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

Davie Campbell was in his mid-twenties. Exactly how old depended on whether he counted the days linearly since he was born on planet Earth in the late twenty-second century, or if he included the extra days, weeks or sometimes months that he spent away from Earth in his TARDIS, returning to his home having only been away between lunch and dinner.

However old he was, he was not, he thought, old enough to feel nostalgic.

Even so, a memory swept over him of the science club at his secondary school, when he and his twin brother, who spent more time living one day after the other, and was therefore now several years younger than he was, used to join a group of other pale, skinny, not especially popular boys and a couple of girls, to look at the stars through portable telescopes.

One of the most exciting sights in the night sky from up on Primrose Hill, above the light pollution of London, was the twin star of Almach in the Andromeda constellation.

In fact, Almach was only a twin star – one big, bright, orange one and a small, cold, blue one, through those ordinary telescopes set up on a clear night. In reality, as the bigger radio telescopes confirmed, Almach was FOUR stars. The big, bright, orange one was orbited once every sixty one Earth years at a distance of ten arcseconds by the small blue one which in itself was orbited by two small white stars.

Their ordinary, Human companions on those nights could only wonder and dream of such things. But even then, Chris and Davie had been Time Lord candidates.

And now, more than a decade later, they both had time and space at their command. Chris was somewhere in the Cassiopeia sector with a group of his students, visiting the silent monks of Aashefa who lived in complete silence, using a complex sign language for communication with each other.

Davie was on his own. His wife and children were in the twentieth century with his mother, Rose and Jackie, and his brother’s wife, shopping. Sukie was somewhere else in the universe with Vicki and their respective boyfriends. Spenser and Stuart were at home in the North-East of England with their adopted daughters. Even Tristie and Trudi had plans of their own.

Which was all right. He enjoyed exploring time and space on his own – as long as he knew he had a home to return to where his wife and children and his dinner were waiting. He knew it would be lonely if he didn’t have that to anchor him on Earth.

But right now as he matched the orbit of Almach II and looked at the four star system from within, he felt extraordinarily privileged. He wished he could remember the names of some of those other students in the science class. He wondered if they would be as thrilled to be here.

But it was his privilege alone to watch Almach III disappear behind Almach II and Almach IV to appear from below it in the quiet hour he maintained his orbit there.

Then he set his TARDIS to materialise on the single planet that, in its turn, orbited Almach IV, the smallest of the stars and, curiously, the only one of those four amazing stars, that shone warmth and light onto a planet.

The TARDIS database was a little vague about the nature of the people on the planet except that they were humanoid, mostly with fair skin. That sounded like the sort of people he could mingle with and find out more.

Since it was a pre-industrial society without any form of extra-terrestrial contact and no monetary exchange, he prepared to visit by a close scan that told him what was considered as inconspicuous clothing. He then dressed in what was not exactly inconspicuous – a velvet cloak over the embroidered and finely made clothes of an aristocrat. He furnished himself with a bag of gold and silver coins fashioned by the Artificer from the precious metals all Time Lords kept in their TARDIS vault. He also brought a small bag of diamonds. He found them to be a useful currency in almost any situation. He kept them inside his jerkin, close to his chest, where no cut-purse or sneak thief could get them. He armed himself with a small dagger in case he needed to defend himself from the same and then ventured out onto the planet called Temne by the local people, who didn’t know that Humans had called their star Almach IV.

His TARDIS disguised itself as a door set into the wall above a busy wharf where goods of all manner, from rich dyes and spices to barrels of rum, were loaded and unloaded from sailing boats. The planet had two large continents and numerous islands in the ocean that surrounded them. Sea trade between them was obviously common.

Goods were not the only things that arrived by sea. As he walked along, staying upwind of a trawler unloading fish, he noticed a small ship with a cargo of men fastened together in chains.

“Is that a prison ship?” he asked a man who was loading wine bottles into a five wheeled barrow.

“No, your grace,” the man answered, taking note of the velvet and the silver clasp of the cloak. “It’s a slave vessel. Those poor souls will be going to the market. They’re Thetians, good strong workers. They’ll be sold to Malatan landowners for outdoor work.”

