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

Davie finished programming their journey to Tibora while Brenda settled the twins for their afternoon nap in the cabin bed he had installed in the corner of the Chinese TARDIS’s console room.

“You don’t look like the mother of two year old boys,” he told her, gathering her in his arms and kissing her fondly. “You’re too gorgeous for that.”

“And you need to get some new lines,” she replied. “The Doctor says that to Rose all the time. But that’s all right. It wasn’t really your original chat up lines I fell for in the first place.”

“What was it, then?” Davie asked. “The fact that I took on a volcano single-handed?”

“You didn’t. Your brother and The Doctor were there, too. What I loved about you… was that you noticed me. You… a Lord of Time… smiled when you saw me. You still smile at me.”

“I smile because I am so lucky to have you,” he told her. “And that isn’t a borrowed line. That’s all me. I love you, Brenda.”

He snapped his fingers and music began to play – a soft, romantic song, the sort that Brenda liked rather than the rock music he preferred. He caught her in his arms and danced the tango with her around the central console.

“You show off,” she teased him. “You really think you’re something – just because you can snap your fingers and make music play.”

“Yes,” he answered with a wide grin. “Don’t you think so? I thought we established that, just now.”

“Yes, we did,” Brenda conceded. Then she laughed as he whirled her around in his arms and then pressed her into a deep tango dip across the console.

“Oh @#&%!” he exclaimed as the TARDIS lurched suddenly and they both fell across the navigation panel. Brenda yelped as a lever pressed into her shoulder and slid down the small of her back. The TARDIS dropped vertically and then span around. The gravity cushions automatically came into effect around the bed and the twins laughed as if they were on a roundabout. Davie grasped Brenda and clung to a handhold on the console until the time rotor came to a halt indicating an emergency materialisation.

“Ok, that WAS my fault,” Davie admitted. “Mental note - no tango in the console room in future.”

“Where are we?” Brenda asked. She went to the boys and was relieved to see that they had suffered no ill effects from the crash landing. The chances of them getting back off to sleep were slim, though. She gave them orange juice and sat on the bed with them. “And how long before we get back on route for Tibora?”

Davie was reading a rapidly scrolling screen full of data about what had happened. He kept his expression carefully neutral until he knew how serious the situation was.

“This is… awkward,” he said when Brenda repeated her question with a far more anxious tone. “The Helmic Regulator is offline and so is the Time Vector Generator, and the Spatial Phase Oscillator is giving out insane readings.”

“I don’t even know what any of those things are,” Brenda pointed out. “What does it mean?”

“It takes about thirty hours for the Generator to reboot,” Davie explained. “A bit less for the Helmic Regulator. But the problem is the Spatial Phase Oscilator. It’s basically our space-time GPS. It tells us where we are in the universe in relation to where we want to be… and right now it thinks we’re not in the universe at all.”

“Well, we must be, surely?” Brenda queried. “That doesn’t make sense. How could we not be in the universe? The universe is… the universe.”

“There’s the E-Space universe,” Davie explained. “But we’re not there. The co-ordinate would be negative. It’s either a bubble universe outside of the normal one, or a pocket universe….”

“Which is….”

“It’s a sort of… universe within our universe… but separate from it… like… I don’t know… like….”

“Narnia?” Brenda was puzzled. “Where did that idea come from… the word just….”

She turned and looked at her sons. They smiled back at her.

“The kids got it right,” Davie told her. “Like Narnia. We slipped through the Wardrobe, sweetheart. When the TARDIS is fully functioning again I’ll do the calculations and get us back out again.”

“So we wait here for thirty hours? That’s not so bad.”

“Out?” Sebastian asked. His brother repeated the suggestion then both chorused the word over and over.

“No,” Brenda told them. “We can’t go out. We don’t know what’s out there.”

“It’s summer out there,” Davie said. “Clean air, just like the Kent countryside. Go and put a sundress on, sweetheart, and we’ll take the boys for a walk. It’ll pass a bit of the time.”

Brenda demurred. It may look like Kent, but it wasn’t.

“Out, out, out,” Sebastian and Mark insisted, waving their hands in the air insistently.

“I think that’s decisive,” Davie agreed. “Go on, find that nice hat of yours. I’ll get the boys ready.”

