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

Chris slaved the Gothic TARDIS to the Chinese TARDIS and opened the door between the two. Davie was at his console and turned as his twin stepped over the threshold.

“It’s been weeks since we’ve had more than five minutes together,” he said. “And you decide we ought to do it in deep space?”

“I can’t go home for a while,” Davie answered. “But I wanted somebody here… somebody to keep me company until I’m ok.”

“Ok?” Chris was puzzled. “What do you mean by OK?”

He stepped closer and reached out his hand to touch his brother on the shoulder. He was startled when Davie shimmered. He was a hologram.

“What in Chaos….”

“I’m in the Zero room,” the hologram explained. “I’m controlling the image telepathically.”

“From within a Zero room? That’s clever. But why?”

“Because I’m contaminated,” he answered. “With Adrenan Virus.”

“With…. WHAT!” Chris tried to control his emotions, but this was too serious. “Davie, Adrenan Virus is deadly. There’s no known cure.”

“I know that,” he answered with a bitter tone in his voice. “At least there isn’t for species’ with haemoglobin in their blood. I’ve just got to stick to the quarantine for ten days until the virus has burnt itself out and I’m not infectious.”

“Obviously there’s no point in mentioning that you went out for an afternoon testing the improved chameleon circuit and Brenda expects you home for supper?”

“This is a time machine. I’ll be home for supper.”

“Again, obviously. But Davie….”

Chris paused. He looked at the hologram critically. It was dressed the way Davie invariably dressed – like a younger, more stylish version of his great grandfather in tight fitting black denims, t-shirt and leather jacket. The hair was dark brown with blonde streaks that he had re-done monthly in a west end salon in the 1980s. His eyes were pools of infinity like all Time Lords and his mouth ready to laugh or frown, or to kiss somebody at any moment.

But it was just a hologram, a puppet, controlled remotely.

“This is stupid. I’m coming to you,” Chris said.

“Not without putting on a hazmat suit,” Davie answered. “I’m infectious, and I’m not going to make you sick, too.”

“Then I’ll put on a hazmat suit,” Chris told him. “But I’m coming to you.”

Davie didn’t say anything. There was no point in arguing. The hologram shimmered and collapsed. It wasn’t needed now.

The hazmat suit was in a walk-in cupboard in the corridor outside the console room. It was light weight fabric, made in the twenty-eighth century from micro-nylon and the face mask was much less cumbersome than earlier versions, but he didn’t really like wearing it. He was used to dressing in simple cotton robes, or when trousers were expected, light slacks. This was more covering than he ever wore and it felt constricting.

But it was necessary if Davie was right about the infection. Adrenan virus was one of the most terrible diseases in the universe, not just because of its one hundred per cent mortality rate, but because it killed so very slowly and inexorably. Sometimes victims could live for as much as ten years after contracting the virus, but all the time under a death sentence with their health deteriorating until living became intolerable and death was a relief from suffering.

The thought of Davie contracting such a disease froze his hearts. He and his twin had never suffered from the usual Human illnesses, mainly because they weren’t Human. Their Time Lord blood kept them safe from most other ailments and they knew they could look forward to a long life with good health and vitality.

But Davie had a virus that had wiped out four hundred billion people and left the Adrenan system as a permanently quarantined zone.

He opened the door to the zero room and stepped inside cautiously, unsure what to expect.

“Sweet mother of Chaos!” he swore when he saw Davie. He was sitting on the floor with a linen sheet wrapped around the lower half of his body. His skin was very nearly the same shade of white as the sheet. So was his hair. His lips were pale, his eyes….

His eyes should have been the same deep brown almost everyone in the family had. Instead, the irises were a brownish red with a small black pinprick of a pupil in the centre, almost completely constricted.

“Can you even see like that?” Chris asked, kneeling beside him and reaching out to touch his cheek. Davie flinched. Sensitivity to any kind of pressure on the skin was one of the symptoms. Besides, the gloves of the Hazmat suit made any kind of gentle contact impossible.

“Not very well,” Davie answered in a hoarse voice. “That’s one reason I came to the Zero room. The soft light is less painful.”

On the floor beside him were an assortment of medications – a soothing skin ointment, drops for his eyes, cough syrup for the dry throat and a box of tissues. There was also a bottle of water and a box of energy bars.

“That won’t do,” Chris told him. “You need proper food.”