Malata was obviously the name of this island. Thetia was another place accessible by sea. He made a mental note of those facts. It saved having to ask questions like ‘where am I?’.

“I see, thank you, my good man. Don’t let me keep you further from your work.”

He gave a small silver coin to the man, more than compensation for his time, and made his way up the steps from the wharf. He walked in a casual way, finding that people tended to move out of his path. He skirted around the ordinary Malatan market where he had planned to spend a few hours buying presents for Brenda and the boys, and instead went through an archway into a more sinister place of business.

There were already people gathered there, mostly men, ready to bid for the unfortunate souls whose lives were on sale. Davie moved towards the front of the crowd, though edging towards the side where he would not draw too much attention.

He was against the idea of slavery generally, though he knew it was a part of many societies in the history of his own world and others. He knew that it wasn’t always a bad life when their work was rewarded with food and shelter and there were no harsh punishments. It was certainly better than destitution.

But the very idea of sentient beings treated as commodities was repugnant and he wondered at first why he wanted to see the transactions taking place. Something nagged at him to stay. It wasn’t foresight, exactly, but something like it.

It was a distressing sight. The men brought up onto the wooden stage in chains were resigned to their fate. They kept their heads down except when ordered to lift them and show their teeth. They were sold in lots of five at a time for outdoor work and taken away by the landowners who bought them.

Davie wasn’t especially shocked, though, until a boy was presented. He was small and underfed but could have been about ten or twelve. There were chains on his hands and feet, dragging him down terribly, though his limbs were so thin Davie wondered if he couldn’t slip out of them.

Slavery could be a state of mind as well as a physical thing. He didn’t even think of running away.

What was such a child doing in this place, his pathetic body shivering with cold and fright, silent tears making tracks down his grubby cheeks?

What sort of people would sell a boy into slavery?

The crowd didn’t seem altogether interested in a boy who looked too weak to work. The auctioneer started the bidding at five silver pieces and then dropped it down to three, then one, before somebody made the opening bid and somebody else made it two pieces.

“Two pieces I’m bid,” the auctioneer said. “Do I hear three? I know he isn’t much to look at, but he’s strong enough for kitchen chores, boot-cleaning, laying fires. Will anyone bid three pieces?”

“Three pieces would buy a hog in the meat market,” somebody called out.

“There’s more meat on a hog,” somebody else replied, followed by raucous laughter.

“Three pieces,” Davie called out as the laughter died. He wasn’t sure why he had done so. He didn’t want to buy a slave. The idea appalled him. But he had a vague idea that the boy might be treated better by his eventual owner if he wasn’t bought too cheaply.

“You like to eat lean meat?” a man standing close by asked him. Davie let his cloak fall open to reveal his aristocratic clothes and the man went quiet.

“Three silver pieces,” the auctioneer said. “Do I hear four?”

Somebody bid four. Somebody else bid five. It seemed to be becoming a joke. Another man said he was keeping his money and going to buy two hogs, instead.

The boy looked terrified. The idea that he was being sold as meat must have set into his head.

“Ten GOLD pieces,” Davie called out with a ringing tone that silenced the ribaldry. “That’s my final offer. Put an end to this disgraceful farrago, now.”

The crowd parted as Davie stepped forward. He reached into his purse of gold and counted out the coins. He held them up.

“Sold to the gentleman for ten gold pieces,” the auctioneer said. His clerk took the money and issued a receipt. Davie pocketed it absently then reached to take the boy. He was still manacled, and that was almost the only weight he had. Davie wrapped his cloak around him and glared at anyone who even thought of getting in his way as he strode out of the slave market.

He kept on walking purposefully until he reached the wharf. He held up a hand at the TARDIS door and it opened to his command. He stepped inside and closed the door again before putting the boy down on the sofa.

“Keep still while I get these things off you.” The half-fainting boy watched through half closed eyes as Davie removed the hand and foot manacles with his sonic screwdriver and cast them away. “Ok, stay right there while I find you some food. You look hungry.”

