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

“Davie, are you angry?” Sukie asked her brother as he came into the Team Campbell pit garage clutching his helmet in one hand and vigorously running his fingers through his hair with the other.

“Angry?” he looked at his sister and reached out to her, pulling her into a hug. “Why would I be angry? When have you ever seen me angry unless there was a Sontaran in the area?”

“The race was such a mess,” she told him. “Tenth place. And Spenser didn’t even get through the first lap before he crashed out.”

Spenser was looking mournfully at his car which was being put back together by the experienced pit crew in time for the next round of the Touring Car Championships. Stuart was at his side, holding his hand sympathetically.

“Tenth is better than twentieth,” he reminded her. “It’s in the points, at least. I’m disappointed. If Lee Garfield’s car hadn’t been so smashed up when he went off the track at Church corner I would have had another six laps to make up a few more places. Four laps under the safety car and then a red flag is a lousy way to finish the race for everyone. And it means Jackson Partridge has stretched his lead over me on the points table. Plus I’m still stuck in the middle of the grid for the next race, and the wind and rain are making it miserable going for everyone. But of course I’m not angry.”

“I hate Jackson Partridge,” Sukie told him. “He’s a git.”

“He’s a good driver and he’s driven better than me,” Davie answered. “I don’t hate him. I don’t like him all that much. But he is a good driver. He did well to move up to third place past drivers like Tom Manx and Glenn Short.”

“He’s a git,” Sukie insisted. “What he said yesterday when you crashed out in qualifying – about your championship last year being a fluke, and how you’re just a gifted amateur who ought to know your limitations….”

“He could be right, you know,” Davie answered her. “On both counts. I am having a tougher time this season so far, especially this weekend. I certainly need more practice in wet weather racing.”

He turned as a woman with an ITV Sport microphone waded through the puddle outside the pit garage looking for an interview with him. He laughed as she asked him if he had considered any new tactics for the next race.

“A boat,” he responded. She laughed. So did Sukie at his side. She listened as he answered the interviewer’s questions about a less than satisfactory race with a cheerful tone and a gleam in his deep brown eyes that the woman obviously found attractive. She certainly spent a long time interviewing him compared to the winner.

“Brenda will be watching at home,” Sukie told him when the woman finally went away. “If she thinks you’re flirting with the female interviewers….”

“She was flirting with me,” Davie answered. “She does it with all the drivers. That’s what they employ her for. Even Spenser falls for it. It’s time we had some women drivers in the competition.”

“I’ll do my best,” Sukie promised. “Somebody else wants to talk to you.”

Davie turned and saw his fellow driver Tom Manx trying to attract his attention. He was holding a cardboard holder with sealed coffee cups in it. He offered one to Davie who took the drink gratefully while wondering why Tom had brought him refreshments.

“I heard that you’re an expert on… unusual things,” Tom said in a cautious tone.

“That depends what you mean by unusual,” Davie answered.

“My pit manager was at the Nürburgring a couple of years ago when there was some kind of weird problem on the track… something you sorted out. I think we’ve got a problem like that here at Thruxton.”

“What makes you think that?” Davie asked.

“Something happened to Lee Garfield’s car,” Tom revealed.

“Before he rearranged the tyre wall into an exhibit for the Tate Modern, you mean?”

“He was coming up right on my back as we approached Church. His headlights were in my rear view mirror. And then they weren’t. They vanished for about ten seconds. Then when they came back he went off the track and into the wall.”

Davie looked out of the garage. The rain that was still pouring down from a low, sullen sky blew across the pit lane at a distinct angle. He could barely see the track itself where the Porsche Carrera support race was going on. A little over three quarters of an hour ago when they were racing, visibility was even worse. He couldn’t remember seeing any other car clearly since the first turn. A windscreen full of spray meant he was looking at a blur of red indicator lights most of the time, while the headlamps of the car behind flared in his mirror.