“Like steak and kidney pie?” Davie suggested. “With mashed potatoes and veg. That’s what Brenda said she was cooking for supper – mum’s recipe, the way we always liked it.”

“That’s the sort of thing I had in mind,” Chris answered him. “But Brenda would freak if she saw you like this. You’re like a ghost.”

“That’s what the Crespallions call the victims – the walking ghosts.”

“Crespallions – from the Jagget Brocade, in the Scarlet system? They have Adrenan virus there?”

“Not now. They’ve eradicated it. But it cost them. They….”

Davie started to cough violently. He grabbed a tissue from a box by his side. Chris noticed that he coughed a dark phlegm into the tissue, but he quickly jammed it into a portable incinerator no bigger than the tissue box.

“I’m going to get you some proper food – soup or something, maybe. Then you can tell me what the heck happened to you.”

He didn’t really want to leave him at all, but Davie did need to eat properly. Chris went to the kitchen and found tinned food in the cupboard. There was soup of every flavour apart from mushroom which Davie hated. He chose chicken broth and heated it on the stove. He found cartons of orange juice and brought them, too. The vitamin c would be good for him and a change from water.

Davie was lying down when he returned, levitating a few inches off the floor itself. The sheet was levitating, too, draped over him but not actually touching his body. When the door opened he sat up again.

“Does being in here actually help?” Chris asked. “If not, wouldn’t you be better in a bed?”

“Being in here cuts the quarantine period down from twenty days to ten. The virus is burning up faster while my body can lie calm in the null atmosphere.”

“Ok, then. Drink the soup and have some orange juice. Then I want to hear what happened.”

“You know I’ve been so very restless since the end of the racing season,” he said. “Coming third to Jackson Partridge and Tom Manx really dented my ego. But there’s nothing much I can do about it until next season. I promised Brenda I WOULD run the races in real time, of course. She wants to be able to keep a calendar of what I do. Even the universe seems quiet at the moment. I haven’t got into any trouble for ages.”

“That’s a GOOD thing, Davie,” Chris pointed out. “And I thought you and Brenda were happy. You love the kids….”

“Yes, but being a husband and father is never enough for me. You know that. So… I built a randomiser, the sort of thing granddad used to have in his TARDIS, and set it to take me wherever it randomly selected.”

“So, not a lot different to a lot of the trips we took with Granddad in our younger days – with or without a Randomiser.”

“Yeah.” Davie laughed. “I still intended to be home for tea. But I wanted to get into a bit of an adventure for a while, first.”

“Granddad would say you’re a chip off the old block,” Chris told him. “Mum would, too, but she wouldn’t be smiling about it. I’m not sure I don’t agree with her right now. So… the randomiser took you to Crespallion?”

“No, to a space-ship that was leaving the Crespallion system on a pre-programmed course,” Davie answered. “Billion to one chance, the random co-ordinate in the system brought me to the forward deck of the SS Esperança.”

“Hope?” Chris commented, translating the word easily into his native English. “A starship called Hope?”

“That was the idea,” Davie explained. “Except… it was a false hope. The ship had been travelling for eight years already and…..”

His voice faltered. He reached for the orange juice but his hand missed the carton as if he couldn’t judge the distance. Chris reached for it and helped him to drink.

“I can’t see out of my right eye,” he managed to say. “My sight is de…det… failing….”

“Lie down, try to sleep,” Chris told him. “You can carry on your story later.”

“I should… tell you now. In case I can’t… continue. Somebody has to know what happened.”

“Rest,” Chris insisted. “Rest will help. You’ll feel better when you wake.”

He hoped he would. It was disturbing to know that the symptoms were getting worse. He was in the Zero room. The virus shouldn’t get worse within the null space. But then Adrenan virus had never been like any ordinary disease. Every known anti-viral agent had been tried, and hundreds of unknown ones, and people still died in terrible agony. It was the only disease that science had given up on.

Davie slept for an hour before opening his eyes again. He blinked several times and passed his hand across his face.

“The lights are on still?”


“Then my sight has gone altogether. I was afraid of that. Most of the people on board the ship were blind.”

His voice still sounded dry. Chris helped him drink more orange juice.

“I might be wrong,” he said. “Maybe this WILL kill me after all. That’s why I need to tell you everything. Because somebody has to know what a terrible thing was done to them, and because you… will need to tell everyone at home.”