The boy nodded. It was the best he could do in the way of an answer. Davie put his cloak around him and went to find the quickest food he could muster. He put cold meat, cheese, bread and butter onto a plate and brought a whole pint of milk as well. The boy hadn’t moved from where he was left, but he managed to sit up to eat and drink. He held the food tightly, as if expecting it to be snatched away, but it was clearly reviving his spirits a little.

“Do you have a name?” Davie asked.

“Pi’pi-P’i’pi-pi-pi-pi,” the boy answered. Davie wasn’t sure if he had a stammer or if it was meant to sound like that.

“Would it be all right if I just called you Pip?” he suggested.

“Yes, my Lord,” Pip responded.

“Davie. Just Davie. I am a Lord of Time, but I don’t stand on ceremony. Just Davie will do.”

“I am… your servant, sir,” Pip pointed out. “You bought me….”

“For considerably more than the price of a fattened hog, apparently. But I don’t need or want a servant, still less a slave. You’re free to go when you’ve eaten if you want.”

“I don’t have anywhere to go.”

“Then you can stay with me of your own free will,” Davie answered him. “You’re not my slave or my servant. But isn’t there anyone who can look after you? Don’t you have a family?”

Pip shook his head.

“There was just me and mam, and she died last winter. I was meant to be an apprentice, but I was sold to the slave-master instead. He put me on the boat. I was sick every day. I thought I was going to die.”

As he spoke, Davie put his hand on his shoulder. He read his thoughts and saw the details the boy didn’t give. His mother had died of a fever in a cold, wretched, impossibly inadequate house. She was buried in a pauper’s grave and the boy was kept for a while doing odd jobs for the burgher of the town he lived in before he had been taken, very early in the morning, and put on the boat with the men he had seen chained together. Apparently, that was how they dealt with unemployment in Thetia, and Davie had some firm ideas about that, but he was even more disgusted about the way Pip had been thrown into that cargo of slaves.

“What sort of apprentice were you going to be?” he asked the boy.

“I don’t know,” Pip answered.

“How about being my apprentice, then?” Davie suggested.

The proposal obviously reminded Pip that he had no idea where he was. He looked around the console room for the first time. His eyes widened as he looked at the console itself and the black and red lacquered Chinese symbols on the walls. He looked back at Davie.

“Are you a sorcerer?” he asked.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice!” Davie laughed, but obviously Pip didn’t understand the cultural reference. “No, I’m not. This is a space ship. I come from another world.”

Pip’s eyes grew bigger than ever. Of course, his people had no extra-terrestrial contact, and it was unlikely a boy like Pip had ever seen the stars through a telescope or learnt about his world being a globe with two poles and an equator.

“Would you like to see?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Pip answered. He wasn’t entirely sure what he was meant to see, but he trusted the man who had given him food and drink and promised that he was free. He watched as Davie went to the console and initiated a simple return to the orbit he had been in before where the four stars were easily visible at the same time.

“Come here,” he said, going to the door and reaching out his hand to invite his passenger to join him. Pip slid off the sofa and came to his side. Davie opened the door.

“Ohhh!” Pip exclaimed in wonder as he stood on the threshold of empty space and looked down on his home planet. “You ARE a sorcerer,” he said. “How can we be here so quickly if you’re not a maker of magic?”

“Good logic, kid,” Davie told him. “But I’m not a sorcerer. I’m a scientist. Some people think they’re the same thing. There’s even a philosophical law about it – sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic and vice versa….”

Pip looked at him curiously. Davie smiled widely.

“Yes, I know. That was way above your head. We’ll start a bit simpler. I’m thinking a bath, some new clothes, and another snack, then we’ll go and look around that town neither of us got to see properly, yet.”

A bath was not entirely a new idea to Pip. His mother had taught him about cleanliness. But a bathroom with running hot and cold water and a selection of soap bubbles was almost as amazing as looking at his planet from orbit. Davie left him with warm towels for afterwards and looked in the Wardrobe for suitable clothes.