Brenda gave in to the majority and went to get changed. She had left a grey, rainy London in January to go to Tibora in crisp, snowy winter. Either way she wasn’t dressed for winter. Davie just took the sweaters off the boys and left them in the t-shirts underneath. He swapped a sweatshirt for a light cotton shirt of his own and slipped his leather jacket over it just out of habit. By the time Brenda got back to the console room wearing a green and white polka dotted sundress and wide-brimmed straw hat with light sandals on her feet the twins were in their pushchair and again demanding to go ‘out’.

“All right, we’re going,” Davie told them. He opened both side of the TARDIS doors to allow room for the twin pushchair. They stepped out as a family from the artificial light of the console room into the warm sunshine of the open air.

“It does look lovely,” Brenda admitted. There was a turquoise sky with a small green-yellow sun and pale fern green and white-green clouds, unusual shades but pleasant enough to look at.

“Everything is green,” Davie commented, noting the mulberry green trees in the distance and the emerald coloured flowers on apple green stalks that grew amongst the grass – grass green grass, of course. “We look green, did you notice? Your dress IS green and white anyway but your skin is a healthy pale green-white and your hair is dark green.”

The boys had discovered their own colour change and found it thoroughly amusing. They held out their arms and pinched each other’s green faces, laughing hysterically.

Davie noted that black leather still looked black and turned his attention to the sky. “It’s because of light wavelengths and some sort of filter in the troposphere. It’s not dangerous. If anything, this wonderfully monochromatic planet is safer than anywhere else. There are NO dangerous UV rays coming through the atmosphere.”

“I like it,” Brenda said. “A safe, harmless sort of place – for once.”

“Well, I hope so,” Davie commented. “A lot of places look idyllic at first observation and turn out to have nasty surprises. But let’s try to be optimistic about this one.”

Brenda nodded and started to sing. Davie wondered where a girl born and raised on Tibora apart from her years as a schoolgirl in the English Lake District learnt an old Irish music hall ditty called ‘Forty Shades of Green’, but it seemed appropriate and the boys liked it. Davie made an educational game out of identifying the common names and the spectral wavelength and light frequency of the shades of the grass, flowers, sky, trees, even the tea green river that they came to after a little while.

“Is green water safe to drink?” Brenda wondered.

“Not on Earth or Tibora,” Davie answered. “It would be tainted with blue-green algae or something worse. But here I expect it is normal. He leaned down and scooped some of the water into his hand, then put a little of it on his tongue. He analysed it carefully. “Absolutely pure. Slightly higher limestone content than London water, but that isn’t a problem unless you want really soft bubbles in your bath. Do you need to drink the water? I did bring juice packs for refreshments.”

“I was wondering about the local population… if there is one,” Brenda answered him. “Did you check for sentient life?”

“I looked at biological signs. There are carbon based animal lifeforms here. But I don’t know if they are sentient since I don’t know what this planet is and neither does the TARDIS. It has nothing to cross-reference with the database.”

“So it could be dangerous?”

“It could go either way.”

They walked on along the river bank. It was in its meandering middle phase and the gentle lapping of the water and the warm sun, the pleasant meadow with the subtle scents of flowers were lulling to the senses. Davie was inclined to be cautious. Tranquil landscapes had literally turned against him in the past, and he had the boys and Brenda to protect, but even he started to feel that they were all right here.

“There’s a bridge ahead,” Brenda said after a while. “Look.”

“Yes, it is,” Davie noted. “That means there HAS been sentient life here. No animal species in the known universe builds bridges.”

Of course, they weren’t in the KNOWN universe according to the TARDIS database, but he felt that rule was probably not about to be broken on this world. The closer he drew to the bridge that had been constructed from finely shaped and smoothed wood with a single graceful span and a lattice work of spars holding it up, he was sure a sentient and peaceful race had built it.

“It’s just a footbridge,” he pointed out. “A marauding army would have built something more substantial.”

Brenda thought that was a reasonable supposition. There wasn’t width enough on the footbridge for the twin pushchair. Davie let the boys walk on their own and folded it to carry across. Brenda noticed that the parapet either side was very low - just about right for the boys to hold onto as they crossed the bridge, enjoying the sight of the river flowing under their feet when they peered between the slats.

“Typical, they don’t cater for twins here,” she joked, thinking of some of the awkward doors in London shopping centres.

Davie laughed at her joke and watched the boys toddling ahead of them on sturdy two year old legs. They were chatting out loud and telepathically between themselves and enjoying the freedom of this placid, safe place, but their father kept an eye on them all the same, just in case things got dangerous all of a sudden.

He sighed deeply.

