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

Brenda sat in the passenger seat of the modern hover car that Davie drove when they were just going out for an ordinary trip in real time, without needing the TARDIS. The twins were happily fastened into their child seats in the back. Davie had told her to pack for a weekend away, but he hadn’t told them where they were going.

It was a surprise, he said.

Brenda was a little apprehensive about Davie’s idea of a surprise. She was at least satisfied that it probably wouldn’t involve cars since they weren’t in the TARDIS with half a dozen vehicles aboard. Not that she minded cars, or the fact that Davie was mad about racing them. She was used to it by now, and a little proud of her husband’s achievements, but it wasn’t her idea of a surprise.

The place they came to after a little over a half hour’s travel, mostly on the M25, didn’t look as if it was anything to do with cars. It looked like a landscaped park on the edge of a small town that had managed not to be swallowed up by London. Davie parked the car and lifted the boys from their safety seats. They ran on the grass while he got the overnight bags from the boot.

“Is that a hotel?” Brenda asked, seeing a large building beyond the trees. “We’re staying in a hotel?”

“It’s a house,” Davie answered. “At least it is now. It has been many things in the past, but it was converted ten years go into a house. I rented it for the weekend, to see if you like it.”

It was a pleasant looking house in something like ‘colonial’ style, despite being in Surrey. Brenda looked appreciatively at the wooden steps leading up to a balcony that reminded her of the veranda of their log cabin by the lake on Tibora. It would be a pleasant place to sit having tea in the afternoon, or a cup of cocoa late in the evening.

“There’s a housekeeper and a maid,” Davie said. “And a place for the kids to play.”

There were shouts of delight from the side of the house where the boys had already found the play area. It included a track for youngsters to ride pedal operated mini carts around. Davie grinned. They were little chips off the old block.

“The very place for it,” he said. “It should keep them quiet for a while. We’ll leave our bags in the master bedroom and then go out onto the balcony for a drink. Then I’ll explain everything.”

Brenda was happy with that idea. She liked the cool, airy master bedroom with an en-suite bathroom and the beautifully appointed reception rooms. The kitchen was far bigger than the one in their apartment, but since there was a housekeeper who was ready to prepare meals for them she didn’t need to look at that too closely.

It seemed like a very nice house that had been modernised to the kind of standard she would expect.

But it turned out that Brenda was wrong. This place DID have something to do with cars.

“The house was built in the 1910s as the clubhouse for Britain’s first racing track, Brooklands,” Davie explained as they enjoyed a pre-lunch cocktail on the balcony. “Do you see those banks in the distance where they’ve planted different coloured flowers in diagonal patterns? That’s all that’s left of the track. It was closed in 1939, used as an airfield during the war that started that year. It was a museum for most of the century after that. Then it was a hotel. Then….”

The history of the Clubhouse was easy enough. It was merely a story of changing ownership and changing purpose. But the surrounding area had a much rougher time of it in the more immediate past. The landscaped park they were looking at had been established where there had once been factories and workshops and a test track where luxury sports cars were put through their paces. Hundreds of people had lived on a housing estate that overlapped the former race track.

But more than fifty years ago, now, when the Daleks came, they had either killed or displaced most of the residents. They had used the factories as their base for creating Robomen.

After the Daleks had been defeated, those who came to clear away the devastation found thousands of their half-human creations abandoned within those buildings - men and women with their minds wiped and their thoughts and personalities replaced with Dalek instructions. Most of them died very quickly without their alien masters to manipulate them like ghastly puppets. The government that set out to rebuild Britain in the wake of the invasion had the houses and factories demolished to try to wipe away the memory of such a terrible thing.

The Clubhouse had escaped the interests of the Daleks and was left out of the wholesale demolition. The building and the parkland passed eventually to the current owners who sought to sell the property to somebody who didn’t know of its terrible history.

Davie knew its history perfectly well. He understood about the Dalek invasion better than anyone else of his generation.

But he knew about the happier times, too. As he looked across at the Byfleet banking he remembered racing on that famous track in its heyday. He remembered going to open days in the early twenty-first century with his motorsports friends and trying out new Mercedes cars on their test track. He even remembered visiting once during WWII when it had been used by the RAF and Vickers had established a factory to turn out aeroplane engines.

But mostly he remembered going back several times to the 1930s when it was at its best and when he loved to breathe in the heady scent of leaded petrol with his fellow drivers and let his adrenaline flow like engine oil as he raced around the Brooklands circuit. When he did that he always lived in the moment and put the tragic future history of the place out of his mind.