“I know the conditions were terrible,” Tom added. “I can’t be absolutely certain WHAT I saw. But I THINK for ten seconds Lee’s car wasn’t on the track.”

Since last season when he had first raced against him, Davie had got to know Tom Manx socially. After he had pulled him out of his smashed up car in the last race they had been more than friends. Davie knew Tom wasn’t given to fanciful ideas. For that matter, no race driver was. The track was no place for day-dreamers.

“Let’s talk to Lee,” he said.

There was a certain amount of professional jealousy between drivers. They didn’t, as a rule, go in and out of each other’s pit garages while their crews were working on their cars. But most of them were friends off the track. Lee accepted the coffee that Tom offered him and they stood just inside his garage, sheltering from the rain.

“Are you ok?” Davie asked. “The medics have checked you out after your crash, I suppose? You’re cleared to race again – assuming your car is ready in time?”

“I’m ok,” Lee assured them. “They’re working on the car.”

“Do you remember what happened?” Davie prompted. Lee, a half-Irish, half-cockney whose taxi-driving father bought him his first racing car when he was a teenager was usually a lot more talkative. Davie wondered if he really was physically all right. The crash had been replayed several times on the TV screens in all the garages. The tyre wall had only partially cushioned the impact before the car came to a stop with the front wheels up on the Armco and the bumper ripped off as if it was made of paper. The fact that Lee had walked away from that on his own two feet was testament to the safety features within the car.

Even so….

“I’m all right,” he insisted.

“Well, I’m glad to hear it,” Davie told him. He reached out and touched his fellow driver on the shoulder. Lee flinched, and he withdrew quickly, but the brief contact was enough to tell him what he needed to know. “Best of luck to you in the next round.”

He headed back to his own garage, Tom following him.

“You’re right,” he said. “Something happened to Lee.”

“What?” Tom asked.

“I’m not entirely sure,” Davie answered. “There’s something missing in his mind – like several hours of memories.”

“How do you know that?” Tom asked. “And how can that be, anyway?”

“You don’t need to know the answer to your first question, Tom,” Davie replied. “And the second… I don’t know, yet. But trust me.”

“I’d be dead if you hadn’t been there at Brands last year,” Tom answered. “I definitely trust you. But I’m even more freaked out than I was before I talked to you.”

“Don’t be. We’re racing again in an hour and a half, and we both look like also rans next to Jackson Partridge at the moment. Let’s keep our minds on what counts.”

“Yeah.” Tom nodded. He finished his coffee, standing with Davie under the shelter of the garage door. “I think you were right about one thing, anyway. A boat would be the best thing for the next race.”

They laughed together before Tom went on his way. Then Davie turned and looked at what was happening in his pit garage. Spenser had bad news. His car wasn’t going to be racing again today. The second Team Campbell driver would have to be scratched from the grid.

“We’re having a bad day all round,” Davie admitted. After telling Sukie that he wasn’t upset, he tried to hide the fact that he was.

“There’s something else,” he added, and he explained what Tom had told him and his Time Lord instinct about Lee.

“Why is something messing with the heads of racing drivers?” Spenser asked. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Aliens are betting on the races and they want to make Jackson Partridge win,” Sukie suggested. “They made Lee crash, and Spenser’s car break down.”

“Neither Lee nor Spenser were ever going to challenge Jackson’s lead,” Davie answered her. “If it was that, me and Tom should have hit the tyre walls. We’re the ones who could give him a race to the finish if we weren’t hampered by this weather.”

“Maybe the aliens have messed up the weather, too,” Sukie pointed out.

“Sweetheart, weather on planet Earth doesn’t need any alien interference,” Davie told her. “Whatever the problem is, I’ll sort it out. You concentrate on your own competition. At the moment you’re the one holding the Team Campbell honours at the top of your leader board. Don’t let us down.”

“I won’t,” Sukie promised. “But don’t you let us down, either. You’ve got to beat Jackson Partridge. You should let Spenser find out what happened to Lee while you get on with racing.”