“What’s wrong?”

“I wish I didn’t know about so many dangerous things,” Davie admitted to his wife. “This place DOES look peaceful, but I’ve become so suspicious of anything and everything, especially now I have you and the boys. Being ready to fight dragons at any moment makes it hard to appreciate a peaceful afternoon.”

Brenda didn’t have any answer to that. She liked having a husband who was ready and able to protect her and her children from harm. It was one of the qualities she had seen in him from the start of their relationship. But that didn’t mean he had to worry about them all the time.

She slipped her hand in his and held it reassuringly. He turned and smiled at her and let himself relax a little, even if he was ready to stop relaxing any moment and become the heroic protector again.

The meadow on this side of the river gave way to a copse of trees that they walked easily through, following paths that might have been made by either animals or by the same people who built the bridge.

Beyond the copse was a green hill that rose up from the flat meadowland around it. it was a perfect conical shape, covered in short grass that might have been mown if such a thing as a lawnmower existed here. The small pale green things dotted around the hill – something like a sheep crossed with a rabbit – probably accounted for the short grass.

Davie looked at the shape of the hill carefully and decided that it couldn’t possibly be natural. It looked more like a barrow or burial chamber like Sutton Hoo or something like Newgrange in Ireland.

“What’s that on top of it?” he asked out loud. “Something glinted in the sunlight – like glass.”

“I didn’t see it,” Brenda answered. “What do you think it might be?”

“I don’t know. But I might go and have a look. Do you want to come?”

“All the way up there, in this heat, no thanks,” Brenda decided. “I’ll walk AROUND and see you on the other side.” She took the pushchair from him and opened it up again. The boys would be tired enough to climb back in soon, then she could walk at her own pace. There were flowers and birdsong, the hum of insects in the air, and Davie would be in plain sight climbing the hill. She would be safe.

Davie moved swiftly up the steep slope. His Gallifreyan lungs supplied oxygen to his bloodstream and fed his muscles as he brought them into use for a more energetic activity than leisurely walking in a meadow. The pale green, woolly creatures scattered nervously ahead of him, but he bore them no ill intent. He just wanted to find out what the shining thing was on top of the hill, and if it was put there deliberately, how technological was it? How advanced were the people of this place?

He reached the crown of the hill and made several judgements at once. First, the thing that he had spotted very definitely was put there deliberately. It was a huge funnel made of bottle green glass with some kind of reflective backing. He examined the glass close up and noted that it had some imperfections and rough spots and a not quite perfectly round shape. It was hand blown glass, not the sort of industrial mass production that made the micro-solar panels he had invented.

He thought of his own invention because he at once realised this was something in the same line of thinking. It wasn’t exactly solar electricity, but it was a method of collecting light and ‘funnelling’ it down into the mound, which he was beginning to suspect was hollow inside. If supplementary mirrors were installed inside, to reflect and augment the light, it could be as bright as noonday inside.

He turned away from the non-industrial but very ingenious device and looked down the hill to where he expected to spot his family. He wasn’t worried at first that he couldn’t. Perhaps Brenda had lingered to pick flowers or the boys run faster than he expected. He would find them somewhere on the other side of the hill.

He set off down to meet up with them with news of his discovery, knowing that Brenda would not be especially impressed by a funnel of glass no matter what its purpose.

Brenda was enjoying the walk. So were the boys, who hadn’t yet given up walking and sought the comfort of the pushchair. She was glad it was a hover conversion that she only had to gently push along in the direction she was going. It moved on a gravity cushion an inch or so above the grassy surface. An ordinary pushchair with wheels would be a real nuisance.

The boys were carrying on the colour game, identifying mantis green and feldgrau insects among the grass and a flower a little like a tulip that had petals of the colour celadon. It looked pale green to her, and she left it at that. The boys obviously knew far more than forty shades of green.

Suddenly they got very excited and rushed around the hill. Brenda lost sight of them and let go of the pushchair as she raced after them.

Davie reached the bottom of the hill and found the pushchair hovering along with the brake off, empty and guideless. He reached out and stopped it as he turned around looking for his wife and children.

Instead he saw a man. He was wearing work-a-day dungarees in a myrtle green shade that was darker than his laurel green face and hair and beard that was, in Davie’s colour chart, at least, British Racing Green.

He pushed the word ‘dwarf’ out of his head. On Earth, where the word came from, it was often used pejoratively and even when it wasn’t, it either described a person with a medical condition that caused them to be short of stature or a mythological being with a bad temper and an obsession with mining.