“I like this house because of its history. But… I hoped you would appreciate it for its future.”

“What future?”

“As… our family home.”

“You mean you want to buy it outright?”

“I’ve had the idea in mind for a week or two – since I found out that it was for sale.”

“You’ve been thinking about this for a week or two… and you didn’t say anything to me?”

There was an edge in Brenda’s voice that cut his enthusiasm down quite a bit. It was the kind of edge that warned him not to push his luck. He might be a Lord of Time, a Guardian of the Universe, but she was his wife.

“It was meant to be a surprise,” he conceded. “I never meant to make any decision without you. That’s what this weekend is for, so that you can think about the idea.”

“Well, that’s something at least. Not like when you went off for an afternoon and adopted a twelve year old boy.”

“I didn’t adopt Pip. I bought him at a slave auction, and then set him free… then made him my apprentice because he had nowhere else to go. He’s happy with Chris in the Sanctuary, learning so very much that he never had a chance to learn before.”

“And you’re wonderful for doing all that for him. You’re a magnificently kind and generous man. But you’re also impulsive and hasty and you never think anything through. That goodness you haven’t actually BOUGHT this house, yet.”

“You’re right, on every level,” Davie conceded. “I’m sorry for being impulsive and hasty and never thinking things through. But I hope you WILL like this idea.”

“You really want us to move away from your family? Move away from your brother and his Sanctuary, from The Doctor and Rose, from your parents and your grandfather Robert, and from Sukie?”

“It’s twenty minutes on the M25, three minutes by TARDIS. I could even devise a static portal just like the Time Lords used to have on Gallifrey. You could step into a cabinet here and step out into mum’s kitchen for gossiping and comparing notes about parenting. On the other hand, when we want it to be just us… just me and you and the kids, not part of the de Lœngbærrow dynasty….”

Brenda considered that. Davie was usually so proud of his family, of the inheritance of his blood. He liked being a part of the last great Time Lord dynasty.

And yet, he was also very independent. He had long ago outgrown his great-grandfather’s tutelage. Taking on the boy, Pip, as an ‘apprentice’ was one of many indications that he was his own man. This idea of moving out of the family demesne was another.

“Let’s see how things go over this weekend,” Brenda conceded. “Then we’ll have a LONG talk about it.”

The boys were on their way up the steps to the balcony. They thought stairs on the outside of a house were a fun idea and said so as they climbed onto chairs next to their parents. They told her all about the mini carts and the races they had run.

“I won the first one,” Seb told her. “Then Mark.”

“Just as it should be,” Brenda told them. “You’re twins. You’re equal to each other. You shouldn’t even be competing, really. That’s not what boys like you ought to do. But I’m glad you both win when you do.”

Davie wanted to contradict her. He thought healthy competition between the boys was a good thing. It would teach them to reach for goals, to have the yearning to succeed, just like him.

But Brenda thought they were far too young for such competitive philosophies. She saw them as her babies, still.

Besides, contradicting his wife in front of the children would confuse them.

The maid brought lunch out to them. They didn’t have staff in their apartment at home, so it was a treat to be served in that way. Brenda wondered what it would be like to have servants in their home, if they made this house, or any other house, their permanent residence. It wasn’t something she was used to. But after all, she was the wife of a Lord of Time. Perhaps it WAS time to live that way.

Davie was still thinking about his historical races. A near silent electric train passing by on the old Weybridge line captured his gaze and his mind went back to when steam powered the trains and he had raced down the Straight that ran parallel to the line. With those wonderful old cars like his Frazer-Nash it was a terrific thrill to put his foot down on the accelerator and test the BMW engine to its limits.

“Show me,” Sebastian said, climbing onto his father’s lap. Mark sat close beside him. Davie knew that when one of the twins said ‘me’ it meant both of them. It wasn’t that they didn’t understand personal pronouns. They understood such things far better than Human two and a half year olds. They simply felt they didn’t need to use ‘we’ when both of them were in agreement on a subject.

Davie and his brother had been like that as children – two halves of the same soul, almost always in agreement with each other.

The twins were growing up just like them, except they knew from the start who they were and what their heritage was.

“Show you what?” Davie asked.

“The cars, lots of years ago,” Mark answered in a tone suggesting that the first question was perfectly obvious.

Davie understood, now. They had guessed the former purpose of this place and wanted to experience it for themselves – not by actually being there in the past, travelling in the TARDIS, but through his memories.

“You’ve got to concentrate very hard, then,” he told them. “Put your hands on my forehead, both of you. Feel my thoughts. Brenda, sweetheart, you, too. Hold my hand.”