After ham and cheese sandwiches and his first glass of fizzy cola, Pip was ready to accompany Davie outside again. The TARDIS materialised in the same place it had done before. Nobody noticed the aristocratic man and his well dressed young friend come out of the door, but as they walked along the wharf people made way for them.

“This isn’t how I usually go about,” Davie told Pip. “I usually dress more casually and I’m perfectly happy with crowds that don’t part for me. But I think this place deserves to pay us both some respect.”

It was a surprise to Pip to discover how much respect he got now that he was wearing good clothes and accompanying a man with gold and silver in his purse. They were both treated obsequiously when Davie looked at dress lengths of silk and satin that he knew his wife would swoon over. The sellers of carefully decorated hand thrown pots and beautifully woven carpets demonstrated their wares enthusiastically. He purchased several items and paid men to take them down to the harbourmaster at the wharf for safe keeping. He smiled at the idea of Brenda decorating the living room all over again with these new purchases.

At the various food vendors in the marketplace they were offered samples of tasty treats in hope that they would purchase more. The irony wasn’t lost on Davie. If Pip had been there in his rags, with his dirty face, these same vendors would probably have resented the hungry boy even breathing in the smell of their food, but now that he looked well off, they offered him free samples.

They passed the entrance to the now empty slave market. Pip shuddered at the memory, but Davie reassured him.

“Never again,” he said. “You’re with me, now.”

He really wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the boy. If he WAS going to have an apprentice, it would be a young Gallfreyan, a potential Time Lord. Pip was a barely educated ordinary humanoid child. He couldn’t teach him to fly the TARDIS or any aspect of Time Lord life.

But he was going to find a way, somehow. He would find a place for Pip in his world - since there obviously wasn’t one on the planet where he was born.

When the sun went down, the market kept going under coloured lamplights that made it look all the more exciting. Davie, remembering that it had been a few hours since his last meal, guided Pip to a tavern. He requested a private table and ordered a hot nourishing meal for them both. As the boy attacked the food that he had badly needed for a long time Davie asked him a few more questions about his own life and talked about his own, particularly about the world he came from.

“Earth is a good place,” he said. “It might seem a bit frightening and confusing at first, but you’ll get used to it. I think we’ll find a place for you in my brother’s sanctuary. You could learn a lot there.”

“You have a brother?”

“Yes. He’s like me… but with a rubbish taste in music. Don’t let him play any Shania Twain to you. I’ll introduce you to the best of Queen.”

Pip tried to understand what he was saying. Of course, he couldn’t. But he was trying his best to pay attention to the man who had rescued him from a terrible fate, fed and clothed him, and promised a life free from fear, from cold, and hunger.

Davie saw all that went through his head. He knew the boy was still slightly bemused by it all, half sure it was a dream he was going to wake up from and find himself back on the slave ship. He knew there was a tiny doubt in the back of his mind that all the kindness was a front, and that he would be misused later.

But Pip’s first inclination was to trust the man who had bid ten gold pieces and then given him his freedom, and to repay him with loyalty.

One way or another he thought they were going to do all right.

When they had eaten their fill they set off back to the TARDIS. The market was winding down, now. It was darker and quieter with just a few stragglers hanging around as the vendors packed up their wares. Pip drew Davie’s attention to a couple of ragged boys who were gathering discarded vegetables from where a grocer had packed up and left.

“I can’t take them all away,” he said. “But go and give them these.” He waited while Pip ran to give a handful of smaller silver coins to the boys. It would be enough for them to buy their food for a few days instead of scavenging what their betters didn’t want. Pip returned to his side and they headed towards the wharf.

But in a dark street where the lamps were far apart they were delayed once again. A man stepped in front of them from the shadows. Pip gave a frightened yelp as he recognised the auctioneer from the slave market.

“I think you have been paid fairly,” Davie said in a firm voice. “We have no further business.”

“Word is you have plenty of gold left after your day in the marketplace. I think we’ll be relieving you of your burden.”

