner just as he was. It was being used by Dewin for….

What WAS Dewin up to? Tristie turned his head slightly and saw the people standing around in an unbroken circle, chanting words that he recognised when he concentrated as old English, older than Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, more like the original language of Beowulf, but older than that, even.

It was a pagan rite from before Christianity took hold on the British Isles. A marriage rite, joining a maiden with the Celtic god Cernunnos. A sacrifice would be offered first, to make the god manifest himself. Then the woman would be given to him.

That was nonsense, of course. Cernunnos was an old Celtic god of the seasons, charged with seeing that spring followed winter and that crops grew in their proper time. He didn’t need women. The whole thing would just be clever sounding words and half-understood ancient history if it wasn’t for the presence of the crystal. With it, the clever sounding words could open interstitial portals that let all manner of horrors into the real universe.

It didn’t take Tristie long to work out that he was the sacrifice. And when he saw a slender barefoot figure wearing nothing but a sheer robe that left nothing to the imagination he knew that Trudi was the intended bride of the god.

“We’ve been married a year, you know,” he called out. “She’s obviously NOT a maiden!”

“It matters not!” Dewin stood over him menacingly. “You will be dead when the rite is over and she will be given to Cernunnos as a concubine. You will not be missed, either of you, until your rent account goes into arrears. By then every trace that you ever set foot in this place will be erased.”

“You’re mad, you know that,” Tristie answered. “Especially if you imagine you can bind me with a bit of old Earth magic. I am far more powerful than that.”

It was almost a lie. What Dewin called magic was a very potent form of psychic energy – the power of words – enhanced by the crystal. It was why he was trapped on the sacrificial altar even though no chains bound him. The ability to turn his head and blink was gained only by a huge struggle.

But he WAS a Time Lord. He was born on Earth and his Gallifreyan blood was mixed with Human in almost every generation, but he was still one of a race that were called gods on many worlds. And he wasn’t helpless.

The rite was coming close to the part that got gothic horror fans excited – where blood was taken. Dewin produced a fearsome looking dagger from the folds of his robe. It had to be a thousand years old and had probably dispatched hundreds of sacrificial chickens in its heyday. But Tristie had no intention of being a chicken in any sense of the word.

“I am more powerful than that,” he repeated. Then he himself drew upon the power of the crystal to focus his mind. He stayed Dewin’s arm with a personal forcefield above his head, then he concentrated harder. The robed figures around the room stopped chanting and shrieked with fright as something unexpected happened.

He didn’t have a particularly good view of it because he had to keep eye contact with Dewin to stop him breaking through the forcefield. But Trudi and her pagan guards and the ritualists around them saw his body glow with the orange aura of artron energy before the ghostly figures of twelve men rose from it, all of them surrounded by an aura. They advanced upon the men holding Trudi who fell to their knees in horror and begged for mercy. One of the ghosts took hold of Trudi protectively. She bit her lip and wondered whether to scream, faint or accept that this apparition was there to help her.

The others swept down on the ritualists like avenging angels. None of them carried a weapon, but the sight of glowing, slightly transparent men was enough for the would be coven. They turned without a fight, knocking each other over in their anxiety to get through the one door in the glass pyramid.

When they were gone, the ghosts turned and advanced upon Dewin himself. At first he tried to fight them off with banishing spells. It didn’t work.

“They’re not demons,” Tristie told him. “That’s why they don’t obey you. Your power calls up things that respond to old magic. But I’ve got the new magic. And I’m more powerful than you are.”

Dewin screamed and dropped the knife. Tristie rolled out of its way and it clattered noisily but harmlessly off the marble altar and onto the floor. Dewin continued to scream as his body folded up under him. He collapsed as if every bone in his body had turned to rubber, crying and uttering incoherent words.

Tristie stood and smiled at the twelve men who had come to his aid. They nodded in acknowledgement and converged on him. He was surrounded by artron energy again as they disappeared back into his soul once more. The energy faded. The light of a full moon shining directly down through the pyramid remained. Trudi stared at her husband with fearful eyes for a moment and then ran to embrace him.