The technique was one his great-grandfather had taught him many years ago. Memory visiting was a psychic projection of places, events and people. It took a lot of mental energy, but he had plenty of that.

His memories of driving around Brooklands were amazingly vivid. The two boys whooped with joy as they found themselves seeing through their father’s eyes while he drove his car around the whole outer circuit at top speed. They screamed with excitement as the car overtook a back marker by riding up onto the banking until it was at an angle that absolutely terrified Brenda. Even though she knew it was just a memory and she was in no danger she could feel the forces of gravity as the car turned a wide corner at the top of the banking.

It was frightening to her. It was the difference between her and Davie, and, apparently, their two sons. They all loved it.

“Again!” the boys demanded when they came to the end of that race and Davie let the memory dissolve. They were back on the balcony again, overlooking the park where the racetrack used to be.

“Again?” Brenda looked aghast. “Haven’t you had enough for one day? That was exhausting – and terrifying.”

“Memory visiting often is tiring,” Davie told her. “You get to feel all of the physical sensations and emotions of the real events. But it’s all perfectly safe. I’m only remembering races that I’ve been in. I’ve never crashed on this track. The only time I’ve EVER crashed was that time at Brands Hatch when I pulled Tom out of his car.”

“I know that. Even so….”

“Come on, the kids want to go again. Why don’t I show you the time when I met Sir Malcolm Campbell and I raced him on our circuit.”

“Malcolm Campbell?” Brenda was surprised. “I went to school next to Lake Coniston where he set the speed record in is Bluebird boat.”

“That’s the man.”

“You never told me you met him.”

“Didn’t I?”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I suppose I’ve spent more time trying to be famous for my own driving than worrying about how famous other people are. But meeting Sir Malcolm was a big deal, especially since we have the same surname.”

“I never even thought of that when we first met. You were The Doctor’s great-grandson. Your own surname hardly mattered. But it’s just a coincidence that you’re mad about speed and power, too.”

“Complete coincidence. We’re not related.”

He touched his wife’s hand and let the boys reach to him again. It took only a very short period of concentration to bring them all back in his memory.

Brenda gasped in surprise to find herself sitting on the same balcony, at a table in the very same place but in a different style. The boys were either side of her, but Davie was on his feet, part of a crowd of men with red rims around their eyes from wearing racing goggles.

“Davie,” one of them said. “I don’t think you’ve met your namesake, Sir Malcolm Campbell. Sir Malcolm, this is Davie Campbell who is fast enough to do honour to the name.”

“No relation, sir,” Davie answered, shaking hands warmly with the legend whose name he knew when he was a boy.

“Are you really as good as I hear?”

“I… hope so,” Davie answered.

“Fancy a challenge? Have you tried the Campbell circuit? I rather think you should. What car do you have?”

“A Frazer-Nash BMW,” he replied.

“I’ve got a Napier-Railton with me. What do you say? Five laps of the circuit? Ten guineas on the result?”

“It would be an honour, sir,” Davie agreed. They drank a glass of lemonade to seal the wager before heading out.

It was Davie’s memory. Brenda and the boys were carried along with it, finding themselves in the car again, seeing everything from Davie’s point of view. They saw his mental image of a track shaped something like a floppy mushroom with a very tight corner at one side and a long curving section around the top of the mushroom. It was different to the potato shaped oval outer circuit with only right hand turns. This was an extreme challenge of speed and driving skill.

The two drivers lined up side by side on the start line by the clubhouse and an official came to drop the flag to see them off. The two cars started off smoothly but loudly. Brenda felt the forward acceleration tug at her stomach. The two boys – thrill seekers like their father - laughed about it. Brenda told herself over and over that this was a memory of a race that had already happened and there was no danger at all.

She felt all of Davie’s thoughts while he was driving. She learnt from them that the near square corner they reached first was called Howe’s, followed by Sahara Straight which ironically passed over the River Wey by a nerve-wrackingly narrow bridge before another turn and then the Soloman Straight into the Railway Turn and a short stretch of track bounded on one side by the railway line. Brenda glimpsed a steam train on the banking above the track before they turned into the long wide curve at the top of the ‘mushroom’.

That was the point where Brenda closed her eyes, but because she was in Davie’s memory it did no good. She SAW the car mount the concrete incline called Members Banking and draw level with the Napier-Railton that had been ahead for most of the lap. The momentum carried the Frazer-Nash forward and as the banking ran out and he had to come back to level ground he was ahead.

“Davie! You’re beating the fastest man in the world!” Brenda exclaimed. But Davie was fully immersed in the memory, hardly aware that his wife was there.