Of course, he was not alone. Pip pressed close to Davie as the slave-master and two shadowy men with broad-shoulders and daggers in their hands surrounded them. Davie had his own dagger ready in an instant, though he had no desire to use it on anyone. He fought with his hands and feet, the way he had been taught many years ago by The Doctor. He was a Master of three different forms of unarmed combat. He disarmed and disabled three of the men, and would have dealt with the rest if two more thugs hadn’t emerged from the darkness, one of them dealing him a blow to the head with a stout piece of seasoned wood that caught him directly on that part of his skull that protected his telepathic functions. He went down in a daze of pain and jumbled thoughts, with Pip trying to hang onto him and begging him not to be dead.

He wasn’t dead, but he did have a very bad headache when he woke in a dark place that smelt foul. His velvet cloak and embroidered jerkin were gone and he was lying on dirty straw. His hands and feet were chained and the leg shackles themselves attached to a chain fixed firmly to the wall.

“Pip,” he called out softly. He could hear the boy close by, sobbing quietly. “It’s all right. I’m not dead.”

“You may as well be,” he answered. The boy moved closer to him. He wasn’t shackled. He didn’t need to be. Being captured again after he had begun to hope for freedom had done more than chains could do to his morale. “We’re on the slave ship, in the harbour. We’re going to be taken to the next port and sold.”

“But we haven’t left Malatan, yet?” Davie pulled himself up off the floor and looked around. His Gallifreyan eyesight processed enough light to see that they were in a tightly sealed hold. There was a very small porthole two feet above his eye level. He could see nothing at all through it.

“It’s low tide,” Pip told him. “We won’t sail until just before dawn.”

“All right, then we can still escape before then.”

Of course, his sonic screwdriver was missing along with his gold and diamonds. His fingers were sore where rings had been pulled from them. After escaping, he wanted those back. His wedding ring and his Ring of Eternity, denoting him as a fully transcended Time Lord were important to him. So was the Claddagh ring that Spenser gave him when their relationship was more flexibly defined than now. He wasn’t going to let a gang of thieves take them.

“How do we escape?” Pip asked, perfectly logically. “No man ever got out of here except dead. They threw four of them overboard on the journey from Thetia.”

“If all else fails, I can play dead quite well,” Davie said. “But there are a couple of better ways.”

He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. His TARDIS was less than twenty yards away from where the slave ship was moored. He could picture it easily.

But the blow to his head had caused some temporary damage. He couldn’t summon the TARDIS to him as he had done more than once in a difficult situation.

“Pip,” he said. “Could you get out of that porthole?” It was small, but so was he.

“Yes,” he confirmed. “But I can’t leave you.”

“You won’t be leaving me for long. There’s something I need to do first, though. Come close, and don’t be scared.”

Pip was scared about his situation, locked in the same place he had already spent terrible weeks of misery. But he wasn’t scared of Davie. He let him put his hands either side of his head. He didn’t even worry when he pressed his own forehead against his.

He couldn’t summon his TARDIS remotely, but close contact with another sentient brain made it easy enough to transfer information in the power burst. He had to be careful. Pip’s brain could fry if he tried to give him too much.

He drew back long before that point, but he had transferred enough knowledge to make the boy’s eyes bright with amazement.

“The TARDIS will respond to your touch, and you know enough about piloting it to materialise here and pick me up.”

“Yes,” Pip acknowledged. “But… Davie… There’s so much more….”

“We’ll talk about that later. Let’s get out of here, first.”

He lifted Pip onto his shoulders to reach the porthole. The boy told him that the ship was in low water with the harbour wall outside but he could reach a ladder that would get him to the top.

“Be careful,” Davie told him. “If you fall between the ship and the quay you’ll be dead.”

Pip pushed open the porthole and wriggled through. He didn’t talk, but Davie could feel his mind still after the mental contact. He saw him grab the ladder and climb. He moved quickly along the dark, quiet wharf until he reached the door that had only been there since this morning. It opened to his touch. Pip stepped into the TARDIS. Davie lost the mental connection once the door was closed, but he knew he only had to wait a few minutes for Pip to bring the TARDIS to him.

Two of the few minutes had passed when the hatch overhead opened and a lantern shone down before a rope ladder was dropped. Davie knew that was nothing to do with his rescue. It was the auctioneer and the slave-master come for another round with him. He stood defensively, ready to fight them, but the chains kept him from reaching them as they descended.