But the clearly adult man was barely a foot taller than Sebastian and Mark. Davie, at his six-foot-one height towered over him conspicuously.

“Please don’t be frightened,” Davie said to him. “I am David Campbell of Earth. Davie to my friends. I am looking for wife and our two boys. Have you seen them?”

“The lady fell and hurt her foot,” the small man answered him. “She was taken to see our physician. The children are with her, be assured, friend Davie.”

“Oh….” Davie was at once relieved and worried. His family appeared to be safe and in kind company, but Brenda was hurt.

“I am Hika’Nhui’Ca’Bava of Kumelape,” the man added. “Hika in friendship. And you are welcome. Come I will take you to your family.”

“Kumelape?” Davie queried. “Is that the name of this planet?”

“It is the name of our place,” Hika responded. “Come, friend, be welcome.”

He pointed back at the hill. When he turned Davie noticed a wooden door – painted moss green - set into it. There was no need to knock. It opened from within as Hika beckoned him forward.

Davie had to bend low to get in through the door, but once inside he could stand upright in a cavern hollowed out inside the hill – or possibly the hill was an upturned bowl shaped building that turf had been laid over to make it blend in with the landscape.

He noted with satisfaction that his guess about the funnel was correct. Rounded mirrors of green glass and a silvery backing were placed all around the inside to distribute the captured daylight.

And within that light the Kumelapens lived and worked. There were hundreds of them about their ordinary, daily lives. In one area children still much smaller than Sebastian and Mark, but obviously old enough to sit up at desks were learning their lessons from a teacher who was only about three and a half foot tall herself. Elsewhere, small women in apple green aprons over dirndl style dresses were cooking. There were hoods over their cooking ranges that took the smoke and heat away. Davie wondered where it emerged, since he hadn’t seen any chimneys. The same went for the much hotter furnace on the other side of the room where a blacksmith was making dark-green pots and other ironmongery. Other men and women were doing the sort of chores any non-fiscal community did. There was spinning and weaving to be done, pots to be thrown, paper to be made for the books the school children were reading from, even wooden toys to be carved to amuse the little ones in the crèche area.

Davie noticed his own sons in that very crèche where a woman in a mint green dress was caring for a dozen youngsters. Sebastian and Mark were helping the much smaller indigenous children build a castle from a pile of building bricks of different shades of green. They were able to build the last levels of the walls without stretching and top the structure off with a tower.

Brenda was sitting on a large green cushion in an area that was obviously meant for convalescence. There was a separate room built into the wall with a curtain across it for people who needed more private medical attention. Her foot was bandaged and resting on one of the chairs that she was too big to fit. Davie went to her side.

“Thank you,” he said to the woman who brought another cushion for him to sit on. “For all of the kindness to us.” Then he turned to Brenda who confirmed that she had tripped on a tree root or something of that sort and had turned her ankle.

“Granddad would laugh and say you were carrying on a family tradition,” Davie told her. “It used to be mum that sprained something on almost every planet they ever visited.

“I know,” she admitted with a wan smile. Her ankle was obviously more than just ‘turned’. He put his hands on the swollen part and felt how hot it was. He closed his eyes and radiated cool healing thoughts. She gasped with relief and whispered a thank you to him.

“You’re fantastic,” she told him. “And speaking of fantastic, just look at this place. Isn’t it amazing? I asked Rila about it – that’s the lady who bathed my ankle and put some green ointment on it. She said she was born and raised here. They go outside, too, of course. They rear those fluffy creatures for wool, milk and meat and they have grain fields and ore mines, but this is home to them. It’s so light and airy. They do something that brings fresh, cool air down here as well as the light. They’re really clever.”

“So I see,” Davie noted. “I’d like to see their air conditioning system if we have time.”

“I want to see everything,” Brenda said. “I think this place is lovely. Why do you think they live like this, in one big ‘hive’?”

“Whatever the reason, they’ve ALWAYS done it,” Davie told her. “It isn’t because of some recent danger. This place has obviously been here for generations. They’ve added to it and extended as far as they can. Look at all the little cells around the walls with the curtains across. Those are private living quarters. When they first built this, I expect they all slept together in the main room.”

“It could be defensive, though, couldn’t it?” Brenda suggested.