The excitement she felt was her own. In her years as a student near Coniston in the English Lake District, the names of Malcolm and Donald Campbell were synonymous with the place. One of the facts that would always be imprinted on her mind was that Sir Malcolm had broken the water speed record in 1939 on the lake she could see from her dormitory window.

And her husband was the one leading this challenge against the same legendary man. She felt a thrill and a pride that overwhelmed her anxiety about motor racing. When they approached the chicane of the Banking Bend she was as excited as the boys. She wanted to know how close behind the other car was. She wanted Davie to win, to prove that he was the great man she loved so very much.

She had the answer to that question as they came out of the chicane and headed down to what Davie called the Vickers turn, marking the start of their second lap. She saw the Napier Railton close behind. It must have been matching the Frazer-Nash for speed, but Davie wasn’t allowing any room to pass as they approached Howe’s again.

It was a race of five laps, though, and the older and more experienced man was equal to Davie’s Time Lord reflexes and instincts. On the top curve this time, Sir Malcolm managed to take the higher part of the banking and was able to sling shot past Davie before they headed for the home straight again.

The boys were disappointed and shouted for their father to try harder. Brenda urged him on, too. She wasn’t sure if it would make any difference. He couldn’t hear them – at least not in the memory of this race that he had driven already.

Had he won it or not? Brenda had never cared about him winning before, only that he came out of the races unhurt. This time she really felt that she wanted him to win. It felt important to her, even though it was only for a ten guinea bet.

“Go on, Davie!” she cried out as they approached the banking on the last lap and he took the advantage of the higher ground and pressing his foot down on the accelerator. He urged his car forward, knowing he was running out of space to overtake.

With seconds left before he had to give up and drop back he pulled ahead and slipped into place directly in front of Sir Malcolm’s Napier Railton. He was in the lead with only that sharp turn at the Banking Bend and the final chicane before the finish line. Brenda almost forgot to breathe. She could hear the twins yelling in excitement. She could also hear Davie’s two hearts beating quickly and his blood pumping in his veins. He was full of the excitement of the race as he crossed that finish line a tiny fraction of a second before the fastest man in the world.

“Davie!” Brenda shouted in excitement as the memory dissolved and they all found themselves back in the twenty-third century when the race track was long gone and much of its history obliterated by time and tribulation. She hugged him tightly while the boys jumped around for joy.

“Davie,” Brenda said again. “I never got it before. I’ve watched you race, and I’ve been overjoyed when you won, and relieved that you didn’t kill yourself. But I never felt what you feel about it before. I think… I really think I understand why you do it, now.”

“Well, that’s good news,” he answered, hugging her back enthusiastically.

“Did you get the prize?” Seb asked him.

“Of course. Sir Malcolm isn’t the sort of man who would go back on a wager. He presented me with the ten guineas.” Davie looked in his wallet and took out two pieces of paper. One was a Bank of England ten pound note of the 1930s and the other a ten shilling note. “Ten pounds and ten shillings paid to me right here on the balcony while we celebrated with a single malt. He told me it was an honour to be beaten by somebody with such great instincts as a driver, who was sure to go far in the sport.”

“That was nice of him,” Brenda said.

“I think so.”

Brenda took the notes from him and looked at them.

“When we move into this house properly, we should get these framed and hung on the wall.”

Davie didn’t quite hear what she said at first. He was answering another question from his two sons. When he did, his smile broadened.

“You’ve decided?”

“Yes, I have. I think this house is SO you… it’s as if you belong here with the memories that are infused into its walls. I couldn’t refuse you. Besides, it really IS a lovely house, and we’ll need more rooms when we have more children.”

Seb and Mark looked at their mother when she said that. They both looked concerned.

“Not just yet,” Davie assured them. “Let’s at least sort out this house move, first.”

“We have all weekend to think about both of those things,” Brenda insisted. “Plus, I’m sure there are a lot more races you could show us. You’ve always been very vague about what you’ve been up to when you’re away for the afternoon. I think it is time I knew more about it.”

The prospect of more excitement such as they had just shared with their father pleased the twins. They were on the point of demanding more right away.

“No, I’m afraid not,” Davie answered them. “Twice in one day is enough even for me. Why don’t we go down to the mini-cart track and your mother and I will watch you recreate my victory with pedal power.”

“I’ll be daddy,” Seb insisted to his twin. “You can be Sir Malcolm.”

“You can take it in turns to be daddy,” Brenda insisted, because she still wasn’t sure it was a good idea for her children to be so competitive at such an early age.