“Don’t you dare say that,” Chris told him. “You’re going to make it. You have to make it. You still have a great future ahead of you, Davie. You’ve seen some of that future. It can’t end like this.”

“I’ve still got to tell you. This disease shreds short term memory. I have to remember them. They HAVE to be remembered. Otherwise… they all died for nothing.”

“Start again,” Chris said. “But this time, don’t say it out loud. I’m right beside you, even if I am wearing a Hazmat suit. Let me see it in my own mind.”

“The suit has lead in the fabric,” Davie pointed out. “I can’t reach you.”

That was true, of course. Even in the twenty-fourth century, four hundred years after the murderous properties of plutonium were discovered, lead was still the best substance to guard against it, not to mention any number of other dangerous chemicals and radioactive particles, and airborne or contact transmitted viruses.

“The inner glove is barium-cotton,” Chris said, pulling off one of the thick gauntlets. “It will guard against the virus as long as you don’t cough on me.”

“You shouldn’t take the risk,” Davie protested. “You mustn’t get sick, too.”

“Don’t talk,” Chris told him. “Just close your eyes and think.”

He put two fingertips on his brother’s forehead. That was all he needed to make a mental connection. Davie let his memory drift back to when this began – a few hours ago in Chris’s timescale and a few months in his. The random journey had brought him in contact with the ship called ‘Hope’. His curiosity had been immediately piqued because there were only one hundred and eight people aboard and this was a ship capable of transporting thousands of humanoids over long distances.

He was also curious because it was moving extremely slowly. There WERE engines running. It was not merely drifting, but the ordinary solar winds and various gravitational forces on the outer edge of a planetary system would have propelled it marginally faster. His TARDIS scanners showed nothing obviously wrong with the engines. They were simply running at snail’s pace.

Curiosity piqued even further he stepped out of the TARDIS, armed as usual with his sonic screwdriver and little else. His feet echoed on the metallic floor of the very Spartan deck built for function not comfort.

The corridor was beside the outer hull of the ship, but there were no windows, not even small portholes as they were still called in spaceships in memory of their ocean-going predecessors. There were no pictures on the walls, no information panels. It had the sterile look of a place where robotic cleaners operated. He tested the theory by dropping a sweet wrapper he found in his pocket. As soon as the paper touched the ground a small ‘bot’ raced out of a hatch and scooped up the offending litter. It ignored him.

He took out his sonic screwdriver and set it to basic lifesigns detector. The one hundred and eight people were almost directly below him but twenty floors down.

He found a turbo lift and checked it thoroughly before stepping inside, just in case litter bots were the only automatic things properly working on the ship. It seemed safe enough. He pressed the correct button and waited, noting the smooth movement of the turbo descent. Yes, the ship seemed fully functional so far. Life support was obviously working. There was heat, light and oxygen at the full levels to support carbon-based life forms. The first two mysteries remained to be solved, though.

The lift door opened and he stared into the pale blue eyes of a man with chalk-white-blue skin.

“Agghh!” the man exclaimed. “Who are you? How did you get here? You’re not one of us?”

“I’m Davie Campbell,” he answered. “I’m from Earth. I mean you no harm. Please don’t be frightened.”

“I’m not frightened for myself,” the man answered. “I’m frightened for you… for the harm that may come to you from being near us.”

“I don’t understand,” Davie said. He stepped out of the lift before the door closed. As he did, the man he had spoken to coughed and swayed dizzily. Davie reached out to help steady him, but the man shrank back from his offer of assistance.

“No, don’t touch me,” he begged. “Save yourself. If you don’t touch any of us you may still be safe.”

“Saved from what?” he asked. Davie looked around at the wide, featureless room. It looked as if it had once been a refectory. Now it had been turned into a refectory, dormitory and general living quarters. Many of the lifesigns he had detected were lying on beds wearing only very light cotton shifts and with no bedclothes under or on top of them. Others were at the tables eating food. Still others sat in a recreation area listening to music on headphones or reading books.

Their physical shape was that of Crespallions. The men were all over six foot tall and slender, with slightly elongated faces. The women were no more than five foot tall with rounded faces and waif-like figures.

But Crespallions all had deep blue skin. These people were almost pure white. They looked as if they had been painted in light pastel colours.

Then two of the women stood and he noticed the way they moved, feeling the furniture and walking carefully so as not to fall over anything as they moved from the table to the armchairs in the recreation area. They sat and picked up crochet work that they felt their way around.