“Help me bring chummy there up to the garden for some fresh air and I’ll explain what happened,” he told her. They half carried, half dragged the semi-conscious Dewin to the lift that his followers had ignored, choosing to swarm up the fire stairs instead.

“Where did they all go?” Trudi asked as they stepped out into the cool garden, illuminated by soft uplighting that focussed on the centrepiece fountain. They laid Dewin on one of the garden seats and sat together on another. Tristie called an ambulance to come and get Nigel Dewin, who had apparently suffered some kind of complete mental breakdown and would need a lot of bed rest.

“Dewin’s followers?” Tristie shrugged. “They scarpered back to their homes. I expect some of them probably live in these apartments. Dewin must have recruited them into his weird little cult with promises of riches, or perhaps a bit of creepy fun with robes and sacrificial chickens. I think they’ve had enough of a fright to put them off for life.”

“Well, actually I meant those men… the ghosts…. It looked as if they all went into you.”

“They did. It’s not something I could ever do again. The crystal helped. They were all me - my potential future regenerations – twelve of them. I called them up to help me out. Now they’ve gone again.”

“Some of them were a bit dishy,” Trudi admitted. “But it’s scary. Twelve other versions of you… none of which I’ll ever live to see. Sometimes being married to a Time Lord is creepy. If I didn’t love you to bits I’d be scared.”

“Good job you love me, then,” Tristie answered stealing a long kiss from her while they waited for the ambulance to arrive. He would have to tell them something about a fancy dress party to explain the outfits they were all wearing. He could probably summon up enough Power of Suggestion to get away with one more lie. After that he needed the pizza he ordered hours ago and a long, long sleep.

He got both. In the morning he opened his eyes in the bedroom of his new apartment and felt refreshed. The sunshine that bathed him was pleasant.

He sat up and noticed that Trudi was standing by the window looking down at the garden. He climbed out of bed and hugged her from behind, kissing her neck.

“I was just thinking,” she said. “About what we said yesterday about staying here. Will we still be able to do that after last night?”

“I’ve still got a five year tenancy,” Tristie assured her. “Why not?”

“You said that some of those people – the ones who wanted to kill you – might live here.”

“And they’ll be so scared of what I did to them they’ll never put a foot wrong in our presence. I’ll be having a long talk with Dewin when he comes out of hospital. I rather think he’ll behave. By the way, do you know that Dewin is Welsh for wizard or warlock – a male witch anyway. I think he took his name too literally. Without the crystal, which I will be removing later, he won’t be anything very special. We’ll be fine.”

“Good,” Trudi said. “I’m glad. Let’s go shopping later. We need loads of things for the flat. Cushions, tablecloths, pictures… I think we should get some beanbags for the living room and….”

Tristie laughed.

“I’d better pick up the TARDIS from the Tate, then. We’ll need it to transport that little lot.”

Actually, he left the TARDIS where it was for now. They took a taxi home from the shopping. A few days later, though, he and Trudi visited the Tate Liverpool in the late afternoon, only an hour before closing time. They enjoyed the modern art in all of the rooms before going up to see Dale Armitage’s ‘Forest of Steel’. They slipped inside the TARDIS and waited until the lights went off and things went quiet. Then one of the steel trees from the forest noisily disappeared. In the next gallery a default grey shape appeared momentarily around the pedestal where Nigel Dewin’s ‘Power of the Crystal’ was mounted. When it dematerialised again the crystal was gone from inside the glass pyramid.

“They’ll never work out how the theft was done,” Tristie laughed as he set their course for Metebelis with the brother crystals safe within anti-gravity cushions in the corner of his TARDIS. He smiled at his wife. “When we get back, we’ll go shopping again. There are at least two department stores in Liverpool you haven’t used my credit cards in yet.”

“Do any of them have a maternity section?” Trudi asked. “I think we might need one.”

Tristie looked at his wife and thought about things she had said about settling down in a place of their own in light of this new information. He had a strong precognitive moment in which the spare bedroom was redecorated in pastels.

“Ok,” he said with a widening smile. “Groovy. Absolutely tubular.”