“I think not,” Davie again surmised. “The funnel at the top would be an obvious sign that they are here, and probably a weak point if there was an enemy with any sort of strength. Plus their livestock graze outdoors. I am guessing these people have no enemies apart from rain, wind and snow in the proper seasons.”

“Then it really is idyllic, isn’t it?”

“Absolutely idyllic. The only thing is, ground-dwellers probably don’t pay much attention to the stars. I could have used a bit of local astronomy to put into the TARDIS databanks later.”

“Is that a problem?” Brenda asked. “We CAN get home, can’t we?”

“Oh, yes. But that would have been a bit of a shortcut, that’s all. I’ll have to do the sums the hard way.”

“As long as you’re sure we can go home when we’re ready, I don’t mind staying here for as long as you like,” Brenda told her husband. “I know you’re fascinated by their homespun technology. You’ll be wanting to patent their light system.”

“No, but I could improve on it,” Davie said. “Look over there. Lanterns and wax candles. When the sun goes down it gets dark in here. There ought to be a way of using the heat from the sun to create solar energy for storage, so they can have lights at night.”

Brenda laughed softly.

“Darling, they probably don’t NEED lights at night. They’re simple people with simple lives. When the sun goes down they eat and talk and maybe sing a bit and then go to bed – just like the SangC'lune people or Carya’s tribe on her world. They don’t need electric light. Next you’ll be saying they should have cable TV.”

“I wouldn’t go that far. But something simple that gives them more options….”

Brenda laughed again.

“Design something like that for the House of Commons. Christopher reckons it’s just about the most un-environmentally friendly building in the British Isles. He said the Welsh parliament built in the twenty-first century puts them to shame.”

“I could do that,” Davie admitted, and his mind started turning over the design for that building a few miles along the Thames from his home. He went quiet for a while, thinking about thermodynamics until Hika returned to his side and asked if he would like to meet the elders of the tribe.

“I should be glad to,” Davie answered. He ought to have done that first, by rights. He was their first visitor from Earth, after all, and there was a diplomatic protocol to observe.

The elders were gathered around a table that was far too low for Davie to get his legs under even if there was a chair he could fit in. He sat cross-legged on a cushion and introduced himself formally. The elders were very surprised to learn that he came from outside of their planet, but believed that fact perfectly well.

“We shall call you Katik’e’ya’en - son of the stars.”

“I am honoured,” Davie responded with a respectful bow of his head. Then with the formalities over they offered him a goblet of ale and invited him to join them in a game something like mah-jong that he learnt to play after a few rounds, carefully managing not to win too often and cause offence. As they played, the Elders asked him about his world and about the ship he travelled in. He described both carefully, trying not to seem too technical about the TARDIS or too glowing in his detail of the advanced society he came from. The size of planet Earth and its population, even though it was significantly reduced by the cruelty of the Dominator invasion, fascinated and astonished them.

“The censor travels the whole of our world in a moon cycle,” explained Hirok, the eldest of the Elders, a man whose beard was white-green with age. “His count tells of fifty-four habitats like this one with two hundred or less living within.”

That was a little more than ten thousand inhabitants of the planet, Davie noted. That was a very small population – absolutely no pun intended. He thought of London, or of New York, where he was a year ago, with its millions all living on top of each other in skyscrapers and tenement blocks. The very idea was astonishing to the Kumelapens. When he described the galaxy of lights that New York became at night their minds could hardly encompass it.

Of course, he thought, Hirok didn’t say ‘planet’ he said ‘world’. Perhaps their ‘world’ was defined by how far that censor had managed to travel. It was possible there were more people here but they had never been counted.

And, of course, these habitats were restricted by the number of people the land around them could feed. Population explosions of the sort that had happened on Earth in the post-industrial age only happened when people were able to produce more food than they ate and could sell to people who didn’t make food for themselves.

There were probably times when crops weren’t as abundant as they hoped or the winter was longer than expected, when hunger might be a problem, but it looked as if they were doing fine just now. Everyone was healthy looking and happy. Life was good for the Kumelapens.

When the sun set and the light faded, Davie was proved partially right about the need for artificial light. He discovered that the lamps and candles were for the bed-chambers and the scribe’s corner where the events of the day, especially the arrival of unusually large visitors, were recorded. The evening meal was served under starlight. The funnel captured the pinprick of light from one very bright star in the Brunswick green night sky and augmented it so that a silvery brightness filled the huge room. Brenda and Davie and their boys sat on cushions at a huge table and were served barley bread and roast meat, vegetables and slices of fragrant fruit pie for desert. There was something like bitter, unsweetened cocoa for the grown-ups to drink and milk for the children as the people relaxed after the meal with music and storytelling.