“She has a point,” Spenser told him. “I’ve got nothing to do anyway, now. I’ll go and have a nosy around.”

Davie was not only a petrolhead, but something of a control freak, too. It went against the grain to delegate something like this. But they were both right.

“Ok, see if you can get hold of a steward’s jacket and go down to Church Corner. See if you can get any unusual readings.”

He gave him his sonic screwdriver before sitting down to study the telemetry from his car in the last race and work out a strategy, if there was one, that would move him up from tenth place to the top three in the track conditions they all had to contend with today.

His Time Lord blood gave him an advantage in any weather, of course. He had better eyesight and quicker reflexes than any ordinary Human being. He had finely honed instincts and unsurpassed power of concentration.

But his fellow drivers were not just ordinary Human beings. They, too, had quick reflexes and amazing instincts. They pushed themselves hard to be the best in their chosen sport. Jackson Partridge was a very good driver. If he was tenth on the grid everyone would fully expect him to move up to the podium places well within the sixteen laps to the chequered flag, and having won the lead he would keep it.

Davie thought he could do the same if he got the breaks. His success last year had come from taking the lead and keeping it. But he wasn’t just driving against Jackson Partridge. Tom Manx, even if he was a friend, wouldn’t do him any favours on the track. Nor would Glenn Short and Mark Johnson who only needed to keep him out of the top five and pick up a couple of fastest lap and leading lap points to knock him several places down the leader board.

There were five of them altogether, Jackson, Tom, Glenn, Mark and himself, who might be on top of the points by the end of the day. They were the ones who had the drive to win, the aggression, the killer instinct, call it what you will, that kept them in close competition with each other. Of course, there were another dozen drivers who were also good and couldn’t be dismissed. Lee Garfield had taken the pole in the first race this morning having surprised everyone in the qualifying session. If it hadn’t been for his spin off the track he might have been challenging those top five today.

Then there were a couple of ‘also rans’. There were two drivers who had still to score a single point after seven races. Spenser wasn’t one of them. He had done all right until the mechanical problems that put him out today. But Spenser definitely didn’t have the killer instinct. His enthusiasm for racing came second hand. Davie had taught him to drive competitively and he had learnt to enjoy it, but it didn’t consume him so fully and completely. He freely admitted that he was just holding a place open on Team Campbell for when Sukie was ready to join her brother in the big races. Then he would retire to the grandstand and draw racing cars instead of driving them.

Davie wasn’t feeling entirely positive when he took his tenth place on the grid for the second race of the afternoon. His bad showing from the previous race chafed more than he would admit to anyone. Even so he fixed his resolve firmly on a podium place by the end of the sixteen laps as the lights went out on the gantry up ahead and the brake lights of the cars in front flared in his immediate view.

It was another race in near zero visibility, with spray kicked up by the front runners and almost nothing but instinct to go on. But he took the first corner perfectly while three cars behind and one in front spun out too wide and struggled to stay in the race at all. By the end of lap one he had gained another place having overtaken Dan Naismith in his Honda Civic at Campbell turn. He allowed himself a smile at the historical irony and prepared to catch up with Alan Japp in seventh place.

By lap twelve he was in fifth place and confident of passing Mark Johnson and Glenn Short ahead of him. Then as he approached Church, the corner where Lee Garfield had crashed out in the first race, he was aware of an orange glow that flared in the haze of the driving rain. He expected it to be the headlights of a car that had spun around until it was facing the wrong way and prepared for evasive driving.

Then he wasn’t driving at all. He felt a nauseating lurch in his stomach as a powerful transmat beam enveloped him. His vision blurred and he felt an uncomfortable sense of complete disorientation before he passed out completely.

When he woke again he wasn’t in his car. He was strapped into what looked like the cockpit of a one man fighter ship except that it lacked certain elements like an actual cockpit around him. He was in near total darkness. Even with his superior Gallifreyan eyesight he could see nothing beyond the seat he was restrained in.