They were blind.

Pale skin, dizziness and coughing, blindness.

The pieces fitted together in his mind far too slowly. Perhaps he had spent too much time with mechanical things and less with people. He really ought to have worked it out faster.

“You’re all victims of Adrenan’s Syndrome,” he said.

“Yes,” said the man who had greeted him. “I am… or I was… Moises Svatek. I suppose I am now just passenger-patient number 1457.”

“Nobody should be just a number,” Davie answered. “I will call you Moises. But… this is a hospital ship?”

“It is a plague ship. If you are not yet contaminated, you ought to leave right now,” Moises told him. “Otherwise, you are doomed as I am.”

Davie adjusted his sonic screwdriver and tested the environment.

“The air is sterilised,” he said. “Every exhalation is automatically scrubbed. There is no danger in me talking to you. May I sit down? I should like to hear your story. How did you get here? Why are there so few of you? Where are you going?”

Moises indicated a chair that hadn’t been used by any of the group. He sat. There were sealed bottles of water on the table. He took one and examined it. None of the contaminated people had touched it. He was safe to drink it. Doing so made him a part of the group, a friend, joining with them socially. The women at the table introduced themselves as Greanna, Breanna and Neanna. They were sisters. They had been nurses in a hospital on Crespallion IV where the first cases were brought for treatment before anyone discovered how very dangerous the disease was.

“I was a doctor,” Moises added. “I, too, caught the disease from my patients. My family caught it from me. The two women in the beds over there… they are my daughters, Nissha and Alissa. The young man sitting there is my son, Artan. He is blind, now, but the music he listens to on the headset comforts him. These other two are Baros and Eriss. They were soldiers who were drafted in to enforce the quarantine in our settlement. They are dying, now. We are all dying. Even I, a doctor, can do nothing about it. There is no cure, only drugs that relieve the symptoms for a while. Eventually, nothing helps. Eventually, we all die.”

“That is why there are so few of you?” Davie asked. “But how long have you been travelling, and where are you going?”

“We have been travelling for eight years,” Moises answered. “There is a record of our journey in the electronic library over there. We were four thousand when we set out, but many of us have died. We knew some of us wouldn’t make it, but the losses are greater than anyone expected. We can only hope that a few of us are left when the ship reaches Antre-X.”

“Antre-X?” Davie was puzzled. He had never heard of it, and he had studied as many star systems as his brother. Of course, Chris had much better recall of them than he did. Chris was a walking star map who could navigate his TARDIS by thought alone. Davie tended to use string co-ordinates and only worry about place names when he actually got there.

But Antre-X really didn’t ring even the faintest of bells. It certainly wasn’t anywhere in the Jagget Brocade – the oddly name constellation of eight stars that, along with five other constellations made up the Scarlet System.

“It’s in the Orion sector,” Moises explained.

“But that’s four hundred and fifty million light years from Crespallion,” Davie pointed out.

“Yes, that’s why it has taken so long. But we only have a few more months to go. Those of us with the strength left in us may yet see a new sky over our heads….”

“But…” Davie began to say something then stopped. A nasty suspicion had rose in his mind, but this wasn’t the right time to share it.

“Moises, it is time for the medication,” Baros said.

“Yes, it is,” he said. “Will you excuse me, Davie Campbell.”

“Can I help?” he asked.

“It is better that you do not,” Moises told him. “I cannot come to any further harm, but you must protect yourself. There is no way to administer the medication without touching the patients.”

“It is not in my nature to put my own safety first,” Davie answered. “I feel as if I am being selfish.”

“Let us protect you, then, by not putting you at risk.”

Moises and Baros went to a table where they began to prepare subcutaneous injectors with phials of medicine. Given the suspicion already in his mind he was extremely curious about the nature of that medicine. He very much wanted to analyse a phial. He would not have been at all surprised if they turned out to be placebos. Adrenan Syndrome didn’t kill in itself, it simply broke down the body little by little, destroying the optic nerves, eating at the liver and kidneys and other organs. One of the first symptoms was this loss of pigment in the skin. The Adrenan people were dark brown, similar to the African people of Earth, and the virus turned them all chalk white with pink eyes. The Crespallions had turned the palest of blue before all the more dangerous symptoms had begun to affect them.