“Don’t move if you want your liver to remain inside your body,” he heard the slave-master say along with the sound of a knife being drawn. Then his eyes were nearly blinded by the sonic screwdriver’s penlight mode. The auctioneer had managed to operate its most simple function. “What is this object? What is its market value?”

“None of your business,” Davie answered. “It’s mine, along with a lot of other things stolen by you that I’ll be taking back very soon.”

The slave-master moved close to strike him. Davie was ready. The manacles made a weapon of a sort. He parried the blow from his left fist then swung to defend himself from the knife in the man’s other hand. It glanced off the metal cuff of his right hand and fell to the floor.

The sound it made when it hit the floor was not the sound of metal hitting dirt-encrusted stone flags, but the sound of metal hitting the cool, lacquered floor of his console room. He heard a scream as his eyes adjusted to the well lit room. It came from the slave-master. While Davie and the auctioneer had been properly and safely surrounded by the TARDIS, the slave-master had been kneeling to retrieve the knife and his knee had materialised partway through the floor.

Davie got ready to defend himself from the auctioneer who was still free, but Pip crossed the room in a few strides and knocked him unconscious with a well executed Gung Fu kick that must have inadvertently been passed onto him along with the selected knowledge of the TARDIS. The boy grabbed the sonic screwdriver and used it to break open Davie’s manacles.

“Thanks,” he said taking the sonic from him. “I’d better handle this job, though. It’s a bit tricky.” He turned to the slave-master and began the difficult job of unbonding his flesh and bone from the metal floor of the TARDIS. “Keep still and stop screaming and I might manage to do this properly,” he told the man. “Otherwise I’ll have to amputate your leg.”

“Is that my fault?” Pip asked. “Did I do it wrong?”

“Not at all,” Davie responded. “It was a near perfect wide materialisation. I ought to have warned you to calibrate the floor level. My fault entirely.”

Pip was reassured. Davie told him to check the pockets of the unconscious auctioneer. His missing rings and the silver clasp from his cloak were recovered. A search of the incapacitated slave-master’s pockets revealed the packet of diamonds.

“I’m only missing a bag of gold and silver coins, then,” Davie noted. “I suppose your thugs divided those between them. I’ll let that pass. The money is small loss. But I’ll be handing you two over to the Watch as kidnappers and thieves in a minute.”

He succeeded in freeing the slave-master’s leg, but it was numb and useless to him and all the fight had gone out of him. He made no effort to escape when Pip kept watch on him while Davie materialised the TARDIS outside the Watch House.

The two criminals were easily passed into the custody of the lawful authority of Malatan and Davie’s testimony of what had happened was backed up by a surprisingly full confession of all their deeds. They were happy enough to be locked up in an ordinary brick and mortar gaol as long as it was a long way from the strange place of incantations they were babbling about to the Constable of the Watch.

Davie made one more stop, back at the Harbour-master’s station, where he picked up his purchases from the market, then he took the TARDIS to the orbit above Almach IV.

“This might be the last time you see the planet of your birth for a long time,” he told Pip. “Let me know when you’re ready.”

“I’m ready, now,” the boy answered. “I’ve nothing to stay there for. I’m glad to come with you to Earth, and to all the places that are in your head… and in mine, now.”

“I wonder just how much IS in your head,” Davie responded.

Pip looked around the console room and recited the translations of the Chinese charms against evil spirits on the walls, then picked up a book and read a page aloud.

“I can read,” he said. “I never knew how to before. I always wanted to.”

“You can read Chinese Mandarin and Tiboran,” Davie said, looking at the book his wife had left behind in the TARDIS. “We’ll try you with English back on Earth. And a few other things, too. There is a lot you can learn in my brother’s Sanctuary, and you’ll make plenty of friends there. Meanwhile, come on here and let’s see if I can start you on temporal navigation.”

Pip came to the console and positioned himself at the navigation panel without even having to be told where it was. Davie nodded in satisfaction.

He had an apprentice!