“Test subject 145, humanoid from planet Earth – fight and flight reflex assessment alpha.”

A voice that didn’t quite sound organic spoke through some kind of tannoy system. Immediately a hologram field surrounded him. He saw a virtual cockpit around him and a view of space through the virtual window in front of him. That view wasn’t entirely made up of stars and planets. There was a fleet of ships bearing down on him, and he guessed that they were meant to be the enemy.

By his right hand was a button that he knew had to be a gun. By his left were all the controls for flying a small, fast fighter ship. It was something he had never done, but he knew he would probably manage it if he tried.

But he was damned if he would. He didn’t recognise the ships that were fast approaching. That meant they weren’t an enemy of his – at least not yet. But the people who put him in this simulator had kidnapped him and were trying to make him do something against his will. That made THEM the enemy as far as he was concerned and he was damned if he was going to co-operate with them.

He took his hands away from both controls and tucked his feet under the seat so that he wasn’t anywhere near any floor pedals.

“Campbell!” He heard another voice over the PA system. He recognised Glenn Short’s Glaswegian accent. His car had been behind him before he was captured. They must have taken him, too. “Davie Campbell, they say you HAVE to do what they want, you have to take part in the test, or the rest of us will be harmed. I’m pretty sure that’s no empty threat.”

How many of them had been plucked from the rainswept Thruxton circuit?

Davie kept his hands away from the controls still as the alien ships came closer on screen. Glenn thought it was a real threat, but he was ready to call their bluff.

Then he heard a scream. It wasn’t Glenn. He thought it might have been Mark Johnson, another of the close contenders for the leader board.

“Davie, please,” Tom Manx’s voice begged this time. “They’re really hurting him.”

“All right,” he answered, uncertain whether either his fellow-drivers or their captors could hear him. “All right, stop torturing them. I’ll do it.”

He grasped the controls just in the nick of time and manoeuvred the simulation away from what would have been game over. He swung his ‘ship’ around and went in for the ‘kill’ blowing three of the enemy to smithereens in one go. He pulled back and swooped again, noting that there was a real artificial gravity thing going on. He felt all the movement, all the sensation of being a fighter pilot in a space dogfight.

If this really had been a game, if he had chosen to take part, he might actually have enjoyed himself. It was the sort of test of his reflexes and his judgement that he relished. He was confident he could fight to the last alien ship.

But he strongly resented having to do so to stop his friends being tortured, and he said so, loudly and bitterly, even as he kept on playing the ‘game’.

He ‘won’ – if winning was the right word. As the last ship disintegrated virtual space was clear at last. He didn’t celebrate. He didn’t give any outward sign of being pleased with his performance. In a small part of his mind he was satisfied with what the simulation said about his flying and fighting skills.

“Test subject 145 has successfully completed assessment alpha,” the tinny voice confirmed. “Assessment Beta will now commence.”

“The hell it will,” Davie responded. “Let me out of here, now. Or I’ll….”

“Davie!” The voice that called out to him this time filled his hearts with utter dismay.

It was Sukie.

“Davie, you’ve got to or they’ll….”

“Sukie, I’m coming to get you. We’re getting out of here, all of us,” he answered. He still didn’t know if the prisoners could hear him. He didn’t know if his captors could hear him. If they could, then telling them that he meant to escape wasn’t especially smart, but he had no intention of being blackmailed like this.

He struggled with the harness that held him into the simulator, but it tightened until he could barely breathe.

“Davie!” Sukie screamed.

“You @*#%^,” he yelled. The Low Gallifreyan swear word would have made Jack Harkness blush. His mother would have been appalled that he even knew it. But it perfectly articulated how he felt about whoever or whatever was hurting his sister.

Then he felt the disorientation of a transmat again. When his vision cleared he was in a REAL fighter ship with the same set up as the simulator. The autopilot snapped off abruptly and he had no choice but to take hold of the controls.