On each of the planets where the disease spread, the governments had taken steps to quarantine the so very easily identified victims. Those steps had, by necessity, been extreme. On Adrenan whole townships had been isolated, with medicine and food supplies dropped by airships to those within the affected areas. At first families had protested about being separated from their loved ones, but as the victims clung to life for year after year, they forgot about them – at least until the virus spread to the cities and the whole planet had to be quarantined.

Then the whole planetary system.

The Adrenan people were now all but extinct. Those few who lived on other planets had to overcome prejudice and fear, despite being free of the disease.

It wasn’t the remnants of Adrenan society who brought the virus to the Saran planets. That much was certain, since Saran was populated by a reptilian species who strictly prevented non-reptilian visitors to their world. Their response to the outbreak was to round up the victims and shoot them before burning their bodies in furnaces. When that failed they firebombed the settlements where the disease was known to exist and shot any who tried to escape.

The Nedalans had also euthanised their infected, but with an atomisation chamber that dissembled their molecules and transmatted them into a black hole. They mostly went to their deaths willingly, knowing it was a relief from suffering. Some were reluctant. They went to their deaths crying and begging for mercy. The Nedalan authorities told them that it WAS merciful.

Other governments had been a little kinder, putting the victims on remote islands or uninhabited moons to live out their lives in peaceful isolation.

On the face of it, that was exactly what the Crespallions had done with their Walking Dead.

“Antre-X is a paradise,” Eriss told Davie. “It has properties in the air that will help us to live without pain. Our scientists even think it might cure us.”

“So that’s why you took the chance, knowing most of you would die on the way?”


Davie didn’t say anything. He was thinking about all of the things that didn’t make sense about this ship and its passengers.

“Where is the ship’s bridge?” he asked.

“It’s on deck thirty-five, but there’s nobody there. The ship was preset with its destination. There’s no crew or captain. None of us have ever been up there. There’s no life support in that section. No air or gravity. It isn’t needed, of course. It really isn’t needed on most of the decks, but we don’t have any access to the systems to turn it off. We used to have much larger living quarters, but now there are so few, and more and more bed-ridden, we stick to this one room where we have food and medicine on hand. We could manage without life support on all but this one deck, really.”

“Yes,” Davie said, just out of politeness. He couldn’t imagine spending eight years in a ship like this, completely closed in, and moving into a smaller and smaller part of it all the time. That and coping with a terminal illness would just about drive him up the wall. He wondered just how they had coped all this time.

Chris was wondering the same thing as he felt his brother’s memories.

“Hope, of course,” Davie whispered. He opened his eyes and tried to focus. “Chris, I think my sight is coming back, slowly. Maybe I’m over the worst.”

“You still look awful. Stay resting. What do you mean, hope?”

“They called the ship ‘hope’ and that’s what had kept them going. They dreamt of this world where they had a chance to live again. Their government had sold them on the idea that it might even be a cure.”

“There is no cure for Adrenan Syndrome.”

“I know. I think, deep down, they did, too. But their government had promised them, and they believed it. Well, why wouldn’t they? People believe their governments. We do….”

“Our grandfather is a Cabinet Minister. Most of our government have been to dinner at our house,” Chris pointed out. “Our view of such things is a bit different. But do you mean that the Crespallion government lied to them?”

“I mean exactly that,” Davie answered. He took another drink of orange juice and turned his head slightly, pressing closer against his brother’s arm. Chris held him gently, knowing that physical contact was uncomfortable.

“I looked at the record of the journey that was in their electronic library. It showed an eight year trip at sub-light speed that ought to have brought them within range of the Orion system. They ought to have been a few months away from their destination. But they were nowhere near it. Remember what I thought right at the start about how slow they were going.”

“I forgot about that bit. But it doesn’t make sense.”

“Nothing does, unless we accept that one really big lie was told to them eight years ago. But I needed to see the ship’s bridge to know EXACTLY how big a lie it was.”

“Which you did, of course?”

“Of course.”

The fact that there was no life support in that part of the ship would have kept the passengers from investigating even if they had been at all suspicious about their true journey. It was no problem for Davie. He went back to his TARDIS and relocated it to the Bridge before putting on an oxygen helmet and a pair of gravity boots. He stepped out of the TARDIS into the dark room where nobody was ever meant to need light to see by. He brought a portable lamp and set it by the navigation controls while he checked all of the data.

It didn’t take very long to find out that the lie was a really huge one. He got back into his TARDIS and brought it to the mess deck where Moises had finished giving everyone their daily dose of medicine.