Davie was called upon to tell a story eventually. He thought carefully and then told, from memory, a part of the book ‘Watership Down’, carefully adjusting the tale so that it seemed to be about people rather than rabbits. It seemed appropriate. The Kumelapens understood the idea of a ‘warren’ where communal living happened much better than Brenda’s description of the apartment where her small family lived. They even seemed to understand the rivalry between warrens that was central to the story. In the past, though not for many generations, such things had occurred in their society.

“That’s what they’re like, really,” Brenda said when she and Davie settled to sleep in one of those curtained cells around the main hall. “Like rabbits in a warren. I wouldn’t say that to them, but they really are.”

“Yes,” Davie agreed. “Humans, and Tiborans, and Gallifreyans, for that matter, don’t really have the same sense of communal living. We value our own front doors with keys and the concept of private property.”

“This life has a lot to be said for it.”

“Yes. But I’m not sure I could live here. I’d get bored. Life here is too slow for me. I need my regular fix of internal combustion engines – the faster the better.” He laughed softly. “The elders gave me a name in their own language. Katik’e’ya’en. It means son of the stars.”

“Seems appropriate for a traveller in time and space.”

“Very appropriate for this particular traveller in time and space,” Davie agreed. “The nearest Earth equivalent is the Indian name Karthikeyan which means foster son of Kartika, the Star of Fire. It’s also the surname of a racing driver from the same generation as the ones I named the boys after – in the golden age of racing before the oil ran out, when Sebastian’s namesake was one of the greatest champions of them all.”

“It took me a long time to work out that you DIDN’T name Mark after my father,” Brenda pointed out. “I didn’t understand why everyone at your racetracks would smile knowingly whenever I mentioned the boys’ names.”

“They’re good names.”

“Perfectly good names,” Brenda agreed. “But just to warn you in advance, we are NOT calling any future sons we might have Karthikeyan.”

“I thought we’d probably have a couple of daughters, first,” Davie said. “By Tiboran tradition the naming of girls is your right.”

Brenda was pleased that he remembered that tradition, but it didn’t escape her notice that he didn’t actually make any promises about future boy’s names.

That was a discussion for another time. Just now she was comfortable in a bed made by putting two standard size Kumelapen bedsteads together with two feather mattresses over them, then piling woollen blankets and lots of pillows on top. Her foot was still swollen but Davie had blocked the pain and she knew it would be much better by tomorrow when he would want to set off back to the TARDIS. She snuggled beside him contentedly and settled down to sleep.

Davie slept well, too, but he woke early as he always did. There were far too many ideas in his head to sleep away the day. He slipped out of the bed and checked that the boys were still safely asleep before dressing and making his way through the quiet hall. It was just dawn and a very faint light was captured by the funnel, allowing him to see his way.

Outside, a myrtle green sky was lightening to turquoise. He stood and watched it for a while, aware that he was one of the few men who had the leisure to watch the sky. Those who tended the crops or herded the sheep-rabbits were already busy. That was the way, of course, with communities of this sort. Chris always commented that he and his acolytes always seemed lazy compared to the people of SangC'lune even when they were busy all day building the new Sanctuary.

Something about the sky drew his attention. It was something that was probably only obvious at this time between full day and full night, when there was a near translucency to the colour.

It was something that explained a lot. Indeed, it explained just about everything.

“Hello, friend,” a voice called out. He turned to see Hika coming down the hill with two full pails of sheep-rabbit milk hanging from a shoulder yoke.

“It will be breakfast, soon,” he told him. “We always work an hour before we eat. You will join us?”

“I hardly deserve it,” Davie answered. “I have done nothing to earn my keep.”

“You are our guest,” Hika assured him. “No labour is needed of you. Come, let us take a morning drink together.”

The morning drink was a herbal tea sweetened with honey. The men who had been working drank it together outside in the warm morning sunshine while the women made the breakfast inside. Some of them smoked something fragrant in clay pipes. Hika explained that it was a habit that the women disliked inside, but was tolerated in the open air.

“That is so in my world, too,” Davie said. “But I’ve never smoked, myself.” He wasn’t entirely sure what the material in the pipe bowls was. It didn’t smell like ordinary tobacco. He didn’t think it was anything that would be classed as illegal under British law, either, but he definitely wasn’t going to inquire any further. Let them enjoy their indulgence.