Two dozen drone ships came into his view. He knew they were drones because they had no cockpits at all. They were just wings, fuselage and weapon arrays. He dodged the first attack and came back fighting. The drones were programmed to attack his ship. He had to blow them up to survive.

He blew them up, one, two, three at a time. The fighter ship was faster than his racing car, nimbler than his TARDIS. Again, if this was something he had chosen to do he might have enjoyed the challenge. The added possibility of instant death if he was hit just fuelled his adrenaline and added a frissance to the experience.

Besides, he was more than able to cope with the drones. They were fast, but they were pre-programmed and their tactics far more limited than his own.

And since they were drones, programmed machines, he had absolutely no qualms about obliterating them. This was just another simulation when all was said and done.

The last drone exploded into flames beneath a concentrated rain of fire. He didn’t congratulate himself. He just wondered what would be expected of him next.

“Davie….” He heard Sukie’s voice in his head. She sounded scared but at the same time relieved. “Davie, they said they would let me go now. I think they’re telling the truth. But they’re not done with you. There’s something else they want to make you do.”

“Sukie, whatever it is, I’ll beat them. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Take care of yourself, sweetheart.”

She didn’t reply. He could only hope they HAD told her the truth. As for him, he fully intended to carry out his promise to get everyone else back to safety. He just wasn’t sure how he could do that. As far as he could tell he was alone in space.

No, he wasn’t. There were four more fighter ships there. Overlapping voices came over the communications array. He recognised the other captives – Tom, Glenn, Mark, as well as Jackson Partridge. They were all trying to tell him the same thing – that they were all in ships, now, and their captors had told them what they were expected to do.

“@%&#&*!” Davie used another Low Gallifreyan word his mother would not have approved of. “They expect us to fight each other… to the death. No. No way. They can’t be serious.”

“They’re serious,” Tom Manx answered. “Apparently they have destruct buttons. If anyone doesn’t fight, then they’ll kill them anyway.”

“No!” he protested again before he had to take evasive action. Jackson Partridge had fired on Glenn Short. The missile had gone wide and very nearly taken him out instead.

“We don’t have any other choice,” Jackson said. “We have to do this… it’s the same as on the track. There’s a winner who takes the chequered flag and a whole lot of losers behind. I’m not going to be one of the losers.”

He fired again. This time Mark Johnson barely missed being obliterated and fired back at him. His missile went wide, too, exploding harmlessly in empty space. Davie remonstrated desperately, but the two of them were fighting. Glenn and Tom evaded their missiles and fired back.

Davie watched in horror as Glenn’s ship exploded, his voice cut off as he was begging the others to stop. Davie wasn’t even sure who had fired the fatal missile. They were exploding all around. It could have been any of the other three.

“Stop!” he begged. Then he watched in horror as Jackson Partridge lined up his sights and fired straight at Mark Johnson. He had no chance to manoeuvre out of the way. Davie heard his brief scream before his ship disintegrated.

“No!” he cried out again. “Tom, use evasive tactics. Don’t fire back. Jackson, think again. Don’t do this.”

“I don’t HAVE any evasive tactics,” Tom responded. “I’m a driver not a fighter pilot. This is a nightmare. It can’t be happening.”

Jackson fired. Despite his perfectly valid argument Tom did manage to turn his ship in time to avoid a direct hit, but the missile glanced off his wing, damaging it. He reported that he was losing fuel and that his rudder was sluggish.

Jackson turned and lined him up for another hit. Davie overshot him and placed his ship in the direct line of fire.

“Jackson, don’t do it. I’ve taken my hands off the weapons array. I’m not going to fire on you. Tom isn’t, either. We’re not playing the game any more. I don’t care if they kill me. But I won’t let you do it. You’re a racing driver. We all are. Your killer instinct… is a &^%@ metaphor for chaos sake. You don’t REALLY want to do this.”

Jackson didn’t say anything. Davie didn’t know whether he was thinking about what he said or getting ready to fire on him.