“Hope,” he said to the doomed doctor and his small circle of friends, a few of the survivors of the journey so far. “A ship called Hope, and a whole lot of it carried within all your hearts. If I tell you what I know, that hope will be gone, and I am sorry about that. But false hope is no use to anyone, least of all you, so I think I have to tell you the truth, even if it is terrible.”

“What truth?” Moises asked. His son had come to sit next to him. His daughters were asleep. The blind women who had been nurses drew closer and listened to what Davie had to say.

“This ship is not going to the Orion sector,” he began. “It has barely left the Crespallion system. It is never going to make it that far. The pre-programmed course takes it out as far as Crespallion Ultima, the cold dwarf planet that marks the outer range of your sun’s gravitational pull. It is set to sling-shot around that planet and then fly back at vastly increased speed past your home world, and in a few months time, crash into the sun.”

“No,” Baros protested. “That can’t be right.”

“It is. I checked, twice.”

“I don’t understand. What about Antre-X?” asked Breanna. “If what you say is true….”

“Antre-X does not exist. The planet you were supposed to be going to, even if the course was true, is called the Eye of Orion. I know it well. I have visited it many times. It is beautiful. The air is good. But it has no special properties. There is no cure there.”


“Your government lied. They didn’t care what happened to you. They just wanted rid of you. They fully expected you to be dead by the time the ship turned around. They expected to destroy a cargo of diseased corpses. The only thing I don’t understand is why they let you hope for so long? Why not send you directly into the sun and kill you straight away.”

“That would have been against all precepts,” Eriss explained. “Crespallions do not kill.”

“No, they are crueller than that,” Davie said. “I’m sorry. I really am.”

“You have told us the truth,” Moises told him. “I thank you for that, at least.”

“I don’t think I’ve told you the half of it,” he answered. “I’m still not sure about your medicine. I think the sterile air has held off some of the symptoms all this time. That’s why the strongest among you have lasted so long. But….”

“We’re going to die,” Baros confirmed out loud. “We all accepted that long ago. This… just makes it certain. I only regret….”

“Not feeling the sun on my face one more time…” Breanna said. The other women agreed. “Even if there is no cure on Antre-X or… or… Eye of Orion… even if I lived only a day on that planet… I would be happy. I don’t think I want to die here on this ship, before ever seeing sunlight again.”

“But they robbed us of that,” Dreanna added with a catch in her voice. “The ones who lied to us, took even that from us.”

“Yes, they did,” Davie said. “But I can do that much for you. If you choose… as long as you understand that leaving the ship, being exposed to ordinary air, even the rarefied, good air of Orion, will probably accelerate your deaths… if that is what you choose… I can take you all there. I can get to the Eye of Orion in a few hours.”

“In YOUR ship?” Those who still had vision turned to look at the wardrobe sized cabinet with a fiery Ying-Yang symbol on each of its six sides. “There ARE still a hundred and eight of us,” Moises reminded him.

“It is bigger on the inside,” Davie explained. “Never mind that. Do you trust me? You have no reason to do so. I came here out of nowhere and told you that your own government lied to you, and now all I’m promising is a faster way to reach the place where you’ll die. I will understand if you tell me to go away.”

“We must all decide for ourselves,” Moises told him. “Please be patient with us. I must talk to all of the others.”

“Please, do that,” Davie said. “I will wait as long as you need.”

He waited two and a half hours. That was as long as it took for Moises to talk to everyone who was capable of listening to him and understanding the consequences of what was proposed.

“My daughters are all too sick to understand what is happening,” he said. “I will make the decision on their behalf, as I do for all the others who cannot answer for themselves. We choose, unanimously, to go with you, Davie Campbell, to the planet we were promised at the end of our journey. We will take the short journey to our deaths rather than the long one.”

That took a few more hours to organise. Davie turned his dojo into a temporary hospital for the bed-ridden. He organised a storeroom aboard his TARDIS for the medical supplies. While that was being done he took some of the medication and analysed it. He was surprised to find that it DID contain some active ingredients that would relieve some of the more painful symptoms. It was not a complete placebo. But it did nothing to hold back Adrenan Syndrome itself. Nothing did. Science had long ago given up on a cure for that.

Finally, they were ready. Those who were still relatively active came aboard last, once the less able had been made comfortable. Davie closed the door and did one last scan in case any soul had been left aboard, then he dematerialised the TARDIS. The Starship Hope continued its hopeless journey as an empty vessel.