Besides, if his theory was right, there was no chance that they were going to be visited by the drug police.

The door opened and Sebastian and Mark toddled out to join their father in the all male group. Brenda was helping with the breakfast.

“Mummy says we’re going home today,” Sebastian said. “I like it here. Can we stay? We want to play with the little children.”

“We’re supposed to be going to Tibora to see your grandma and granddad there,” Davie reminded them. “They’ll worry if we don’t arrive. But I think we can visit again. I’m pretty sure we can.”

That pleased the boys. They were quite content to talk about their impending winter holiday by the crystal lake until it was time to eat breakfast.

Afterwards there was an emotional farewell from the friends the boys had made during their visit. Hika and some of the adults took time out of their working day to walk with them as far as the bridge before saying goodbye.

A morning walk brought them back to the TARDIS. Brenda made a light lunch while Davie worked on the co-ordinates he needed to get them back into the ordinary universe.

“You know how to get us home?” she asked as she handed her husband a sandwich and salad on a plate that he put on top of the time rotor while he finished his calculations.

“I do now. Just watch.”

He pressed the drive ignition and grabbed the sandwich plate just in time before the TARDIS sprang into action and the time rotor moved up and down rapidly.

It was a smoother ride, this time. He was able to eat his lunch while watching the transition from the pocket universe to normal space. He had a chance to see what was happening and to make notes of some of the data that was produced during the journey. It would make a return trip perfectly simple.

And he definitely intended to make a return trip.

“There we are,” he said after he had swallowed the last of his lunch. “We’re back in normal space and on course for Tibora. Meanwhile, come with me. Bring the kids. I want to show you something.”

Brenda and the boys followed Davie through the TARDIS corridors. They were all surprised when he stopped at the nursery door. He stepped inside and went to the table that lay between the two beds. There was alarm clock and an assortment of toys there. Above the table was a hanging mobile with half a dozen crystal globes that shone with soft inner lights as it slowly revolved. Davie carefully unhooked one of the globes and held it in his hand for a moment, looking into the glass carefully. Then he gave it to Brenda and told her to look. She looked closely, then closer again.

“I don’t believe it,” she said. “It can’t be.”

“Yes, it can. Remember I said it was a pocket universe. It literally was. Spenser bought it ages ago at a car boot sale in 1990s Northumbria. He gave it to me when the boys were born to put on the mobile over their crib. It was actually IN his pocket when he was driving at Silverstone – he thought it might be a good luck charm.”

“How did something so precious get into a car boot sale?” Brenda wondered.

“Heaven alone knows. But it did.” He took the crystal and showed it to the boys. At first it wasn’t clear, then they shouted with excitement as they saw the world within it – a world with its own sun and stars that really did revolve around it unlike in the universe they knew. They looked closer still, past the green tinted clouds to the unspoilt land mass and the habitat by the river where their friends lived and worked.

“So, there you are,” Davie said as he hung the crystal on the mobile again. “Kumelape is right here with you. We’ll hang the mobile up in your bedroom on Tibora when we get there, and at home in London, so that you can look at it any time you like, and we’ll have a trip there again very soon – a longer one next time.”

“We get to look after them?” Mark asked. “All of them?”

“Yes, you do,” Davie said. “You’re the Lords of Kumelape. You care for them the way I care for all the other planets in the galaxy.”

The boys smiled in delight. Sebastian reached and touched the globe gently. Mark did, too. Then they withdrew their hands carefully.

“We’ll look after them,” they promised very solemnly and as sincerely as two year olds possibly could manage, and said they would be happy to stay in their room until they reached Tibora. When Davie and Brenda left them they were lying on their beds with the light off and the mobile illuminated, watching the green tinted globe revolve slowly.

“So moving the globe or shaking it doesn’t affect the gravity on the planet or make earthquakes or anything?” Brenda asked. It was just one of the questions she needed to ask. Many more of them crowded into her mind.

“No,” Davie explained. “A pocket universe isn’t affected by anything in our universe. It defies physics in so many ways that it’s better not to think about it. Don’t even get started about how it was hanging in the children’s bedroom in the TARDIS and yet we were able to materialise the TARDIS on the planet. It’ll drive you nuts. Just believe that it happened and treasure the memory.”

“I will,” Brenda promised. “I liked it there, too. Don’t wait too long to visit again. But home to Tibora next and no more diversions.”