Then he felt the now familiar nauseating sensation of a transmat beam enveloping him. Moments later he wasn’t in the fighter cockpit. He was lying on a metal floor that vibrated like a ship with warp shunt engines in parked orbit would vibrate.

He felt a pair of hands around his shoulders. Tom Manx was lifting him to his feet. He looked around as his eyes focussed and saw the other drivers – Glenn and Mark, both alive and unhurt, as well as Jackson Partridge who was looking bewildered and rather worried.

“What the ^@&#$ is going on?” Davie demanded.

“That’s a bloody good word, even if I don’t know what it means,” Tom told him. “I think… the whole thing… it was another simulation… a really good one. Nobody died. Glenn and Mark were brought back here before the rest of us.”

“I didn’t kill them,” Jackson Partridge said. His voice was tinged with relief and guilt at the same time. “I didn’t really do it. Thank God. I… I’m sorry. But I was scared. I didn’t think I had any other choice.”

Glenn and Mark weren’t quite ready to forgive him, yet. They turned away from him with nothing to say.

Then the door to the metallic room opened.

“Are you guys coming, or what?” Spenser asked. “You’ve got a race to finish, after all.”

Davie laughed and ran to embrace him, kissing him on the cheek.

“How did you get here?” he asked.

“In your TARDIS. I found the ionisation trails from the transmats and followed them. This is a very sophisticated ship with all these holodecks and simulations aboard, but it only had three crew members – all artificial intelligences. I dealt with them the same way we dealt with the cyborg clones when we fought the Dominators – an EMP between the eyes. Come on, I’ll get you all back now. I wasn’t kidding about having a race to finish.”

He brought them to a transmat bay that would have made the makers of Star Trek weep with envy. Their five cars were all there in temporal stasis. Spenser told them that they would be transmatted back to Earth about three milliseconds after they were taken.

“This thing has a secondary effect of erasing your memory of what happened here,” Spenser told the drivers. “You’ll have a few moments of disorientation, but try not to spin off the track like Lee did earlier.”

“Good advice, but if our memories are erased, how will we remember it?” Glenn Short asked, quite reasonably.

“Good point. I guess you’ll all have to take your chances. Good luck. Who wants to go first?”

Mark Johnson volunteered. He looked at Jackson Partridge for a long moment before he climbed into his car and got ready to return to Earth. Glenn Short went next.

“I owe you another big favour,” Tom Manx told Davie. “You stood up for me… you saved my life again, even if it WASN’T real this time. But I won’t remember you doing it. So… let me say thank you before I forget.”

“It’s ok, Tom,” Davie told him. “You don’t owe me anything. Go on. You’re still in with a chance of a podium in this race.”

Tom got into his car. Spenser transmatted it back.

Jackson Partridge looked at Davie. He began to speak, then stopped. He clearly didn’t know what to say.

“You didn’t fire on me,” Davie told him. “You got the message in the end.”

“Yes,” he admitted. “Yes, I got it. Killer instinct….”

“Just a metaphor.”

“I won’t remember… neither will the others? Or you?”


“Then… let me say I’m sorry now. Even if….”

“Just go,” Davie told him. “All four of us are right behind you on the track and there are still four laps to go. We’re going to make a race of it.”

“I’m not sure that’s true for you,” Spenser said when Jackson was gone. “About the memory eraser. It’s calibrated for Human brains, not ours.”

“Sukie….” Davie said, taking in that possibility calmly. “She….”

“The last time we heard from her, she was still in parc ferme after her race,” Spenser reminded him. “They already sent her back to where and when they grabbed her. She’s fine.”

“She’d better be,” Davie answered him. “Or I’m coming back to turn those artificial lifeforms into Meccano.”

“The killer instinct isn’t a metaphor in your case,” Spenser reminded him. “I believe you. But I promise it will be all right. Get into your car. I’ll talk to you back in the pit garage when you finish the race.”