A few hours later, the TARDIS arrived on the Eye of Orion. Davie chose a meadow next to a river with fruit trees growing nearby. Those few of his passengers who could still see were delighted by the view when they stepped out of the TARDIS and onto real ground for the first time in so very long. The blind ones appreciated fully grass beneath their feet and the sun on their faces, the sound of the river passing over a natural weir not far away.

Those closer to death enjoyed the sunshine and the clean air of Orion, that calming atmosphere of a world where nothing had ever happened. Orion was a planet without history, without a population. There had never been wars or strife, disease or famine here. Nobody had ever suffered here.

Davie’s passengers suffered. There was precious little he could do to stop that, apart from distil those phials of medicine to make stronger doses of the pain-killers. They began to notice almost immediately that their symptoms were increasing. It was only a few days after they arrived that the first few of them died.

Moises’ daughters were among the first. He accepted it, as did they. It was what they had chosen. The dead were cremated, adding a less pleasant scent to the air for a while. It was gone by the morning after, but not their memory. Davie carefully marked their names and the day and time of their deaths. He did so for every soul he built a funeral pyre for.

Moises was the last. He lived for another three months, finally succumbing to the terrible breakdown of his body a little after dawn with the new sun on his face and his hands clutching a clump of dew-laden grass.

During the short Eye of Orion night when Davie had sat beside him and given what comfort he could, he had reminded his friend of something.

“You were safe on the ship, as long as you didn’t touch any of us. But the air here, it is good, but it isn’t sterile and you have touched all of us. You have made beds for those who could no longer stand. You have fed those who could not eat. You have comforted the dying. You have carried our bodies to the pyres. Davie Campbell, you have put your own life at risk.”

“Yes,” he answered. “I am infected. I’ve known for a while. I don’t think it is going to kill me. I’m not the same as you. I think my body can fight back. It’s not fair. I ought to have been able to find a way to give all of you the same chance – some kind of serum from my alien blood. I suspect that it has already been tried in some laboratory or other. Even a Time Lord can’t fight this. But I can fight the injustice. I am going to make sure the whole galaxy knows what was done to you – the lie that was told.”

“I’ve thought about that. I don’t blame them for what they did. They were scared. They knew we had to be dealt with. They chose a way that looked like kindness.”

“It looked like it, but it wasn’t, and I mean to make sure none of you are forgotten. At the least, I will never forget any of you.”

“I’m glad of that,” Moises told him.

He built the last funeral pyre and watched it burn, then when the ashes had gone cold he turned and went back into his TARDIS. He took himself to the medical room and ran every test he could. Yes, his Time Lord DNA would save him, though it was not going to be easy. He was going to suffer everything they had suffered before his cells regenerated and the virus burnt itself out.

“So I’ve been here since,” he told his brother. “Getting sicker and sicker until I could barely look after myself. I’ve been through everything they go through over as much as ten years, but in a few days. My DNA accelerated it all. It… has given me a unique understanding of all they suffered.”

“Except that they had each other. They shared their suffering. You tried to go it alone, you daft boy. Why didn’t you contact me sooner?”

“I thought I could make it. But I was wrong about that. I felt so alone.”

“Well, I’m here now. Rest again. I think you are over the worst. You’re getting better. But we’re not going anywhere until you’re completely well.”

Now it was Chris’s turn to wait and watch as Davie had done for the last survivors of the SS Hope. He made sure he had food and drink and as much sleep as he needed. The Hazmat suit was still a barrier between them. He didn’t dare take it off. But Davie rested in his brother’s arms.

It took another week before he was free of the disease and all of its symptoms. The colour came back to his flesh, to his hair, to his eyes. He could see clearly again. He could walk unaided. He could stand the touch of clothes on his body.

“You’ll need to pop into a hairdressers before you go home,” Chris told him when he slipped his leather jacket on again and looked almost himself. “It’s longer than it was when you left home, and the streaks have gone.”

“Yeah, I think I’d better do that,” Davie agreed. “After that, nothing is going to keep me away from my wife’s cooking. But tomorrow…. I’m going to the Shaddow Proclamation to make a deposition. That will be enough to start an investigation into the Crespallion Government. The truth will be known. They won’t be forgotten, even after the grass has grown back over the places where the funeral pyres burnt on the Eye of Orion.”