Davie hugged him again, and since they were alone now, he kissed him in the way he used to kiss him when they were lovers, then he got into the car and fastened his safety belt. He prepared himself mentally to put aside what had been happening here and face the dangerously wet conditions of Thruxton again.

Less than ten minutes later he drove into Parc Ferme in position four, just missing the podium because Jackson Partridge who had lost the lead to Glenn Short in the last four laps and then second place to Mark Johnson doggedly refused to yield another place. Tom Manx was fifth having narrowly failed to get past him on the last lap.

It was better than tenth. He was still lagging behind Jackson and Glenn on the leader board, but only by a few points, now. When he was finished with the Parc Ferme procedures he drove back to his pit garage. Spenser and Sukie were both waiting for him. When he extracted himself from their hugs and accepted a cup of coffee from Stuart he had questions to ask.

“Yes, I remember,” Sukie told him. “Spenser was right about the eraser only working on purely Human minds. I remember it all, especially the electric shocks they used to make you fight.”

“@&#$,” Davie swore.

“Mum wouldn’t like you saying that,” his sister told him.

“She wouldn’t like that you know what it means,” he answered. “I’m sorry you were hurt, sweetheart.”

“I’m ok, now. And I came second in my race, to Andy Jennings who was only fifth before, so I’m still in the lead overall.”

“Just you think about that,” Davie told her. “Spenser, did you find out what the hell it was all about? WHY were they trying to make fighter pilots out of us?”

“As far as I can tell, they’re an artificial intelligence species mixed up in a war with another artificial intelligence species, but they’re all guided by logic and none of them have the aggression that humans have. So they set out to capture people and test them – people with proven abilities like you and the other drivers – test their ‘killer instinct’. Are you tired of hearing that phrase, now? Those of you who passed their tests would fight their war for them.”

“What a bloody stupid idea,” Davie said. “What did you do to them?”

“I reprogrammed their navigation drive to take them back to their planet. I also downloaded the TARDIS’s record of our part in the Dominator war, all those cyborgs we eliminated, and ships we blew out of the sky - just to remind them that this planet is defended and we won’t take any nonsense from anyone.”

“Nice one,” Davie told him with a grin.

“What’s a Dominator?” Tom Manx asked. “Is it anything to do with that alien ship we were on?”

“What alien ship?” Davie responded. “You really don’t want to go around talking about things like that. They’ll pull your racing licence for seeing things that aren’t there.”

“Yeah!” Tom laughed. “Not sure why, but my memory wasn’t erased. It feels a bit fuzzy, kind of woolly around the edges, but I remember it all. Nobody else does. Glenn and Mark both think there was some kind of freak lightning that hit their cars for a few moments. So does Lee. What do you think it was about with him, by the way?”

“He took pole from qualifying,” Davie answered. “So the aliens must have thought he was one of the people they wanted. But he got lucky with the rest of us thrown off by the weather. When they realised he didn’t have the killer instinct they sent him back. And yes, I am REALLY tired of that phrase, now. I’m going to stop using it.”

Tom laughed then went back to what he knew about his fellow drivers in the aftermath of their experience.

“Jackson is trying to claim that the race should have been red flagged on lap thirteen because of it. Well he would, wouldn’t he? He was still in the lead then. He’s always been a bit of a sore loser, but he’s a decent guy when you know him, and a bloody good driver.”

“And that’s all you have to say about him?” Davie asked. “Even though you remember what he did?”

“He doesn’t so no point in harbouring a grudge.”

“Good man,” Davie told him. “Best all round.”

“The whole thing explains something else, though,” Tom added. “You… Team Campbell…. The two of you and your kid sister, there. You came out of nowhere. No history, no form, just suddenly giving us old hands a run for our money. You’re aliens of some sort, too? I mean, friendly ones, obviously....”

There was a huge question left hanging. Davie decided he was more than entitled to the answer.

“Pull up a chair and grab some more coffee. We’ve just about time for the short version of the story before we line up for the last race of the afternoon.”